11:30am March 21st marked CV1’s passage through the date line and the latitude on the Raymarine switched from 179’56.810E to 179’57.850W. In actual fact this was a bit of a non event for half the crew, myself included who were blissfully unaware, tucked up in our bunks. Still the fact that we have all gained an extra day and for the first time can actually re-live a day in our lives, is certainly an occasion to commemorate. Whilst at sea, when the days and nights all role into one, you can often go through a spell where it feels like every day is ground hog day, and March 21st take two, in all honesty was not too different to take one!
Progress onboard EIC has been vastly speedier these passed few days as we have encountered strong winds from the WNW off the back of the low pressure system we have done our best to navigate around, raising our average boat speed back to 10knots SOG. With the rig nestled down to 3 reefs in the main and the storm jib flying, we have endured the onslaught of 45knot gusts, 120ft waves and more Arctic temperatures. Whilst this has been terrific from the perspective that our delayed arrival to San Francisco, looks less ominous as we eat up the miles, it has been heavy going, unbelievably cold and nail biting at times to say the least.
Usually we fight for turns on the helm to relieve the boredom of sitting for hours on end in the cockpit, however as the wind chill turns more bitter and the cold bites through every layer of clothing, volunteers are slightly less forthcoming. At times after just 10minutes at the wheel, the cold has driven through 3 pairs of gloves and as many pairs of socks as you can fit into your boots, leaving your fingers and toes in agonizing pain.
Steering through this monstrous sea state has been nerve wracking. We are all too aware of the fragility of our rig – one knock down, freak wave, gust or heavy surf catching the end of the boom could mean it’s all over.
Tense times to say the least and the pressure upon the helmsman is on. In the dark of night in particular, when you cannot see the bow let alone the magnitude of the waves and surf surrounding you, helming has felt like driving on black ice on a dark winter’s eve. You are making way steadily, when out of nowhere, a huge wave hits and the hull skids from beneath you, healing the boat over and leaving you frantically turning the wheel to regain control. At other times, an enormous wave will creep up on you from behind like a huge imposing monster ready to pounce. You see its crest breaking in the corner of your eye and then wipeout! It has broken over the stern, over the wheel, soaking everything in its path and knocking the stern out of line. Then on occasion, there is no avoiding the bow plunging straight into the side of a huge wave, forcing the boat to momentarily stop dead in its tracks, which feels far to familiar to crashing ones car. A horrible sensation.
So I wish I could say our racing yacht is eloquently carving through the waves and riding out the surf, however in seas as haphazard and fierce as this it is more like the sensation of skiing on sheet ice through a wipeout as we skid and skate our way through the waves.