We decided to set off from the Rosario islands for a day sail to San Bernard Island. We had a great sail. The wind was 12 to 18 knots and the seas were fairly calm. We got to get the sails out and even try out the hydro vane. Great wind for experimentation and just plain sailing!
The next day we decided it was time to head off for the 24 hour sail to the San Blas islands. We prepared the boat for the voyage. We made sure we had jack lines run from front to back, so we could be tethered on to the boat if we needed to go forward. We made sure we had all our harnesses and tethers in the cockpit. The kids had their beds in the back set up with books, snacks and movies. We were as ready as we could be. We checked the weather and it looked like 15 to 20 knot winds. We figured it would be about the same as the day before and away we went.
The seas unfortunately built and built over the first few hours out. The wind also was higher than predicted. We saw on average 22 knots but it fluctuated, which made things worst with the big gusts. The waves were coming directly across our beam (middle) and so was the wind. We had to hand steer through these conditions and it was like fighting in a tug o war. We flew through most of the night with only our Genoa out and we still averaged 7.5 knots. On reflection we were probably going to fast for the weather we were seeing.
I have always heard how dangerous the white top waves are when they come across your beam, so it was scary at night when all you could see when you looked up with the white tops of these HUGE waves. The boat was being tossed around so much that for the first time in my sailing career, I woofed my cookies. I felt terribly sea sick, everyone did. Alex and I took gravol at that point and lucky for him it put him to sleep for the night. For me, it just made me drowsy and grumpy, as I moved about my chores.
We took our first rogue wave into the cockpit. I could not believe how much water came into the cockpit. It was shocking. Alex and Graham were on deck and Alex got totally drenched. We hadn't connected the hose to the drain holes in the seats yet, so the water just poured down below. Amelia was in her room and was pretty shaken when she saw all the water. We did the best we could to clean things up.
We had decided to leave our mizzen up, along with the Genoa, for the night sail and we realized a few hours into it that the mizzen was actually making it harder to steer. We just didn't seem that balanced. Unfortunately this meant that we had to steer directly into the waves and wind to bring it down. Easier said then done but we managed to do it. Steering got a lot easier after this.
At the peak of the craziness, Graham looked back to see the mizzen boom being swung violently back and forth. The attachment point for the mizzen sheet had come undone. There were no other options, he had to leave the cockpit and fix the problem. I knew that if he fell in there would be no way we would be able to get him back. He tethered in and I tried my best to steer the boat. The longest 5 minutes of my life.
Graham did the majority of the steering and he stayed calm when I wasn't. He was angry and had every right to be, that I couldn't be more calm or more helpful. He was exhausted and I didn't even want him to go down below to have a pee. I was terrified when I would take the helm and Artemo would get hit with a blast of wind and bend right over. I didn't even try to suppress my fear, I was to exhausted. I would beg him to take the helm again and he would. Tears would run down my face and my legs would shake. Sometimes you just can't be everything you wish you were.
The seas and wind didn't let up until we were behind the island we are now anchored off of. My whole body aches from clenching up and being tossed around all night. The sense of relief I felt though when we turned the bend on the island and were in protected water was beyond words.
I guess I knew it wasn't all about sun downers, white sand beaches and clear water. A good healthy dose of reality is probably exactly what the doctor would of ordered.
on a side note.....Captain Graham says that many circumnavigators say that crossing the Caribbean Sea was the roughest part of their voyage. The water is notoriously rough.