By Stay Gold crew member Chris Ryder
It’s nights like last night that keep the expression “curse like a sailor” alive and afloat.
Earlier, after much debate on whether to head south or west, Willy saved the day with his so-called “twizzle-rig” (2 headsails and no mainsail) which enabled us to run downwind on ideal SW course.
We were all enthralled with how well it worked…my only concern was what if the wind were to pick up? How could we de-power that much canvas quickly? Brian assured me that winds would remain stable through the night and thus I began my lonely 10 to midnight watch.
With zero ambient light your only world is the dimly lit compass. That’s the only data point you have to keep the boat running on smooth and on course; that and the jerky motions of the swells hitting you from every side. For one hour and 45 minutes of my 2 hour watch that’s what I did, without any issue and making a good solid 6 knots. I was starting to look forward to some sleep when suddenly by beard filled with warm air…a lot of warm air…too much warm air for our little boat and that much canvas!
Within seconds I was reading 10 knots on the instrument and the boat was wobbling atop the crest of the swells, vibrating from the overpowering wind! It was all I could do to hold the boat from broaching (turning over sideways). I needed help from the rest of the crew fast as my biceps were giving out on the tiller. Since Willy had awoken to relieve my watch I saw him in the cabin and said, “Hey man, I think I might need some help up here”…a bit of an understatement, but we all feel bad for each other’s lack of sleep these days.
We were speeding along dangerously (without seeing where to and whence forth) and we needed to get one sail down immediately. This is where the cursing takes hold…Chris, hold the $&@? boat up! Brian we $&:;?! need you on deck now! Turn on the @&£¥* deck lights! Everyone sprang into action (we let Beau sleep, because technically it was already his birthday).
I have to say, what followed was truly a sight…the deck lights over-illuminating Willy and Brian (in his skivvies) and myself pulling hard at the helm, the spray of the swells pouring over the deck. But we managed to get the sail down and de-power the boat, saving us from what was almost imminent at this point.
The aftermath was full of adrenaline-laden comments (££#*@&!) analysis of what had just happened. The warm winds on my beard? Yup, the trade winds…what a fine welcome.