(Underway – Gulf of Panama)
I was raised Catholic but as I get older I’m unsure how my loyalty lies. I want to believe there’s something grander out there, I’m just not sure it’s what I’ve been told. So many people have so many varying beliefs about the omnipresent, who’s to say mine can’t be my lovely Grandmothers up in heaven keeping an eye on me?
Now hear me out. After a trek onto Isla Bona this afternoon to search for wild bananas that remained unfound, we lifted the anchor and set out on a 90 nautical mile passage that would take us through the night. Leaving at 6pm, the distance and our expected speed should put us off the hairy Punta Mala in the daylight and into our next anchorage around noon. The winds were light and as I settled into my first shift (7-10pm) we were motor sailing. Conditions remained unchanged as Gregory took on his shift at 10. Then around midnight Oceanna was on the run.
Our radar picks up storm activity and displays it on the screen as it would a nearby ship. Greg had been tracking two separate storms/squalls in the distance when they converged and headed straight for us. I awoke to lightning flashing through my eyelids and deafening thunder too close for any sense of comfort. The rain was pouring down, and with it, the winds drop to nothing. In an attempt to get our asses out of there, Greg fired up the second engine and set both to full throttle. After a reassuring touch to Greg I lied back down – as there was nothing I could do – and watched the lightning flash through my eyelids and the thunder shake us all to the core.
20 minutes later and Greg and Oceanna had indeed run out the storm, avoiding Panama’s infamous lightning strikes for the time being. As 1am rolled around it was my turn back on shift. I seated myself in the helm and took note of the squalls displayed on the screen. As I did the routine boat check there were the big black clouds with lightning activity up in the distance. For the next hour I adjusted our course and dodged a storm to port. As that one faded off our stern I exhaled only to go through the same routine with a small squall on our starboard. As that storm passed behind us, I watched the wind pick up considerably and happily set the jib to help increase our speed.
Back at the helm my heart sunk as I stared at a wall of yellow blobs on the screen. Never has a computer screen instilled that much trepidation in me. Maybe the screen as it would load my University final exam results, but as the thought of a fail may have felt like the end of the world, it didn’t actually represent any harm to my well-being. These growing yellow blobs did. I sighted the squalls off the front of the bow and admitted there was no dodging these ones.
This is the point I shut my eyes and sent up my wish to my lovely ladies in the sky. If they could see Oceanna through this next little bit safely I’d really appreciate it. Well let me tell you about my badass Grandmas! As we charged full sail into the mess of black and lightning, the yellow blobs began to break up and dissipate. By the time we reached what I had been so scared of, it had broken up and offered nothing but a light sprinkle of rain.
All this being said, I’m aware my surroundings, and therefore my emotions, come across much more heavy in the dark of the night. That’s just the way things work. So perhaps, I’ve embellished on our actual level of danger. Nonetheless, my feelings were real and my belief of Phyllis and Berniece’s mountain-moving abilities has increased ten-fold.