Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Forces of Wind


Over the last 36 hours the Sᴓrlandet has faced hurricane force winds (65 knots); blown out a sail, shredded two other sails, flooded the m/o’s room, flooded the banjer, rendered the main deck unstable and unsafe, and blocked all access to the galley (kitchen) house. It’s been chaos! Even now, as I sit in the banjer writing this blog, I can feel the ship shake with every wave that slams against her hull and hear the water race across the deck while the freeing ports slam shut causing a boom to echo through the ship.

Yesterday I was woken a half hour early for watch and told to report immediately to the officer in the bridge. I was not to go onto the main deck (had to use water tight doors and work my way to the aft deck via the laundry room) and I was required to wear full foulies as well as my harness.

It was pitch black, all I could hear were the yells of the chief mate as he commanded us to brace around the main. The helm, like a wild beast, could not be controlled. It jumped from 5 to 10 to 20 degrees off our course. After we braced I stood in front of the charthouse clipped to the railing and looking down on the flooded white water main deck. The ship rocked back and forth reaching forty to fifty degree angles across the horizon. Its rails came below the water’s surface as rain pelted my face and tore through my foulie jacket only to reveal a red and irritated shoulder later on in the day. And the wind, steady at 65 knots (force 12 on the Beaufort scale), caused me to go into a state of temporary deafness. Forty minutes into watch (0400-0600 watch) a loud popping noise could be heard above the sound of the blasting wind and when I looked up I could see that nothing remained of the main upper top sail except a few shreds of canvas. Half of the professional crew arrived on deck at that time and we all set to work trying to bring the yard down. Hours later the fore main sail tore and a few of the head sails blew out their tacks.  

At the watch handover the chief mate and the captain had agreed that it was no longer safe to have any student crew on deck but that we also were not to be stood down in case of any immediate actions which might need to take place and so they barricaded my watch and the 0600-0800 watch in the crew mess.

The rest of the day followed as so: 2 more hours of stand-by, 7 more hours of watch (I took 5 extra hours of watch for my crew mates who felt too sea sick), cold breakfast, lunch, and dinner (galley house was closed off so we could only use what was in the dry stores and walk-in fridge), and a few exciting trips to the main deck where water flowed over the rails and broke its path only once it had reached my waist. There were no classes; just a lot of adrenaline.

Today, watch continues on like normal, classes are back in session, and the galley is still preparing cold meals. The wind has died down, the seas have calmed (but only slightly) and access to any of the decks is still forbidden unless on watch. I continue to take my friends watches and get on deck when I can. These storms that we have and are going to continue meeting up with as we cross the Atlantic are exactly what drives sailors to be sailors. There is no fresher air than the air one breathes while at sea on a crisp and cold Atlantic.
Helming in 50 - 60 knots. Wind died down by the time this photo was taken.

Waves never look as crazy in photos as they do in person. It was amazing watching the seas build. 

The Torn Upper Topsail. It made for great wallets, ditty bags, and book covers later on.

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