After a few calm, ominous hours in the morning, dark clouds rolled in. It was the second day of our passage to Hao, and the edge of the storm had caught up with us.
The wind was strong enough to blow the tops off the waves. The wrinkles of the sea, like a worn out shirt, were at first actually smoothed out — as if worked over by a great iron.
Then all of a sudden, as if the cosmic hand had shifted the “shirt” on the ironing board, giant creases erupted in the form of waves, which crashed powerfully over Aldebaran’s decks.
We veered the course downwind to ease the pressure on the boat and rig. Yet the short-period, wind driven swell kept dipping Aldebaran’s port bow into the trough of the waves, sending piles of white water over the dodger and bimini (which shield us from the bulk of the elements).
The cockpit windows were sealed, which normally keeps us dry and cozy, but now countless gallons of water pushed through every seam and gap in the fabric, dripping onto the port bench. Like wet unhappy cats we retreated to the starboard bench’s relative dryness, from where we could steer and monitor the instruments.
Going into the cabin gave Sabrina cause for alarm. “Throw me some towels please,” Sabrina hollered from down below. Every hatch and window was leaking; the red lights of the bilge pumps kept flashing on and off. We set up towels in various spots to catch the majority of the drips.
Even after taking down the headsail and raising the small working jib, the boat was still flying at 7-10kts. She remained surprisingly well balanced, with only 1/4 turn of weather helm (how much the rudder has to counteract the wind’s pull). The smashing waves did nothing to slow us down; for Aldebaran kept accelerating at every wave crest, like a seagull riding the updraft and dipping its feet merrily in the wild spray.
After some time we got climatized to this reality – like living for hours in a wet earthquake – and got rest. I slept on the starboard bench and used an alarm clock to drowsily check the surroundings every 30 minutes. Ziggy the autopilot kept steering with remarkable accuracy. But the real star was Aldebaran, who this year celebrates her 50th birthday (!)… like a retired racehorse who, despite being discredited by critics for her age and weight, comes alive when things get serious and takes care of her riders. That day, in the middle of a rough Pacific Ocean, showed her original design: she’s one tough boat.
Instruments shown below from 9:22pm…
– Wind direction: 002 degrees (north)
– Apparent wind angle: 91 degrees
– Apparent wind speed: 26.9 knots
– Boat speed: 9.8 knots
– Boat course: 103 degrees (east by south-east)
– Distance to next turn: 52 nm
– Distance to Hao: 261nm