You know those moments in your head where you are faced with a challenge and you rise up and fight and you find you have skills you didn't realize and you are strong and confident...maybe even a hero?
My "challenge" moments never seem to play out in reality the way I picture them in my head. In my head "Angelina Jolie" Tomb Raider style and in reality more a nutty "Lucille Ball".
A couple of nights ago my oasis disappeared and stormy clouds filled the sky. Yellow squall clouds began to appear like popcorn popping on our radar. I was more nervous this time with the squalls since our main was full and prevented out and our Genoa was poled. This makes it harder to reef. Alex and I were on watch and we found that the wind with the squalls was manageable by just reefing the Genoa. We did ok leaving the main full and winds didn't seem to rise over 29 knots.
We went through about 3 squalls this way and were wet and cold. We had been on full alert from about 9:30 to 1:30am. It is high adrenalin and takes a bit out of you. At this point I notice that even though the radar shows smallish squally clouds around us that the wind is rising. I ask Alex to reef and given all of his recent experience he is pro and does it on his own as I watch the instruments. Once he finishes the wind gusts up again and we are doing over 9 knots. We usually average about 6, so 9 is a concern. I realize the winds are still building and we need to get the main down. I yell at Alex, "Get Dad up now." Graham enters the cockpit in this mess. Recognize a pattern...lol
They quickly reef the Genoa a bit more and move to the main. In the past we have been able to furl in the main downwind, so we decide given the high winds and the fact that we are almost downwind that this is what we will do. The problem is that the main is loaded and as you fluctuate from either side downwind it is difficult to harden the main without the boom crashing back and forth. To much force. It is damn near impossible. The horrible sound the boom makes as it crashes to the other side is gut wrenching.
Didn't take us long to realize we had to come to wind. We tried to move as quick as we could but we didn't want anymore errors. Alex and Graham furled in the Genoa and I turned on the motor to help drive us into the crazy wind and wave. Graham said, "Go" and I took us as quickly as I could into wind. The boys needed Salty Ginger dead into wind to furl in the main and I did my best but it is difficult to get it perfect as we crash over waves and into wind. It took a while. Finally it was reefed hard and we moved back on course and let out a bit of Genoa. Finally the squalls were once again manageable.
Now this all sounds triumphant on paper. Sure we did make mistakes and I could of done better holding salty downwind and upwind but we did our best. The part that makes me feel bad is that I was panicked as I worked the helm. I basically verbalized everything I was feeling. Alot of people might call it "crazy talk." Most of it was insane gibberish. Fear was chiseled into the lines on my face. I noticed Alex look at me and from the concern on his face I realized for a moment how crazy I must of looked and sounded.
He was calm, collected and all business throughout the ordeal. Graham was also great. Quick to realize when things weren't working and fast to change when we needed to do things differently. He managed to stay relatively calm even with me yelling at him.
I am reminded as I write of some of our early voyages on Artemo and how I had to make a conscious decision to basically "suck it up" and "fake it til I make it." Each experience is a time for self reflection, whether it is on a boat or not. It's great that we have so much time out here to reflect on an event and discuss.
We hesitated on posting this yesterday because we don't want people to worry but there is a risk in everything we do and if we only write about blue skies and sunsets you would most definitely get the wrong impression. Salty Ginger is strong, the captain is capable, the crew is happy, healthy and ready to learn and step up. These "challenge" moments are part of the package and collection of our adventure. Don't worry please, I got the worry part covered :-).
Beautiful sailing weather now. Making good time. Nice seas and blue skies. My oasis has returned.