Storm Preparation: Bomb Cyclone Grayson
It has been an interesting 48-hours. We learned of a pressure system moving up the coast a few days ago, which seemed as if, to appear out of nowhere. The name given this system was Bomb Cyclone Grayson, and potentially packed blizzard conditions combined with hurricane force winds. By all accounts, this could be a very dangerous storm due to the freezing temperatures, and rapid atmospheric pressure drop. Those pressures, potentially, could rival those of Hurricane Sandy. There is an interesting article here describing some of the effects of this type of weather system.
We had not given much thought to having this type of weather so early in our travels. It was ok though. We had warm clothes, and heat on Banjo to keep her warm. Even if we lost shore power, we have a portable generator that could be used. There were differing opinions around the docks as to what we should expect, so we planned for the worst and hoped for the best. Shannon made a trip to our storage to make sure we had warm clothes. She also stopped to pick up a few necessities, like bread and milk for “milk sandwiches.” Unfortunately, the rest of New Bern was already a step ahead and there would be no “milk sandwiches” for us this time. Meanwhile, I put some salt out on our finger pier and some of the main dock and began lashing things down on deck.
Bomb Cyclone Grayson Forecasts were calling for winds gusting to 40-knots in our area for this “rare” type storm, and we heard rumors of even higher winds possible. I lowered Lil’ Pic’N, our dinghy, into the water. Shannon and I tied the dink to the docks in front of Banjo. Next, we put out a few extra dock lines, just in case the winds were rough. Some of our existing lines were beginning to show signs of chafe, so I took a trip over to Mitchell Hardware, in New Bern, to pick up some fresh 3-strand twisted nylon.
Back on Banjo, we took a half hour or so to splice in an eye on each of the new lines before putting them into action. So far, so good. Neither Shannon nor I had ever heard of a “Bomb Cyclone” before, so we really did not know what to expect.
Waiting and Watching
We spent the day watching the sky which went from clear blue to scattered wispy clouds, to thickening clouds in the afternoon. We could feel the temperature dropping as we kept an eye on the local weather stations. Several other captains met out on the dock, and began, as captains tend to do, sharing information that had been passed along. We had heard that Charleston, SC had already been inundated throughout the day with record-setting snow and ice. One delivery captain friend of a friend, was offshore and reported that the winds were blowing 60. This could be nasty.
Shannon fed the girls and we went for a walk.
Around 18:30, the sky had significantly clouded over and a light rain began. The temperature was cooler than it had been during the day, but it wasn’t yet uncomfortable. Shannon and I took the dogs for a run in the field. We could all be dormant for the next few days. Another quick check with boaters in the clubhouse. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits and ready.
Our initial plan was to remain on Banjo unless the conditions became such that doing so would put any of us in danger. Fortunately, we had access to the marina hotel, should we need it. Again we just waited.
Around 19:00, our light rain changed over to freezing rain and there was a thin, glassy coating of ice beginning to coat the lifelines. Shortly after, a thin glaze was visible on the docks. Note to self: be very deliberate with EACH AND EVERY STEP from here forward, especially when getting on and off Banjo. I stressed the importance of being careful once again as Shannon and I held a mini-storm briefing.
By 20:30, the docks had patches that were very slick! We decided to take the girls for one last quick walk before it got worse. Up the docks we went. Neither Sagira, nor Venus seemed to be enjoying the cold wind gusts and Venus was creeping along with unsure steps. I focused on keeping them next to me, calm, and my own footfalls. Finally, we reached the gangway and crossed over to earth. The temperature was dropping by the minute it seemed and after a few minutes, we all headed back to Banjo.
We sat in the cockpit and felt the winds beginning to pick up as Banjo wobbled. Ice had already started sticking to our Strataglass, but the cockpit was surprisingly comfortable. I sat there, peeking out from the cockpit, in my Gill Toboggan, grey thermal shirt, jeans and socks filming the sky. Rain had given way to sleet and finally to snow. Snow was a good thing. I left the one side of the Strataglass unzipped closest to the dock to prevent the zipper from freezing shut.
On Into The Night
The winds would continue to increase throughout the night, coming often in gusts of 25-30. Light slapping was constant throughout the night and the river conditions worsened. Not too bad, all things considered. Banjo would list slightly with the gusting winds, but we were secured to the dock and comfortable. Looking outside every hour or so, I was amazed to see the sheer scale of snowfall. Nothing left to do now but wait and watch.
Around 3am, after a short nap, I awoke and went forward to check on the temperature in the main salon and forward berth. The winds were still fairly consistent in the 25-30 knot range, I would estimate. There were a few gusts higher, and some that were lower. Crossing the cockpit, I saw a snowdrift of about two inches had formed on the inside of the port cockpit where I left the glass unzipped. The winds were coming from the port side. My comfy, ugly, fur-lined Croc boat shoes were full of snow. Ugh. I emptied the snow and began scooping the snow out of the cockpit. It was cold outside of the cockpit. Banjo’s decks were completely snowed in.
I finally was able to lay back down around 04:30. My main concern was whether or not we would lose power so I stayed up for awhile. Luckily, the power stayed on and we were warm and cozy. Condensation had formed on the ceiling of our stateroom and would occasionally drip. I tried to keep it as dry as possible with paper towels, but with every breath I realized it was a losing battle.
The Next Morning
This morning, around 0600, we woke to calm. Peeking outside, everything was a brilliant, glistening white, including Banjo’s foredeck. I grabbed the camera and took a few shots before throwing on my boots and jacket. We got the girls ready, and disembarked onto the finger pier and slowly made our way up the docks. Reaching land, we unshackled the leashes and Sagira and Venus instantly began bounding and running through the snow.
The snow for Bomb Cyclone Grayson was in the 4-6 inch range in most spots, and up to a foot or more in certain drifts. Out into the field we went. Venus would grab a mouth of snow and CHOMP! Run and grab another mouth of snow. Gira leaped and ran as well. I grabbed a handful of snow and crushed it into a little ball throwing it into the air near Venus. She gave chase before losing it upon impact. We each took turns running and playing in the snow and stretching our legs before heading back down the docks to start our day. Other crews and captains were trickling out onto the docks and there were an abundance of smiles. Everyone seemed to have made it through the night unscathed and we were all in good spirits.
Our forecast for the next few days is expected to continue to be cold and bitter as we ride out the tail end of Bomb Cyclone Grayson, with the worst of the temperature coming on Saturday night where we are expecting single or negative digits. We are expecting warmer temperatures early next week, and we are also hoping to receive and install our new anchor chain upgrade.