The real test of our new rudders

It was in the middle of the night (again) and I was trying my best to sleep in my cabin. So far I had been unsuccessful and gone up on deck several times to help out with the sails. The wind has been picking up more than expected and we had to put a reef in both the main and the mizzen. Waves are picking up too and the deck is soaked. Even the kitchen box is soaked. I have one hour of «rest» left before it is my turn to be at the helm. I am listening to the boat, wondering how much more it can take. When we hit a wave, the whole boat is shuddering. We hit another wave and I can feel that my cabin is twisting. The whole hull is twisting! BAM! We hit the biggest wave yet and I feel like something is seriously wrong. Something is broken or loose or just not right.

I knock on the hatch to the cockpit and ask Naomi at the helm to stop the boat. I come out to check the lashings and the beams. «Something is loose or broken», I say foolishly. As if Naomi and Sammy on deck weren’t worried enough as it were. Sammy quickly jumps in to help me check the lashings but everything seems fine! All lashings are solid. They are all soaking wet too which helps them keep tighter. I am at a loss and declare that we can go back on course and I go back in my cabin.

Back inside I have my phone out with the charts and I am doing the math. We are going too fast… This passage was supposed to be an easy and slow passage with light winds and slow speeds. Instead we are racing along at 6 knots and at this rate we will be arriving at our destination before sunrise. I look at other alternatives further away but I can’t find a nice place to anchor. Also it is Sammy’s birthday and we want to be somewhere nice. I make a plan to go south of Boo Island instead of north. That way we will be in the lee of the island which will slow us down and we can wait until sunrise to navigate the reefs.

Before I know it, it is 3 o clock and my turn to be at the helm. No sleep so far. I have two hours of steering ahead of me and I quickly decided to alter course to go south of the island. This makes the boat way more comfortable in the waves, but we are still speeding along. At times 7 knots! It took me a full hour to see the obvious solution to my problem. Something we should have done hours ago! I decide to take down the full main sail and continue on the jib and reefed mizzen alone. This slows us down a bit but we are still going 5 knots. Too fast. I look at the chart and I see there are tons of reefs on the south side of the island. I don’t want to navigate those in the darkness. I make another decision and turn our course back to the north side of the island.

Now we are going up again the wind and our progress is slower. Perfect! When it is 5 o clock Paul comes to take over. We are only 7 miles away from our destination. As I sit on the now dried kitchen box with my back towards the mizzen mast I can now feel what was causing the whole boat to shake. The shrouds of the mizzen mast are loose, something I was aware of. But when the mast is pitching forwards in the waves, it snaps back and bends the beam and twists the boat. Thankfully everything is holding together and this is actually part of the design philosophy. The boat is supposed to be twisting and bending with the sea. The loose shrouds is not helping though and I decide to fix that ASAP.

As the dawn is approaching I can see what has been pounding us all night. As we set off the previous evening there was no wind and the seas were flat. But as the wind picks up, waves are formed. And in our case, the waves were spaced just wide enough apart so that when we were sideways to the waves, as we were all night, there was one peak picking up one side of the boat while the other side got slammed into the trough of the next one. They look like small pyramids and they are very uncomfortable. It is a wonder that nobody got motion sick last night.

We are moving slow now and the sunrise is near. We turn on the engine and motor the last 40 minutes into the anchorage. I was supposed to go to bed, but there was no way I wasn’t going to navigate that narrow reef cut, so I stayed up. Sammy comes out as we anchor. I am completely exhausted after no sleep and I say a quick happy birthday before crashing in my bed.

When we all got up around midday we all agreed that this was the scariest passage we have had so far. We have been in bigger waves and more wind before, but the conditions we had were almost tailor made to pound us as much as possible. The big wave that hit us that caused me to go check the lashings and the beams had washed over the entire boat! But nothing on the boat broke. Paul was fearing for the new rudders especially, but they held together solidly! We enjoy the day on a remote island and the next day we tighten the shrouds before setting off. We are now more confident in our vessel than before and ready to continue the adventure.

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