Storm in a saucepan

Mon 28 Apr 2008 21:34
Monday, 28th April
Noon Position 08:07S 115:30W
At midday yesterday I decided that we were halfway across: rather an imprecise term, but lets not quibble: a stake in the sea, that's what was wanted!
As it turned out I was glad not to have celebrated with one of my bottles of wine.
For three days we have seen lighter winds, and clouding skies, yesterday afternoon the patches of cumulus coalesced, filling the windward horizon with blue/black fountain pen ink. The first squall hit, gently enough, at 16.30: a short breeze, followed by a downpour. I collected 10 liters of drinking water in ten minutes. Usually what hapens next is that the sun comes out and you have a nice wash in the cockpit. On this occasion however the wind returned and increased. The dark clouds of dusk turned to the pitch black of night, and the wind howled in the rigging. Phosphoressence gave a faint greenish glow to the breaking crests all around us, otherwise nothing to see.
As we were already headed downwind with a twin headsail rig all that was required was to shorten sail to slow the boat and keep her manageable. It's easy to furl the big genoa, but soon this was all gone, and we were still surfing down the waves in a rather uncomfortable way. The next step was to lower the staysail. In harbour this looks a pathetically small triangular sail sitting in front of the lower part of the mast. To get this sail to catch the wind I had rigged a pole from the mast to its lower corner. It was not however rigged in a sophisticated way, like the main pole, and it was now jammed solid against the mast. I was unable to let the wind out of the sail to depower it and it wouldn't move an inch with the wind hard against it.  After a fifteen minute exposure to 'shock and awe' on the foredeck I had to retreat to the cockpit. I did come up with a plan C, but plan B worked. Plan B is based on the sure (!) knowlege that in the Pacific, and if it's not a cyclone, the wind never goes more than 35 kts. The plan has the attraction of requiring no action at all, just hope and patience.
We did see 35 kts on the dial, but by 23.00 it was down to 20, my queasy stomach had settled, and I was hungry. It wasn't until I was cooking that I realised how uncomfortable it was below, and as the wind died away poor Fleck was hurled about by the seas. In a Carrie Fisher Exorcist moment a vengeful saucpan of milky spaghetti sauce launced itself from the momentarily ungimballed stove, went into a low earth orbit over the companionway, and crash landed on the chart table. As a backdrop the contents of every locker were either rattling groaning or thudding, and books flew from their bookcases faster than you could say Dumbledoor. Not being a great fan of the boy wizard I chose a shorter expletive to express my dismay, I hope no one heard.
Having filled my face, literally, with spaghetti I double checked the lee cloths on my bunk and rolled in, and rolled and rolled all night. Each time I got up I was able to let out some more sail, and at dawn, when the seas had finally settled down I got some sleep Today is a lovely hot day, still with only a little wind, and we are making only 3.5 - 4 kts. I'll be checking the horizon later though, and I've modified my little pole.....