Monday, April 1, 2013

Days 12-14 - Lost some battles but won the war

We haven't posted for the past few days because we have been totally exhausted and sleep deprived from fighting the weather.

There is an area just described by NOAA as "SCATTERED MODERATE ISOLATED STRONG". What they are talking about is storms.
There is a region called the ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) close to the equator where warm moist air from the Northern and Southern Hemispheres meet and gets lifted into the air and forms clouds. Here is how the forecasters described what we just went through:

FROM 105W TO 120W.

Sometimes during the day, downpours occur but mostly at night, when the air cools, the air can't support the weight of this moisture and squalls form. A squall is a rain shower with a serious amount of rain and wind coming out the bottom.

Our first afternoon had some squalls which we turned to avoid. Then in the black night at 8PM, another came. We turned to let it pass but we were like a trailer park to a tornado, it just kept following us and getting bigger. The winds picked up and so did the rain. Another one formed behind it. We were staying to it's right but the wind was so strong and we were going so fast it looked like we might even pass it. But we weren't diverging from it very fast. It kept pushing us forward and we kept trying to go as far right as possible but the winds were close to 50kts and the waves were 15 ft. All you can do is keep heading with the wind. Then on the radar we see a squall line to our right and these two on our left are pushing us in to it.

They would soon come together into a 'V' with us in the middle and squeeze us into the middle of this huge storm. The only way out was back so I started the engines, turned the boat, but the wind was so strong, even at full power, the boat would not stay pointed into the wind.

One last tactic was to trail warps to slow us down. Warps are long lengths of rope in a loop trailed behind the boat. They create drag and keep the boat from accelerating down the waves. In the stinging sideways wind driven rain, we got the warps deployed, the boat speed slowed as expected and the 'V' continued off to the west. It was now midnight. 4 hours of fighting this beast and we were exhausted.

We headed back on our original course and set the radar to watch for more squalls. Yes more came, and kept coming. For the next 48 hours we battled these things almost continuously. We had our tactics down and Booker was getting good at tracking them on the radar. One would show up 20 miles out as a little speck and by the time it got near us, there were 3 full blown squalls. We had the drill down by now: Bathing suit, Jacket, Life Vest, and Tether. Reduce sail and start an engine. Booker stands watch at the radar and I am at the helm. We turn, replot the storm's new course, over and over, until it has passed.

Sunday afternoon there was another line toward the south but there was a gap in it. We plotted the course for the gap and got south of that line with 10 gallons of fresh rainwater collected from our roof.

We made it through one more line that evening and we saw the stars for the first time in days. Then the moon came up and we could see all the storms to the north in the distance.

What a great feeling. We are below the ITCZ, finally. We won.

Cheers, Dave and Booker

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