The Long Kiss Goodnight

This was what we were sailing toward as we set off today.

“It doesn’t look so bad,” I said to myself as I stood on the front of Reality on log watch around 4pm. Besides, this boat really is freaking fantastic. She just cuts through those waves like no ones business. It was as if she was born for rough seas.

The calm before the storm...

Little did I know what was to come…

Just as my watch finished it started to rain. I went below deck and decided I would try to sleep a little since I was on the night shift and supposed to get up at 3am with Bill and go right through until morning.

Based on what the weather forecasters were predicting, the plan was to motor out of the Juan de Fuca Strait into the headwind of the storm until about midnight where we would then catch a north easterly and be spat down the coast.

So I settled into one of the bunks in midship thinking that would probably be the most comfortable place to be. (My bed is at the front of the boat but I gave it a miss since we were headed into a storm). Ten minutes past 5pm and we were rolling around like mad. The bed I was on is a double so I spent the next two hours being flung side-to-side using anything I could to keep myself actually in the bed and not thrown to the floor.

Up above, all I could hear were things smashing. We thought we’d secured everything as best we could but we weren’t even close. If it wasn’t bolted down it was on the move.

By 6pm, I was used to the sound of water swooshing over the porthole near my face regularly. The seas were getting rough. At one point we hit a particularly big wave, and the sound was as if the wave actually hit me. You know, like a wave crashing over you at the beach as opposed to the sound of water on glass when you take a car through a carwash. It took me a couple of minutes to realise one actually had.

I couldn’t see a thing in the dark and couldn’t reach the light switch above my head because I was being tossed around so much so I yelled for Bondo who came down to discover someone had left the porthole closest to my feet open!!!

One whole side of the bed was soaked, along with all the books on the bookshelf, and couple of iPods which had been placed on the shelf for safe keeping.

My attempts to dry them off were mocked by the raging sea around me. A few more waves, and water started leaking from the bathroom. I jumped up to try to help but I was unable to get down from the bed. Bill and Bondo yelled back and forth trying to figure out whether it was just the water in the bowl of the toilet being splashed over the rim or whether we were taking on water from someplace else. I suddenly found myself questioning whether I had plugged every hole in the hull fully when we had the boat dry docked!

Shortly after, Jared became the first casualty of motion sickness. He rushed past Bondo and into the toilet. A good place to vomit in static conditions but in this case probably the roughest place on the boat bar the deck. Poor guy.

The toilet was still hampering Bondo though, so Jared was unceremoniously evicted back out to midship where he collapsed on the bed across from me. I could tell he was in bad shape and that I too was about to follow suit.

He hadn’t been back in bed for five minutes when the freezer that sits in a hole next to his bed began to topple to the ground.  Here he was trying to hold it up while trying not to vomit. I wish we had of been filming it. It would be hilarious to look back on now but at the time, I was feeling for the guy.

Things didn’t get any better for him when he was called up to the galley to try to reduce his sickness. A sudden jolt of the boat threw him head first into one of the walls where he knocked one of the lenses out of his glasses, got mildly concussed and sustained a gash above his left eye which continued to pour blood as he vomited out the door.

The cut, cleaned up

The conditions continued to deteriorate. It was only 7pm and Isaac and Shane, who were “on shift” couldn’t even go out on deck to keep watch. I could hear things moving about on the deck but had no idea what they were and no ability to sit up for longer than a few seconds at a time to go check.

When water started to come in from the hatch in the roof of midship – I was already praying for daylight. At least then we would know what we were up against. Then again sometimes it’s better not to know.

I was determined not to get sick and was willing myself to sleep but every two seconds I’d get drops of water on my head, the source of which I just couldn’t find. The cupboards behind my head, which link into the galley area above also took it upon themselves to keep sliding open as we lurched side to side so I was whacked in the head by everything from a baking tray to a fluorescent light globe which was bouncing around under the helm for the longest time before I picked it up and threw it to stop the racket.

Things worsened for the boat as Shane and Isaac finished their shift. We were burning through so much fuel in the storm that Bondo and Bill were forced to jump down in the engine compartment to transfer fuel.

