Gahh autopsying the event. Okay. We left in perfect weather. I said reef. The book said we didn't need to reef until the wind
hit 20 or 25. I was out-voted. So, no reef and me unhappy. Halfway across the water
was 8 or 12 thousand feet deep and nothing but fetch until Grand Canary.
After a time, right around when we lost
sight of land, the wind picked up to 20-25 (ish - this was years ago) and the waves got rather big and rather steep. We could not reef because the instructor said it was too dangerous to go forward of the cabin
. This boat required people at the mast
in order to reef. (I will never go out in a boat like that again, I don't care if it's a gold plated Hinckley. If it cannot reef from the cockpit
it is unfit for open water IMO.)
We let the sails
out, but the wind kept building. We were hitting 12 to 15 knots of boat speed, now. The waves were taller than the cabin
. The bows were plunging. The helmsman's entire job was to steer down the waves, which were quartering from the port rear, to avoid pitchpoling the boat. Not much flexibility in direction under the circumstances. A turn into the wind could flip the boat. A turn downwind could pitchpole.
I was consistently convinced that we were going to flip to leeeward because the waves would break under the windward hull
and slam the leeeward while the windward came completely out of the water. Then we would surf down the wave and bury the bows in the trough. Water was cascading over the cabin top.
All this was only mildly upsetting until one of the breakers blew the window on the inside of the lee hull
. The screws in the plastic frame gave out against the waves and the window popped open. I was standing in the main salon
when I saw the door to one of the cabins float by.
Bad place for a window, I thought.
So, that hull flooded. Not great. Now we could barely steer at all and the leeward hull kept getting lower and the windward kept coming higher out of the water at the wave peaks. I was richly irritated at the unreefed sails
, by now.
So was the boat, as some of the slugs holding the sail to the mast
started to pop out.
It was at this point we noticed that the bilge pump
didn't work. The manual backup was inadequate.
A couple of hours and a pretty efficient bucket-line later, everything was fine. We dried the linens in fine the Caribbean
sun and and all went ashore for drinks.
This was years ago, and although we are not experienced sailors like many on this forum, we were raw beginners back then. Overall it was probably good for us to experience this, deal with the crisis, and come away with a healthy respect for the ocean.
This all happened in a short time window during what overall was an absolutely amazing charter
. The trip was still one of the best times we've ever had.