Friday, June 8, 2012

Summer Storms

Depending on where you live, you might be familiar with the following situation. It’s summer and the air is heavy. It is so hot and humid that you can barely breathe. You move slowly, trying to run your errands without much motivation and you so wish you could take a nap or read a book, because that is about all a human body can handle in a climate like this. But, it is too hot to sleep, unless you don’t mind waking up in a puddle of sweat, and who has time for sleeping anyway? On stagnant days like this, a massive storm is bound to happen from the moment the temperature cools down a bit. On stagnant days like this, you might have actually come to expect some thunder and lightning, and a healthy dose of rain by nightfall. The plants will be happy; nature needs it, you think. Tomorrow will be a nice and crisp day again!

Stagnant days like this, is how the summer in the San Blas islands looks like, feels like and tastes like. Every day. The best way to cool off is by jumping off your boat in the magnificent blue water. Again and again. But, how about the storms? Ha! Even though it is very hot and humid every day, this doesn’t mean it rains every day/night. Nobody would cruise or spend whole summers here otherwise, right? The storms are unpredictable. They might arrive during the day, they might be visible only in the distance, they might approach and engulf you, they might come from the east, west, north or south, or they might not arrive at all for a few days.

Usually, when they do arrive, this is what happens: Mark and I would see some lightning in the distance, likely over the mountains on mainland Panama. This is nothing special. Then, the lightshow moves a bit closer and we watch in awe, high up above, in the clouds. As if continually lit by an amazing spotlight, the sky turns white-greyish, all around us, every few seconds. The spectacle becomes even more intense, when the thunder is audible. Soon enough, the first raindrops fall and we retreat inside, where we base ourselves near a porthole or other window. Then, the wind arrives, but we don’t worry about that. We have good and oversized ground tackle (anchor and chain). With our faces pressed against the glass, we have a good view of our surroundings every time lightning strikes. By now, we sometimes see the eye blinding lightning bolt hit the water. We count… How far away was that? Let’s hope no boats were anchored there!

Sometimes, we hold our positions for hours and pray to not get hit. Sometimes, we think we can’t do anything about these storms and go back to bed. The deafening thunder vibrates through Irie and makes her shake. Lightning brightens the night sky all around us. I use the powerful flashes to locate the glass of water or find my way downstairs. Who needs lights in this “illuminating” weather? Finally, unannounced, it is quiet and dark again. The squall has passed, sometimes for five minutes, more often for a few days, until the next one arrives. We, our boat and our electronics survived another San Blas summer storm and we even collected fresh rainwater to clean our sweaty bodies!


Unknown said...

Having never experienced something like this aboard a boat, I appreciate your photos, and your description, which makes it sound intense, but "normal". Being prepared and knowing what to do with your electronics (and your rain water collection) probably makes all the difference in one's comfort level in a storm like that. Thanks for posting.

Liesbet said...

Thanks for the feedback, Belinda! Leaving Irie in the midst of the San Blas for a while this summer, all the electronics are disconnected (except the anchor light), smaller items made their home in the microwave, Mark ran a ground cable from the VHF antenna on the mast all the way into the water (the fish seem to like this!) and we hope for the best! Luckily, we do have insurance... :-)