On the Beaufort Wind Scale, a gale is classified as: 7: Moderate Gale (32–38 miles per hour), 8: Fresh Gale (39-46 mph), 9: Strong Gale (47-54 mph) and 10: Storm/Whole Gale (55-63 mph). As a general rule, Elizabeth Jean avoids gales. For example, two days after departing Seattle in 2013 with Elizabeth Jean 60 miles offshore, weather forecasts predicted we would run into gales off southern Oregon. We opted to head for Newport, Oregon to wait.
We were anchored at Isla Mujeres, when we broke our general rule. The good news: we we were in an anchorage. The bad: Isla Mujeres is notorious for its poor holding.
Dark clouds and nearby thunder and lightening flashing in the mid-afternoon announced the gale’s arrival. As our wind meter climbed to 29, then 35 and finally 37 knots, the gale engulfed us. The squall hit the same time as the peak winds, drenching and blinding us with white-out conditions.
The Cruisers’ Net the next morning joked about a night of “bumper cars and drag races” in the anchorage. We were among many boats that dragged. During a lull, we set a second bow anchor (a first in our two and a half years) and set an anchor watch through a long “passion-filled” night. We were spared the harrowing experience of encountering another boat, although an errant boat came down hard on two nearby boats, entangling one’s second anchor and ripping another’s bow pulpit from its deck.
Gales, as do clouds, come with silver linings. The below photo of the entry from our log the day of the squall explains.
As the log notes, the gale’s first hit came quickly at 1650 (4:50) and lasted 30-45 minutes. At 1700 (5:00) our daughter Jean called to tell us she and her boyfriend, Max Friedman, were engaged. Shortly after the call, the winds built again and we spent the night taking turns on anchor watch.