So, remember a previous post where I wrote that I hadn’t mastered the fine nautical art of hand steering downwind, at night, with the ginormous big blue parasailor dragging us across the Atlantic? Well, I still haven’t. That being said, yesterday, or the day before – things are staring to blur together here, I bit the bullet and took the helm to practice. For those of you who don’t know me, key point: I’m not a racer, or a sailor, just a barely a cruiser who’s primary qualification was related to guacamole production. Needless to say, the hand steering practice went fine, we found that we were swinging less and making better time than using Otto.
Then the wind picked up.
After that, the swell increased.
Now it’s dark, and Otto cannot maintain our course and keep the parasailor from folding in on its self. So we are back to hand steering. Downwind. With swell. At night. Yippee!
After accepting the fact I would not be attaining my required 3 consecutive hours of beauty rest and relaxation, Ahab and I set up an altered night watch schedule to accommodate for the taxing hand steering. We adjusted the sail to running dead downwind, with true wind blowing between 18-22, and the swell building to 3 meters. Every once in a while we might catch a decent set of swell, and find ourselves hanging ten, carving down the wave face at 12-14 kts. Almost fun, just slightly nerve wracking.
As morning broke, the wind and seas continued to “freshen”. I hate that the meteorologists call it that. Why can’t they just say, “You’re screwed….things are only going to get worse before they get better. Don’t bother putting on clean undies.” That would be a much more honest approach.
I’m not quite sure which sensation is worse: being on the helm with 29kts of wind, 4 meter swells from a variety of direction, and surfing at 17.9kts; or, trying to sleep in 29 kts of wind, 4 meters of mixed swell, racing down the wave at a boat record of 19 sphincter tightening kts. Both were quite horrifying, until we got our weather updates. New information indicated that sea state and winds would be unchanged for the next 12-24 hours. We also heard from another sailboat behind us that they were seeing winds up to 33 kts. Too rich for my blood, and definitely too much for our parasailor.
Now comes the fun part. I realized that surfing down the wave at 19 kts would not be the most horrifying part of my day. We had to get the GD parasailor down, in 29 kts of wind and mixed swells of 4 meters. Goody! Luckily since we have three young tweens on board, Ahab and I are essentially double handing this vessel. So that’s two people (remember one of whom doesn’t really know what the frack she’s doing) tying to douse the 188 square meter sail. If I were really smart, like I was before I had children, I could probably calculate the force required to bring the sail down. But children, lack of sleep, and terror have left me border line institutionalized.
Ahab stayed at the helm to steer and dump wind on the port side of sail. Gordon and David worked handheld VHF radios to relay between the skipper and myself. This greatly reduced the frequency and quantity of four letter shouts of “encouragement” between us parents. William and I tethered ourselves onto the front deck, in preparation of dousing Big Blue. I come from a long line of ancestors who have evolved their flight or flight response so that when those adrenal glands start pumping full throttle, it goes straight to the gut. They really should call it, “Fight, Flight, or ‘Feel Like You’re Going to Crap Your Pants Response'”. Just sayin…
Luckily, I managed not to poop my pants. Very lucky cause this are my favorite Lululemons, and there are not many options for me these days.
Back to the action: Ahab dumped the wind, and the snuffer came down pretty well considering the conditions, all except the last 2-3 feet. (For you non-sailers – and I did not know this a year ago – the parasailor has what looks like its own condom, which while sailing stays at the top of sail. When it’s time to bring the sail down, the snuffer, or sail condom, gathers the broad sail into a neat tidy package incased in the snuffer. Once the sail is snuffed, then the halyard is lowered, and the whole apparatus gets hauled below deck. Easy greasy in the right conditions.) In snuffing the sail, the port side sheet went partially overboard, and was being dragged along under the boat. William and I were at stalemate with the sail, as wind speed, direction, and swell, continued to challenge us. We had hold of the base of snuffer sock, but could not get it all the way down onto and below deck so that Ahab could release the halyard. Hands slipping, biceps burning, bile in throat, swea
t dripping. Breathe, just breathe… I’m not sure how, but Ahab left Gordon on the helm and retrieved the errant sheet. William and I wrestled the base of the snuffer sock below deck, tied off the line, and began pulling once again to get the sail down.
Holy Moseley…. I don’t really want to do that again.
With everyone and everything safely back on board, we set just our Genoa and are finally sailing along smoothly enough for me to write. Pretzels, hummus, candy bars, and a Coke brought blood sugars back to land of the living levels. Ahab hit the shower and is down for a nap. I’m up next!
**** picture above is just a simulation…not our boat***