just got back from an extraordinary boating trip in on our SJ23 from New Bern NC
to Oriental NC on the Nuese River, my wife & I got to talking about likely
scenarios when an SJ23 is caught in heavy weather. This past Sunday, we
left Oriental to return to New Bern at about 9:30am. A front was supposed to
have passed through during the night, and all forecasts as of Saturday put winds
@ NW 15 - 20 & diminishing in the afternoon. While we had not heard
whether the front had moved through over nite, we assumed it had been relatively
small, and had come and went.
We left the marina with one reef in
the main and a 110 jib. About 3/4 mile out, we saw a line of dark clouds
approaching. The wind quickly built to 30+, building a steep chop of
4 - 5 ft running down the river. For the next 20 minutes, it took
everything we had to continue to steer the boat, get the jib down, and then the
main. The bow of the boat was heaving up & down a good 10ft, with my
wife hanging on, as the boat climbed over each wave. We ended up splitting the
main before she could finally get it down, as I was unable to steer the boat
directly into the wind. Somehow I managed to start the motor, and with our
weenie 8 horses fully cranked, we managed to turn the boat through the eye and
head back in. Thats when we were broadsided with a 5 footer that nearly
put the mast in the water. I was looking straight down at the starboard
winch, almost submerged.
We made it in, but IMHO, only barely.
Thinking back, I would have done some things differently, but as mentioned
above, what happens when an SJ23 rolls bad? Does the cockpit flood?
If the hatch is open will the cuddy flood? Is that the sign that shes
going down? Is there any significant righting moment in an
The water was 65 deg, a mile to both shores, and we both had on
loads of clothes. Swimming to shore was not an option. If we had gone
over, hopefully we would have had the waterproof VHF & GPS in
In retrospect, we needed to have local, recent forecasts, and more
importantly, should have talked around. Others captains were in the know,
and chose not to go out that morning.
The difference between an ordeal and an adventure is