35+ Knot Crazy Mornig Storm

I awoke on our first morning in Port Resolution, Vanuatu to the gentle sound of rain tapping on the rainfly above the hatch in the forward bunk. Dazzler’s gentle rocking side to side had made for a delightful night of slumber after our passage. While it was still pretty early I was feeling quite rested. As I slithered from the bunk and made my way into the salon I noted that the skies behind us were black as night. It was obvious we were in for some rain but what we didn’t know is that we were in for a 35+ knot crazy morning storm.

I got my morning soda and sat on the settee to download emails and then do a little light reading about this interesting country in which we find ourselves. I found a wonderful book about it called “Getting Stoned With Savages: A trip Through The Islands Of Fiji And Vanuatu” The author is quite humorous but also offers a very informative account of what one can expect here.

Soon, however, the light rain turned into something a bit more ominous as it began absolutely pouring. Within minutes the winds went from a light breeze to 20 knots and climbing. Our gently rolling anchorage began to look like a whitewater river suitable for all sorts of dangerous sports like whitewater kayaking and rafting. And, we noted quite quickly that the new yacht that arrived in the middle of the night was sliding on its anchor. My mind quickly went back to the morning at Musket Cove in Fiji a few months ago when boats started dragging and we were hit by one while we were securely tied to a mooring. The only good thing here is there were just three of us in a large bay and we were all a good distance apart.

Dan immediately fired up Yanmar San just in case we needed to move, re-anchor or just try to hold station. We noted that our new neighbors were both on deck with their engine running as well. This is how any good Captain and crew behave in a situation like this. Hiding below out of the rain is only likely to put you, your vessel and those around you in more danger. No one likes to be standing in the cockpit getting drenched by the driving rain but it’s all part of the deal. When the weather comes you have to be ready.

I immediately started closing port lights and hatches which is not fun in this environment that is so hot and humid. Talk about feeling like a lobster in a steamer pot, that’s exactly how it feels when everything gets closed up. The fans do nothing more than stir up hot, moist air making it feel more like a sauna than a yacht.

Dan’s in the cockpit and I, now dressed, am standing in the companionway. There’s nothing for me to really do at this point so I start taking pics and video. After all, someone on board has to document the mayhem right? After a few minutes Dan has determined that our anchor has slid about 11 meters. With the winds now reaching a fevered 38 knots we cannot even think of re-anchoring. No, we will have to try to maintain station and wait for the storm to pass.

Looking back toward Mt. Yasur it doesn’t appear this storm is going anywhere fast. It’s still as black as midnight back there and the rain is still coming down in barrels, not buckets. In fact forget cats and dogs it was clearly raining elephants and hippos. Meanwhile the anchorage is getting more churned up and the swell that is natural here is ramping up too so in addition to be spun in circles by the ever changing wind we are rolling side to side and bouncing up and down.

Where’s The Water Coming From?

About the time we’ve decided the anchor has dug in and stopped dragging I’m down in the salon where I see a puddle of water on the floor near the compression post. We have a deck stepped mast which means our mast actually sits on the deck rather than going through the boat all the way down to the keel.

The compression post goes from the deck to the keel and as is what the mast sits upon. It sort of looks like a shiny stripper pole going from floor to ceiling in the salon. Anyway, it appears we have water draining down the mast and compression post into the salon.

Whenever we have any water ingress in the boat I always go back to what my dear friend, Roger Sutton, told me. Rule #1….”Keep the boat in the water and the water out of the boat.” Well, Roger, sometimes that’s easier said than done. So, I call Dan in from the cockpit to see what he wants to do about it and if he thinks it’s serious. While he assesses the issue I go outside to monitor things there. I just can’t tell you how nice it is to be sitting in the cockpit with rain pelting you like tiny poison darts being shot from a reed at the hands of a cannibal who is looking to serve you up for afternoon tea. It’s such a joyous and pleasant experience. LOL

After a few minutes Dan has determined that we may have a clogged drain at the mast or that the rain is just driving so hard that it’s causing an overflow. For now he’s put a plastic container under the leak and will monitor it until after the storm has passed. It’s nothing we need to worry about. Most important at the moment is making sure we stay securely anchored and that no other boats come banging up against us.

Just when we’d think it was over and the winds were dying we’d look up and they’d be back up in the high 20’s again. The rain would turn to mist and then come down like a waterfall over the decks. It was not like a squall that, as Captain Ron says, “comes on ya fast and leaves ya fast”. No, this was much more reminiscent of a good old Florida thunderstorm complete with thunder and lightening.

At one point we are even certain we heard the volcano belch. There’s thunder but then there’s the sound of the volcano and there simply was no mistaking it. It was so loud and ferocious sounding that it seemed the world was going to come crashing down upon us. The steam vents along the shoreline and up in the jungle were putting off more steam than we’d seen since we arrived. I couldn’t help but think that in a hut somewhere in the nearby village there was an elder telling the children that the Gods were angry today. Heck…I was beginning to believe it myself.

After an hour or so the rains stopped, the winds died down and the anchorage was back to its gentle rolling swell. I even peaked out to see that the sun was peering around some clouds as if to see if it was safe to come out from hiding. Of course over the volcano we could see nothing but thick steam and puffy, grey clouds. I guess this is not the day to go for our tour up to the rim. No, we’ll let her settle down a bit and consider going another day.

For the rest of the day we enjoyed a peaceful afternoon just floating on the hook. Dan pulled out the ukulele and regaled me with his repertoire of songs including his favorite song that he wrote just for me called, “Junkyard Wife”. Don’t even ask. Maybe one day I’ll get a video of him singing it for you.

Well, once again we escaped death. This time in an anchorage during a 35+ knot crazy morning storm. Let’s hope this trend continues as we stand on the rim of an active volcano.

Until next time,

Jilly

Author: Dan & Jilly

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