Day 5 – Nov. 3rd, Endured a 36 hour Tropical Storm!
Just when we thought all was well, and we were only a day and half from St. Augustine’s, Florida, the winds started to pick up. We could see some precipitation on the Sirius Satellite Weather, we thought it was just a little bit of rain. We sailed on, and the closer we got to it, the stronger the winds became. We could now see the depression growing in size, and taking up more area on the screen, it grew to about 200-300 km in diameter. There was no away around it now, plus the cold front we were talking about earlier, was now creeping up behind us. We were getting it from all sides. Through the night the winds increased to 30 knots, gusting to 35 to 40 knots at times. We would estimate the wave height at over 12 feet, however we could not see them in the pitch black of night. At this point we were almost 150 miles or close to 300 km from shore. There was no sign of life out here, at least not the human kind. We did not hear a thing on the radio, or see any ships even on the AIS that has a range of 50 miles. The boat was rocking and rolling, handling the conditions remarkably well. Through out this night and into the next day, we were sailing 8-9 knots, at times reaching 10 knots. Surfing waves 11-13.5 knots.
As the the winds increased throughout the night, we kept putting in reefs (shortening the main sail, lowering it bit by bit), fortunately on our boat this can be done completely from the cock pit. Inside the luxury of our full enclosure, we kept warm, dry, and away from the wind and flying rain pellets. I could only image what it would be like sailing out side in the elements in these conditions. I wanted to put in a plug for Island Canvas who built the enclosure, it sustained winds of up to 40 knots, sustained wind at 30 knots for almost 36 hours, and held up perfectly, the windows on the starboard side were getting blown in, but did not lose their shape at all. The enclosure even kept me from falling overboard once.
The boat was almost knocked down a couple of times. A wind gust of close to 40 knots, and climbing a very large wave side ways at the same time, and the boat was tossed by another breaking wave side ways for an instant the boat was almost horizontal, about 60 to 70 degrees of heel. It only lasted a second or less, and she righted immediately like she is suppose to, she carried on her path within a second without losing a beat. Cez was tossed from one berth to the other, air born in the salon, banging his head on the nav table, and bruised his rips on the compression post. I was in the head (bathroom) at the time, won’t go into details about what happened to me, but you can imagine it was not pretty, nothing is really pretty when your pants are down at your angles, but this was ugly to the power of 10. Once I recovered, I noticed water was gushing in the side of the ship. Great, now we are taking on water and are going to sink I thought. Where was the water coming from. I noticed the sink was full, and it was coming from the drain hole of the sink. This has never happened before. Even with the boat heeled to the drain hole, which is normally well above the water line, this should not happen. With the boat speeding at close to 10 knots at times, and the water smashing against the hull at who knows what speed, water was being pushed right through the drain hole at such force, that it pushed through all the plumbing and up into the sink. The force filled the sink and was now overflowing. I acted quickly and found the thru hull drain valve, and closed it. This prevented any more water from coming in. Turned out to be nothing serious, but you can imagine the force of the water to have this happen.
I went up to the cock pit to tell Paul who was helming what happened, and ask him about the near knock down. He said, not to worry, par for the course, the boat is handling as she is suppose to, even better then he thought it would. I looked at the Sirius Satellite Weather, I noticed about 10 miles ahead, winds were registering at 60 knots. I told Paul about what I saw, his face went into a little state of worry. He said, “Your kidding me right?” then he said, “Lets take down the main completely”. Both Peter and Cez, came up from bed, and volunteered for the task. I asked Cez to do it, since he has sailed with Black Diamond longer, and knows the configuration of the boat, and would have an easier time at it. We harnessed him into the boat, and sent him out the front dodger window. This was far safer than trying to go out the side. Cez was a trooper, and had the main down and lashed within a few minutes. I asked him how it felt to be out in 80 km winds, with rain pellets pounding your face, trying to balance on the roof, holding on to the boom for dear life. He said, “Just don’t ask me to do that again”.
We were now surfing under 110% jib only, and still making similar speeds. Unbelievable! When we got back to the dock the next morning, the only damages we found was a bolt missing from the Furlex furler system that held the jib on. I think the force of the wind, and one too many accidental gybes on the fore sail caused us to lose the bolt. It appeared not to have been life threatening, we would not have lost the head stay, which actually holds the whole mast up. We may have potentially just lost the ability to furl the sail. As for the main sail, we always had a preventer on it to prevent accidental gybes of the main sail (Preventing the main sail and boom from smashing from one side to the other).
We were in pitch darkness, all we could see was the spray and foam coming out from the side of the hull. I remember saying it looked and felt like we were in a space capsule re-entering the atmosphere from space.
I checked the weather station again, and found the 60 knot storm ahead was down graded to 22 knots. Thank God! I guess my prayer in the cabin paid off!