We got our highest hull speed (so far) at 6.8 knots. It was so exciting and just a little bit scary as we finally got her sideways, while maintaining stability. This, is what we have worked so hard the past few months to do. This, is what we signed up for.
We sailed down to the Scott Key Bridge area and back up the bay. We passed several other sailboats that were out getting in some good sailing winds as well. After a few hours, we decided with such great winds we would head across the bay to Rock Hall. Most of the trip there was perfectly smooth. As we got closer, the winds started picking up a bit more letting us know it was time to pull in some of the sail.
Too much wind isn’t good. We aren’t experienced enough for that quite yet.
We tied up to the dock for a few hours and took a break. We realized the winds had picked up even more when the sailboat started knocking into the dock with a strong force. We had our bumpers attached but they were doing little for the slams into the wall. We hit so hard, one of our line locks bent.
This was enough to make our decision to motor back to home port before it got much worse. It was getting dark and we couldn’t make it back in time. We attempted to anchor outside of Rock Hall. Mistake. The waves were so rough the boat was viciously rocking with bursts of water crashing into the cockpit.
No anchoring in choppy waters. Noted.
Then, we lost another anchor. A borrowed anchor. This, we would have to deal with, I thought to myself, when we make it back safely out of these crazy waves.
We had dark, choppy waters with only the moon to give us light. We had our navigation app Navionics going, sitting in the companionway, to not lose it. It was barely visibly through the spray coming over the cockpit. It was hard to make out where the arrow was to guide us through the shoals that go up in front of Rock Hall for quite some distance.
With each wave I could hear the water come rushing over the bow just a few seconds before the cockpit would go up and back down for another dose of drenching. My thoughts kept racing between the what ifs and whys of what had just aspired. We waited too late. We should have stayed in Baltimore. We should have stayed in Rock Hall. I couldn’t recall signing up for THIS!
Somewhere between hanging on to anything I could grab when being thrown by the waves and praying to God that we survive this, the engine stopped. The first time this has to happen was now? It must have decided it didn’t sign up for this either.
Without the power of the engine to push us through the waves we were thrown around in the cockpit like towels in a dryer. I immediately grabbed the rope attached to the boom and rail inside the cockpit (out haul line) thinking if it broke loose at least I would still be hanging from the boom, even if thrown out of the boat. Willow hung onto the back railing in an attempt to restart the engine.
As if it couldn’t get any worse I look over to see something moving toward us. Then, it disappeared as briefly as it appeared. While I was still contemplating whether I was crazy or not, I glance over to see Willow still trying to get to the engine long enough to get it started when I looked over and saw it again.
I couldn’t make out what it was. Just an object smaller than our boat with lights on it that kept disappearing and reappearing, getting closer and closer to the starboard side of our boat. At this point I was disoriented to the point I was convinced it could be a UFO. I yelled at Willow, what is that? He couldn’t hear me for the sound of the waves and water crashing into the boat. I scream, what the hell is THAT? while pointing in the direction it just disappeared from.
When it came back into view I could tell he saw it from his reaction. He made no more effort toward getting the engine started as he jumped up yelling THAT, is a boat while he turned on and off the LED on his headlamp in an attempt to notify them they were getting ready to hit us while making his way to the jib line.
He somehow managed to get out the jib line while remaining in the boat to get the sail out in hopes of getting us moving in any direction other than rolling back and forth in front of the oncoming boat/UFO that appeared to be disappearing into the waves every few seconds.
He managed to get us lined out and away from the oncoming object before it hit us. I remained a little disoriented as we finally made it back closer to home waters in the bay as the waves started getting more tolerable. We watched the sunrise as we enjoyed the much calmer waters.
We were so overwhelmed from the night that we didn’t go back to port to get some sleep. Instead, we sailed around the bay a few hours to wind down from the crazy night of waves.
After spending countless nights looking up at the moon in amazement, I never realized it was so powerful. Not only did it help contribute to most of the crazy night of huge waves, as we later discovered, we also learned the moon/tide gravitational force is greatly amplified in the Bays. Who doesn’t love a full Super Moon while sailing in the Chesapeake Bay at night? Lucky us! We unintentionally got to experience it firsthand and hopefully never again.
After an inventory check we discovered we only lost a bumper, line hook, and an anchor. Did I mention a borrowed anchor?
Once we made it back to port we met up with the marina community at the picnic tables. Despite not wanting to, we had to break the news to Debbie that we had lost her anchor. Surprisingly, she smiled and said “No problem”. Yes, this is a problem. This was a BORROWED item that WE lost, we both told her. Still smiling she said, it was only an anchor and someday you can pay it forward when you meet someone like yourselves that may need help.
This, is what it’s all about she explained. Someday you will meet others, new at this, just like yourself and be there to offer knowledge, understanding and maybe an anchor.
While I hope to never experience night sailing in this capacity again, or night sailing at all anytime soon, I do enjoy being able to sit back later and think wow, did that just happen knowing we survived to learn from our experience and share our crazy experiences with our new lifelong friends we’ve met along the way.
“The difference between an adventure and an ordeal is attitude” ~Bob Bitchin