Top Menu

One of the vivid memories that I have from childhood is sitting on our front porch during electrical storms. Blissfully unaware of the dangers of lightning (and seemingly my parents must have been so as well, as they allowed me to do it), I sat out of the rain, nice and dry, enjoying both the light show, and the smell that accompanied it. Now, more educated about the perils of lightning, and living in a home with a big metal pole sticking out of it, I am no longer enamored by Mother Nature’s fireworks display. On the contrary, I am most decidedly not a fan, and do my best to avoid it.

light12

Yesterday morning’s sunrise.

Before Rebecca and I decided to sail to Carriacou yesterday, we, of course, checked the weather. When I say that though, what I mean is that we checked to see that the wind and sea state would be good for the trip. Unfortunately, that’s the extent of the weather checking that we did. I seldom check the forecast for precipitation because it pretty much always says the same thing down here: partly cloudy with a chance of showers. Rain doesn’t bother us, and a forecast calling for it wouldn’t have stopped us from making the trip. And in retrospect, even if we had noted that the forecast called for thunderstorms, it’s still likely that we wouldn’t have been put off. After yesterday’s passage though, we may, in the future, react differently!

light15

Start of the day: Salvage!

We first left the harbor at 6:30 AM, shortly after the sun had made its initial appearance. I say first because, 15 minutes later, after just clearing the Hog Island entrance channel, we came across an unattended dinghy, floating towards the reef. Knowing how much of a problem losing a dinghy could be, I pulled up alongside it, allowing Rebecca to secure it with a line, and then with it under tow, we returned to Mt. Hartman Bay. On our way back, we radioed our friends on Brilliant, and in typical cruiser fashion, they dropped their tender in the water to meet us part way back to take over the salvage operation. Once free of our new charge, we repeated our exit path, setting sail east towards the windward side of the island.

The day started off so nice!

As I noted, we had checked the wind forecast, and as expected, it was blowing briskly out of the south east. The wind was so far south that we were actually able to sail east, reaching parallel to the coastline. This almost never happens, and so for an hour or so, we reveled in the perfect sailing conditions, and shared images online using my iPhone so that others could see how good it was too. As we neared the end of the island, ready to start heading up the windward side, things began to change.

The sky was dark and ominous over St. David’s, and we prudently reefed our genoa, anticipating a building wind. The overcast sky was intermittently illuminated by flashes of lighting, and the thunder that accompanied the flashes rumbled loudly, several miles off, over the shore. About this time the crew on Alley Cat, a catamaran that we had noted was following our path, radioed us to ask where we were heading. After confirming that we were both heading towards Carriacou, we bid each other well, and loosely said that we would touch base when we had both arrived. Little did we know, at that point, that we were not going to make it there.

light08

Ominous!

light13

One of hundreds.

We’re pretty used to seeing squalls out on the water. Typically, with the trade winds blowing from the east, their direction of movement is pretty easy to predict. We, and our sailing companions, both altered our course a bit more to the east, trying to move around the outer edge of the clouds. Around this time though, we experienced a 180˚ wind shift, and a noticeable drop in air temperature. Seconds later came the rain.

And then things got worse!

Having started our engine and furled the genoa, we motor sailed north. The visibility dropped significantly by this point, and it wasn’t long before Alley Cat’s position was lost to us. Surprisingly, the storm which we had anticipated would continue moving east, away from us, stayed put. If anything, it grew in size, leaving us with lightning flashing both to port and starboard.

We learned today that the storm never did make it to the east side of the island. It stalled over Grenville, and then later Sauteurs, causing significant flooding.

light07

Very little wind and a ton of rain. Eerie!

Being that we were on the windward side of the island, there were no bail out points for us, and so we had little choice but to keep going. Unfortunately, each time we thought that we’d outrun the worst of the storm, it would overtake us again. By the time we reached the top of Grenada, we could no longer see the island through the rain and clouds, and the lightning was striking the water all around us!

All this time I had been sharing images and status updates online, using my iPhone’s cellular connection. My last post, at 9:49 AM, stated that we were in the “worst lightning storm we’ve seen in years.” Unfortunately, until this morning, that was the last update that we were able to make.

light16

In addition to clocking full circle, the wind had also built by then, with gusts well over 30 knots true. Still overpowered, I went forward to reduce sail even more. With my mind on other things, when I went up on deck, I neglected to take my iPhone out of my pocket, and my new rain jacket did nothing to keep the phone dry as I struggled with the sail.

A change of plans!

By this point, both Rebecca and I were wet, cold, and I don’t mind admitting, scared. Lightning was striking the water all around our boat, causing us both to jump at the deafening sound of the thunder. I shivered at the helm, wondering if it was due to the cold, or fright. Having just about had it by then, and with no end to the storm in sight, we decided to alter course to Ronde Island rather than continuing on to Carriacou.

Because we had told Alley Cat that we’d be going to Tyrell Bay, we tried to hail them on the VHF radio to let them know about our change in plans. While we could each hear them faintly, we were never able to make solid contact, and thus were unsure of whether or not they could make out our intentions. We learned only this morning that they could, in fact, hear our transmission, even though we could barely make them out.

