At Sea


Officially the Indian Ocean cyclone season starts in November. This year, apparently, it’s spot-on!

We got an email yesterday. To paraphrase:
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news but there’s a cyclone forming and you’re headed right for it.”


I downloaded a weather chart via the satellite phone and discovered that he wasn’t exaggerating. Our projected course took us directly into the centre of a nasty-looking storm.

A few years ago I was in Bermuda and there was a tropical storm passing by. It was supposed to pass a couple of hundred miles from the island and we’d get 35 knot winds for a few hours. No big deal. 12 hours later, the eye of the hurricane passed directly over the island. The anemometer at the weather station blew away when the wind speed exceeded 120 knots so nobody really knows how strong it was. It caused widespread devastation. I was on my boat at the time anchored out in the most protected spot I know of – inside Paradise Lakes. Nevertheless it was a harrowing experience. There was no distinction between the sea and the air – they had merged into a single mass that was hurling itself at everything in its path, like a pressure-washer with a nozzle miles wide. I stuck my head gingerly up above the cockpit coaming into the wind and glimpsed a hellish seascape. The wind-sea came in waves. As I saw each one coming I ducked my head down and felt it pass over me like a freight train. The dinghies tied behind the yachts that were anchored in St. George’s Harbour were said to be flying horizontally behind their motherships doing pirouettes on their bow lines, their engines still attached. I certainly have no desire whatsoever to ever experience something like that in Bob, at sea.

I would say I have a healthy respect for these tropical systems, as well as a healthy skepticism of the forecasts associated with them.

Currently, as of 0600UTC on the November 4th, we are at 13 00 S, 069 25 E, about 400 miles South of the developing storm. We have hove-to (the nautical equivalent to being parked) and are slowly drifting SW at about 2 knots. Wind speed is about 22 knots, except in the squalls when it gets up as high as 35 or so. Apart from a freak wave that woke us up quite abruptly this morning by coming right through the forward hatch, all is well. We plan to stay like this for another day or two and let this thing move away to the west, which the current models suggest it will do. Fingers are crossed that they are accurate. This time. Yesterday they predicted a South West and then Southerly track, so they haven’t got their story straight yet.


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