The first few minutes at the helm felt like hours. We felt the force of each wave on our dangerously fragile structure, and we knew that if this attempt failed, we could be in real trouble. With the waves far too big to set the self-steering, we hand steered in shifts. We still had hundreds of miles to go, but we were finally moving in the right direction. Steering required intense concentration to minimize the force on the rudder as we surfed down the waves, but nervous adrenaline-and knowing that one mistake would leave us adrift-kept us going.
Over the next six days, we encountered up to 35 knots of wind. We trailed a light anchor and some thick ropes to help control the boat and to take some pressure off the rudder. Still, we did 8 knots at times. We were definitely making progress toward Nuku Hiva, in the Marquesas. Fatigue set in, and while we experienced huge emotional ups and downs, we continued to work together. Knowing that we weren't totally alone-we had radio and email contact with the local authorities on land and with other boats-lifted our spirits, but we felt that we had to solve the problem ourselves. And that's what makes offshore sailing so satisfying. We faced a serious challenge and overcame multiple setbacks, but thanks to our rice-packed rudderstock and our cockpit-sole rudder, we sailed ourselves safely to Nuku Hiva in six days.