Saturday, 10 November 2012

Nic's diary Part 7

Nics Diary – Part 7 – 10.11.12
(You may, or may not, notice that this is part 7 of my Diaries. Part 6 – Majorca to La Linea is still ‘in progress’ and will be posted soon)

La Linea to Canaries
I thought I would do a little diary of watches as we sail our first 5 day trip with just the two of us, from La Linea (next to Gibraltar) to the Canaries. This is the longest sail we have done yet on our own, so we expect it to be quite a challenge. Many yachts have been waiting for a decent weather window for the last 3 weeks, so, as you would expect, when the chance came, I counted around 50 boats, all heading the same way (to the canaries to either take part in the arc (Atlantic Rally Crossing) or to wait for another weather window to cross the Atlantic on their own, like us).

6.11.12 – 6.30am-10.30am
So, we have been sailing for around 24 hours now, and it is dull, wet, and I am feeling pretty exhausted. (I have a soggy bum!!). There is quite a swell behind us, so it’s a bit of a rolly ride. I am sure as the sun comes up, I will feel a little better. A massive cargo ship just passed, and I was feeling a little envious, as I wonder what it must be like to do a watch with an enclosed cabin, windscreen wipers, a comfy chair, and heating! It must be nice! Never mind, I bet his breakfast isn’t as yummy and appreciated as my delicious smoky bacon from Morrisons, and my Tetley tea.  I have a new crew member this morning to keep me company, Jack the sparrow (as I have called him). I told him that he is more than welcome to come along for the ride, and to have some rest and shelter, but not to poo on any of my clothes, and that Stevies jacket is much more comfy to sleep on (He, he!). 4 hour watches do get a little boring and lonely, as you may have guessed. Stevie and I just really see each other in the passing, and for dinner (the highlight of our day). Hence why I decided to write a wee diary of some of my watches.

Jack the Sparrow (or some sort of wee bird)

We have been very worried as the clunk noise that we used to hear, and we had put down to the rudder bearing needing replaced, is back, and it is worse. Stevie is pretty stressed about it, as he has just spent a small fortune having the bearings replaced, and it now seems that there is another problem with the steering.  Let’s just hope we make it in one piece and we don’t have to get the tiller out to hand steer the whole way. That would not be fun!

6.11.12 – 4pm-8pm
I am feeling a little better as it’s a day watch not a night watch. No matter how tired you are, you really notice the difference when it’s night. I was quite amused when I woke to find Stevie proudly introducing me to his new best friend – Ben (another bird of unknown species). The whole of the main cabin is scattered with little piles of bread crumbs, and of course poo. Stevie has told me that he has been talking to Ben all morning, and has discovered that little Ben got caught in a big wind, and couldn’t find his way back to shore, so he has been hopping from boat to boat  for some time, hoping to eventually see land again. OK Stevie, so I thought I was a little mad just naming my sparrow – never mind pretending a whole conversation – boredom eh!!
The rain has stopped, and the traffic has scattered out across the ocean, leaving a rather boring watch, with only 1 boat in 4 hours. Just as well I have started reading the next Fifty Shades of Grey book, to keep me amused.

The good news is that Stevie has managed to find where the terrible clunk noise is coming from. A loose plate that holds the steering mechanism in place (or something like that). He has managed to tighten it, and the clunk has stopped. Thank goodness all is well!

[steven edit: There is a snapped bolt which needs welded]

7.11.12 – Midnight – 4am
Pitch black outside and raining. In the distance there is a thunder storm, so we have hidden our back up GPS, and hand held radio in the microwave again (and yes we are sober, so we will remember they are there!).  No boats, and no wind, boring! I will just have to spend the watch enjoying some of the delicious UK munchies that I bought from Morrisons such as Cadbury Whole nut, and beef monster munch – yummy! (I have no idea how people claim to lose weight when sailing!)

7.11.12 – 2.30pm – 6.30pm
This morning I was a little bit of a shock – to say the least! I had been on watch for a couple of hours, and I was thinking of sitting down to write about the usual – Stevie was happy when I got up as Ben had returned – I had fun frying my egg, as it spun round in the frying pan and came out more scrambled than fried etc. But…………… we got hit by a mini tornado/ squall and all things changed from my calm morning to a hell of a fright!

When Stevie went to bed around 8.30am, he told me that all was well, the jib was out, and not to change the engine revs as if we kept up this speed, then we would arrive in daylight. So, I popped my head up and checked that all was well. The wind was behind us, and gusting up to 17 knots (apparently it was at 8 knots on the starboard forward quarter when he went to bed 20 mins earlier)– we were reaching 10 knots when surfing down the swell – we were flying! I did wonder why Stevie hadn’t left me instructions to reef the jib when we hit 20 knots of wind – like he usually would. I popped my head in to ask him, but he had passed out within 10 mins. About 30 mins later, when I noticed the wind reaching 26 knots, I decided to try to furl some of the jib away. I was having difficulty, so I decided to waken Stevie, who had just woken anyway (I think he has a sixth sense!).

 I asked him to get dressed and give me a hand, as a weather front was approaching and I was worried after seeing 26 knots of wind a few times. By the time he got dressed it started to pour – like bucket fulls of rain. We managed to furl away half of the jib, when monsterous hail stones started to fall. They were at least the size of marbles, and they really hurt so we both dived downstairs for cover. Within 30 seconds of being downstairs we were very confused, as the jib had backed (the wind had spun 180 degrees). There was a hell of a noise going on, so we ran back upstairs to put away the rest of the sail. I was winching like my life depended on it (which it did), and Stevie was doing his best to turn the boat into the wind to ease the strain off the sail. He soon realised that the wind was in a big swirl, and reaching up to 70 knots. One massive gust caught the sail (of which only 1/2 was still out, equating to only 1/3 of the full surface area) and pushed the boat right down onto her starboard side. This was the side that I was winching on. The water gushed up onto the deck, and the boat did not self-right. We were pinned there at 75-90 degrees for what felt like minutes - Stevie says about 10 seconds (apparently this is called being knocked down). Stevie released the jib sheet, and immediately we came back up, and again I started frantically winching in the jib – as I felt like my life really did depend on it this time! My sleeves were filled with water, but this was the least of my worries.

