The Tasman Sea – it’s a devil

Tuesday 10th December and we’ve rounded the bottom of Tasmania heading up towards the Bass Strait. The wind has done everything from 4 knots to 44 knots. The last watch have reefed in and out most of the afternoon. We’re still flying Yankee 1 and really making some pace.

However the wind and waves are really picking up and from below deck it’s pretty clear we’ll be dropping Y1 v shortly. That call comes just as we’ve sleepily crawled from our bunks to get kitted up ASAP for a drop.

Skipper, Roser and I are in our bright yellow dry suits and up into the foaming choppy madness that awaits us. Sail ties in hand we clip on in order of foredeck position.

Gordon N1 then Nick; Greg; me; Roser; Karina; JB and Doug. The A team!!  Call for the drop, pinned between the staysail and the guard rail we bring her in.

This isn’t any old headsail drop, it’s blowing 43 knots apparent wind; the boat is behaving like a bucking bronco; the sea is in your face and dousing you every moment, the waves thrashing you trying to knock you down like ten pin bowls. However Mother Nature didn’t reckon with us and piece by piece, amazing coordination across the 8 of us we get the sail inboard and tied down. An epic piece of team work. We smile to each other and await Gordon and Nick to unhank her before we bring her back to the cockpit.

Relieved and so excited by our team work and achievement I’m still crouched between the staysail and starboard guardrail watching Gordon and Nick prepare to unhank the sail. Given the conditions it was far safer to drop and secure the sail rather than the usual simultaneous drop and unhank.

Waves are crashing over us and the four of us at the front are really getting walloped. Stinging eyes and mouths forcibly washed out with sea water we just keep going until suddenly a huge and viscous pair of waves pounds us, taking the breath out of you; picking me and Greg up, pinning Greg against the inner forestay and tossing me in the air like a stir fry vegetable and then……

I involuntarily scream as I land back on the deck, full force of my body onto my right knee and the edge of the ankle breaker. All I can feel is a searing pain. And then I pull myself out from under the foot of the staysail and manage to take a breath in between sobs of shock and pain.

Our skipper has the ability to appear where needed like magic, she checks we’re all safe on deck and I try and get back to my position but realise v quickly that bending my knee hurts. I’m more annoyed about the distraction from our awesome drop and the bare headed time whilst I drag myself back to the cockpit and with help from the crew get down the companion way.

With the help from Ali on mother watch; wet kit comes off. I feel my knee cap – phew, it’s ok. And everything is where it should be. Knee duly elevated and ice packs applied I sit below and listen to the bedlam of the seas whilst our amazing crew get Y1 back, and the Y3 hoisted – within an hour we’re onto the storm gib!

The wind and waves are relentless. The crew are battered and soaking wet. And darn it I’m confined to my bunk for the next two night watches. Medic Richard checks out my knee and bandages it well to help reduce swelling.  Ibuprofen swallowed and I wedge myself in my bunk between the wall and mattress buttressed against the lee cloth due to our heeled over position.

After a night’s rest I’m pretty sure I’ll be back in action for our afternoon watch. Already the sea state is calming and with 300 ish miles to Sydney I want to be sure that I’m fully fit.

Darn Tasman Sea really is full of Tasman devils. And Mother Nature was once more bad tempered and unrelenting, testing us and teasing us all the way.

And if did get back on deck, somewhat apprehensively. Knee a tad achy but nothing nasty – and yet more battering from Mother Nature as we wend our way up to Sydney. So excited to be joining James; Katherine and Matt there…. And it’s nearly Christmas – woo hoo 🙂


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