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SV Unity Story: All Work and No Play …. Staying Calm in a Crisis

This isn’t your normal business blog. It’s more like a story, but one I hope you’ll enjoy especially if you need a little diversion.

After an extremely busy summer promoting my book, setting up a website (to help promote the book), networking, connecting and reconnecting, I decided there was no time like the present to take a break from it all. So, my husband and I escaped for 10-days over Labor Day to our second home, S/V Unity (that’s “sailing vessel Unity for the non-boaters out there). I consider the experience I’m going to share with you a combination of “all work and no play….” and “keeping calm in a crisis.” I’m sure you can all identify with the two phrases.

We keep our sailboat in a marina just outside Bayfield, WI and sail as often as we can between mid-May to late-October. Unity is a 1980 37’ Hunter Cherubini cutter rig we’ve been renovating the past three seasons. Bayfield is a quaint seashore community located on Lake Superior, and a stepping-off point to the Apostle Islands, an archipelago of 21 islands which we enjoy exploring.

We had a glorious 10 days EXCEPT for one rather terrifying night anchored out. We set sail on a beautiful afternoon with friends (who were sailing along in their own boat) for a pre-determined anchoring location. The skies were blue; in fact, there was not a cloud in the sky and the temperature was about 84⁰ as we headed out. Winds were 10-12 mph; seas were out of the west at 1-2 feet. The conditions couldn’t have been better; it was looking pretty sweet for a September day.

We checked the weather service as we always do before heading out and everything was looking good for our anchor location. We set anchor about four hours later in Frog Bay, located on the mainland with Oak and Raspberry Islands within easy site. Very picturesque and just the kind of calmness we were looking for.

Our friends Jim and Peggy who were anchored nearby rowed over in their dinghy for a glass of wine and some appetizers before returning to their boat for dinner. Lake still calm, no sign of weather issues. Husband/grill master James showed off his talents again grilling steaks and baked potatoes. I poured the wine.

We were just finishing up in the galley about 9pm or 9:30pm and noticed that Unity seemed to be rocking a little more than usual. Rocking in a sailboat is normal. This, not so much. It quickly became apparent the weather condition was changing – something that wasn’t predicted according to the weather reports we had been following all day long on the VHF.

Once Unity started to rock and roll, she didn't stop until the next morning. We were literally up ALL night. The winds shifted unexpectedly out of the north (a Nor'easter) and suddenly (and I mean suddenly) we were in rollers of 3-4 feet minimum. We had to pull anchor and reset twice -- once because our friend's boat had nudged Unity (even though we were anchored about 75’-100’' apart) -- and once because Unity had shifted from sitting in 18' of water to less than 10’and we found ourselves bouncing off the bottom. We learned later that the Coast Guard had received at least 25 May Day calls that evening.

Thankfully, nobody was hurt and nothing got broken. AND, we both stayed calm. There was no panicky behavior. We were prepared; we had our rain gear and life jackets on all night. We took every precaution when we had to go up on deck to pull anchor and move.

The winds calmed down just about sunrise, and we were able to pull anchor and set sail for our return to Port Superior. It was a great sail back, although the skies were not as blue as the day before and the temps much cooler. We went from wearing swimsuits the day before to rain jackets and long pants and stocking caps for the return sail, and I even wrapped a blanket around me towards the end. Of course, it could have been that the severity our situation the night before had finally started to kick in.

We pulled into our slip about 9am, tidied up the boat, grabbed our wallets and headed into Bayfield for breakfast. After that, it was NAP TIME.

Two days later we were back out sailing again. The sun was shining; the warm temps had returned. This is just what we do.

Mary Jo Wiseman, CMP | Author | The Meeting Planning Process: A Guide to Planning Successful Meetings

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