A week since our departure from Carnarvon: how the time had flown.
A cold front that passed by down south caused the winds to freshen and become southerly. This increase in wind speed, enabled the sails to fully fill, thereby providing us with not only a faster sail but a much smoother ride inside Gratis.
With 20 – 25 knot winds predicted, the twins were refurled and lowered to the deck, the much stronger Gennie and staysail combination being released in their place.
By 11:30 birds were coasting the thermals and winds had increased to 20 knots, whilst Gratis was reaching speeds of ten as she surfed down the swells. With increased strain placed upon the rigging, the time had arrived to reef the foresail by about a third of her awesome size, whilst the running backstays were set for additional support.
Two hours later, the wind commenced veering: within seconds, a small rain squall headed eastward crossed the stern.
No sun this day: had to run the engine in order to charge the batteries.
The winds increased to 25 plus knots once more. Surfing at 10kn or more down the swells, Gratis had her moments of glory! However, there were instances when control felt a little out of touch (when one loses mastery over the boat and the waves are the height of the craft or more, the vessel can broach – turn side on to the waves – and capsize). Although there was no danger of this for us, there was still a need to regain that stable command. Outside we went once more: with the Gennie furled down to the size of the staysail, Gratis continued to maintain 5-6 knots of speed.
When sailing long distances it’s best to reduce sail early, thereby reducing the load on the rigging and boat in general. We wanted to get there of course, but were in this for the long haul: it was not a race. We desired to arrive with the least wear and tear on both us and the vessel!
Three hours later, the winds had dropped a little, but there were still times our girl surfed along at 9 knots. Remember the roller coaster rides you went on as a child, where your stomach appeared to rise, then fall? That’s what this was like for us!!
Another hour, and the wind had abated yet further, however, we were now left with the after affects it had triggered upon the sea. Think of the domino effect: constant winds equalled a build – up in swells and wave height. Every so often a ‘Big Papa’ passed through, hitting Gratis on the stern: at times there would be a double whammy as she received simultaneous wallops both starboard and port, and a deafening thwack was sent chorusing through the boat; during those moments it was ‘hold on tight’ as the girl became a rocking horse: it was like attempting to balance upon those old wobble boards. A precarious act it was, as with the rush of water beneath the hull, one could at any moment find themselves thrown upon the floor.
7¾ hours, we had covered 44.3nm and were still going. Not bad as, like a cork we bobbed along!!!!
During the night, deep in slumber below, upon having landed heavily upon the bed after levitating above, I was rudely awoken. Winded, heart racing as a result of the adrenaline coursing through, I seesawed my way up top as objects within the boat played the musical chimes whilst Gratis flew forward, rocking all the while.
Almost up top I clutched firmly to any hand hold I could find as another roller erupted seemingly from nowhere and provided a repeat performance. There was Bob at the helm, in the process of adjusting course with the intention of making for a more comfortable ride. Assuring all was well, down below he sent me once more!!