Saturday, January 07, 2012
Cruise of the ‘Ishani’, a 26’ Eventide – Part 7
We were greeted with fine drizzle and increasing wind early on the morning of 3rd June. In thick darkness, save for the ghosting of breaking waves, we sensed the wind had veered a little so that it was from the southwest. Despite the increase in strength of wind, the sea was smoother with longer troughs between each phosphorescent crest. At 0910 I estimated the position of the yacht to be 44 degrees 10 seconds north and 15 degrees 6.4 minutes west. For a change, we managed to hear the forecast for Sole which predicted winds from the southwest, veering west, 5 to 7, and 4 to 5 later.
As we continued, the wind steadily increased. At 1811 we recorded in the log that it was blowing more than a Force 7, perhaps an 8, because it was howling in the rigging. We had become used to these conditions. Life was as normal. We were sailing under storm jib and the mainsail was well-reefed. ‘Ishani’ behaved impeccably, rising to every wave, acting as if she were a gull bobbing on the waters of the English Channel. We were at home, two sea salts together.
4th June was our tenth day at sea. We were roughly halfway to our destination, Horta on the island of Faial. We were on track and on time for getting there in 20 days as we had planned. At this point we had a chinwag to take stock of the situation. I was feeling great and on top form. I was enjoying the challenge. Unlike my companion, I was not suffering from bouts of seasickness; neither was I having a problem opening my bowels. He on the other hand had been constipated from the outset. Laxatives had no effect. Ten days without opening his bowels was a serious situation. Furthermore, he started coughing up blood.
Things didn’t look too good. There was only one sensible option and that was to head for the nearest land. This happened to be La Corunna, in North West Spain. At midnight the decision was made to change course for the mainland which was 340 miles to the east. Everything felt quite different. Instead of beating into the wind, the ship was running. There was a sense of anticlimax, almost a feeling of failure on my part, because I had unsuccessfully tried sailing to the Azores before with two of my previous yachts, a Hunter Europa 19, and a Folksong 25. With the wind coming from astern ‘Ishani’ rolled somewhat, but her speed increased. The seas appeared to be much flatter. Hand steering became the norm because our boat would not self-steer downwind, even with only the storm jib set.
Bill wrote in his personal log that the moment the yacht was put on her new course his spirits rose. I kept my feelings to myself, but I was content with the decision, knowing we had made the right one. Sailing with a companion has its compensations: fellowship and sharing. Also help is available in tricky situations, and when there’s an emergency, two pairs of hands are better than one pair of hands. I know this for a fact, because when I was in the Bay of Biscay crewing for a friend, his yacht began to take in water faster than we could pump it out! My ideas and his actions got us out of a very serious jam. I’ll not go into details, but between us we managed to reduce the inflow of water sufficiently to keep it under control by pumping every hour.
I estimated that at our current speed we would reach land in about three days.
On 5th June we unexpectedly had the pleasure of watching several pairs of tunny leaping from wave top to wave top, as though they were participating in a choreographed dance. The barometric pressure continued to fall as the wind progressively increased in strength. We were forced to hand the main; then run before the wind under storm jib alone. With that handkerchief of a sail the boat surfed along at a good 4.3 knots. By evening the wind was at least a Force 8. We lashed the storm sail to the pulpit and lay ahull.
Laying ahull is not the most comfortable of experiences, but it invariably works. The yacht finds her own station when her tiller is slightly lashed to leeward. A slick is left upwind of the yacht which tends to smooth the seas. She heels, presenting her underbody to the waves. They smash against her side, but the yacht gives - and all is well - time after time. Parallel streaks of spume run at right angles downwind from the wave tops, and the ocean heaves. Spindrift is blown from the cresting waves. You are wedged into your bunk on the leeward side and you listen for advancing waves. They charge along like approaching express trains. You hear each explosive thud and wonder how the boat can take it, but she does. She’s like a cork rising and falling, so you give thanks to your Maker for His mercy and you wonder at His power.
Text for the Day
Psalm 106:1 ‘Praise the LORD! Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! His mercy endures forever.’