Tuesday, April 23, 2013

NW Winds Weren't in the Forecast

.. and neither was 25-30 knots! (Note to non-sailing friends--this will be boring!)

The GRIB files--almost the only thing we can use at sea in this area for a forecast--showed that our wind would peter out and shift to the NE about noon today, and stay "calm" for almost 36 hours. So we have gotten some extra easting, in anticipation of NE winds. And we were mentally prepared for light winds and the possibility for motoring for awhile if it really went dead calm as indicated.

What we WEREN'T prepared for was the "Mother of all Squalls". We had already been through a number of squalls and felt somewhat Monty Python-ish about them ("I laugh at your squalls"). Silly us. Today about noon, after successfully dodging a couple of squally bits, but making good progress still under sail, we got hit with a really big black one.

As it approached, we conservatively rolled in the genoa, and only had a little bit of sail up when the wind started to rise. Normally the wind goes up to 25 knots for about a minute, and then starts to ease off, and in 5 minutes you're sitting there rolling in the swell, your sails slapping, and no wind at all. "Well, wasn't that fun??!!" But today, it hit 25, and then 30, and stayed there for about a half an hour. That's a fairly frightening bit of wind. It was all we could do to keep the boat under control, and under those conditions, you are always wondering what might break. (Thank god nothing did!)

We still had a double-reefed main and about half a staysail out, but we turned on the engine to better be able to control what happened to us. We were in survival mode for quite awhile. The seas built really quickly and soon we were burying the bow in huge waves. Dave, who hates it when a little bit of salt spray gets on his deck, was really cringing with every wave. (Me too, as I know that some of that salty water will find its way below in all kinds of hard-to-reach places).

We struggled with that storm for almost an hour, and then when the winds started to ease off, we tried to fall off and head back NNW toward Funafuti, and found the winds directly on our nose. We assumed that the wind would go back to normal like is usually does after a squall passes. But it never did. Crap! Wind on the nose!!??

We tried both tacks. We tried motor sailing. We tried just sailing. And the waves were like a washing machine--no matter which direction we went, we were still pounding straight into the waves. All we did for most of the afternoon was sail back and forth in bad conditions. We only made 8 miles toward our destination in 4 hours. And there were more big black storms in every direction. It was truly an afternoon from hell.

Fortunately, about 4pm, the wind finally started dying off. It's still on our nose, and it's still a washing machine out here, but we're finally able to motor directly toward Funafuti at about 4 knots. That's big progress, but we spent so much time screwing around this afternoon, that we may not get in to Funafuti for Dave's birthday. :(
At 2013/04/23 8:02 AM (utc) our position was 12°00.69'S 179°47.05'E

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