Riding waves between three to four metres high, passing under the boat from right to left, watching them roll on down hill as the next wave erupts before you, with the wind blowing loud enough that we have to shout to each other, whilst watching an approaching cargo ship appear on Esper’s beam, is one of the most exhilarating experiences either of us have ever experienced.
It was 0600 and I was lying in bed, vaguely aware that my body was rising, dropping, sliding and twisting like a corkscrew. Clearly there was some weather going on outside. I slid into my salopettes and stuck my head up through the companionway. There, at the helm, was Liz wearing the same grin I’d left her with the night before.
Ourselves and ‘Roam II’ were due to leave Turkey today with the aim of hitting Rhodes to fuel and provision, meet up with ‘Storm Dodger’ and ‘Rhumb Do’ and then head off SE on Friday to meet the Vasco Da Gama rally in Port Said, Egypt. Hmmmm. Have you seen the weather lately? I’ve animated a grib file (weather information) for your perusal to prove my point. In an unexpected turnaround of weather for this time of year the south of the Aegean is being hit with some vicious northerlies. Normally these die out by the time they hit the same latitude as Cyprus but these winds are whipping right across the eastern Med and across Port Said. I wonder how many leaving drinks we can get away with…
Another miserable day on the weather front (the second in a row with no sun), giving us a grim backdrop for the bad news: the batteries had stopped charging and neither the skipper nor the first mate had any idea why this was so. Ocean Indies is, after all, a new boat. This situation meant we now had to run what is called a ‘dead ship’, i.e. no electricity.
Never let it be said Sunday is the day of rest. After getting stitched up on the watch system (due to the clocks going back and a watch system change) I decided to go for a lie down. After a couple of minutes there was an almighty clang, followed by the skipper shouting “all hands on deck”.
The next 24 hours became a blue of slamming, spray, 5 metre waves and queasiness. Most of the watches were done in saloon, though I preferred being outside, harnessed in and riding the boat as if on a surf board! It was either feel sick and feel sh!tty, or see it for what it was and make the most of it.
The weather was getting progressively worse but everyone was itching to get going and finally hit the open waters. When the green light indicated our turn to enter the lock the sense of nervousness and trepidation increased as the conversation dropped. Once the gates had closed behind us we had a fifteen minute wait as the lock filled and rose to sea level. We were all looking at the red traffic lights and waiting, wondering what the open water had prepared for us.
Back on the Ijsselmeer we continued to get to grips with the boat. At one point I accidentally tacked, which in stormy conditions can be the end of the boat since the boom can swing round the wrong way and put too much pressure on the wrong side of the mast, which could snap it in two. Mistake number one!
Although Ijsselmeer is only three metres deep it behaves very much like the sea. With fairly strong winds we unfurled the mizzen, the sail at the back of the boat that’s used to stabilise it in strong winds. With the slashing rain we were the only sailing vessel on what is normally a busy bit of water, and when the storm that had been predicted by the weathermen finally came over the sh!t really hit the fan!