Storm Chasing!!!

Woo hoo, we are back under sail and making 10 knotts. It is such a pleasure to be returning to what we set out to do (ie sail!); the boat is relaxed, the helming much more enjoyable, the saloon much quieter and the boat a touch cooler. Having said that, we have all become used to a flat boat and our winching and hauling muscles have ceased to function so we are all walking around as though we are a bit drunk and taking a few deep breaths as we move sails or winches. The difference that 24 hours can make is incredible; last night we were motoring along on a glassy sea with a glorious sunset and no wind. Today and this evening we have been battling through torrential rain and have 18 knotts of apparent wind. The highlight/excitement/panic of the day was when, this morning, we were taking our tarpaulin sunshade down (apparently a strong breeze is not good for the hastily fashioned DIY loops we’d attached to it – who’d have thought!) and I noticed what looked like a tornado cloud in the sky. It was one of those moments when you think ‘oh look the start of a tornado, that’s interesting, I’ve never seen one of those for real before’ and then reality kicks in and you think ‘s*@@t, we’re on a boat and there is a tornado coming towards us’. So, what to do? Well, firstly I calmly informed Triinnggg/Daisy (who was mid tarpaulin hugging – to prevent it blowing away he claims!) “Hey Daisy, look over there at that cloud…” there followed a brief glance with little response and a return to the tarpaulin hugging. Ok, I thought, perhaps I’m slightly worried over nothing. As I watched the cloud darken in colour and come down to touch the sea’s surface I decided to try again… “Hey, Baz, looks like there is a bit of a tornado (it seemed like such a strong word, I was cautious of being over dramatic so perhaps I said it too quietly?) over there and it’s moving this way.” Baz looks up, “ah, lets pick up a bit of pace on getting the tarpaulin down and lashing the main (we’d taken it off for repairs) to the deck.” So, a little concern from Baz but I still think everyone is being rather calm about the scary bit of weather that is moving our way. I’m now watching the rest of the crew on deck working to secure all our kit while I’m helming and watching the tornado grow, darken and begin to churn and suck up a vast area of sea beneath it as it moves towards us. As a watch we have designated a new safety word for emergencies (I could tell you what it is but then I’d have to shoot you!) so I consider using that but decide against it. After all, why panic just yet, it’s not as thought there is a movie style special effect happening for real just yards away.

Now, as we’ve been motoring on glass to this point and it’s daylight (I think that covers the health and safety points!), we are sans lifejackets and I’m now thinking that it would be a good idea to get them on along with our lifelines and clip to the boat as quickly as possible as I cannot see any way of us staying in contact with the deck if this tornado is to hit us. The high speed washing machine effect on the sea continues about 400 yards off to starboard. Next skipper sticks his head up wondering what all the rushing around is and the sudden requirement for lifejackets. Baz, Daisy, Anne and Shaggy all now seem to have got the message and are all slightly in awe and apprehensive. Skipper takes a look – “feck me (he’d never swear), look at that bad boy best get lifejackets and clip on.” We all spend the next 10 minutes like coiled springs (aka, a slinky at the top of the stairs) waiting to see what will happen. The body of the tornado finally brakes from the head that is in the clouds and it all dissipates. Like Baz, there is a small and stupid part of me that would have liked to sail through the tornado (I’m subsequently told that the correct term at sea is water spout but that doesn’t sound anywhere near as dramatic) but overall the feeling was one of relief as we watched it disappear. The rest of the watch was spent in torrential rain (cue some clear safety specs to stop the needle like drops going straight in my eyes while ploughing into it) with the others looking out through the pea soup for unmarked fishing boats. The waters here have become busy again with gas platforms, cargo boats and little fishing boats, it’s almost as busy as the Solent so we need to be extra vigilant.

Other boat news, well it’s a good job you can’t smell e-mails as we’ve been cleaning the bilges; yesterday Anne and I were treated to a cheesy aroma as we discovered bag after bag of food covered in exploded wet coffee and today Baz has had the delights of an off tuna smell as he’s unearthed mountains of bilge covered pasta. Paulo has discovered that the way to rescue an over runny scone mix is to add more flour and kneed for about 2 hours (he may be invited to join Spinsters Corner at this rate!). Shaggy is still working his way through his stash of biscuits. Karen and Dunkin are almost out of reading material. Jess is madly trying to finish off her media work in between cleaning cave lockers and being on deck. Skip has almost run out of films to watch. Keith is counting the hours ’till he gets to see his granddaughter while Webbo counts the hours to his first beer in Batam. Scarlet is getting in some sleep so that he is prepared for the crew party and Hector the Coo is still recovering from his nip of Whisky as we celebrated Burns night last night complete with haggis, oatcakes and odes. About 35 hours to go now ’till we hit land and a much deserved shower (again, a good job e-mails don’t smell!) More to follow about a sneaky bit of R&R!

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3 Responses to Storm Chasing!!!

  1. Gina says:

    Blimey Lesley…what a read! I could almost visualise the tornado potential as I read word after word of your account of it. I would have been with you on this one as I freak at the mear look of one in the movies. I think I would have considered a bit of doubt as to the rest of the crew’s “when do I start to panic” level. Enjoy the shower … the one on land, the one with warm water and soapy bubbles not the shower you are combatting now.

    Btw… I dreamt the other night you were back in the office after your year at sea and catching up with everyone.

    Take care…Gina x

  2. chris cowen says:

    Great read Leslie, still captivated by this wonderful adventure of yours.
    Chrisx

  3. Sal says:

    Think it was more the storm chasing you rather than the other way around. Hoping my second attempt at a Christmas present is waiting for you in Singapore – more of a Burn’s night gift in the end. Enjoy your R&R.

    Sal

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