SW Borneo - Worst storm yet...

Digiboat's "Product Testing"
Simon Blundell
Wed 1 Feb 2012 07:00

02:42.48S 109:45.49E

1/2 0700LT

Approaching the turning point around the "corner" of Borneo. Expect to get there around sunrise. There's a narrow channel through the reefs close to the coast which is well chartered and will cut about 50 miles off the trip rather than sailing around outside of the reefs.
An hour before dawn and conditions perfect for "cutting the corner". 8-10kn SW wind an ideal sailing angle.
Best laid plans! At PRECISELY the wrong moment - committed to the narrow channel and, still dark, a few fishing boats can be seen by lights and RADAR anchored in the channel - and hit by a thunderstorm of incredible intensity. 40kn+ on-shore winds, lightening and torrential rain. Visibility cut to zero. Confused seas with big waves trying to drive us onto the shore. In fact doesn't need to work that hard as shoals at E side of channel only metres away. Spent the next hour motoring against the storm at barely over 1kn avoiding the shoals and fishing boats. Very hard to hold course at this slow speed, but eng overheating because needs oil and coolant top up - jobs that were waiting for dawn when I could leave the helm station - so not wanting to run at high revs and risk losing the eng altogether which'd put us on the reef within seconds.
Dawn breaks, wind eases slightly, and we finally motor past the dog-leg that had us smashing directly into the storm. Now can get some sail up and give the engines a rest which are desperate for some oil. Still a narrow channel and have to sail very close to the wind to stay in the deep part.
After some anxious knocks taking us into the chartered shallows (but depth sounder still reading safe), we finally break free and tack over and sail away from the coast.
An extremely tense past few hours. The storm simply could not have chosen a worse time, nor angle/direction to hit us. Any problems or mistakes would have had us on the reef in under a minute.
Time to hand over to Sam while I get some overdue rest.