Surviving a storm
Like most cruising sailors I’ve had my share of heavy weather but one event stands out above the others. We were halfway between Iceland and Scotland. The Northern Lights were on display, the boat was sailing nicely on a broad reach. Dawn came and the sky began to cloud over. I looked at the barometer; it was falling. I tapped it and it fell further – this was not going to be good. By nightfall we were riding out a Force 11. At one point
I was thrown across the cockpit landing on my ribs, and to judge by the pain, something had been broken. Later, with the storm boards in place, something similar happened when I got flung across the saloon. All the while I could feel the boat rising with the seas, the keel losing its grip in the breaking water on the crests, then the stomachchurning slide down the wave and into the next one. Looking back on this survival storm, I reckon it was the boat that saved us rather than seamanship. My best guess is that with all sails furled and the wheel lashed alee the boat lay at an angle to the approaching waves, creating a slick, which absorbed some of their energy. The lesson here? The boat can take a lot more than you can but she’ll need some help.
Sometimes it’s the boat, not your seamanship, that weathers the storm