This final chapter could not have been more dramatic (well it always could, my fantasy flew in all directions of disastrous, and very possible, outcomes during the final approach), but wow. What more to ask for.
Det var en mørk of stormfull aften.
The Norse sea hasn`t changed since the last time I tested it. The last 48 hours was indeed challenging, and I`ll start there, the rest will come later. “- This is Norwegian coastal radio south with the latest navigation information and gale warnings” – First VHF contact with Norwegian soil! I listened carefully just for the entertainment of hearing the voices in a familiar language crackling through the radio. “Utsira – Galeforce 7 is expected from 1800 hours”, my waters, just to get prepared for a party. Its already blowing 25 knots, and I`m sailing as close-hauled (upwind) as the waves allowed. I`ve had 30-40 and even 50 knots of wind in the Atlantic, so another round should be ok, I thought. The Norse seas are different. The mainsail was all down, with only the fock and a meter of genoa to get a bit more speed. I was healing way too much. The wind came with a few bullets of warning of what’s to come. I knew I had to reef the fock; a manoeuvre I haven’t needed to perform so far on the trip. Thirty soaked minutes later it was done. The boat moved stabile in the increasing waves and wind, 30- building to 40knots, shiverings in the hull and submerged in breaking waves but all ok. 02.30am, the last bullet for this night. “Well done girl, we did it,” I said and “knocked on wood”. A brief rest and a couple of hours of sleep. Much needed.
Next morning; new gale warning, this time force 8 – 9. 12 hours left, ok. The seasickness made a last visit to my physiology, resulting in redemption for the breakfast from the horrors of my gut, to a second fate in the freedom of the ocean. Seas continued to build throughout the day as the wind continued to increase. Minutes felt like hours, waves were building to an impressive landscape of white mountain tops with deep dark valleys. Chilli gradually became more and more a mountaineering submarine with mast, gradually developing new leaks. A constant flow of water beneath the floors from the bathroom where the air-inlet had become a hole in the roof after the fire a few days earlier. I manually pumped out water from the bilge every fifteen-minute. Occasional heavy rain, no use of hiding from the water. Thankful beyond belief I didn’t have more than a few hours left to shore, calm conditions, friendly faces and a dry bed; or did I?
I contacted the coastguard to get information of the safest entrance in to Farsund; if there was areas with even more severe conditions than out here. –“It`s all a chaos; entirely up to you to decide of an attempt to enter coastal waters or not. If anything would go wrong, a rescue operation would be impossible. You might look for another safe haven”. Great.
I marked out a passage which looked advantageous. I could sail on a close reach and keep the depth of 250-300m before turning 90 degrees towards shore and get everything from behind and surf in over the more shallow waters.
The big turn closed in and the waves and wind continued to rise, the cockpit got more frequently filled with water. The life-buoy and got loose and entangled itself in the 30m rope after the boat. “Should I attempt this at all?”- the question was racing constantly in my mind when I scouted the shore to get a glimpse of the conditions further in; white mist and breaking waves with occasional white explosions at the reefs.
I turned, tacked and headed straight towards where a light-buoy supposedly was. It was not. Blue-screen on the navigation computer for the first time in two years. The nav-pad outside was so full of water that the screen was unusable. No navigational data. I understand that the coarse is changing; the wind wane is not awake; shit. A rope has entangled itself around the air vane, so tight I could not get it loose right away. I apply the autopilot and luckily it steered fairly good. We were surfing at an impressive speed towards shore as the waves get even higher because of the gradually more shallow water. Down at the chart table, the computer reboots and are back in the game! But again, wrong coarse, headed straight for the rocks some hundred metres away, what now!? The autopilot as having a nervous breakdown, probably water damage somewhere. Down to manual steering, and memory of the map. The wind was screaming in the rigging, and the stamps-sized sail (reefed fock) was flapping violently
Finally the lighthouses got more visual and the path clear. A much-welcomed shelter behind a reef. It`s over, we fucking made it, pardon my Portuguese. Two years, 19 countries and about 15 000nm, still afloat.
A committee of wet, flag-waving family and friends at the dock, what more to wish for. Life is good. Thank you all.