Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Heaving to.

Last night we spent about two hours getting ready for a wind shift and heavier winds. We lashed things down, double reefed our mainsail and cleaned up on deck. An hour later the wind shifted to the Northwest with a vengeance the very direction we wanted to keep going. Initially the wave train kept going with the old wind direction and even though we had to tack away from the onslaught of the wind we still were making good time. As the night wore on and the wind strength howled higher the waves started coming right at us. These were long legged waves though, with a period of nine seconds that would let us sail up them and down them. Still the wind kept picking up. The waves went from Chevy Suburban to school bus size that we would claw up and then slide down the other side like an evil water ride. Then the house size waves started sneaking in, but they also had that nice long period that you never get in the Great Lakes and it was just a matter of getting used to being in seas this large. These were the 4-6 meter waves that were forecast, and the wind had reached its peak of 26kts. This was now a gale. Precipice labored under the gusts, but the sail combination coupled with the type of waves meant that we were still able to make way against the storm. This morning the waves changed. The period started getting shorter, mostly four to six seconds and then worst of all the waves started breaking. A six meter wave (24ft) is never something to be trifled with, but as long as it isn't breaking at the top they generally wont do damage. When the top becomes unstable the wave can slam you with considerable force. Enough to break things. We had just changed watches, Deb going to bed exhausted and me coming up not much more rested. As soon as I was up I could tell the wave strength was at least double of what I had left four hours ago. A half hour later, a breaking wave buried the entire front of Precipice up to the mast and swept down the rest of the boat like a giant hand. Two diesel cans broke lose and started thumping against the side of the hull. Bianca popped up, my decision timer of the family, and told me something was thumping against the hull. It was time to heave to. I turned the boat and backwinded the staysail, sheeted the double reefed mainsail tight and tied the tiller against them. In effect, as soon as the sails tried to sail the rudder would fight against them and stall the boat. In this position Precipice drifts sideways downwind at about 2kts, creating what is called a slick downstream from her keel. Giant breaking waves come up to us, hit the slick, and just crumble into nothing right before our eyes. If you have never seen it, it is hard to believe that it is possible. Right now, seven hours later, the wind has picked up even higher and the waves are consistently house sized but our deck is dry and we are all inside dry and warm. We have a ten minute timer that signals the person on watch to check the radar for ships and ice, makes sure we are still hiding behind our slick and none of our lines are chafing. Inside we are comfortable and warm. We are essentially parked. We will stay this way until we feel it is safe to continue. The winds are supposed to die down tomorrow morning. In the meantime we are going to get some rest. We strongly feel that if you do not know how to heave to in your own vessel then you shouldn't be at sea. It would be like owning a car and not knowing how to use the brakes.

Rolland for the Trowbridges

UPDATE: We spent twelve hours hove to, and then the waves died down enough that they were no longer breaking. We have continued toward Lancaster Sound and expect to be there in the next 2-4 days.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

YO!....Very well writen I had the feeling I was there.Take care etc.Thanks for the update...ACES