Day 120. (Day 60 since Ushuaia; now longest leg. SF to Ushuaia, 59 days)
Noon Position: 43 46S. 133 51E
Sky: Overcast, drizzle from passing low squalls Sea: SW8 (big background swell)
Cabin Temp: 60
Sea Temp: 57
Miles last 24 hours: 162
Longitude Made Good: 138 (odd such a wide variance, especially compared to yesterday’s very narrow variance. Winds were lighter overnight, causing more wandering.)
Miles to Hobart: 637
Total Miles: 16,611
The author is Matt Jensen Young, one of the crew, a professional seaman, and all-around nice guy. We became friends when he crewed aboard DRINA on the Northwest Passage back in 2014, and it’s just one of those happy sailor’s coincidences that, in 2018, he and DRINA are plying some of the same ocean as MO…at the opposite end of the planet!
Of course, I may take his report more personally than the average Joe, having just experienced a similar happening. That said, the things from the report that
jumped out to me are:
1) Location: The knockdown that shattered MO’s portside window occurred between the Crozet’s and Kerguelen at 46 42S and 56 28E. DRINA’s knockdown occurred between the same islands at 47 20S and 60 54E, positions roughly 240 miles apart.
2) Sea: Matt notes early the exaggerated size of the swell from the northwest and the challenge of managing the secondary swell. 3) Whereas on MO we lost a key and a deodorant bar, DRINA lost a toilet bowl brush.
The conjunction of similar locations, sea states and outcomes makes me wonder if, in difficult weather, that area is somehow effected by the banks surrounding the Crozets.
Sunday & Monday 11 & 12.March.2018 Position: S 47 20 E 60 54 Knock-down – Stirred, not Shaken
We had known a blow was coming & had secured for heavy weather as we had countless occasions previously. We had been commenting on the lull before the storm for some time, with winds just 20-25kts but the army of SW swells marching ominously toward us from the NE left no doubt that something big was out there, and all too soon, here. In hindsight, also of significance, was the secondary SE swell on our port quarter which was moderate, but was dwarfed by the SW’ly swell.
We hove-to with the tightly sheeted triple reefed main and so that we could enjoy in relative comfort, yet another South African beef roast. An hour or two after we had hove-to Matt checked the cockpit wind indicator which showed we had already experienced a gust of 71 knots (131.5kmph). Our wind indicator has been anything but reliable since departing Australia, but one thing it has always done reliably was underestimate the wind.
During the evening watch it was apparent from the motion, and amount of shipped water, that this was heavier than most other blows we have weathered on this voyage. Matt ventured out to get the metal companionway plate and thereby improved our watertight integrity by some degree.
The noise was incredible – for the first time it was truly understood why they call these the ‘Roarin’ 40’s’. We’ve a lot of year’s experience on the water but that sound in the rigging will remain with us to our grave. The roar was nothing short of primal.
At approximately 01:00hrs on Sunday morning, all hell broke loose.
It was pitch black and we were battened down – we can only surmise what happened next.
Hove-to we are typically orientated to the wind about 30-45, up to 60 degrees. The extent to which we can sheet-in the main is dependent upon the wind strength, and thus assuming wind and wave alignment, our orientation to the oncoming wave. Estimates now differ, but we agree the angle to the wind was greater than normal as Mike had felt obliged to sheet-in tighter (decreasing drive into the wind) for fear of leaving our keel-induced slick behind. One may speculate being set with an estimated 2 knot current may have been a contributing factor. Nevertheless, general consensus remains we fell off the front of a wave. Having dissected some of the events discussed later herein, we believe the wave had been indeed breaking. The roll was clearly in excess of 90degrees, from the path of the deck plate & projectiles we surmise at least ~105-110 degrees, but it is largely irrelevant anyway. Scooting down the fore part of the wave we were brought up in the trough causing the cushioned but sudden deceleration, which likely likely was the force behind the change of direction of some of the cabin missiles later described.
This is the first knock-down in Mike’s 330,000 nautical mile sailing experience – clearly the conditions must have been somewhat unique.
Most people that were around at the time can put their finger precisely on where they were the day man landed on the moon. (We weren’t, obviously, but we are looking for analogy work with us here).
In any case none of us will likely forget that instant – or rather that eternity in the moment – when we were pitched to starboard.
Mike recalls being in his bunk and claimed he does not know how he remained in his bunk, nor how everything on the port side of his aft cabin landed on the starboard side, totally clearing him whilst laying horizontal in his berth.
Rossco lay awake in his port saloon berth & sensing the statistically significant larger roll, wedged himself tighter between his berth cushion and his lee board, thereby effectively defying gravity.
Matt was wedged in the nav station on the starboard side beneath and just forward of the companionway. The roll to starboard pinned him to the bulkhead, so when the cockpit was filled with water entering via vents in the companionway, he suffered the sensation of water boarding as the salt water cascaded directly into his face. All the while we continued to roll to starboard & then, like some scene from Matrix, he watched as items levitated, hovered slowly and then accelerated towards him.
