Day Four of the Blow

29 Nov

November 24, 2018

Day 51

Noon Position: 53 51S  89 52W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExE 6

Wind(t/tws): WNW 33 – 39

Sea(t/ft): W 20

Sky: Light cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 989, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 77

Sail: Working genoa, four-reefed as usual.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 159

Miles since departure: 6669

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

Each morning the forecast calls for diminishing winds and each morning the sea spurns such a futile thing as a forecast.

Yesterday I said we had surfed but not fast and that seas were breaking but not with intent. Both of those changed today. There is a sense of chaos here now. No longer satisfied with steadily blowing, winds are now only prolonged gusts, 35 knots for ten minutes and then 45 knots for ten minutes; repeat.

And the sea has stood up. It is steep as a wall. The break rolls forward, mushrooming out in one giant overfall, spilling beyond and down the wave before rolling back and creating a vast whitewater rapids on the backside. And there is both a SW and NW component to the sea, this though the wind has been but a few degrees of west for the entirety of the blow.

Now Mo is getting knocked around. Mostly it’s the inexplicable SW break that will catch her. If taken by the stern, she’ll be spun around ninety degrees, and Monte will work as much as half a minute to right the course. If the breaker catchers her amidships, it will lay over her bodily. There will be a booming crashing sound below, and then all the windows in the pilot house will go dark. One such breaker was so large and loaded with so much water that when Mo stiffened up, she brought half the water back with her and delivered it from whence it came.

Then there’s the surfing. It’s not as though Mo is surfing more, although she’d be forgiven for doing so. No, it was one wave that caught her dead flat astern as it broke and propelled her forward at an as yet unknown speed. I was looking out the starboard window at the time, and the entirety of it was filled with her flare of water. She roared forward ten seconds. At the end, I turned to look a the speed indicator. 15 knots.

Immediately following this, Mo rounded up and failed to come back. I raced on deck to find Monte’s safety tube had been broken off at the hinge. The surfing force must have been intense.

I switched on the autopilot and reduced sail by another two thirds before putting us back on course. The water paddle dangled behind the boat like a giant fish lure. As I reeled it in, I noted that one of the tiller lines on the pendulum had parted. No, on closer inspection, the knot had un-knotted. I use a figure 8 stopper knot–have for 40,000 miles of Monitor use. Never have I had one work and slip free. That explains the broken tube. With the knot undone, the pendulum was free to slam the frame, and the force of the surfing exercise severed the tube.

Is this a testament to the pressure on the water paddle the last four days? Maybe. Likely it’s due to my being unable to cinch-up the knot enough (the line is extraordinarily stiff) and even with a two inch pigtail, it was able to work loose.

I keep a full paddle assembly ready to go, and we were back under Monte’s able guidance within twenty minutes. For the first time ever, I clipped in for this hang-over-the-stern exchange. The sea was kind. I didn’t go underwater as could have. I didn’t even get wet.

So much energy being expended; so much mass being moved from one place to another. So much weight of water being thrown on its beam’s ends.

A howling. When wind gets over 38 knots, it creates a white roar in the rigging. When it gets to 45 knots, the whole boat shudders continually.

Could this wild place possibly exist on planet earth?

This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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