My “White Squall”

I can’t even make this stuff up, I really can’t. Matt and I left Bimini, Bahamas after living there for a couple weeks. Bobby headed back to the states and we continued on to Freeport where we were going to meet my dad who was flying in to visit and help take the boat back. I will be detailing our island life in a longer post tomorrow! I have to, however, write of the harrowing experiences Matt and I had on our voyage to Grand Bahamas last night. When we left the harbor, the weather was decently rough but nothing serious. We fought the chop out of the inlet with minimal problems. That was before the real storm hit.

Keep in mind that we have been through very rough weather and have taken the necessary precautions and measures needed for the boat. We knew the boat well, and I was not overly concerned about the chop. NOAA forecasts are, unfortunately, not as accurate in the Bahamas and small isolated squalls can appear when one least expects it. I had read about them occurring and figured I would never experience it.

Matt was planning to fly out of Freeport and we knew the trip was nearing its end after a summer of scintillating experiences and memories. The motor was running well, and we began to make some miles between us and Bimini as we raised the sail. Suddenly, the winds began to whistle in my ear. I watched the Wind Speed Indicator climb rapidly and the waves began to build to six feet. I looked at Matt.

“We need to reef the sail.”

I knew we needed to do it quickly, because this was no normal weather. This was a squall and we had full sail up. I needed to put the topping lift back in before reefing, but little did I know the block to the pulley of the sheet had just broken. We could not get the topping lift back in to support the boom due to this, and we needed to act fast. Suddenly, the wind picked up and it was as though we were in a whirlpool. Our boat stopped making headway and spun around on a dime sideways 360 degrees. We were helpless. Basically a knockdown. Any supplies not tightly secured went flying off the boat, and I barely had time to glance at the wind meter to see wind speeds climb over 45 knots and hitting gusts of 50.

I screamed to Matt that we need to get the sail down and let the storm blow itself out. Matt began to get sea sick from the ridiculous amount of tossing and turning and continued to fight it as we struggled to maintain steerage. Right then our extra anchor line that was coiled in a wheel by the mast came loose and plunged into the water. As the boat was spun in a circle the anchor line wrapped around the propeller. We were immobile. The GPS suddenly went out due to a problem with the transducer as wires were pulled out by the force of the storm. All the cords securing the main halyards were ripped completely off. I still could not get the broken main sheet to work, so I grabbed the reefing line and used that to secure the boom. I still have marks on my hands from when I braced myself gripping that line, knowing what would happen if I let go. I triple reefed the sail as the boat tossed back and forth. After bracing ourselves through forty five minutes to an hour of hell, the storm was gone and it was back to the normally rough weather. The only problem? We had no GPS capabilities, no engine capabilities, and no way of getting back in the inlet.

Thankfully due to the InReach emergency communication device we have on board, I was able to contact some people including my dad, and my good friend and former boat captain Gretchen. They could track our progress and helped me get in contact with Tow Boat U.S. and the Coast Guard as I updated them on our coordinates.

We kept the sail reefed due to the broken main sheet, and we headed for Freeport. Thankfully we were able to get the GPS running again on and off. I was able to get a heading and use the compass and sail sixty five miles where we were given a tow to Port Lucaya, Bahamas. It took us twelve hours of grueling sailing to get there, as we tried to avoid jibing while the waves pitched and rolled us with the wind at our backs. Matt and I are in a hotel now after meeting up with my dad today in Lucaya. I am so thankful to God and all those who prayed for us along the way that we survived that unscathed. The boat has a bent shaft and needs some work unfortunately, but I am simply thankful for protection through such a crazy experience. Stay tuned for updates on the boat and a longer account of island life in the Bahamas!

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