18 June. I hit a head-on gale, a very different proposition from a gale on the beam. A modern yacht can make headway against a gale, provided that the sea is not too turbulent, but in a west Atlantic gale, the ship gets thrown about so much and its way is stopped so frequently that it cannot progress into wind; every time its way is checked, the wind pushes the hull to leeward.
At 9 o’clock in the evening the jib sheet parted at the clew with a sharp twang. I rushed up to get in the sail before it flogged itself to bits. The stem I was standing on was jumping
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15 feet above the water. My hands were so numb that I had trouble tying the knots of the sail ties. During the jib trouble, the halyard fouled up the forestays, locking them together, so that I could not set another headsail. It was all my fault, because
I ought to have shortened sail long before. I had been repairing the motor exhaust and had wanted to finish that job before going on deck. I tried to get moving with a trysail and a staysail. As I was setting the trysail I was swung round the mast, and my head was knocked into the reefing gear of the boom. I was surprised that I was not knocked out. When I set the staysail as well as the trysail, the ship seemed to go mad, and I hurriedly dropped the staysail again.
The barometer had dropped nearly 20 millibars in a period of minutes, and a pinkish glow suffused the overcast. I expected hell to be let loose that night.