Forget it. Picture this….
We are sailing along the African coast, one hundred miles out to sea and heading towards Cape Verde
, still about 800 miles away. It is around midnight. The sliver of moon has already set, it is black all around but it is possible to just make a distinction between the sea and the night sky.
We can also see and hear the white wave crests as when they get close to the boat, some curl over and break. The wind
has increased to about 25 knots with gusts to over 30.
It is Lorna’s watch but I do not think it wise to leave her alone, in charge of this galloping 18 ton monster, in these conditions. Needless to say the conditions were nowhere as bad an hour ago, while it was my watch. We still have all the canvas
up, full main and spinnaker
. How much stronger is it going to get. All the forecasts were for light winds. Surely this must be as rough as it gets and we and the boat are coping fine. We are doing over 9 knots with surges up to about 12. There is a constant roar of the water
as the transoms leave their florescent white trails behind. It is impossible to talk normally, we have to shout. The CD has been switched off long ago or else we just cannot hear it from the helm
We saw a ship on radar
it is about 7 miles back, we can just make out the lights at the top of the swells. It has been there for about four hours now and not gaining on us. We need to keep an eye on it though because we do want it to come crashing into our transom.
increases a little, the swells are very steep, they are close together with deep troughs in between. The boat seems to be going up a hill, then comes the black run with boat’s nose facing steeply down and we accelerate a few more knots.
Exhilarating stuff, while all is under control. It becomes a bit of a concern when some big waves come through along with an increase in wind speed. The boat starts racing
down the face of the wave (along with my heart) it slews to the left, the rudders are hard over to the right and the boat is not responding, will they bite in time or is there going to be a catastrophe. At what seems to be the last moment the boat starts heading in the right direction – each time this happens I feel the adrenalin rush. I do not want to give Lorna any indication that I was not completely in control of the boat.
Here comes the next one, at least the wave caught the transoms square on, the boat surges forward. The boat and sails
have one idea and the rudders have another if the boat goes a few degrees off course. I have to keep this finely balanced while clinging to the wheel
to keep my balance. The whole boat is shuddering, the rudders are vibrating – it is not just me. The noise! It sounds as if fire hoses are directed full blast, squarely onto the hulls. We are doing 16 knots, our top speed so far. I would not choose to do this at night and certainly not in the wind and swell that currently prevails.
Enough! Lets get this spinnaker
down. We still have most of our round the world
trip ahead of us and we do not want to break anything now. We switch on the deck
light. I clip my safety
harness to the coach roof and proceed gingerly to the foredeck. The boat heaves from side to side and lurches up and down under my feet.
I grab the downhaul for the spinnaker sock and signal Lorna to release the sheet. I haul away and under much flapping and strain I get the sail covered with the sock. Lorna opens the forward hatch
from inside the boat to retrieve and stow the sail while I release the halyard
. Lorna also retrieves half the ocean as a wave crashes into the hull
and buckets water
into the boat. Having a shower
under these conditions is not a pleasant thing.
My heart now pounds at normal pace as the wind starts easing and the boat is easier to control. The ship behind eventually catches up and passes us less than a mile to starboard. Your watch Lorna, I’m off to bed
Intended next stop... South Africa
ETA a few months No communication possible till then
reposted from : The Stress Free Life of Sailing - Sailing around the world - by James Wilding