Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Gale & One Knockdown

S/Y Aspen – July 30, 2010 – Log #46
Position: 17 degrees 44’ S 168 degrees 18.0’ E (UTC +11 Hours)
Port Vila, Vanuatu

The forecast was not the best but it promised to be a tolerable sail to our next stop, Vanuatu, as we departed Fiji. We stocked up on some great Fiji drinking water and sailed out of Musket Cove and our protected marina located behind the reef that encircles Fiji.

The wind was blowing 20 knots and it helped push us merrily on our way westward. This leg is a 520 mile passage and we expected it to take 4 nights and 5 days. Nearly the entire Rally fleet was with us so it was fun keeping in contact as we sailed near one another.

On our third day at sea Fiji issued a Gale warning for our area. A Gale means we should expect winds in excessive of 30 knots. Unfortunately Fiji was a day late with their warning since we had the gale on our second night! Geeze!!

At night we always reduce our sails for safety, just in case something like this happens. In this case we had reduced them even further because the winds were very strong, gusting up to 48 knots now and the seas uncomfortable, to say the least. Yet we felt secure with our nighttime preparations as we sailed into the night.

At about 7:00 pm one of the larger waves came hissing alongside Aspen and it decided to see what the other side of Aspen looked like. Instead of just peeking around our stern this rather enormous wave made a path right over the top of Aspen, dumping it contents of sea water right on top of us! Water poured in through our companionway and even through the dorade vents that are designed NOT to let water into the boat. That was not nice!

Maria has some choice words to say about this, as you might imagine!!

We then closed the companion way top and even put a board in place, something we have never had to do before.

It was so rough and uncomfortable that we decided not to go out into the cockpit for our watches but to stay below, popping our heads outside every 20 minutes to look for other ships. Again, safety first for the crew.

Our trusty autopilot had control of Aspen as we sailed through the blackness, steering us far better than either of us could in these foul conditions. The wind began shrieking through the rigging with a high pitched scream, as huge seas hurtled themselves against the side and stern of Aspen, trying to throw Aspen off her course but to no avail, luckily. We were now setting records with our speed, topping out at nearly 10 knots with very little sail up!

At the darkest hour of 11:20 pm, on Maria's watch of course, Aspen sailed beside the trough of a large wave and leaned normally toward her left side to take the force of the wave that would come at us. This wave must have been a monster because it immediately threw Aspen violently in the opposite direction causing Aspen's right side to became parallel with the sea as we lost all forward motion and control and stopped instantly. Water poured in through the little opening in our companionway as things became abnormally quiet inside of Aspen where we were huddled. That is called a knockdown!

It seemed like an eternity that we laid on our side but it was in fact no more than 5 seconds before Aspen proudly rose up from the sea, shook herself off as she seemed to sneer at the cascading waves all around before continuing strongly on her way westward carrying her precious crew with her.

We arrived safely and without any damage to Aspen in Port Vila, Vanuatu early this morning.

Oh yes, Maria and Steve are fine too!

Sail on sail on Aspen...

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