 It’s funny, the thoughts that passed through my mind when we were pinned down were ‘Ok we’re going under, we will self-right, hold on tight, and thank god I am wearing my life jacket’. I am so surprised that I was not afraid – I just seemed to accept it and brace myself! After it was over, we both looked at each other and said (excuse my French) ‘What the fuck!!’

The boat was a little trashed downstairs, but no major damage. I cleaned up, and we cracked open our first beer of the journey!  I then issued a broadcast warning on the radio (pan pan)  to advise other yachts in the area.

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Apparently something like this is responsible, although I don't think it was quite so dramatic as this picture. Pretty rare and pretty unlucky to land in the middle of one!

No real damage - just a bit of a mess - note the purple loaf of bread that shot from a surface on the opposite side of the boat, and neatly wedged itself on a shelf straight across the boat!

Clean dishes flew off the draining board, and a tray of 36 eggs landed in the sink with none broken!
Sun was shining 1 minute after knock down!

Well I guess the whole experience has prepared me for what to expect, and what to do if we ever hit another squall again. Brace, don’t panic, and release the sails if they pin us down! (remind me never to complain that I am bored on watch again!)

So anyway, things are back to normal now, and we are keeping a closer eye on the weather fronts coming in (some have fork lightening so it’s still a bit scary). The jib is having a break, and we have been motoring the rest of the day. Ben has been singing all afternoon – he probably has plenty of energy after eating so much bread. Anyway, time for some dinner, and I think I will treat myself to a glass of wine (just the one!!)

8.11.12 – midnight – 4am
When Stevie went to bed there was no wind. He left me the instruction that if wind came I had to put up the sail. I expressed my fear, but was kindly reminded that we most likely did not have enough fuel to motor all the way, so we must use the wind. By 2am there was a steady 11 knots of wind on the side, so after a little encouragement from myself, the sail is up. I have been petrified since. My legs have turned to jelly, there have been a couple of tears and I think the realisation of this morning’s events have finally kicked in, plus thorough exhaustion. On the plus side, there are beautiful stars in the sky and all signs of weather fronts and fork lightening have gone.  Needless to say, my wishes when I saw a shooting star have now changed. 70 hours down and only 36 hours to go. I have never so much looked forward to safely dropping the anchor, drinking a full bottle of wine, having lots of cuddles and sleeping forever!

9.11.12 – midnight – 4am
Today we were talking to some other boats on the radio who have been discussing our little event yesterday. They are friends of the Aussies we met in La Linea, and they want to meet up for a beer and hear our story tomorrow when we arrive. I am not allowing myself to consider or think about what actually happened until then, as it is not benefiting me just now.

So, I am keeping my thoughts positive throughout my watch – such as how many bars of chocolate can I eat in 4 hours? Today was a beautiful day, sun in the sky and nice smooth wind on our side. It has been nice to sail properly, and today is much more like what I signed up for. Little Ben hasn’t been around today. I think all of his chirping and tweeting yesterday was a big thank you and farewell to us. Good luck Ben, it was nice having you.

Much more like it weather wise

With only 10 hours to go, I think this may be my last watch of the adventure. All in all, I have really enjoyed myself. Obviously yesterday’s event has been a bit of a shock, but it hasn’t put me off sailing, if anything it has taught me a lot about what to expect, and more importantly what to do, and has also confirmed that we have a good solid boat. Exhaustion and trouble getting to sleep on my 4 hours off are taking their toll. I am really glad to be arriving tomorrow. We definitely are getting crew for the Atlantic crossing, so that we can get a proper rest.

Never lost our sense of humor as we pulled out our party hats when overtaking another yacht
Beautiful sunset as we passed by another yacht
9.11.12 – 6pm
We have decided to come to a marina at the south of Lanzarote, as other boats were reporting that the anchorages were really rolly. I was happy that we decided to go to land, and when I first stepped off the boat, I went down on my knees and kissed the ground (well the pontoon)!! Relief – time for some beers and a good sleep. Stevie has been told that if I don’t waken tomorrow – not to bother wakening me as I love and have missed a good sleep!

I hope my stories haven’t been too long winded, and please don’t worry too much about us – it’s all part of the adventure. Stevie was unsure that we should tell you all at home about the knock down in case it worried everyone, but apparently it only happens to all sailors once in a lifetime, so I am positive we will be fine from now on. Big hugs to you all, lots of love Nicola xx


  1. oh my god, you make my tummy flip, i hate you for it! I hope you got your wake up call now and stop taking this so lightly! Glad to hear you are ok and have caught your breath, and as you say you live you learn. Hope to speak soon, once you have recovered..... love you lots xxxx

  2. i love reading your stories tho this one is quite frightening , please take care luv mum xxxxx

  3. Neil & Shelly12 November 2012 at 14:27

    Dear Nic & Steve,

    an exhilarating read!! let alone actually living it. Pleased you are safe and sound after the ordeal and hopefully put it down to experience!! Enjoy the sleep Nic as we all know you can and the cold beers and full bottles of wine which are thoroughly deserved. Think its brilliant the 'friends' you have met along the way - reminds me of "Wilson" in the movie Castaway with Tom Hanks??
    Enjoy dry land and good luck getting your crew together - stay safe!!

    Love N & S xx


Thanks for your interest!

Nic n Steve.