We are sailing west across the warm, calm Celam Sea. Everything is drying in the sun. Our clothes are hung wet on the safety lines and may be dry in a few hours. There is nothing to see in any direction except the sea and sky. No islands, no ships and most importantly no tropical storms anywhere.
Last night we were sailing slowly west under a moonless, starlit sky. Heidi was adjusting the wind steering and sails as necessary while also avoiding commercial shipping. We were finally making good progress from Papua to Sulawesi.
At midnight the sea became agitated and we stopped making any forward progress. We had met a strong current coming the opposite way which not only stopped us, it forced us backwards. We tried tacking one way and then the other but nothing helped us on our way to Sulawesi. We changed the watch and I sat outside.
Slowly the stars began to disappear which is never a good sign. Next the wind changed direction and increased which is always a warning of bad things to follow. The pouring rain was mere confirmation that we had entered a tropical squall. Heidi put on a jacket and together, in the wet dark, we reduced the sail to a minimum while getting thoroughly soaked. We attempted to steer a safe course through the howling wind keeping the bow upwind and the wind on one side. Normally this is not so difficult but when it is pitch black, you are being lashed by rain and your only point of reference is the compass then it gets more exciting. There are occasionally times when you wonder if sailing is really such a fun sport.
Eventually the wind died down leaving us to drift the wrong way through the rain until that stopped as well. At some point I lay down and Heidi took over the watch again. And at nine o’clock I awoke to sunshine and Heidi sailing a rapidly drying boat gently west.