A Full Gale
12 October 2009
The picture is of the nice, downwind sailing conditions before the Force 9 (Severe Gale). I did not take the camera out or go to the bow while in the force 9 :).
After the anchor had been well-secured and I no longer had fears of it breaking loose, the forecast winds steadily increased. I was in deep water offshore, planning to cross the continental shelf (where the water is shallower) soon on the way to Rio de la Plata. The winds were forecast to be from behind me (NE) for a couple of days, strengthening to force 5, then 6, then 7. I felt it would be fine to be on the continental shelf for a force 7, but if it got to force 8 or above, it would be better to be in deep water, where the waves would be longer and less steep.
Despite really wanting to get into port quickly, I thought it would be prudent to stay in deep water in case the wind was higher than forecast. That was fortunate, as the forecast wind did increase to force 8 and 9 as the gale approached. The gale itself was force 9 for several hours, and force 8 for many more.
Gales are really not enjoyable...they are loud, wet and uncomfortable. I ran before the gale with a Galerider drogue, which is a kind of mesh bag that is designed to slow the boat down, not stop it. It was the first time I'd run before a real gale (previously I tended to heave-to), and the first time I'd tried using a drogue. It worked well enough, pulling the stern of the boat back when waves hit. Running before a gale seems to involve far more waves coming across the deck than heaving-to does, but seems a better way of handling bigger seas.
Everything on the boat held together, and after 18 hours the wind moderated and sailing became much more pleasant.