Sorry I haven't posted an update in a while. It was a grueling battle to get into Horta and I just didn't have the energy or time to get some posts done.
The trouble began with the second big storm to crush me on this leg, the worst of which struck last Friday morning, 4/12, eventually building to 50 knots of breeze with gusts in the 60s (one gust even registering 72 knots on Jeroboam's wind instrument) by Friday night.
The wind was pretty crazy but it was the seas that really struck me with awe and fear. By dawn Saturday, I'd suffered two more knockdowns as the power of the waves far exceeded little Jeroboam's ability to navigate them. Each of these were just as bad as the one I suffered in the first storm the prior week with lots of water in the boat. But these were nothing compared to the final blow that afternoon.
I was down below with the hatch boards closed and slider shut when a huge wave crashed into Jeroboam's starboard side, rolling the boat all the way to port then upside down. I had firm hand holds for the roll and managed to keep my feet on the cabin sole. The boat stayed inverted long enough for me to say out loud "I'm upside down" then began to right itself, coming up the same side on which it went down. The roar of water rushing in drowned out my voice and by the time Jeroboam was on her feet again, it was just about up to my knees.
But as I stepped out onto the deck, the water below was less of a concern than the mast. The lower spreader on the primary port shroud was no longer connected. Anytime a shroud comes loose or breaks, the risk of a rig failure goes way up so I immediately took steps to reinforce that side with the main and spinnaker halyards. The sea state was way too rough to go up the mast for a closer look so I took my binoculars out to see if I could spot any other damage. Another shroud at that same connection point (port D2) looked loose but the split lower shrouds looked fine. I couldn't make out much at the top of the mast but the gear up there was definitely all messed up so I had to assume that there may also be some standing rigging issues up top as well. As long as I go real easy on the rig, I figured I might be able to limp to the Azores without loosing it.
The storm the night before knocked out my wind turbine so I was in power conservation mode which means I needed to work the hand pump to get the water out. Including breaks for deck clean up, securing the rig, Advil, water and food, it took about 5.5 hours to pump out.
That event had an enormous impact on my state of mind. After the first two knockdowns, the third almost seemed routine, in fact I'd learned a lot in the first two and had begun making adjustments that helped me quickly recover from the third such as binding the coiled lines on deck so they couldn't run overboard and making sure to completely drain the head after each flush so the bowl wouldn't empty out all over the nav station.
But the fourth one was a whole different beast that just as easily could have resulted in capsize. Sure I knew these things were possible but I never really expected it to happen to me. When it did, I suffered some serious moments of self doubt and lack of confidence in the boat's ability to handle heavy seas. These mental knock backs were just as serious as the gear ones and for about 24 hours, I severely struggled to maintain an even keel. This was the lowest point of my journey, perhaps my lowest point, full stop.
The autopilot was never really the same after the fourth knockdown as the controller went completely blank and the fluxgate compass which indicates the direction it's pointing in was providing only intermittent service. I attempted to get the backup autopilot going, an older wheel pilot, but its controller was also not powering up. No autopilot means that I have to stand at the helm whenever the boat's underway to keep it pointed in the right direction. It was going to be a very cold and wet passage to the Azores, about 200 nautical miles from my position. To make matters worse, there was plenty more wind in the forecast so it was going to be a while before the seas calmed down.
Because I needed to baby the rig in an effort to preserve it, I carried little to no sail, relying mainly on my engine for propulsion. My average speed was only about 3 knots for those last 200 miles as I needed to occasionally heave to for food or rest. I made an effort to reach Flores, the western most island of the Azores but the wind was not cooperating, blowing directly in my face and as it built to 30+ knots, my headway dropped to less than a knot and I eventually gave up on that idea, bearing away for Horta instead.
It's really heartbreaking for me to have my boat in its present condition. It's pretty trashed. I spent a great deal of time, effort and money getting it together for this race and I'm very concerned about making the appropriate repairs necessary to get to the starting line. Today is my second full day on the island and I feel like I'm making good progress but there's still a great deal of work to be done so I'm drinking lots of coffee and trying to staying very focused on the boat, only taking breaks to do things like type up this summary and post a couple videos so people can get a little glimpse of what it was/is like out here.
I'm working up a full damage report and will try to post something tonight or tomorrow with details. Here's a pic of Jeroboam's track through the storm and into Horta (click to enlarge).