The galley wood chopping block hit just 1.5ft above his head and left a hefty dent in the woodwork. The deck plate port side aft in the galley was in midair and must have taken out the nav station and all that dwelt there, had it not been for the deceleration of the boat as her bow plunged into the bottom of the wave, the deck plate (which needed to have cleared the galley sink cabinetry), flew to starboard and (thankfully) this forward, ending up in Matto’s starboard berth bunk: this together with the top of the fridge and nearly everything else that was not screwed down. Food items from the fridge cooler recessed into the port galley bench were also sent careening. Items stowed in the bilges which rarely see the light of day were flung throughout the cabin. Food staples (oats, lentils, cous cous etc) stowed in Pyrex locked & sealable containers wedged on the port counter were launched & smacked the starboard bulkheads; the largest container containing rolled oats exploded and rained oats. Evidently water had made its way there in advance as the oats remained plastered on the bulkhead for the duration of Sunday.
Humorously though (& if you don’t laugh this shit’ll kill you) – we found a # potato balancing atop of the GPS unit, a Pyrex container wedged in to the deckhead (ceiling) skylight as well as tomatoes and (additional) garlic in Matto’s sleeping bag. A day later we have yet to find the toilet brush.
Anyone who knows Mike would appreciate the symbolism of the potato on the GPS; the “Irish Navigational System” of potatoes, a net and a bucket being one of his favorite jokes to tell.
Sunday dawned bleak, winds had abated to 30-45 knots but the swell, although short of mountainous, ’twas altogether eerily impressive nonetheless. The wind still streaked the surface and wave crests were whipped off by the angry, unrelenting wind.
With the coming of the light it was also opportunity to witness the above deck toll to our faithfully robust DRINA:
• Dodger shredded
• Mizzen sail cover shredded and mizzen sail torn
• Mizzen vang line wrapped around prop
• Starboard emergency
• Water jerry can swept overboard
• Anchor compressed into the rail
• Port water tank cap washed loose & overboard
• Dinghy center chock washed overboard
• Teak cockpit deck grates & cushions washed overboard
• Starboard upper solar panel torn loose
• Port quarter life-ring swept overboard but remained attached
• Ladder washed overboard
• Radar waterlogged
• AIS’s GPS input cable severed by internal cabin missiles
• Nav station drenched
• Starboard saloon berth & starboard bulkheads drenched and battered
Working (thankfully) ok:
• AIS (after cable repair)
• Rig, main & head’sl
• Duo-Gen water generator
• Engine starting, batteries and charging capabilities
Sunday we were still weathering the storm and simply put, we were all a little waterlogged (boarded) & shell shocked. During the morning it was not really considered safe on deck but by afternoon it had moderated sufficiently for Matt to take a turn around the decks to order and re-lash what he could, Including sealing the water tank.
Monday’s motion and weather had abated sufficiently to enable the day to be spent more productively:
-The nav station was wiped down with fresh water & dried; the nav chart was retrieved from a plastic bag in which it had been dashed sopping wet and dried.
-The starboard saloon berth was cleaned of oats (now porridge) and the cushions removed to the cockpit to benefit from some sunlight & wind in the afternoon.
-Galley was re-stowed, as too the majority of the port side projectiles.
-Rossco & Matt rigged the GoPro camera so that we could capture some underwater images of the mizzen vang line wound around the propeller. When we could see “how” it had been wound, we knew then ‘how’ we could unwind it from the deck. The skipper didn’t want to risk Matt overboard with a knife in his teeth which would definitely would have been faster (haaarrr), but riskier (errr?) … & certainly colder (brrrrr).
-Afternoon conditions meant we could move more freely around the cockpit where together we could cut away the shredded dodger and re-stow the dinghy on the foredeck.
-More cleaning, more drying, more cleaning. No doubt we will be finding oats for weeks to come.
When the prop had been cleared we felt comfortable to start sailing once again. Despite making 7 knots over the ground, it was evident that the we were still benefiting from the +2kts east setting current. As we could not totally rely on the water generator for charge Mike started the engine to positively charge the batteries. Relief that we are good on that front given our friend Randall’s recent trials and tribulations after his knock-down in this very same stretch of water between the Crozets and Kerguelen.
Now Monday night the wind has picked up and although right now we could potentially be sailing, thanks to Stevo we now know to anticipate yet more wind tonight and all though tomorrow. We are therefore happy for the 230′ or so of searoom ‘tween us & the next bit of hard stuff – which is incidentally Les Îsles Kerguelen, & which remains, luckily, our next destination.
We pray the Kerguelen team are just half as accommodating as the Crozet team. The ability to wash some clothes and sleeping bags would be greatly appreciated as we have yet another +3.5-4 weeks sailing awaiting us after departure Kerguelen in order to make Tassie by mid-April.
More on our itinerary changes in a future VLOG update.