Sunday, November 11, 2012

Day 12- Blustery and Wet

Time: 0100 Zulu noon New Cal (Mon 12 Nov)
Position: 24*44'S 157*20'E
Wind: ESE 23-27 gusting 30 Seas: ESE 10-15-ft
Avg. Course: 251-deg T
Avg. Speed: 6.0-knots
Rig: triple-reefed mains'l alone
24-hr Distance noon to noon point: 41.7-nm (this is actually the distance traveled since we stopped heaving-to this morning around 0500)
Distance to Brisbane: 256-nm

It has been epic and still continues... After our noon point yesterday we stayed bobbing, waiting for the big wind switch for a little over 10-hrs. We each alternatively got some sleep, watched squalls roll by, and enjoyed nature's energetic sunset together. Bobbing around without a known direction the bow is pointing is very disorienting and even more so in the dark. Around 2000 Shawn pulled out the hand-bearing compass yet again after determining a bright spot was not a star. After a while she determined it was not a cargo ship, but definitely coming toward us and not answering her radio hails. An hour later, worried, as we were essentially a vessel of restricted maneuverability just bobbing, Chris managed to raise them on the radio. It turns out it was sailing vessel Knotty Lady, a boat we haven't actually met, but close friends of ours had. We had nice radio chat with them, en route to Bundaberg also awaiting the weather, and we hope to connect with them once ashore. Small world.

An hour and a half later, Chris again snoring, Shawn was on deck and noted a squall was approaching. From our rather quiet conditions, she could hear it howling toward us and was hoping it was just rain. It did contain a ton of rain, but was indeed the weather reaching us and also contained a ton of wind. Side to the wind and swells, Chris was up and dressed in a flash to check out the scene. Immediately drenched, it was time to go. We decided first to pull up the storm jib and run with it. The storm roared and deluges of water fell upon us. There were no stars, no outside light sources to orient us, we were blind, feeling the weather, and literally racing along at over 7-knots, frequently surfing quickly building seas. Neither of us felt comfortable with this, who knew how much the winds would continue to increase? We dropped the jib and ran bare poled for a moment, still going over 5-knots and surfing. Decision made, we decided to heave-to. Shawn up on deck, clipped in, attached the 3rd reef point at the mast and removed the sail ties, Chris at the helm, used our forward momentum to turn us up into the wind. Up went the mains'l to triple-reef, easier than usual because up into the wind (usually we are taking it up and down as we head off the wind, so shrouds and lazy jacks catch things). Still blind, Chris using the mast head indicator got us in the hove-to position. As the wind whipped by, it took Shawn seeing the numbers on our GPS to believe our forward momentum had basically ceased.

Approximately 30-knots of wind and 9-ft seas it was the heaviest weather we've hove-to in yet. It was quite amazing, really. Both of us stayed awake to monitor. Chris on deck watching the sail set, wind speeds and angle, and cloud movements. Shawn down below pouring over the GPS calculating our drift speed and direction, and chronicling it in the log book. It was our first all-nighter in a long while. Over the next 5-hrs, winds starting at 30-knots continually decreased to 25, then 20, and as the sliver moon rose with the morning star and dawn conditions, had quieted to almost 15-knots allowing us to get a bit more beam to and roll more uncomfortably. It was time to go. Time to make use of the winds and make some miles toward Brisbane. Dawn was stunning the sun lighting the front moving away from us and we were both extremely happy and relieved to be sailing in 18-20-knots under triple-reefed mains'l and storm jib at a fast clip in relative comfort considering 9-ft seas on the beam, but bow pointed in the right direction.

We thought we had made it through the difficult part, but soon realized there were more challenges to come. Chris grabbed a little sleep while Shawn continued on deck. Unfortunately, 2 hours later, she woke him to help with dodging a rather large squall. We were successful, as it mostly crossed ahead of us, but winds behind it filled in quite strongly. Soon winds were gusting to 23 consistently and seas were building, crashing onto Tao into the cockpit every so often. We downloaded weather, and sure enough as we moved from our [gratefully] well placed hove-to spot toward the SW, winds were expected to be strong for another 12-hrs. Chris took over again on deck and sailed us onward to the noon point. Clouds built to cover the sky, reminding him of afternoon skies on our passage en route to Hawaii. Storm jib dropped in the heavier weather, we more slowly make way in the right direction as winds gust near 30 and seas roll by at nearly 15-ft. It has been a sunny (even through the clouds), windy, blustery, exposed, energy sapping day. We are both quite exhausted and really, really hope that forecasts hold and conditions moderate just after the sun sets to more manageable "blind" night navigation conditions.

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