© 2017 by Tiago Rocha 

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LEVANTER - WIND OF THE WORLD

April 24, 2017

 

''What a noble name,'' I thought. Being recently to Gibraltar, not exactly to visit the local Macaques, I went to experience sailing.

 

And now I've got this privilege from Tiago to tell you about my cruise expedition a bit more. Yes, that's me, the girl eating Indian figs,

unprepared and ... want to know more? Explore in the 'Lust for the fruit' story.

 

I was so excited and a bit afraid at the same time to go and complete my mission, but: ''I've got my ticket and I am not giving up!'' I told myself ;)

 

Whilst sailing around the Spanish coast, better say motoring as there was no wind at that day, I've spotted it!

 

The cloud was just beautiful. I would call it perfection! Imagine pure light blue sky and only one cloud looking like your duvet. You feel just like you want to go there, climb the rock and touch the cloud. But, that's not exactly how it works if you are down at the bottom, on a boat, sailing around the rock.

 

Well, let's experience Katabatic winds, or better to explain – these are downslope winds flowing from high elevations of mountains, plateaus, and hills down their slopes to the valleys or planes below. You can spot them in many parts of the world and hear many different names depending where they are located and how they are formed.

 

It's been fascinating to see how it really works. I knew them just from my 'Day Skipper' book and my pure imagination. When Tiago was teaching me for my practical course, he told me: ''You just have to read it, I can't explain you this!''

 

''Oukey,'' I said. ;)

 

What looks beautiful up there, doesn't necessarily need to be beautiful down here. Now I can tell you. :)

 

The Levante (name for Katabatic winds in Gibraltar) is usually accompanied by a characteristic banner cloud which forms on top of the rock and streams away to leeward.

It will only form under conditions with wind speeds remaining below Beaufort scale 5. In such conditions the Rock creates eddies and turbulences, which takes the form of sudden violent squalls and gusts, frequently of considerably greater force than the prevailing winds and from almost any direction.

However, as the winds are exceeding Bft 6, the Levanter cloud detaches from the Rock and eventually dissolves.

 

Here it is:

By observing the sea while sailing in calm barely windy conditions, suddenly, we could notice moderate waves with breaking crests with many whitecaps – as about 300 feet right in front of us. Once we had hit them on a beam reach, the boat was pushed by the wind gust on the leeway side so heavily that I started thinking about swimming at sea. ;)

Fortunately, that wasn't necessary. Me being on the helm, I used all my muscles to keep the boat going. That's what Tiago said: ''Be strong, have a contingency plan!'' Well, I had one – swimming. :)

 

Saul, the other member of the crew, and I had to secure our positions not to fall overboard. The instructor was really calm though. Boats in general can take a much more serious beating than most people would think. You can get a complete knockdown where the mast actually hits water, but to turn you over, the sail has to fill and roll you under, the wind alone won't give you enough momentum to roll.

 

During Levante conditions, sustained wind speed at Gibraltar are easily twice as high as the approximate wind speed in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Coincidentally and unbelievably, Tiago is currently sailing in the same area, so let's wish him good luck and to have fun with Katabatic winds! ;)

 

Remember: ''Be strong, observe, have a contingency plan, predict and maintain a proper lookout at all times.''

 

Don't be scared, be prepared!

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