Nautical gift Shopping on Line.
We set sail in our Bermuda rigged sloop from Alderney in the Channel Islands on passage to Poole in Dorset England, the forecast was SW 5 to 6 Occasionally 7. We were well equipped with life jackets and securely attached to the yacht with safety harnesses.
At first the passage was rough but not uncomfortable with a very large southerly swell, perhaps 12 to 15 feet just before 11 am we had the first strong wind warning of gusts up to gale 8 and the size of the swell was increasing.
By this time we where approaching half way across the channel and decided to continue on to Poole. Before too long we wondered weather we had made the right decision, as the weather continued to deteriorate, and the wind strength increase.
Around noon we heard the dreaded message on the VFH radio. "Security, Security all ships, all ships, gale 8 now in progress in sea areas White and Portland".
The yacht started to shudder and shake with the power of the wind so we put the last reef in the main sail and reduced the fore sail to a postage stamp size. When the crew where safely back in the Cockpit, we battened down and prepared for a most uncomfortable few hours.
The passage carried on with the large Southerly swell estimated to be around 20 foot or more on our port beam, one minute we where on top of the world looking down at a big black hole behind us, the next in the bottom of the trough with nothing to see but sea water. We passed a school of dolphins which appeared inquisitively around the boat, but soon left them behind battling the gale.
Although the sea conditions where very uncomfortable, they where not at this stage life threatening and the auto helm was managing to keep the yacht on a sound course heading to Poole. We then had another warning from the weather centre of winds gusting to severe gale 9, by this time we where getting more concerned and the auto helm was having extreme difficulty in maintaining our course.
The sea conditions further deteriorated and we now had quite large amounts of white spray spin drifting off the large swell. We maintained a watch of two crew members in the cockpit, and the rest of the crew where ordered to secure them selves below. About two hours off Anvil point, where the sea bed shoals, the yacht suddenly lurched almost 90 degrees and water started to pouring over the gunnels, the auto helm had ceased coping with the sea conditions, and we had to manually take over control of the wheel.
Although the wave height had reduced the wave length was much shorter and breaking. No sooner where we out of one wave, than another was breaking over us. We only managed to cope by taking each wave individually and bringing the boat up the wave and surfing down the other side, a very dangerous manoeuvre, but did have the affect of keeping the yacht more or less upright. I was also trailing warps and ropes behind to slow the speed of decent down.
By this time we where in a full sever gale nine gusting tens and travelling at an incredible speed around Anvil point. By very careful management of the boat we eventually arrived in the safer waters of Poole harbour and safely continued to the Marina berth. The wind was that strong that it was impossible to manoeuvre the yacht into it's own pontoon mooring, so we spent the night having been blown onto the fuel pontoon at the end of the Marina.
It is a passage I would not want to repeat, and was very glad we all arrived safely to port, but soon felt more comfortable after downing several pints in the Yacht club.
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