Number one rule of the sea – the captain gets what he asks for. Now, Thomas and I got a wealth of experience from our jaunt around the Mediterranean over August and September but we never had a real storm. Yeah, we had a little bit of lightening and big winds along the coast of Italy but we never actually got a storm. This was duly noted by the captain and he appeared rather disappointed that this was the case. So, on our first leg of our circumnavigation what else should we expect?
We started out from Palma at a fairly slow pace but the winds picked up in the afternoon to produce a speed of about 5 knots. Content with our performance the crew settled in to ‘watches’ mode knowing that we were going to try and get as far along the Spanish coast as possible. As we were about to pass Ibiza late in the evening we were surrounded by distant flashes in the sky. By the time we were close to the island, we were in a full blown thunderstorm with drenching rain and wind gusts of 35 knots. Having our new wind detectors on board we were given a warning beep when this occurred. We fixed that and changed the alarm to 60 knots. The beeping was getting on our nerves. It never beeped again.
With the winds came the big seas and they became bigger as we headed west towards the coast of the mainland. The crew was very hearty and completed their watches with as much enthusiasm that could be aroused amongst the woozy feelings of land locked stomachs. Lunch was avoided by at least one crew member and two others later fed the fish with it. The watches became more interesting with the waves becoming less predictable. We were going 10.9 knots at one stage down the front of a wave with only half of the head sail out and cruising at 9 knots most of the time. Gusts of wind were reading 50 knots. Any plan to head for shelter was diverted through timing as any harbour was only during the darkness and you were safer at sea than trying to navigate through an unknown harbour in the middle of the night in adverse conditions. So with only a quarter of the head sail out – no main, we pushed on between 7 and 9 knots through the night and the next day. The winds didn’t decline and the waves grew steeper. It was only a matter of time before a bigun reached the centre cockpit and Thomas and I had water rushing around our feet reaching up to my mid-calf. I was at the helm facing forward when it hit but I saw Thomas’ eyes widen as he watched the devious wave approach us. I was more concerned with maintaining the course and avoiding a broach, pulling hard down on the helm to port whilst getting inundated with water. The noise brought Hagai up to query our well-being and after reassuring him that all was fine, we quickly checked the cockpit scuppers to encourage the water to make a hasty retreat. It didn’t take long to empty out but some stray debris from all the work that had gone on prior to leaving had managed to find the drains despite a huge effort prior to clean up. It was a good thing that the washboards were in place in the companion way or the water would have gone downstairs.
The huge seas continued all the next day and half of the next night until we reached the coast of the mainland and turned the corner. Safely in the shadow of the cape, the seas became calm but the wind gusts were continuing and this kept us travelling contently at 7-8 knots through the night. We discussed the option of heading into a harbour but our experiences of travelling in the Mediterranean told us we were best to wait for daylight. As it was, the harbour we chose in the morning had a huge net in it that needed to be avoided and wouldn’t have been seen late at night. Anchored up, the crew is resting and reflecting on two nights of an exhilarating experience.
It’s great that the captain can now feel fully initiated into the realms of an ‘experienced skipper’ now that he has had ‘his’ storm. We learned a lot as some of the new equipment has been damaged. That big wave got the better of the new satellite phone antenna when the fenders hit it and the wind detector that had just been erected onto the top of the mast, flew away with the breeze sometime early on the first morning. It was wonderful knowing we had competent crew on board so we could relax in between our shifts so exhaustion was kept at bay. I was extremely happy with my new ‘all weather’ gear that I’d purchased in Palma. I was dry and warm, except for my feet. Something to deal with them will be purchased in Gibraltar. The captain knows to be more careful when going to barf in the toilet now as he was jerked to one side by the ship’s motion and he hit his ribs bruising them quite badly on the way to leaning down. My backside is aching from bouncing off the sides of the boat with the rocking. The captain did a great job organising things and ensuring the safety of the boat. We are in a pleasant bay on the coast of Spain, licking our wounds and celebrating the hardiness of the boat and the crew.