The Voyage to Nowhere

Heavy Weather and Boat Problems

Monday, May 31, 2004 (Day 5 of the Juan Fernández Passage)

Today started off slowly, but the northwest winds built steadily during my morning watch until we were sailing along at a respectable clip. I feel a lot better now that we're moving right along. When we were dragging along at less than a knot, it made the voyage seem endless and interminable. Right now, I'm feeling a little homesick, so I feel much better when we're making decent progress towards our destination. I might actually get to go home at some point, which would be a good thing.

It's still mostly sunny, but clouds are moving in slowly after a clear and moonlit night. That's something else that makes me anxious: the prospect of cold, wet, stormy weather in the Southern Hemisphere winter. I didn't bring any cold-weather clothes at all, and even my cool-weather clothes are barely adequate. Also, my foul-weather gear is low-budget and not very sturdy; already the seams are falling apart and letting in rainwater. Plus, stormy weather increases the likelihood that the boat will develop some kind of problem—a broken this or that—and during storms, you have less opportunity to fix things and a greater need for everything to work properly.

The northwest winds built during the day and by the end of my night watch I had completely furled the jib.

Tuesday, June 1, 2004 (Day 6 of the Juan Fernández Passage)

The night shift (David and Marcie) had a lot to handle. The winds and seas continued to build all night and by the wee hours things were getting pretty rough, with the boat bouncing and crashing through the waves. From my bunk in the forward part of the boat (next to the hull) I got quite a jouncing and could hear quite a din. Due to the motion and noise and my anxiety over the unknown, I found it completely impossible to sleep and just lay there all night, listening to the racket and fretting.

As the boat plowed through the rough water, I could hear the water gurgling past the hull. Pretty frequently I could hear a roar and swishing hiss as a big breaking wave narrowly missed the boat. When a breaking wave scored a direct hit, it would cause a huge thud that jarred the boat. Some thuds would be followed by the sound of rushing water sluicing and gurgling down the side decks. Other thuds would be followed by the rapid-fire splattering of heavy spray pelting the coachroof and dodger, the atomized remains of the wave that self-destructed against our hull.

Every now and then I could hear and feel a headsail flogging and vibrating, followed by the sound of the furler drum squeaking and the cockpit winches clicking. This would be David or Marcie reefing the headsail even more, but even with minimal sail area, the angle of heel was significant and sometimes severe. Occasionally the boat would wallow across the swell and roll in the opposite direction, which would roll me around in my bunk.

Meanwhile, the windward standing rigging thrummed while the leeward rigging clattered from the lack of tension, halliards and wires slapped inside the mast. As the winds and seas increased, the wind began howling and whining in the rigging, with the noise periodically rising and falling in pitch and intensity as the boat slowly heaved up and down over the swell.

Adding to the din, there was the clanking and squeaking of the whisker pole stored on the mast, the squeaking of the boom fitting and various sheaves, the bimini popping up and down in gusts and the hold-down straps vibrating, plus the anchor clanking on the bow roller as the bow plunged or got hit by a wave. Then there was the noise inside the boat: the general creaking and clacking, galley pots and pans clinking and clunking, stove items rattling, things grating and clattering as they slid around in the sink, even the noise of our fresh water vigorously sloshing around in the water tank. Now and then there would be a sudden clatter as something fell off a shelf or counter and hit the floor and rolled around.


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