We don’t cruise the New England coastline … yet. … So when major fog rolls in with no warning, it’s a bit disconcerting … it happened twice last winter in southwest Florida and once in 2010 in Belize.
We were sailing along on a beautiful sail between Naples and Marco Island … sunny skies, tourist beach activities in full swing when we spotted this bank of clouds far far behind us. David’s comment was “uh oh”, my natural instinct is to poopoo his negativity, it’s a glorious day, it’s not going to turn ugly. Guess it must be David’s Coast Guard SAR training because within an hour our glorious sunny sail turned into pea soup! Ugh!
So what to do. First of all, there were a LOT of boats out making the run either from Naples to Marco or Marco to Naples. Traffic everywhere. No problem on a bright sunny day, but when it turns to pea soup, watch out!
Three simple steps as Oso the Bear (my grandson’s favorite TV show) would say:
1. Slow down!
2. Turn on the radar. If we didn’t have radar, we would have slowed even more.
3. Make the appropriate sound signals. We have both a bell and air horn aboard and used them alternately. Here’s our fog bell if you need one, from West Marine – we just have the “basic brass bell” variety, it attaches, as you can see, to the side of our teak cockpit table drink tray so it’s in easy reach while we’re at the wheel straining our eyes into the fog.
At this point we kept circling in a small circle waiting for the fog bank to pass. We could see one other boat, a trawler, within our confined circle of view and we figured his radar signature would be better than ours, so we tried to keep him in sight. He was using the same circle tactics we were.
We could hear fancy power boats – both cigarette style boats and sportfishermen blowing by us — zoom zoom — and never spotted them, a very scary feeling! Idiots!
After 45 minutes or so, the fog bank lifted just slightly and we could barely make out the sea buoy to Marco, but waited to make sure the coast was clear before heading in the channel. BIG mistake! The fog bank moved back in & once again we were mired in pea soup. Finally after over an hour, I thought to call Sea Tow inside Factory Bay/Marco Island. They responded saying it was clear inside that the fog seemed to be sitting right over the sea buoy. Great, just great.
So the next time it lifted just enough to see a bit, using the radar and our sound signals, we crept closer to the channel. Once again, we could hear sportfishing boats zooming past but couldn’t see them until they were almost upon us – luckily there were none close enough to cause serious heart palpitations. We shouted curses they couldn’t possibly hear over their gazillion horse zoom zooms and made our way from marker to marker.
A couple of boats were coming out, obviously they didn’t realize the fog was settled in around the sea buoy. Both returned before we could even get all the way down the channel. Going 5 knots, alot of boats seem to get where they’re going quicker than Winterlude! 🙂
And once past this point, we could see well enough to discontinue the sound signals and radar monitoring and sail on in to Factory Bay. Sea Tow was right, inside it was totally clear. Go figure!
Anchor down and happily safe, we relaxed in the cockpit. Just after dinner, the fog bank decided to move inland and we watched from our safe spot as it rolled over us and we were engulfed in pea soup once again.
Now we turned on our deck lights in addition to our really bright LED anchor light and cockpit light so any boats still out moving around would hopefully see us anchored. With our dark hull, I always worry a bit about being spotted in the dark. No problems although we remained alert with sound signals at the ready until it grew later and we heard no more boats. Luckily the fog lifted before bedtime so we could get some sleep after an interesting day on the water.
Obviously we’re not experienced in fog. Maybe some New England or Northwest sailors (or anywhere else that deals with fog on a regular basis) will chime in with more tips on how to deal with it if we missed something important! Please leave comments and share! THANKS! Cheers! Jan