Day 11 – Windy/bumpy all day. 195 miles noon to noon. Frustrating not to hit 200, though we probably would if I chose a slightly different 24 hour period. Our speed always seems to be over 9 knots, but of course with the waves we’re never sailing in a straight line.
We lost our hydrogenerator today. That is, the blades once again broke off the propeller. The $400 propeller…
It was a pretty day…sunny…but we stayed inside due to the occasional spray dowsing the cockpit/deck. For the night we have triple reefed the main, and reefed the jib a little as well. Tomorrow they say it is going to blow even harder. Hopefully it will be more from the east (behind us), not from the south (hitting us broadside). If the latter it will be a wild and crazy ride! 350 miles to go.
Day 12 – The wind stayed mostly south, and it’s been a wild and crazy ride. Almost impossible to sleep last night, until you were so worn out you just didn’t care what was happening around you; then you might pass out for an hour. It’s not easy for me to describe, and probably hard for you to imagine. For starters there is the whoosh of water rushing by your ear at 10+ knots, while your berth is moving around like a carnival ride. That’s the relatively pleasant part. The water is very lumpy, of course, and some of those lumps get between the catamaran’s hulls and slam into the bridge deck — the structure that connects the hulls, that comprises the floor of the pilothouse, and the underside of my berth. Some lumps hit with a dull thud. Others hit like a wrecking ball, with a deafening crash and an impact that wracks the entire boat. It feels like the boat, and the crew, are being shaken apart.
Then there is the weird wail emanating from the wind generator. It has an internal brake that kicks in at about 35 knots, so the blades don’t spin themselves into oblivion. The brake has the vibrato electronic hum of a Jedi warrior’s light saber in combat, but with an intensity more like the air horn of a large truck closing fast and wanting to pass. Go ahead — picture each of those, and then add them together. Lying in bed, this wail tells you that the wind is still howling outside at 35+ knots.
Then there are the waves that break against the side of the hull, since we are sailing crosswise to the wind/waves. This brings another kind of crash, and it lifts the boat up sideways as though it might flip it over, and sheets of salt spray fly at the pilothouse windows. All the hatches are closed except for one on the sheltered/downwind side. One wave sent such solid water over the top of the pilothouse that it splashed in that open hatch.
This all occurs in the dark, of course. You can’t see the waves coming. The hardest thing on one’s stomach is the anticipation — when you hear one about to hit, and feel the boat begin to lift, you brace yourself for what may or may not come next. The ones under the bridge deck come with no warning — just a sudden impact from below. It would be foolhardy to try to stand without at least one hand firmly on a handhold.
One wave lifted our man-overboard horseshoe buoy out of its bracket on the lifelines. It caught on a line on deck, so it didn’t go overboard, and it’s strobe light began to flash. A bonus feature of the carnival ride: visual chaos. It was almost funny going out to retrieve it — trying to do it quickly before a wave drenched me, yet being blinded by the flash of the strobe.
Add to the general pandemonium the items flying about the cabin. Books flying off of shelves where they had been securely (apparently not) wedged in place. My plastic glass of water flying off the table to the floor. Locker doors unlatching and banging open and shut. Our hard plastic granola container crashing to the floor and spilling its contents. Silverware rattling. Dishes (and a Thermos, a coffee maker, and miscellaneous other items) banging about in the sink, where they had been put to keep them from flying elsewhere. Plus the surprisingly loud sucking/gurgling sound made by the sink drain as waves rush by its exit. The bilge pump alarm suddenly trumping all other noises for twenty seconds, while some of the seawater that finds its way into our engine rooms gets returned to the sea.
Underlying it all is the constant gnawing fear of whether the boat and rig can withstand the unending pounding. Can the crew…?
At dawn the tension eases somewhat. The waves don’t look as awful as they are imagined in the dark. The wind eases back to 30 knots, instead of 35. It’s a sunny day, and that lifts ones spirits even on a day when the priorities are to get some food down and get some sleep. Ideally we would bear off and run with the waves, and it would be much easier, probably even fun. But that is not an option, as we would miss Rodrigues. We have to hold our crosswise course. The wind is ever so slightly aft, which I am very thankful for. Just a little more forward and the crashing and banging would increase dramatically. It is tempting to bear off just a little. But what if the wind goes even higher (in strength or direction)? We would have to make up that lost distance to windward, and it could be more difficult then than what we are experiencing now. So our course is just a couple degrees to windward of our destination, those few degrees providing a very slim margin of error/safety. 250 miles to go. If we can keep our speed up (without breaking anything important) we can have just one more night of this, and arrive in daylight tomorrow.
Later in the day the wind gusted up to 40 knots. And while we were talking about lowering the mainsail altogether (it was already triple reefed), a wave picked up the back of the boat and sent us surfing at 22 knots! That is a record for No Regrets, and it is a record that I have no desire to break! Needless to say, we dropped the mainsail, and we have been sailing with just a reefed jib since. At nightfall it seems to be calming down (again), though the prediction is for continued high winds through the night.
Noon to noon run was 206 nautical miles. We even got an email from Jimmy Cornell congratulating us on an impressive run!
Day 13 – By noon we were entering Port Mathurin harbor on Rodrigues. Twelve days and a few hours to cover 2,000 miles. We just managed to clear in before everyone shuts down at 4pm. And we had a beer and dinner with Chris from Tom Tom, who safely made it in yesterday. I’m very much looking forward to some real sleep!
Our passage was fast. But it has been the most unpleasant passage I have ever made. Glad to have it behind me. We lost one spinnaker; broke the sock used to raise and lower another; lost the blades off our hydrogenerator; had our wind generator shake loose from its brackets (but it is already back together and functioning); the throttle control for one engine is not working, the temperature sensor failed but came back on the other. And we lost three fishing lures while catching no fish. Par for this course, perhaps…?
Photos of waves never capture their majesty, their vastness, their power, or even their height. But these should give you an idea…