Well I am pleased to say that I survived the rest of the night last night. The winds remained between 45-50 knots until around 3am where they started to abate further to the 35-40 knot range. They maintained this until 9am this morning so it was still condition that required me to remain in the heave-to position until just after 10am. The swell was still massive this morning with regular 7-8-meter waves and then occasionally I would get these monsters coming through. Once I decided that the winds were light enough for me to sail again I started to get ready for going on deck and getting in the cold for a while. I usually have a pee just before gearing up as there are so many layers that the next time I could go would be when I have finished everything and am ready to strip off some layers. So, there I was sitting on the loo when I noticed something weird. In the head (toilet) area there is an inspection hatch for the forward port ballast tank. It is a clear screw in kind that allows me to see if the tank is full when in use. I haven't been using the water ballast this trip as it can add a lot of pressure to the sail and rigging so I decided to just sail without and keep the tanks for buoyancy in an emergency. Climate Action Now has 6 water ballast tanks and I do feel that these are the reason the cabin has been able to stay warm enough to live in.
Anyway because the tanks are empty the inside of the inspection caps tends to get fog from the condensation build up and the difference in the temps. So, there I was sitting on the loo when I noticed that the inspection cap right next to me had a line across it? I thought to myself that that was weird and too a closer look once I was finished. It was then that I realised that the line was actually water and that the ballast tank was in fact full... Alarm bells started going off in my head, did I crack the hull in that knock down? Did I break the breather off again? Before I got too carried away I poked my head up to look out of my clear dome in the cabin and right away I noticed that the forward breather cap was missing... As I was hoved to on the starboard tack the port side of the boat was often getting pushed underwater and through the night I had filled the tank....
Whilst it was a relief that nothing major was broken I now had to get the water out. My system is gravity fed so I needed to get on the other tack to put the full tank to the windward side and then drain it. So I finally went on deck for the first time since the storm and apart from some ropes trailing behind the boat there was no damage which was a fortunate thing given that this was the second largest storm of the whole entire trip. I got lucky. I gybed the boat back around to the port tack and started to set about draining the ballast tank. It is a slightly slow process and I decided to check if there was any water in the all the other tanks at the same time. An hour later and all the tanks were now dry and I had replaced the missing breather cap with a spare and I was finally sailing again heading east.
The condition had now eased to the mid-twenties but I still had the fourth reef in and the storm jib up. I was still making good time as the swell was still large and pushing me along. Also, because I only had a small amount of sail up and the swell was large, I was also getting shoved around a bit. I shook out to the third reef to give the boat some more control. 3 hours later and I shook out to the 2nd reef and unfurled the stay sail on the Pro Furler (supplied by wichard). Finally, I was starting to make some progress homeward bound. It’s now 10 pm and the winds are still easing. I haven't seen over 15 knots for some time, so I am about to go on-deck and shake out to the first reef for the night. Conditions are expected to drop out entirely ahead of a SW to NE to N shift in the winds, so tonight will likely be one of little sleep as the boat rolls in the remaining swell.