First of 4 Gales
1,260 - 1300 nautical miles SW of Iceland
Reindeer's 1976 Transatlantic Voyage
June 14, 1976
Blog Entry #6
At 26 years old, I had almost no reference point. I was too inexperienced to know better....or worse!
When I was growing up in the 1950s and 1960's, I remember feeling the wrath and the roar of hurricane force winds from the cozy confines of my parent's home on the eastern shore of Maryland. As a youngster I recall watching a nearby river rise over docks, while winds and waves whipped pilings and slapped shorelines. Out my bedroom window I would watch Nature's fascinating forces and dream. While I saw and heard large branches crash down, full grown trees get uprooted and then slam into nearby rooftops, my impressions of weather's might and power were pure fascination. As the wind's howling and swirling sounded like a locomotive engine, I envisioned the house being ripped from its foundation via a tornado ready to smash through my bedroom, transport it skyward to Oz. It felt exciting because I knew it was imaginary! Maybe one too many Wizard of Oz viewings when I was little.
The Perfect Storm had not been written or filmed yet; it was still 24 years before its premiere in 2000. When it came to my notice, the concept of a "perfect" storm seemed almost contradictory to me. In human terms the idea of a perfect storm seemed to me to lean more towards inhospitable, destructive or terrifying. When I eventually watched the film, it was perfect in depicting some flashback images from my St. John's to Reykjavik, Iceland sail.
Before this 1976 voyage the biggest storm I had ever encountered while sailing was a line squall on the Chesapeake Bay with gusts blowing maybe 20-30 knots. The reality of this voyage was no protection of a sturdy house or safety of nearby harbors. What lay ahead were winds and weather more than double, triple in velocity and size. And water, water, everywhere! And then there was the fact no one was getting off ahead or at any stop. Our next port of call - Reykjavik, Iceland over a thousand miles northeast.
While I knew intellectually that Newbold possessed all this nautical experience and I observed how his demeanor exuded a natural calm in our present situation, my gut was telling me this situation is insane and maybe he is too. Surely, any rational man would be showing some signs of fear, anxiety or fatigue. But somehow I chose to view him as an old salt and became awed and respectful at how he could muster the strength and confidence especially without the agility and mobility to handle even simple tasks. Like the time on the Newport docks, Newbold will again and again amaze me...but this time with his almost business-like calm! Of course, it wasn't until I had read Down Denmark Straits over two years later when I caught a clearer glimpse into his psyche during our passage. As you might gather, he really experienced everything we did...with the added perspective of two previous transatlantic crossings. Of course, one never really knows another until adversity reveals another's character. Newbold certainly revealed his colors and character many more times during our voyage.
Changing a headsail in a gale? Maybe you can imagine crawling up to the bow in a gale while taking off a sail and putting on a smaller jib. The relative comfort of steering Reindeer from the stern contrasted sharply with wave plunging and constant dousing the seesaw ride of Reindeer's bow!