Monday, 26 November 2007

Diary entries October 2007 - gale warnings

Diary entries 20/21/22/23 October 2007

Saturday 20 October
I’ve been looking forward to going out for over a week, such a rare event as it is nowadays. It is the last weekend of pontoon life – the last of the summer liveaboards are going home and England are in the rugby World Cup final at 10pm (yes, I have no interest in rugby but it’s a guaranteed pissup). However, plans appear to be scuppered. Instead of sitting in the Tree Bar, making new friends and getting drunk, I’m on the boat listening to the rain hammering down on the roof (as it has been all day – got drenched 3 times). Listening to my music through crappy battery operated speakers and tickling a smelly dog’s tum is no consolation. The wine isn’t bad though – 3 euros a bottle and perfectly palatable. Made by a company called Dionysos, which is Greek for Dennis. Dionysos was the god of booze (my kinda man) whose claim to fame was trying of get everyone to chill out a bit by encouraging them to get pissed. He was killed by the fun police (the Titans) who in turn were destroyed by Zeus and somehow provided the origins of human existence and apparently a bit of Dennis is in all of us (some more than others). I’m not making it up, honest.

My marooned plight is worsened by Tim’s failure to recognise the horror of the situation as he sits, happy as a pig in shit, amongst a pile of used bulbs and our new multimeter. My only interaction with this man-play is to get him to test my resistance – 2 ohms apparently – rather disappointingly the same as him and Louis but thankfully more than the salt cellar. My! The winter nights are going to fly by.

More excitingly, we do have gale warnings forecast for tomorrow or Monday, up to F9, which would be terrifying if it happened at sea. Even here, it sounds potentially frightening – so I am working on the assumption that it won’t happen. Anyway, we couldn’t be better anchored if we tried. Re-anchored this morning in Tranquil Bay and dug our anchor deep into the mud. The holding is excellent here. We are semi-sheltered from southerlies and v well sheltered from NE to SE.

Hooray! There appears to be some respite in the rain – quick dog hair removal from clothes and we’re off to the pub.

Sunday 21 October
Spent all day waiting for the wind to come. Didn’t go out last night as it started peeing it down again. Shipping forecast this morning said S/SE 7-8 at 1600, F8-9 from 2000.

1600 came and went without event. By that time we were as prepared as we could be. We reanchored about 10 yards from our previous position – a vital 10 yards putting some land between us and the forecast gale. We lashed down all deck things that could move and set up a second anchor on the bow should our anchor fail.

Just before nightfall, the clouds parted to flood the sky, mountains and tops of the towering clouds with a luminous orange glow. It was one of those aliens landing/alternative dimension moments and we decided to jump into Billy and take the dogs for a ten minute toilet stroll (cat-chase/scavenge/no toilet/lots of telling off pointless expedition). Got safely back on the boat and cooked a big curry, slightly disappointed that the forecast seemed an exaggeration. As the last mouthfuls of curry went down, the boat was caught by a huge gust which came out of nowhere, plates were cast aside and we jumped up on deck. It was just a gust – that was all – but the wind was definitely rising. I forced the remainder of my food down to prove all was okay but I was surprised to find I felt a bit sick.

2300:After strong gusts over the last few hours, its now a constant F7 I reckon. I’m now used to the continuous screaming of the wind tearing through the boatyard on the other side of the bay, full of hibernating summer cruisers. There are two levels of sound; one being of the usual strong wind blowing type – whistling, building into a crescendo roar as it rushes up the bay. The other being a much higher pitched whistle which turns into a melee of falsetto screams when the gusts hit masts.

It’s interesting exploring your comfort levels in these situations. The boat is now rocking as the water has chopped up a bit, with the occasional lurch. Then comes a strong gust, around 35-40 knots. You can hear them build up down the valley, then you wait as the noise increases, the anchor chain tightens then POW! It hits, pushing us hard, you hold your breath – then it dies back, leaving us swinging through 180 degrees as the tension on the chain is released.

Every gust (around one per minute now) fills my tum with butterflies and breath is held while we are in its grip, waiting for something to go bang, clunk or crash. The storm is definitely on its way. I’m feeling pretty snoozy which is often my reaction to stress but I’m also tired – haven’t relaxed all day.

2330: Gale warning on shipping forecast but wind appears to have dropped.
0030: Went to bed as no further wind action.
0330: Awoke to wind whistling again and distant flashes of lightening. Listened to gusts getting stronger and more frequent for about 20 minutes then decided to get up to do some checks. Took fixes, did a hatch and leak check, had several discussions about whether we were moving and the “best” way of deducing it. Decided all was well and trooped off to bed.

I took a new book. It’s hard to sleep when your stomach lurches every time a gust pushes the boat and anchor chain to its limit – then releases it’s hold, sending the stern (our cabin) through an arc. It’s still unnerving to feel the boat travelling (speed over ground 0.3 knots according to the GPS) when you are lying down, with no points of reference. The balance mechanism in your brain tells you that you are moving but it is hard to determine in what direction. I need to know these things. Even on dry land, I usually know exactly where north is without thinking about it, regardless of where I am or what I’m doing. In a spinning cabin, it’s almost impossible and I find it very disorientating.

About 20 minutes after going to bed, I heard what sounded like metal dragging; a deep, distant reverberating for about 5 seconds. To me it sounded like an anchor doing something it shouldn’t. A few gusts later I heard it again. I decided we should go on anchor watch – Tim sleepily agreed and I told him I’d wake him up in an hour.

One look outside allayed my fears. Of course we were in the same position. Checked GPS and all was okay. Then the wind dropped – completely – and almost instantly, the sky was full of stars. I made myself a Marmite drink, read and enjoyed the silence for half an hour before returning to bed.

Monday 22 October
0900: Rain, thunder, more wind. Shipping forecast SW F8-9. Not good news as a bit close to shore for comfort if the wind turns westerly. Shoreline shallows and mud so not a bad landing but don’t fancy the embarrassment of being grounded!

1850: Spent all day on boat with 2 brief respites for dog walks. I now haven’t spoken to anyone other than Tim since Thursday. It’s taking its toll. Have started cutting off bits of my hair and cracked open a beer at 3pm. Cabin fever setting in.

The storms are completely different in the daytime. So much less frightening when you can see what is going on. Stormy all day but now completely calm.

1900: forecast S/SW 7-8. No huge blows overnight, just one storm with gusts. Tim’s turn to do a watch.

Tuesday 23 October
All quiet. Mike from IBA popped by to discuss steering cables. I talked his ears off for the best part of 2 hours, having not spoken to anyone for coming on a week.

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