The wind was increasing fast as I worked. I finally strong-armed the genoa to the deck, but I had even more trouble with the smaller sail. When I let the pole forward the end holding the clew of the sail was about six feet out over the wild sea. I got a length of rope about the middle of the sail, but the part between the deck and the pole began whipping wildly. I got it under control at last by twisting the sail round and round at the deck, until the loose area was whittled down and I could secure it with a sail tie.
By this time, I had a really big blow on my hands. I worked hard to secure everything and was relieved to get the spinnaker poles to the deck and lashed down. And then Miranda began to break up. Her topping lift stranded and parted. So did one of the halyards of her little topsail. To get the topsail off I had to work with hands at full stretch above my head, balancing like a monkey. It was now blowing great guns, and Miranda's 14-foot mast was free to swing in the wind, while I was tangled up in its stays working on it.
It was only when I had finished that I realized what was going on. The din was appalling, a high-pitched scream predominating, with spray peppering everything and seas hitting with a bong! crash! The wind was about 80 miles per hour, and still increasing. I had spent five and a quarter hours on deck; it was now 4 in the afternoon; I was tired, and I went below.
At 8:30 p.m., after a fitful sleep, I woke and realized I would have to do something to slow up the boat. She was getting an awful bashing from the seas.
I got out a big automobile tire that I used as a sea anchor and shackled it to the anchor chain, paying out 10 fathoms of this over the stern. I also paid out 20 fathoms of 2�-inch line over the stern. I then filled a tin with oil and, puncturing the tin, hung it over the side amidships in a piece of canvas. I concluded that it was not the slightest use; the engine oil was too thick and we were moving too fast. The anchor chain left a white wake as it cut through the water.
By this time the wind, which had been steadily increasing, had reached at least 100 miles an hour. The noise was unbelievable. It made me wonder how anything could stand up to the wind. At 10 o'clock I worked out that we were headed into the eye of the storm, and I decided to bring Gipsy Moth around. I dressed very reluctantly and climbed with difficulty into the cockpit. I found I had a dry mouth when I started to do anything but felt better when I did it.
With full rudder, held in with some strength, the boat slowly jibed about. She seemed to take the seas a shade easier on her new tack. When I went below I couldn't help laughing—all the books, cushions, clothes that I had gathered up were back on the floor. The movement was fearful; nothing stayed put. I dozed, but could not sleep. Waiting for the next comber made me tense. It seemed impossible that a small boat could survive. Reason told me that far less strong boats than this had come through such storms, but instinct said I was a fool if I believed that.
At 4 o'clock in the morning, however, I got up and changed over to the other tack again. The gear seemed intact, except for some dodger lashing which had parted, but seas were breaking right over the boat. I brought in the riding light, filled and lit it and rigged it in the stern as usual. It seemed completely unperturbed. An amazing light. Another amazing thing was the Aladdin wick stove, which I kept going all through the storm. It was a great comfort with everything wet.
AFTER THE STORM
The wind had abated, and I now estimated it at 80 miles per hour. We jogged along at about two or three knots all night long, towing the sea anchor and rope, right on course. At 11 this morning I saw the spanker boom of Miranda caught up in the backstay, and it brought me out of my hermit's cabin once more. I lashed the spanker to the gaff, standing on the pulpit and working with one hand stretched up as far as I could reach. The only other damage I could find was a life rail stanchion which had torn loose where it was bolted to the bulwark.