The expletives were coming thick and fast by that point and had I been down there with them, I’m sure I would have been majorly concerned about our precarious position. As it was the overwhelming sense of nausea gave me more pressing things to worry about.

When Isaac landed in the bed across from me looking a bit green at the end of his shift I remember cursing: “Oh dear God, is it really only 10pm?” The quicker my shift started the better as far as I was concerned but every time I heard a bang and considered getting up, (I was awake anyway right? I might as well be of some use!) I had to lay back down again.

3am rolled around and I forced my way out of bed to find poor Jared, attempting to still complete his shift with Bondo. He was lying along a bench keeping an eye on the radar screen from afar while Bondo did pretty much everything else. It was the best he could do.

I knew it was only a matter of minutes before I was going to be sick so when Jared started to ask me which bed was free (I think because he knew he would have to make a run for it and any pause to his destination might be accompanied by some projectile vomiting onto the unassuming person in the bed should he have chosen the wrong one) I looked at him with utter distain.

Need to know fact about me: When I’m sick, I don’t like to talk, or be talked to. Talking just seems to heighten my pain.

So poor Jared got a bit of a spray. “Dude, I don’t have a clue but you need to move right now,” I snapped (there may have also been some expletives in there!). If I wasn’t laying horizontal on the seat he was in in about five seconds he was going to be wearing my vomit as well as his.

As it turned out I wasn’t on the seat for more than a second or two before I was out the door heaving over the edge of the boat, waves crashing around me. Not happy Jan! (Those who aren’t Australian wont understand that reference – sorry!) And so was my reality for the next five hours.

Since Bill had been up all night too, he chose to head to bed instead of joining me for my shift. Given I was in much the same way as Jared I couldn’t keep an eye on things by myself. Luckily Bondo’s sea legs were still well and truly with him so he was able to pull a double shift. In fact he was the only one besides Shane who didn’t have to chuck.

Shane, by the way, went to bed at the front of the boat where I usually sleep and somehow magically managed to sleep through the entire storm. When that guy sleeps, there is no waking him!

Something we learned the hard way about 3.30am when I was keeping an eye on a cruise liner sitting a few miles off our starboard side. Most of our lights had been wiped out in the storm – mast light, port light etc – so in addition to the conditions, we were also a bit of a sitting duck if other vessels couldn’t pick us up on their radar. We had no way of telling whether any of our instruments were sending out correct data.

All of a sudden there was this dull thumping on the hull of the boat. Bondo and I looked at each other as if to say “WTF?”  He ran out to inspect and yelled to me that the anchor had somehow fallen overboard and is banging into the edge of the boat. I rang the bell to get everyone up to help us reel it in.

As I began to poke my head out the door again I heard Bondo yell “F#$%ing hell!” and I found him wrestling with a long pole over the starboard side. Clearly not the anchor but I had no idea what it was and where it’d come from. One of the masts perhaps? Surely we would have heard that go down?

Bill was the first to answer my call for assistance and his eyes bulged as he realised what was hanging over the side of the boat – a 15m outrigger!!!!  He goes running out there bare feet to help Bondo, slipping and sliding over a piece of regurgitated bread I had just thrown up seconds before. (Bondo had offered it to me in an attempt to settle my stomach – it didn’t.)

Jared still couldn’t move because he was so ill and Isaac was incredible slow to get out of bed because he too had succumbed to illness but between he, Bill and Bondo they managed to drag the outrigger back in. Attached to one end was a large piece of splintered wood where it had obviously broken from the boat. I prayed it was not an integral part of the hull because if it was, we were in real trouble.

Meanwhile, Shane was still off with the fairies at the front of the boat. Lucky man!

I spent the next few moments staring at the clock, wondering if the onslaught would ever end and tried willing it to be daylight because surely by then we would be out of this front. The weather was supposed to change at midnight but at 4.30am we are still in the eye of the mother of all storms.

It was Isaac who then realised the outrigger on the other side of the boat had also come loose so we had a few more nervous and frantic minutes as that one was secured as best we could.

And still the boat kept groaning. I just sat there shaking my head wondering how on earth we are going to get out of this mess.

***Continued in the Mayday, Mayday blog****

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