Bombard, Dr Alain – The Bombard Story – Premonition of a storm
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Sunday November 23rd
At two o’clock in the afternoon … I began to feel curiously uneasy. Perhaps that is not the right word, but I felt a strong compulsion to flee, to get away from where I was. I could not tell why, but I would have liked to have found myself somewhere else, and quickly at that. There was little to distinguish my situation from that of the creatures in the sea round me, and I must have acquired some part of their instincts. I took out my Pilot Book to read the section dealing with indications of a typhoon. I scrutinized every point of the compass and saw only gold flecks in the sky and a few black patches gathering on the horizon, nothing alarming, but I still felt that something unpleasant was going to happen. I felt quite unable to escape what I was sure was some impending catastrophe making straight for me.
Sometime after I arrived in Barbados I discovered that in a number of ships a hundred miles or so to the north, the crews had experienced the same feeling of disquiet. There is a subtle but powerful communion of thought processes amongst those who ply the sea.
Right across the horizon behind me, only just visible, appeared a line of black, as if drawn with a ruler, seeming to prevent the sun from rising. There was a slow drop in the temperature, and the black line advanced across the sky like an awning. Starting at six o'clock in the morning, it did not complete its slow progress until seven o'clock in the evening, but it did not seem to be preceded by any freshening of the wind. The sea remained calm and I thought I would be able to keep my sail hoisted and weather the approaching storm.
Then I heard a characteristic noise I knew well, like a forest fire or a machine-gun; rain was pouring down from the black mass, sounding like thousands of fir-cones thrown into a fire. Very soon the gale was upon me, with a sudden buffet of wind which somehow did not seem part of it but was no less violent for that. I made up my mind to take advantage of it for as long as possible, holding the main sheet of my sail in my hand, ready to let it go if the pressure proved too great. Day was turned into night, and while the raindrops flashed on the surface of the sea, my sail suddenly filled like a balloon. The storm did not rage for long, but was terrifying while it lasted.
For an hour, with the main sheet wrapped round my wrist, I tore through the fury of the elements at five knots or more, and when it was over my hand was covered in blood from the friction of the rope. With no transition period, the moment the rear edge of the storm-cloud passed over me, the wind disappeared completely, and for the first time since I had left the Canaries the sail started to flap, and then dropped, inert.