August 6, 2010

A Chubasco on Training Wheels

A classic thunderhead--and right in our way. we detoured around this one.
It's Chubasco season. This means on unpredictable nights, at some point after we're peacefully asleep, we'll suddenly wake to a violent thunder squall. The way to prepare for a Chubasco is to keep the boat ready to head to sea and have an escape route programmed into the GPS, just in case that pleasant anchorage turns into a gnarly lee shore.
We know this. But after a couple of months of peaceful nights, it's easy to get lax. Last night we left the laundry out, the awnings up and the dingy down. It was almost like we were taunting the wind gods.
So they slapped us, gently.
I woke first. At 2am I felt a strong gust-when I popped my head out the hatch I saw a massive lightning squall in the distance. The steps; awnings down, laundry in, dingy up, engine, depth sounder and radar on, were automatic. While we worked, the wind ramped up, the seas built, my hands shook and my mouth went dry.
We've been through squalls like these numerous times. In Florida and on the rest of the East Coast they were simply part of summer, but usually they happened in the afternoon and we saw them coming. Somehow though it wasn't the Florida or even the past Baja storms I thought of, as I watched the squall squat malevolently on the ridge across from us. I thought of the La Cruz storm.
Rather ironically, I've just sold a story about lessons learned from the La Cruz to Cruising World (slated for the safety at sea issue this winter). Even more ironically we ignored the lessons we learned. If the Chubasco had been a fast moving one that came toward us rapidly, while packing the typical 50-60 knot gusts, we would have maybe gotten as far as getting the awnings down. The dingy and laundry would have had to fend for themselves.
Instead the storm was pretty much stationary for two and a half hours. It sat several miles away and gave us plenty of time to think about our transgressions.
Lightning Grounding:
The one thing that did give me some piece of mind is Evan finished up a long planned lightning grounding system. Our boat contains a lot of carbon fibre; including the chain plates, so giving the lightning an easy way out of the boat is pretty vital. Our solution is relatively low tech: he attached a #1 gauge copper cable to the mast and attached it to a copper pipe which we lower into the water during a lightning storm.
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Deb said...

If it's any consolation you aren't the only ones that have been slapped by the weather gods. We had almost the exact experience a few weeks ago - looked at the radar right before bed and said "naaah that's going to die out before it gets here". Two o'clock the gust front ripped through like a concrete wall and caught us with our pants down - literally. We were out taking down the bimini and Breeze Booster in our altogether. The storm sat on us for 3 hours of 40 knot winds (pretty bad for our little lake). Lesson learned!

Thanks for your blog.
S/V Nomad

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Thanks Deb,
That sounds nasty. Glad you came through it okay. We sailed around one big mass the other day. Went way out of our way around an island to avoid it--only to have it break down...