Loading Map

Friday, May 03, 2013

Day 17, T-Storms and Strangers

Friday Noon

Everything was going so well. We were sailing along yesterday afternoon in a nice NE breeze until the weather started to close in on us a couple hours before sunset. That should have been our first clue that it was going to be a stormy night.

Then right at sunset John spotted a light. Turn on the radar and confirm that there is something there about 6 miles away on our left side (the radar works a little, just not as well as it should). We were on parallel courses and since there was nothing on the AIS (*) we figured it was a yacht or small fishing boat. We were going a little faster then him so we passed him and pretty much forgot about him.

Then about midnight, John, the off watch, got up to check on things to find Linda in the cockpit tracking 3 big thunderstorms. Lightning, thunder, bang bang bang. You get the idea. They were pretty much in front of us and since we were moving 90 degrees to the wind direction, the wind coming from our left hand side, we would expect them to move to our right and leave us a clear path. But it seemed a better idea would be to slow down and maybe go more to the left and wait for the bad boys to either dissipate or move off. So we did that.

But remember that other boat? Well, turning to the left and slowing down put us right in his path. He was still 10 miles away when we performed our maneuver, plenty of time for him to react, but because of the relative positions of the two boats it would be his responsibility to change course to allow for us. Some time later, it was starting to look a little too close (he was inside 1 mile and still heading towards us) so John turned on ALL the lights (running lights, deck lights, foredeck light, anchor light) and flashed the spot light in his direction. This got his attention and he altered course to his right to pass behind us. He passed astern, shone his spot light on us, did a little circle as if to say 'follow me,' and headed off in the direction we were both traveling before we turned and slowed down.

Then about an hour later... Flash! Big lightning right from the direction of the wind. Which means it's coming right at us. So we start the motor and move off at 110 degrees to the wind (basically the course we were on before the turn) and fall in line behind the little ship to try to put as much distance between us and the lightning as we can.

We never got close enough to a storm to hear anything but distant thunder (that is the point after all) but it's still very hard on the nerves watching for lightning hour after hour. We both plan on getting as much rest as we can today since we figure tonight will be a repeat. At least the sun is up now and even though it's no less stormy, we can't see the lightning so everything is much calmer.

* AIS or Automated Information System is a radio based transmitter/receiver system that allows ships and other vessels to track each other. Vessels over a certain size are required to operate a transponder which will send their position, course and speed every few seconds. Smaller vessels can also have transponders, but it isn't a requirement. This information is broadcast 'in the open' and anyone with a receiver can get the broadcast and, by comparing it to their own vessel's information, make a determination on the likelihood of a collision. NAKIA has a 'receiver only' system that takes in data transmitted by other vessels and displays the contacts on a little 'radar' screen (NAKIA is in the center). We can use it to tell if we are at risk of collision with other vessels and to warn us when we are getting too close to other traffic (for us, too close is usually about 4 miles). Why didn't the ship we encountered show up on our receiver? On closer examination of the AIS John found the ship did have a transponder but it wasn't putting out his correct position. Our receiver assumed it was getting a radio signal from a transmitter many hundreds of miles away and ignored it.


{GMST}06|38|N|126|52|W|Mexico to Marquesas Day 17|Day 17{GEND}