It’s not whether you are going to get wet, it’s when. Living aboard and moving about means getting across the water. We make every effort to plan our trips during good weather. Rain isn’t a factor as we can stay dry inside or under the bimini up on the bridge, if the wind is playing nice. But sometimes the best laid plans . . .they just don’t work out. Our luck has held out on the open ocean. And frankly, being the ocean, it takes a good while for it to build into anything ugly if we start out in good weather. Not so for sounds, and bays.
Waves over the Bow
Our best plans have on occasion found us on our way and conditions going utt buggly on us with nowhere to duck in. In the many sounds and bays along the coast there is typically a deeper area or channel one must adhere to based on the vessel draft. We like to stay in at least 10-12 feet of water whenever we can. This means ducking into what looks like a comfy oxbow or bay isn’t always an option. With nearly 5 feet of draft, hopping up and down on four foot waves in a six foot deep bay brings us a bit too close to the bottom for our comfort. So we stay out and plug along in seas that break over the bow.
It’s been said that most seaworthy boats that founder and end up in serious distress are the result of poor decisions on the part of the captain. The boat can take it, the crew – not so much. We understand that, and manage rough water knowing Shangri-La is not in danger when she buries her anchor that hangs six feet off the water into a wave. And then again, and again. Grand Banks are often referred to as ‘wet boats’ for a reason. With a semi-displacement hull, unable to climb up on plane, she plows ahead busting through the waves as opposed to bobbing up and over each one. The ‘wet boat’ designation is due to the fact we ship a lot of water up over the bow in short steep waves. And that’s ok. I can imagine someone who may not know the reality of a displacement design possibly freaking out a bit seeing sea water breaking on the windshield. It’s fine.
The windows, doors and hatches are closed. The scuppers are cleared so deck water can drain out of the stern cockpit. Good to go. But if for some reason, we need to be on deck, it’s a sideshow for sure. Watching 3″ of water pour down the deck over your shoes can be a bit distracting to say the least. We’ve invested in all weather gear that includes rubber boots to keep the feets
warm and dry. And are they GREAT! Comfy and warm, we wore them through the wet cold springtime and enjoyed toasty warm feet.
As much as we can, we love being on the bridge. Better field of view all around and one really feels like you are out there. . .a part of the journey. When it’s rough, the bridge can become downright uncomfortable. First off, is the rocking. Being 12′ off the water means we’re at the end of the ‘whip’ when the boat swings back and forth. Pitching is the term for a straight forward line up and down going into or with the waves. This force throws us front and back. Rolling, every boater’s favorite dance, is side to side rolling in the swells or waves. That one sucks. As we motor forward we’re also being tossed left and right with every rolling wave when we have a beam sea (broadside wave.) One must hang on. There is no way to stay upright without support.
Add crappy weather like we had crossing Albemarle Sound a few weeks ago, and we ended up with pitching, rolling and sleet on a 30 knot wind. Ok, it’s no fun up on the bridge anymore. Hang on tight! And we make our way down to the deck to get out of the weather. Once inside we both looked at each other and chuckled. “Why did we put ourselves through that?!” We’d kept the generator running when we left our anchorage, so the HVAC units were purring along. It was 68 degrees and snug as a bug inside. And from down here, we’re seeing the fury of the waves crashing over the windshield. Being closer to the boat’s center of gravity, the motion of the vessel is substantially less violent. We used to have windshield wipers. Three of them. They sounded like 4 horse Briggs and Stratton lawn mowers struggling through 8″ of wet grass. So we removed them and use Rain-X on the windshields. Works like a champ.
And that’s the life of boating on big water. Rinse and repeat. Try as we may to avoid rough weather, it still sneeks up on us now and then. Leaving Selby Bay Marina for our run up Chesapeake Bay, we had forecasts for one foot waves. At least half a dozen times we buried the anchor in the face of waves that apparently did not watch the Weather Channel. 60 miles to go and we were in some craptola weather the whole way. We’re starting to think Shangri-La enjoys a good rinse now and then. All systems are go and we putt along at 8 knots straight into the wind. This time, we never went to the bridge. We stayed toasty warm while watching the horizon bob up and down like we were on a carousel at the county fair. Thankfully, it was a head on wind and wave, so not much rolling. Just a hobby horse ride through some crappy seas.
Which all makes for a busy time when we make landfall. Docking after a good salt water rinse means man the wash stations. I don my raingear and boots, Jan does the same. I soap down the bright work, gunnels and outside hull above the splash rail while Jan follows along rinsing with fresh water from the dock. We have it down to a drill where she sprays wherever she needs to and I just take the soaking while using a long handled brush to suds up the eisenglass up top, the outside of the bridge and all the exposed areas. We can get it done in about an hour if we keep moving. Rinse and repeat. To be honest, we’re usually laughing the whole time. The adrenaline rush begins to wear off as we keep busy mopping down the stainless rails and bright varnished toe rail trying to avoid water spots. Jan squeegees all the glass while I clean up the deck and put the wash toys away.
Tomorrow is predicted 2′ following seas. Should be a breeze for the run down Delaware Bay. Eat life.