We woke up on day 5 (Jan 22) to messages coming into the Iridium phone telling us to send in a position report that there was an urgent weather forecast for us. The very thought that the weather guy thought we needed the info NOW made my stomach turn.
When I connected and sent out our position report we all waited quietly for the message telling us to download it. When it came it was an offshore sailors worst fear. A huge fast moving low had formed and would cross right over our position within 12 to 14 hours with winds in excess of 50 knots gusts to 60 knots and seas of over 20 feet. When you get this message on land you close all the windows and doors and stay inside with a hot cocoa and soup. Out here your whole world becomes a cold, wet, constantly moving, lurching, sliding, slamming, hell. Every moment you feel like it might be the last. We had just been feeling pretty good about riding out the little storm from the day before and now we were going to face a true storm.
We spent the morning preparing the boat. We secured anything that could move, removed the bimini altogether and actually tied the roller furling unit so it couldn’t unfurl on its own from its little storm jib size. We zipped up the mainsail cover and tied lines around it and ran a line off the end of the boom securing it in one place. We secured all the lines, checked the engine fluids and double checked our safety gear. By the time all of this was done the wind was blowing 30 with gusts to 40. By evening the wind was staeady high 30s and we actually thought maybe the worst of it was going to miss us but at 4:00am the low itself hit us and we had sustained winds in the 40s which crept up to sustained winds in the 50s with gusts to 60. By morning when the wind would die back down to the 40s we felt like a reprieve was coming and then we would hear it pick up to the 50s before we even read the wind indicator. When it would drop to the 30s we felt like it was over.
Lets talk about these seas... there is simply no way to really describe them. They are gargantuan foaming monsters that creep up from behind and seek to swallow the boat. We had one hit the boat hard enough that it knocked out all of the AC power on the boat. We still have to search out what exactly came loose and where. Another monster broke over the top of the boat (this is a BIG boat) and foamed over the boom and crashed on the far side of the boat (26 feet wide).
The good thing was that as the low passed us we were able to turn more and more toward our destination finaly gaining some south to go with our east. Right now The wind is blowing in the low 30s and we are sailing down wind under just a reefed jib making 8 to 10 knots , the seas are still HUGE but we are feeling great. I had to go up and untie the line that was holding the jib secure. That meant going forward to the end of the net tramps in these huge waves and 30 knots of wind. I didn’t want to get soaked so I just wore my swimsuit and harness. I clipped on all the way and my face hurt from the grin on it when I was up there with the deep blue, foaming white water rushing right under my feet and the cold sea wind in my face soaking my hair with mist and spray.
Before I went in I crawled into the engine compartment to see if I could find the problem with the AC power and check the fluids since it had run for a long time. I didn’t fix the problem but I am sure we will figure it out. Now we are all in the salon listening to classic rock and roll. Dylan is reading his Kindle and John is just smiling and watching the monsters out the window.
A big thanks to Herman for the weather last night, the Milton’s, Mike, Bob, Cave, and of course my wife for all the messages on the Iridium. They really lift our spirits more than you can know.
Hoping For Sun,
Captain Tofer, John and Dylan