Friday, August 26, 2011

Tread Softly

2011 08 26

Portimao, Portugal

When all is said and done it was just discomfort and inconvenience but you know the crossing from Ponta delGada to Lisbon was a bitch.

In fact we never got to Lisbon which is almost 90 degrees due east of Ponta delGada.  We were blown offcourse by an unforecast storm and ended up 275 miles south having to sail 75 miles north just to get back to Portugal.

I am not going to regale you with details because I have a faulty recollection of what the heck happened.  The last windspeed I saw was 42 knots apparent and we were running hard before the wind.  That reading unnerved me and I stopped looking because I needed all the nerve I could find for more important tasks.  The Budget Committee never asked.  For the same reason I presume.  

We made it a Force 8 storm verging on Force 9.  Waves were huge but that is a subjective assessment; I did not measure.  White spume blew horizontally from their tops but the tops never rolled over.  They were sure burbling and bubbling.  For an entire night we watched, Meredith poised on the very edge of control, for that final sign that the waves were starting to break.  It was a close call and many waves found their way onto our deck anyway.

Here was the scoreboard after 8 days of heavy weather sailing:

  • We broke our staysail boom in two places.  Stress from wind and wave tore the sheet attachment point loose and before I got to the foredeck to wrestle the errant boom to the deck it had broken under heavy pressure at the gooseneck.  

  • We lost our dinghy.  Lashed to the deck fore, aft and centre it tore loose and flew into the ocean.  We did not notice, either of us, until we were tied up at dock for almost a day.

  • At one point running with bare poles we were making 6.5 knots.  

  • We did not change clothes for eight days.  I know!!! Not one article of clothing was changed and we lived in foul weather gear (foul has a whole new definition on Meredith these days) and rubber boots.

  • we slept on the salon floor for eight days.  Lee cloths allowed too much movement and so did the quarterberth.  The floor was perfect.

  • The BC had to pump the head while she peed.  In the dramatic boat motion even the briefest of spurts was enough liquid to wash up the side of the toilet bowl and splash her.

  • Food consumed in the first four days: 3 sleeves of soda crackers and a package of melba toast. Total.

The low point came with a wave that washed over the entire boat just after I went forward to secure the staysail boom and sail.  Some wave from somewhere struck from bow to stern.  The BC was on the wheel and was totally consumed by the great green greasy Atlantic.  She lost sight of everything but, out of the corner of her eye, caught a flash of red roar by the helming station outboard of the lifelines and destined for oblivion.

My offshore jacket is red.

What she did not know and what took several impossibly difficult seconds to come clear was that the fuel canister for the outboard engine, tied with quarter inch line to the deck, had ripped apart and let go.  It was the gas canister she saw.  I was still on deck.

On the whole it was quite the experience.  We had read the books: Cunliffe, Pardy, Motissiere and while you cannot learn heavy weather sailing on the internet we would have been lost without the guidance of these smarter better sailors.

We can buy new equipment.  The dinghy arrives in a week or so.  Staysail boom parts are available in the USA and we will bring those back with us after Christmas.  That is all that happened.

A bit of expense and a bit of inconvenience.  Spent in purchase of invaluable experience.

We hove to when it was needed and ran when we could.  So long as waves were not near breaking we ran hoping to get out of whatever had taken us under its control.  

Nice try Poseidon.

HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet,
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
W.B. Yeats

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