Did I wish for more wind in my previous post? I guess the old saying “be careful what you wish for” holds true…I wished for more wind, and boy, did we get it!! But let me back track just a little.
Days 6 & 7 on our trip to Indonesia were beautiful sailing days. We put our Spinnaker up, and it was downwind sailing all the way. The seas calmed down as the winds were fairly light, in fact, on the evening of the 6th night, we actually had to take the Spinnaker down, and we motored through the night as the wind was so light. But as soon as the sun was up, we put the big blue and yellow sail up again, and we once again had lovely winds the whole day and through the night. With the wind strength dying down, so did the sea state, and it was almost flat with very little swell, so it really was very nice!
Going into Day 8, which was Tuesday, May 30th, we checked the weather as usual, and we knew the wind was going to pick up, as we had seen this in all the downloads we had done every day, twice a day. So we were not surprised to see higher winds forecast, but none of the models predicted anything more than 20 knots. With stronger winds, we were making better speeds, and we were hoping to make it to Kupang that evening. The first incident happened, once again, on my watch. It was relatively early, and Dave was inside dealing with a toilet that had magically blocked overnight (see, we have the same problems on board as on land…everyone loves a blocked toilet!!!!). The sky was a little overcast, but nothing I didn’t see anything threatening. All of a sudden, I noticed the wind pick up…from 15 to 18 to 23 knots in a matter of seconds. I looked behind me, and I just saw this wall of water and dark cloud. I shouted to Dave to get to the helm. He’s pretty quick to react and he was up there in seconds….luckily! It was a matter of a few more seconds before the squall hit us. The wind rocketed to 29 knots and the wall of water hit us. Dave shouted for me to get the spinnaker sheet (rope) and he said, “if I say “go”, just let it all out…get ready to dump that sail!”. He was worried that the power of the wind could tear the sail and our only option would be to let all the rope out, let the sail flap, and take all the power out of it. Hand steering through the squall, and surfing down the waves, Dave managed to control the boat and sail, and it was not too long before the storm passed over us, and all was back to normal. Phew! That was a shock to my system after my dream-like sailing for the last 2 days!!!
Dave went back to trying to fix the toilet, and I was back on watch. I honestly don’t know what happened, because I was pretty vigilant about watching the wind angle, and the only thing I can think of was that a wave caught us from the side, (with the increased wind, the waves and swell were picking up again as well), and this rocked the boat, causing the spinnaker to collapse on one side. Now, this sail is huge, and when it collapses, there is a lot of cloth flapping around!! I heard and saw it at the same time, and immediately changed course by 10 degrees, to get directly downwind, but it didn’t help. The sail kept of flapping and overlapping, itself and I shouted once more for Dave. This time he didn’t come…and I’m trying to control the boat and this sail!! I shouted again…”Can you guys hear me?!” and I guess the panic in my voice made Dave dash out once again. The sail had wrapped itself around itself and to try and now undo it was a nightmare. I honestly thought we were going to loose it. Dave sprang into action immediately. When pulling on the sheet didn’t dislodge it, he shouted for us to turn on both engines. By this time Benjamin was right beside me and he took control of the engines.
“Rev them to 30,000 RPM!”, Dave shouted! WHAT?! We never do that!!
“Do it, NOW!” was the response when Ben and I didn’t react quickly enough. We did as we were told.
Ben stayed on the engines, and I went to release the sheet. By speeding up the boat, we were able to take some of the power out of the sail, and by releasing the rope, there was enough slack for Dave to pull the sock down and douse it, and then untangle it. For the second time that day, I thought we’d almost lost our spinnaker. It was all too much for me. I asked Dave to please take the helm for the next couple of hours…the toilet could wait.
I kept myself busy cleaning the inside of the boat, our usual routine to get ready for our anticipated visit by customs, immigration and quarantine, whenever we check in to a new country. I didn’t realize how much the wind, that was not supposed to go above 20 knots, had actually come up. I started hearing those darn “high wind” alarms and eventually went out to see what was going on. The scene that greeted me was a little scary. The water had turned into this churning mass of white caps and the wind speeds were a consistent 28 to 29 knots, gusting to 30 knots. And yes, we had our spinnaker up (this is a light wind sail)! The sail was handling it OK, but our auto pilot could not. Dave was hand steering to keep the boat surfing down waves, doing everything he could to keep the power out of the sail. We were doing speeds of 10 – 12 knots easily…surfing down waves at 16 knots!! For those not familiar with sailing (or with our boat)….that’s FAST!! I had many thoughts going through my head, but my most troublesome was, “how on earth are we going to get this sail down?!”!!! We talked it through for a while…we would wait for a “lull” in the wind (hoping for 18 – 19 knots) and then do our usual routine of getting the sail down. That consists of Dave at the bow, pulling the sock down on the sail to douse it, Ben on engines and handling the spinnaker guy (rope), me letting out the spinnaker sheet, and Gaby reading out wind speeds and transferring messages from Dave to me, as he is in front and I’m at the back, and it can be hard to hear him (especially in howling wind!). But that lull just never came. We were once again getting close to a point where we had to make a turn, and we had to get the sail down! Ben and I talked about it…our biggest concern was that the auto pilot could not handle the waves, and it would not be able to surf the waves as Dave could by hand steering, so we would never have that surf during which to douse the sail. We went to Dave with our plan: Dave stays on the helm and hand steers (and does Ben’s usual jobs), Ben handles the sheet, Gaby does her thing, and I would go up front to pull down the sock. We had to try it. So, everyone, donning their life jackets and clipped on, manned their stations and off I went to the bow. Dave was so busy issuing instructions, that he almost missed the window when Gaby shouted out “19 knots!”, and Dave said “GO!” Ben let out the sheet, letting the sail flap (wildly!), Dave surfed a wave and I pulled for all that my life was worth!!!!! The sock slowly came down. I remember hearing Gaby shouting “Go Momma, you’re doing great!!” So sweet…my little cheerleader!! Well…we did it! We got that monster sail down in howling wind and all was safe and sound…what a team! I was so proud of everyone. The kids really come together in a crisis and just do whatever needs to be done!! We turned at the waypoint, which was our last stretch to Kupang. “We’re coming in hot!” we shouted to no-one in particular! By 5:00pm we were anchored and just so relieved to have made it safely! It took a while for it to sink in that we were actually in Indonesia!
We’ve only been here a day, but that’s a blog post all on its own. The poverty we’ve seen in such a short time is astounding. We’ve made friends with Lambert, who lives on the beach, only has one leg, but a heart of gold. Dave spent the ENTIRE day checking in. If we had not enlisted the help of a local agent, it would take 2 – 3 days at a minimum for check-in. The bureaucracy is unbelievable, and to navigate it alone would be an astronomical task. But we are here, we are happy, we are safe! And we are all checked in!! Today’s school was dedicated to learning about the history of this incredibly diverse country of tens of thousands of islands, and about the different cultures and religions; Muslims, Hindus, Christians, Catholics, who currently (but have not always!) live peacefully together. We constantly hear the call to prayer from the local mosque even though on this island, Muslims are in the minority. Tomorrow we are taking a tour of Kupang and surrounding area before we head off once again to explore the islands to the north and west. Our studies today also included learning some basic Bahasa Indonesia words, so with my limited vocabulary, I say to you all, “Selamat Tinggal” (Goodnight)!