Dee Caffari fights through 40-50 knot winds as she passes Cape Leeuwin 2/3/06
Date1 March at 2330
PositionS 48° 15’/E 112° 39′
Forty something winds which were then replaced with fifty something winds soon replaced the winds of the mid thirties. If even for a short time the count down to the front passing was painful. I swear that time was slowing down as my anguish increased.
The howling of the wind exasperated the torment of the conditions. The wind was blowing the white caps off the waves leaving a white spume sea that was as undulated as a mountain range. The howl turned to a whistle as it hit the bare rigging aloft. Either the crashing of the hull into the wave ahead or the whooshing of the wave of green water breaking as it hit the obstructions on deck interrupted this. This storm has been circulating the globe, non-stop for thousands of miles and I was going to experience it full on.
The grey white backdrop showed no signs of breaking to reveal a bright sky beneath. Instead the colour depicted the mood of the day as the wind and waves beat Aviva and I from every direction.
Movement on deck is restricted by hand holds as you dare not let go of something solid for fear of being washed away with the next wall of water to crash over head. A simple slip would result in injury or the worse case scenario of a swim that would be the end of these daily logs. In order to avoid such a scenario the answer is simple and only a fool would consider themselves above such measures as wearing a harness. With a tether clipped to a jackstay you can feel suitably reassured that wherever you end up you are attached to the boat. I have mastered the art of a bum shuffle around the deck as standing gives yourself up as a target for the next wave to come and get you.
Aviva has spent the last 24 hours leading up to this front hurtling down waves on the edge of being out of control at 9 and 10 knots, which for this 45 tonne steel tank is pretty impressive. I was tempted to furl both headsails away in an attempt to keep her under control but with the waves the size they were we would have no power to get out of the wave trough and we would begin to wallow at the mercy of the sea. So we kept powering along. Showing no fear to the oncoming front. As we were sailing just off the breeze the waves were hitting us on our forward quarter rather than head on as normal. This effect meant that we would be pushed over onto our side. With the shape of the hull this often meant that Aviva would round up to windward and the sheets would flap and beat the rig. My heart would be in my throat with the noise, and then as the rudder gripped the water again, we would turn away from the wind. Other times we were pushed along on our side so far that the white water being swept along the deck would spray down the companionway steps. That is the first time I have experienced that whilst sailing these yachts.
Aviva has sprung leaks in some very surprising places. Nothing major, but a trickle in the saloon, the drips over the chart table are back and I have yet to investigate further a field. With the amount of water that has been pouring and breaking over the top of us I am more than impressed that I don’ t have more to deal with. I tried firing the heater whose exhaust has been exposed to the breaking waves for over 24 hours now and with our angle of heel it has been unable to drain the exhaust manifold into the bilges so with some perseverance the heater fired but I did start the fire alarm in the process as the exhaust fumes set the smoke detector off. It was due for a check, I am sure!
Physically, mentally and emotionally I am exhausted as this front goes through. It did not deliver as bad as conditions as I feared; however what we did endure was hard enough. Listening to the rig and the deck structure groaning under the strain, and the jarring from the waves. Watching the loads alter on the rig when we crash off a wave and then accelerate again. Seeing the leeward rigging slack enough to flop around in the wind is stressful. Seeing the sailcloth taking the strain as yet another gust in excess of 50 knots hits us with all its fury. I tried closing my eyes to make it go away and that didn’t work so I have hung on for the ride and look forward to eating and drinking again without the white-knuckle ride.
Big celebrations are now on. Not only did we survive the front ready to tackle the secondary low heading our way, but also we have just passed the second Great Cape, Cape Leeuwin. This means that Australia is now behind us, bring it on!
Dee & Aviva