Monday, November 5, 2012

Day 6- Mid-passage Crux

Time: 0100 Zulu noon New Cal (Tues 6 Nov)
Position: 23*11'S 167*12'E
Wind: ESE 18-20+ Seas: ESE 8-10-ft
Avg. Course: 239-deg T
Avg. Speed: 4.9-knots
Rig: storm jib
24-hr Distance noon to noon point: 117-nm

The past 24-hrs have possibly been the most challenging of our sailing passage-making. Let me set the scene... Overcast stormy day, winds in the 20's already, seas nearing 12-ft. Add to that navigating around land, the land effect on wind and weather (promontory effect, inducing convection, and traffic fears) with less than 30-nm of sea room in each direction. Then sun sets, dark with no moon, and the coup d'etat, add lightning. Shawn has been feeling irrationally stressed about "when the other shoe would drop," and it did. We had been wooed to believe we could get far enough west to avoid the convection and would just see rain, and mostly we did avoid the majority of it. However, the edge still packed some punch. The lightning show started just as it was time for Chris to head off watch. Shawn talked him into staying to observe it for a while to ensure that we were not going to collide with it. We watched for an hour as continuous sheet lightning and random bolts lit the sky every few seconds and undiscernible distance away. Even more frustrating, we could not tell what direction it was moving if at all. Maybe it was happily over Iles de Pin? Not so lucky. Two hours later we were sure we were on a collision course with the storm. So we jibed (very disorienting in pitch black and rain). But this direction we began seeing lightning as well and it was retracing our route. Chris said aloud, "if we're going to have lightning, we might as well at least be going in the right direction." So, we jibed again and were back on our course. Over the next unbelievably stressful 6 hours we counted the space between flashes right next to our boat and rumbling thunder that shook us and both prayed a lot. Nothing like lightning everywhere to make a person feel pretty small and helpless. It was likely the most scary thing we've been through. We are immeasurably grateful to have been allowed to pass safely.

Of course this means our watch schedules are completely off, so once the flashes were less frequent, Shawn offered for Chris who had completely missed his off watch to sleep a bit and covered until 4am. It felt completely blind, cloud cover so thick, no moon light illuminating anything, moisture clouds nearly down to the surface of the water, rain dumping in sheets. Thanks to Tao, our Warhorse, and Moni for taking over, picking a safe line and galloping onward. Daylight was near when Chris took over, but rain still abound and winds picked up a bit. Just after getting SSB word from David (Gulf Harbor Radio weather guy) that we only had a little bit more to go, winds intensified. We both jumped up on deck and pulled the mains'l down completely and gaped in awe at the conditions. Coming around the end of the island must have created a promontory effect, or maybe it was a squash zone between the low and the high. For whatever reason, instead of 20+knots, winds jumped up to 28-35-knots. Seas were more than 12-ft and wind was blowing the tops off of them. Our deck and cockpit were often awash and we finally had to take down our shade tarp to avoid it ripping. Out of the frying pan, into the fire... We just had to make a little more to windward before being able to fall off 20-degrees after passing the southern most reef. Chris stalwartly manned the deck watching Tao surf 14-ft waves. And when our heavy-weather windvane paddle blade was blown off, luckily it's lanyard held, so he easily retrieved and reattached it. Before we made it past the reef, winds abated and no longer was the storm jib alone enough, so we hoisted the triple-reefed main and made to windward just enough in the large seas coming from both SE and ESE at the same time. Winds picked up again after rounding the reef, and when we pulled the mains'l down, we noticed one of the headboard slide attachments needed repair...

So, as the noon point rolled round, Chris was on deck hand sewing a loop onto the mains'l, valiantly fighting and loosing the seasick battle. And Shawn was down below catching up on computer backlog to get McDavitt's new voyage forecast waypoints into our GPS, etc. It was beyond challenging day and so much more intense and meaningful that we can relay with this quick brief post. Hopefully it was the crux of this journey to get around the SE corner of New Caledonia and break out of the low and into the high. Hopefully we're there.


  1. Oh, my! Yes, you can!

    Sending hugs and purrs your way . . . .

  2. What a night! My heart sped up just reading about it.

    Very happy you made it through.