Sunday, September 8, 2013
Sardinia? Mallorca? Menorca? A Storm and Other Adventures
Wednesday was a lovely day in Marsala, even though we were woken up at 5:00AM by a light rain. It soon cleared up and we did a major shopping and were able to check the weather and the internet.
We got diesel at the very tiny fuel quay (even though there was not much room and the wind was pushing us towards the dock, with the guys on the dock pushing, Frank got us off beautifully) and left around noon, intending to go to an island about 20 miles away and stop there for the night before heading to Sardinia.
Well, the course of this sailing trip never did run smoothly, to shamelessly paraphrase Shakespeare. When we got to the island we saw that the harbor was way too small and shallow for us to get in (the chart was inaccurate on this point), so the only thing to do was to head for Sardinia. The bad thing about that was that it meant sailing overnight (which I am not crazy about), but we did not have a choice.
The next day we had good winds and were able to sail all day without the motor, so we decided to head for Menorca, which required another overnight. We are on a time schedule and were sailing without the motor and had good weather with the waves helping to push us, so figured we would just keep going.
There were some clouds, but no rain and they looked like fair weather clouds. Anyway, we had checked the weather before we left and there were no storms or rain predicted.
Unfortunately, it does not appear that we can necessarily trust the weather. Max was just about to beat me at chess--again--when I looked up and saw a waterspout coming from one of the clouds. Suddenly everything had changed. The clouds had gotten darker and more threatening and it was looking like we were going to be in for a big one. It was too late to head for a harbor or to change course for Sardinia again, so all we could do was to batten down the hatches and prepare the boat.
Frank is afraid that people will think he is incompetent because of all the things that have happened to us, but I can assure you that he is not. As long as there is no blood involved (if there were he would probably pass out and make me steer the boat--and no one wants that!), he is fantastic in a crisis. He just refuses to panic.
We all put our life jackets on and we quickly brought in the sails while Frank was deciding which was the safest way to go. We didn't think we could outrun the storm and it was such a big system that there wasn't any way that we could miss it completely, but we hoped that staying near the edge of it would mean that we missed the brunt of it.
Max was not afraid at all. He stayed downstairs, calmly eating sandwiches and reading a book while Frank and I anxiously watched the sky. We hightailed it out of there as quickly as we could and were much relieved to see clear skies ahead and even a few stars as the sun set.
The sunset was in some senses the scariest part of all. I have never seen a light like that. The only way I know how to describe it is that it was a MEAN light--yellow like a legal pad with a little brown mustard mixed in. There was a stripe of dark gray clouds above it and a very angry, defiant-looking sun. It was truly eerie, but it was behind us and ahead of us we saw clear skies.
We did get some rain and wind; Frank was wearing full rain gear and had harnessed himself to the boat in anticipation of very large waves (Max and I were downstairs). However, none of it was nearly what we had been afraid of and after about 45 minutes we were entirely clear of the storm save for the lightning which was fast receding behind us. Max had fallen asleep in his life jacket, so I left it on him for a couple of hours before I finally got him to go to bed.
The next day the wind continued favorably and the weather was good so we decided to keep going and try and get to Mallorca, about 40 miles further than Menorca. It was an uneventful day and an uneventful overnight sail without using the motor.
Friday was a different story, however. A beautiful day, but an unsailable headwind so we had to motor all day and all night. That meant a lot of diesel consumption and at 5:30AM Saturday I heard ominous sounds coming from the motor. We still had 50 miles to our destination (once Frank calculated how much diesel our un-looked-for motoring necessity had consumed we had given up on Mallorca and changed course again for Menorca) and still no wind. We shut off the motor and waited till daylight, at which point we added our 20 liters of diesel from the jerry can. Now we are very hot and very slowly heading for Menorca, wishing for some wind to speed us up and save some diesel--apparently our couple days of really good wind was all we are going to get!