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Exploring To Inspire (TM) motto of The Mad Dogs!Ship's Log: October 10, 2010

Storm of 85 kts+ (97 mph / 157 km/h).

Location: Approx 10 nautical miles south of Ketchikan, Alaska

Be Storm Ready at anytime!

"It was a dark and stormy night..." So begins many a scary story told to youngsters in the flickering glow of a fireplace, but for us on October 9, 2010 it was a story come true.

The night of October 9 - 10, 2011 was one to remember and a great experience for us. We listened to the weather forecast predicting overnight winds from the Northwest up to 35 kts (40 mph / 64 km/h). This was nothing new as we've routinely anchored in these wind conditions and have never had a problem.

Just as we lay down to go to sleep, the wind exploded upon us. The problem was that this was not the predicted Northwest wind but an East wind pushing 40 - 50 kts (46-60mph / 74-90km/h). The wind hit so hard and fierce that our anchor, which normally holds outstandingly in all conditions, didn't have time to reset itself but was wrenched out of the mud/clay/shell base.

This was neither a good location nor situation to be in with these winds. The winds were pushing us so hard we were unable to track back to our Manson Supreme anchor to retrieve it. A fender was attached to the anchor chain and the chain was cut free from the boat. We were away from danger (Rocks and shallows along the shore), knowing we would come back later to retrieve our Manson Supreme anchor.

Meanwhile the storm continued to build on a monstrous scale. Our 40' sailboat, a normal cocoon of safety, was being tossed about the seas like a cork in a blender. With no sails out, and running the Yanmar diesel engine full throttle, we spent the next 8 hours fighting to stay off of the nasty rocky shore.

Mooring or anchoring anywhere in this storm was out of the question. With no other options available and rocky shores around us on all sides, we planned to spend the entire night in the cockpit driving the boat, as best as we could. Suddenly, an unbelievable gust grabbed our inflatable catamaran dinghy, still tied to the back of the sailboat, and tore it away. All we were left with were the metal “D" rings attached to the ropes – the wind tore the “D” rings completely through the mounts on the dingy.

The next 8 hours was a lesson in preparation. We had expected 35 kt winds and, after having spent the last 4 years cruising the Western Alaskan and BC coasts, knew what to expect at these wind levels. The tossing around, wind gyrations and smashing into the waves we experienced that night were unlike anything we could imagine. Items inside the boat that had never, ever budged were thrown around like a child’s toys during a temper tantrum.

Outside in the cockpit, we took turns manning the helm through the rest of the night. With the winds screeching and howling through the rigging our 40' floating cork was heeled over most of the times up to 70º. Suddenly the boat would catch a wave and lurch over the other direction suddenly leaning over 70º the other way while the wind did all that it could to push us completely over flat.
AMI-Cats dinghy from Mad Dog Voyager
As we did all that we could to keep the boat pointed and moving away from shore, we witnessed several explosions of light as the winds shredded power transformer, leaving the city of Ketchikan area without power (Previously in sight when we traveled North).

When daybreak finally broke through, the winds subsided and were now constant at 25 - 30 kts (28-35 mph / 46-55 km/h) with gusts up to 45 kts (50-83 km/h). We began moving on a Northwest course towards Ketchikan - we would need to tie-up at the dock and assess the situation. Our dinghy was gone, our anchor and chain were (hopefully) still waiting for us near our "safe" anchorage, we had a pile of soaked clothing and gear to wash & dry and a mess inside the boat to be cleaned up.

Once in the Ketchikan harbor, a commercial fisherman offered a hand to tie up as we docked. He recanted that according to information recorded at the Ketchikan International Airport, there were regularly sustained winds during the storm of 85+ kts (97 mph / 157 km/h). Also, the explosions we saw on shore were power transformers that were not only shredded and destroyed by the winds, but several high tension power poles had been snapped in two by the winds, several power lines were torn loose by falling trees and a huge tree was blown over onto a power station resulting in an instant and total blackout of all of Ketchikan and area.

Having heard this information and details, we returned inside the boat, sat down and began recalling the events of the previous evening. Our actions were the right ones for us and we survived the storm with little more than minor interior damage and a lost dinghy. It could have been much worse (Such as hitting the rocks or enter shallow waters), but working together as a calm & cool team, even in this incredible situation, we came through unscathed and uninjured and a great experience!
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