We spent two and a half weeks in the north end of Lake Worth, which is in the North Palm Beach area, waiting on weather which would be safe and hopefully not too uncomfortable for crossing the Gulf Stream and finally heading to the Bahamas, and wow…what a weather filled two and a half weeks that turned out to be! It seemed like we were being woken up to weather alerts and warnings on our phones every other day!
In the overnight hours of our second night there, the winds really started to pick up, and we were out of bed by 5am on anchor and storm watch. The anchorage we were in was pretty darn full, with probably about 35 to 40 boats, so in addition to making sure our anchor didn’t break loose and drag, we were also keeping an eye out on the boats near us and hoping they would all stay put. The wind was blowing like crazy, we were watching a sharp line of storms headed our way, and tornado watches were in effect for the immediate area. By 1:15pm the watch had been upgraded to a warning. We started up the engine, donned our PFDs (personal flotation devices), and made sure everything loose on deck was stowed away down below.
When the storm front hit, it was nasty and pretty damn scary. We saw top wind speeds of 43kts and clouds of rain that looked like they were falling right out of the sky…that is, the clouds themselves looked as if they were just dropping out of the sky. Hard to describe I guess, but hopefully you’ve got some idea what I’m talking about. It was raining, A LOT, and all at once. Jim was at the helm actually driving forward into the wind to help relieve some of the pressure on our anchor and chain, and we were keeping a close eye on the rest of the boats around us. Survive tornado warning number one – CHECK!
This short video shows the line of rain clouds from the front as it’s about to hit us. Unfortunately I didn’t grab a waterproof camera, so you can hear Jim tell me to “put that away” right before we get drenched!
The next day we decided to move to a marina close by because another storm front was predicted to be moving in overnight, and we were NOT looking forward to going through that while at anchor again. Sure enough, by 6:15am we were under tornado warning number two. The marina was surrounded by buildings which blocked much of the wind, so we were definitely more comfortable tied to the dock here, and glad we’d made the call to switch to a marina for a couple of days, especially after hearing about the tornadoes that had touched down on the west side of the state just a few hours earlier and the havoc caused by winds of 50-80mph that were recorded! Survive tornado warning number two – CHECK, CHECK!
By the following morning, the winds had died down and there was no severe weather in the forecast for the next few days, so back to the anchorage we went. Of course, before long there were storms and strong winds in the forecast once more. Early one morning a couple of days after dropping the hook again, the wind shifted 180 degrees from where it had been when we’d dropped our anchor, and we were awoken to the sound of the anchor drag alarm on our GPS. Boy, oh boy, did that get us up and at ’em in a huge hurry!
We’ve never had any problem with our anchor dragging before, but we’d also never had such strong winds which had completely switched directions on us before. If there hadn’t been another boat (which had arrived the night before and anchored way too close to us for comfort) directly in our path behind us, we probably would have given the anchor time to catch and re-set itself, but we didn’t have that luxury, so in 20kts of wind Jim had to pull up the anchor (and all 120 feet of chain!) so we could move forward and re-anchor. It’s times like this that we (well…Jim especially!) wish we had a windlass, a type of winch used to help raise the anchor. But since we don’t, he has to pull it all up by hand. Oh yeah…and did I mention that the anchor itself weighs 55 pounds and each foot of chain is another pound? It’s quite a workout to retrieve in calm conditions, but when it’s blowing like snot and the boat is bucking like a bronco in the waves…poor Jim!
The video below starts out with a shot of our wind instruments showing current wind speed and then showing the high it had recorded since being turned on several minutes prior. Next we tried to capture what it felt and looked like sitting in the boat at anchor, but of course it never looks as bad as it felt at the time! At the 1:27 mark is a shot of the anchor riding sail I made. In essence it’s a small sail that helps keep us from swinging back and forth too wildly when the wind picks up while we’re at anchor. It works by catching the wind and acts as resistance to help keep us pointing into the wind, which is much more comfortable and causes less resistance on our anchor and chain as well.
Several days later, and once again we were rudely awakened to a special weather alert, which eventually turned into yet another tornado warning. Seriously?!? Three tornado warnings in a period of two weeks? Is this typical January weather in Florida? I think not. Sadly, a tornado did touch down about 40 miles from us in the Pompano Beach/Coconut Grove area and from what we heard there was some damage and at least one car that was overturned on the freeway. Scary. Fortunately the winds by us never did get too extreme, but the amount of rain that fell was just crazy. West Palm Beach, just south of us, set a record receiving 4.79 inches of rain that day! Survive tornado warning number three – CHECK, CHECK, CHECK!
Here’s a quick clip of the rain (and Jim hiding from it in the cabin!) after it had already subsided a bit.
Ugh…a very stressful two and a half weeks weather wise, but we did actually have a pretty wonderful stay in Lake Worth, when we weren’t preoccupied with worrying about the weather, that is!