Thursday, October 29, 2020

Columbia NC, SItting Out a Severe Storm Alert

Intermezzo arrived at the city docks in Columbia NC around 13:30 this afternoon after a very windy passage from the mouth of the New River across the Albermarle Sound. We're safe and sound, it's very warm out (82 degrees F, "feels like" 90 according to weather app!) and we are being regularly blasted by gusts greater than 40 knots. We have double dock lines out and there are no land objects (like trees or wires) close by to fall on us. So all is good.

We left Broad Creek this morning at dawn and I motored at maximum cruising speed the whole way here. Intermezzo's little Yanmar engines did great, maintaining over 7 knots until the headwinds got to 30 knots, then speed only dropping to 6.8 knots. My strategy was to get across the sound and to a sheltered spot before the forecasted gale-force winds started blowing in the afternoon.

I took Intermezzo on a direct route across the sound until I was close to the southern shore then I turned west towards the entry of the Scuppernong River. By sticking close to shore, the waves didn't have much fetch and so we motored against only a light chop the whole way, despite the high winds. It was a breezy 15 nm motor into the wind to the mouth of the river, the apparent wind speed often over 30 knots and I saw several 40+ gusts.

As we turned into the river, a distress call came over the radio for a boat in trouble in nearby Bull Bay. The Coast Guard hailed us to request we look for the vessel, so we turned around and headed back out. Despite scanning the area with the binoculars while navigating windy shallow waters, we saw only one boat and it didn't look like it was in distress. We provided information to the Coast Guard and then turned back on our course upriver. Later we heard over the radio that the vessel in distress had been located and received assistance from a USCG small boat.

My hope was that the Columbia city dock would have space for Intermezzo, but I managed my expectations as there are many vessels heading south on the Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) this time of year and I imagined at least several had the same idea as I for sheltering from this storm. How happy we were to find the dock completely empty! It was a bit tricky coming alongside with the wind gusting, but the blows were coming from a favorable direction so I was able to make a very smooth landing.

There is a severe storm risk alert here from 12:30 today until 08:00 tomorrow. I don't understand all the meteorological gobbly-gook, but am intrigued by the statement, "Thus, only (italics mine) isolated damaging convective gusts and/or a brief tornado may occur prior to 21z (21:00 GMT or 17:00 local)." What a relief? I make out that the 40 knot gusts will continue but no sustained damaging winds are expected.

We'll hole up here at least until tomorrow, depending on how the post-storm forecast develops.