Squalls at sea consist of sudden down pours of torrential rain associated with strong, fresh leading winds and even stronger winds of up to 30 or even 50 knots (35- 56 mph) once the squall hits. They can be seen approaching during the day as their ominous darkness and pelting rain changes the seascape. But at night, when you are sleeping, there is no such warning. Suddenly they strike, the boat heels over a few degrees with the first winds, and then a few seconds later the squall hits and the boat races off, out of control, having over powered. The autopilot then squeals out of defeat and gives up. If I fail to make it to the helm and manually head the boat off downwind, all hell will break loose and serious damage can occur. As stated, during the day I see it coming, and if I was not looking, I feel the first flush of fresh wind and the heeling of the boat. But at night, soundly asleep, I sense none of this. Enter my new invention.
It’s a microwave safe glass dish with lid purchased from Wal-Mart, and so no doubt made in China. I have partially filled this with water, placed it on the cockpit table with a cloth creating the appropriate coefficient of friction. There it sits, posed just above my chest and neck as I sleep in the cockpit. Now at the first puff of wind preceding the full squall, the boat heels, the dish takes off and I get a pain in the neck and upper chest, which creates a sitting up reflex and I race to battle stations to gain control of the helm before it is lost. Exciting stuff, eh? So you wonder what I do with my time out here – creative thinking time – just getting a little too much of it. –S.P.