November 23 – 24, 2012
Night was upon us, with an almost full moon lighting the way, allowing us to see the waves of the Gulf Stream. We could only imagine what some of these monsters looked like in the daytime.
For the most part, the conditions on the Gulf Stream weren’t anything we hadn’t seen before. However, the completely opposite directions of the swell and waves at such heights was a new experience for us. At times, we couldn’t tell whether waves were coming or going. Waves of equal heights would be approaching the boat at the same time. One from the port, and one from the starboard. We would glide up and over the swell, just in time to rock up and over the wind wave. The boat handled it beautifully!
There was one most unique wave combination that stands out in my mind. Two opposite waves were approaching the boat at the same time. I had to look up towards their peaks in the moonlight. I’m guessing they were at least 12 feet or larger. It looked like they were going to reach the boat at the same time. I had no idea what would happen. Would we be squashed between two walls of water? Surprisingly, as the waves met, the boat gently lifted up towards the sky and back down again. It was a most incredible feeling!
The winds continued to be out of the southwest as we crossed the Gulf Stream, and blowing 20 to 25 knots. We were sailing with a double-reefed main and about half of the jib. In order to help us plow through the stream without wasting any time, we also had both engines running wide open.
I was on watch as we crossed the middle axis of the Gulf Stream, where we had our biggest waves and strongest wind gusts. As the bigger waves approached, I could hear the eerie howling of the wind in the distance. It reminded me of the sound of the wind from our Port Washington experience with wind gusts nearing 50 knots.
When the first wind gust hit the boat, I became completely over powered with weather helm. For the first time, I actually became a bit scared. I had been trying to hold the boat close to 180 degrees, but the wind pulled it towards 210 degrees, and I didn’t have the strength to pull it back. As soon as the wind released the boat, I was able to bang on the hatch where Wil was sleeping, and yell for help. He quickly arrived to the cockpit and we immediately furled in the jib a bit more. We waited for the next wind gust to see how the boat would handle. It was much better. I could breathe easy again.
It was on Wil’s watch when we took some major green water over the boat. One wave came over the boat from the bow, across the main salon, and all the way to the cockpit. Down below, while trying to get some off-watch sleep, I could hear the sound of the water rushing across the deck. I actually chuckled knowing that Wil had just been drenched. Poor guy.
Nothing like a dose of bumpy seas to let us know what needs fixing. As I was coming into the main salon, I noticed water all over the floor and on one wall. I stood there puzzled, wondering where it came from. I didn’t have to wonder for much longer. As the next wave slammed under the bridgedeck, sea water sprayed up through the floor grate. One latch for the port-side escape hatch had broken, and the hatch had come partially open, allowing water to spray into the main salon. We temporarily tied a line around the broken latch to the floor grate, holding the hatch a little more securely. Then, we covered the floor grate with a large towel, so the main salon would stay a little drier. Repair would have to wait until we were in a calm anchorage.
Another minor loss we suffered was that of a small hatch cover located near the big salon windows. We had left those covers on because they weren’t near the bow, and generally safe from water over the boat. However, Wil knows exactly which wave claimed about two-thirds of this hatch cover!
Even though we would have liked to have seen the waves in the daylight hours, it was good to have had the kids safely down in their bunks for the night. No one slept much, and Colin would keep asking if we were still in the Gulf Stream. The ride inside the boat really didn’t feel any differently from any other bumpy seas we’d had in the past. Therefore, the kids didn’t seem to be worried about the rough seas.
By sun up, the wind and waves had subsided a bit. The winds were out of the west at 15 to 25 knots, and the waves were 5 to 8 feet. They would continue to diminish throughout the day.
As conditions calmed, we began to relax, coming down from the adrenaline rush. We were exhausted, but we had a new sense of accomplishment and freedom. We had succeeded in crossing a bumpy Gulf Stream, and now we were free to sail south to warmer waters.