0140 on May 14th. We are not at sea, but I am awake, on anchor watch. For goodness sake! When you decide to pull in on a passage it generally means that you are waiting out some weather or need a decent sleep. Both of these facts apply to our situation, unfortunately we have little to no chance of either. We are anchored with a handful of other boats on the same flotilla who have been advised to wait for a better weather window, the reality of this is that we are in a relatively unprotected anchorage sitting out the exact weather we are not supposed to go out in!
“I’d rather be at sea!”
This was our exchange, Ryan and I, after we had made it through a truly perilous hour long squall frenzy that began with all of us watching a massive grey cloud formation develop a couple of miles out to sea. Me, with calming glass of red in hand: “Ooo, girls! Come and watch this!”
We all piled into the cockpit, transfixed by the ferocity and pace of the growing cloud, it seemed to be rolling towards us pretty quickly. At this point we were still more worried about a particularly aggressive mosquito attack that was happening on board, no doubt brought on by all the rain earlier.
It was when we started to see little tiny anti cyclonic vortexes within the bigger cloud that Ryan and I exchanged a quizzical look.
Time to batten the hatches, secure anything on deck that could move, turn the engines on incase the anchor struggled to hold, give Ryan a snorkel mask to see through the rain and get everyone else indoors.
Within minutes we were experiencing up to 30 mph gusts with a lot more in the mini cyclones, thunder and lightning erupted within a few hundred metres of us and the sea state which had been flat did a 180 degree turn whipped up by the surface activity. What was a light offshore breeze became a storm force onshore gale within seconds and before long we were riding out a 2 metre sea and torrential rain. Oh, did I mention it was getting dark?
Ryan held the boat into the wind by driving forward on the engines so as not to put too much strain on the anchor, we needed it to hold us off the land which was about 250 metres behind us.
The girls were ushered into the boat and sofa bed pulled out with cushions and blankets to snuggle down into. Had to be away from the mast step incase of any lightning strikes. They were wide eyed and shocked at how fast this was all happening, and I soothed them more than once, saying,
“It’s ok girls, we going to be fine!” whilst catching various falling and sliding artefacts from shelves and cupboards as the boat shook and rocked.
A couple of side on big waves didn’t help as Dalliance suddenly slewed and tipped violently, turning over the bin and tipping glasses from the kitchen cupboard, no those didn’t help! Thankfully that was a one off!
Never underestimate the power of distraction. I gave Isla the mosquito bat and a torch. Chief mosquito batter. She took on her responsibility with gusto. Jocie was tasked with holding down the Lego and Sophie staunchly guarded the rolling cool box. Every couple of minutes I would open the main door to check on Ryan, just my head, nothing else would pass the threshold, that was enough to look like someone had dumped a bucket of water on me.
Ryan did an amazing job. He stayed on the engines for the best part of an hour and set up an anchor tracker to ensure we weren’t dragging, he was out in the elements the whole time and continued to stay up checking for changes in weather until I took over at midnight, allowing me to get at least a little of that precious ‘safe habour’ sleep.
Thankfully things started to return to normal, the wind died down and the sea calmed, but I kid you not, in all my time on boats I have never seen anything like what we saw this afternoon. As such we are obviously unlikely to ever see it again, but just in case, we are taking turns through the night to keep watch on the weather! It is a sobering reminder of mother nature’s force and how we need to stay alert.
Ryan coined it when he succinctly answered Isla’s question as to what happened. “We just got dumped on. A cloud literally sucked all the wind and water and thunder and lightning into the sky then dropped it on our heads!”
Yup, that’s pretty much what happened! That’ll do, Mother Nature, thank you very much, that’ll do.
So now it’s 0900…after a restless sleep we have just left the fateful anchorage much to Isla’s delight and are we are now back in our ‘safe zone’ no anchors or land to worry about. Weather forecast is better and we are ready for the next passage. Best of all, I get to sleep during the day!