The Winds Come on Strong

When the weather gets rough, my attempts to update the blog drop off to zero.  The last couple of days have been wild.  We changed our heading to NNE get to the 38th latitude.  When my watch started we were motor sailing.  Soon the winds built enough to turn the engine off and we were close hauled doing 7-8 knts with winds of 12-15.  The wind started to build and I heard Marshall in my ear.  I looked at Carlos and said, “Time to reef?”  He responded affirmatively.  Turned out that Marshall was right. The winds eventually hit 35 kts and we were ready.  The sails were well balanced and set at the third reef.

We had been referring to the winds at the 38th latitude as the conveyor belt.  The grib files indicated there would a band of 15 kts wind building to the mid 20’s out the west.  Once we got near the 38th our heading shifted to 090, straight east.  The winds were as promised and more.  Since the winds at 38 N were sustained over several days, the seas had time to build.   From the crest to the trough was about 12 feet.  It felt like were we were surfing with a 50 ft 15-ton surfboard.  The waves were moving faster than the boat and directly on our stern.  As a wave would slowly pass it would lift the stern and as the crest of the wave would pass, the bow would be lifted.  Then we would be looking at a 12 ft wall behind us.  When the wall of water caught us, the stern would ride the wave up.  The distance between the waves was great enough that the bow did not get buried in the next wave.

We spent at least 36 hours on the conveyor belt.  The winds eventually gave us a spirited ride.  With just the genoa on a whisker pole, the winds went from mid-20’s to mid-30’s.  There were stretches when our average was 9-10 knts.  One evening, I was on watch and the chartplotter said we surfed down a wave at 12.2 knts.  Very exciting at night, the howling wind, and creaking of the wet jib sheet on the fairlead. The bad news is the stress on the jib sheet resulted in chaffing where the whisker pole was attached.  Roy and Carlos were on the bow cutting the chaffed section out of the jib sheet and re-tying it. The boat was bouncing around as you would expect with high winds and wild seas.  They had their lifevests on and were tethered to the boat, but very scary.

Sleeping in damp clothes, damp sheets, and moist hands/feet has begun to feel normal.  If I was at home, falling asleep under those conditions would be difficult, if not impossible.  Not the case here.  I close my eyes and quickly fall asleep.