Friday, July 1, 2011

Too Exciting

Looking to get in some practice last night, the breeze was looking great. From about 3pm right up until 6pm, when Ned and I headed out, the wind was averaging 20kts from 095 to 120 degrees.

I checked the radar at about 10 minutes after 6pm and there was nothing moving towards Chicago from the North or West at that time; there were some cells out over the middle of the lake or further east so we headed out.

We were sailing basically due east when about 1/2 mile off shore we saw a bolt of lightning ahead of us. I thought, hmm, that's odd, not supposed to be anything near us. So figuring that cell was moving ESE, we tacked onto port and sailed south to give it a wide birth. We were probably then about 1/2 mile out off of Diversey Harbor when the wind dropped from 12kts to 6kts and we said uh oh...this is weird. So we set the kite and started sailing back towards Belmont. About a 1/4 mile from the harbor the wind started backing to the east and building; we dropped the kite as we could no longer fetch and started two sail reaching in 15kts from about 090. The breeze kept building as we approached the harbor and a squall line moved towards us. We put in the flattener and dropped the rig back past 25' 0" and started sailing towards Montrose Point hoping to just ride out the gust on a close hauled course. The breeze started clocking and continued to build, probably about 28kts so we said we need to get in.

We were just North of Belmont Harbor so we tacked around and talked through our plan: we'd try a bear away and sail dead down into the harbor. The breeze was now well over 30kts as we bore away and got the boat pointed dead down. We were probably doing about 16-18kts of boatspeed in insane 5-8 foot square waves bouncing off of the seawall. I said to Ned this is no good, we're going to eat it like this; we needed to slow down as we were jumping off of the confused waves. We got the boat back up to a close reach and made the call of the day to drop the main (who lashes their sail up?). Ned got the sail down and we got sorted and headed back down under jib only. This was absolutely the look and we were able to sail at the same speed as the waves.

The boat performed admirably. A bunch of Vanguard sailors went into the water. I think the most breeze we saw was just over 40kts. We were monitoring our VHF and once we had the boat on its dolly, we headed out in a RIB as there were reports of V15 sailors in the water off of Belmont. When we got out there the CPD and CFD boats were on the scene and everyone had been retrieved.

The storms built between Evanston and the city and then moved SSW over Chicago. I've never seen anything like that.

The peak gust while we were sailing was measured at 47kts and the storm later produced winds over 70kts.