1999 New Zealand - published newpaper story PDF Print E-mail
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1999 New Zealand - published newpaper story
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Stories of life rafts inflating as per the brochure and then the wind catching them and having them tumble off into the darkness while the stunned crew watch in dismay, chill me to the core.
The survival rate of people in life rafts, compared to people on boats is not as good. No, the raft is a last resort, and we are not even close to that yet. There is no need for the three of us up on deck. Waves are washing into the cockpit quite often and it is cold and miserable. Ivan elects to stay and steer the boat while it runs bare poles before the wind.

Charley and I go below as there is still the water to keep and eye on and we might as well rest while we can. It is going to be a long night. Several hours later I hear Ivan come down exhausted. He tells me there is no point in steering and that he has tied the wheel over and we will lay across the wind for the rest of the night. He falls asleep on the floor in his wet gear.

We now have no watch on deck and we know we are in a shipping lane. I am very conscious of the fact that, even in good conditions, they have trouble seeing us. In these conditions we have no hope of being seen. Looks like we will just play the odds and take our chances. I go and find the other torch and retire to the saloon cabin for my vigil with the steering gear.

Sandra, Josh and Rhys are not far from my thoughts. I am annoyed that I can't remember which tooth it is that Rhys has coming down. I am also continuously running contingency plans through my mind in the event we have to launch the raft. I get up for a while and go into my cabin and check my few things.

My Epirb is number one item, my knife and a block of chocolate. The GPS, camera and a used film wrapped in three layers of plastic bags. I throw them all in my small backpack, ready to grab in a hurry. My life jacket and harness I take up into the saloon with me, so they are handy in a hurry. I loop the torch through my hand so I can't loose it in the dark, and I take my position near the rudder again.

Every hard hit we get I check to make sure that it is still intact. If this thing decided to let go totally the boat will fill in about 15 minutes. I don't want to find out it has broken 14 minutes after it has happened. We will need all the warning we can get. Getting around in the boat is an effort. It is totally pitch black and there are plenty of things to run into. I have lost count of the times I have bashed my head in tthe companionway. I am trying to conserve the torch battery as I am not sure how long it will be needed.

The lounge is comfortable and with the boat pitching all over the place it takes little effort to stay secure on the port side with it being almost continuously heeled over in that direction. I drift off to sleep for a few minutes. What is that noise? Sounds like the canvas cover over the cockpit is coming loose. If the wind gets enough of a finger hold on it, it will go all at once. I go down and open the main hatch. Charley hears me and gets up to see what I am doing.

Going out on deck is no joy. I just can't believe the intensity of the wind. You can't see the swell, it is pitch black everywhere, but it must me huge and seems worse in the dark. I clip the cover back on and go below the silence is a blessing. Crashing on the lounge and being all wet with salt spray doesn't seem like a problem anymore. Only a few days ago, even a minor spill or mark on the furniture would have been rewarded with a sharp chip from Ivan about looking after the boat. Damn, the cover is loose again.

I go on deck to find that the inflatable dinghy is bumping around. Not much I can do about it. I would have to leave the cockpit to retie it. Nothing in the world could make me climb on deck at the moment. Either the inflatable will be there in the morning, or it won't. Thursday, rescue day. The long night had blended into the day. Laying on the lounge and looking up through the hatch I could see the sky lighten. Daylight at last.

I am fully aware of the way night affects your attitude and decisions. Things never seem as bad during the day. The light is a long time coming and I finally realise that it is only the last slither of the old moon rising, that is showing through the hatch. The daylight is still an hour away. I am still desperately worried about ships. We had seen two in the last two days and had to change course on account of one.

They are out here and I keep thinking about another boat that was run down near New Zealand a few years ago. Still, things are reasonably good. I slept for an hour or so and I have dried out.


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