Position: 20 degrees 22.0' S 161 degrees 39.0' W
Sailing toward Niue
In the blackness of night they steal across the heavens as they hide
amongst the stars, waiting to vent their fury upon the sea.
Maria woke me for my watch at o'dark thirty as she wedged herself
against the lee cloth that secured her bed. No ships were around and
things looked good, she said as I went into the cockpit for my 4 hour watch.
We always reduce sail at night for safety and tonight was no exception.
Looking at Aspen's speed I was disappointed. 4.5 to 5 knots. That was
too slow if we wanted to arrive at Rarotonga, Cook Islands our next
port, in daylight. But the wind was blowing nicely, right on our beam -
the perfect place for Aspen.
I quietly unfurled more of the genoa and Aspen responded immediately.
6-6.5 knows now and nicely making way. That's more like it, I said to
The lights of the chartplotter instruments softly glowed in the cockpit
as I settled in to watch the moonless sky full of stars in the southern
With the iPod playing in my ears and Aspen floating along the night was
mine to enjoy.
Watching the Southern Cross I noticed a change. The stars were
disappearing, 2, 3, 4 at a time as a puff of cold air startled me. Too
late! The squall hit Aspen like a freight train. Aspen heeled hard to
starboard as her speed shot up past 8 knots. I grabbed for the genoa
sheet so I could furl the huge sail before it shredded itself in the
wind. Without a word Maria appeared in the cockpit clawing for the other
Then the rain hit, wow! Within seconds we had our evening shower. The
deafening sound of the flailing genoa was no match for the scream of the
wind through our rigging.
Aspen's bow pitched high before burying itself deep into the wild seas
that had suddenly appeared.
I pulled on the genoa furling line with all my might and nothing moved.
I pulled again and again, still nothing. As the adrenalin took hole I
pulled once again and gained one small inch. Progress! Only 18 feet left
to go, I thought to myself.
With the rain pummeling into the cockpit Maria worked the sheet tension
as I inched the genoa around the furler, saving our precious sail from
The thunder from the flogging sail was gone and in its place the roar of
the rain and wind continued. Wisely we let the autopilot steer Aspen as
we dashed below, soaking wet, into the safety of the cabin.
The squall lasted 30 minutes before the start reappeared and the wind
abated, letting Aspen to continue bouncing amongst the waves of the
Maria subtly reminded me about reducing sail at night as I climbed back
into the wet cockpit for the rest of my watch.
Sail on sail on Aspen...