Monday 28th November

Mon 28 Nov 2005 07:02
Title: Message
23 degrees 02.51N 34 degrees 19.64W
Saturday evening was the hardest most extreme storm any us has ever endured.
We celebrated our first third of the trip with a can of beer each and some crisps and peanuts as has become tradition. Last orders was called an hour later as we hit another milestone 1000 sea miles covered.
As we settled down for the evening the last weather report read force 7 to 8 - we'd all experienced that before and although no one was looking forward to it we all new what to expect and more importantly that we'd cope.
The winds soon built up to 35 knots (force 8) the trouble is they just kept building. Andy was on the helm first and handed over to Simon at about 2am at that point the highest wind speed had been 46 knots and we we're still on course.
Simon took over and the wind built to 55 knots. For all Sunbird readers Simon was a real hero helming Now3 on a route balanced between making towards St.Lucia and running with the seas and storm.
The waves we're crashing over ferociously from every angle. Sea water was getting in through the aft lockers and we were having to bail out the master cabin at hourly intervals.
At about 3am Tollers woke Andy up, the sunbathing cushions were being washed overboard and the horseshoe life rings were both adrift. Charlie and Andy hooked on and clambered over the aft deck to sort out the problem waves crashing over them.
At about 6am Ron, Tom and Nicko came on duty, the wind at that point was touching 60 knots and the seas looked like rows of semi-detached houses hurtling towards us - grey and ominous.Waves on top of waves with greenies (patches of green that appear when the water becomes so aerated it changes colour).
Ron took Now more downwind as the seas and wind built under a fully reefed main alone we were doing a constant 11knots with surges over 12.7. The boat cracked, banged and whined. Down below it was like being in a cement mixer, Charlie was thrown out of bed as a lee-cloth broke doing anything was impossible.
"Welcome to tropical storm Delta"
A tropical storm is the start of hurricane and although we'd been tracking this one we had no idea that it would turn and track us. Unbeknown to us, the low that we'd been taking advantage of had suddenly decided to change course due east and accelerate 18 knots straight into our path.
At 6.30am Andy came on deck to notice a horseshoe and danbouy had gone missing (a horseshoe life ring is what you'd through to a casualty in the water and a danbouy is a 6 foot inflatable fluorescent pole with light that marks the sport). An email was sent to Falmouth MRCC (Maritime rescue coordination centre) to inform them of the loss just in case someone spotted it and thought the worse. It was also an opportunity to let the MRCC know where we were how many people were on board and that all was o.k.
It was decided that although we were currently heading on a Northerly course bound for Greenland it would be better to wait until light to jibe (turn the boat around).
Tom broke the ice, as only Tom could, by shouting at the storm at the top of his voice "come on is this the best you can give us". And "Welcome to Cheetham holidays we promise the trip of a lifetime".
At about 8.30 Ron decided to go for it Nicko, Tom and Andy were on deck, Ron picked his moment in between the mountainous seas and we executed a text book controlled jibe. We were now heading South and away from the storm albeit back in the direction of the Canary Islands.
During all this Ian's chest infection had developed into the flu and he was suffering hot and cold sweats and a fever - just the place to be when all you want is your own bed.
At about 10am we spotted another yacht looming out of the grey. After a brief radio conversation we established it was "Spellbound" an Oyster 56 also in the cruising class.
They'd had a similar evening and would be our partners for the next few hours.
One of the nice things about the ARC is that although you might not be able to see any other boats out there you know they'll be one close enough to help if there was a problem.
The wind and seas calmed as the morning went on and by lunchtime life had become much more comfortable. Time to tidy up, take stock and assess the damage.
The rest of the day passed without event - we were too tired to celebrate the 7 day mark - maybe tomorrow!
So looking back - are we glad we went through it? ...Yes. Would we want to do it again? ...most definitely NO!!!
As we speak there's another low building to the West of us....Gulp.
Quote of the day: What on earth are we doing here! (toned down for our younger readers)
Biggest thanks go to the Raymarine autopilot that steered us through it all without falter.
Bye for now.