Marianna is my crew lady whom I mentioned earlier. She has been on ocean voyages before but only in the tropics...nothing quite like she has experienced on the first leg of this trip. I explain more shortly.
But, first I thought that it may be a good idea to show you the intended route graphically. I have changed it slightly on the suggestion of a good friend who has sailed into Darwin many times. Rather than divert to there we will call into West Timor for fresh supplies.
OK...back to Marianna. When we left Lyttelton early Tuesday morning 15th May the conditions were benign with a light breeze and sunshine with a 1.5 meter swell from the North East. As the day wore on we started picking up the beginning of the southerly expected which was anticipated to be around 25 knots.
However, later in the evening the conditions began to deteriorate, and at 9pm the first somewhat mild gale came through with sustained winds of 35 knots and gusts up to 40 knots. Unfortunately it also rained and the temperatures were close to freezing, and so it was bloody cold. But, it was my shift on so Marianna was wrapped up warmly in her berth.
By 10pm when it was Marianna shift the wind had settled down to a comfortable low 30's. Marianna kept watch (if that is what you can call it given there was no moon and no stars and zero visibility). Anyway, at 3am I started my shift and Marianna went to get some sleep. About 5am about 30 miles south of Cape Campbell the second gale hit us at storm force. Winds were sustained at around 44 - 45 knots and rising at times to 50 knots.
The seas and winds were slightly to on the aft port quarter and we were doing a lot of surfing with speeds reaching 13 knots. Couldn't see what the seas were like because of zero visibility. However, from the reflection of the nav lights I could see the breaking tops of waves behind us which looked like they would tumble down on to the aft deck...but, they never did. Instead they just broke and slid underneath the boat.
When surfing down the waves there was only a few occassions in which green water came through the slates on the deck. The bows raised nicely and the boat tracked well. I wonder how big a role the bulbs played in helping the bows lift so well.
Also, not once did we have any crashing underneath the cockpit.
Conditions were predicted to get worse over the following 24 hours so I decided to take shelter on the lee side of Cape Campbell and anchor whilst the rest of the storm passed.
Back to Marianna...she came back on deck about 6am but it was not until it started getting light around 7am that she could see the state of the sea conditions, which would be pretty scary if you have not experienced it before. However, instead of Marianna being frightened she was thrilled because she had no idea when she was in her berth how big the seas were and any reservations she may have had about the boat being caught in bad conditions evaporated. In fact, if it hadn't been so damm cold it would have been fun.
Although we had a sea anchor and a drogue the conditions were still a long way away from even having to consider the deploying of either.
I am completely confident that even in sustained 60 knot winds from the aft quarter that having the aft main sail reefed and the jib reefed and putting a drogue out would give a comfortable and safe ride.
We however found that one of our lockers in the cockpit containing electrical gear was not sealed well and water got in and found its way down the leg of one of the motors which stuffed it. So, we headed for Picton which is where we are now replacing the motor...which fortunately I had a spare of.