A busy night

Tue 26 Nov 2013 16:43
It feels like we're really on our way now. Going North to Grenada was just recovering our tracks, no new bits of sea and no further Westwards. But now we're truly in new waters and we're creeping our way around the world.

We've had good wind, setting off with main, jib and mizzen flying, but we found we were out pacing the two catamarans we are traveling with so we reefed the main but we were still quite far ahead so ended up hove to in order to wait for them and ride out a squall at the same time. The wind increased as the day progressed so we took in the jib by half a dozen rolls and reefed the mizzen to balance the boat. We were still flying along, and as night fell heavy rainstorms passed over us, with strong gusts of wind. We decided about 10pm to drop the main, we were seeing gusts over 40Kts and steady winds around 35kts.

The clouds had blocked out the stars and there was no moon yet so it was pitch black out there, our head torches piercing the jet. Rain was flying horizontally at us, stinging our eyes and filling our ears. We attached our life lines to the jackstays (webbing lines that run the length of the boat so you can move forwards and back, letting your life line slide along it) and negotiated our way forwards, the boat pitching and rolling underfoot, only releasing a hand hold when the next one had been safely located. As I took up position at the foot of the mast all the water hitting the main sail poured right on to me so I was drenched to the skin in a matter of moments. We had discovered crossing the Atlantic that on a down wind passage it's much easier to drop the main in situ, rather than going head to wind and having the jib flogging back and forth next to you, with it's sheets whipping you when you try to maneuver. Also the gibe preventer keeps the boom nice and still whilst you work on it. So Phil freed the halyard and we both looked up into the torrent and hauled her down, finding foot holds to climb up to reach higher as more and more piled up at the boom. We got a few sail ties on where we were then came the tricky part when, having sheeted the boom right in again, one has to balance on the coach house roof trying to cling on to the boom, which manages to swing a little however hard you sheet in, whilst you manipulate sail ties with your teeth!

So we wrestled the sail into submission and retired, wet, a little bruised but victorious to the pilot house. What I didn't say, and you have to remember whilst reading this, is that all this isn't nearly as uncomfortable as you've been imagining as it is WARM here. The night air is warm, the rain is warm. In fact the only necessity for tee-shirts are as convenient rain collectors so you can just take them off instead of towelling dry afterwards.

The rest of the night was very rolly, with squall after squall passing by us. We were often going 9 or 10kts with just a scrap of jib and a reefed mizzen. It was very hard to sleep but we took turns snoozing, listening to sound of the boat as she climbed up and dropped down the waves. We have come North as we want to stay well away from those pesky Venezuelan Islands as there is a great deal of piracy going on. Some folks we met in Trinidad were boarded, beaten up and robbed the week before last, about 5 miles off the Venezuelan coast. Sobering.

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