Cagliari, Sardinia , storm en route from Mallorca

Vasco da Gama
Ian Strathcarron
Fri 29 Aug 2008 16:19

I need to learn about meteorology.  This would have helped me to understand what was going on four nights ago when we had the most frightening experience since the Atlantic storms.  We were on the second night of our passage.  I reported for watch duty at midnight.  The boat had been rocking quite violently and Ian explained that we were being hit by occasional squalls, or strong winds, which the autopilot could not handle, making it necessary to hand steer to keep on course.  Ian lay down to sleep on deck and George came up on deck to help with the watch, as everyone knows I am not strong enough to cope with Vasco in a heavy sea.  The moon was in her last quarter and did not appear on the horizon until 1 am, when she rose in the sky in the shape of a dark orange crescent,  being lit on all sides by hundreds of twinkling stars.  As I admired the moon, I also saw a bright orange flash, like an explosion, on her right hand side.  Another flash occurred four minutes later.  I pointed this out to George, who saw the next explosion a few minutes later and he said it looked like lightning.  As the moon rose higher in the sky, the area underneath seemed to fill with dark clouds and the lightning flashes became larger – sometimes sheet lightning, sometimes terrifying forks of light which illuminated the whole area beneath the moon.  I decided to wake Ian after a particularly extraordinary flash which looked like a giant Star of David, and I thought we needed to decide what we should do.  My cowardly suggestion was that we should immediately change course and head for the Costa Smeralda in the north.  George mused that he had often wondered what it would be like to sail through a storm.  Ian said,  “No we don’t want to be dealing with a thunder storm , but it’s  at least four hours away and the main thing is to motor towards it and  find out which direction it’s heading, so we can take steps to avoid it”.  George and I glumly accepted that Ian was probably right and  we did not have a better idea, so Ian went back to sleep and we changed course, and for the next hour Vasco chugged towards the towering inferno.  This was one of those times  when the thought of a comfortable bed at home came frequently into my mind, but, sure enough, as we got nearer, it was clear that the fire ball was moving to our starboard, and as long as we kept to port we would be out of its way.   One hour later the storm had either disappeared or broken up, and we changed back to our original course.

Since the night of the thunder storm we have had marvellous sailing conditions along the south coast of Sardinia.  The scenery is rugged and untouched by any civilisations later than the Middle Ages.  Almost every peak has a romantic ruined tower.  There are dozens of sea birds, particularly herring gulls and cormorants.  There are just enough yachts to be decorative, without being too crowded.  Fishermen,  either in ribs, or green painted boats, motor past with their boats piled high with lobster pots.  So we are very pleased to have arrived in Sardinia – old school Mediterranean.