The wind had only dropped below a force 6 on a few occasions in June 2002. We had to leave for home in the next three or four days and the process of collecting data from all sources began in earnest. Big Westerly heading in from sea area Rockall was force 11 one short of a hurricane. So it was not going to be today. I always think it is bad omen when the ferries are off.

  There would be no chance of using the galley under way. All safety equipment was checked and ready. Prospero was fitted out for extended cruising and safety equipped to ocean specification. A gibe preventer was rigged and all lifelines, harnesses and Gibb hooks checked and made ready. Prospero is a masthead sloop, which meant it has a small mainsail and a large foresail. The foresail is relatively easy to reef so I had decided to go with full mainsail. The first ten minutes was chaotic as we worked hard to get the situation under control. The wind was turbulent and confused as it blew off the land and the sea state was very rough and confused. Hopefully things would improve as we moved away from the island. We rounded the groyne we gibed the boat and as the sails filled the boat heeled violently sending the flask across the cockpit. The boat accelerated wildly and we ploughed through a large wave sending spray into the air. The boat moved quickly forward and the water landed in the cockpit. We were off like a train seven, eight, nine knots as we surfed down waves. The wind speed indicator showed twenty-six knots of apparent wind. It was a roller coaster of a sail. No chance of putting the autopilot on, the pressure on the rudder as the water surged round the boat was too great. The physical effort of keeping the boat in the groove would become tiring as the night wore on. We were both clipped into the cockpit for safety but comfort was another matter. The only way I could stop from being thrown about was to wrap my right arm round the starboard side winch and my left arm round the tiller arm. That occasional rogue wave was the problem, the one that slapped up against the side of the boat and sent you surfing down the wave sideways or the gust that sent you off the top of the wave so you landed with a slam and a shudder that shook the rigging. The groove is the path, that optimum line of comfort through the turbulent sea. In these conditions it is simpler to deviate from the route slightly for an easier motion of the boat. While it was light gauging the approach to breaking waves was easy. Once it was dark it became much more difficult, you could never see them soon enough to avoid them. You could hear them around you in the dark some arrived and some passed by. A trail of phosphorescence could be seen deep into the water behind the boat like a jet propelling us forward.


  Liverpool to the Isle of Man page 2


    Sailing Prospero

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  by Alan Gillam

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