Harnessing the beast

Dec 30
Dec 30

It’s truly amazing how the slightest change in wave pattern has such an impact on WW II’s  course as well as her health and well being, not to mention the crew’s health and well being. Last night I was caught with a rising wind around midnight. The trauma from WW II’s 6+ knots of speed crashing through the big seas that were slowly and stealthily being lifted by the approaching northeast gale, was way too much for both me and the boat. I had a double reefed yankee and triple reefed main presented to this building force and in my head the first option was to get rid of the main then slowly roll the yankee in till I felt comfortable. Although the atmosphere below was hard to take during the build up to this point, it was nothing like those forces I faced when I slowly worked my up through the hatch and out into the storm.

It is after midnight and the air is filled with spray and wild howls, very dark but for a halo of light from the mast head running lights. I snap on my safety tether and make my way to the mast on my hands and knees, waves constantly breaking over the high port side deck. Standing up at the mast I snap on to my pad eye on the port side.I slip free the two sail ties on the deck level grab rail and put them in my teeth ready to tame the flapping mainsail as I release the main halyard and bring it down hand over hand, one hand always holding on to the mast, I take the main halyard and doubled it around a cleat below the main headboard and snugged up the halyard and flipped the handle on the clutch that secures the halyard and also the head of the main so it will not be snatched by the gale force wind that screamed at me like some great beast’s intimidating roar. I flip to the other side of the mast and work my way out on the boom making sure my footing is secure. The first tie comes easy from my mouth and I lasso the hysterical main in quick order and synch it up nicely. The next tie had to go further out on the boom and to the very limit of my safety tether.  I have to bear hug the rest of the main and slip the tie from my mouth and secure it before the wind grabs the free end and pulls it out of my reach.  All the time I am coaching myself out loud very controlled and forcefully saying, ” You can do this Glenn, you can do this.”

Back in the cockpit I take a moment to savour the storm that fills my space. Now the yankee has to be rolled in. This is done fairly easily in the cockpit, but the furling line does not lead well and I can see it’s going to chafe on the furling drum. This means a trip up into the bow to put a come along around the line and pull it away from the drum and secure it to the deck. This is a hands and knees job slowly but surely up the windward side of the deck and into the pulpit. The bow is pitching 10 to 12  feet every 15 seconds and scoops swimming pools full of water and pitches them at me, and finds its mark every time.

I have my head down trying to thread a line around the the furling line and through a loop welded to the bow fitting. It’s awkward and takes several tries. I can feel the water running back down my rain pants and into my boots as I struggle to brace myself against the pulpit. After a considerable struggle I’m satisfied that the line will not chafe through during the night. The last thing I need is for the yankee to completely unfurl into the clutches of the gale where in very short order it would be shredded by the lethal talons of the gale.  My mouth is as dry as parchment and I have worked up a good head of steam in my rain gear.

Down below, I give myself two ‘atta boys’ (sp?) and a cup of hot chocolate. After pumping the bilge I hit my bunk and try very hard to drown out the noise and find some peace.

Editor’s Note: Too much information! 

 Lat 35 13. 698 S Long 169 18.153 E Course 94 T Speed 6 knots Wind NE 15 Waves NE 2m Cloud 100% temp 18 C Baro 1016 Miles in last 24 hrs: 130 nm Miles to Cape Reinga: 158 nm

All is well. Thank you very much for being there for me. It is much appreciated.



  1. John Friesen says

    Feel for you Mary Lou, but I’m with Peter on that description. Helps us would-be solo guys really get a feel for what you are going through, and what we might expect. Sad to hear you calling it a day soon, but totally respect what you’ve gone through and accomplished. Thanks for sharing!!

  2. Robin and Lynn Willard says

    Glenn you are an amazing man! Thanks for showing me that I made the right decision to not sail around the world. The only ocean voyage now is up to our knees in the sandy shores of La Paz, BCS. Hope to see you for coffee one day at Cascadia or Vanilla, all the best! Happy New Year! Robin and Lynn Willard

  3. Wayne Tasker vk4xg says

    Hi Glen
    Boy that was some night I take my hat off to you great stuff look forward to contacting you in b of Islnds look out for a email or contact from a friend of mine in nz nelson now a home based deep water yachty told him about you today on Skype cheers all the best will try you at 11 am brisbane time wt

  4. Sally and Geoff Dolman says

    Gosh. I’m with the Editors Notes.
    The Aussie vs India cricket test must seem a world away now. However, I am sure you will be interested to hear Glenn that the third test was a draw. On day 5, when the Aussies realised that they would not be able to take the Indians last 4 wickets in 36 bowls, both captains shook hands and called it a day.
    However, this means that Aus have won the series and regain the trophy, albeit one more test in Sydney to be played. That concludes Lesson 5 ( or is it 6). Love to Marylou and Claire from the Dolmans (Accross the Ditch).

  5. Glenn what a fabulous description of coping with a Tasman Sea gale! The details you share enable all of us ashore to live every moment of the experience with you. You mention the late hour, the darkness, the violent motion, deck swamping seas, the snatching halyard, flogging sails and shrieking wind. What you take for granted and fail to mention is that you are out there all alone to deal with all these elements. Good on ya mate! Wishing you a swift and safe last few miles into the arms of your loved ones! Looking forward to swapping Southern Ocean tales when you return.

    • MaryLou Wakefield says

      Oy Vey!

    • MaryLou Wakefield says

      Thanks Peter. Nice to know one of us enjoyed reading that account!

      • Peter Brand says

        Marylou I reckon Glenn’s endured quite a few nights struggling with similar conditions over the past few years but shunned full descriptions to avoid alarming you and the girls. Now that he’s so close to the end of this voyage that he can smell land, he’s dropped his guard!

        • MaryLou Wakefield says

          So true. Only thing is I have a vivid imagination, and, I have a cat whiskers worth of experience offshore – enough to be able to conjure up a good picture of howling wind and waves climbing on board.

  6. Gracious! We will be very very happy when you sight Cape Reinga!!! Keep up the great work, Glenn, and bring her home!

  7. I was very glad to read the first bit of your post — that you were using a tether! An exciting yarn, one of many with which you’ll be able to regale your granchildren in years to come. Best wishes. Stan

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