THE DEVIL WIND

January 8, 2009

I now know what hell would be like. Take your favorite activity select the most unpleasant part of that activity and make it never ending. For me it would be sailing. Sailing upwind on rough seas at a 30-degree heel and never reaching land.

After the storm, we continued eastward hard into a southeast wind. But we were not only going east we were slowly going north. We wanted south; the devil wind had us and tormented us. Frustration built as the tried crew with sunken eyes looked at our track. East was good, the miles towards Africa declines quickly. It was the fact that we were heading to Angola instead of South Africa that darkened our mood. The wind would mockingly shift slightly allowing us to go southeast toward South Africa. Moods would quickly rise, calculating the short days to port; then just as quickly the wind would shift back once again forcing us just north of east. Our temper turned with the wind back down into the dark gloom, the shortening days growing long again. The days and wind shifts continued, never ending, and like the swells, our frame of mind rolled up and down.

New York to South Africa (35 of 46)

Tiring of this torture the evil wind shifted allowing us to bear straight for our target. But there was a price. We had to sail hard on the wind (nothing new), pinching, squeezing to the point of luffing the sails to make our mark. The wind in the rigging sounded like the call of the dead. Add to that the minions of sharp and steep waves whipped up by the wind. The boat would continually fall on to a back of a wave and land with a bone shattering impact. Below, it sounded like the hammer of Thor against the hull. Everybody would flinch, wondering if the rig would give way. Each time our beast of burden slammed against a wave it would shudder and stumble to a stop, then pick itself up again and continue to carry its physical and emotional fatigued crew to their destination.

It never seemed to end. Was I in hell to sail into the wind against bounding waves for the rest of eternity? It felt like it. For 17 days, we struggled trapped on an emotional roller coaster that we could not get off. Then, as if given a reprieve, the southeast wind died replaced with a northwest angel that allowed us to sail on a beam reach around the Cape of Good Hope under blue skies and a setting sun. Beneath a clear night sky with a bright moon approaching full, we motored-sailed into False Bay Yacht Club in Simon’s Town, South Africa for a well-deserved break and rest after 69 days at sea.

New York to South Africa (39 of 46)

New York to South Africa (40 of 46)

New York to South Africa (46 of 46)

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