Thursday, April 3, 2014

An ugly piece of work

I don't know if there is a "Hard Ass Sailor" award out there somewhere. If not, there should be, and I would like to nominate Deb as this year's recipient.

We left Marsh Harbour for a short visit and overnight stay at Hope Town. It was a good plan. Hope Town is so unlike America as to be utterly delightful. We aim to get back that way again sometime.

We left Hope Town aiming for an overnight stop in Pelican Harbour. Then, come early morning, through the North Bar Channel and on to Egg Island in the Eleutheras. It would be a longish day sail with the anchor going down just as the sun did. It was a good plan as well. Maybe I should have stuck with it. But somewhere in the Abaco I suffered a random misfire in my brain. Since we were not going to get off the boat in Pelican Harbour, why stop? Why not just go through North Bar, turn right, and keep going? Everyone is talking about this wonderful weather window we are in after weeks of unrelenting wind. We should take advantage of it.

That, maybe, wasn't such a good plan. But it is the one we went with. (Deb was reluctant to trade a day sail for one at night, especially one so off-the-cuff without our usual meticulous planning. But she went along being (I think) as pleased to be moving again as me.)

We exited North Bar right around 1600. It was rougher than expected and, seeing how this was a change of plan, the foredeck wasn't really set. So I went forward to get the stay sail ready and tie off the anchor. By the time I was done wresting on the pitching deck my inner ear was half tumbled. It was okay though, flying the stay sail and main we settled into a reach and headed south. As night fell we put a reef in the main even though the weather suggested the winds would go light. It would slow us up some, but that would make the approach at Egg Island a daytime affair. It was a good plan.

Somewhere after midnight we were east of Southwest Point, working through the Northeast Providence Channel. Instead of laying down a bit the winds were picking up. Instead of a 4 foot swell at 7 sec, we had a 6 foot swell at 5 seconds, broadside to our course. About 1 in 10 of the waves started breaking, 1 a minute crashing into the side of the boat. We needed to put the second reef in, but by then my inner ear had gone nuts. It was all I could do to get the main down, no chance I could work a reef into it. (Jiffy reefing from the cockpit is now on my list of things to explore.)

With the stay sail alone Kintala slowed to floundering around, rolling gunnel to gunnel, pitching and fishtailing. My inner ear went from nuts to full fledged bat-shit crazy. I was down for the count. Trying to get things back into some semblance of control Deb kicked the WesterBeast awake and got some water flowing across the keel. It helped, but we were still rolling side to side every 7 wave sets or so, with white water bashing the port side. And one more real problem came into play, Kintala's wind vane. It had been working really well all day, but it doesn't work as an autopilot when the engine is running.

Oh Dark ugly in the AM on an equally ugly sea, already awake for 19 hours and 12 hours into a 20 hour sail, Deb took the helm; and arm wrestled the Atlantic none stop for the next 8 hours. She claims it was the only choice she had, and I guess that is so. Still, I've known people half her age and twice her size who would have melted into a puddle of uselessness in just such conditions.

My only contribution was crawling forward to drop the stay sail as we turned toward the anchorage. It came down ugly, got tied down ugly, and I had to stop on the way back to the cockpit to offer the fish another course. Just before dawn I shoved the anchor off the bow with a huge sigh of relief, snubbed it, went below, and collapsed into the berth.

We woke up just before noon, both of us beat up and feeling the hurt. After a bite to eat we pulled the hook for an hour motor sail to Royal Island Harbour. There is nothing Royal about it. The resort planned for here went belly up before much got done. But it is a well protected place and beautiful, well, except for the ruins ashore. The best part is Kintala is sitting still for the first time in days. We are going to call for a sailing stand-down; spend a couple of days fixing some stuff and relaxing. Needs be having us back in the States at the end of the month, and we are now well positioned to make sure that happens.

But last night was an ugly piece of work.


Latitude 43 said...

Yikes! Well, it may have been ugly at the time, but now it's an adventure in the books. I'm sure something was learned. You both handled it well.

Way to go Deb!


Amber said...

Enjoy a couple days of rest - love you both!

Rharriscpa said...

Tough night but you are near Spanish Wells some of the nicest hard working people people you will meet. They supply a huge percentage of Lobster to the US. Good for supplies and groceries also m

Judy Ray said...

A night like that might make some put up a for sale sign, swim for shore and catch the first flight home. You guys are tough, but I'm not sure I want to work that hard. And lately it seems like a lot of hard, not a lot of lounging around drinking mai tais. Feeling like I might have overestimated my own "badass" factor, whereby I might become a daysailor only. I really appreciate the "keepin' it real" that you deliver, it's much more helpful and realistic than the schmaltz I've seen in other cruiser blogs about how awesome and blessed their life is.

Bill K said...

Here is a link to a sailing blog where she tried using a foam ear plug in one ear for seasickness and it worked for her.

Dani also get's it easily.

They are cheap ( if you can find them where you are )so worth a try.