Friday, November 24, 2006

95 knots!

What a day! We woke at the crack of dawn with the tell-tale beeping that Bob, our trusty auto-pilot, had been overpowered. Sure enough, the winds were howling above 40 knots and the seas were swelling to over 20 feet. We scrambled to put on our foul-weather gear and headed outside to manually steer and adjust the sails. Just as we brought the situation under control, a squall came out of nowhere. Winds gusted above 95 knots (that's right...over 110 miles per hour!) and the seas churned with 30-feet breaking waves. I've never been in such gusts in my life! The howl of the wind alone was a deafening, high-pitched shrill, let alone its extraordinary force. With our harnesses jacked to the deck safety lines, we held on for dear life until the squall calmed. Even after conditions quieted, waves were still over 30 feet and winds above 40 knots. Squalls continued to overtake us every half an hour or so. An enormous wave even twisted our camera rigging mounted on the stern (don't worry Craig, we were able to get everything back into place). Flying just our small trysail, we hove-to until we could further evaluate the situation.

When we went below we found that the cabin was in disarray with several inches of water sloshing out of the floor boards. Because the boat was heeled over at an angle, our bilge pump could not remove the water. We cut a garden hose and rigged a makeshift wet-vac using the bilge pump and removed most of the water from the cabin. At this point, we called our weather service and asked for their prognosis. It wasn't good. The storm wasn't forecasted to dissipate over the next a few days. And even if it did, another storm system will likely take its place. They recommended heading south as quickly as possible to avoid the second storm.

Unfortunately, the waves were just too strong to get any steerage under sail or motor. The back of the boat would get tossed around by the waves, and the boat would become overpowered as we tried holding it downwind. We were in utter despair of the thought of heaving-to for a week to wait out these storm systems. Wet, cold, and tired we gave up and went down below. After a brief nap, we woke up refreshed to tackle this problem.

We began reading our heavy weather sailing books for tips and suggestions. We knew that we had to drag something to keep the stern from slipping out from under us as we crested the waves. But what and how? The answer was on page 77: we needed to rig a drogue system. We waited for the winds to die down below 30 knots, and then sprang into action. I grabbed the helm and took us downwind to begin surfing the waves. Walid ran to the bow and unfastened our anchor chain and line. We tied the free end of the anchor line to the other end of the chain to form a gigantic loop. We then fastened the side of the loop opposite of the chain to the stern docking cleats. Pushing the chain overboard, we began dragging this loop of anchor gear behind the boat. The results were immediate and remarkable! The drogue acted like a stabilizer against the waves, keeping the stern of the boat under control. We now were able to make way under sail. The give and take of the stern lines kept us pointing straight as we rode the waves.

We are now heading south as fast as possible to the small island of Madeira, just off the coast of Africa near the Canary Islands. If the storm continues to develop as forecasted, we will take shelter there and swap out our mainsail. If it dies down, we will likely continue to head east towards Gibraltar.

Today was an exhausting and trying day. We went from a state of pure exhilaration, to complete despair, to one of renewed hope all within a matter of hours. To celebrate the conclusion of this difficult day, we broke out the chocolate truffles that Manolis and Gergana gave to us the night before we left. Ah...a little bit of heaven in the midst of the tempest!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am eternally grateful, Shane, you just called me before I could read this latest blog! A mother's heart will only take so much. Ha! You and Walid make that "racing" boat earn it's name on your way to Madeira. Love, Mom

Friday, November 24, 2006 4:47:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for everyone's information, I talked to Shane by phone a couple hours ago (just after he posted his lastest blog), and he said he cannot read the "Comments" on the blogspot from everyone. I copied them all and sent them to him in an e-mail. So you might want to do both also -- post to the blog and send them in an e-mail. Judy "Mom" Haas

Friday, November 24, 2006 6:20:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Shane, I can't get iboat or google earth to track you any more. Is there a problem with the signal. Looks like you are having rough waters. Just think, Jesus just simply told the winds to stop and they did. Hope you have better weather ahead. Vernon

Friday, November 24, 2006 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just called and heard Shane's voice. He sounded busy, but healthy and well. Will call again shortly.

Saturday, November 25, 2006 7:29:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All right, called again, managed to talk. They're doing wonderful with the drogue system, catching the tail end of the storm, heading to madeira to wait a day for the second storm to pass. They sounded full of energy! Keep up the good work shane and walid! We're all cheering for you! :o)

Saturday, November 25, 2006 8:46:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found out in heavy winds one day by accident about the drogue system. Lost part of the archer line over boad and was dragging it and could not figure out why things seamed better until I checked it out and though I knew someting others did not until I researched it.
God Bless

Saturday, November 25, 2006 12:11:00 PM  

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