First time Jumping the Atlantic
A Massachusetts family and an Alberg 37 are up to the task. A story from our March 1982 issue.
The storm accelerated. We had nothing but the storm jib up now. It was hard to hold the wheel and the seas were mounting with frightening speed. The rain and spray whipped our faces so that it was hard to see.Out of the black sky we could see the gannets swooping and fishing. I wished I was one.
About 11 p.m. I saw a light through the spray and called Ev. He, too, caught a glimpse of it off to starboard. We never knew what it was. I know Ev feared it might be on shore, but we are now sure that it must have been another boat. Jef took over from me at midnight. The wind was clocking now and coming from the southwest. We headed south, clawing toward the southwest as much as possible. The wind continued to clock and to rise.
The motion below was horrendous. Sometimes, as Arion crashed down a wave, I wondered how much she could take. About 1 a.m. Jef called down to say that he was overpowered with the storm jib and was having trouble controlling the boat. This was frightening. My shoulders ached from struggling with the wheel. But Jef is 24 and very strong. All hands were called to lower the storm jib, and we managed the job without mishap . Our drill at sea was paying off. Ev was right when he said that we were in the best possible shape to weather a bad gale. We had had lots of practice as a crew with this boat at sea and had confidence and knowledge of the boat and in each other.
Now we were racing under bare poles. The speed was astonishing and worrying. We could not be sure how far offshore we were. At about 2:15 Ev decided to put on the engine and head just off the wind to gain sea room and give us some steering control. He would be on watch with Jef, Ed and I were to go below. I knew I wouldn't rest and to be boarded in below was a horrifying thought.
Nevertheless, Ed and I went below and Ed promptly flopped into his berth.
"You know, Ed," I said casually, "the anemometer says 60, no, 65 knots. I'm a
"Well, of course," replied Ed,who had evidently mistaken me for a sensible person. "It's just rational to be frightened."
And with that he apparently went to sleep . At least he closed his eyes. I didn't.
My eyes were morbidly glued to that anemometer. The needle made one awful swoop to 76 knots. After what seemed an endless amount of time, Jef came below to get gloves.
I quavered to him, " It' s pretty awful out there, isn't it?" Jef has known me longer and answered cheerfully, "Oh, no, Mom. It's a piece of cake now."
The anemometer said 68 knots; I knew he was lying, but I was reassured nonetheless and did go to sleep. So much for rationality.
In the morning the wind was down to 40 to 45 knots and it was better, despite the chaotic seas.Everything is better in the morning. At 7 a.m. we were able to raise the storm sails and heave to. I stayed on watch while the others slept below. It was a beautiful and awesome sight-those mountainous waves and the gannets overhead. It was a wonderful few hours. I was tired and lightheaded and safe and thankful. I felt a great affection and admiration for my crew. Ev's calm and purposeful confidence was contagious. He can think and innovate in bad situations, and though he had been on deck through the entire storm, he had never seemed overtaxed.
At this time we were quite unaware that we had been through the famous storm that hit the Fastnet racers. Later we were to hear about the tragedy this storm had been for so many crews, and the initial surmises about lightly constructed boats, racers who carried on too long, etc. I was astonished that so many abandoned their boats, as I can vividly remember sitting in the cockpit and thinking that nothing would make me leave the boat and trust myself to a rubber raft in those seas.