April 5, 2009-Every Day A Squall Blows Through
“OK”, her voice comes up from below deck and I know she is moving about. Soon she appears at the hatch and she scans the sky. One look is enough; she is on deck and we start the engine and are raising the anchor when the first puffs of wind come. They are cool and fresh but we are working quickly to get underway before the stronger wind hits and we don’t have time to enjoy the wind’s coolness.
wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Judy had disappeared below deck to take a nap after lunch while Jim and I sat topside and talked about airplanes.
The day was still and oppressively hot. We were anchored off a small island in the place where the wind left us when it died. The sunlight hurt my eyes and I tried to shade them with my hand but the heat reflecting off the water against my face feels unbearably hot. The resonating sound of the Cicadas on the nearby island sounded like time stopping. We found shade on deck and waited.
The season of squalls, otherwise known as the Southwest Monsoon, is fully upon us in Phuket. The days in April are boringly hot and still but we generally get a squall in the afternoon. You see them coming: a tall a dark cloud to the east or north and below it a grey mass which obscures the horizon. Then the wind starts; at first as a gentle brush on your cheek but soon it builds and continues to build until it is a force which buffets you. Rain too, a few big splattering drops fall, then sheets of it follow, drenching.
Ashore you deal with it differently then you do at sea. Ashore you pull the door shut or you hurry along to reach shelter from the wind and rain and you wait it out. It’s just an inconvenience from Mother Nature; a fact of life, nothing more.
But at sea the squall takes on a different reality. At sea when the squall comes you are alert, you watch and you are wary. The squall brings danger, maybe disaster; at least excitement.
We just went out for a short sail today; just an afternoon on the water and maybe a chance to get the sails up and hopefully see a bit of wind. It has been a month or more and we need the sailing fix. I told Judy I’d be happy with a just a few minutes hard on the wind with the sails sheeted in Wings and heeled well over. In the back of my mind was the thought that we might get the daily squall while we were out and I didn’t think that would be bad; at least it would be some breeze but there wasn’t much wind when we left Yacht Haven; just a whisper. Then even that died and we anchored.
Now I watch the clouds to the east: a tall dark thunderhead. It could be trouble brewing, a squall. At first it seems that it is moving south and will miss us but then I realize it is coming our way.
Heading directly into it we motor slowly and work the mainsail up. In the steadily increasing breeze it flaps and shakes the rig and we have some trouble with the running backstays but we get the sail up and we bear off until it fills. The boat heals over and we start to make way. I kill the engine and now we silently face the wind and Wings is moving slowly. Without much way on the rudder is unresponsive and I have to take care to avoid getting into irons. I ease the main a little to gain some speed. The helm begins to work a bit better. The boat heels even with just the mainsail. The wind is 27 knots and the sky is dark ahead. Now we are settled down and sailing and the boat feels solid under us and in control. Wings is big and powerful and when we are underway this squall is nothing to her. On board we face the wind try to see what is coming next. Rain starts to fall. I cannot go get a raincoat, so I just decide to accept the wetness. It is OK.
We see that the jib on the foredeck either needs to be secured or hoisted. We don’t know if the wind is going to continue to rise or drop off, so we delay setting the jib. Judy goes forward to tie it down.
In a few minutes it looks like the wind has stopped building so we set the jib and we sail towards the squall, but it is dying and we don’t really get up to speed before it passes as quickly as it came and we are left rolling on a still sea. We wait for a while to see if more wind will follow but it doesn’t so we drop the sails and motor home.
The daily squall has passed but tomorrow there will be another.
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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Phuket.