Boiling angry sea

Two night watches that were memorable. Bringing down the Yankee 3 in 35 knot winds was our first challenge of the evening.

As I looked back on hands and knees, hanging onto the guard rail from the foamy foredeck, the helm appeared about ten feet beneath us, the boat rolling from side to side. A water skiing bucking bronco.

Sail ties tethered we call ‘foredeck ready’ for the drop of Y3. What we’d failed to plan for was the clew of the sail getting caught on the preventer line. I pull hard to release it and get the clew inside the boat and return to helping my watch mates pull down the sail. But doing so, even with a loud and coordinated 1-2-3 ‘pull’ is hard going in strong wind. My fingers are burning, really sore, screeching for me to stop. I have tears running down my face the pain is so intense. Stopping isn’t an option.

We get the sail safely on deck and start the laborious and equally exhausting task of pulling on the foot   of the sail all the way up so there’s some semblance of order to the way it can then be safely stowed… And we ‘sausage roll’ it.

Back to the cockpit I apologise to the four guys for my struggles only to be told by the skipper that we’d done a great job in such conditions. And my endeavours to free the clew from the tangle of the preventer were appreciated. It was really hard, I was exhausted. Give me a Tour de France cycle race any day!

I climb into my bunk still in my base layers and fall deeply and soundly asleep.

And then 2 am and back out into the elements. Mother Nature was in a seriously bad mood. Winds gusting to 75 knots, waves the size of two storey houses. The sea was wild, mad, like a volcano in fierce eruption, spitting and throwing up huge waves and plumes of angry cold water that lashed out across the deck. Hitting us with a ferocious menace that sent us wildly across the deck.

We soon became accustomed to the movement of the boat and could pre-empt what was coming next, hanging onto one another for protection and support.  Still the wind whipped the tops off the waves which sent an icy fog across the boat, combined with hail stones and piercing rain the speed at which the boat was being tossed around I turned to Gordon and casually said, “I am slightly concerned. Perhaps a small understatement?!?!

The wind subsided enough at day break for a deck check to be safely undertaken. Two hanks of the storm sail had come off and more squalls were coming furiously our way so we held off any action.

More howling weather pounded us before coming off watch to freshly baked bread and porridge, just what the doctor ordered.

As I lie in my bunk writing this I have freezing cold toes and am dreaming of a cosy warm bed at home with central heating. Three hours sleep until the next onslaught.


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