After three days almost exclusively motoring our way to 285 degrees towards Timor island, on our last night, just 60 miles from our goal, when we thought nothing could happen between then and our imminent arrival the next morning, a treacherous squall took us by surprise and caused monumental adrenaline rush and material damage, costing us a genoa halyard, several rips and tears in the genoa, ripped main leech and some chafed or ripped seams, and the cockpit owning’s zip to re-saw. Not that there weren’t any tell-tail signs, and that God tried to warn us as best as she could, but somehow, we managed to remain oblivious. Like when the lightning show we had been privy of every night intensified and surrounded us, oh well, we’ve had that every night and nothing bad happened. Or when I felt droplets of rain on an otherwise arid day, I just fastened the back cockpit awning thinking this would provide enough shelter from the drizzle. Or when I observed, on the chart plotter, that S/V Yukon, the boat that had been following us all the way from Darwin, had altered their course by 20 degrees West and I shared my observations with Thomas who dismissed it as another inaccuracy in the AIS system. Or finally when the wind steadily increased from 12 to 20, and I was calling out each time the new speed was 2 knots above the previous one, until it went from 20 to 25 or 30 in a matter of seconds and by the time Thomas had donned his harness and tether, over his birthing suit, to get out and reduce the sails, 40 knots were filling them and the genoa wouldn’t furl, nor the main drop. The cockpit was fully exposed to the squall by then and us drenched, Thomas outside, me inside, dropping every item I could lay my hands on to the kids down below to put away, cushions, squabs, kindle, laptop, etc, before shutting the companion way hatch so that it would remain dry. But it almost felt like abandoning the kids to wonder what was happening above deck. Every now and then I would shout reassuring words to them (after having asked them to fastened everything to prevent things from falling at each uncontrolled gybe).
We didn’t think of switching the engine on to luff and depower the sails, mainly because the genoa was a big balloon tangled with the spinnaker halyard and needed all our attention. It was only when the wind dropped and we unfurled the staysail to shelter the genoa that we regained control of the situation. Azur was asleep by then, Zephyr still awake needing some cuddles (or so I assumed and gave him anyway).
It wasn’t long before we had to switch the engine on again, the last few hours being as calm as before, as if nothing had happened.
A shame there was this incident, as the rest of the crossing was lovely and I even managed to edit the video of our trip in New Caledonia (finally), but it taught us that complacency is safety’s worst enemy.