Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Riding a front"

So, we "rode a front" from Rum Cay to Mayaguana. Let me explain. Attempting to cruise a course to the SouthEast as we are, is a challenge in a sailboat, due to the facts that the the prevailing tradewinds are almost always out of the SoutEast and a sailboat cannot sail directly into the wind. As a matter of fact, this route is referred to in the cruising community as "The Thorny Path". Therefore, whenever the winds clock around to Easterly, or East by NorthEast, or maybe even true NorthEast, these are good times to "make tracks". Unfortunately, when the winds come around to the East or NorthEast, this is usually related to a low pressure system moving across somewhere nearby. Low pressure = bad weather = foul conditions = not fun sailing. So, as you may have read, we decided to ride the East by NorthEast winds generated by a front as it passed by to the North of us. We left Rum Cay at halftime if the AFC Championship game, and set sail for Mayaguana, 120NM to the SouthEast of us. We ate Jordi's birthday cake, which John had baked for him, as we left. Sunday was Jordi's birthday.

The night went OK, but Monday the shit kinda hit the fan. The winds clocked around to East by NorthEast just as we suspected it would, and the seas built to about 8-10ft. The winds also built to about 20-25kts. It also got really squally. Squalls are little mini storms with big gusty winds, and downpours. The biggest squall hit during my watch, and I rode it at the helm, as Jordi and John went below to "batten down the hatches". (a phrase so often used metaphorically, but this time literally!) During the peak of these squalls, the winds gusted to 30kts+, the rains poured down, and the seas built to breaking whitecapped waves. Occaisionally, a wave would break over the bow, over the beam, or sometimes into the cockpit. When a wave broke over the bow or beam, water would drip rather heavily into the cabin, as the hatch seals on the mighty Audax are dried out and they leak. This soaked much of the interior... books, V-berth cusions, the sole (making it slippery as hell), and even an AC outlet in the galley which snap crackle popped, smoked and sparked as it shorted out. When a wave broke into the cockpit, it SOAKED the helmsman. Yes, that's me. I don't care how good your foulies are - and mine are good ones - when a wave breaks into the cockpit, YOU ARE WET. It was pretty gnarly. We were all tired, both metally and physically.

We were discussing today how in in overnight shitstorms it's like a fatigue double-whammy: Not only do the rough conditions make it difficult to sleep during your "off" shift, but when you're "on", moving around a soaking wet rockin' and rollin' boat heeled over is a physically strenuous CHORE. Double whammy. When we arrived 24 hours later at Mayaguana, we were SPENT. We dropped hook, reassembled / towel dried the interior, I cleaned up a peepee mishap I had in the forward head (more details in a later post), and finally sat down to take a breath and chill out. I cooked dinner, only because it was my turn. Over dinner we discussed it all.... we all knew what we were getting into when we left, but we also agreed that we had found our team threshhold of gnarliness with respect to "riding fronts". Meaning that we do not desire to cross this threshhold into an even gnarlier passage at any point in the future. It won't hurt my feelings if we don't even approach this threshhold at any point in the future. It was not enjoyable.

Please note: At no point did we feel unsafe. Audax handled the conditions just fine, hatch leaks notwithstanding. We never felt as if we were ever in danger. It just was not very fun. Not worth doing again. This is how we learn.... by DOING.

Been kickin' it at Mayaguana for the past couple days, waiting patiently for the seas to settle down so we can have a nice, pleasant sail to Provinciales, Turks/Caicos. Looks like we might leave tonight.....

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