Thunderstorms never freaked me out before. In fact, many nights I have gotten up to comfort a scared child during a thunderstorm and we ended up looking out of the window together with the kind of excitement one feels on the fourth of July during a fireworks show. There’s nothing better than a Florida thunderstorm for entertainment value (unless, like my husband, you consider hurricanes entertaining). But when you live on a boat with a 68’ mast, lightning becomes a worrisome thing.
Last night’s storms caused thousands of power outages and some minor damage—wind, rain and lightning-related. We were at a relatively safe and familiar anchorage, and we didn’t lose power (since we’re not on the grid), but it was the loudness, the closeness of the weather that scared me. It was the kind of lightning that you see even when your eyes are closed, and that sets the children’s Firefly toothbrushes to flashing. We couldn’t see the boat anchored next to us for the sheets of wind-blown rain.
Jay and I sat in the lightning-lit salon and wondered if we were going to have to don our foul weather gear and re-anchor. Thankfully, the anchor, at the end of 75 feet of chain, held well. This was the first real storm we’ve seen on the boat. Normally, we’re sitting comfortably tied to a dock, knowing the storm will pass, and that at least there are other tall things nearby that might channel the lightning if it strikes. But it feels different in an anchorage, with the boat moving around a Iot more, and 20 knots of breeze feels like 30 out on the open water. I wouldn’t have wanted to be at sea in a storm like that.
Storms at sea.
This thought makes me shudder a bit. Until the children are older, we will always be “short handed” (meaning less than four able crewmen). One person has to be at the helm while the other is navigating, or is off-watch on a long passage. Otto (a.k.a. Autopilot) does a good job steering so we don’t have to actually man the wheel, but one person still has to be outdoors, keeping a lookout, following a course, adjusting the sails, making sure we don’t run aground, or, worse, run into another ship. Somebody is going to get wet, cold and tired, and maybe seasick at the same time.
We will sail conservatively and wait for weather windows, but we will certainly be caught in a few nasty squalls, at least. We may even go out in wet and windy weather on purpose, to get practice. But as of this moment, we are still untried and untested. I have always felt completely unworthy of this life. From the sidelines, I always admired cruising women who opted for a life of adventure, who were able to rough it and face danger with composure. I’m a wimp, really. But if I felt worthy or ready, it would be sure sign that I’m not.