Fenix 30.11 Northern Adventure

Fenix II ARC
Liz/Steve Rakoczy
Wed 1 Dec 2010 17:14

30.11.201.       Northern Adventure      ~245NM         “19:13N 18.44W”


It was so easy to make the decision about traveling North and beating into the low. We had a great time sailing up and when we turned to West we were expecting similar conditions. On Saturday the sea remained relatively calm and we made good progress. We lowered the asymmetrical spinnaker at around 4am. It was good that we had all that practice in light weather as the conditions (20kts) were not right to make mistakes. Then we started to beat ie. to sail into the wind.

Fenix is not famous for the sharpness of the angle it can travel into the wind but we were all happy with our 45o. As we traveled West the wind steadily increased and the seas gradually built up around us into a grey mountainous substance. By Sunday night the conditions were indeed rough, angry waves and a large swell. The sky was cloudless and the wind was steady around 15 to 20 kts gusting to 25kts. We made steady progress traveling at 6-7 kts. The starboard gunwales were continuously under water and I was pondering the possibility of some water coming into our very dry and safe center cockpit. Steve became seasick and visited me during my watch, seriously questioning our sanity. I made a quick survey of the nearest land: Las Palmas 800nm Cape Verde 180nm St Lucia 2,100nm. There was no quick solution to his problems. I was fine (I never get seasick) and did not mind the seas that looked huge swirling around us. Kynan was really in his element enjoying himself. At last, the excitement of small boat sailing arrived to Fenix. We powered on all day and made great progress towards the West.  With huge efforts I cooked a turkey pasta medley in the pressure cooker and we ate them from the famous dog bowls. In the morning Mark was still in denial but looked terrible and he also showed the signs of sea sickness. On Monday we went into lock down mode the breakfast was muesli bars no lunch and dry biscuits for dinner. The continuous heeling at 25-30o made the simplest tasks difficult and we were all battered by being thrown around. Nevertheless we continued traveling to 280o. On Monday afternoon it became clear from GRIB files that the trade winds at last will be forming below 17oN latitude by Thursday morning. At least for some boats sailing around 19-20N, a difficult decision had to be made. Turn South to sail as long as you can then motor to reach the trades or continue beating around 20N. For us the decision was easy. This crew was not cut out for beating into 20-25kt wind and huge seas for weeks. So on the morning of the 30th we turned and started to sail South again.


Kynan’s comments: Call me crazy or a ‘glutton for punishment’ but the rough weather experienced over the last few days was, for me, the most exciting part of the trip so far. Liz mentioned that I was in my element, and I guess she was right. While the rest of the crew were battling sea-sickness, tending to the sick, being bashed around down below or trying to sleep through the worst of the weather, I was proudly standing aloft with my head poking out from above the dodger, relishing the full brunt of the waves in my face as we bashed into unfriendly seas. With a 2.5m swell and 1m seas on top, we were occasionally dropping off the back of waves and falling 3 metres into the trough, burying the bow of the boat and throwing up plumes of whitewater into the night. In the black of the moonless night, the white tops of the waves were glowing green with ‘phosphoresence’ (the strange little glowing plankton prevalent in clean, warm waters) before being blown away downwind by up to 25kts of wind. This is my idea of ocean sailing… the conditions that you simply don’t get while day-sailing at home. The rig was half-reefed and still we were managing a very respectable 6-7kts upwind ploughing through the waves. Life below decks was, however, very difficult. I think that my enjoyment of the weather is, in part, also a reluctance to spend any more time than is necessary below deck. Doing anything down below other than sleeping is almost unbearable… and even sleeping in the V-birth was interesting. As the bow plummeted downwards into the trough between waves, I was often levitating above the bunk before crashing to earth and being pressed into the mattress as the bow rose again. Surprisingly, I still managed to get a good night’s sleep in these conditions by wedging myself into the corner of the birth and listening to background music supplied by my ipod. The most uncomfortable part of all of this was the dry salty crust that had developed in my eyebrows and my new beard…. And even this I secretly enjoyed. Maybe this is why sailors are called ‘salty sea-dogs’?