By the time that we reached Corn Store Bay, the anchorage at Ronde Island, we had moved out of reach of the lion’s share of the electrical storm. The rain continued throughout the night though. In spite of being boat bound due to the inclement weather, we enjoyed a pleasant night at anchor, both of us tired from the day’s trials. The only downside is that, with no internet access on the island, and an iPhone on strike from its undesired shower, we had no way to follow up on my last, slightly ominous, Facebook update.

Underway early again

Although dark clouds still surrounded our anchorage, we awoke this morning without rain. Eager to get to civilization so that we could update our friends and family as to our whereabouts, we set sail just before 7:00 AM. The remainder of our trip to Carriacou was uneventful, and while we caught no fish during the passage, we didn’t get rained on either.

light06

Corn Store Bay this morning.

After arriving in Tyrell Bay, we located a nice patch of sand in which to drop our anchor. Rebecca went up on deck to workout (you know how she gets when she doesn’t get to exercise, and yesterday’s workout was a no-go), and I logged on to the internet. What I found were numerous comments, and private messages, wondering where we were, and our status. We even received a report from a friend that our whereabouts was a topic of discussion during the first 5 minutes of the Grenada radio net. Oops. Sorry, guys. It’s nice to know that people are concerned about our welfare. Maybe I shouldn’t post so many updates!

14 Comments

  1. I know how scary that can be. We were caught in the Bahamas two years ago by a surprise storm that was not predicted. We had to contend with 6 or 7 water spouts as well as lightning. Not fun trying to out guess and out run maverick storms. Glad to hear you are safe.

  2. Whew … Glad all ended well! These are the kinda stories I try not to think about .. LOL!

  3. I swear by my waterproof Incipio case for my iPhone 5. Not sure if it’s still available. But I know from accidental experience it’s good down to 7 ft…. If it’s not available, you might check out this site for reviews: http://thewirecutter.com/reviews/best-waterproof-case-for-iphone-6/

    • I note that the folks on the link you shared picked Lifeproof cases as the best. Search Lifeproof on this site to see what I think about them. We had 3 Lifeproof cases, each worth a hundred dollars, fail at the 1 year mark. That is unacceptable.

      • I agree with you. I had 2 of the older Lifeproof cases fail (2nd was a free warranty replacement), at which point I gave up on them and went with Incipio. Hopefully they’ve improved their design, but I would want to examine them closely before trying one again. In my case, the rubber seal around the plastic overlay couldn’t handle friction in my back pocket and would eventually open up. The Incipio case is all hard plastic, with an actual thin sheet of glass covering the screen. All that said, I’ve generally found the Wirecutter reviews of other products to be spot on, so if I was in the market I would take a look.

  4. Buzzards Bay Massachusetts on delivery of an old schooner, middle of the night, the most intense and frightening lightning storm engulfed us. The decks were lit by nature. A very, very belittling experience for sure. We are only human and our boats are only made by humans. Mother nature on this planet….rules!

  5. I’ve been in situations like that twice and, like you, am wishing for ‘never again’!

    It caused me to set up my own halfway protection system in which I bolted a huge battery cable from the base of my keel stepped mast down to the nearest keelbolt.

    I call this “halfway” because I’m aware that a masthead strike may choose to travel downward along one of the stays and that the experts say for best protection all the stays should have heavy wires that also run to the keel.

  6. A wet iPhone story for you…
    I had mine clipped to the deck of my paddleboard for an afternoon of exploring on the Columbia River with my daughter. It got splashed a few times but I didn’t think anything of it because it was in its waterproof case. Unfortunately, I had failed to ensure the perimeter of the case was completely seated. Accordingly, a bit of water penetrated the case and then proceeded to steam my iPhone 6 Plus for the better part of half an hour before I realized my error.

    I immediately removed it from the case and dried off the exterior, but it immediately showed signs of damage… all of the peripheral buttons were on responsive, which meant that I couldn’t even turn it off. When I got home a few hours later I did a bit of Googling and found software alternatives to the failed buttons which allowed me to power it down. I then proceeded with the requisite rice tricks.

    After 48 hours in rice, my peripheral buttons were still dead. Given that we’re trying to pinch pennies in order to save for our own cruising dreams, I was very reluctant to incur the cost of replacing my phone. The the the lack of functioning buttons was a nuisance, it wasn’t a showstopper… the rest of the phone worked fine. So I lived with it… begrudgingly.

    About six weeks later I was fiddling around with my crippled phone absentmindedly while on a less than thrilling phone conference. Low and behold, full button functionality had been restored. That was about two months ago and I have enjoyed a new-found appreciation for a my little handheld bundle of electronic magic.

    The moral of the story is, depending on the extent of your phone’s water damage, if it hasn’t already recovered, and if you can tolerate the inconvenience, it may be worth waiting it a out a few weeks in hope of your own electronic miracle.

    Glad you guys managed to ride the storm out without serious incident.
    Fair winds,
    Josh

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Close