Koeketiene on Tour

Going places - one day at a time

Worse things happen at sea.

I was up at the crack of dawn. Hadn't slept well. Not for days. Still, the boat was ready and so was I.

The forecast for the next few days looked good (N-NW 3-5), but a direct passage to Madeira or the Azores looked unlikely. A depression (approaching from the SW) would cross my path in 3-4 days. The plan I came up with was to make it to Galicia and seek shelter whilst the depression passed and then take it from there.

My better half drove me to the boat, and we said our goodbyes. Part of me was quite anxious, but another part of me was looking forward to the trip/challenge.
The voyage started well enough, and I was under sail in no time at all. Progress, however, was somewhat slow. Winds were lighter than expected and there was more of a swell than I had anticipated for. My average SOG was around the 4kts mark.
I just sat back, kept an eye on my surroundings and tried to relax for a bit. And all that time, Carly kept the boat on a steady course. I was in contact with the family via Iridium for a while to ascertain whether or not Koeketiene showed up on AIS websites. Managed to establish that she did, and this was a huge relief me.

Just before sunset, a couple of things happened:
1. The wind dropped a bit and veered NE. So, I was running downwind. Not Koeketiene's most comfortable point of sail.
2. I was crossing the continental shelf. The ocean swell increased massively. One moment I could see miles away, the next I was looking at a wall of water. This wall of water stole the wind from my sails at times. Average SOG dropped to 2.5-3kts.
3. The area is also teeming with fish, as evidenced by the large number of fishing boats in my immediate vicinity. Keeping a sharp lookout was now more essential than ever. Certainly, in the last of the light. Also, few fishing boats were shining AIS and I don't have radar. But it gave me something to do.

After an hour or so of this, the boats motion started to get really uncomfortable, and my stomach started to feel 'uneasy'. Only then did I realise that I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I can't really cook to save my life, but I can open tins with the best of them. Meal of choice: ravioli and a couple of pieces of bread.
After the hot meal I felt somewhat better.

And then I made the mistake of going down below to do the washing up. I lasted all of 30 seconds in the galley before I had to dash up the companionway to go and feed the fish.

Second mistake: in the cockpit I tripped (due to the extreme rolling motion of the boat), dislocated my right kneecap and fell, side first, across the mainsail traveler (bruising a couple of ribs in the process) and then I threw up.

In immense pain, I surveyed the 'damage': the kneecap of my right light stood about 90 degrees to the right of where it should be. 'Luckily' this has happened to me before and I knew how to 'fix' this. With my left foot I pushed against my right heel to straighten my right leg. At the same time, I used my right hand to knock the errant kneecap back in place.
Then, ... I fainted.

I think I woke about 15 minutes later, in a puddle of my own vomit, to find a couple of fishing boats in close proximity. I changed course away from them and steered W to put the boat on a more comfortable point of sail. Had some painkillers (lots of them), taped up the knee, changed clothes and cleaned up.

Then I sent a text message to the home front explaining what had just happened. At this point, I just broke down and wept at the chart table: in pain, in anger and in frustration. This was not supposed to happen - not now. Not like this.

An hour later came the reply from the family: 'if at all possible, maybe you should turn back'. Basically, telling me something which should have been blatantly obvious to myself. I was hesitant, but my knee and ribs told me it was the only realistic option open to me.

I changed course and pointed the boat towards home - it was the right thing to do. It was going to be a long, hard slug to windward requiring a significant number of tacks but, in the deepest of my misery, I was determined.

First 'target' for the trip back home was to re-cross the continental shelf and its ocean shelf and numerous fishing vessels. Once that was achieved, I put in a first tack. This made two things clear to me. Progress was going to be slow, and I needed more painkillers. As I waited for the painkiller tablets to dissolve, I wept for a second time as I realised that if only I could keep things together for the next 10-12 hours, all of this would end.

Around 02H00, my moral got a small, but much needed boost. It happened when I realised that the small, blinking light on the horizon was the Penmarch lighthouse. I could 'see' home. Also came to realise that I should ease on the painkillers as I started to hallucinate. I didn't see things, but I started hearing things. Morse signals to be precise. Even after I had switched off all radio equipment, I kept hearing them. My ability to read morse signals has gotten rusty over the years but it sounded like weather traffic to me.

Carly steered a steady course without any assistance from me. Other than keeping a lookout and putting the occasional tack in, there was very little I had to do. Even managed to get the odd 10-15 minutes of sleep here and there.
By dawn, I could make out land and I could once again pick up local signal stations on VHF. Then I knew that it was all over bar the shouting. I would get home on adrenaline alone.

Around lunchtime, nearly 28 hours I had set sail, I picked up my mooring. Then I stripped off and collapsed into my bunk. Comatose. The HM trot boat would pick me up in a couple of hours.

Worse things happen at sea. No shit, Sherlock.