Day Ten: Heavy Weather

January 2014 (Saturday)

A wild day at MDR. The forecast was significant for today – 25 to 35 with gusts to 45 kts, seas 10-15 feet. It’s already 9 feet when I get up at 0730 and it’s building. The batteries are extremely low at 22.9, I guess the CRREL folks have had their computers and gear going early today. I start the generator and it dies immediately. I fill it with fuel although I know that is not the issue. I try again and it runs for a while but dies again. I leave it for

Weather steadily building

Weather steadily building

a bit, but we need the power so I decide to look into the issue further. It’s blowing forty already. I’ve got the generator in the doorway of the old generator shed which has no south or west wall, and I mount a piece of plywood across the back side of the door to break the gusts. I take the spark plug out and it looks OK, I clean the topside. Next to the oil, it definitely needs replacing and is low. The manual says it will shut down if it is low, I’m hoping this is the problem. Tanya helps me by holding the basin in place where it wants to fly away in the wind. The generator fires right up and immediately sounds much better. This fixes the problem.

Hard to capture how large these swells are with a camera

Hard to capture how large these swells are with a camera


We can see Columbia Ledge breaking in the distance

As the day progresses the weather deteriorates. The Eastern Maine Shelf buoy (I-Buoy), which is 10 nm closer to shore, is reading 15 feet already. The day becomes a session in recording as the seas build and break over the island. The GoPro goes out on the lighthouse railing pointed south toward Columbia Ledge. The break over the ledge is at least 1/4 mile wide and looks like an emerging volcano. The seas build and eventually reach 19 feet on the I buoy. I start thinking about the heavy weather kit I never put in the tower and wondering if we will need to retreat there this afternoon. High tide is at 1720. We set the GoPro out to on the east porch to get the breakers hitting the seal ledges and colliding with the energy form west. Tanya and I walk to the south with her small HD point and shoot on a tripod and capture the largest breakers hitting the southern tip of the island and the western cove. The curlers are starting to make the western cove spire look like a toothpick.

Snow is on and off during the day, and we are appreciating the warm weather brought by the southwest weather. We went to bed in 12 degree weather and woke up in forty. I am still concerned about our propane use, however, and I decide to put up a blanket partition between the dining room and kitchen. Immediately the large propane heater subsides.

As we near high tide I am genuinely concerned about sea state. I do not sincerely believe we are looking at weather that will reach the house, but I feel responsible for this crew and do not want to make a mistake. The sea is nearing the fog horn platform and it’s only a skip to the house. I decide we should prepare just in case. We collect some gear – stove, lanterns, propane, generator, food, batteries, inverter, battery charger, and some

Chris trying to decide if we should retreat to the tower until the tide goes down

Chris trying to decide if we should retreat to the tower until the tide goes down

personal items. Kathy and Kerry are busy collecting data and we stream by them in the lighthouse with emergency rations. They are very good natured about this and I think we all understand this is just being super cautious. As high tide nears we all watch the break near to the house but nothing of great concern. I ask for one hour of precaution in the tower to observe. I am go out on the lower catwalk in the dark and watch. I see a tanker passing in the distance – it is really nice to see someone else out in this weather. I am glad I am on the island and not on the boat. After thirty minutes I decide we are in OK shape and we retreat back to the house. It is very welcome to be back there.

This weather is the roughest I’ve yet experienced at MDR and a consider it a valuable experience. I am somewhat surprised that 17-19 ft seas do not yet reach the house, but I understand that all sea states will be different. That being said, these swells were significantly long, much different than the northerly energy we have seen in the past few days, where the wind waves of 10 feet are stacked up on top of one another with a very short period. These long swells from the south were certainly formidable, but today the house sits unscathed.


We settle in and Kathy makes chicken curry for dinner – really good stuff. Bed by 2100.

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