From Zero to Thirty in Twenty Minutes

I was telling you about the weather, didn’t I? The other day, still anchored off our Paradise Island, began just like the day before. Almost clear skies with only a whiff of cirrus clouds high up and two or three puffy heaps of cumulus here and there. Already at eight in the morning the sun was burning like a forced air furnace, and there was absolutely no wind. The sea reflected everything above it like a polished mirror distorted by only a very miniscule swell that was lazily rolling in from the Southwest like an exhausted messenger crying timid tales of a more tumultuous atmosphere elsewhere on the planet very far away. Two sailboats where among the many reflections, sailboats without sails, a common sight sadly enough, but today I could understand their addicted urge to burn some petrol. They wouldn’t be going anywhere without it unless they took to the oars! Both where fine looking boats sliding across the glassy plane just below the horizon line, classic hull shapes, ketch rigged with long bowsprits sticking out in front. They were headed Southwest, most probably to Ha’afeva or Ofa, two other reef encircled tropical wonderlands strewn as isolated patches to the West of the main chain of islands of the Ha’apai archipelago.

Apart from the black mesh shade we install most every morning over the deck pod to provide shelter from the tropical sun, I decided to fly our rain catcher as well, which provides additional shade over the foredeck. Just like yesterday, I said to myself, it’s going to be another hot one! I went down below to fix breakfast. I cut up golden papaya flesh, scraped away tar black seeds with their sticky web of feeder tubes, peeled clearly browning bananas and sliced their sugary bodies also into tiny pieces. I put the kettle on the stove and once the water boiled poured it into the French Press coffee maker that has survived so many a storm in the galley. Finally I toasted a couple slices of shipboard made bread in the scorched Teflon pan. Once done with all these routine chores I stuck my head out the companionway just to keep an eye on the situation and, of course, also to enjoy the splendid view. And quite a view it was.

A wall of dark grey clouds was approaching fast from the Southwest. Horizontal bands of different somber shades were toppling each other led by a fuzzy mass of churned up condensation racing menacingly towards us. Also racing towards us were the two lovely classic boats. They had made a sharp left turn and were heading full throttle towards our relatively protected bay off the Uoleva Island beach. Before I had time to clearly grasp their panic-stricken motive they had entered through the reef and dropped their hooks into by now white-capped water. Our rain catcher had started to flap violently in the stiffening breeze and I couldn’t make up my mind what to do about it. Grey curtains of rain where hanging down from the dark mass of grey and covering some of the slim ribbons of palm trees depicting the little islets close by. It would be nice to fill up our water jugs, I said to myself and left the fluttering to continue. The two boats, just like two well-combed brothers in a Sunday school brochure, were doing everything at simultaneously at the same time. Now they were furiously flapping their flippers through the churned up water, going to check up on their anchors, obviously worried that this hairy situation might be getting quite a bit worse.

I’m not very good a judging wind speed in any kind of numeric form. My best guess would be that the gusts were hitting the thirties. At that speed you start to lean forward when you want to walk into the wind. I was quite confident that our two anchors were solidly dug into the sand and would hold. Fortunately the wind was out of the South, where the tip of the island protected us from the direct onslaught. Still, only twenty minutes before we were wondering what other clothes we would take off our already lewdly exposed bodies. Such is life in the Ha’apais, we had been warned about it.

The system turned out to be the edge of a trade wind belt. Once the wall of grey had passed, unfortunately without bringing any rain more than a short drizzle, we were back to steady trade winds in the fifteen to twenty range. Our anonymous friends in the two sailboats headed out the next day in perfect sailing weather to keep up their tight schedules and continue on their way. This time they actually put to good use their beautiful pieces of Dacron cloth and spared mother Earth a little piece of bleeding to death by the parasitically inclined human race.

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One Response to “From Zero to Thirty in Twenty Minutes”

  1. allan aunapu Says:

    Nice weather story.

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