Storms Question

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In the logs of May 8, 2008 Alex and Corie answered this question

  • At night when there is a storm, what does the boat do and what does the water look like?


The boat in a storm – wow – what a difficult question to answer properly.

Last time, I talked a lot about paintings by an artist called Turner and Mrs Harrison’s classes did some lovely work using copies that they found on the internet. Turner gives you the ‘feel’ and the scariness of a storm and an idea of what the light is like, but being there is always different.

Technically, the boat pitches, yaws and rolls as well as going up and down on each wave and it does this all the time, even at anchor, but in a storm everything is magnified and much more violent – the boat feels as if it is corkscrewing savagely and crashing through or over waves.

The wind is unbelievably noisy – it shrieks and howls in the rigging and across your face in big storms and you also hear the rain and spray hitting your waterproof hood rather like a jackhammer. It is almost always black dark in a storm at night but you are in a little cocoon of light from the boat’s instruments and from its masthead light. Imagine being in a car at night – the lights of the instruments on the dashboard glow inside the car and tend to reflect and cut off the light from the outside.

The sea surface is black, woolly and shapeless and often it feels so thick that it is wrapped around you. As th boat crashes along, it throws huge surges of white water and spray out to the sides and these often reflect the boat’s lights so they glow. And then there is the phosphorescence – one of the true wonders of the sea! It is caused by tiny animals called dinoflagellates and we were sent a good description of how it works in our first website – I’m sure my sister can organise a link for you.

Of course, it also depends on what the sea state is (what sort of waves, what shape they are, how high, how far apart) which depends on which way the wind is blowing, whether there is a current and things like that. And finally, on the direction you are trying to sail relative to the wind and the waves…

But phosphorescence in a storm almost – almost – cancels out the scariness! You seem to be surging along in huge cascades of diamonds, vast fans of blasting sparkling spray, sometimes just diamonds, sometimes rubies and emeralds as well as the drops and the dinosMicroscopic, (usually) unicellular, flagellated, often photosynthetic protists, commonly regarded as “algaeMicroscopic”; take on some of the colour of your red and green masthead lights. And in very special storms, dolphins are sometimes swimming along as well.


The most scary is a lightning storm though. When you think that the metal mast would very much like to be a giant lichtning conductor it is even scarier!!! At night, oin a lightning storm there is usually lots of rain and when the lightning flashes the whole sky lights up purple. mental!!

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