So there we were, in the middle of Chesapeake Bay, on a new-to-us 28-foot sailboat, with an engine that had just cut out. The weather adio was blaring that spine-tingling beeeeeep, followed by a stoic digital voice announcing that a tornado had been spotted not so far away. The voice advised all mariners to seek shelter – adding
the sobering reminder that tornados have the potential to overturn boats.
Let me start from the beginning. My husband, Luke, and I had just purchased a
1986 Pearson 28 that was located in Hampton, Virginia. We’d hired a surveyor to
complete a pre-purchase survey, and had the engine surveyed. Everything checked out.
To help with the delivery, we had our friend Jay on board, a surgeon who’d studied
naval architecture and marine engineering in college with my husband. He’d done the
repowering on his own boat. Now all we had to do was get our boat to her new home,
about 140 miles north in Annapolis, Maryland.
On Friday, we set off in light breeze and motorsailed under jib from Hampton
to our first stop, Fishing Bay Yacht Club in Deltaville, Virginia. It was a beautiful
day that included navigating a tricky channel in the dark. Saturday’s forecast was for
southerly winds in the high teens, with seas around three feet, and thunderstorms predicted for late afternoon. Afternoon thunderstorms are common on the Chesapeake
in June, so we discussed places along our route to tuck in if things got hairy. Looking
forward to some brisk downwind sailing, we set off on Saturday morning, hoping to
make it to Solomons Island, Maryland.
The boat handled the waves well and
was surprisingly dry on deck. Feeling
a little green, I faced aft, calling the
waves and helping Luke and Jay execute
some exhilarating surfs, one as fast as
10 knots. Just then, the VHF marine
forecast announced a strong squall line
approaching, followed by a tornado sight-
BoatU.S. Foundation for Clean Water and Boating Safety By Susan Shingledecker
Far from shore, with threatening weather
bearing down, is an inconvenient time
for engine trouble