Storm Warning Page 2

At Sea — August 2004
By Capt. Bill Pike

Storm Warning
Part 2: The hurricane was upon us. My eyes weren’t working. My radar wasn’t working. And my mind wasn’t working too well, either.

Illustration: Joseph Daniel Fiedler
 More of this Feature

• Part 1: Storm Warning
• Part 2: Storm Warning continued

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• At Sea Index

I spotted the lights of Cameron from a wave top when we were just a few miles out. The Liberty was pitching and rolling so wildly I found it hard to focus my eyes, let alone my binoculars. Radar was useless—under the influence of extreme rain and sea clutter, my screen was little more than a mass of white.

“Where the heck are the jetties?” I growled, just before realizing the awful truth. The hurricane was pushing tons of seawater north, inundating the Louisiana lowlands. The jetties were under water. Totally invisible! Just waiting to rip open the Liberty’s bottom.

The wind began accelerating. As I shot glances back and forth trying unsuccessfully to locate the Morse-A signal of the sea buoy, the mast atop the wheelhouse began humming loudly, then with a sing-song roar that was bloodcurdlingly supernatural. My eyes were drawn to the needle on the anemometer like it was a rattlesnake—in seconds the thing shot from 45 mph to 85 mph.

Feelings of defeat assailed me. The hurricane was upon us. My eyes weren’t working. My radar wasn’t working. And my mind wasn’t working too well, either. Moreover, I was trapped between a rock and a hard place—attempting to transit the Cameron jetties while they were underwater and invisible was madness, the sort of thing that might drown everybody onboard. But it was also madness to try to stay where we were and ride out a Category Two storm on a lee shore. More feelings assailed me—awful ones, like loneliness and desperation.

Help came ineffably. As I continued working the Liberty toward Cameron, hoping for a miracle, a weak, yellowish light appeared momentarily ahead, a couple of points to starboard. “Damn!” I exclaimed, “ of the range lights for the jetties.” I then caught a brief glimpse of something else—the second range light.

My mind jump-started. Although glops of wind-driven rain and spray prevented me from seeing both range lights at the same time, they allowed me to see each light separately, now and again. Might this development engender the means to steer a safe course into Cameron?

I gave it a whirl, with complete success.

But the story doesn’t quite end there. Several days after the hurricane had passed, an oil-company official stopped by to compliment the Liberty. He gabbed on interminably.

“But tell me,” the guy concluded with a sly look, “what was it really like out there?”

“Trust me, pardner,” I replied, looking him straight in the eye, “you don’t really wanna know.”

Previous page > Part 1: For the edification and benefit of benighted boobs. > Page 1, 2

This article originally appeared in the July 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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