I left you at Day 3, during which the weather went from light winds and fairly calm seas to heavy winds and BIG seas. It is one thing to sit through a day or two of consistent 30 knot winds and 15 foot seas, but it is a whole other ball game to deal with it for 7 days straight.
The morning of Day 3 I did my usual watch from 00:00 to 03:00 (midnight to 3 AM). The winds were blustery and the seas had picked up a bit, but it was nothing significant. (Hey - we are passing Tavarua RIGHT now!! I love Fiji!) After my watch I went back to bed but when I awoke a few hours later things had changed. Down below I could hear the wind shrieking through the halyards, sounding eerily similar to the screams of the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. It also felt like we were on a roller coaster. Up and down, side to side, plunging and soaring off swells. Yuck. Then I went up into the cockpit.
Although this is not the nastiest weather we have ever been in, I have never seen the ocean like it was that morning. The swells were massive, towering 20 feet above the boat. The tops of the waves were blown off and water was whipped across the surface of the ocean. It looked similar to snow being blown off a mountain peak, except that the mountains were rolling right at us. Most of the time the Rutea just rolled over the tops of these giant swells, but every once in a while we would hit one just right and it would break over the deck, covering the deck with water and dumping buckets of water into the cockpit.
Fortunately we had the cockpit enclosure up which kept much of the water out, as if we didn't, even up until this morning the cockpit would have been completely flooded, oh, every two hours or so. Still, more than once as I was snoozing in the cockpit I would wake up with a huge splash of salt water drenching me. It's ok, I needed a shower anyway. However, at one point we were so concerned with the size of the waves we were taking on the beam (side of the boat) that we decided to change our course so that the swells were more to our stern. This meant we were heading more towards Vanuatu - where I want to go - just not yet. It was very discouraging not to be heading in the right direction, but better than hitting a swell that could have capsized us.
By this point we were about 300 miles out to sea. The forecast said we were supposed to have this weather for the next four days, and there was absolutely nothing we could do about it. There is no place to run, no place to hide. When I looked at those swells towering above me I couldn't help but stare in awe of their beauty, but not without a knot of fear in my stomach. It was almost better at night when I couldn't see the really giant ones coming, but then again I had no warning before Rutea was thrown on her side.
When the winds hit 35 knots Dad decided we should put the storm sail up. This involved going out on deck and dealing with huge sails with winds howling and waves pouring over the bow. It is really the last thing any of us wanted to do, but it had to be done. Mom and I kept our eyes on Dad while furling sails and keeping the boat into the wind and waves while the mainsail was lowered and the storm sail hoisted. We ended up sailing with that little orange handkerchief of a sail all the way here, and just now put it away.
For the next four days we had pretty constant 30 knots of wind and solid 10-15 foot seas. It was like living on a roller coaster, which makes everything hard - and I mean EVERYTHING. Eating, sleeping, using the toilet, cooking... it was all nearly impossible. I couldn't read, watch movies or play games because I was too seasick. The only thing I did was listen to three of the Harry Potter books which I downloaded on my Ipod before I left NZ. Thanks Evan - that saved me! Of course now I am thinking of things in terms of muggles and wizards, but after 8 nasty days at sea things could be worse.
The only thing that couldn't be worse is how gross I feel - I can't remember the last time I went 8 days without showering and I feel absolutely disgusting. Not only am I ridiculously dirty, but the entire boat is. Everything is covered with salt, inside and out. The hatches leaked (not surprising considering the amount of time they were under water) and all the couches and beds are damp and salty. The floor boards are covered with everything from food to books to pillows and water because, when it is a monumental task just to get some crackers, who cares if you spill a few on the floor? Needless to say, we have some serious clean up to do before we start partying.
And party we shall! This has been the most difficult passage I have ever done and now I feel like I worked hard to get here - dare I say I deserve to be here, goddammit! For the next month and a half you can expect stories of shark encounters, perfect barrels, kava sessions and boat loads of good times. Bula Bula!
At 4/22/2012 9:27 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 20°13.00'S 176°42.16'E
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