Day 11: Squalls

Graham Shaw
Wed 21 Jan 2009 13:12
14:54.70N 53:14.2W

Squalls have now become part of our daily routine; in fact Graham is on watch at the moment as one is approaching. They vary in size and intensity and there is no correlation between the two. Some are very small and defined and easy to track visually or by radar, the rest of the sky is blue and this dark mass of cloud can be seen approaching you from windward. Will hit pass ahead, pass astern or hit us? As it moves closer the sky starts to darken and you can see a silver line across the water where the rain starts. It gets closer but still no increase in wind, it just changes direction slightly. Then a sudden blast of cold air hits you, at this point you knows its a windy one and there is no avoiding it. The silvery line reaches the boat and dissects it momentarily. The wind has increased to 35kts and the downward pressure from the cold air and torrential rain has flattened the sea. The boat speed increases as it is free to surf down the huge swell that remains. Rain is pouring down your face and over the instruments. You need to keep an eye on the wind direction and constantly alter your course accordingly but need to wipe the water from your face and instruments as you can no longer see them or feel the wind on your neck. Fresh water pours from the sails and the mast, a great opportunity for a free fresh water shower but everyone apart from the helm (driver) is below in the hot and humid cabin. After several minutes the squall is gone as quickly as it arrived. The wind often goes light and variable until the gradient wind returns, the sun comes out again and everything feels clean and crisp.

At other times, such as now, the sky is dotted with squalls, most of them bring wind and rain but some leave you wallowing with reduced sail area but no wind. The frustrating part is you have to treat every one with the same respect and reduce sail. Throughout last night we sailed with 2 reefs as there was a fair bit of squall activity, we talked about shaking of the reefs out this morning but with all this dark cloud about it's still in.

Lots of talk last night about our ETA with several suggestions of prizes for the imminent sweepstake. Watch this space, will post our predictions soon.

All the best, Gareth et al.

PS Graham is just about to leap into action and shake out the reef, well after Lorraine has had her fag. A huge crisis was averted yesterday when Lorraine found four more packets of papers for the roll-ups that she and Pauline smoke after thinking they had run out. The boys were not looking forward spending the last few days with two women suffering from the DTs.