Powerboats like my good friend Chris’ Hinckley Talaria 44 are faster than sailboats right up until the weather conditions go completely pear-shaped.
When you’re out in the ocean. Trying to get somewhere.
This Sunday the conditions went seriously sideways on us, and we got caught out. We’d been scheduled to deliver the boat home from Bristol, RI to Annapolis the prior weekend but stout southwesterly breezes had forced a reschedule. The forecast for this past weekend was for powerboat-friendly light wind, so we jumped on airplanes Friday evening with plans to arrive in Annapolis Sunday.
Saturday’s forecast was spot on, and we had delightful conditions running to Manasquan, New Jersey.
I couldn’t resist talking the crew into a stop for lunch at my childhood yacht club, Seawanhaka. It was my second visit there this season and I aim to top that next year if at all possible.
We zoomed right through New York City and out into the ocean, where we enjoyed smooth conditions and fast running all the way to Manasquan.
Cruising at 24 knots instead of 6-7 on the sailboat really allows a crew to cover some ground! We woke up on Sunday with every expectation that we’d cover the balance of the trip in time for evening cocktails in Annapolis. The conditions in the harbor looked fine, and while we certainly encountered more chop than we had on Saturday as we cleared the Manasquan inlet, we were still able to keep the speeds at 15 knots or better without fear of breaking man nor yacht. But before an hour was out conditions began to deteriorate ominously.
We reduced speed in lock step with the growing wave height until we found ourselves operating under 7 knots the majority of the time and actively working the throttle to avoid jumping the boat off each wave and crashing it back down on the next. Despite our best efforts to keep the speeds low enough we managed a couple of General-Lee style jumps and on other occasions buried the bow, sending green water back to the windshield. Take a moment to consider the gravity of that statement by looking at the considerable amount of sheer Hinckley incorporated into the Talaria 44 design:
Burying that bow with only a few knots of boat speed takes some effort. At certain points we couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing. Near the worst of it we briefly considered putting in at Barnegat but quickly discarded the idea. The angle of the inlet was unprotected from the weather and none aboard had made a landing there before. Heavy weather landings in unfamiliar inlets – particularly those with a “breakers” advisory on the chart – are dangerous business. The boat was handling the conditions well and we were much safer carefully pressing on than trying anything desperate to escape the conditions. So we decided to push on to Atlantic City and to assess our options further when we arrived. I had made two landings there already during the season and felt comfortable piloting an Atlantic City landing even given the sea state.
As the weather eased off from the worst of it we finally had the presence of mind to capture some video:
Once we finally reached Atlantic City we made the decision to give up and put in to wait out the weather. Better to enjoy a warm meal and clean up the boat than to beat our brains out for the rest of the day while making such poor progress.
While at the slip we pulled up a nearby buoy’s weather data, which showed winds of 23 knots with gusts to 29. That data felt about right given what we’d seen.
Monday’s weather couldn’t have been more different. We enjoyed glass-like conditions all the way from Atlantic City to Annapolis and were able to resume our 24-knot pace from Saturday.
Lessons learned? Never depend on a forecast being 100% accurate. Or as we’ve learned this season, even 10%. And be sure delivery crews have a reasonable amount of flexibility in their work schedules to allow for contingencies like this one. It was comforting that all three of us agreed that a missed day’s work was preferable to pushing on at the risk of turning a solid yacht club bar war-story into something more serious.