Skipper’s Report

3rd January 2017
Time: 0021
Position: 36°11.9N 012°07.5W
COG: 160°T
SOG: 6kts
Wind: SW 6
Swell: W/SW 10-12ft
Sky: 0/8
Weather: Clear, and squalls now seemingly behind us.

A truly wet and wild rollercoaster the last 24 hours have been. We’ve done it all. Used every sail. Done every evolution. I’ve slept in every position possible within 6 ft of the main companionway. I’ll start at the beginning.

The gradual build of wind and waves continued all evening. We started working through reefs in the mainsail, and the ride got faster, more fun, and much, much wetter. Disco, it seems, delivers a VERY wet deck in a heavier sea state. I’ve never been on a boat that takes quite so much water down the deck, and so far down the deck. The cockpit will get hit by its own mini-wave, once it’s swept down the length of the rest of the boat first. It makes for a lively time when working up front, and I fully appreciate the seriousness of working on the bow in heavy weather from personal experience. We did our big sail change at 3 am, with both watches teaming up to get the yankee 2 down, bagged, and below. This was preceded by a robust safety brief, and the team carried out a flawless operation while I kept the boat deep downwind to reduce the amount of ocean coming over the deck. At this point we were still sailing at over 8 kts with just the staysail and 2 reefs, so decided that we didn’t need any more sail than that, and stuck with it for the rest of the night.

The helming has been incredible, cutting our way through an ever-increasing sea state with relative ease. Whoops of delight are a frequent occurrence, in particular from Joe and Henry. Connor’s watch had the tricky one with some big weather changes. They saw the warm front go through, followed by some big squalls. The wind was going from 30 to 5 kts, from any direction, and the rain was absolutely torrential. We ended up going round in circles in the middle of a huge lightening storm, at which I point I decided to lash the wheel, get everyone down below, and have a big group round of tea, coffee, a large chunk each of my mum’s Christmas cake, and what Henry would describe as ‘a bit of Sunday’. Ty choose this time to get epically sea sick, and after a making a right mess of the deck, retreated to his bunk, leaving more cake and ‘Sunday’ for the rest of us.

Brief respite over, we were back to it, and by mid-morning the helming started to become really hard work, with the sea state building considerably. Connor and Ty had done an amazing job helming all morning, making it look so easy I couldn’t believe how difficult it really was when I jumped on the wheel to have a play. With the sea now very rough to high, and our apparent wind headed up into the 40 kt range, we snugged in the 3rd reef, and made the call to change to our storm staysail. Henry, Seb, and I went forward to wrestle the usual one down, unceremoniously stuffed it down the hatch to the awaiting off-watch, and they then passed up our bright orange storm sail. We managed to get it on and hoisted without event, and soon were on course again, orange leading the way.

Since then things eased off slightly, so we put the yankee 3 up as well, and I made the mistake of shaking out a reef. This was immediately followed by a large and sustained squall. Henry and I went back out to put the 3rd reef in again, which involved a wave big enough to wipe us both out and worry me for the first time on the boat yet when Henry disappeared off behind the mast with the wave. Henry is now in the club I joined a few years ago, that truly appreciate the value of being clipped on the foredeck. As I dragged him back up the deck by his lifejacket and asked if he was OK, I was met with the response of “That was awesome!” Typical…

All this time, life below has had to continue, and it’s been very impressive how the team have kept the food and galley running. Alex in particular seems completely immune to any form of seasickness, so has been a real trooper keeping it together below decks in hard conditions. There’s a fair bit of carnage below at the moment, including the monster that is an un-bagged sail in the forepeak, but once everyone has had a breather we’ll get onto sorting out that side of things.

I have a Lego brick super-glued above my nav station, and it is currently adorned with Kenzie Kosmala’s little Lego man of bravery that Seb brought with him to keep him brave as well. I’d like to thank Kenzie for lending us his little man of bravery, and it’s made sure we all stayed brave and kept on sailing.

Rhys Kosmala will be pleased to know that my official ‘Skippers Spork’ that he handed me the day before we left is being fully appreciated at least twice a day, and now has its own ‘Skippers Spork holder’ in the galley, to ensure it’s status is maintained and it doesn’t enter the general spork population.

The evening is clear and starry for the first time in what feels like ages, and with gradually abating conditions, everyone is getting the break they need, and life will slowly return to the peculiar usual that is offshore sailing. Disco has been exceptional throughout the last 48 hours, and proved her worthiness for the challenges we have in store over the next year, and I’m now more confident than ever before that she is ‘the’ boat to accompany The Longest Swim. Happy boat, knackered crew, exhausted skipper, all living life. More of the same please!

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