70 mph* at the End of the Dock

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We are at the right hand paddle. Times are GMT

At 0215 EDT (0615 GMT) this morning we got clobbered — lightning, thunder, wind, rain and hail (though not much of the latter). It was well predicted, but hard to track. U.S. Doppler radar coverage doesn’t quite reach here. But these systems arrive like big logs rolling down a hillside. When you see one coming, you duck. Sometimes they bounce your way, sometimes they don’t. However, satellite imagery can offer some help. In the graphic above, blue clouds are warm and near the surface. Orange ones are very cold and tend to represent the tops of major storm cells or clusters of them. You can see why at 2300 last night we were thinking about doubling the dock lines. The storm that did hit us (22 minutes after the red framed image) doesn’t even show up here. But still, we knew the big log was rolling down on us. For once, being surrounded by breeze killing walls of large powerboats seemed like a good thing.

*Unlike 70 mph winds in a hurricane, these downburst gusts lasted a few (very long) minutes. This is our fourth experience with squall winds of this speed or greater in two years. Last year, a line like this one (about this time of year) just missed us at Green Turtle Cay and clobbered Great Guana just to our SSE — 70+ mph were recorded at Fishers Bay. The lightning looked and sounded like a Russian artillery barrage.

In June, a derecho hit us off Altamaha Sound (Georgia) where we recorded two gusts of 69 knots (80 mph). The NWS data reflect gusts of 62 knots  inland, but these things speed up over water. Then barely a month later there was the Washington DC derecho that hit us at anchor in West River — and again NWS recorded gusts were between 80-100 mph within a quarter mile of our position, but we only saw 85 mph.

Before that it was 1975…

…when God’s refrigerator door opened on us in a club-level ocean race from Port Canaveral to Fort Pierce. The temp dropped 20 degrees in less than five minutes. Air that had been lifted over Florida for an entire day was pushed east by a front, and then it fell back to earth in a single massive waterfall of air — its velocity added to the front’s. That was at night, under a dome of absolute black, under full sail on a prototype racing boat with an inadequate rudder (we found out a few moments later). All we had for weather warnings were lightning flashes and the roar of wind which could be heard far enough ahead of its arrival we were able to get the sails down before it rolled us. Those gusts were only 65 mph according to the USAF.

Five episodes in 39 years of sailing around 25-35K  miles (who keeps count?) near sub-tropical land. Not too bad, but we’d be happy to let someone else have our turn next time.

One response to “70 mph* at the End of the Dock

  1. Pingback: Window Watching | Periodically Peregrine

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