Big winds aboard Aviva last night leaves Dee Caffari battered and bruised but happy

Aviva Challenge Dee Caffari’s solo westabout circumnavigation

Date of report 29 November 2005

Let me tell you how bad last night really was…

Now before I panic anyone, especially my family, everything is okay and the strange fact is that throughout my ordeal last night and this morning I never felt scared. I put that down to the water being so warm. Being doused in surging torrents of warm seawater was actually quite nice.

Last night I felt as if I went on a trip to a theme park and took a ride on the Black Hole Roller Coaster. Aviva and I were surging forwards on our quest to get round the world and back again only she has become like an express train. There was no stopping her. There were no stars, no moon, no ambient light what so ever, only menacing storm clouds overhead and I couldn’t see in front of my nose. We were off the breeze, surfing down waves and reaching some good speeds.

As the wind built I put a reef in and this continued quite quickly and before I knew it I had three reefs and had furled some of the headsail away. The wind continued to build and Aviva was still accelerating. So I part furled the staysail as well. Eventually I was trying to slow Aviva down as we were getting out of control and the wind was still building, only to put the headsail away I hadn’t checked the number of turns on the furling drum since I had replaced the line on day two. So off we went and I was about five turns too short. I then spent the next 30 minutes fixing that. I was sat at the bow with the boat surfing beneath me into waves of warm water. I was clipped on so when the water engulfed me I was fine and I knew I was making progress south then with the temperature difference.

I then furled the staysail away as well, and we were still careering off waves at 12 knots. The wind was by now often in the margins of 60 knots. I knew that if this was to continue I would need to get the mainsail down. The last thing I needed was to be sewing a torn mainsail across the equator so I could complete the voyage. However, getting the mainsail down when broad reaching with 60 plus knots of breeze is quite tricky, add to that I am on my own and I knew this wasn’t going to be pretty. Ninety minutes later I was still in one piece and add to that so was my sail.

I unfurled a handkerchief-sized bit of sail to help with steerage as I watched the instruments register 72 knots of breeze and they were still on the top of the mast. I was feeling battered and bruised, tired, cold and hungry and also in a bizarre was pleased with myself. Generally you don’t choose to practise in these type of conditions and for me it was quite good to have a warm water practise in something so extreme.

I have spent the rest of the day walking around like an old woman. I think I collected a few extra bruises last night. I have also taken things steady today and made sure I not only looked after Aviva and sailing but also myself.

Until tomorrow,

Dee and Aviva