Tana-Vika, a cream coloured neighbour of Kudu, is currently locked in an odd sort of race, galloping a desperate last furlong that gets no shorter. We’re neck and neck, and giving it all we’ve got, but going, thankfully, absolutely nowhere.
The weather forecast last night warned of strong winds, but by midnight is was merely a fresh winter bluster. Last night I’d started reading Treasure Island, one of those classic greats that my somewhat lacklustre education deprived me of as a child. I was glued to it’s pages, or rather, the ‘next’ button on my Kindle, but by midnight, just as young Hawkins was recruiting crew in Bristol, my eyes demanded a rest.
I couldn’t sleep. The fresh breeze was knocking Kudu about a little, but no worse than I’d experienced before, and it was probably down to eating far too much Le Roulé. After a while I abandoned my determined slumber and flicked on the radio. Radio 4, of course, just in time for Sailing By, and then the shipping forecast. The presenter painted a poor picture, with gales everywhere but Trafalgar, and many threats of “violent storm eleven”. I looked at the barometer on Kudu: 1013mb. Still nothing exceptional to report. Back to my sleep efforts.
During the next hour the wind gradually increased until Kudu, and the pontoons she clings on to, were dancing around like a child desperate for a wee. The motion on board had become choppy and uncomfortable, and sleep was looking increasingly unlikely. As the night continued, the wind progressively became more powerful, climbing the Beaufort scale in fits of gusts, during which we were pinned to an awkward heel as each mooring warp took it’s turn in tugging Kudu back to her proper place.
I was desperately in need of some sleep by this point, but managed only to lay semi-consciously still for a while before having to tense the odd muscle to stay put in my bunk. Some hours went by, then at four or five in the morning and almighty squall came thundering through the dock. The howl was intense, the roar, the heeling, then the violent tugging at the warps. It was such a blast that I put a hand on the forward window, vaguely expecting it to blow in. I’m convinced it was not a stingy number beyond 60 knots, and when the squall had passed, it only had the decency to take but a few knots with it. I gave up with any effort to sleep, and thankful of the stove’s gimbals, made a brew.
By 0900 the barometer was down to 998mb, but the worst of it seemed over. Shortly afterwards it began to climb again.
All around the country this deep low was attacking an otherwise mundane January morning. Maybe the first day back at work had raised mother natures anti-capitalist side.
At 0500, while I was further South, pressing my hand against Kudu’s perspex window, the weather front had reached the Forth Road Bridge in Scotland. As the mean wind speed climbed to a staggering 80mph, the gusts ventured to ninety. At the very top of the chart, beyond 90mph, the wind instrument on the bridge let go.
The South of England didn’t escape the hiemal bluster either, in fact the South suffered a more tragic assault. A man in Kent was killed by a wind felled tree that crushed his car, and another was airlifted after an accident on board a troubled chemical tanker in the channel, but he didn’t make it to hospital.
So, amongst all the disruption, to the liveaboards that got no sleep, to the home owners that lost some roof tiles or a couple of fence panels, and to the commuters that got delayed, don’t fret, it wasn’t that bad for us. When the weather is like this, there is true bravery in the UK. From helicopter search and rescue crew, to the lifeboats, ambulance service, and mountain rescue, to name but a few, they’re all out there, and without them, well, things could be worse for a lot more of us.
To the man in the car, and the sailor. R.I.P.