night had been a rather exhausting night watch with winds to 37 knots, the
sea in a
state, so Marv & Gord started the next day very tired. We were about
60 miles offshore south of Oregon and north of the California coast. I got up to a sight of about 50 dolphins playing in the
boat wake. There were
different kinds of dolphins including the "spinner" that twirl
and flip in formation, jumping clear out of the water with their humorous
were dolphins in everywhere you looked, with pods swimming over to the boat
from all directions to join the fun.
noon, wind and waves were building at an alarming rate and it was evident
that we were in for a rocky ride as an unforecasted storm unveiled itself.
Winds were gusting over 40 knots so the mainsail was dropped, then
reducing foresail, it was also rolled in completely. But the wind, blowing
from the north, kept getting stronger and soon was a sustained 50 knots over
the deck. Meanwhile frothing threatening surges of water rolled down
on us at heights well exceeding the top of the solar panels mounted at
the back of the boat. The self steering could no longer handle the huge waves
so Gord took the helm. Ascension slid down the
steep waves that looked like double black diamond ski runs and were now well
in excess of 40 feet high. In
the trough of the waves, the boat would broach as the stern was pushed sideways.
Under bare poles, the boat was reaching speeds to 19.5 knots, as recorded
reached 75 knots. At this point the windex was blown clean off the mast.
In an attempt to slow the boat down, drogues were cleated to the stern,
1/2 inch houser with an anchor attached and dragging behind the boat.
By now I was tied down
in the cabin which was like being in a washing machine. I sat clutching my
lucky jade dolphin charms saying a silent prayer that we would all have enough
stamina to carry us through.
The noise was unbelievable; the terrifying sounds
of howling winds that sounded like a freight
train coming through the boat, the crashing and clanking of dishes in the lockers
and the thunking
and shuddering and screeching of the rigging. Things were flying around the
and I was
to catch and secure items that projected through the air.
Gord kept his cool and remained totally focused on keeping the boat in control.
He hand-steered Ascension for 12 hours straight
navigating the boat down
huge swell and breaking surf, across
the waves to prevent it from pitch-poling and then steering up and over
the waves at an
that would provide the least chance of a total knockdown or even a roll-over.
I looked out the hatch and all I could see was a wall of water behind Gord.
time and time again
Gord managed to drive
the boat off as the waves burying us completely
over the deck and the cockpit filled with water. Gord was standing to his knees
in water. All I could see from inside the cabin was the
river of water
the hatches, the side windows often under water, as the boat violently slammed
from port to starboard.
In the midst
of this life threatening situation, it was the strangest feeling to see dolphins
playing in the frothy iridescent, translucent tops of the waves having a
great time sliding down the gradient blueness of the water. It was almost
comforting, knowing that there is a different perspective to the conditions
we were in. In fact, the whole scene was very spectacular...The seas looked
like a molten Grand Canyon exactly like a clip from the "Perfect Storm."
in constant contact with the coastguard giving them our location and trying
to obtain a weather update. When we were told that the storm would last
another two days we had to start looking at alternative options. We heard
several Maydays and were alarmed that one came from Reaction,
whom we had spoken to earlier on the passage. They are a 35 foot Peterson
sailboat also from Canada. They were only about 15 miles from us and we felt
so helpless that there was nothing we could do to help. Their crew of 4
were requesting an airlift off the boat. A Coast Guard chopper was being
sent to search for them. There was also a 41 foot ChoyLee Sailboat that had
abandoned the boat and were being rescued. In addition, it was reported that
the Epirb of 60 foot fishing boat had been deployed.
the charts and books, we decided to try and alter course to see if we could
make it into Crescent City, about 6 hours away. It was a very long 6 hours
but luckily we had that option available to us.