Worried, terrified, then realizing there is an indescribable state beyond terrified

We are uninjured and the boat is floating. I figured that’s the best way to start this post before diving in to the events that unfolded last night. We are currently safely anchored in Shinnecock Inlet on Long Island, NY with no plans of returning to Maine in this boat.

I was under the impression that coming aground on a submerged jagged rock breaker was the worst thing that would happen to us yesterday. The next few hours we stayed close to shore. I made breakfast, wrote a post, and marveled over how many houseflies were out to sea. We must have killed 50 flies. More than we’d ever had in the farmhouse. Seaflies I dubbed them.

I took a shower (more of a hose-down) on the trampoline, washed some laundry, nested. That’s when we decided to cut off NY harbor and head right for Long Island. It would save us a full day of travel. There was a slight chance of thunderstorms that looked like we’d miss. So, we corrected our route and headed out to deeper seas. Deeper seas than we’d ever traveled.

In an hours’ time we were experiencing choppy water, but the wind was around 5-7 knots and blue skies. We motored and kept the sails down. At about halfway through, rouge waves were broadsiding us occasionally and continued to grow in size and frequency, until they were wider than our boat. We were tossed up, slid down the side, and the peak of them loudly thudding the underside of the catamaran between the pontoons. It felt like when your stomach drops out on a rollercoaster ride, but over and over—for hours on end.

When the beaches of Long Island finally came into view, so did a massive cotton candy cloud. The seas calmed, we relaxed a little. It was beautiful—until it wasn’t. It gradually towered over the land and appeared to be slowly moving at about the same rate as us and slightly towards us.

Over the course of an hour, the cloud changed from a lovely pink to a threatening dark blue. Dusk approached. It morphed into a long, flat cloud the entire length of the beach with a leading edge like a UFO saucer. I had never seen anything like it before. It loomed over as the seas continued to churn and dread began to sink in. We had been on the phone with Kevin’s brother, Keith, and told him we had to go because things looked like they might get a little hairy in a few minutes.

This could be bad. We both knew it. I went below deck to grab our life jackets, buckled mine tight, and stuffed poor Chip down the front of my dress and looped the long remaining part of my strap around chip. I nagged at Kevin to tighten his.

The winds rapidly sped up as the cloud blocked out what light remained in the sky and the first raindrops started. Lightning lit the sky and outlines the swells surrounding us. Then it was on us.

I glanced at the depth and windspeed gauges but couldn’t see through my glasses. I tried to put them in my pocket but I was shaking too hard. I tossed them on the dash. I didn’t care if they blew away. That was the least of my worries. Depth was good, wind was 38 knots—43.7 MPH for you land lovers.

I was so terrified, that in a matter of seconds I was shaking violently and making involuntary primal panic sounds while gripping the rail at the helm. I had never been so terrified in my life. We both kept our cool as much as one can in such a situation. I crammed Chips head into my top and he happily buried himself, after making a few loops before settling—as any dog, no matter the situation, must do.

Autopilot was on and we could see our heading even though there was no visibility. I couldn’t see the lights on the front of the boat. The rain drove sideways stinging our skin. Kevin said it was time to head below deck. I was paralyzed with fear and felt stiff all over. I scooted on my butt clinging to the grab bars along the side, and grateful I’d added an extra one a few days before. I stood in front of the door grabbing for Kevin’s life jacket to make sure he got in.

I calmed down once we were in the cabin but not being able to see a thing was unnerving. I looked at the radar and suggested we slow down to allow the storm to pass us over. We were only an hour from the inlet and couldn’t enter in those conditions. The boat creaked and groaned. Cans rolled in the cupboards.

Lightning struck over and over—more like strobe lights at a 90’s rave party. As soon as I stopped shaking, I pinned my arm against the sofa to get a steady video of the situation in the cabin. Otherwise, it was impossible to capture anything but a blur on camera.

The storm began to pass and Kevin went back to the helm station, up top over the cabin. I joined him shortly after knowing we were close to the inlet. The winds were back down to 8 knots and it had stopped raining. I was so relieved, again.

