Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Noon Position: 41 11'S 114 10' E, SOG 5, COG 115, Day's Run 125nm. The
sun rose a sullen, angry orange disk on the horizon, striated and
partially obscured with clouds, shedding light on a tumultuous sea. A
steady progression of big swells rolled under Odyssey, the tops breaking
off into tumbling white foam, spray spitting and whipping downwind in
little puffs of steam. It was a majestic scene, perfectly orderly
before the NNW wind, long parallel crests extending to the horizon,
hiding the sun as it hung over the horizon when we dipped into the
troughs. After a few minutes the sun disappeared into the cloud banks,
leaving a pale glow behind. While I was waiting for my tea to boil I
spent a few minutes trying to film the seas - an always depressing task,
watching the huge waves get compressed into a tiny screen, one that left
me ready for breakfast and a nice cup of tea. The boat was sailing
smoothly, rushing down waves at 5 and 6 kts under staysail before the
gale, and breakfast was an almost civilized affair, a pot of oatmeal
with cinnamon and sugar eaten in my bunk, moving smoothly enough that I
could balance my oatmeal on one knee and my kindle on the other.
Glorious sailing - a little intimidating as the waves rose astern, but
each in turn disappeared beneath the windvane as the stern lifted and we
rushed smoothly down into the next valley. Rain squalls came whipping
across the sea, bringing more westerly winds as they hissed down,
leaving us struggling along slowly in the light air behind them. I
stood at the chart table, watching the rain and sea out the windows, on
the verge of suiting up to go gybe to keep the seas astern, debating
whether to wait for the wind to come back and the rain to let up when I
saw the clifflike face of an enormous rearing up along side. I just had
time to dive across the boat for my bunk to leeward before it hit,
roaring down across the boat, a chaos of crashing and falling objects
raining down upon me. As we whipped back upright again the mess was
impressive - my other knockdowns had been to port, and I've got
everything pretty well secured for that direction, but going to
starboard was an entirely different experience, with an entirely new set
of objects piled up on the starboard side. The genoa was on the stove,
cushions on the floor, one of the cabinet doors from the windward
bookshelves was sliding around where the cushions used to be, the
contents of two drawers full of tools were sliding about up forward with
the unbagged storm jib. My oatmeal pot was nowhere to be seen, a jar of
applesauce had nestled in with my pillow, and my ipod had contrived to
land neatly in the grabrail above the bunk, as if I'd put it there to
listen to music while cooking. The deck was less of a mess - the vane
had pulled out of the windvane, dangling uselessly in the water, and the
control lines had unravelled themselves from the wheel. I feel a little
guilty for all the times I've reassuringly said to nervous students
"Don't worry, this boat can't capsize, it has a keel!" This was a full
capsize, not just a knockdown - keel probably 30 degrees out of the
water, mast under. The plank between the lower shrouds for working at
the mast was snapped from hitting the water, the radar 20 or so feet up
the mast had hit water too - the mount is twisted sideways and down, so
for now it's useful only for determining if there are any icebergs
sitting on the foredeck. Good thing I'm north of the ice limits...
And all this before 8am - one hell of a way to start a morning. The
wave was the last malignant gasp of the gale - the breeze diminished,
the seas have gone down, and now we're running under full jib with
clearing skies in 15-20kts from astern.


  1. Never a dull moment! Glad you're safe. Thinking of you!

  2. Another Whew! You sure know how to get
    one's blood moving early in the morning!
    Stay safe, Eric.

  3. Again, I was holding my breath. Your picture the other day made it look so non threatening, yet..... Glad you are safely on track.