View Full Version : Stormy Seas.

09-02-2011, 10:44 AM
I wrote this as a PM for someone on here but then I thought I'd post it as others may like to read it -

That stormy boat delivery I mentioned,
I think it was in 2007 but I will never forget it...

left Lymington at around midday (if I recall) with the 52ft yacht called Roxy 9. The water was lumpy and the breeze was stiffening from the SW. As we left the Solent, the open water got rougher so we rocked and rolled along the South coast of England with the mainsail and headsail up (sails aid stability in rough weather) but with the engine also on and in gear at low revs, just as a precaution. We maintained our W/SW route at around 15-20miles offshore and the miles passed with the hours.

Later in the day as darkness fell, the seas got rougher and the wind strengthened. It got to the stage that, as we approached Cornwall at well after midnight, we had to head for land to sit this out. We headed up into Falmouth for the marina there. I can still vividly remember trying to drop the sails offshore before heading inland. I had to leave the rear cock-pit and go forward to drop the big mainsail, as it was getting stuck on the way down. As the boat violently rolled over and back in the darkness, I lay on the deck next to the mast with my feet braced against the rail. With a small maglight torch in my mouth pointing upwards, I hauled the sail down bit by bit, sticking the folds of sail under my weight as it came down to prevent the wind catching it and blowing it overboard. It seemed to take an age. :(

Got the sails down and motored up into Falmouth, we tied up at the marina at around 3am. I was more physically tired than mentally so I went for a walk along the marina in the early morning darkness to stretch my legs. Took my camera aswell (though forgive the poor quality photos taken in pitch darkness)...

Our boat -



Ex-Ellen MacArthur's Transatlantic Racing Catamaran -


A huge luxury motoryacht -



Other boats -







then fed the swans which arrived beside our boat -


Slept onboard for a few hours and when we woke in the morning, the weather appeared to have settled so untied and headed back out to sea to continue our journey. Plodded the rest of the way along the English South coast and rounded Lands End after a few hours, that was more or less the 1/2 way point of our overall trip. We then set our NW heading for Cork as per GPS.

After maybe 2hrs, received a storm warning over the VHF for an incoming force 8 storm from the South. Checked the onboard navigational & meterological equipment and could ascertain it's position in relation to ours. Had to make a crucial decision between heading back to U.K. for refuge or keep going and tough it out. After some deliberation, we decided to keep going but changed our heading to due West. Hopefully that way, by the time we reckoned the storm would hit us from the South, we could head due North and let it push us home.

It worked as planned but I will never forget seeing the storm approach. About 1hr before it hit (while we were in the calm before...), we could see the darkness looming. On looking to the SW, there was a wide but low banner of clear sky on the horizon but above that was a brooding darkness and what can only be described as visual evil. It was actually quite surreal and the vision remains etched in my memory. Our estimated timing worked out, when it hit us we were around 100 nautical miles due South of Cork so we headed North and let the Southerly storm batter us home. The storm hitting us was also quite strange because, although it only happened over a few minutes, we don’t fully realise it until suddenly we became conscious of how hard it’s blowing.

A 50ft+ yacht is far from small but with the big waves coming from our behind as well as the storm winds, it made for interesting helming. As any sailor will know, it is a very precarious situation to have the wind behind you with a following sea. It makes contolling the boat very difficult and you’re very much at the mercy of the seas. The worst that could happen is that the boat could slew to one side on the wave-crest, then the following wind could catch the wrong side of the sail and whip it across the boat (a.k.a. a Chinese gybe) and in doing so, could possibly de-mast the boat . We left only the small mainsail up and kept the engine on and in gear and then, just hung on as the boat shimmy'd over the big crests. The size of the swell (some felt like they were nearly the size of a 2-storey house) was such that as we crested waves, we were looking down into the next sizeable trough... on a 50ft-er, that really is quite something. Had 4 crew onboard (including me) but it was all hands on deck now, any sleep below deck was now out of the question.. We pretty much surfed all the way home and it was repeatedly hair-raising, it was now late night and there was no decent light to see what was ahead. The only visibility we had was the white water of the wave-crests, illuminated to varying degrees :o

Here's a taste of similar conditions during day-time off the Irish SE Coast (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ihzaDoG1JfY&feature=related)

Finally, shortly after dawn broke, we saw land up ahead and we surfed towards Roches Point at the mouth of Cork Harbour, doing around 23 knots (for a big sailing boat, that's quite serious speed). As we rounded Camden Fort and motored up into Crosshaven, we were in sheltered water so the violent motion, which had lasted for many hours, finally settled. Reached the marina, tied up and went straight to bed. It had been quite a trip and it took me nearly 2 days to physically lose the rocking motion of the sea.

