As an Australian I don’t mind the odd swear word. I like the colour it adds to my emotional state at the time of use. Words and phrases like “taking the piss” and “bullshit, bastard and bloody oath” are all OK to use as long as the company is appropriate. My Captain on the other hand does not appreciate it, he recently requested I refrain from using expletives in my day to day.
So in the interest of marital harmony, I have resolved to stop swearing.
Day One Was A Spectacular Fail
The day did not start as I had hoped.
The weekend was scheduled well in advance and we had always planned to sail to Spain early. The sun had only just risen when the captain had the motors going to wake me. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my clothes and made myself ship shape and shiny ready for action. (It is important that you know I am not so great first thing in the morning. My mood and skill levels improve once I have had my first cup of tea and a few moments to collect my thoughts.)
Yet the captain had commanded, and I was standing at the helm steering our girl out of port so the tea could wait.
I couldn’t get the auto pilot to turn on. I had taken the boat out of the port entrance and as much as I tried I could not get the auto pilot to engage. I turned off, I turned on, I reset, changed, fiddled and played with the switches. The GPS and all else was going fine but the auto pilot would not engage. I even reread the manual. Now before you think this girl hasn’t got any idea, in my defence our autopilot has been a bit of a dog thus far and I just added this dilemma to the list of auto pilot whinges.
Did I swear?
No I did not.
After a 15 minutes of trying, I suggested we go back in have breakfast, a cup of tea and start again. Our niece was still asleep and I personally don’t care what the neighbours think about us coming back after we had only just left. It was still very early in the morning, so to port we returned to start again.
A bowl of muesli and 2 cups of tea later we decided to have another crack at the auto pilot. Wise words of the now awake teenager on board “Have you got it turned on at the switch?”
Yes off course…. OK- No, on re checking I realised in my early morning haze I had pressed the wrong button on the switchboard. The auto pilot didn’t have a chance in high heaven of ever turning on when it was not switched on.
Did I swear at this point?
No I didn’t, not even a bugger passed my lips.
In fact it didn’t even register on my radar, I was just happy that it was my fault and so easily fixed. No harm done, neither of us fazed, tea and breakfast done. I was in fact a pretty happy Miss heading out to sea. Lesson learnt, another among the many I am learning as I go about working out what needs to be done in this business of living on a sailing boat.
The Weather Ahead
As we sailed we would have liked more wind but we had plenty of time to cover the 25 nautical miles to our destination. The wind was about 5 knots and we averaged 3 to 3.5 knots on a broad reach, almost a run. Below is a screenshot of the weather forecast for the day. As you can see there wasn’t much wind to be had and the actual offerings were lighter than predicted.
|Sat 2 Aug|
||ENE||2 mph||to||5 mph||21 C||0 mm||
||N||7 mph||to||9 mph||21 C||0 mm||
||N||7 mph||to||8 mph||21 C||0 mm||
||N||8 mph||to||8 mph||23 C||0 mm||
||ENE||8 mph||to||7 mph||24 C||0.1 mm||
||ESE||6 mph||to||6 mph||24 C||0.5 mm||
||E||5 mph||to||6 mph||23 C||3.5 mm||
||N||5 mph||to||6 mph||21 C||0.4 mm||
It Was All About The Anchor
This weekend was important to us, it was us again sailing on our own, continuing to work things out, and best of all this weekend was about our maiden anchoring experience.
The sea trip from Canet to Port de la Silva was fun. I baked my first cake on board, a fruit cake. Cooking with a gas oven with no temperature gauge proved interesting but the end product was delicious. My niece and I also put together a new playlist of songs and we sang and danced to many a fine tune as we sailed down the French coast. Passing the border to Spain was once again a trip highlight, my niece was excited to be sailing on catamaran.
The day was going well after an odd start. The winds remained light and a sea mist came over the land mass on what was quite an overcast afternoon. After 6 hours sailing our destination of Port de la Silva was in view.
Arriving At Port De La Silva
With our sails in we slowly motored around to look for the best place to anchor our home.
We were being cautious.
We took our time.
We discussed the process and agreed together on the where and the how.
Anchor down, bridle on and hold tested, we were happy after the second go at anchoring. Our first solo anchor night was underway. Instead of heading straight into shore we decided to be extra sure and stay a little with the boat just in case. We were being cautious. I‘d had a quick shower and had just opened a bottle of red when I made comment that it had gotten very dark for five in the afternoon. I jumped up from my seat and looked back behind us from the starboard side.
There it was.
My language fail of the day.
I do need some grace though as I could not believe what was in front of me. A wall of colour that looked like it belonged in a national geographic magazine and not my view. The sky in front had gone from a dull grey to a massive wall of deep purple black . It was physically imposing and once I had sworn like a drover I could only stand there in gob smacking wonder.
The first minute was wasted in fascination. I then grabbed my camera and told the others to “come and see this”.
This was only the beginning. The Captain said we might get some wind. This proved to be the understatement of the day.
Then we saw the rain.
It was like a Photoshop picture where a layer of white rain had been placed over the angry, I’m coming to get you black clouds”. The rain was in white sheets and each drop was big and hard. It was being helped along by the wind to make its presence felt.
