Southern Ocean Storm
Well that’s another new experience! I can now say I’ve helmed and sailed in the Southern Ocean in a Force 12!! At it’s peak we saw 85 Knots (close on 100mph) winds and waves that we estimated must have been 40 feet high at times. It was nothing but ferocious. Compared to some of the others in the fleet though we had it comparatively light; Jamaica registered 120 Knots in the gusts and spent 6 hours hove-to under a deep reefed main.
For us we still managed Easterly progress under storm jib and 3 reefs in the main. However changing down from the No. 3 Yankee to the Storm Jib in those conditions is not something I would like to do again. It took a supreme team effort to man handle the old sail down, drag it back out of the way and rig the Storm Jib. All the while waves were crashing across the boat. Helming in those conditions was not easy either. Apart from the bitter cold there was the stinging, blinding and rain spray that tried it’s hardest to hide that breaking wave that if not handled right could potentially knock the boat down.
The storm built quickly, the evening before we had been under spinnaker and subsequently the No. 1 Yankee (another story) then within a matter of hours it was 3 reefs and the No. 3 Yankee. The wind and seas continued to build over the next 12 hours until Storm Jib was the next step down. Compared to the No. 3 Yankee it is a mere handkerchief! Around teatime we were hit by a huge squall where visibility dropped to zero and the rain was horizontal, when suddenly as if somebody had flicked a switch the wind backed, abated and the rain stopped; the front had crossed us finally!
Forgotten in amongst all this was yet another spinnaker incident. The day before we had been making great progress under kite when the block at the top of the mast exploded dropping the whole thing into the water. All hands were then required to haul the thing back in board.
Needless to say over the last 36 hours we have had little sleep…..
However we are now sailing under sunny skies again, the wind and sea have calmed, although it is bitterly cold down in 44′ South. It also just so happens I’m on mother duty so a chance for me to catch up on lost sleep.