With favorable winds out of the ENE, today is a day to make distance towards our destination. We are also trying to make as much distance as possible to the south and east in order to avoid the deepening low pressure area that is forming along the Florida – Georgia border. This low is expected to develop into a strong nor’easter later today.
By noon, we are 361 miles into our voyage. The wind has shifted out of the south. We tack Cutter Loose to the east, placing the southerly winds on our beam for a comfortable reach. The sun is shining. The wind is brisk at 18 knots and it is a lovely day for an ocean sail. But high clouds moving in from the west portend a change in the weather. We remain optimistic that our rapid pace to the east will place us well beyond the influence of the coastal storm.
At dusk, the southerly winds increase to 25 knots. We prepare Cutter Loose for darkness by reducing sail area. We are cautiously flying about one third of our mainsail and one half of the headsail. Winds continue to build during the evening, but Cutter Loose feels comfortable with the sail plan. A unidentified reddish-orange light appears on the eastern horizon. According to radar and AIS, there are no ships within 20 miles of our location. As it turns out, the mysterious light is the moon, making its appearance amidst the storm clouds.
At midnight, however, we are hit by multiple squall lines, each one more powerful than the former. We are experiencing horizontal rain and steep waves. A 38 knot wind gust causes Cutter Loose to round up into the wind. In the process of bringing her back on course, we execute an untimely accidental jibe. The radar shows that we are surrounded by squalls. Visibility is minimal. We decide to heave to in these miserable conditions to rest and wait out the squalls. But the storms just keep coming. We are safe and there is no obvious damage to the boat. We decide to remain hove to until daybreak to wait out the squally conditions.