Dee Caffari sits out the pelting rain with her sea mates 25/4/06

Date24 April at 2312

PositionS 0° 49’/W 20° 40′

Wow! What a night and I think it will be the scene for the next few nights to come too.

With Aviva happily sailing along, I had eventually found myself cool enough to lie down only to find ten minutes later that the radar guard alarm was going off. The radar had picked up a rain cloud approaching. Mike had reminded me that the severe gusts in the clouds were not to be underestimated and that there were areas with 45 knots in them ahead of us slightly further north. I put some shoes on and decided that changing into my bikini would keep my shorts dry.

Within about ten minutes we had the wind rise from 15 knots to 25 knots. I went to put a reef in and furl away some of the headsail. It was absolutely pitch black and then came the rain. It was too difficult to see the edge of the cloud, as everywhere was so dark, I guessed that we might be here for some time. By the time I had reduced sail we had gone from the wind just aft of the beam to being hard on the wind. I was also aware of another noise over the sound of the autopilot, rain and wind. There was a splashing and blowing sound. Once happy with the sail plan I looked for the new noise. In the water were torpedoes flying alongside us and crossing at our bow. We had a pod of dolphins playing with us. As it was so dark they were difficult to see but with the phosphorescence they were easily identified by their trail in the water and the splash as they broke the surface. I went and watched from the bow, pitch black, raining, sailing to windward with my buddies back with Aviva and I again, it was completely surreal.

After a while being wet after standing in the rain I went below to dry and change, as there was nothing I could do with the sails until this passed overhead. I watched on the radar as the rain cloud we were in got larger and larger. At various times the wind died to nothing, then almost as quick it returned. All I needed to do was keep Aviva moving in the right general direction. It was about 0300hrs and then by 0400hrs the wind threatened to change direction completely. I didn’t want to get caught with the sails backed so this time I donned some boots, foul weather trousers and a spray top and headed back on deck. Everything was quiet, then off to my right I could hear rain approaching, then it hit us in absolute bucketfuls. I grabbed some shampoo. So there I was on deck in the pitch dark at 0400hrs washing my hair in the rain. It was comical.

After a while, once I was assured the sails were the right side, I waited below. I took my jacket off but stayed in my boots and trousers ready for the next instalment. I realised just how tired I was getting and grabbed some rest at the bottom of the companionway steps in bursts of ten minutes. It wasn’t until 0700hrs that the rain stopped. As we were leaving the cloud the wind rose to 27 knots again and the rain slowly eased off. Once we left the edge of the cloud the wind returned to normal. It was more consistent and just aft of the beam. I looked at the sky, the black was behind us and the sky was clearing ahead. Back up went full sails once more and I was thankful for the torrential rain washing the salt off Aviva. The last rain we had was the day before we rounded The Cape of Good Hope and we had as much seawater on deck as we did rain. Aviva had been really salty. At night it is very damp and everything feels sticky, even walking around on deck and brushing past things covers you in salt on to sticky sweaty skin. Now this morning the whole boat is clear of salt and feels much better for it.

The next few nights will continue to be similar as we cross the equator and doldrums, so I will have to sleep when I can. At least being entertained in that way keeps Aviva moving. It is better than being becalmed!

Dee & Aviva