Photos from India

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Trapped in a wind tunnel

I don’t think this story will due the past week justice, but for now, I guess it will have to do. I can’t even begin to describe how tired I am of being stuck inside this tunnel of wind that seems to be trapped between the two islands which we are tacking back in forth between on our journey further south. At the beginning of our trip, we departed from one of the many bays of Cape Nelson on the island of New Guinea for the Eastern side of the island of Goodenough. Our first attempt failed as we departed into the sunrise and after not even an hour of sailing into the wind, we found ourselves being beat up by a relentless swell and powerful winds that ended up blasting us back to the safety of the harbor on Cape Nelson. Our second attempt of the journey was successful. We again departed at sunrise for what looked like it would be about a thirty hour journey to travel a meager forty five miles as the crow flies. Our destination was directly upwind and we would have to tack our way there. It was a continuous journey of traveling back and forth against the wind with a strong swell always trying to push us back. With the wind howling continuously and about fifty five hours after departing we finally arrived. Having completed fifty two tacks (turns) and 210 miles, the forty five mile journey was complete!
We took refuge in what was called a well protected bay by our guide book that lies near the middle of the Eastern coast of Goodenough island. Passing the headland at the entrance to the bay brought about an immediate change of conditions. The howling stopped and we were finally in what seemed like a pleasant spot for to relax in for a couple of days. After a few hours at anchorage, the gusts began. Every couple of minutes, a blast would come around the corner of the bay, knocking everything on the boat over both inside and out while also causing the boat to swing around on the anchor like a child leading a toy boat through a puddle on a string. The sensation of the blast hitting your face was like standing behind an airplane that was about to take off. It’s not a pleasant feeling when all you want to do is sit on deck and read a few more pages in your book.
The day crawled to an end as the gusts continued to harass us. According to the anemometer, most of the blasts were between thirty five and forty miles an hour! The hatches were slammed shut and we were forced to sleep with them closed in order to avoid turning them into splinters throughout the night. It was very late on our first night at anchor in the harbor when I awoke to a continuous onslaught of wind that sounded like it was going to tear our sunshade to shreds. I am not sure what time it was as I haven’t worn a watch since I arrived on board the boat, but I would have to guess it was around two in the morning. After crawling out of my mosquito net, I went back to Bill’s cabin to see if he thought it would be a good idea to take down the sunshade to avoid it being destroyed in the high winds. He awoke and with a glance at the depth gage and let out a cry of “Oh shit!” The depth gage was reading almost two hundred feet and knowing that we originally anchored in eighty feet of water, it was pretty obvious that we were drifting across the bay, the question was where?
Turning on the computer and radar revealed us to be close to a reef on the opposite side of the bay. Still in control and with 240 feet of anchor chain dragging below, we quickly started the engine and motored out away from the reef. Thank god I was awoke because in another five minutes we would have crashed into the reef, probably tearing apart the boat and everything in it. The second part of the drama would have been the swim to shore in a bay that we had been warned by all of the local fishermen was full of crocodiles! Not a good feeling. After a half hour of pulling up an anchor that was twisted up in it’s own chain and resetting the anchor under total darkness, we felt like we were hooked in pretty securely and we all went back to sleep, or at least attempted to. I don’t think I closed my eyes for the rest of the night for fear of the same thing happening to us again.
The next day was spent in the bay, doing nothing more than just reading. I was forced to lie in my bunk all day and read there as my earlier attempts during the morning to read on deck resulted in severe damage to the book I was reading blowing the cover and several pages that I had fortunately already completed into the sea. I needed about two more hands to help me hold down the pages that remained in order to keep them to from being torn from the book. The wind was relentless so I accepted defeat and remained in the shelter of my bunk down below, only venturing out from time to time to see if the boat had again begun dragging away.
After the onslaught of continuous blasts on the second day in the harbor, I felt like we were hooked up firmly and wouldn’t have much of a chance of dragging off this time. Throughout the night, the roaring of the wind continued intermitted and the alarms we had set on the gps and the depth sounder continued to go off about every twenty minutes. Fortunately it was just the boat swinging around erratically on the anchor which caused them both to go off but fortunately we held tight throughout the night. That is not to say that I was able to get a lot of sleep that night. Every time one of the alarms went off, I poked my head out of bed and made sure that Bill was looking into the source of the beeping. Sometimes, I just stuck my head out of my hatch to see if I could tell how close we were too land and make sure that we weren’t moving around too much. After two nights of sailing in pretty rough conditions and two more living in fear that we were going to be blown into a reef, I was really starting to hate this damn wind.
We departed early the next morning with a nice strong breeze propelling us back across to the island of New Guinea. Overall, it was a pleasant day of sailing with strong winds and light swells. In just a few hours we crossed our twenty mile journey and anchored up in a moderately bumpy spot with a pretty substantial beach nearby. The strength of the winds continued to increase throughout the day, but this time there was no need to worry about being blown into anything. We were not only anchored in shallow water which allowed us to have more chain out resulting in less chance of dragging, but we also were in a place that we could drag anchor for miles and would not have to worry about slamming into anything. I spent the afternoon still cursing the wind and trying to find a spot on the boat where I could continue to read my book without the pages being ripped from my hands. After giving up on what remained of my book at sunset followed by an early dinner, the wind finally began to calm down. As I lay down in bed, the roaring finally stopped and I closed my eyes in hopes of quickly falling asleep. I finally fell asleep for the first goodnight of rest that I have had all week

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