Saturday, May 19, 2012

A Midnight Squall

It is 1:30 am and Ladybug is rolling in the aftermath of a squall - confused seas and little wind to steady the sails. I began my watch at midnight and noted that the wind was lighter than when I had gone off watch three hours before. On deck a rising darkness on the eastern horizon blotted out the stars. Going below, I turned on the radar to see if this could be a rain squall. Sure enough, a blob, 3 kms wide and about 6 kms away was visible, bearing down on us at about 12 knots.

Trying not to wake up Rani, I moved the companionway hatch board into the cockpit, ready to deploy when the rain reached us. I closed the hatches we had cracked for ventilation (it is 30 degrees and 70 percent humidity, making sleep difficult).

When the radar showed the squall to be about 3 kms away, the wind freshened and I woke Rani to let her know there was a squall approaching and that I was going forward to prepare for furling the jib. Ever since the roller furler bearings failed, I have had to lash the furler drum together to prevent it coming apart when the wind increases. I removed this lashing so that I could furl the jib, returned to the cockpit, and rolled the sail up. We were now running with only the main - single-reefed.

The squall was moving faster than us and most of it passed in front of Ladybug - a great ragged cloud of light on the radar and darkness as viewed against the stars. Light rain accompanied winds of 20 knots and the hatch board was needed for only 5 minutes. The deck was wet as I went forward again to lash down the furler drum after unrolling the jib. We were on our way again.

We are bound for Kauehi - an atoll in the Tuamotus about 430 miles from our current position. I am excited about seeing my first coral atoll and snorkeling in the crystal clear waters of the lagoon and pass. We spoke on the SSB radio today with Mark on 'Southern Cross' who has been in the Tuamotus for a couple of weeks. He told us that the weather was cooler with lower humidity than the Marquesas, which will be a welcome change. He also let us know that the visibility in the water has been 80 to 90 feet! Nothing comes without a price and the negatives of visiting these atolls include currents, tricky entrances into the lagoons, and navigating amongst coral heads, which can rise out of very deep water and are usually not well charted.

Our position is S 10 12 W 140 34. Winds from the east between 6 & 15 knots, boat speed averaging 5-6 knots.

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