Daybreak, no sign of the tempest waning, our position below Madagascar where the South Equatorial Current ran with speeds of one to three knots and a series of underwater mountain ridges rose, meant running with the storm was not an option as the SW would blow us directly toward that shallower tract of water: not a place to be in a blow.
The wind brushing past the headsail on the windward side caused it to continually point us Madagascar way. Finally fed up with the process of correcting, the sail was eventually furled in.
06:00, sea to four metres – sometimes five, exhausted, making little headway and burning fuel (that purchased in Mauritius was of poor quality for we used around 7-8 litres per hour instead of our usual 4-5), Bob made the decision to ‘heave to’ – a way of providing a break and creating much more comfy conditions – for a while.
This is akin to pulling over at a road stop on the highway. In order for this manoeuvre to be successful, the rudder is turned to windward along with the mainsail, leaving the boat stalled and just drifting slightly forward whilst sliding a little sideways. The main acted as a weathercock, keeping the boat just off the wind. The aim was to create an under – current in the water, which prevented waves from breaking upon us, as the surface tension was broken. An adjustment here, an adjustment there, and Bob had Gratis in just the spot. One could tell this by the slick created on the windward side of the boat.
The roar of the sea and gurgles of the water passing beneath as Gratis bobbed above were constant music in the ears whilst we were safely cocooned within. Having practiced the manoeuvre in the safety of calm conditions in Adelaide’s gulf waters, it was a first for me in conditions such as these. How amazing it was to watch as waves were halted in their tracks.
Some hours later, the wind having abated, the main was released, the rudder rotated around slightly to leeward and Gratis was in motion once more.
Up the swells and through the waves Big G thundered. Coloured water, milky pastel blue underwater streams dotted the waters here and there.
Mid – morning the south easterlies at long last arrived. Finally, it was possible to run with the wind behind, a relief to two battle weary cruisers.
Poseidon truly enjoyed testing us. In the process of adjusting AP by 2°, a massive wave thudded into Big G upon the port side stern quarter, as a wind shear simultaneously occurred.
Not enjoying this one bit, our girl gracefully carried out a 180° pirouette, whilst the sail simultaneously backed. My adjustments on AP not enough, realising what had occurred, Bob leapt up and took control. Gratis now broadside to the waves, manual control was the call of the day. A massive burst of engine, helm turned hard to starboard, it was a game of ‘cat and mouse’ as the wind and Bob attempted to out manoeuvre one another: Bob was the winner by far!