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  • Day394

    A lightning passage to Sicily

    August 9, Tyrrhenian Sea ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    There's a favourable northerly wind forecast for the 200nm trip to Sicily, so we decide to cut short our time in Sardinia and go.
    We're bound for the Port of Trapani on the east coast.
    We leave the anchorage at 6.30, and within an hour the engine is off and we're sailing.
    When we try to sail directly a swell on her stern quarter is rolling us and banging the boom, so we point 20 degrees or so up into the wind, our speed increases and she settles down.
    We make good progress through the day and are enjoying the rhythm of being back at sea, passsage making in fine weather and with a favourable breeze.
    Around dusk we start to notice some lightning on the horizon, it's far away and of no concern. Not yet anyway.
    The kids go to bed and Margaret and I continue to observe the lighting. It's getting more widespread and is now across a long band of cloud to the east of us. It seems to be tracking parallel to us and is starting to block our course. We turn away about 20 degrees but the lightning keeps spreading and drawing closer.
    We put out our lightning conductor - a length of copper, attached to a cable which is clipped onto metal stays, and trailed over the side.
    Rather than seeking to conduct a lighting strike we hope to prevent the boat become charged by the electricity in the atmosphere, and leak this charge away, thereby reducing the chance of being struck.
    That's the theory anyway, but we feel better for putting it out. We put handheld GPS units and compass into the oven, which should act as a Faraday cage.
    Then one particular cloud starts to grow. And grow, and grow. It's big enough now to have multiple lightning inside it, often at the same time. Some tint it blue, others orange. There are occasional red bolts coming down to the water. I have never seen anything like it. It's both extremely beautiful and menacing at the same time. If this comes and sits over us we will be lit up like a Christmas tree.
    For a while it seems to be staying away from us, but then it starts to get closer. And bigger.
    We're glad the kids are in bed so they don't pick up on our concerns.
    We decide to try and get away as fast as possible - so we turn in the opposite direction and open the throttle to full revs.
    We're making 9 knots and holding our breath to see if we can get away from it.
    10 minutes go by, 15, and it's not gaining on us any more. After about 30 mins we have moved away and thankfully the amount of lightning seems to be reducing.
    We breathe a sigh of relief and try to get some rest, the dawn is only a few hours away now.
    The next morning brings more lightning clouds and a squall which gives us a good wash down.
    We're glad to see the coast of Sicily appearing in the distance and motor into Trapani, berthing at a marina while we gather ourselves and do a few jobs over the next few days.
    Sicily - we've arrived!
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    Scary! Great photo


    sounds intense!