July 28, 2010-Arrived in Sumatra: Tough Trip
We have arrived in Sumatra, Indonesia and are anchored in Sebang after a rough two and a half day passage, all upwind and mostly in high winds and very rough seas.
Here is the story I wrote after the first day:
Judy took one look at the dark line of clouds and said, "We're going to get it".
It came fast and just as we got the jib down the first cold wind hit and the rain hit my back like icy pellets. The water and the sky were black but a layer of white spray swept over the waves. Then the spray enveloped us. Clouds of white water flew past to leeward, over the whole boat. The wind hit 38.
We soldiered along for a while maintaining our course under double reefed main alone but the wind just increased and increased. We saw over 43 knots. The sail flogged at times. I watched the clock and wondered how long it would last. These squalls don't last long I'd heard, and I hoped, but it went on for hours. We turned and ran off with it which helped quiet things down on board and the wind vane happily steered the boat through the wild waves. We were under control and surging along without any problem now but the wind still howled, the spray still flew by, the waves were big and hissed past us like angry cars, and we were going 8-10 knots towards a lee shore. Even at 75 miles away Sumatra loomed to leeward. It was only a matter of hours before we reached it. I was counting on the fact that the squall would pass and we could resume course but this might be a risky assumption. Perhaps this was not a squall but a storm. What if it persisted for the whole night? I didn't want to end up forced to beat off a dark and unknown shore; many ships have been lost in those situations. So after three hours of running off we decided to change strategy. We trimmed the sail to slow the boat down sheeting in very hard and we came up onto the wind with the sail over trimmed. It worked. Now sailing at 3-4 knots into the howling breeze it was rough and we were again covered in spray and all the lines and rigging groaned under the load I put them under but at least we were no longer heading towards the beach.
I watched the wind drop and when it was time for Judy's watch the wind was 20 and she came on deck. We were going 5 knots. Things seemed to be better.
I went below.
Soon Judy began to moan, "Oh, Oh, Oh!" The wind was back to over 40. I came back on deck as fast as I could get dressed and we turned downwind again.
This went on for most of the night. It was a very hard night. The tension of the high winds and rough seas was emotionally draining. It was one of the worst nights we've had on Wings and it was the first night of our cruise to Africa. We talked about whether we really wanted to do this anymore: cross oceans and get into storms. We need to have some serious discussions.
By midnight the wind dropped again and we turned on the motor rather than shake out the sails; we didn't know how soon we'd need to get them in again.
By morning the wind was gone and we set sail. The discussion about whether we can keep facing these oceans, or want to, is put off for now.
That was day-one. Day-two and day three were nearly as bad. We arrived OK, no problems, just tired and shaken and emotional for being tense and scared for three days. The discussion is back on.
Click here to see the other photos from the rough trip to Sumatra
Click here to see the chart of our trip
And click here for more shots from this trip
And here (before we left)
Click here to see the log book pages of this passage.
Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Sebang, Sumatra
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