My sister-in-law is visiting with her two teenage children. We planned to spend the night anchored out near Egmont Key State Park, Florida. The weather had other plans, however, providing us with a valuable lesson in anchoring and our first experience sailing a catamaran in choppy weather.
It was an overcast and rainy day. And, we anchored, as planned, outside the sandy beach of Egmont Key State Park. Soon, the air was filled with shrieks of delight as my older children and their cousins jumped into the water. Each wave was seemingly higher than the last. The wind increased. Life jackets were put on, and still the waves continued to grow.
Looking away from our boat, I could see white caps. The kids were getting tired and returned to the boat. Skipper Mark Burton had been watching the weather, and could see a squall approaching. Mark wanted to find calmer waters to sleep.
I had thought that Mark wanted to move because he is a light sleeper and just didn’t want the rocking motion. But, I was mistaken.
Mark said that if our anchor were to lose its hold on the sea bottom, then we would be swept into the beach in about fifteen seconds. That’s why he couldn’t sleep. The thought of possibly losing our rudders and propellers to the sandy-bottomed beach would keep him up at night.
Certainly, it was time to move on.
Up to this point, we have enjoyed dignified sailing. We have looked at dolphins from the comfort of our trampolines. We have taken family photos. Water and soda flows into glasses by day, and bottles of beer and whiskey on ice crackle at night.
Today, however, was different. Our boat adopted a swooshy, sickly, choppy motion that Mark says is characteristic of catamarans. The motion is due to the fact that there are two hulls, which ride the waves independently, creating a seesaw action.
Mark said the wind was about 20 knots. The seesaw motion was enough that a glass fell from the saloon table. With the waves bouncing us about, here is a video that I captured while standing inside the shower of the forward port-side head.
In the video, the water comes up past the window. You can see Mark’s hand in the center of the video as he tries to bring in the anchor.
The choppy motion lasted for about 20 minutes. During that time some of the kids – big and small – lay about the boat, occasionally peeping up to see the waves through the saloon windows. Their reactions ranged from oblivious, Lego-playing apathy to green-skinned queasiness.
Tonight, we are anchored out closer to our home-base marina. The breeze is enough to keep the mosquitos at bay, our Canadian flag is flying high, and smooth waves rock in double-time to lull us to sleep.