Since the recent squall that hit Mobile Bay, Alabama, JT and I are reminiscing about our first squall (only squall since). We were dating for a few months and just returned from a cross country drive to meet my parents and explore the Texas Hill country with Whitley. We were blissfully happy together.
Whitley, the puppy, enjoyed looking out the window and could not believe what she saw. As I was napping in the back, Whitley, puppy, was sitting up for the first time in the front passenger seat (riding shot gun) staring across the wide open country of west Texas. West Texas had no green that summer, and she only pees on green. Once we left Tyler, TX, she refused every rest area until JT found a potted plant in front of the CVS with a green spike grass in it. She finally made water. On the return drive we left the interstate to confirm why we both love Texas and the citizens so much. Driving behind a vehicle where they have the courtesy to pull over into the driveable shoulder to let you pass while using their turn signals, this is where I want to always live.
Upon our return home we jumped on the boat to sail around the lake on a blistery, hot and humid early Sunday evening, July 13th, 2003 after 5 pm. I was still a true novice at sailing with less than a handful of trips under my belt. The winds were barely blowing 4 knots so both sails were up on the Hunter 23. As we passed the Jackson Yacht Club, we noticed a dark cloud by the spillway. I thought that a nice summer shower would cool us off. We got anything but nice. This fast moving dark cloud grew as it crossed the Rez.
JT tried to start the engine but it would not crank. JT stated that he should take down the head sail as the winds picked up forgetting about the life jackets. By the time he dropped the sail, the rains and winds started. After unhooking the sail, he quickly pushed the head sail into the front hatch. The wind and rain really took off now. JT dropped the main sail and attempting to tie it down as the wind blew us side ways. The loud, pouring rain felt like a thousand needles to the skin. I yelled (getting a mouth of fresh water) that I was putting our four month old, Whitley, in her new larger size lifejacket down below.
|Whitley surviving her first squall|
All that I could imagine was the headlines of tomorrow's paper of two boaters missing after a gale storm on the lake and a unknown golden retriever puppy found on shore in her life jacket.
I quickly searched the cabin for human life jackets. Two seconds later JT yelled that he needed my help. I jumped to the cockpit. JT said to grab the tiller since the wind was pushing the hull of the boat starboard. I grabbed the tiller and pointed the boat away from the wind as I placed the bottom hatch to keep the velcro puppy down below. The sailboat stood back up, so turning the boat away from the wind worked. Many of my first sailing lessons I learned in a gale storm with no engine using a tiller.
We could not see three feet around the boat because the rain was so hard and still blowing sideways. I could barely see and hear powerboaters and fishingboats flying by us at top speed. Why would they be going that fast when they could not see? JT returned to the cockpit. Ten minutes later the storm finally passed. "It comes on ya fast and leaves ya fast," quote from Captain Ron, movie is so true. That was a pure adrenaline rush that we survived. JT still could not get the outboard engine to crank so he radioed for help from another boat on the pier.
As we waited for their arrival, we let Whitley out of the cabin to stop her from barking at us. We had no navigation besides the tiller, so JT decided to raise the main sail again. JT grabbed a line from our fellow boater, who towed us back to the slip on H pier. The sun dried our rained soaked bodies and clothes on the way back to port. As we arrived back to slip 10 men stood around the slip eager to see us return and hear our tale. JT's father years later told me that he thought, 'that was probably the last time that I saw her.' Well he didn't realize what an adrenaline junki that I am. I loved it, and JT and I bonded even more aside from returning from Arizona to meet my parents.
Over a decade later we still remember all of the details and excitement.