We left the safe harbor of our homes late afternoon on Friday. The sun shone pleasantly, its yellow hue melting the soft deciduous leaves in the tranquil heat of a mid-summer-like air. A pleasant breeze bathed exuberant faces filled with the hope and promise of the weekend’s journey, itself a mere primer for a more extended voyage this July. We knew the forecast, but the fresh sky bedazzled us. We carried on as planned.
The storms began to the north around midnight. The senior crew had just broke from their debriefing in the mess hall. The march to our assigned quarters took us again out into the bewitching serenity of the troposphere. We watched in delight as blankets of bright light quickly grew across the heavens, revealing undulating waves of the gray-green surrounding us. And just as quickly, they vanished into an empty blackness. No thunder. No sound at all. A calm. A calm before…
A surge of energy sparked immediately ahead of us. But a modest rumble defanged its ocular ferocity. As buoyant rain started to fall, we headed for our cots.
In my small square of privacy only a few seconds, I unexpectedly heard what appeared to be a surprisingly desperate call. I casually replied, only to hear a more urgent plea. I immediately popped out from the stillness of my room and fell into a swirling sea of rain and wind. In front of me, a ravaged ship sloshed. A scant crew held down torn tarps. I ran to help. Gushes of oversized droplets pelted the brave few. We salvaged as much as we could from the clutches of the maelstrom. We could barely look into the weather, although the supple splash of water on our sun-dried faces made us ignore the momentary sting.
Frenzied shouts from nearby indicated others shared our plight. We hollered back. The weather’s roar proved too much. A small voice yelped from the darkened distance. The rain’s deafening volume made the tone barely audible. We could spare only one. And off he went with the little red bag.
As we secured our main sails, the storm withered with one closing thunderous clap – the final strike. In all, it lasted only a short few minutes. We took the time to visit the fleet. Oddly, most of the damage occurred within the central area, suggesting a microburst. Mother Nature had, however, given us an excellent chance to understand the consequences of various rigging techniques. We all quickly adopted the most successful approaches.
With the air still again, we retired to our individual bunks, serenaded with a lullaby from an amphibious chorus.
But the electricity of the night returned. Slowly at first, but definitely moving closer. Our previous encounter had been but a glancing blow. From the sounding marks of each bolt, I could tell the storm headed full amain straight towards us. There was no escaping. We could only hope – and, I admit, pray – we had tied the deck down as tightly as possible.
I counted each interval between the visual explosion and the audible crash. The span between the two swiftly shrunk. Like a condemned man, I braced myself for the inevitable wall of water that would smash into our diminutive vessel. I envisioned a quick frontal blow, similar to the first assault, but one striking a more generalized area.
It hit with a rage that never ended. The booming symphony and the hammering downpour opened at 2:03am. The wind whipped wet barrage warped my meager lodge. But it held. The tugging torrent tossed my cabin. I waited anxiously for the final strike. I expected it no later than 2:15am. It didn’t come until 2:38am. Only then, after more than a half hour of raucous rocking, did the tempest subside. Whatever repairs were needed could wait until the illumination of morning.
Except for the frogs.
(For the exciting “drama in real life” feel of the actual 2010 Jamboree, start by reading “Eternal Answer Finally Revealed – Jambo Journal: Day #1, July 25, 2010 – Departure.“)