The Most Difficult Passage

May 15’s forecast called for east winds of 15 to 18 knots with seas less than 7 feet. Our heading should have placed the wind just forward of the beam, a very comfortable point of sail for Ocean Angel.

Off Guadeloupe

Once again, the 2018 winds and seas were anything but what was forecast. No sooner had we cleared the north end of the island then winds climbed into the low 30’s, the mid 30’s, then into the high 30’s and low 40’s. Seas were unlike anything I have ever seen in my 48 years of sailing, and I think that says a heck of a lot.

Fortunately I’d planned for the possibility of reality not matching the forecast, and we were sailing with a reefed main and the staysail. I glanced at the wind speed indicator seeing a steady 48 knots as a particularly large wave towered above the boat. The wave came crashing aboard completely flooding the cockpit to the point that where I sat on the high side, I was chest deep in water. Joy was all but submerged on the low side. Never before has this happened aboard Ocean Angel. It was over in just a few seconds as the large scuppers drained the water before we could really grasp what had just happened.

I took over steering from Otto at that point because I could see and react to waves like that one, hopefully avoiding another submersion. But I could only handle it for 15 or 20 minutes at a time; I was drenched through and through, chilled to the bone, and my arms ached. I was wearing foul weather gear on top of a fleece liner, a t-shirt, and shorts. Joy revised her opinion of our worst sailing day ever. Clearly, this day had turned out to not be our kind of sailing weather. Aside from a large freighter, we were the only boat on the horizon.

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