Friday, April 1, 2011

A Thorough Beating

I have just been through the worst sailing of my career. Seriously, I was almost ready to stop. The last eighteen hours has been back to back thunderstorms and squalls. It was like a bowling alley of them all night long. I’d have 40 knots from the east, then 40 knots from the west, then no wind at all. It was just constant and there was no way to keep up. Le Pingouin kept getting knocked down over and over. I tried hand steering through it dealing with all the sheets and lines as well, and I couldn’t keep up. I just simply could not change direction fast enough. The seas were coming from all directions and it felt like a washing machine. The storms rolled through 1-2-3 and on and on they kept coming in the pitch black night with no moon. In my exhausted state I was just waiting from something bad to happen, because the entire situation was so hard on me and the boat.

In my scurried state of trying to keep some semblance of order, I was standing at the back of the cockpit looking astern in an effort to inspect the rudders because the boat simply wouldn’t steer responsively (it turns out solely because of the incredibly confused sea state), when it felt like Mike Tyson slugged me directly in the back. Not just anywhere on my backside, but exactly where I had 2 extensive back surgeries many years ago to fix herniated discs and dural sack damage. I crumpled over into the cockpit floor in pain while grabbing a line, to then see that it was a massive flying fish (looked more like a flying trout with attitude – and quite an altitude as he hit me about 10 feet above the waterline). As I gathered my thoughts and stood up again, another one came hurdling at me and hit me on the shoulder. I have a nice bruise to prove it. This entire incident or series of incidents left me in pain and concerned about the boat, but also wishing this was all on tape because it was so unbelievable. I know this sounds like an April fools scam but the only one getting messed with was me at the hand of God or Neptune or something like that.

My whole body is sore from the endless winching and work to get through the 16 or so hours of chaos. I feel like I can hardly move. In a 10 hour period I probably tacked 30-40 times and was knocked down 6-8 times. The boat looked like a yard sale gone wrong, with lines and flags dragging behind the boat. There is diesel from the header tank that opened all over the floor down below, so it is like an ice skating rink down here. The heat combined with the diesel just stinks so bad I can hardly stand to go down below, so I did crash on deck for 30 minutes following the trauma and the feeling that I was dangerously close to hallucinating. It will take days to clean all of this up. I am now trying to work my way north and more to the west to remain clear of the huge clouds that create such fiascos and rest as much as the weather allows. From my childhood sailing to now, through dozens of runs in the Gulfstream and 2 ½ circumnavigations alone, I never expected what I experienced last night could happen. I am both stunned and pleased that Le Pingouin made it through without any major damage. I am also praying that the pain in my lower back is a knot of muscle and not something more. I wish I could have provided a picture of the flying trout but he flipped and flopped back into the water before I realized I really wanted to eat him or at least memorialize his back breaking girth. Sometimes facts are stranger than fiction and I swear this is not an April fool’s gag.

Thanks for checking in,