It's a clear day at the mouth of the Helford River, near Falmouth. The crew wakes up around half past seven and the day begins. We make coffee, eat breakfast and slowly get ready for the day's work. The captain tells us that the expected wind shift will come around ten o'clock, so around nine o'clock we should start preparing everything to go sailing. Sailors Sam and Gabo hoist the sails that were lowered, and I get everything ready to weigh anchor.
A wooden ship sails from the river, it is a pilot boat. Captain Andreas gives the order to weigh anchor. We start turning the winch and the first sail goes up, the jib, to help the ship turn its nose to the south. When the anchor is up, more sails are hoisted and I hoist the anchor out of the water. When all sails except the flying jib have been lifted, we start to pick up some speed, but it is not very windy yet. We are heading south and later in the day we expect 20-25 knots of wind from the west, but not yet. The pilot boat cannot keep up with us and cruises up and down the bay, but a plastic yacht sails with us for a mile or two. We continue our course south, keeping close to starboard, while the port watch goes down for a nap before their afternoon watch begins. After rinsing the anchor chain, we store it in the storage room. Then I'm going to take the light wind shots from the foretopmast staysail and exchange the inside jib for the heavy weather shots.
During the rest of the morning the speed increases a bit more. We wake the port watch for lunch, and Andreas joins them in the galley. The first mate, Mikhail, points out that there are dark clouds on the horizon and reports that he can hear thunder. He gives the order to take down the gaff topsail, outer jib and main staysail. It happens quickly and in the right order, we leave the gaff topsail on the deck for a while. Slowly the port watch and Andreas emerge from the galley to make way for the starboard watch.
Second mate Chad takes the helm. The dark clouds are closing in and Andreas gives the order royal to bring it down because the wind increases. Just as the trap is released and I reach the high side, the wind hits us hard. While I have the royal roll up, also becomes the topgallant ordered to be taken down. I crawl past a trainee and release the trap before returning to the nail bench. Then I release the bolt and start pulling on the claw. The wind is now howling, there is water everywhere and the ship is now heeling quite extremely and constantly. The wind seems to come from above, it is a gust of wind. There are no waves to speak of, we have lost all speed. During the officers' debriefing later, we speculate about a wind force of 60 knots, an angle of heel of 75 to 80 degrees.
Andreas shouts: “Shoot, let go of the topsail let go!” I climb, or rather crawl, onto the roof of the galley and release the shots as ordered. First on the port side, which slips from my hand when I remove the last turn of the cleat. The weight of the chain and the flapping of the sail pull the sheets completely out of the guide, through it, and out of the pulley to the course yard arm. Then I let go of the starboard sheet, but I secure it to the cleat at the end of the rope. As I turn my legs around the mast, I see that the course is still full, but around it I can see the water from right below me. I look around the deck, I see a trainee lying on the lower part of the deck, holding on to a line, only his head is still above water. Chad stands on the port bulwark trying to get back to the wheel. As he explains later, just a few more centimeters and the water had overflowed into the rear hatch. I see Sam clinging to something near the center hatch. Andreas then manages to climb up the high side to reach the peak fall mainsail to celebrate, the boom hangs down and lets the wind escape.
Giuseppe, the cook, and a trainee are currently emptying the galley of lunch boxes and pans, and see that the life raft on the port side is floating a few centimeters above the seat.
Another trainee, standing on the deck, later reports that the course yard arm, although his voice was as sharp as possible, dived into the water, just like the main sail boom.
After the peak, Andreas also shows the fall of the main topmast staysail four, and pull the vang from my position on the mast. The slope slowly becomes manageable and I come off the roof of the galley. Chad then tells us to stay calm, as lightning and thunder pass like a final effort of the gust of wind. We'll get the mainsail up, and the sailors proceed to furl the square sails and the outer jib. The lap of it port topsail has come loose completely, its pulley has come loose, and another halyard has become stuck. Chad reties the block and the sail is hoisted again after some time has passed. We reef it the mainsail, and for the rest of the day we sail with a stable 25 knot wind and a restless sea. We are slowly returning to normal, as far as possible. We feel shaken, but all is well.
Giuseppe counts in his head, everyone is on board and no one is hurt. The gaff top sail that was left on the aft deck hangs in the water on the port side, saved by the still attached lines. Some other lines and fenders that were stowed on the deck, and almost washed away, are pulled out of the water, along with the gaff topsail. The two barrels containing ropes, which were located in the middle of the ship, have been washed away. A mooring line has also disappeared and the washing up bowls have also been taken by the sea. The pantry is full of loose vegetables. Surprisingly, despite the severity of the gust, no sails were torn and no lines were broken. As we untangle the mess on deck, I find a cinnamon stick: the entire stash fell into the galley and washed away.
That night the port navigation light flashes. When Mikhail opens it, it is full of water. Over the next two days, more cinnamon sticks are found hidden in unexpected places.