Day 85 - 91 Damage - Storm

Carlile Adventures
Mark Carlile
Tue 2 Jan 2007 20:21
Happy New Year! I wish everyone the best for 2007.

It was 5am on December 27 when the boat was knocked flat in 45 knot winds and 6 metre seas. It was now 16 hours into severe conditions. A deep low was not far south of me. The barometer had dropped 18 millibar during this time.

Being just below the shallows and strong currents off South Africa is not a place to encounter a storm. Unluckily for me, it came when I had no escape route to be able to run away from the deepening approaching low. I had to ride this one out and just keep heading east.

Because the wind came quickly, the seas began to build hastily as well. This created very steep waves with a short period between them. Conditions were not pleasant. I was trailing warps and a tiny bit of sail to keep me steady. Ingrid was handling the difficult conditions well and settled into a routine. Inside, I secured the storm boards, and waited for the conditions to pass. Earlier in the day, I had prepared for the conditions securing as much as possible, preparing for horrible conditions.

Sleep was near impossible during the night. The wind was howling and the waves would rush under the bobbing yacht. Often there was torrential rain. Ingrid would climb each mountain and slide down the other side. She was doing well.

At 5am, the front associated with the low passed. This was when I felt it was really getting dangerous. Waves had built to 6m and with the passing of the front, and there were cross-seas. I had waves from two directions. These cross waves would take Ingrid beam on. These would break on the boat and really whack the side of the hull. I could feel a knockdown coming. I also knew that the passing of the low would mean easing conditions shortly. My luck had run out.

The knockdown happened very very quickly. I was laying on the bunk on the lower side. It was light outside so I could see everything happen. There was a huge whack, and instantly she went over. I could see the ocean on the cabin windows above me. The bunk cushion from the other side landed on me as well as a small wooden lid from the centre of the cabin table. Everything else was either secure, and nothing else landed on me. My attention shifted to a small opening in the cabin roof that has a small solar powered fan (I had removed and secured it earlier). If water was to enter when the boat was upside down it was to be here. No water entered. I was on the side of the cabin, and not on the roof, so I knew she hadn't gone all the way over. These were my thoughts in a few seconds.

Then as quickly as she went over, she came straight back up. I got up straight away. 8 fingers, 2 thumbs. 10 toes. I was ok. The cabin was a bit of a mess but fine. In the galley and navigation table area it was a different story.

The kettle (secured on the stove broke free) and a couple of items in the bottom of the sink had become missiles. The main food box lid had also broken free. Instead of falling on to the floor, gravity had dictated that they hit the instruments above the navigation table. These instruments are all located ABOVE the level of these items. My main GPS display was smashed. The wind instrument display was smashed too. Everything else was ok. All of the instruments were covered in instant mashed potato powder that had come out of the food box and split.

No water had come in. The storm boards and main hatch had done their job. I unlatched the locks on the boards and ventured outside. It was wild. Spray was everywhere and the wind howled. I realised that there were some problems here. The bimini (a cover that covers the cockpit had ripped on one side. As it hit the water, the force of the water had been too great for the fabric. I also noticed that two of the solar panels on one side had swivelled These are located high, so I definitely had gone over past 90 degrees. I also noticed that
the electronic autopilot that I'd left there just in case I needed to switch to it had been swept overboard. It was screwed in and the whole thing was gone.

I couldn't do anything about the bimini, as conditions were too bad to attempt a retrieval. The rip worsened until conditions abated.

Everything else seemed ok. I went back inside. I knew that there could be more knockdowns to come. I took some video to record the event.

By 11am, conditions were easing and the barometer was rapidly rising. It looks like I had got through the worst of it.

Ingrid was still intact and not leaking. The sails and rigging were fine. Losing my main GPS and autopilot was a problem. I have a handheld backup GPS and sextant also. Losing the autopilot would have been fine as I have a wind vane and spare autpoilot. Except, the spare autopilot needs a part from the one I'd lost overboard. I thought that it was more likely that one would burn out, rather than end up 5000metres down. I use the autopilot in either very light winds or winds directly from behind (but not too strong) when the wind vane doesn't work so well. All the way to Australia the wind was going to be mainly from behind.

The prospect of crossing the 4480 miles to Perth was something I had to consider and could I do it safely. I knew that I could still navigate, and the boat was structurally sound.

Using just a handheld GPS and sextant just seemed not totally safe with only a wind vane to steer. If the backup equipment fails then I have difficulties steering or navigating. Considering I am crossing the southern ocean, I've decided that I need to replace the broken items in Cape Town and then resume my journey. It is the safe decision.

I was 350 miles southeast of CapeTown and I had to turn around. I called the South African Maritime Mobile Net on the and spoke to them of my predicament and what I had decided to do. I could hear the fear in my voice. Conditions were still pretty scary. Alistair and the many radio hams have been great getting regular updates from me as I return to Cape Town.

For 12 hours, I had enough time to get things back into order. I needed this time. My ordeal wasn't over. The forecasts predicated 2 days of sustained 40-45 knot winds and more 6m seas from the southwest. Getting back to Cape Town was going to be a struggle. My next blog will tell all and how I spent New Year's Eve.

That's good evening from Ingrid on her way to CapeTown.


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