20 January 2014

As the day was ending yesterday I was lying below comfortably reading a book. We were sailing along fine downwind with the jib and one reef in the main. Suddenly I saw a blinding flash outside through the for’ard porthole. When I poked my head up the sky ahead was filling with a huge bank of ominous looking dark cloud. The sun was setting red but it was behind a watery looking sky that didn’t look much like a “sailors delight”.

When I got my gear on and got on deck it was starting to rain and I grabbed a bucket to collect some rainwater. The barometer had been dropping fast but now the wind fell away light. The rain stopped and almost as soon as it did the wind began to rise, quickly. It was still from the north and we were running before it but we were soon overpowered. I decided to drop the main completely. As I did forks of lightning were striking the water around us with incredible power. They didn’t look that far away. I counted to see how far away they were. I didn’t get to two seconds before there was a loud growling rumble of thunder.

By the time I’d got the main stowed the wind had freshened more and we had been forced beam on to the seas, which were getting bigger rapidly. I pulled the tiller to windward to get us going downwind again but the wind had risen so much that with only the Jib set we were now seriously over canvassed. I could hardly chance to let go of the tiller as we were tearing downwind but I had to get the Jib down. It had to come down soon as well as the wind was getting more powerful the whole time.

I saw a chance and nipped for’ard and managed to let loose the halyard and get the sail pulled down to the deck.  Now we were more manageable. Only the Storm Jib would do now. I got it out, hanked it on the forestay and pulled it up. I had considered whether I should maybe heave to but the wind was still N’ly and it was still possible to sail. I got Elsi pointed downwind and the Storm Jib was plenty enough sail for the conditions. It was a full gale by this time and even with the hanky sized jib we were flying along. Certainly the strongest wind we’ve had since we left.

We still had lightning forking around us. The highest points on the mast were the VHF and AIS aerials. I went below and disconnected them just it case we got hit. In the end we didn’t but as we were the highest point in the area I thought there was every chance we would.  I stowed a lot of loose stuff below as well to save it from getting knocked around.
We were now doing ok and Elsi was happy with what was happening. I went below and slept a broken sleep but every time I woke we were still ok and moving downwind.

It eased overnight and backed around so that by 0300 I could set the main with two reefs in and the full main and Jib by 0630.
By mid-day we had full sail set. The wind was now SW and heading us and only F2-3. If the water was flat we could move along ok with that. But the sea is still lumped up from yesterday and the swell keeps knocking the wind out of the sails. It’s slowed us up a lot today.
During the afternoon the wind fell away completely for a couple of hours. When it came back it was from the NNW about a F3. So we’re sailing along fine with that just now.
Alyson says we might get W’ly winds tomorrow so I may head a bit inshore overnight to give us a better angle on them when they arrive.

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