We have had 3 days of squall after squall that came to a wild head last night. We have been completely soaked as this wild front passes through. I have a few dry things left and I notice this morning that the skin on every finger tip has started to peel off.
The weather is the most potent force on this trip. On land I hardly notice a low pressure system coming but here at sea we are able to see the squalls coming across the sky, we track them very carefully paying attention to how fast and what direction they are moving in. We baten down the hatches and reef the sails and wait a short time for them reach us.
I can now see that there is a predictable pattern. The wind direction shifts, the temperature drops, the sea state changes and the swells get much bigger, the wind speed goes from 20-40knots in minutes followed by torrential rain. We are enveloped in the eye of the squall. The air feels electric and I’m sure my knuckles are white as I grip the helm. This all passes in about 20 minutes after which the wind speed dies down, sea state settles down wind direction shifts back to E and we all breathe a sigh of relief. We continue like drowned rats for the next four hours enduring and preparing ourselves for the next battering. We are absolutely getting our asses kicked and I am loving it.
Last night was the pinnacle of this front when me and my watch partner were on 10pm- 2am watch. We lost count of how many times we had been hit and then we saw the monster of all squalls approaching. The moonlit night sky suddenly went pitch black as the moon became occluded and then we watched the wind speed indicator climb up to 38 knots and the swell rise to 6-8 metres. We were roaring down from the crest of waves and disappearing into the deep troughs then surfing up the next wave only to be tossed violently down the other side. The boat, in the pitch black careening out of control and reaching speeds that no sailboat should really go. I found it so disorienting in the darkness being spun around sometimes feeling that we had gone in a circle. At the end of our watch we are soaked, flooded with adrenaline and exhilarated having survived 4 full on hours. My watch mate and I are killing ourselves laughing uncontrollably on the deck in the darkness, maybe this is nervousness or a side effect of adrenaline whatever it is we both find this challenge immense fun. We call ourselves Squall Riders while the others sleep downstairs oblivious to what we have just been through.
After the watch downstairs we get tossed around the boat slamming into things in massive body bruising blows as we get out of our wet kit.
Doing everything on a boat in this sea state is a challenge and a balancing act. You have to hold on to something all the time. In a second of not holding on while brushing my teeth, I am sent flying across the cabin and slam into a shelf beside the nav station. Somehow even this is amusing and we laugh in the red glow of our headlamps. This bruise joins the others that no sailors seem to be immune to.
I climb into my bunk and find it hard to come down from all laughing and all the adrenaline. There is very little sleep in the following hours as we continue to be tossed from side to side in our bunks. It’s ridiculous really trying to sleep in conditions like this so I am up and on deck early ready for my next watch.