Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I pity the fools.....

When I look out at the ocean on windy, wavy, rough days and see a sailboat, I think to myself, "I pity the fool out on a day like today." On this day....we were the fools. The day after the storm we were worried that it may be too rough to head out into the Strait of Georgia, but we were eager to get home before another storm hit. When we checked the Coast Guard info, the waves were reported at only two feet and the wind was only fifteen knots. Not so bad, we thought. So we let our eagerness get the upper hand of reason, and after pushing two 60-70 foot logs away from the boat, we headed out thinking we could turn around if was too rough. Things got rough immediately after we left Snug Cove with waves hitting us erratically from all sides, including large swells, ferry wakes and reflections off the surrounding cliffs. We figured it must be at its worse because we were in the convergence zone of the Strait of Georgia, Howe Sound and the Frasier River and maybe things would calm down once we got fully into the strait. One choppy, uncomfortable-kinda-green hour later things were not better, just different. Now we had six to eight foot, steep, white-capped and breaking waves pounding us from the south at three second intervals and we had to make a decision...keep going or turn back? Neither felt like good options. I was in despair. Oh how I wished we had never left. What kind of morons head out to cross the Strait of Georgia the day after a major storm that shut down the beefy BC ferry system? We plowed forward as we weighed enduring the ugliness we had just gone through again or braving the horrendous waves ahead. Sailboats are designed to be under sail...it smoothes out their motion when you lengthen the waterline and stop the rolling so Jason suggested we raise the mainsail in hopes of calming the motion down. I whole-heatedly disagreed because there was no way that I was going to allow Jason out of the cockpit onto the heaving decks. We agreed to raise only the jib since that can be done from the cockpit. Jason turned into the wind and the boat bucked wildly as the waves slammed into us. When Jason raised the jib the boat gave a horrendously violent lurch as the sail filled and the motor pulled us forward at the same time into the trough of a huge wave. Seawater crashed over our bucking boat and hit Jason full in the chest and face. He sputtered as he regained his footing (thank you, Grandpa, for the harnesses) and shook the shock from his face. I lost it at this point and shrieked, "This is completely unacceptable!" At this point, I was shaking, white and terror-stricken. Jason set our coarse and beat into the twenty knots of wind, staying on his knees through tacks to stay stable. Things were extremely uncomfortable and we were all green so Jason checked the charts and tidal current predictions and chose a different destination that would decrease our angle to the wind and the waves in hopes that it would help. It worked. Things were not at all comfortable now but at least the boat was surfing down the waves instead of hitting them straight on. Our decision was made...we would proceed forward. My coping mechanism was to shake and stare straight ahead, catatonic, while Jason adopted the strategy of not looking off the high side of the boat, where watching the spray and immense white-cap waves on the march towards us struck fear into his heart. The kids doused their fear with a dose of game boy to distract them from the violent lurching of poor Marinero. Poor Pika just shook violently down on our bed. After a few hours things calmed down a bit as we entered Gabriola Pass. As luck would have it we arrived right at slack water, where we were able to sneak through and duck into the safety of the Gulf Islands. We all breathed a sigh of relief as conditions dramatically improved. We all marveled at how these improved conditions of three foot whitecaps and twenty knot winds would have made us nervous in the past, but after what we just went through, it was a cakewalk. We enjoyed a leisurely sail down to Princess Cove on Wallace Island and the sunshine even tried to break through. When I tried to drop the anchor (notice I said "tried?") it wouldn't drop because the violent action of the morning's proceedings had tossed our thousand pounds of chain around so much that it was all jumbled with the lower portions riding on top of the upper portions. I held our position at helm in the narrow cove while Jason heaved the chain out inch by inch. We've had rough days before but this was by far the most violent and scary day on the water so far. I sincerely hope we never repeat it. Maybe days like this are why sailors are so partial to rum?

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