Caught in a Squall

6 Dec

What a day. Although we had crossed the significant Prime Meridian a few days ago to enter the Eastern Hemisphere, today we crossed 20 degrees East, which goes through Cape Agulhas, the southern most tip of Africa, and signals to the mariner the entrance to the Indian Ocean.

As a depression to the south was moving past us to the east, we would get the northern of the winds, and their strength and changing direction. In the morning, to be a good mariner, I went to lower the rolled up fractional. It likely would have been fine in the stronger winds, but why take a chance.

The takedown went smoothly, and I noticed that the sail had actually worked its way down the stay a bit more, so that I could tighten up the lashing, and make the sail better when it would be set next. I did this and gained an inch and a half.

There was a hiatus attempting, yet again, to connect for Vendee Live, but no go is the simplest explanation.

Back on deck, it looked as though it would be perfect for that fractional gennaker, so I put it back up. That makes it sound very easy, and it isn’t, it’s a half hour full on physical effort and struggle. But it was up. Nice blue sky, I went into the cabin to get lunch, and when I came out , there was a line of gray clouds approaching. Not good, but it didn’t really look bad either, they looked individual on closer inspection, so not a massive onslaught. I was wrong.

Suddenly, the breeze picked up, and we were blasting along, 2 reefs in the mainsail and the fractional gennaker, speeds in the high teens and early 20s. Then – oh no – a white line of wind blowing the tops of the low waves, the sea just churning and boiling, and it hit us. Bam, the boat laid over on its side and took off, just plowing through the seas at high speed, water sweeping everywhere over the boat, coming down both decks, down the rope tunnels, over the cabin top in the sides, I’ve never seen so much water come into this or any other boat, personally or in video.

It was howling, I let out the main sheet to ease the load, it did almost no good, then, the gennaker how to get that in, it was set up on the winch to grind, but could I? I let out the sheet, the sail was flapping madly at the bow, the boat continued its out of control charge through the ocean. At 45 degree angle I started grinding for the life of the gennaker, and who knew, maybe my life if the mast were to come down. One realizes rapidly that – you are all alone – and nobody is going to come fix this chaos, so you better get on it. I ground the pedestal, more and more and more, was the sail rolling? I looked, yes a bit, but keep going. I ground and ground for maybe 20 minutes, the lashing of the wind laying the boat over finally began to relent, I kept going on the pedestal. And finally, it was finished, the furling and the tempest.

I looked later, we had 48 knots of wind at the worst, and we hit a high speed of 30.9 knots. I have always said that unless sustainable, high speeds, at whatever level, only bring high risk. If they can’t be sustained, they won’t help your time around the world, they might just end your race in catastrophe. So we dodged a hail of bullets today. Great American IV survived. I think that the fractional gennaker survived too, as the roll looks even, and if there was damaged cloth, likely it wouldn’t.

We were really lucky. Onward, with even more security.

Position
40° 15’S x 22° 11’E
Course
091° True
Speed
13.3 knots
True Wind Speed
25.0 knots
True Wind Direction
232°
Sails
Main sail (with 2 reefs) plus Staysail
Air temperature
63° F / 17.2° C
Sea Temperature
65° F / 18.3° C

Winch Pedestal Revolutions (daily) Amp Hours: Alternator (total) Amp Hours: Solar (total) Amp Hours: Hydro (total) Amp Hours: Wind (total)
2158 1676 472 7759 1196

This article was syndicated from Ship’s Logs | sitesALIVE!

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