After making use of the Westerlies, for a few days, with nice daily and hourly speeds. A falling glass of the barometer. And swells building to five meter heights. It was bound to happen, that the faster moving depression would overtake us. With this, the tail of the depression: a cold front, with its furious squalls, occasional rain, and thunder, would present itself.
I woke up just after midnight, and felt the movements of the ship in my bunk. Not the flexible movement of the ship working herself speedily up and down the swells. No, this was a different movement, a movement of the ship on one ear not going over the swells but working violently through them, hanging on a steady angle without the flexibility of righting herself. I decided to stretch my legs, and take into account how my crew on deck was faring. Passing the chartroom a quick look in the logbook revealed that: the main topmast staysails had been doused, and the fore course, which had been only set again, a few hours before, was clewed and bunted up in her gear. On deck, the second mate was on the wheel working laboriously to keep the ship on course. Topsail, topgallant, foretopmast staysail, innerjib, mainstaysail and reefed main where still set. It was clear that we where in the middle of a coldfront. We had a chat, about the weather, how the ship was doing, and how the steering was. He had seen lightning flashes before, and squalls later and following each other. I relieved him at the wheel for a bit, and decided to hold off in the squalls. Also I invited the two deckhands, each for a while on the wheel, while I was carefully watching their steering technique, here and there giving a small comment or order.
The second mate took the wheel again, after having had a bite in the galley. I took a stroll over the decks. Shining with my flashlight, checking all the different sails. Their sheets, tight as a violin string. Their bellies filled with gusts of up to 8 Beaufort. In the meantime trying to escape from the violent bashing of the spray coming over the bows, or the knee deep of green water collecting under or over the lee pinrails. I decided it was time to reduce some sail, instead of dousing the mainsail I choose the mainstaysail, for ease of handling and to keep a bit more balance in the ship, if we wanted to head up more. Back on the poopdeck, I took the wheel, and ordered the mainstaysail down. When steering too close to the wind, we where clipping more through than over the large swells, and at times I was reading 11.5 knots on the log. In the squalls the crests of the waves where breaking, and entire valleys of water in between them, turned into streaks of white foam. There was nothing else to do here, then, bearing off and keeping the ship before the wind reducing stress, by subtracting our speed from the windspeed as we went. This dance, of wind, waves and ship continued for a few hours, until the new and fresh watch came on deck, and a slight rising of the barometer became obvious. I retreated to lay down for a bit in the chartroom. After a while, when I realized the worst was over, I wished the watch on deck a good night and went down below.
Now, a few hours later, the sun is climbing, we shook out the reef, and all sails are set again. Bound for Horta, we are making use of any wind, which is given to us…
Capt. Jorne Langelaan