What I dreaded most was a simultaneous hoisting by opposing seas. Experiencing what
sailors call “uncomfortable” conditions, I recognised that the sea, beyond holding
the secret of adventure, its solitude, its precariousness and its constant surprise,
was a Pandora’s box whose lid might blow at any moment: “Only consider how far DOWN
the beautiful islands go…” wrote the poet Seferis. Right now it was better not to.
Life assumed perfect simplicity, for it consisted strictly of the present, each wave
on its own merits.
As the gale tore past our ears, Cappelle, maintaining her balance like a spirit level,
adapted to the onslaught like a professional. The way to cope was to shorten focus.
Seeking a positive thought to hold onto, I found the phrase, “I am not cold!” for
I had on heavy-weather gear and the September seas were warm. Letting the phrase
run in my head like a mantra, I repeated to myself, “I am not cold! I am not cold!”
After two hours, conditions marginally improved, Bob made up his mind to crack off
on a course he had been working on between bouts of nausea. And get the hell out
of it! Tactics must be based on where the weather would allow us to go. Reefed right
down, with the engine on to steady the ship and a storm jib hoisted, we ploughed
off on 260 deg, south of west, in F 7/8, lee rail under, state of sea high and confused.
I had prepared a thermos. Together with a packet of UHT milk and canister of sugar,
it was wedged in the sink. Lurching into the galley I poured coffee in the caesura
between waves, but the sugar canister flew out of my hand sending sticky drifts over
cushions and carpet. Worse came with a trip to the loo. With Cappelle heeled to port
I sat on the throne with my feet dangling and nothing to hold onto but the wall-mounted
wash-basin. Then came the dreaded combination of circumstances, the collision of
opposing waves beneath the hull. The impact catapulted me headfirst into the wet
wardrobe. My face caught its edge full tilt. Splintered wood and a loosened nail
from the split fascia gashed my eyebone. When I hauled myself back into the cockpit
I was blinded by blood running into my eye and down my numbed cheek.