Waiting Out a Hurricane

I had the pleasure of joining Nathan & Vivian, the captains of S/V Ultima for my first significant offshore passage earlier this year. Prior to this passage, the longest distance I’d covered on a single trip was roughly 77 nautical miles, over 3 days. This trip, from Rockland, Maine to Solomons, Maryland via the Cape Cod Canal and the C&D Canal, would see no less than 700 nautical miles and an estimated 10 days. In fact, according to my new and quite handy Garmin InReach, we covered 727.68 nm while skipping along the North Atlantic and into the Upper Chesapeake in just 9 days.

Given the 10x jump in the scope of this new venture, I expected to tick a lot of “firsts” milestone checkboxes, and we certainly got right to it! The first thing I learned about leaving on an offshore passage was how to not leave on an offshore passage.

…but seriously, it was, and it is most likely in the top 10 of most important things to know as a captain–especially a new one like me–and that is: it’s ok to say, “nah. not today.” There are no absolute numbers (wind speed, wave height, etc.) that are “dangerous,” rather there is a complex interaction of these variables and your captain and crew’s level of experience. So, to preserve the safety of your crew, your vessel, and others nearby, you take into account both the conditions and the experience of the crew to make the call.

With 24 kts blowing steady on the docks where we were securely tied, and 35-40 blowing steady where we were headed, our captains–who are MORE than qualified to sail these conditions like it was a calm day in a mud puddle for me–put our safety and comfort first by deciding to ride out the passing remnants of Hurricane Ida on the dock that night.

It was calm as we went to bed, but forecast to pick up during the night. The rain and wind descended upon our tightly tied floating hotel on schedule and certainly bumped me wide awake. I lay there and enjoyed the ride for a bit, feeling confident in the captains I had just met the day before, but after a while, I must admit, I definitely got up to peer out the port light to make sure we weren’t underway.

We were not. But we would be soon.