Leg 2, Day 59 – Can lightening strike twice?

Laura Penhaul By

Day 59: can lightening strike twice?

Right when a few of us are starting to miss home or feeling the dregs of the monotony of rowing 12hrs a day, today the Pacific brought a taste of home to us. It appears that regardless of being at the equator where you’d imagine it to be searing heat, we have entered into rowing what seems to be the English Channel in early Winter. It’s actually been cold through the night, torrential, non-forgiving rain and bitter winds making us want to wrap up warm in the cabin and have a shepherds pie to warm our little cockles up. Like a taste of back home. Who would have thought, that at the equator we were drenched wet and freezing cold, dreaming of a hot cup of tea rather than an icey cocktail.

Last night started with a star filled sky and then suddenly the stars disappeared and we entered into a sky of pitch blackness with heavy clouds you could feel all around us. There’s something about the dark that can allow your mind to play tricks on you, when you’re on land, then the darkness can bring a fear of someone being there when you can’t see them. Out here, thankfully void of any unknown visitors in the dark (unless it’s Monty the Booby landing on Doris) the fear instead is of the looming clouds overhead, you don’t know whether they are about to rain on you, or worse still, are they lightening storm clouds. Last night they were exactly that,  lightening storm clouds.

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I love watching lightening from a distance, where you can see the night sky light up for a split second. The natures phenomenon of how lightening is created through electrical charge, it’s fascinating. However, when you row into these clouds at night time and you feel the clouds have engulfed you, then I feel it’s less fun when that electrical surge happens directly above you. Don’t quote me on the odds, but I think it’s something like a million to one chance of ever being hit by lightening and if you ask Tony if we are at risk, he’d say there’s a very slim chance albeit next to no risk. However, in my head, that computes to, ‘but there is a small slither of a chance it could happen, Doris could be struck by lightening’ and let’s face it, people do get struck by lightening and with our track record recently in the Doldrums, I would put us at higher odds. Let’s look at the facts, we’re a small boat that yes is low to the sea level and doesn’t have a huge mast up to the sky, but we do have carbon fibre in the hull which correct me if I’m wrong, but I think would be a conductor. We too have aerials that stand up approx. 1.5m above the cabins. We don’t have a grounding line. So as far as I’m concerned, when sitting within the heart of an electrical storm, I’d prefer we take precautions and needless to say my heart rate was most probably sitting a little higher last night until the storm had passed. So maintaining a steady rowing pace, the aerials were folded down and then when the clouds above us and all around lit like a lightbulb had been switched on and the rumble of thunder soon followed, it was time to watch from the cabin. We sat it out for just 10-15mins max until it had passed overhead and then returned to the oars. Shortly after, Ems and Lizanne had to do the same in the last 15mins of their shift, as another storm cloud passed over head. On returning to the oars, as it has been for the past few days and let’s face it, pretty much 90% of the Doldrums so far, we have once again been battling against currents and the wind, making it heavy work to go little distance for a lot of effort. This without a doubt has been the most frustrating and I think we all have had our moments cursing the sea and wishing it to ease up just a little bit. Thankfully by noon today, the grey clouds had lifted, the sun began to shine again, the winds and current started to settle down and we have been able to resume rowing South. So with just 3degrees (180nm) to go until we are hopefully out of the doldrums once and for all, I think this will be a point of celebration even bigger than crossing the equator!

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5 Comments

  1. Andy says:

    It’s obviously been a tough mental and physical battle, but if anyone can push through the challenges its you four. When you reach the destination you will probably miss the journey both good times and bad.
    Pray good weather will come and give you the short respite you need.
    Andy x

  2. Roger Craven says:

    Don’t worry – now that you are over the equator it is down hill all the way!

  3. Robert says:

    You are NOT in the Doldrums, you are well into the SE Trade winds. The Doldrums are where the NE Trades meet the SE Trades which is the ITCZ (ok Smart Ass you say?) But the Tropopause is about 16km high where you are as opposed to 10km in the UK so convective storms in the SE flow can reach great heights and incredible violence. The air temperature at the top of the storm is well below the coldest UK winter so the downdrafts and rain are literally freezing cold … as you discovered? The chance of lightning hitting something as small & as well insulated as your boat (keep the Antennas down!) is pretty small. But if it did … don’t even think about the possibility, have you ever won the lotto? “You’ve got to be in it to win it”?

  4. Jan R says:

    It’s great to see your progress again picking up speed. Did you notice this was the first time since your initial days leaving Hawaii that you had been able to make good 30NM or more six days in a row? It must feel great to be seeing this sort of speed again! Samoa is getting much closer, and at these speeds you might arrive in October still! Yes, that is later than your original plan, but that is much better than what could have been expected just a week ago “in the doldrums” 🙂 Keep it up!!! xxxx

  5. Jim Andrews says:

    I love a good storm, the louder and heavier, the better, but like most people I prefer to witness it under cover and from a distance. Sitting in what you must feel is, a 29′ target, must feel less than comfortable. Like you, I always look at the less optimistic values of statistics, tell the guy that has been struck 5 times by lightening, that there is a million to one chance of being hit once. I tend to zone in on the one rather than hide myself in the million. That aside, Hawaii is getting further away and Samoa ever closer. The weather will improve, you will continue on and complete your quest. You will continue to inspire and amaze a huge number of people, in awe of your courage, strength and humanity. Stay safe. XX

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