Monday, 7 October 2013

Tropical Squalls

We are now in the Doldrums or the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) to give it its full title. The place where the prevailing winds in the north meet those in the south and cancel each other out.  It is a strange place of breeze followed by no wond at all except that caused by the yacht rolling around in the ocean swell. Coupled with sweltering hear it is not a pleasant place and puts a strain on the concentration and good nature of the crew. On the plus side we see amazing cloud formations rising vertically into the sky, great stacks of blackened meringue floating on the horizon.  We need to keep a watch out for  rain which means a squall which is quite an experience. One minute it is windless then about 2 minutes before the squall hits the air temperature  drops and the downpour begins; huge heavy intense rain that soaks you to the skin in 10 seconds flat.  Sometimes you can see and hear it coming, the noise of a wall of rain hitting the sea as it gets nearer and nearer.  And then, the wind will rise from nothing to 30 to 40 knots in the space of a minute or so. This is serious wind and if it catches you unaware it will blow the boat over  and start breaking things.  The other night we were unexpectedly hit by a squall at night and it was fairly terrifying (Terrifying Moment No. 3). We had to heave to and drop the yankee as fast as possible. Unfortunately a knot had formed in the halyard so three of us spent about 20 minutes on the foredeck bouncing up and down and hanging on for grim death trying to get half a sail out of the water.  There is so much noise from the wind and rain that you can’t hear each other speak, and are only aware of the skipper screaming his lungs out at the other end of the boat, at who I had no idea so we just hung on hoping it would come to an end before someone went over the side, which it did as quickly as it had come, and we were back to floating around with hardly a breath of wind.  Soaking wet clothes and bruises the proof that it wasn’t just a nightmare, glad to have experienced it but happy not to repeat.

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