As we turned to start our way toward the green and red lights marking Shinnecock Inlet, the waves started churning from all directions. The wind picked up, rapidly. Suddenly it was back in the 20’s. There was no turning back if we wanted to. We were being pushed into shore at an incredible speed.

Kevin did all he could to hold the wheel and steer us for the deepest channel as I reported the depth every few seconds and pointed to our bearing. I was suddenly more terrified than when I was the most terrified I’d been in my life—which had only been less than a hour before.

Just before we had made it into the inlet the waves crashed ashore and bashed back into us from all directions. We spun, crashed against them, and tipped so hard I braced myself to stay on board with my feet. I shook worse than before. Chip did too. Kevin said the swells were 30-feet, I think they were more. I understand why early sailors thought there were krakens.

A massive wave rose up beside us and can only be described as something out of a cartoon. It was peaked and leaning over us. It looked like it was going to crash down onto us, but somehow just violently swirled and tipped us. Kevin held the wheel with all his strength. That’s not something to balk about—I have seen this man lift, shove and carry more than any person I’ve ever met. I peed my pants. Chip may have too.

As we finally broke the surf and entered the inlet the anchoring wasn’t hard to navigate to. The wind was still terrible. We could not hear each other. I dropped anchor while Kevin motored into place and then repeated the process until we’d grounded on a mucky shoal. I dropped the anchor and we decided the hell with it and went inside.

Once in the cabin, coming down for our shared adrenaline rush, my absolutely amazing husband looked at me and said at least if we’re grounded we can’t sink. I burst out laughing. We went to bed and listened to the wind. It sounded like a howling Maine blizzard between the pontoons. Whitecaps with spray leaping off the surface surrounded our grounded boat.

Sometime in the night Kevin called to have us towed off the mucky shoal. I was so exhausted. I got dressed when he woke me to say they were coming. I felt I could barely stand. I said I’d lay down until they got there. I remember unbuttoning my jeans to lay on the bed, then woke up wearing them this morning.

This morning the water is eerily calm tucked in behind the last pier beside the row of commercial fishing boats. We aren’t leaving this harbor without assistance. It has become clear that we aren’t very good at this. In fact, we are terrible at this. Does anyone want to buy a boat? It’s a proven tank! I suggest lessons, radar, sonar and a fuzzy first mate.

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8 Comments on “Worried, terrified, then realizing there is an indescribable state beyond terrified

  1. Thanks to the Lord that you are safe. Having grown up on Long Island, I’ve gone through the Shinnecock Inlet in good weather and it was bad. I’ve also been grounded waiting for help. Deep breathing, finding a beach to chill on and some drinks sound like a really good idea right now.

    1. Yes, we pulled in while the tides turned in a nearly full moon tugging the tides even more drastically. The perfect storm for two imperfect novice sailors. We have a tight bond, making this uncertain situation and adventure that has yet to come to an end one will will never regret. There have been drinks on the trampoline of the boat, laughs, and dreaming. We will prevail—we always do, and always will.

  2. Oh my god Mandy what a horrible experience. So glad the two of you made it. I pray you will find your way.

    1. Kevin and I have been through many wild situations and stressful times, but certainly nothing compared to this. We will find a new path and travel back to Maine soon. Starting a new journey is something I relish, and Kevin is the perfect pairing to boldly step into the uncertain future ahead.

  3. Oh my goodness. That is awful. I am so glad you guys r ok. On another note you should be a writer!!! I was riveted while reading this, I could feel your adrenaline. Hopefully, this is something you could consider 😁

    1. That is one of the paths we are considering at this time. I appreciate the comment more than you know. Thank you. I have long-wanted to become a serious writer. My personal life has been a chaotic one, in addition, I’ve had three children to focus on. We have a remote primitive cabin in northern Maine that is calling—but a few other things tug at my heart too. We have been laying out the many things that we could do—with only one lifetime to pursue in mind. Anchored in this little inlet on Long Island is a perfect place to contemplate the future in solitude before we return to society.

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