It’s been a strange 24 hours for us here aboard Azzam. On Christmas Eve, we had no wind – ‘dead in the water drifter all day’. We were eating like crazy, looking at our possible ETA’s wondering how many food bags for later days we could get away with eating. It was scorching as well, 35+ deg inside a black carbon boat with no air circulation. Each of us was getting to our wits end with this leg, and the classic Doldrums weather was only amplifying the angst on board. Luckily everyone caught up on sleep and food, because as soon as the clock struck over to the 25th, it was breeze on!
We woke up to a giant gust, 20+knots and a 30 deg. wind shift. The crew hurried on deck to wrestle the MHO (Mast head zero) to the deck after the furl. Everything came down smooth, the stack was tidy and the boys were ready for the next move. The breeze started to freshen again, a bit more consistently now – we could see in the clouds that we were entering a squall line but did not know how long it would hang around for. The G2 was raised and off we went into the white and dark grey cloud line.
Huge raindrops started smacking us in the face, it was classic squall conditions. None of it was new to anyone, but the system wasn’t giving us a real sign as to what it had in store for us. Daylight was just breaking when Ian pointed out the breaking waves in the distance – there’s our sign. This weather had been pumping for a while now to create these waves, and we were likely to be into for at least a few hours.
As the morning got on, so did the breeze. At one point we were seeing a steady 35+ knots of true wind speed. Nothing too crazy, but with the sea state it made for tough driving conditions and also had us stumped as to what sail to go with. Wanting to preserve the life of the GS and not run it ragged in a squall we opted for the J4 and two reefs, however, this was a bit overpowered for the time being. On deployment of the J4, the speed went - in a matter of seconds - from 25 knots to 35 knots, blinding everyone on deck. Ian quickly shouted “yep! that’s a too much, furl her back up”. A smart move considering how far off course we were headed to just to carry the speed that came with the sail area of the J4 in that breeze.
After bear-heading for a while on course we deployed the SJ (storm jib) and hiked the speed back up to the high 20s and remained on course. About three hours and four peels later, we are comfortable plotting along with a full main and the FRO (fractional zero). The breeze has been settling down by the hour now, and should hopefully lift us the afternoon. A pretty exciting Christmas so far – all the chocolates and candy were already smashed in the fever this morning!!