Roxy 9 tied up in Crosshaven (photos taken a few days later) -



Despite the discomfort, danger and scariness of the journey, I did actually enjoy it but was more than glad to be back on dry land. :D

09-02-2011, 10:59 AM
i dont envy you at all i would of been a crying mess shouting for mummy as boats and rough seas scare the crap out of me

Neil Mac
09-02-2011, 04:59 PM
Originally posted by Kev_mk3@Feb 9 2011, 11:59 AM
i dont envy you at all i would of been a crying mess shouting for mummy as boats and rough seas scare the crap out of me
Don't worry about it, Kev. Ellen MacArthur is known to have a good cry when she's out sailing too :whistle:

Anyway, cool story, Rory :thumb:

09-02-2011, 08:59 PM
Originally posted by Kev_mk3@Feb 9 2011, 11:59 AM
i dont envy you at all i would of been a crying mess shouting for mummy as boats and rough seas scare the crap out of me
Kev, I have done many sailing trips between UK & Irl. so I'm pretty used to it.
That one was by far the scariest one to date though. :o

Thanks Neil, glad you enjoyed it. :thumb:

09-02-2011, 09:26 PM
Cool story :thumb:

No sea legs at all on me I reckon me and Jesus would've been getting close on that trip :lol:

09-02-2011, 09:37 PM
I would have been honking before leaving harbour!!

How do you stay calm when the world is going nuts around you?

09-02-2011, 10:30 PM
Originally posted by Hippychick@Feb 9 2011, 10:37 PM
How do you stay calm when the world is going nuts around you?
That's a good question H. and I'm not quite sure of the answer tbh.

Just had to stay focused on the task at hand (ie. getting home safely) and simply not allow the thought of what could happen. There was many hundred ft of depth below us but just had to blank that out of the mind.

There were numerous times during the worst of that trip where the boat would crest a wave and, with only the back section still in the water, would semi-freefall down into the next trough. It would usually land with a bang which would shudder the entire 50ft boat. That's not much fun in the darkness as you can't help but think "if the hull gets damaged/breached from this consistent punishment, we are so screwed as we're far beyond the reach of help"
But it all ended well and I've done many more trips since. :D

I'm just sorry I didn't take a few photos during the worst of it but there was far too much going on,
the thought didn't even cross my mind. :rolleyes:

10-02-2011, 09:55 AM
Nicely written, Rory - an interesting and exciting real life story :thumb:

10-02-2011, 11:23 AM
nice one Rory great read.

We popped over to isle of wight last year for some wakeboard, it was a bit chopppy on the way over, didn't feel that choppy.
End up with water going up the exhaust and killing the engine so we floated about with the big boat for a while. getting tow home the 7 miles took us 2 hours it only took us 20 mins to cross. was a long day with wet suit sun tan.

10-02-2011, 08:11 PM
Originally posted by Ollie_247@Feb 10 2011, 12:23 PM
End up with water going up the exhaust and killing the engine so we floated about with the big boat for a while. getting tow home the 7 miles took us 2 hours it only took us 20 mins to cross.
Bad luck there Ollie, not a nice thing to happen and not a nice place for it to happen, given how busy those waters can be. I've been to Cowes on the I.o.W. a few times, really like it there and always have a laugh. :thumb:

Actually, that's another scary issue I've experienced many times in the coastal waters of Southern England; the busy shipping channels.
You really have to be on the ball with keeping an eye out for ships, particularly during the night! You can spot one away off in the dark distance and think "ah, he's miles away"... the thing can be on top of you in minutes and they do not yield. It's up to smaller craft like us to evade so it certainly makes things interesting.


11-02-2011, 10:55 PM
Originally posted by orsonbuggy@Feb 10 2011, 10:55 AM
Nicely written, Rory - an interesting and exciting real life story :thumb:
Thanks Chris, glad you enjoyed it. :D

Incidentally, will be back over there again in August for the Rad 24hr if you fancy joining us for a pint or 3 in the CC. :thumb: