When we left Port Elizabeth, our only concern was a small low pressure system developing west of us and moving east. It was predicted to hit us five days later (Sunday June 2nd) with max wind gusts of about 35 knots. In sailing terms, this is strong wind but nothing to write home about.
Of course Mother Nature always has her own plan and as the low pressure system deepened, the weather forecast grew grimmer. By Saturday evening the winds were already gusting over the initial 35 knots and rising. We decided take the safe approach and "heave to".
Heaving to is a classic sailing maneuver for storm management. It's been described as the sailor's 'safety valve' and allows to endure the biggest waves and storms by slowly drifting sideways with minimal sails and creating a protective slick that prevents breaking waves. Basically, we lashed the rudder all the way to starboard, tied the staysail to starboard and tied the main sail to port. This gives lift to the bow when she turns into the wind but when it turns away the rudder and the mainsail keep it at the right angle to the waves.
We all woke up the following morning to some less than pleasant weather and some surprisingly considerable waves (over 10 meters) coupled with sustained gusts at over 45 knots. Fede and Josh, who have seen a lot of bad weather in their sailing days, confirm that this gale was one of the best (worse?) they's ever seen. So we made the best of it. We fired up a Macbook with a movie selection, made some popcorn and had a movie & book reading fest ... for 30 hours. We have about 100 books stocked in our library here aboard, I think we've almost read them all!
The following day was hang-over day across the open ocean, pitching with dead swells left over from the party so we delayed sampling until the next day that proved to be sunny, cheerful and Rach saw a rainbow on the horizon just off the stern. Our next concern? We seem to be running out of gin & tonic!