After getting settled in after yesterday’s jibe to starboard, we were driving along reasonably hard in spite of the awkward and confused seas. But we were making good progress and I was happy with where we were headed.
How quickly things change.
I don’t remember what time it was, but I finally crawled in the bunk for a nap. Not long afterwards there was a resounding crash of water from a huge breaking wave. It knocked us completely sideways and over about 90 degrees, although that in itself was not too big a deal. The real bummer was that the crush of exploding water was from enough aft that it allowed the water to crash into the vestibule (the small protected area at the front of the cockpit) and though the companionway hatch and below.
The vinyl/canvas curtain (or dodger that partially protects the vestibule) was badly damaged, and one of the mainsheet sheet bags in the vestibule was ripped off. A fair amount of water went below and soaked my port galley storage zone along with some of my formerly DRY foul weather gear I had hanging there.
The above issues were not my immediate concern. The autopilot had gone into “error” mode, and I had to (once again) jump into the cockpit in my skivvies to grab the tiller. The backup pilot, which I thought was finally dialed in steered spasmodically so I was stuck in the cockpit with both main and jib up. Somehow I got the jib rolled up while steering which is a real effort. Then I tied it off temporarily in an effort to hold the boat in irons so I could run below and cycle the power on the pilot and also switch on a different compass. I thought that might have something to do with the problems as all the displays were showing a fixed heading of 141, no matter which way we turned.
I jumped into the cabin (where water from the wave was now sloshing about) and made for the power panel, but I didn’t get there in time before I noticed the boat was apparently turning to leeward. Turning and rushing out I was horrified to see the boat steering itself into a jibe.
Now we were really messed up. Boom pinned against the runners (at least the boom didn’t break this time!), with all the water ballast on the wrong side. I was able to get the runner off and moved forward and the main sheeted in somewhat (we had been running downwind). After several tries with various mainsheet trim levels, I finally got the boat to barely pass head to wind enough to tack. This time I was able to get the boat to stay in irons long enough to clamber below, turn the pilot off and back on, and flip the switch to power on a different compass.
It worked. Next I spent a few hours cleaning up the water which had gone everywhere, wringing out clothes, etc, etc…..
Since then I have been trying to deal with the fact that the wind headed us much sooner than I had hoped (and sooner than the weather models predicted), which gives us a horrible heading and makes my move south look pretty stupid. On top of this the sea state is totally confused with the huge swells from behind mashing into the new waves from the south. As I sit here and get pitched about by the mad waves, I can see the apparent wind going anywhere from 15 to 30knts in a few seconds. We alternate from under powered and wallowing, to the rail in the water and accelerating, every few moments as the big waves battle it out with each other.
Yuck. I hope things change! Right now our heading is so bad that I might have to tack….
Bruce Schwab, Skipper
USA 05/Ocean Planet