Hello, I'm Henry.  

Welcome aboard my blog's home. 

If you come along with me, you'll become acquainted with my motley mates and faithful crew:

Experiences, Sightings, Observations, Impressions, Ideas, Reflections, Remembrances, Insights and Commentary.

They, after all, have accompanied me for as long as I can recall. Their tenure has helped me turn my tiller, fill my sails, and transport me over seas to distant lands. Maybe if you take the time to get to know them, a few will do the same for you.

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A 7-Hour Hove-to

A 7-Hour Hove-to

Sailing Blind during our 3rd Gale

Gusting beyond 70 knots

Reindeer's 1976 Transatlantic Crossing

June 20, 1976

Blog Entry #11

Our weather radio reported icebergs south of us, but we never dodged any during the 10 days sailing from Newfoundland to Iceland. And we never dodged weather, wind or waves, but we dodged exhaustion.

 Satellite view of major storm system over Iceland.

Satellite view of major storm system over Iceland.

More of same weather, only worse. Doused working jib; put up storm jib. The anemometer was now pinned at 60 knots, its maximum reading so far.Puffs were around seventy-five knots and the rigging had a steady whine and the sea really built. I call in 20 foot seas, meaning 40 feet from trough to tops. Some of the wave tops are at masthead level, or 57 feet. The crew are all uptight, not saying much. Orlin and I keep up a banter to boost their spirits. Paula is miserable, poor girl. Lewis and Hank are putting up a good front, but I can tell they are scared. Toby is terrific, and of course it’s Orlin’s meat. These waves are just plain huge. Orlin finds that water has leaked into his bunk and ruined his camera, which really distresses him.
— On June 20 Newbold wrote in ship's log,
 Hove-to position of sails and rudder.

Hove-to position of sails and rudder.

By June 21 we had sailed northeast for 6 days through 2 gales and all the crew were exhausted, some were still sick and all were chilly, wet and numb. So our skipper and author-to-be, Newbold Smith, made a tactical decision that surprised all the crew which we unanimously and enthusiastically embraced.

At 0100 wind shifted to northeast and again started to howl. Now we are on the wind; it’s on the nose. Seas getting really big. Doused main. Sheeted storm jib to weather and lashed helm to windward. Boat hangs in to windward. Spindrift hits our faces like hail, and it hurts. All go below and sleep. Blowing at least 70 knots steady. Hove-to seven hours.
— Ship's Log
The worst of the four gales that hit us before we got to the warming Irminger Current, an offshoot of the Gulf Stream near Iceland, was hard on the nose, force 10 to 11 that’s close to hurricane force. I decided not to risk gear failure and hove-to by backing the storm jib and countering that by lashing the helm in the opposite direction. Thus, when the jib took over, the bow would fall off, but since the hull would then move ahead, the rudder would steer the bow back into the wind. Reindeer thus stood up on her [hooves], and all of us went below for a full seven hours of good sleep. After all, we had a radar reflector and running lights. There were no icebergs where we were and our maximum speed was only about 2 knots. Maybe I should have posted a lookout, but I didn’t.
— Newbold describes his hove-to decision in Down Denmark Strait.
 If this iceberg swept by us, we slept past it during our 7-hour recuperation.

If this iceberg swept by us, we slept past it during our 7-hour recuperation.

Later on the radio, I heard reports of casualties in the Transatlantic Single-handed Race from Plymouth to Newport. Some lives were lost; several boats were towed to shore. I was reminded of Carlton Mitchell’s old axiom: you can make almost any wind dangerous by carrying too much canvas. Conversely, I thought to myself, you can make almost any wind benign by shortening sail. Nothing is shorter than bare poles, and that would have been our next step. It didn’t come to that, but seventy knots is a hatful of wind all the same.

At the end of those seven hours, I remember viewing our chart, our progress and location. The general consensus was we had bobbed and drifted about 50 miles sideways or almost due east during the night while making less than 20 miles towards our northeast destination.

When we were awakened to resume our watches, I know I felt as if Newbold had given everyone the breather and break we all needed to resume our watches effectively. It turned out to be a beautifully calculated choice. I know I emerged with a renewed energy and appreciation for our skipper.

Our 4th and Final Gale

Our 4th and Final Gale

Inside Out

Inside Out