A GALE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT UNTIL 8 PM EDT SATURDAY. NORTHWEST WINDS WILL GUST 30 TO 40 KNOTS AT TIMES THROUGH SATURDAY IN THE WAKE OF SLOWLY DEPARTING STRONG LOW PRESSURE ALONG THE MAINE COAST. ISOLATED HIGHER GUSTS TO NEAR 45 KNOTS ARE POSSIBLE NEAR SANDY HOOK. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS... A GALE WARNING MEANS THAT WINDS OF 34 TO 47 KNOTS ARE IMMINENT OR OCCURRING. OPERATING A VESSEL IN GALE CONDITIONS REQUIRES EXPERIENCE AND A PROPERLY EQUIPPED VESSEL. IT IS HIGHLY RECOMMENDED THAT MARINERS WITHOUT THE PROPER EXPERIENCE REMAIN IN PORT.
And so began the Windjammers’ Frostbite race 2010.
I was supposed to be crewing on Providence II but the wind had been blowing so hard for so long that she was grounded in her slip. Sustained west winds help the water leave the bay as the tides go out and hold it out when the tides are supposed to be coming in, and if it goes through enough cycles of that the water level can drop dramatically. Rest Less couldn’t get out either, so given the conditions, that only left three boats: Sunset, Island Breeze, and Story Petrel, on which I crewed.
Conditions were relatively severe, at least for me. We never actually saw any gusts over 40, but I’m not sure the anemometer on the mast head works correctly when it’s in the chop half the time. I’m exaggerating, but even on a double reefed main and scrap of jib, we were heeled pretty good. Fortunately, there was enough spray that it wasn’t clear if I was crying or not most of the time. The boat owners were respectful, but otherwise nonplussed by the conditions, which was comforting.
This was a battle of attrition more than anything, so there were no well-designated start or finish lines and there was no attempt made to account for PHRF. Island Breeze bowed out of the race early and Sunset decided to do a victory lap all the way down to BB just for sport after crossing the finish line well ahead of us.
At the chili cookoff which followed there was a lot of discussion from the Commodore’s corner as to whether or not there should have even been a race in those conditions, but I was personally glad to get some heavy weather experience with some people who knew how to cope.