Day 20

6th November 2001

The weather got steadily worse all last evening and through the night. I’m not sure when exactly hurricane Noel passed over, because even though the wind started to drop today, the huge swells remain. I do know that the worst of it hit us in the night, and so while I could feel the waves, I could only see them as they crashed over the bow.

The track of hurricane Noel – heading right for us! (we were right at the tip)

We are ‘hove to’ which means that we are steaming forward with just enough speed to maintain steering and ensure that the ship is pointing into the waves. This isn’t only for comfort, but waves this size catching us on the beam could roll us right over.

Last night, every time the ship hit a wave it felt like we were hitting a solid wall, and a shudder ran through the length of the ship. The whole ship was vibrating like a tuning fork. Then the wave would move under us and the Santa Maria climbed up the steep wave. There was a moment of near weightlessness as the ship got to the top of the wave, and began to plummet back down into the next trough, then we would brace for the inevitable crash as the bottom of the trough or the next wave would hit the bow. To put this in perspective this is a ship of 80 metres in length, so although I couldn’t see the waves during the night, I could imagine their size.

Hurricane Noel

This morning the wind had eased, and although the huge wind-blown waves had calmed, the swells remained for the whole day. They were easily 6 metres, and quite a spectacle as they came rolling towards us. By now though they were much more comfortable to ride over.

As uncomfortable and rough as it was, I couldn’t help but think we had got off relatively lightly.

One good thing came out of it. The noise under my bunk started up again and in a fit of rage I decided to tackle it once and for all. In hindsight it was a silly time to try to find the noise as standing was virtually impossible, let alone searching under my bunk. To cut a long story short I realised that the noise wasn’t coming from under my bunk, but from the empty cabin next door. I went into the cabin and could hear a thudding coming from the wardrobe. I imagined opening the door to find the ghost of the decapitated crew man, head in hand, drumming it against the door. In actual fact it was a bottle of water rolling around. Mystery solved.

This afternoon we got another weather report, and I wished I hadn’t tempted fate by thinking that we’d got off lightly. The chatter on the Radio Show was that the remnants of hurricane Noel and hurricane Michelle had merged, and were set to collide with another storm moving down from the north ‘Perfect Storm’ style.  No sooner had the reports come in the wind started to increase again. Another sleepless night ahead.


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