What a night … what a morning … and it’s not over yet!!
Last night I hunkered down early for the approaching big blow. Perhaps too early as I lost ground on the next sched to the boats in our group. I was feeling a bit apprehensive, but I just didn’t trust the autopilot, etc., to push it to the max in the heavy and confused seas. Later on, I even thought of putting in the third reef just “in case.” Wish I had.
Early this morning the big increase finally arrived, with alarming gusts, torrential rains, and BIG seas. As we careened down the steep wave faces with the keel shrieking with a deafening howl, I watched the autopilot get too near to crash several times. It was time to drive. I stuffed some food in a pocket, climbed into my harness and went out into the washing machine of a cockpit. I wound up driving for hours, wishing that I’d put in that third reef, but it was so windy at that point I was worried about breaking battens or worse if I tried at that time.
I didn’t dare leave the helm as we careened, bounced, rammed, dove, and flew over the sometimes frightening waves. How long was it until the front was supposed to pass? I couldn’t remember, so I didn’t know if I was going to be driving for an hour or a day. There was water everywhere and at times the visibility was only a hundred feet or so. Fortunately it was just a few hours (which seemed like an eternity) before conditions eased just enough for me to feel better about the autopilot driving.
Gratefully, I staggered below to instantly notice a little water on the floor. A quick glace forward and I could see a LOT of water sloshing madly in the sail locker! I jumped into the pond and could see light clearly through a hole in the floor from where the water was gushing rapidly in! Turns out that the plug in our old depth transducer thru-hull (which we no longer use) had somehow popped up into the boat just a minute or so before I went below.
If I had come below much later, or if the plug had popped out sooner (while I was driving), there could have been a major amount of water in the locker. But as it was I bailed it all out in about 15 minutes. Whew!
Now the wind was lifting us (backing) and we were heading more and more north. I had been waiting for this and began the process of moving all the gear below to prep for a gybe onto starboard.
Our whole group will wind up going upwind or close reaching soon, so I have decided to get the jump on them and take the “upwind” position by gybing first. We’ll see how it works out in a few days. Right now we have the waves at a good angle, and we are in the bizarre situation of our speed going from 11 to 18kts in big jumps and starts. Wild ride but the pilot handles it relatively fine.
Meanwhile, time for a nap! Well, right after getting a new weather file, that is…
Bruce Schwab, Skipper
USA 05/Ocean Planet