Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Sailing at its best!

After three weeks at sea, our voyage across the Atlantic is almost at an end. As the clipper nears the Leeward Islands, the first storm hits at 11 pm. It arrives stealthily out of the night and takes everyone by surprise.
The ship heels and for fifteen minutes the wind speed reaches force 9 on the Beaufort scale. The sound of the gale ripping through the rigging is thunderous. What we experience is a tropical low. Fortunately it does not intensify into a hurricane.
The following day with the West Indies almost in sight, another storm looms on the radar. On deck all eyes are fixed on the gathering clouds. At first they flank the ship. Rolling. Moving rapidly. Spawning smaller storms which quickly close in. The automatic pilot is switched off. The helm is manned. Sails are furled and the cat and mouse game of storm evasion begins.
From the deck I see the rain approaching. As it gets closer, the surface of the sea bubbles. The storm hits. It lasts for twenty minutes.
Standing on the leeward side, the sea and sky meld enveloping the ship in an eerie aura of strange aqua light. The rain blows horizontally. The sea boils and the gunnels lean down to meet it. In the dining room, plates and glasses crash to the floor. Passengers grapple to remain upright – but throughout the storm they thrill to the excitement. This is sailing at its best!

This excerpt is taken from an article I wrote which was published in the Weekend Australian 11/2005. You can read the full story of that journey on my website at It is titled: "In the Adventurers' Wake".

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