As most of you know, things can change quickly on the water
. In this post, I'll share one of those instances.
Last Saturday was not unlike a typical early June day here on Lake Champlain (120 miles-long on the border between Vermont, New York
, and Quebec). I dropped my mooring
in Shelburne Bay at about 3:30 pm for the routine sail north to Burlington Harbor. It was questionable as to whether I'd have enough wind
to beat up the bay, but I was moving along well in the north breeze (5-7 knots). A thunderstorm advisory had been issued, as is also quite common here on summer afternoons. I could see the darkening skies well to the north and the threatening weather
appeared as if it would reach landfall 5-10 miles beyond my destination
I reached the head
of the bay at about 4:30 and was nearly ready to switch to port tack for the final leg into Burlington. I was sailing singlehanded and even though conditions were quite benign, I had taken the routine precautiouns to prepare the boat for all possibilities.
Very quickly, the storm that had seemed like it would pass north of me took a sharp right turn. I had only seconds to react. With full 130 Genoa
and main, I had way too much canvas
for what was headed my way. In the brief period before it hit, I only had a chance to get the Genoa
furled 3/4 of the way in. Within 60 seconds of the previous 5 knots of light air, I was reading 70 knots on the meter. I released the main and at that point could do little more than just hang on as Raven's spreader tips dipped to the water
. We had gone from a sunny afternoon casual sail to near hurricane
strength in less than a minute.
Fortunately, as it goes with the winds around this type of storm, it was short-lived. I was lucky in that I had less than a mile of sea room off Shelburne Point and the reef at Rock Dunder on my starboard side.
When I finally recovered to the point of being able to go to the foredeck and drop the main, I looked back and saw my Zodiac
at the end of its 25-foot painter - upside down. With the 6hp, 85 lb four-stroke on the transom, the wind
had lifted it like a kite and flipped it. My bicycle now lies in about 150 feet of water - part of a future archaeological story at the bottom of the lake.
The winds had fallen back to the mid-twenties and, with sails
down and engine
running, I was able to haul in the Zodiac
and began the struggle to get her righted again. I nervously looked to see signs of the engine
still hanging on - yes, it was still there.
Thank goodness for fresh water. Once I reached Burlington Harbor, It set about getting the water out of the outboard
- pulling the plugs and pushing the liquid out the filled cylinders. Next, the fuel
system. Next try to get her to fire. Two pulls and she was running. It took four oil
changes to get all the water out of the crankcase, but she's back to her old reliable self.
In the end, I lost
the bicycle, and found one broken plastic shackle holding the number two batten to the luff slider. It could have been much worse.
The next day, sans bicycle, I was walking to a bus stop in Burlington. Just before I arrived, I heard brakes squeal and the loud crash of cars colliding. Police cars, ambulances, and wreckers arrived in succession. Just as my commute the day before had taken an unexpected turn, someone else's day had turned out much more tragically. Life goes that way. It can all change in an instant.