Crazy squalls off the coast of Borneo

19 Aug
Borneo squalls

The west side of Borneo is giving us excellent squall-spotting and squall-dodging practice. Thunderstorms form most afternoons.

It starts innocently enough…just some pretty cumulus clouds giving texture to a beautiful day.


But at some point, that puff of fluffy cloud gets evil looking. Most of the time, the wind hits first, with rain starting only when the wind begins to diminish. Unless, of course, it’s an especially evil squall. Then all rules about wind and rain order are off.


Borneo squalls
the wall of rain

We’re mostly able to appreciate the beauty they bring, but it always puts us on high alert, and it can be stressful. It can be especially stressful when you are rounding a point where confused
seas pile up on each other in the shallow water, where a drifting timber floats
out with other debris in river outflow, and your engine hiccups because once
again the fuel filters are getting clogged, and there’s a tug towing a large
barge up ahead that can’t seem to decide where it’s going.

Hypothetically speaking. You know, on days like that.

Borneo squalls
Jamie is focused on clawing our way past this squall, rounding a corner, with the full complement of stress-inducing floating logs, tugs and tows, shifting shoals, etc. Good times.
Is it bad? Rarely. Gusts rarely top out more than about
40 knots. The torrential rains give the rigging a nice freshwater rinse, and if
they last long enough, help trickle feed our water tanks (especially welcome as
we wait for parts from Spectra to get our watermaker running again).
Borneo squalls
A nice rinse…at the dock in Miri, Sarawak
The patterns are just inconsistent enough to keep you on your toes. The
weather tea leaves aren’t always easy to read on this side of the South China
Sea. We know enough to recognize that the line of clouds in the distance on the
morning we take off for Pulau Lakei probably means that we’re in for more
weather than the 5-10 knots from the SE that multiple sources indicated. SW and
25+ was more like it, and as the Murphy’s Law of sailing requires, coming from
exactly the direction we wanted to go.

Sunset anvil
Anvil cloud looms over sunset- near Kuching, Sarawak

This article was syndicated from S/V Totem - a family sailing the world


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