Rough Seas

Monday Evening, Sept 13, 2021
Latitude 40o 06’ N
Longitude 11o 35’ W

Rough Seas

The seas today were coming hard at the boat, not in neat waves but confused, driven by an approaching low pressure. They were only a meter or so in height, but steep. Sequential hedges of water. The wind builds to 35 knots. The mainsail is already reefed; the Genoa is rolled in with effort. The wind on the remaining sails drives the boat at 6 knots, starboard rail nearly to the water, powering into the waves. Every ten minutes or so she rises and slams back down into the next wave. Below deck, the hammock partially filled with produce swings wildly side to side. The cabinet door in the head comes unlatched and demands immediate attention before it slams hard enough to shatter its mirror. As always, there’s something loose that can’t be found, banging rhythmically until you try to isolate it, then resuming its repetitive torture as soon as you concede defeat.

You move about the interior like it’s a jungle gym, taking advantage of well-designed hand holds. When heeling to starboard, the bulkhead outside the captain’s cabin next to the gangway offers a comfortable plank to lean against, either to enjoy a stable resting spot or as you transition to your next location. One gets adept at moving through a dynamic landscape, but occasionally becomes careless, hopefully only resulting in scrapes and bruises as a reminder.

Cooking becomes a contact sport of varying degrees of difficulty. Body and limbs must be braced against counter and floor. Preparing a meal, or even just making a cup of coffee, requires a deliberate premeditated sequence of actions so as not to lose control. The pots and pans are on a gimbled stovetop, in theory staying level as the boat rotates underneath. You stand ready to bang it free in case a large roll sends it into gimble lock. The coffee cup sits in one of those stove top pans to prevent its sloshing. Any food or kitchen utensils have to be placed against a surface that will stop them from sliding towards the low side of the boat. And even then, a strong roll from one side to the other sends a cup of soup back then forth with enough speed to topple over the slat of wood that was supposed to restrain it just long enough to find a spoon. At lunch, an unexpected lurch sends the hand-held pan of beans and rice across the galley to the far wall and down around the unreachable space between the stove and the cabinets to join the coffee grounds and other food debris from past defeats, eventually to be cleaned with great effort.

Profanity seems to help under these conditions. Although, oddly enough, so does sleeping. Secure with a lee-cloth to prevent me from falling to the floor, my cushioned bunk is like a big waterbed, rising and falling, rolling side to side. If one gives in to the motion instead of fighting it, it will gently rock you to sleep. And escape with a nap is exactly what I did this afternoon, as Pete finished out his watch. Basing our tactics on downloaded weather predictions, we’ve been battling the waves to get on the west side of the passing low pressure area, where the counter clockwise flow of the winds and waves around the low will turn in our favor. It’s now 8pm and the waves are already better, to the extent that I’m going to go and enjoy the relatively smooth sailing to leisurely make myself a cup of coffee.

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