In four days’ time we’ve seen the most severe weather we’ve ever encountered on Happy Times. Two nasty squalls in one week seems a bit much. Although we were anchored on both occasions, we felt uneasy and vulnerable until after the storms had passed.
Monday’s squall struck about 4 p.m. It began innocently enough with a lot of rain. Then the wind cranked up, raising the waves to about four feet in height. The waves shifted frequently, first coming from one direction then another. For Mike and me, it was as though we were seated inside a giant washing machine. The wind also changed direction frequently and pushed us to within 200 yards of rocky shore.
Meanwhile, Mikayla remained ashore. She had taken the dinghy to Port Louis Marina around 1 p.m. to visit friends. The waves and wind were too severe for her to return, and we were relieved that she could stay safely on land.
Mikayla ventured out in the dinghy with Brandon Wyrick of s/v Sol-Mate, though, when they heard a call for help from Susie Stanhope of The Spirited Lady. Susie’s yacht was tied on the megayacht dock that is closest to the bay’s opening. The waves were rolling in and smashing her vessel up against the finger dock that was doing its own version of the dance known as the worm.
Susie initially called for additional fenders. She needed much more, however, so Mikayla drove Brandon to her dock and the three of them secured Spirited Lady with hurricane lines loaned by Bill and JoAnne Harris of Ultra. About that time one of the bow lines snapped, and the yacht withstood its loss.
Other boats throughout our anchorage near Grand Anse Beach suffered other skirmishes with the wind and waves. Fortunately, no one was injured. By about 10 p.m. the squall subsided and the rain petered out. The waves continued to jostle Happy Times but not to the extent they had during the storm. The next morning the sea was calm and glassy, and we had beautiful sunshine.
Today’s squall began as innocently as Monday’s. Mikayla and I returned to Happy Times following French class about 5:30 p.m. About 20 feet from the stern, the heavens opened up and poured and poured.
We had scarcely set foot on the boat when a sailor next to us on a monohull yelled, “Happy Times, Happy Times! You’re dragging!”
Mikayla and I immediately set about to raise the anchor and reset it. We took our typical positions with Mikayla at the helm and me at the windlass. We bounced around quite a bit and came close to s/v 3/4 Time, but we successfully raised the anchor and proceeded to move. Only we couldn’t get anywhere.
Happy Times was down to one engine on the port side. Our starboard engine had been experiencing electrical problems for a few days. Although we had traveled to Prickly Bay earlier in the day, Happy Times struggled to move in the driving rain and wind. When the boat did move, it was firmly in one direction. Basically, we were going in circles.
Mikayla and I had planned to simply pull up the anchor and motor to a different spot to reset it. Or even drive around the bay until Mike returned from volleyball. (Yes, he missed all this excitement!)
After another of Mikayla’s frantic calls failed to raise her Dad on the VHF, Carl Butler of s/v Sanctuary offered to come over and help us. Thank goodness! Then another sailor, Robin, arrived from his vessel.
Carl took over the helm and attempted to steer HT to a mooring ball. Robin remained in his dinghy and pushed HT along the starboard side, acting as the starboard engine. Happy Times couldn’t make any headway. It was nerve-wracking, because we had little control and came close to a few vessels.
Carl suggested that we re-anchor. Mikayla and Robin went to the bow and began letting the anchor down. I relayed their progress to Carl as the storm wiped out any other sound but the rain pounding the ocean’s surface. Carl held HT steady as the anchor played out to the end of the 125’ rode. Thank God, the anchor held. We had marked the spot using the GPS, and we appeared to be secure.
About that time a fellow bounded up alongside HT in his dinghy. He yelled something that none of us could understand. He repeated his message twice to no avail. Finally, I heard him say, “Your wife needs you!” Robin and Carl immediately jumped into their dinghies and headed back to their vessels.
Mikayla and I stayed in the cockpit as the squall continued to swirl around us. (Our instruments clocked the wind at 50 knots. Someone at Secret Harbor recorded 65 knots.) We talked about our options if the anchor refused to hold. We didn’t come up with many. With our proximity to shore and open water, our situation looked grim.
Suddenly I spotted a dinghy coming our way. Our guardian angel who had come to hail Robin and Carl had returned. This time, Zazier of s/v Dreamette brought Mike with him.
Mike’s pleasant afternoon of volleyball with our cruising friends came to a screeching halt. As everyone finished their beers at Secret Harbor Marina, the wind ballooned from a gentle breeze into a full-fledged squall. Everyone dashed to their dinghies to check on their boats.
Meanwhile, Jeff on s/v Raggedy Chap called George the bus driver on his mobile and told him to carry Mike from Secret Harbor to Prickly Bay. Zazier spotted Mike and brought him to HT.
As the storm intensified, so did the radio chatter. People called one another with offers to help secure boats. Others anxiously called out warnings. Boats dragged everywhere. A large commercial vessel with no apparent crew on board drifted across Clarke’s Court Bay and threatened other vessels.
Once Mike was back on board, we assessed our position. Random weather reports indicated that more squalls were headed our way. We put out an additional anchor and finally went to bed, exhausted and safe, around 10 p.m.