Tough times

Sun 4 Dec 2022 13:47

43 4.73N 20 7.15W

I haven’t posted for the last few days. Has been heavy going.

We knew a significant system was brewing and thought we had stayed far enough N and W or avoid it. We were wrong.

From about 18.00 Friday night we encountered a horrendous amount of wind and sea state. Moonshiner coped well, we ran overnight with a heavily reefed stay sail and whilst tough on all of us we continued to make progress and felt like we were managing the conditions. Daylight on Saturday revealed and unbelievable sea state. Wind blew constantly at 35-40 knots with sustained gusts of over 50. The forecast was for it to moderate in the early hours of Sunday and although not looking forward to another night of it we were confident that we could manage.

Suddenly about midday on Saturday the wind rose and the sea state became significantly bigger again. I can’t quite believe my recollection of events but write as I remember things. Dad and I were on deck. Me at the wheel and dad having a rest under the spray hood. Katie and Steve were asleep in their bunks and Tom was at the nav station.

I was discussing with concern the sea state and that the waves were regularly breaking, not just foaming on top but full on, full height breaking like a wave on the beach or a reef. We estimated it at 6-8m. Whilst one rose behind us I battled to stay straight and started to round up, this had been standard and moonshiner had coped well recovering quickly as the wave passed beneath us, except this one didn’t. As we round up the wave sucked up and began to break full height, moonshiner was perhaps just past 45 degrees on the face and right at the top. The breaking lip hit us and literally pushed us out air bourne on our side. I looked up out of the cockpit to find myself looking down just as the mast pierced the water at about 45 degrees from the upside down vertical. An explosion of water first pushed be down then ripped me up out of the cockpit, I felt myself go thought the solar panels above the wheel. I managed to hang on and began to think about how to release my harness so I could swim out. At this point moonshiner recovered and rapidly righted herself. My first thought was for dad who has disappeared out of the cockpit, thankfully I found him wrapped up in the spray hood at the bottom of the cockpit. He as no recollection of events other than his phone being ripped out of his hands as he was filming the sea. Sadly we’ll never see that footage.

I screamed for help and after a few moments I was relieved to see Katie appear at the hatch. She informed me of significant damage down below and we agreed she’d begin sorting this and I the deck.

Katie was thrown from her bunk and landed in the opposite bunk, she has some significant bruises/abrasions but is ok. Steve was thrown much further out of the port sea birth back into the chart table and Tom. I think he has some broken ribs but is now up on deck and managing with some analgesia. The whole contents of fridge and larder cupboards were emptied onto tom. He is uninjured.

On deck the scene was pretty bad. The ocean continued to rage and break water over the boat. Both spray hoods were gone, the cockpit one mangled and obstructing the helm. The solar gantry is a twisted mess, and there are holes in the deck where it was tipped out. The davits are also bent and torn but amazingly we still have a tender on them. After cutting what I could away (thank goodness we had the angle grinder at the ready) it was clear that we were in a precarious position. Katie agreed that we should deploy the sea anchor and all shelter below which we did without event. The night was pretty torrid with the wind screaming and seas breaking over the boat, not much sleep was had but we were all safe down below.
All of out 12v systems are down so no nav kit or vhf. They are run on a dropper from the 24v system and just instantly trip if turned on.

We are now about 430 miles from the Azores. We have loads of redundancy to navigate with iPads and charts. We are sailing well, the rig seems unscathed and we’re doing 6 knots with a full Yankee up in about 15 knots of e’ly. The wind is forecast to drop over the next day but build again from Tuesday. I hope we’ll be in the Azores by Wednesday

Not sure what this means for the rest of our trip. I’m pretty shaken. We’ll need significant repairs and not sure what the insurance will cover. That’s decision’s for when we’re in.

Sent from my iPad