National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

George, Cape Lookout, NC

In 2010, I had a day that changed my life forever. My wife and I took our boat offshore to the east side of Cape Lookout, NC, where we always had great fishing catches. That day we went to the Atlas Tanker wreck east of the shoals off the Cape and then to my favorite hardbottom offshore of chicken rock. Our first drop we both caught huge Groupers that had their heads out one end and tails out the other of our 151qt cooler. The next drop resulted in two more the same size, completing our limits. It was time to go home.

The day was so calm I had rolled up the curtains on our T-top so we could move faster. As soon as we got close enough to see the lighthouse, I saw a sight that chilled my blood. A front had moved in and a purple-black storm cloud stretched as far north up the beach as far as we could see and ran a solid deadly line south disappearing in the rain that fell from it in torrents.  Orange bolts of lightning danced down its entire ugly face. Uglier still was the massive waterspout sitting on the offshore sandbar that formed the southern side of the slough where we would need to cross the shoals to get home.

By now, the wind had picked up to more than 40 knots. Yhe seas were a wind-whipped nightmare. My wife held the bow and I fought my way to the locker under the bowcap and got us life jackets that we helped each other into as the temperature crashed and we were engulfed by pelting torrents of hail.

Somehow I managed to drop my front curtain providing limited shelter from the blasting hail, rain and sand being sucked from the bottom. As I attempted to jog to my right to get around it, I saw a smaller twister directly in my path, cutting off our escape. The next moments were a blur, as I prayed that my wife would survive, the swirling wall of wind-fueled ice blew the big old hull on its side and I felt a super hot flash and was momentairly blinded. Suddenly, we were through the worst of it and I regained my control of the steering and using my GPS plotter followed my outgoing track across Cape Point.

It was still pouring buckets of icey cold rain mixed with hail nut we were through the worst of it. Standing in a freezing slurry of several inches of accumulated hail, still getting blasted by more, I managed to get our side curtains down and resumed our course down Shakleford with lightening crashing all around us. With a couple of miles to go back to Rough Point at the entrance to Beaufort Inlet, I made a hard right turn, causing my wife to ask where the Heck I was going.

"I'm getting close enough to see the beach! "I replied" Cause if another one of those things gets us I'm driving us on the beach and we're gonna run for it!" 

As we got to the inlet the front cleared the coast and it turned into a bluebird clear day. It wasn't long before I had the boat on the trailer and we were in the warmth of the truck heading home.

As I dried out I started to smell singed hair. Looking down I noticed the burns on my left arm and a second burn on my left shin a couple of inches above my ankle.  Looking at my face in the rearview mirror I gasped and pulled over, because the singed hair and red flash burns over the left side of my face told me what the hot flash I'd felt during the waterspout had been. My wife is an RN. With all the cardio qualifications so I felt confident when I asked her if I should stop at the hospital to get checked out. I decided to go on home because my heart was fine and they'd probably keep me overnight for observation and they don't serve beer.

It's a good sea story now but it was the last trip I took on my boat. The beginning of changes I could never foresee.  I still have PTSD or at least a deeper understanding of folks that do.