Storm Force 10!
19 April 2013 | Royal Cork Yacht Club (lounge bar)
How I Love My Island Packet
Two weeks ago you'd never have heard that from me. I wanted a faster boat....... but then, I didn't know Time Bandit could do 17 knots!
A few days ago we passed a small trawler and I thought to myself "poor bloke, out here rolling around like a pig". Only later did it dawn on me he was probably thinking, " Poor bloke........." But he was in a heated wheelhouse!
At that point, we were on schedule for a fast track to Cork having impeccably timed our run to avoid the large, double depression which had tracked across the Atlantic the few days previous.
Had we known it was merely making way for the next depression we might not have sat in the sunshine in Baiona waiting on our weather window.
Biscay and the Western Approaches in April was never a great passage plan but if we were going to get to Norway and back south by the end of the year we had, as we say, to press on.
During the passage we had mostly good winds which, yesterday (Wednesday) built steadily during the day. The GRIB we had said we would get 30 knots all the way in. However, the shipping forecast was saying force 6-7 imminent rising to severe gale force 9 soon.
Given the forecast was timed the previous midnight it didn't take too long to work out that "soon" actually meant NOW. With hindsight, the clue was in doing double figures under staysail and triple reefed main. Over the next few hours the wind continued to build, as did the speeds, not to mention the waves.
Once double figure speeds became the norm, much as I was enjoying the ride we hauled down the last of the main and " made it fast" (how nautical does that sound!). I consciously made it fast 'cause I'd a feeling the F9 was here.
The F9, 40+ knots settled in and we continued our sleigh ride regularly hitting 10, 12 and 14 knots. By this time, especially with the experience of Figuera da Foz fresh in our minds I'm thinking that again, it might not be too smart to head into a harbour mouth with a large following sea. We had to make a decision as if we were going to "stop" or head elsewhere we needed to do so leaving enough sea room to drift for a while. (Getting a sense it was quite serious by this time?)
It was getting quite serious by this time and F9 had turned into a sustained Storm Force 10 and 50 knots gusting Force 11. Getting fired down the front of 8 metre waves and on one ride hitting 17 knots speed over ground, helped make the decision that it was time to get things back under control.
We dropped all sail and slowed right down........ to 7 knots under bare poles and still surfing into double figures. We looked out the drogue that only two weeks before I said to a friend we'd probably never use and prepared to deploy it off the stern.
The Island Packet is a full keel boat and when they say that they really mean it!
The keel starts at the bow and ends at the transom. Absolute rubbish when you're trying to manoeuvre in the marina but see when your looking down a giant wave, doing a dead strait, controlled line at nearly or over twice hull speed it doesn't seem so bad!
Our sea anchor is a Jordan Series Drogue. That's maybe 100 metres of rope with small cones of sailcloth like mini umbrellas, sewn on every foot with a weight tied at the end. The brochure said that it became like a huge elastic band that would hold the transom into the wind and waves with the elastic of the rope and its wee umbrellas opening to any shock from crashing waves eliminating the risk of further 17 knot rides down big, scary waves.
We dropped the first few feet of the Drogue in the water and before we knew it the rope was firing out the back of the boat like a Breeches Bouy Rocket until the full length was out and we were abruptly slowed to 2 knots and instantly back in a semblance of control.
By this time, the waves were just huge. I used this word in an earlier blog and now, looking back, while they were big, they weren't what we were looking at now.
I've sailed around a bit now but only seen waves and breakers like these on You Tube and photographs. This was a full blown storm and we were right in it. Awesome would be an appropriate word to use. Dead scary are others!
So, Drogue launched there wasn't much else to do but head below, shut all the hatches and wait it out...... with Al Stewart playing. Good tunes..... Other than the crashes as waves pooped us from astern, filling the cockpit and sending waves over the main hatch to splash through the gaps, (right on to my dinner!) and the green water going over the side decks all was relative calm.
We called up Mizzen Head coast guard to tell them who we were and where we were and where we were drifting, which we did every 2 hours all night.
In the end, I guess a good tag line for an advert for a Jordan Series Drogue and Island Packets was that every two hours we were fast asleep and wakened by our alarm clock to call in our new position to the coast guard and put out an "All Ships" saying don't bang into us, we're asleep!
By 06:00 the worst had passed. We hauled in the drogue and motor sailed the remaining 20 miles into Cork and the incredibly warm and friendly welcome of the Royal Cork Yacht Club and the customs guys, all of whom knew what we'd been up to as it was all over channel 16! Free drinks all round!
Exciting times but not one we'd like to repeat!
How I love my Island Packet!