In trouble again

We had stayed overnight on a mooring buoy outside Peel harbour, so that we could leave on the morning tide which would be heading south. Beverley manoeuvred Salty Lass off the mooring while I slipped the ropes out of the mooring. It was so much easier than the previous night when we had had to move, because of the roly seas.

Once Beverley had steered Salty Lass around Contrary Head just south of Peel, I took over steering. It was a reasonable sail, with the biggest issue being the many lobster pots that we had to avoid. I had sailed us parallel to Port Erin, when I had just handed over the helm to Beverley. Beverley was only on the helm for 10 minutes, when the weather started to turn. The weather had freshened, but we decided to press on, as the tide was still in our favour. The wind direction had turned to a Westerly wind which meant that we would not be able to anchor in Port Erin, so we could only go on. This was not the case as we could of turned back. However, lets not talk about what could of been and deal with what did happen.

The wind continued to rise and was against the south flowing tide so the waves started to mount up and soon white caps were to be seen. We no longer felt comfortable with the sails up, so we dropped them. We were still making progress under engine because of the tide, but the wind was starting to go raise and soon F5 and F6 was the new normal.

We were approaching Chicken Rock, an area of sea that is notorious for it overflows and contrary currents, when all of a sudden a wave hit us on the side and I was looking straight into the sea. Nearly broaching is such a scary experience, your heart goes into your mouth and you find yourself clinging on to dear life.

During the near broach the main sail had travelled up the mast and we had nothing to pull the main sail down. There was nothing for it, I had to go forward and pull it down. Going forward in rolly seas if far and away the scariest thing I have ever done in my life, but there was no choice as the scrap of sail that was out was making steering all the more difficult. I moved the strap to which I was secured to the boat, onto the life lines, but I did not rely on that alone, because I was also clinging on to dear life. The hardest part, is when you have to move from the deck to the coach roof, there are a few seconds where you do not have the greatest grip. I did it however and soon I had both arms clinging to the mast. Now I had to pull the sail down. I watched the sea like a hawk and when I saw a lull, I grabbed the sail and pulled down. It took at least three pulls of the sail, before it was all the way down. Then for the really hard part, putting a rope around the sail and tying it up. The first knot, I did alright as one of the things that you learn to do is tie a simple knot one handed. I fed the one end into the hand that was holding on and pulled the knot tight. One knot down, one more to go. How I completed the reef knot and got it right is a minor miracle, as so many times when my mind is busy, its a granny knot that I tie, but in this case I got it right, so it was time to get back into the cockpit. As I work on the deck, I am always shouting to Beverley. "Going forward", "Getting up to the mast", "Stepping down from the mast" etc. Always keeping Beverley informed about what I am doing. At one time Beverley shouted "Stop and Hold on", I did exactly as instructed and held on. All of a sudden the boat swayed and I was thrown around, but I had a good hold and although a bruise will be coming my way, there was nothing more serious to report. After that I took sure careful steps into the cockpit and it was a relief when I was once more in the cockpit tied on to the hard point, which is at the cockpit floor.

The wind continued to rise and the wind instrument was registering 42.5knots of wind, that's gale force 9, strong severe gale with High waves; dense streaks of foam along the direction of the wind; The sea begins to roll and spray affects visibility. It certainly does, but it was the sea begins to roll that was causing us the most trouble. We were now near where we wanted to turn towards Port St Mary, but the sea was just not letting us. We had to point Salty Lass, directly at the waves so that we cut the waves. We were 90° off the heading we wanted, but there was just no way that we could turn.

Then all of a sudden Beverley shouted "Hold on". I wrapped my arm around the winch and held on. Salty Lass flipped to the side, and all I could see was the sky. We had only just recovered from that near broach when all of a sudden I was looking straight at the sea. Beverley face was just white. She could see them coming, but with waves converging on us from three different directions there was nothing else she could do but hope. Luckily the two side waves had not converged on us at the same time, because Beverley thinks if that had happened, then we would of gone down.

I felt so useless, there was nothing that I could do. So I decided that I would call the coastguard, so that if we broached then they at least knew where we were. We had not turned at this point, so when I called the coast guard I told them that we were heading for Anglesey. So the coast guard lady,, told me to report our position again, in the next 15 minutes. I reported all that had happened in our log book and returned on deck to report to Beverley. Our situation was still dreadful but somehow knowing that somebody else knew about our plight made us feel happier. Beverley's fingers were still wrapped around the helm incredibly tightly, but she at least knew that if we failed to report in the next few minutes then somebody would be sent to investigate. Beverley and I were both watching the sea like a hawk and as I saw a stretch of calm water ahead of us, Beverley started to turn the boat, she had barley completed the manoeuvre, when the waves once again resembled that of a washing machine. It was time to report, so I could at least report that we were heading for Port St. Mary a mere 2 hours away rather than the 16 hours to Anglesey. They, were glad of that information, but they still wanted us to report every 15 minutes. The situation up on deck was still tense but with the waves on our stern, we were feeling more stable as the time period between waves had increased. Also as we were now moving away from the headland, we were only having to deal with one set of the wind over tide, not the two which you get at the headland itself.

Just after another report to the coast guard I saw a speed boat approaching, rather than thinking that they were here to help, I wanted them to go away as they would be adding another thing to worry about in an already crowded schedule. The speed boat was in fact a diving boat that had stopped their dive and got all their divers onboard, as they had heard the panic in my voice when I had made the call saying we were going to Anglesey. That had been over 30 minutes ago and we were now in less troubled waters, so when they shouted

"are you alright"

Beverley answered "yes".

For me, it was just another thing to keep an eye on. The diving boat with its big powerful engines were just adding to an already complicated situation. Once they explained what they were doing, my fears subsided very quickly and the Coastguard said that with having a vessel nearby, they would take us off the critical situation.

By tacking to keep the waves directly on our stern or pointing towards the waves, we managed to get to Port St. Mary. As we motored, the sea state calmed, so much so, by the time we got in, the sea was once again calm.

Beverley and I were still shook up when we tied ourselves up to the harbour wall, but we were in and we were safe. After a passage like that, being safe is a great feeling.

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