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Day 17, Valcour Island (storm)

Posted by on July 7, 2012

Day 17
July 4th 2012
The weather forecast was calling for light and variable winds to change to West winds at night so we headed for a safe anchorage at Spoon Bay off Valcour Island near Plattsburg NY in Lake Champlain.
We were in an idyllic little bay surrounded on three sides by rock cliffs and dense forests.
The only exposure was to the north east. There were trails connecting the different anchorages and we were hiking them when we saw dark clouds moving in so we high tailed it back to the boat. There were six Canadian sailboats sharing the harbor with us at the time. When we came out of the woods near our dinghy one of the other boaters told us the sheriff had just come by to tell them of this oncoming storm with 60+ winds and hail. We zoomed out to the boat and wrapped the bimini up and prepared for something like we experienced on the Hudson last week. This was not even in the same class. We had 60+ feet of anchor chain out in 15’ depth. This should have been effective for nearly any blow but the wind came from the northeast and with a considerable fetch, Roughly 8 miles of fetch. We were pushed nearly onto the rocks of the cliff base behind us. We all had our boats running when the wind and rain hit. It was not long before this flat lake was pushing 6-8’ seas right on our bow and we were being pushed back. We only had 8’ of water under the boat, that’s how close to the shore we were. All the boats were bouncing around in every direction. Some broke free of their anchors and set out into the storm and deeper water. At one point I had a 42 foot, brand new sailboat, a matter of feet from my starboard side while another sailboat tries to escape over my anchor chain. Phew! We are locked in the cabin with our life vests on trying to keep the boat on anchor and straight into the wind. Almost an impossible task at 63 mph wind and these kinds of seas. On a lake these waves stand straight up and come bam-bam-bam right after one another. Nothing like the predictable swells and waves in salt water. I was scared myself. I’ve experienced repeated 64 degree rolls while on a 210’ CG cutter in a North Atlantic winter storm but this was scarier. It lasted about 45 minutes but seemed like hours. In short order the seas calmed down and we moved further away from shore. I moved far enough away so if it happened again at night we would have a chance to escape crashing on the rocks. It was a rough night on that anchorage because the bouncing and slapping never stopped till sun up. Mary is understandably freaked out now and does not want to anchor on the lake again but we have so much time left. We headed for Vergennes VT at first light where they have a town dock up a 7 mile creek. It is as safe as we can get. On the way we stopped at the Shelburne Shipyard to top off the fuel tanks. Of course we chatted about the storm there and there was a lot of damage inland. Bruce the service manager said he has seen a lot of blue water sailors leave this lake white. I believe him. Fortunately for us we are leaving tanned. Sorry, we don’t have a picture to verify this post. TB

2 Responses to Day 17, Valcour Island (storm)

  1. Peter Phillips

    Thanks for asking me to help man the boat while Mary came back home to go to a wedding! Going through the locks, and seeing New York City by water was a great experience! Have a safe trip back to Fairhaven, see you then!

  2. Steve Hnds

    I had heard the storms were vicious inland. Glad you are both safe. Enjoy Canada.