That tack was taking me away from New York, and four hours after midnight I could no longer bear it. I dressed and went on deck again. Some of the waves were breaking clear over the ship; one filled the ventilator and shot a jet into the cabin, but everything in it was already wet. I jibbed round on to the west-north-west heading. I reckoned that the wind had dropped to 80mph, but the seas were rougher and would be rougher still later on.
The angle of heel indicator came up against the stop at 55 degrees, and I watched it do so time after time. It was difficult to stand up or to move about the cabin, but the queer thing was that the Aladdin heater went on burning steadily throughout; it just did not seem to care a damn for any storm, and was a great comfort. All night the ship ploughed ahead at 2 to 3 knots, towing the sea anchor and the warp.
Round Trip Flight To Atlantic Photo Gallery
Next morning the wind had dropped. It was still Force 9 but I went on deck relaxed and grateful to be alive. I climbed on the stern pulpit to try making some temporary repairs to Miranda, and looked round to survey the deck. It was incredible, but nothing much seemed to have happened. The dinghy was still on deck, lashed to the cabin top. (I had doubled all the lashings, of course.) Apart from Miranda’s gear, which was in a mess, and her gaff gooseneck, which had sheared, the only damage was that the bolts fastening five stanchions had snapped, and a small section of bulwark has been carried away.
The wind was still north-north-east. The turbulent, impressive seas, like mountainous white-capped country, rode down on to the ship. The waves were not regular. Looking down from a crest to the trough below, I estimated the height at about 25 feet. With the wind abated, I could now hear the striker seas coming. There would be a lull as the ship was deep in the trough, and I would hear the sizzling sound from the comber before it struck. I wondered if I could set a spitfire jib aback to ease the deadly rolling which made it dangerous to move about below. I hoped that none of my rivals had been caught in this storm. They might well have escaped it if I was right in thinking that it was a small cyclonic eddy, a williwaw, of perhaps only 50 miles diameter between a high and a low pressure system. The calm preceding it, and the rapid decrease in wind strength afterwards, were evidence to support this.
By 8.45 p.m. the wind was down to Force 6, and I had a small jib set and drawing. I could not set any more until Miranda was in action again. She looked a forlorn wreck. While I was writing up my log a wave broke over the whole boat. I was driven nearly crazy by the rolling. I put one foot against the chart table so that I could peel some cooked potatoes, but the boat snapped over on to the other beam and the whole saucepanful of potatoes shot over the cabin floor.
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