Saturday, May 9, 2015

Storms, (near) Disaster, and Rough Weather

The first week of our trip was rough! The weather got choppy, and I woke up before my night-watch being shaken in my bunk like a popcorn kernel in a pot. Josje was on watch, and she was bracing herself in the pilot house to keep from flying to the opposite side of the boat. The Mehitabel was keeling and flying over the waves and landing with giant crashes.

The rough weather continued today. On my night watch, I harnessed myself in the cock-pit. It was difficult to do scans for other ships because the waves were rising like small hills above my line of vision. Sometimes they crashed over the side of the boat. One moment I was looking down at a trench and then the next, the Mehitabel was lunging onto the top of a high wave, which gave me a terrific view. Pretty exhilarating!! The boat is made to float like a little buoy, so I didn't feel worried. She rides the waves marvellously.

The weather got up to 40 knots (official gale strength), and we were zipping along at a terrifying speed towards the East, which is basically two months of open ocean before reaching the coast of South America. The wind was only increasing in strength, so we had to "hove-to". This means that Uncle Kurt took down most of the sail and faced us directly into the wind. He was clipped in, swinging to and fro at the bow of the ship in the thick of the dark storm as he worked to fix the lines. After we hove-to, we were barely moving....barely moving forward, that is. We were still being shaken and rolled and jarred and bobbed and tipped and tossed. Little tiny people in a little toy boat on a vast expanse of angry water. Inside the pilot house, one moment you were perched looking down the steep slope of the ship and seconds later, you were at the bottom with your back plastered against the wall. We were hove-to for the next eight hours, waiting out the storm.

As a result of the hours of movement and chaffing in the storm, our water tank sprang a leak. The bilge was filled with fresh water....about half of our overall supply! The water-maker, which changes salt-water to fresh, was also not working. On top of this, the radio microphone was busted, so we weren't able to radio in our position to the Pacific Seafarer's Net (for tracking our position). We were able to hear everything on the radio, however, so we were able to get weather updates. Things were looking at little rough, and we were all standing by to see what would happen.

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