Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Squall Line Dancing - Day 22

They began steam rolling in east to west at 4am on Day 22 and are still with us. The towering cumulus clouds with dark bases that brought wind in the 20-25 knot range were easily seen during the day. In between were smaller cumulus clouds but all together they formed a line that looked like a freight train. Most of the time one train would pass in front of us and one behind us as if someone were actively guiding Ladybug in between two sets of tracks.

We kept the radar on to trace their path. The rain bearing fronts were visible at around 12 miles and it was fascinating watching their shapes changing as they neared. Chris judged the wind by the advancing white caps and waited till the very last moment to put in a second reef in the main or furl the jib. Within minutes of the squall passing, he would be up on deck shaking the reef. Wind continued at 15 knots as each set passed by and we used it to gain as much distance as we could.

At night, before the moon rose, it was harder to see the non-rain bearing squalls as they were not up on radar, so we kept a second reef in the main at all times, using the jib for finer control when they arrived. Early this morning there was a sinister looking black mushroom cloud that was 2 by 3 miles in size. It looked like a towering inferno as the sun rose behind it and back-lit the sky a golden orange. Its younger sibling trailing close on its heels caught us broadside and we both took turns to shower under the cool rain. When I looked at the radar afterwards the two were joined like Siamese twins.

"Weather forecasters define a squall as a sudden increase in wind speeds by at least 16 knots, resulting in the speed rising to at least 22 knots and lasting for at least one minute. In some areas squalls are most frequently associated with land masses, whereas in others they may occur frequently in open waters. The majority of tropical squalls are moderate (wind speeds less than 35 knots) and rarely pose a problem for sailors." - Tropical Cruising Handbook by Smaalders and Rochers. I take heart in this and am happy to report it has been so in our short experience.

The after effects of the squalls are sometimes worse. The seas build up and as the wind drops down, we have short choppy seas which toss and turn Ladybug up to 20 degrees in either direction. Cooking is no longer fun!

At 1430 Zulu on April 11, our position was 04 40 S 133 56 W and distance run within last 24 hours was 129 nautical miles. We were 400 miles from Hiva Oa, with 121 miles made good.

No comments: