Friday, February 10, 2012


Noon Position: 52 27' S, 77 54' W, COG 180, SOG 5.5, Day's Run 90nm.
Well, my first southern Ocean gale was brief and nasty. I'm not even
really sure how to describe it, other than a vaguely technical blow by
blow. It was absolutely terrifying, like riding a horrifying roller
coaster without seatbelts, not knowing when the car's going to come off
the track. I spent my time either down below, anxiously worrying and
hoping nothing would break or go wrong, or frantically working to get
something done before diving back into the (relative) shelter of the
cabin. And in less than 12 hours, it was over - I'm not even sure if it
qualifies as a gale, being so short. Today I'm sailing in 15 knots out
of the NW under Sunny skies - if it wasn't for the cold and the big
lumpy swell, it could almost be in the trades. I even passed a pair of
sea lions sunning themselves this morning - I'm not sure what they're
doing this far offshore, but they looked far more comfortable in the icy
water than I would be. I've got everything that I can fit up on deck
trying to dry things out a bit before it gets unpleasant again, which it
looks like will happen tonight. On thursday evening I did my nightly
email connection at 2000, as usual, and had just shortened down to storm
jib in what was a solid 35 knots or so, but was running smoothly and
comfortably. Almost as soon as I hit the send button it started getting
nasty - the wind quickly built to probably 40, with stronger gusts, and
the seas suddenly went from smooth and happy to big and ugly very very
quickly. There was a strong NW wave train from the wind on top of the
omnipresent W swell, both of which were big. When the wind picked up it
was like flicking a switch - suddenly the tops of the waves were
tumbling over themselves with a rumbling, hissing sound, reaching out to
Odyssey with white fingers of foam. I quickly struck the storm jib and
switched to a scrap of roller furled real jib - one thing I regret
already is not having a real small - 20 or 25 sq ft - storm jib - my
smallest is 65, which is too big once the breeze gets above 40 or so. I
got the boat settled down again, careening down the faces of the NW
waves, still running to the south, with the occasional straggler
slapping in at an angle and throwing us off course, while I waited,
breathless, hoping that the windvane would get the bow back downwind
before another wave caught us beam on for a real hit. Everything seemed
to be going well, and I had just settled in at the chart table,
nervously watching the gps numbers as we rumbled down wave faces at 12
or 14 knots, when there was a tremendous, dull thud, everything went
dark, and the boat swiftly leaned over as the giant, gentle hand of a
wave caught us on the starboard beam. Before I realized what had
happened we were back upright again, coming back with a jerk that
surprised me after the smooth hit, and everything was a shambles. A
gallon of sea water poured down my back, the frying pan that had been in
the sink bounced off my head on it's way for the back of the chart
table, jars of pepperoncinis from the fridge were everywhere, one of the
floorboard for the bilge was in my bunk. One of the sneaky west swells
had gotten lucky and broken right underneath us, knocking Odyssey flat.
On deck, everything was a shambles - port solar panel missing, lines
and wire trailing overboard, stern pulpit a mangled mess, cockpit knee
deep in water. I altered course more to the east to take the W swell
more on the stern and went back below, where I spent the rest of the
night in my bunk in full foulies, listening with apprehension to every
rumble, hiss, moan, and roar.

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