Arrived Miami, last Monday! Oops, sorry to leave you guys on the cliffhanger of the dreaded squall from hell but unfortunately we had bigger issues on arrival and it’s taken us this long to sit down to do a blog.
Monday 18th May 0745, approximately 3 hours, 20 miles southeast of Florida we encountered another big squall. It was my watch, Ryan had just gone down to sleep leaving me with the comforting (?!?) knowledge that he had setup the repeater for the sat nav in the sanctuary of the chart table, inside the boat incase of heavy squalls… Cue heavy squall. I think that Ryan had probably allowed his head to touch the pillow for several seconds when – after eyeballing an extremely mean squall for the best part of 5 minutes – I decided his company was definitely required, if only for solidarity! Ryan, not known for his chivalry, was straight up and into his wet weather gear, he even got out his heavy heavy ‘this is serious now’ weather jacket….
“Well, we don’t both need to be getting wet,” he winked at me.
Yup, that’s all the persuasion I needed, I was like a rabbit down the hole, very thankful for Ryan’s martyrdom!
The squall arrived. I don’t even think it is accurate to call it a squall, it was better described as a huge thunderstorm. The heavy clouds totally dominated the radar screen, the boat that was sailing a few miles behind us (which got hit by it first) actually did a U Turn and headed in the opposite direction to get out of its brutality…not a good sign.
Isla was up, in the saloon, the other girls tucked up – happily oblivious – in bed, asleep! Then it began, the temperature drop was the first indication of the imminent weather, I think a 10 degree drop would be accurate, you could smell the rain and the turbulence in the air. Then came the wind, whipping up wind waves on an otherwise pancake flat sea surface, the 30-40 knot gusts howling through the shuddering mast. Hmmm. Relentless torrential rain, then 15 minutes later, there was a massive shudder from under the boat, a deep crackling rumble of thunder, coupled a few seconds later with the flash of lightning way too close for comfort.
“Are we going to get struck by lightning?” Isla asked whilst nonchalantly playing on her tablet.
“No, Isla, course not!”
It wasn’t such a crazy question though, as the next lightning flash caused an almighty crack within the boat and a pressure that made me hold my ears and let out just a tiny scream.
“Were we just hit by lightning, Mum?” She looked slightly more perturbed now, but just slightly.
“Hmmm, it’s possible,” I say, opening the door to confirm with Ryan that, yes, in fact we just got a direct strike. Ryan had seen the fork of lightning touch the water just metres from the boat. The Faraday’s cage effect is apparently the real deal, lucky for us!
Sophie and Jocie? Still asleep!!!
Luckily the squall was almost done and we were coming out of the backside, the visibility was down to about 20 metres, we had no way of seeing other vessels and did not know whether they could see us, as our navigation system had failed. We were slowly assessing damage. Autohelm: gone. Sat nav: kaput. Stereo: fried. VHF: handheld working, main unit frazzled…. and that, it seems, was the tip of the iceberg. We limped through the final few miles and pulled up at the very welcome dock in Miami.
Long story short we have incurred the best part of £12,000 in damages that, ‘deeply thankful sigh’, the insurance covers. But we are stuck, again! Everything that has been damaged has been removed from the boat so we have small holes everywhere and a few exposed wires. We cannot move until we’re all put back together, Humpty Dumpty springs to mind!
We have enjoyed a semi-open Miami, a little of the good stuff: scooting down boardwalks, great takeouts, fast rental cars and a little day trip to see the alligators down alligator alley via a crazy airboat (so much fun!). But it has also been teasingly and, I guess understandably, closed. Beaches are shut, Parks are open but not the playgrounds, museums are shut, national landmarks are closed. Downtown is a ghost town and it has rained with thunder and lightning, virtually torrentially for a week. We did not step out of the boat at all for 2 days because of the rain, which has sent us all a bit beyond crazy. We are ready to move north but cannot leave because of the repairs we need to do, which appear to be slow moving. It is particularly irksome when we call home to see cloudless skies and sunny fun, some might say karma is having a good old laugh, I’ll take that!
Anyhooo, silver linings and all that, at least we are little cooler, we are looking forward to some new fancy gear on the boat, we get to sample what Miami’s cocktails are really made of (strong stuff by all accounts), and we get to spend some time with our old mates from St Thomas at their brilliant marina. Small victories. Oh and a lightning strike? That has to be a story for the grandkids – right? Ticked that box then! Just this evening we have been oohing and ahhing over some fabulous lightning shows, it’s better that fireworks night!
Well, enjoy the sunshine and cloudless skies, you lovely lot. I’m off to paddle in some puddles, cocktail in hand. Rest assured I’ll be wearing my thick rubber wellies!