1st November 2019 – Race days 10-13 – Storming hell!
As we passed through the first storm our racing line took us directly through the eye of another.
This time it came at us directly on the Bow causing big choppy waves causing us all to be thrown around like washing in a machine.
Lying in your bunk is like being in a bumper car in the dark.
You do not know when the next crash is coming or from which direction.
There were plenty of times when I was lifted into the air then thrown against the sidewall or lee cloth of my bunk.
The more experienced amongst us strapped themselves in with the ratchet straps they had packed just in case the situation occurred.
Meanwhile, I did my best to brace myself in a starfish position whilst attempting to sleep. Somehow, I did.
You do wonder how the boat is taking all the punishment and how much more it can take but you take some sort of comfort in the fact that they have already circumnavigated the world once and will do 1 or 2 more times so they are well equipped to roll with the punches.
This storm unlike the one before it arrived 3 hours early (how rude)!
So, we were not quite finished with our preparations.
I was on the Bow with Antonio, Diego and DL trying to get the storm sails hanked on and ready to be hoisted so we could drop the larger headsails which were causing the boat to become unstable due to the growing strength of the wind.
If left up the sails would either tear or worse damage the rigging.
This would lead to bits of brass and steel flogging uncontrollably in the wind causing further damage to both boat and crew.
We were getting dunked and submerged under a wall of heavy water as the boat was no longer picked up by waves coming from behind us like a surfer catching waves but instead it smashed into the faces of the huge oncoming waves.
As soon as we started lowering the headsails the wind wanted to drag them overboard with us attached!
We had to literally fight and wrestle with them to keep them inboard and deflated.
There was crashing white water everywhere. We were trying to relay information in desperate shouts from the Bow to the Cockpit “We needed more hands on deck to get the sails down and make them safe”! Most of it got lost in the wind and the 4 of us were left to battle the sails and finish the job.
People momentarily froze in fear and exhaustion until the next surge of adrenaline would hit and spring them back in action.
The storm and the boat were fighting against us.
This took us deep into the other watch cycle.
Meaning, less rest before the next shift.
Finally, we completed the hoist of the storm sails and headed below deck.
I took my sodden boot off and immediately yelped in pain as I got cramp in not 1 but both calves! I’ve never had that before.
I was dehydrated and exhausted with a serious calorie deficit.
To add insult to injury we could not use the gas as it was too dangerous, so it was simple sandwiches and cold drinks for lunch.
Not quite what you need after an encounter like that. A Whiskey with a Vodka chaser would have done the trick.
Now time to go back to my bunk and be bounced around for 2 hours before my next watch begins.
No sleep for me this time.
When I was called up for my night watch I was like a zombie and for the first time, I could not contribute.
Thankfully the previous watch had carried on adjusting the sail plan to bring the boat under control, so the main jobs were helming, logging and cleaning.
My watch carried on without me as I lay in the hospital bunk (which seemed appropriate).
Finally, the storm started to ease and I managed to get myself rehydrated and refuelled.
Antonio suggested I needed Zinc due to my cramps, so I found my Berocca tablets and took a double dose.
Sunrise (yes) and I feel able to join my watch and contribute again.
My energy is still coming and going.
For the first time, my mood takes a downturn and I think I am ready for this to be over. Then I remember Graham’s words “Keep going until the end, then stop”.
A quick thanks to my watch and all the crew for pulling together and helping each other in any way they could to get through this 48hour period a real team was formed because of this experience.
Nige challenges me to helm.
I have very little confidence, but he coaches me through it, and I manage 90 minutes without drama which is great.
We now need to wear ski goggles or vizors to see through the seas spray now the wind is in our faces it is hard to keep your eyes open.
I now understand why the helmers are revered.
It is so tough in big conditions and works your whole body so big respect to all who have put themselves through that day after day.
Sophia is now almost permanently confined to her hospital bunk because of her back pain which must be horrible!
She is taking meds but is also seasick which is clearly not a good combination.
DW has also started a chest infection and worse the shits!
So, he is also confined to his bunk for 48 hours meaning our watch is 2 people down and we are splitting the daily tasks but coping well.
Due to the weather, we have a maximum of 4 on deck leaving the other 4 below.
The weather has claimed a few boat parts such as the Windex from the top of the mast which does not help the helmers react to the changing wind direction.
A batten in the mainsail has also split in half which is fine for now as long as it does not tear through the sail.
A winch handle was lost overboard, possibly during a broach, which will cost us points when we make it to Cape Town.
And, we had to take a knife to one of our preventer lines because it got tangled around the rudder.
This caused high excitement and drama as we had to attempt to heel the boat over hard enough to expose the rudder for Ryan to be winched over the side to cut it free. He is an actual action man!
Clara and Antonio have now completed a back to back double Mother watch meaning 20 hours of cooking and cleaning. Well done guys.
Andrew has now butterfly stitched Mary’s finger because it would not stop bleeding following her galley accident the other day and because well… you can’t stop Mary 😊