Storm-Bound in Bermuda

What’s the big deal with 30 to 40 knots of wind in the Gulf Stream?

This is one of those days you dream about when there are too many things to do on shore, and you are tired of the rat race. We’re anchored in a lovely, protected harbor (St. David’s, Bermuda). The anchor has a good bite, we’ve got plenty of swinging room, and we’re warm and cozy while the wind howls in the rigging.

The diesel heater is getting a test and doing a fine job keeping us toasty. Being too wet and cold for on-deck projects we’ve cleaned and checked the engine room, organized a few lockers in the office, and done a bit of computer maintenance.

Now it’s time to sit back and just enjoy being aboard. Drink some hot chocolate – with whipped cream of course – and munch on a bit of air-popped popcorn while the two of us read our respective books.

We made a short trip ashore earlier, to take our friend Dave Wyman to the bus stop. As we’re likely stuck here for four or five days until the weather improves and Dave has a shore-side schedule to keep, we’re back to sailing Beowulf with just two of us aboard. We were going to hunt up lunch, but it was looking like maybe blowing really hard and we decided we’d rather be aboard. Besides, the food on Beowulf is almost always better than what you can get ashore. I’ll wager that nowhere on this island can you get a turkey sandwich, complete with homemade pickles, as good as the one we ate aboard.

While we’re securely anchored we’ve plotted our GPS position, and made a series of radar range and bearings so we can easily check if we begin to drag. The water being shallow – just 18 feet – we’ve got a long, light three-strand nylon snubber on the chain to reduce noise and shock loading on the deck gear. There is 30′ of 1/2″ nylon in play and watching it stretch and contract make a person wonder how long it will last (from experience we know the answer to that – in these conditions a long time!).

The faxes show significant wave heights of 21 to 23′ in this part of the ocean. That’s no big deal. But of course, we know that every now and then there is a wave which is twice or more as large as the “significant” wave height – those are the ones you prefer to avoid – but they are great for surfing. "Hey, Dude, check out the action in the Bermuda Triangle!"

We’ve had a couple of questions dealing with the waves and weather. The basic issue seems to be what’s the big deal with 30 to 40 knots of wind? The answer to that is, nothing, in the open ocean with all other factors being more or less stable. However, in this part of the world it is the waves and, more precisely, those that are potentially working themselves up in various warm and cold eddies of the Gulf Stream which exist between here and the East Coast. Those eddies are hard to plot and/or avoid, and at times can generate three to four knots of current. When that current opposes the wind, the waves steepen and break. In the surfing vernacular it is “wipe-out city”. More currently, it could be said to get expensive in a hurry.

So it is better to avoid being on a schedule and tempting chance…

Posted by Steve Dashew  (May 7, 2001)

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