We’ve “hung on” through three severe storms in the past 8 days. (We’ve experienced just two similar storms in our 5 previous cruising winters.) Receiving “imminent danger” texts on our cell phones, letting us know we are in the area of a tornado, is very disconcerting when you are on a boat at anchor or on a mooring. Where does one go for “cover?” We can only hang on and hope we are not in its path.
Last Saturday night was our first storm. We were anchored at Pelican Bay, in the protection of Cayo Costa Island. We lucked out that night. The severe storms went just to our north and south; the cells that hit us were less intense though we had very heavy rain and we were under the tornado warning.
The storm brought northerly winds to the area that made for a bouncy night at anchor last Sunday night. We decided to make our way to Fort Myers Beach where we could pick up a mooring; NOAA was already warning of another storm system coming through late in the week. We know Fort Myers Beach well after last winter and the mooring field, despite its rapidly moving tide, provides decent protection from weather.
NOAA’s pretty good at timing these things. Sure enough, Thursday night brought overnight rain and then Friday morning, a time we would normally dinghy to shore for the farmer’s market, we experienced a frightening storm. This one came through during daylight hours. We could see what the sky and bay surface here was doing. The first cell hit us around 11 AM with both cell phones sounding their “imminent danger” threat. I tracked the cell on live radar, feeling encouraged that it was moving out of our immediate area. But then I noticed another cell expanding, coming into range. It was a doozy of a storm. In the height of the storm, with winds gusting what we believe were close to 50 mph (next year this trawler will have a wind anemometer… We are sailors at heart, after all!), Ron saw one of the solar panel supports fall loose and our bimini’s zipper was letting go in one area. We both rushed up to the fly bridge to try to catch it before losing our bimini. We managed–somehow–between the two of us to get one of the supports re-connected and jury-rigged the frame to secure it until the wind went down. We were wearing foul weather jackets but we might as well as showered with our clothes on!
Weather gave us a reprieve yesterday. Saturday was as nice a day you find here in winter: Sunny, warm, light breeze–perfect day for walking the beach and doing errands. We were even able to try out our grill for the first time!
Last evening, as we enjoyed dinner, it was hard to believe there was a major storm system barreling across the Gulf at us, but it was. The warnings from the folks who track these systems was downright scary. Models for 3:00 AM showed a red bowed line stretching from Apalachicola to south of Key West. Yikes!
We were hit by the first cell around 5:00 AM; the second came through a half hour later. In an hour, the sideways rain and “humming” wind (Prairie Dog “hums” when the wind gets to a certain velocity) had eased and moved east. Amazingly, we still have a bimini, at least right now. Getting through the rest of this day, with very heavy winds, will be a real test. Here at Fort Myers Beach we were spared a tornado warning, but areas nearby were not. There is news this morning of death and damage due to tornados in the Sarasota area.
My understanding is that this “unsettled weather” is due to a strong El Niño. If this is what we can expect this winter, it gives one pause about moving much. We have friends who will visit us here early next month, and so we have an excuse to stay a while.
Seriously, enough is enough!