Night Squalls.

Tue 27 May 2014 20:48
15:05.6S 144:15.4W

The flying-around-the-mast-at-night-and-squeaking bird came back! I thought he might just be a close-to-shore bird but he put in a surprise performance on our second night. It was rather a wild night actually, with strong squalls from time to time. In between the squalls the wind wasn't that strong so we had a reefed main, mizzen, staysail and about half the jib flying, but when the squalls passed the wind speed increased dramatically. The thing is, because wind force rises as a square of its speed, the increase in a squall can can virtually double the pressure on the sails within a few minutes.

When Lochmarin is pootling along at 5 or 6 knots, she bobs a little, pitching as she meets each wave, a gentle burble of the water passing by can be heard below. There's the odd squeak of a rope as we roll. When we speed up to 7 or 8 knots she becomes more purposeful. You can feel her cutting through the waves and hear the swoosh as we meet each swell, occasional slaps on her windward side send a spray over the pilot house and across the foredeck. There are less squeaks and rattles, rather you hear the wind passing over the tight sails. At 9 or 10 knots you can feel the tension rise in her, hear little groans as rope and sail stretch, feel the huge energy being held captive, being transfer into forward motion. The wind roars loud as it passes, the bow wave and wake rush white over the blue sea. Above 10 knots and everything is tension and strain, motion and noise, we're heeled over, toe rail washed by the white bow wave.

So imagine at night: we're pootling along, then we hear the patter of a few raindrops fall and within minutes everything's transformed. The wind is positively howling, the rain comes lashing down, it's pitch black and the only thing you can see outside of the beam of your head torch is the glow of the white water rushing by. The wind backs with the gusts, and the change in angle throws the balance of the boat. Usually the rotation around the center of the boat that the wind on the headsails produce is balanced by the main and mizzen pushing the other way, behind the center of rotation. In the gusts the head sails flap and clap and slap as the wind goes forward, producing less pull, and the mizzen catches the full force and rotates us further towards the wind. Sadie and Otto can't manage to pull us back on course when this happens, so out into the rain spiked dark we go to helm until it passes. We try to anticipate enough sail out to keep moving, but not too much for squalls but sometimes the squalls are so strong that we have to reduce sail. We wear harnesses and attach ourselves to the boat but every step has to be done carefully and deliberately, finding safe footing, moving hands from one hold to another before shifting our weight, all the time being aware of what could happen if a sheet came loose, a line gave way, keeping out of potential danger. And sometimes it does give way: with a bang that was lost amongst the roar of the wind, the flap of the sails and the slap of the sea on the hull, a clutch gave way, not only opening but shattering.

In the morning sun a Storm Petrel was dodging the white caps, wings wide, legs stretched out, doing his dance and dipping his toes in the water. It seemed a different world. We were a sleepy crew on our lovely boat, pootling once again. Phil says "I don't see why these bloody squalls have to come in the night, when it's dark and we're trying to sleep!"


Day 3: Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon on toast; Tuna Caesar salad with garlic bread; we didn't have a proper supper, just snacked on bananas, pop corn, flapjack during our watches.

Day 4: Granola, fresh papaya, mango and banana, with boat made yoghurt; Toulouse sausages with onion and red wine sauce, mashed potato, pak choi. Don't know what's for supper yet!

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