Monday, 9 May 2016

Bermuda Inbound - Day 6

Hi everyone,
We are currently in position 32 04N 064 37W, saillng at 6.5 knots on a course of 010M. The wind is WNW at 18-22 knots with 1m sea and decaying SSE snd SW swells.  We are sailing under single-reefed main and double-furled yankee.  Broken high cloud with scattered low cumulus - with occasional sun!  Our day's run was 136nm, our DMG was 109nm and we have only 18nm to go.

Downwind under staysail in an earlier downpour

Yesterday turned into a memorable day when the biggest squall we've ever encountered at sea hit us at 1400.  We didn't see it coming since there was thick, low overcast with steady rain.  I was off watch below and heard the wind building rapidly.  Stupidly I wasted time pulling on waterproofs before going on deck.  By then the Aries had "lost it" and we had broached.  The wind probably hit 50 knots in the initial gusts and was steady at 40-45 knots for the next ten minutes or so.  Prior to the squall it had been about 18-22 knots.  We had double-furled yankee and double-reefed main set.

Step one was to get the boat running before the wind.  She came around quite willingly given a lot of control input!  With this accomplished the headsail was no longer shaking the rig so violently and we could furl it.  That was an effort and Nic did a magnificent job.  Meanwhile I was keeping the boat on course as we surfed continuously, not just down the waves.  Twas intense.

With the jib furled away entirely we were then only surfing down every wave.  Nic took the helm and I went forward to haul down the double-reefed main.  Since it's only trisail size it came down reasonably easily.  Under bare poles we were still surfing down some waves at 8-10 knots.  I have no idea what speeds we were doing while we still had rag up but we were flying.  The GPS track data might tell us when I copy it off the chartplotter.

Once we got things under control and the Aries steering again we watched the show.  The rain was so intense it felt like hail.  Horizontal hail.  Thankfully it wasn't very cold.  When sure all was well we retired below to dry off.  Strangly the idea of a tot of rum never occurred to me!

Lessons learned:
  • When it hits the fan just grab your lifejacket and get on deck fast!
  • When sailing under thick overcast with squalls known to be about, be willing to sail slow just in case
  • Don't assume the next squall will be like those preceding it!

What worked well:
  • The boat - thank you again designer Ken Hayashi, builder Yamazaki Yachts and refitters Precision Shipwrights!
  • Our Precision-rebuilt rudder, Aries vane gear and SailForce s/s tiller which had the ultimate stress test
  • Our reefing and sail handling systems
  • Doing the rig check and halyard maintenance in the BVIs
  • Our canvas nav table cover which prevented the drowning of our laptop

If the high winds had persisted we would have deployed our Jordon Series Drogue.  However within 15 minutes we were no longer surfing and three hours later the wind had died completely!  The squall was the last hoorah of the front.  The seas were very confused for several hours and we ended up motor-sailing all night due to the sea state and light winds.

At dawn a nice moderate WNW wind came in and we were sailing again.  We've had a great close reach towards Bermuda.  At 1000 this morning we called up Bermuda Radio and they gave us initial arrival instructions.  It will be great to get in and sit under a tree for a moment before finding a pub.

Bermuda is a special destination for us.  It is the only 20nm away from the point directly opposite our home port of Fremantle on the globe.  One could say we've reached our antipode.  The celestial navigation term is 'nadir', the opposite of 'zenith' (which is directly overhead).  A few days ago we were joking about reaching our nadir.  Bad karma.  Not so funny now but we survived and are still smiling!!! 

Where-ever we head from Bermuda we will literally be heading for home.  That's a nice thought.

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