April 12, 2011-Passage to Africa, Disapatch #3
The change came on Jean-Mee's watch, 17:00. I was on the foredeck bagging a genoa. Suddenly the boat heeled and rounded up. I thought we were going to tack. Then, almost head to wind, the bow bucked sharply and I was hit by a wave and I grabbed a lifeline to stay on board. I nearly lost the sail over the side. What the hell? I looked at Jean-Mee and I saw him struggling with the windvane control line. He was clearly in trouble. I was trapped on the bow with that loose sail.
I yelled, "Get on the Helm!"
Judy appeared on deck. They both struggled. Finally the boat came onto course, but still heeled over sharply and screaming through the spray.
The wind had gone from 12 to 28 in seconds; no clouds, no warning, and it continued to build, hitting 30. We were caught with full sail and needed to reef, but reefing in that breeze was going to be hard. I steered and all hands got into position. We got it done without tearing a sail or hurting any one but the technique wasn't in the book; anybody's book. I'll tell you about it some time.
We were not out of trouble. We took down the jib. The wind speed passed 40. The waves got really huge. Did I mention driving rain? Not fun. Jean-Mee and Jennifer went below. Judy and I worked together getting things cleaned up. She's good. I love her.
At 03:30 the four of us put in the third reef. It helped but we still had plenty of power, the motion on board was still extreme and we had loads of water on deck as waves washed over us. A lot of it got below. Things were wet. No one slept.
But we coped.
Something like 24 hours later, after a peak of 45.9 knots, the wind settled back into a pattern of low thirties and occasional higher gusts. We passed the southern tip of Madagascar Island a hundred miles away and bore off. Sailing got tolerable again, barely.
The hydraulic system is down and the boom vang has failed but the backstay and baby stay still have pressure. Hope they hold until we make port. The repair list has gotten longer but at this time nothing else is serious.
So Africa isn't going to come easy. But it will come.
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