Monday, August 20, 2007

Thursday 16th August

At sea

19 25.741 S
157 33.870 W (at Midnight)

Gerry stayed up with me until the rain stopped, we hadn’t detected anything else on the radar and fully expected things to return to “pre rain cloud” state once it had passed – huh who were we kidding!. Once the rain had passed the wind speed kept creeping up reaching 25knots and the swell was now up to 12feet. We were hurtling along at speeds up to 9knots. Gerry eventually went back to bed to try and sneak a bit more sleep in before we changed watch again – later than we would normally have done. Things didn’t improve when he took over either, and the pitching and rolling just increased making it impossible to sleep. At one point a huge wave washed along the gunwale and filled the lee cloth, breaking the cable ties that were holding it in place, luckily I was right there at the time (having been unable to sleep and returned to deck) and saved the lee cloth from burial at sea and managed to reattach it with some new cable ties though they would need to be redone properly when we finally calmed down. Dawn was a non event, the sun didn’t manage to break through the cloud cover all day; the sky remained grey, white and miserable looking for the entire day. As the winds grew (sustained speed of 28 knots but reaching up to 35 knots for periods of up to half an hour) we had to turn further and further off of our course to try and keep the main from flapping wildly or heeling us over so far that we were afraid of falling overboard. For the first time in ages we made sure that we attached the harnesses to our lifejackets when we were in the cockpit and under no circumstances were any of us going out on deck – we decided that we would just try to go with the wind as much as possible until it died down a bit. It was really a white knuckle sail, at times it was as much as we could manage to just hold on and not be thrown around the cockpit. Gerry was concerned that we were putting too much strain on the auto pilot and gave George a reprieve and hand steered for most of the morning. We had walls of water hitting the beam and knocking the boat around which had to be compensated for at the same time as the wind was gusting and trying to blow us even further off course. By 15.00hrs (having managed to eat only the snack foods we keep in the box on deck as no one was game to venture down the companionway steps) Gerry decided that things weren’t improving and although it was a bit late to be doing it we really should put the second reef in the main. I was dead set against him going out on deck as the waves were still crashing over the deck and likely to knock him over but he insisted that we could lose the main all together if the winds didn’t drop and out he went whilst I hand steered and Abigail kept watch on Gerry to let me know if there was any problem. Happily Gerry managed to get the second reef in the main and was back in the cockpit safely quite quickly. The bad news was that we had flogged the sail so hard that the top 2 sliders that hold the main into the mast had broken and would need to be replaced; the good news was that the sail was holding up despite this. With the second reef in place we dropped our speed to 7 knots. Just before 17.00hrs it began to rain and we hoped that following the end of the rain the wind would drop – who were we kidding; it continued to roar around us at 24 – 27 knots. The swell had increased and we estimated
that it was now at 15feet. Dinner was a big non event; we ate canned pasta and pot noodles – it was just about all I could manage to throw together in the turbulent conditions and none of us really wanted to eat much anyway but we all needed something hot to warm us up. The night watches were a fiasco, Gerry took first watch but it was impossible to sleep below and I went back out on deck to try and doze in the cockpit. At some stage during Gerry’s watch the dock steps broke the ties holding them in place on the deck and they careened across the deck but luckily didn’t go over the side as they got stuck between the fuel jerry cans and the lifeline; they would remained there until we hit calmer waters. Another problem was that we had taken so many waves across the deck that the ports over the salon area were beginning to leak and we had quite a lot of water over the seats and floor inside the boat; I mopped up and laid towels over as much as possible but again it was something that would have to wait until we hit calmer waters before we could deal with properly



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