FROM 2-14. Cape Town-Kerguelens

NHF part 2

Sitting at a pleasant dinner table in Cape Town, you tend to forget or at least suppress just how bloody awful it can get out here. We have a steady 35 – 40 kt wind howling in the rig, gusting over 50 in the squalls, violent breaking seas, acres of white and milky blue broken water and glimpses of swimming pool blue as solid water goes past the windows, Berri rolling and crashing all over the place, closed right down with just Kevvo and the wind generator operating. I'm once again wedged under the nav table with my knees, everything sliding around, trying not to get thrown out with every breaking wave and not to look at the wind speed. And this is a relatively mild one – just a little gale – but with every effect magnified by the southern ocean swell and the Agulhas current. The grib said (and doesn't that become a mantra of hope against reality?) 30 knots but as we learned last time, you really have to double it here. So we creep north east and sit it out, hoping that any ships around have AIS and good radar because for us a proper lookout is really a sea level squizz out of the windows around the boat. Not very effective.

Udo, thanks for your message – all the bits seem to be working still, touch wood.

All that was many hours ago – I don't remember when I started this one, decrepit old git that I am. We've been creeping NNE bare poled and wildly uncomfortable and it's now 1800 utc and the wind has abated, now 25 – 30, waves still big and breaking over the boat and nothing really to do except sit it out until we can head east again safely. We are about 60 miles south of the main shipping lane so should be ok during the night but we'll have to be careful. We will turn east again as soon as the seas get a bit easier but right now we have to keep the boat relatively slow so that we don't take off from a breaking wave and broach and get clobbered. Poo.

Later still – I've just got into party gear and gybed us, still bare poled and now we are tracking closer to east. Still very big waves but they are only breaking occasionally and it will soon be time to unroll a bit of headsail. We have been caught before by the wave train that arrives out of nowhere after the gale has abated and fills the cockpit or, as near Dunedin, almost rolled us in 2005. Just before I went up, sure enough – huge breaker crashed over the boat – seemed from the inside to have come from astern and thumped against the stormboards and sent little spears of water through the breaks in the seals and onto me and my book.

Good fun.

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