By definition, a “tropical storm” is a cyclone which originates in the tropics and attains sustained wind speeds between 34–63 knots (39–73 mph/63–118 km/h). It's one step below a category 1 hurricane. An eerie calm had descended upon the anchorage. There were none of the usual boat sounds … no fishing boats or cigar boats whizzing past up the channel. No jet skis. The tour boats didn't go out. There was no wind. The only movement of water was driven by the current and it was so quiet we could hear the lap of water against the hull as the water passed by. Everyone and everything seemed poised ... waiting for Tropical Storm Colin to arrive. It was the proverbial “calm before the storm”. Calm and disquieting.
We'd already stowed the dinghy and prepped for departure, so there wasn't much to do other than check and double-check. We lashed down the bimini. We busied ourselves with odd chores on board throughout the day, seemingly busy and casual, but the anticipation of the impending storm was always there.
We had brief showers on and off during the day and the skies were dark and forbidding. We waited and waited. We ate dinner around 7pm. It was still pretty quiet. We're not good at the waiting game and the angst was palpable. It wasn't until 9pm that we heard the first real rain begin to fall. Then it came in buckets. Hard, hard rain that emptied the sky and kept on coming. David's hatch repairs were being tested and seemed to be holding just fine. It became stifling below decks … hot and muggy with all the hatches and ports closed.
The wind soon caught up with the rain. We could hear it approaching like a freight train and then the howling began. It whipped through the rigging. Previously well-behaved lines and halyards banged and clanged. The incoming strong current was at odds with the winds and Cups heeled over as she took the winds broadside. A few things not stowed after dinner went flying off the counter … my bad. The mooring ball, driven by the strong current, clanged against the hull with loud thuds. David went on deck innumerable times to check the ball and look for chafe in mooring lines. Each time he came back below soaked to the bone after only minutes on deck. All was fine. We chatted, watched movies and sipped tea. There was no sleeping.
The tide finally began to change just after 11pm and the current got in sync with the wind. Cups was clearly more comfortable and so was her crew. The thunder and lightning began, but only one bolt appeared to strike close by. The others lit the sky spectacularly and blasted us with a few loud cracks, but posed no threat. We checked for weather updates frequently. Some waterspouts had been sighted earlier in the day in other parts of the state, but none in the St. Augustine area. We saw a max of 40 knots on the wind speed indicator … a good sailing day for our South African friends in Cape Town … but we were definitely out of practice for storm force winds.
By 2am, the worst that Colin was dishing out had passed. David made one more walk around deck, checked the mooring lines and we headed to bed … tired, but relieved. All told, it was certainly not the worst storm we've endured, but we were glad it was over. Colin is on his way northeast to Georgia and the Carolinas and then is expected to head offshore to the hurricane graveyard.
We woke just after 7am. The sun was trying to shine and the sky was a patchy blue. Cups seemed no worse for the wear and her decks were clean and salt-free. We discovered a few new leaks, but nothing major … something to add to “the list”. We noticed one sailboat at anchor nearby with its torn and tattered jib fluttering in the morning breeze. The rest of our neighbors appeared to be just fine. The marina launch made a pass through the mooring field asking if we'd had enough wind. Definitely.
The worst is over and we'll be on our way soon once the seas calm down a bit and the southerly winds return. In the meantime, we return to our adventures in St. Augustine. Once we're en route to the Chesapeake, we'll update you with passage notes.