White Knuckle Ride and Landing


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Sailing up here in southwest lower Michigan yesterday I just escaped a really bad sailing experience in a fast moving thunder storm. I was sailing in some great 15 to 20 knots on Austin Lake, south of Kalamazoo under a partly cloudy sky and temps near 90. I was doing some vantastic reaches, pure adrenaline. I noticed the horizon to the west was becoming quite black and heading northeast which would clip the lake I was on:(. I was on the far east side of the lake and I began my homeward tack to the west side at the boat launch. The windsurfers with me zipped far ahead of me :mad:as we sailed to get the east side. As I came closer to the west of the lake the thunderheads were nearing the west edge of the lake, fast. The wind was becoming too gusty as I reached waist deep waters near the shore. Other power boats were racing in the make a landing too. There was quite a line up of wives in trucks with trailers as they waited for their turn at a two boat launch ramp. Other power boat skippers were beaching their boats left and right of the launch and tieing off to shrubs and trees. People were running to their vehicles. I made it through the water traffic and jumped from my sunfish on the windward side into knee deep water. The wind was a steady gust of forty mph, easy. It began to rain in sheets as I could see the cock pit fill with rainwater fast. As I untied my mainsheet with one hand and held on to the hull with the other the wind increased to the point my sailed was making a cracking whip sound as it luffed. Lightning was now cracking over head, but I did not want to let the rig go. I got the sail down in the water and pulled my mast out too all with one hand. I flipped up the rudder and layed the daggerboard in the cockpit. I found another good reason for having a bungee daggerboard retainer that day too:rolleyes:. My hull wanted to tumble as the wind would catch it. I pulled my sail, spars, and mast together around the bow as now I was the only thing windward of my rig. I walked to shore and got my spars and mast into a gently rolled bundle and lifted them ( just enough to get them on shore), keeping the tack into the wind. I was on a grassy bank about a foot above the water level. I had some of my mainsheet still in my hand and the sail and spars seemed to stay down, but I did not let go. I pulled my hull up the bank and the wind lifted it up for me as it turned, spun downwind like a wind sock. I was amazed :eek:how the rudder did not snap off as the wind grabbed my hull and dropped it on the bank. So, there I was making a "V" holding my hull with a forearm in the cockpit and the other holding my sail and spars. I tucked my head down as everything was gray with the heavy rains. The wind wanted to roll the hull away from me. It began to hail and it felt like needles. I am glad I was still wearing my PFD. The wind had actually been 55 to 60 mph as I later found out on the evening weather, whew. I still have enough adrenaline in my veins to last till the next weekend out. I was just reminded that you can not out run mother nature. I would have been better off sailng back to the east side of the lake, away from the storm, and waited out the winds there. What was I thinking..:eek: