This is being written at the end of the day, from an increasingly challenging environment. I’m wedged into the nav station, one leg dangling into free space by the companionway, the other hooked up to windward in an attempt to stop the rest of my body following the first leg across the boat, left shoulder jammed up against a small section of protruding bulkhead, and my right hand gripping a coffee, as to place it down anywhere would surely result in either myself or the laptop wearing it.
Up top, Henry is doing his level best to avoid anything but a level boat, and see if he can turn the entire port side of the deck into a submarine. Success so far. The main corridor is doing its usual alternate reality of looking perfectly flat, the lifejackets hanging along the walls swinging sharply out across proving it’s anything but. The inclinometer is obviously playing up, as it’s showing 30°, and that feels a tad conservative right now.
Anyway, back to the beginning of the day. We started off with a night/early morning of epic lightning storms and squalls, which provided a certain amount of excitement. Recent nights have been delivering very unstable conditions, with a lot of squall activity, and quite sustained increases in wind speeds for periods; all in all a bit challenging. The first part of yesterday evening was no different, but at about 1am Stars was having a bit of a battle on the wheel, with the boat quickly getting overpowered and constantly headed by the wind. I went up to have a look at things to be greeted by an entire horizon illuminated by lightning. From one extreme of your peripheral vision to the other, the entire sky would erupt in harsh white light; the low clouds silhouetted the darkest of black against it.
This spectacular display of nature continued for a good hour, and then seemed to be advancing on our little boat, with the RADAR screen rapidly matching it’s advance by becoming more and more opaque with the associated moisture densely packed into the air.
**Update. I’ve just discovered I can balance my cup of coffee on the edge of the chart table with the dividers sticking down into it so it can’t fall over, and can properly type with both hands. This feels significant enough a development to make the editorial cut**
When it got really close, rather than sail straight into it and get caught with a full main and set of headsails up, we hove-to, and decided to let it clear behind us before continuing. However, after about 30 minutes the RADAR now showed 360° of dense returns, with one small area clear right in the middle of it all – exactly where we were. The view above was awe-inspiring, with the horizon in one direction illuminated by large widespread flashes; the other horizon more dramatic still, with defined and vivid bolts of lightning clearly erupting from the sky and striking the ocean, leaving the beholder in no doubt to the power and energy contained within. Nature truly at it’s rawest.
However, not something we really wanted to be in the middle of, so Ty and I chucked a reef in sharpish while still hove to, tacked the sails, and began making serious tracks away from the ocean strikes not far behind us. It felt like a several hour-long pursuit, the lightning continuing to chase us, tearing the sky in half only just behind, long into daybreak. We ended up with the strange experience of having a full and colourful dawn breaking ahead of us, while the atmosphere continued to unleash it’s power behind us in the growing daylight. Quite the sight.
The rest of the day has been less dramatic, with the usual cycle of helming and watches passing without much event. The team shook the main back out to full during my morning snooze, but by the time I got up the breeze had increased to a level where we needed it back in again, and there it has stayed since. The few days we’ve just had of consistent sailing almost directly east has come to an end, and we are back to the old game of tacking along our rhumb line, so are carefully watching our tracks for when we get headed and can make best use of the reciprocal tack.
The quote of the day comes from Henry, in some early hour of the morning when some tricky helming conditions due to big wind headers and an ink-black sky ahead led to some unintentional hove-to incidents. He stuck is head up to ask what was happening, and said it was “like sailing through traffic lights”. Quite amusing, might have to use that one at some point.
Date: 30th June 2017
Position: 27°40.5N 139°18.2W
Wind: ENE 4-5
Swell: NE 4-5ft
Sky: 7/8 stratus during the day, 7/8 cumulonimbus at night
Weather: Extensive squalls and lightning storms throughout the night.
With the support of our partner Weather Routing Inc.
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