Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The First Big Blow

The Furious Fifties have lived up to their reputation. No sooner had XPLORE crossed the 50 S meridian than we met with our first ‘big blow’ of the new season.

But we were ready. Several days before Stephen had seen this brewing, and one night the crew gathered around the nav station for dinner as he clicked through the satellite images and grib files, explaining to us what was to come.

The night before was the proverbial ‘calm before the storm’. Audrey and I sat on deck and she admired the bucolic scenery as a crimson swathe of sunset burned between the sea and the brooding sky. “We have petrels. We have dolphins (a small pod of Duskies splashed alongside). We have a sunset.”

“And we have a storm,” she added, her arm panning the sky.

Since then the wind has increased and canvas decreased, as we took in all the reefs on the main, furled down the headsails, until ultimately, last night just after midnight, we hove to. Now we are drifting – deliberately and slowly –out of harms way, waiting for the storm to pass. It’s quite civilized: we stand two hour watches, read, rest, and enjoy meals together. And watch the sea. The swells seem to be born right before our very eyes: huge charcoal grey mountains pushing up from the sea; white with spume; rushing by, one after another after another …

But we feel very safe and secure on XPLORE. I was around for only the last month of the refit to see (and help with) the huge amount of work and planning that has gone into making XPLORE an even better platform for the South. Like the new cuddy atop the companionway with the clear plastic enclosure. You have a 360 degree view of the seas all around, from a dry secure perspective. Stephen’s many seasons down here are evident in the thoughtful improvements made – and especially comforting in a ‘big blow’ like this!

 - Betsy

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