Another night of horrendous conditions leaves Dee Caffari exhausted but generally happy 3/2/06

Date2 February 2216

PositionS 48° 44’/ W 156° 6′

Twelve hours of 45 knot winds with gusts into the 50s, mountainous blue grey seas with wild foaming tops, which were being whisked away by the wind. Bottomless troughs that sucked you down, walls of icy cold seawater that broke and covered what ever was in its path. Aviva went from being a 45 tonne steel yacht charging forward with purpose to being a cork lost in an endless watery landscape that was wild with fury. We spent these hours last night being tossed around in horrendous conditions.

Waves would often pitch Aviva on her side so that the winches along the starboard side were awash with foaming water. Any rope not secured had been washed over the leeward side and the horseshoe cover on the starboard side had been washed clear and was dangling from its string attachment. Once I was as happy as I could be with the sail plan before dark, I scurried around sorting out all these issues.

We were heading south-west with a westerly airflow that was getting stronger with some meaningful gusts. Looking at the weather fax we were heading deeper into the depression that looked similar to a dartboard. The pressure was starting to drop quite quickly and things were only going to get worse. However, to get out of there I needed to tack. I was not looking forward to this in the big seas and strong breeze, but after a half hour build up, we did it. The course was not good and the wind still stayed with us but it was the only way out to better weather eventually, to head north.

After a couple of hours with a reduced headsail and deep reefed mainsail, we were rounding up in the gusts so much, that listening to the sheet smacking the rigging was an awful noise. The rig was under so much pressure with a constant 50 knots now and a massive sea that was engulfing us every wave. It was dusk and when it was dark everything would seem a whole lot worse and dealing with any issues in the dark would be more difficult, so I furled the headsail away completely. We were still making 7 knots under mainsail alone and we were not having the rigging taking such a hammering. I was a little happier now as the darkness arrived. I was confident that Aviva would be able to manage now for the next 12 hours that we were forecast to have this weather for. I however, sat all night, for the third day running in my foul weather gear, with my eyes glued to the numbers on the B&G display and my ears pricked for any noise that sounded different.

The middle of the night bought a strange noise amongst the banging and crashing. I spent an hour looking for this noise until eventually I lifted the board to the calorifier, the hot water tank, and it was sat in its bracket but the bracket had come loose and every time Aviva rolled on a wave, so too did the tank. I found a ratchet strap and fixed it to the hull, another job done that took my mind off the nightmare taking place outside.

As forecast the wind started to ease and we saw 40 knots and 50 knots was in the past. What a blessing. Once daylight came I could have a check on deck before putting any more sail out. The wind was at 35-40 knots and I put a small amount of headsail out. The conditions were much easier than the previous 20 hours and I was able to get a little rest. Once we are in easier conditions with an easier sea state I need to do some rig checks as Aviva has had a relentless beating over the last week and the shock loads involved in the crashing waves and the wind alone would be huge.

I can safely say that I can do without another patch of weather like that, but unfortunately I don’t get much say in the weather that arrives. I wasn’t scared for my safety during the ordeal, but I was more worried for the potential risk to the boat. I didn’t like it but knew we just had to get through it. I am quite tired and emotional right now though and I am trying to relax my body from the rigid state it spent last night in as I wedged myself at the chart table against the crashing conditions, which is proving to take some time. Nothing a nice soak in a hot bubble bath wouldn’t cure! I can dream!

Dee and Aviva