Tuesday 2nd November 


04:00 – I’m up. The wind’s been picking up for a while and is now blowing 37 knots. Time to take in a third reef to reduce the mainsail. Out come the oilskins and harnesses. Attached to a lifeline, head torches on, we follow the beam to the foot of the mast. Not 10 minutes ago I was still in bed and here I am in the middle of the ocean, pulling on the mainsheet to lower it, winching to harden up. Once the manoeuvre is done, we return to the cockpit for safety. All the crew will go back to bed and I’ll do my watch.

I keep the oilskins and harness on, and remain outside, still attached. The night is black. It regularly gusts up to 40 knots. The boat is on an even keel. The canvas reduced with three reefs and two points for the jib. We’re out in the open in this high seas swell. The ocean is showing us its power. I’m alert to every surf. The boat doesn’t luff up. I feel like we’re flying over the water. Often, we are doing more than 8 knots. I wedge myself in front of the computer on the chart table. Always vigilant.

The wind strengthens, the anemometer regularly records Force 8 and our speed peaks at 9.8knots! The autopilot is holding, the boat remains stable. I am confident she won’t luff, laying the boat down and sending everything flying.

Light is beginning to illuminate the sea around us. I can see the swell and breaking crests as they appear. A few photos while waiting to go back to bed after my watch. Lying on the sofa in the saloon, I write my diary. Yves is on watch at the chart table. Opposite me, the screen indicates our position on the chart, our route angle. Gusts regularly touch 38 knots. Our speed just peaked at 10.5 knots, it’s pouring with rain.

We have 24 hours of strong winds, to stay ahead of this tropical depression and be well placed to head south in more clement conditions. There are times in life when you have to hold your nerve, to accept it and let the storm pass.

It’s less comfortable than city life, its eventful, stormy. At times like this, we wait for it to pass, dreaming of calmer seas, yet it’s a highlight of the voyage that will never be forgotten, sensations and images that are indescribable.

I emerge from a short sleep ready for my next watch. It’s 16:00, conditions seem calmer, 25 knots. Such a contrast to this morning. All is calmer.