A sigh of relief for Dee Caffari who is now happily sailing in a steady 30kts

Date12 January at 2305

You cannot imagine how good it feels to see 30 knots on the B&G Instruments after spending a night looking at the numbers ranging between 45 and 55 knots of true wind.

The weather certainly did come and rather quicker than we anticipated and not only did it arrive sooner but it had the cheek to stay longer. The wind began to build and the barometer started to fall. After a short while it stopped falling and in fact plummeted! The pressure went from 989 to 980 in four hours. The wind now was a steady 40-48 knots with the gusts taking us to 52 knots. The wind had also backed substantially and we needed to tack. I crawled on deck, not wanting to stand tall, as the next wall of water cascading along the deck would knock me down. I set myself up for a tack and waited for a lull in the breeze to 40 knots and a break in the waves. Of course they didn’t come together and when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go!

The tack was awful; I felt that everything that could go wrong did. After releasing the sheet, I pulled in on the new sheet, as I began grinding, the lazy sheet then felt the need to wrap itself around the new working sheet nice and tight. The boat was on her ear, the leeward deck completely under water. I eased the traveller down the track to the new tack and the lazy traveller line got caught. What else could possibly happen?

I spent 20 minutes sorting out my mess from the tack and kept my fingers crossed that the wind would stay and I wouldn’t have to tack again.

The waves were creating huge walls of water that Aviva was fighting to get over. The autopilot was also struggling. Some waves were like launch pads and we took off from them and came down moments later with an almighty thud. You heard Aviva groan under the strain. Other waves were like washing machines and sent the rinse and spin cycle hurtling down the deck washing anything in its path to one side. A number of the tails of lines were being sent overboard and I had to retrieve them and re stow them. One huge wave caused the boat to round up head to wind and before the autopilot could get her back she had tacked, all her sails backed and again she was on her ear. I had resigned myself to the fact that I would be wearing my foul weather gear all night so only had to grab my jacket.

It took me 30 minutes to recover from that inadvertent tack and all I could see were lines stressing the rig the wrong way and lots of flogging. I had my heart in my mouth. It was not a relaxing sound or sight. The waves were so big that they were preventing me from tacking back again; eventually I built up some speed and went for it in between waves with success and a whole lot of grinding.

The autopilot struggled in the conditions and came up with several errors. They all cleared straight away and lets face it, I would have been struggling to drive too. In the early hours of Thursday morning I was unsure where I was on the synoptic chart that had come through on the weather fax and I wanted to be sure the worst of the weather had gone. I sent an e-mail to Mike Broughton, and checked the latest weather. He came back with good news that the low pressure was south of me and the front was clear. The worst of the weather had passed. Two hours after that, as he predicted, the numbers read 30 something rather than 40 something on the true wind reading and I finally began to relax.

Having spent the last 24 hours in my foul weather gear ready for that just in case scenario. I also had little sleep and little food and drink. So the afternoon was spent on feel good factors. I got some rest, I put the heating on and took my foul weather gear off and found my favourite meal in my current 10-day box. A boil-in-the-bag chicken casserole and some pasta. It takes 10 minutes in one pot and is delicious. Now I am beginning to feel human again, just a little battered and bruised.

Dee and Aviva