We did our homework, honest we did! We checked all of the regular weather resources and listened to VHF weather radio.
Our trip from Marathon, Florida to Marco Island anchorage is about 100 miles. Our heading was almost due north. We went past the Everglades and the furthest we would be offshore is 30 miles. The first 5 hours of the 10 hour trip went as planned. Southeast winds with 1 to 2 foot following seas and clear skies. The next 5 hours of our journey was anything but pleasant. On the horizon ahead was an ominous black shelf cloud that stretched as far as you could see from left to right. It was moving right at us and we were driving right into it. We were the furthest point from shore and a safe harbor for the trip.
Dorothy and I have seen these shelf clouds on Lake Michigan and we knew what was coming. So we battened down the hatches, secured everything, and moved to the lower helm station to drive from inside.
This photo is from the internet. This is what we saw.
At first the winds clocked to the north and picked up to 40 mph. The seas were relatively flat with small white caps. Wind on the bow is good in a trawler. We were handling the storm front as it passed over us. Then the wind really picked up. Our wind reading peaked at 57 mph true plus we were moving into the gusts at 8 mph. The real feel or apparent wind on the boat was 65 mph. Then the seas became ANGRY my friends. The waves built and fortunately for us they were coming from the north. This is the direction we wanted to go so we took them head on. (For non boaters we would’ve had to turn the boat into the waves to ride out the storm no matter the direction. Trawlers do no handle big waves from the sides or from behind very well.)
The seas built to 6 to 8 breaking waves with short periods, in other words the waves were very close together. The trawler would launch off the back of a wave and then crash into the next one. At least twice we buried the entire bow pulpit into a wave and the decks were awash with Gulf water. SEASONS handled it like a champ and just keep steaming along. The crew did not manage so well. Both Dorothy and I became seasick, I think it was because we had been in a marina to long and lost our seas legs.
After about 2 hours of a fun house ride things began to settle down. The winds lightened and seas laid down to 3 to 4 foot waves. Land started to appear and we started to feel a little better.
After Anchoring by Marco Island we began to access the boat and ourselves. That is when we discovered the upper canvas did not fair so well. At some point the top came loose and the only thing stopping it from completely coming off was the mast.
We had the upper deck decorated with crab floats we found and Dorothy painted. The damage is fairly light. Some zippers and snaps will have to be repaired. The frame work is fine and all the crab floats survived.
We did our homework on the weather, but you always have to be ready for anything. Dorothy and I were calm thru the whole affair. I contribute that to our years of sailing on the Great Lakes. We have been in these conditions before. We had our safety equipment available and SEASONS was well prepared. I wish I had taken some photos during the storm, but I was a little busy.
This is a story we will remember and tell many times over.