6 Knots To 40 Knots In 4 Minutes
Then the wind joined the weather party and we were in the middle of it. Our first storm. What would a storm be without her friends lightning and thunder to add to the occasion. Everything about this weather was changing by the moment and it just kept ramping up in intensity.
It’s at this point I will actually confess that while I was pulling the red wine out of the cupboard I lit not one but two candles on the table. In my head I was thinking gee its dark let’s have some mood lighting. The weather outside was raging and I had naked flames sitting on the table inside. (If you’re shaking your head at this point don’t worry you are not alone).
Back to the weather.
The noise. I was standing in the middle of Gods rock concert.
The thunder combined with the wind was so loud it was a sensory overload. The lightening was forked and across the sky directly above and in front of us. The water was raging, not with big waves but fast moving water that had turned a whipping white across the entire ocean. Visibility had gone down to about 25 metres. I could see the land on the port side, but the other side was lost to the weather. The current was all that you could focus on, a long range view of time or landmass in this situation was irrelevant. Each of us was dealing with the now and that was all that was important.
The Captain made a dash to the front of the boat to check the anchor. I made a dash downstairs to grab a coat. I heard my Captain say “Miss what are you doing I need you up here?” Coat and candles my practical nature shining through. (Please note that at no point in time did the Captain swear when I think he could have at this point).
It Was All About The Anchor
The first thing we were trying to establish. Was our anchor holding?
It was soon apparent, that like my swearing free day our anchoring was a failure. We were moving sideways and moving fast towards shore.
In Europe all the local beaches are marked with regions of big yellow buoys, to mark safe swimming areas. No boats allowed. Our boat was about 6 metres off becoming entangled in these buoys. We had started about 80 metres from the buoys when we first anchored. Panic now people! We needed to be moving and moving now.
The first constructive act was by the Captain who turned the engines on and powered the boat forward to get steerage.
Looking pretty fab in my new yellow wet weather gear I then took over the helm with the aim of holding the boat into the wind. Captain moved quickly up to the front of the boat and laid down to disconnect the bridle. Our niece was placed in between the two of us to work the anchor remote and shout back instructions from the Captain to I.
The next moments where intense.The boat felt like a kite in the wind. Picture a kite darting from one side to the other in the wind out of control, this is what our boat was doing. No sooner had I got the boat pointed up into the wind, we were pushed the other way. 40 knots is a mean bastard and it was stopping for no one or no thing, including a 10 tonne catamaran with plump white sides to push around. It seemed like an age for our anchor to come up, but no doubt an age it wasn’t. The Captain was worried our motors were not turned on, he could not see or hear them, plus they were working hard to push straight into the wind. It was the conditions making visibility hard combined with a fair amount of stress at the time.
We did get the anchor up and we motored out to relative safe waters, and got to reset and do it better.
Then as quick as it came it was gone. Between us we estimate that 20 minutes in total was all there was of this loud demanding weather. I thought it was even quicker but I know we all shook our heads at the end of it and said WTF was that. (OK the Captain still didn’t swear).
What Was A Miss Thinking As It Happened
I had lots of thoughts going through my mind at that time and with reflection some seem odd even to me.
I wasn’t concerned I was mostly in awe. It felt humbling to be in something so big and the only course was to move with nature as she had her way. We would do our best and I presumed it would be ok.
I remember thinking how lucky we were. Even in the rain, wind and thunder I was grateful it was the afternoon. This experience would have been terrifying to wake to and then deal with in the dark. It could have been so much worse.
I remember scooting down to blow out the candles and I wondered who else on the planet would have candles lit in a situation like this. Is it only me?
I remember liking my new bright yellow Henri Lloyd jacket. I thought I must have looked mighty fine in this colour with my eyes poking out. I am not into fashion as such, I admiring how well the coat actually worked. Under it I was dry, amazing.
I did make note to myself, without our niece in the middle of the boat, communication would have almost been impossible as we did respective tasks as no amount of shouting was to be heard above the weather.
My final thought that crossed my mind was to thank God that the auto pilot hadn’t been turned on in the morning. It was by grace that we were late and not swanning around the streets of Port de la Silva when the weather came. We could have so easily been onshore if things had gone according to plan.
The Take Aways
We needed to put out more anchor chain. All of it in fact.
We needed to pull the anchor up as soon as we saw the weather and move out to sea immediately.
We needed to consider a swim and check of our anchor. Just because the weather was overcast the water was still warm and the job wasn’t done without a good check. This was our first time we needed to triple check.
We did ok. It wasn’t perfect and we were lucky in hindsight as it could have been much worse. None of us panicked so that was good.
The experience hit home that this is our life and the weather is now our mistress and to her we must obey.
My Captain was just that a Captain. He took control and even though in hindsight his reflections showed the flaws of the occasion, I felt safe with him in charge.
PS I remember thinking a storm for our first anchoring experience with an on shore wind. It can only get better than this. Surely…..
PPS Everyone has told us to stay out of the bad weather but they didn’t tell the weather to stay away from us.