The Swell from Hell

Now that we have caught up on our sleep a bit, we can tell you the story of our trip from Beaufort, out at sea. We were sailing along happily, in our own little boat world, when we heard what sounded like thunder rumbling in the distance. Strange, we thought….there were no clouds in the sky at all. Then we heard announcements on the radio that the Navy was conducting live firing exercises in the vicinity and all ships should maintain a safe distance. Then we spotted a large hulking shape on the horizon, and we realized our course was taking us straight in their direction! Cap’t K got on the radio:
Us: “Warship No. 21, this is sailing vessel Way Happy.”
Them: “Way Happy, this is Warship 21, lets switch to channel 72”
Us: “We are approaching your location, and we’d like to know your course so that we can maintain a safe distance.”
Them: “we are on a course heading of 045 degrees, and we would request you maintain a distance of at least 3 nautical miles.”
Us: “ok, we will change our course heading to 270″
Them: ” thank you and enjoy your day sailing. Please keep in radio contact”

Well alright then! We’ll continue to enjoy our nice day while you guys fire explosives all around us!

So we changed our course heading to due west instead of southwest, and proceeded along until we saw another large ship ahead. Our new course had put us directly in line with another warship! Only this one was Destroyer 77. (side note: we think the warships should have more creative and dignified names than boring numbers. Some of our name suggestions are Rambo, Grim Reaper, and Fabio.). More radio contact was made, and it was determined we should maintain our course heading.

Eventually we saw a third navy ship, and all in all it took us most of the day to get ourselves safely around them. It was quite a long detour for us, and it completely changed our plans for arriving in Georgetown before dark the next day. And, our changed course heading meant we had to do a very long downwind run to get back on our original course.

Going downwind is my least favorite point of sail. You would think it would be the easiest, but at least for this boat it is not. Out at sea, especially, there is a tendency for the waves and swell to rock the boat back and forth very uncomfortably. This is the condition we found ourselves in. Also, when going downwind you must factor in the speed you are going and subtract that from the wind speed to get the actual amount of wind you have to work with. So while we had enough wind to sail in any other direction, going downwind we effectively had less than 10 knots, which just isnt enough to sail comfortably. So we rocked. And we rolled. ALL NIGHT LONG!!!

It wasn’t as fun as that might sound. In fact, it was what I consider a form of torture. Kind of like getting on a really bad carnival ride and not being able to get off for 14 hours. Sitting or lying down (standing wasnt really an option) required the activation of all your muscles all the time to avoid being flung from your seat. And the poor cats! Usually when we go sailing they hunker down in the comfiest place they can find and sleep until its over. Mojo in particular wont be seen again until the boat comes to a complete halt. But several times Slomo got up to stretch his legs and get a bit of fresh air, only to find he couldnt even make it a few feet with out sliding and being tossed around! Once he did actually make it out to the cockpit and had the horrible idea of trying to take a stroll up on the deck, and we had to throw him back in the cabin quick before he was tossed overboard!

We tried everything we could to make it a more comfortable ride. We adjusted our course as much as we could without going in the wrong direction. We tried different sails and different sail combinations. Finally we found that sailing the mainsail alone provided the most stability, although it was still painfully rocky. Sleeping was not really a viable option. We both just wanted to hop on the next train home, except there was no train and this horribly rocking boat IS our home.

So when the dawn arrived and we approached the Cape Fear inlet, we made the call to duck in there instead of enduring another day of being rocked crazy. As soon as we changed our point of sail to a nice reach, it was wonderful again and we had a lovely sail up the Cape Fear inlet. (while we each took turns passing out in deep sleep) Our boat really loves going to windward, and as soon as we turned towards the wind instead of away from it, she perked right up and got way happier. As did we!

So one of the major lessons we learned on this leg of our soutward journey is that while 10-15 knot winds from the northeast sounds lovely in theory, beware of the swell from hell!!

– Capt’n K & Lala


Notice: compact(): Undefined variable: limits in /home/whcadmin/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 853

Notice: compact(): Undefined variable: groupby in /home/whcadmin/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 853

Notice: compact(): Undefined variable: limits in /home/whcadmin/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 853

Notice: compact(): Undefined variable: groupby in /home/whcadmin/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 853

One thought on “The Swell from Hell

  1. Velocir

    Hey guys,

    Glad to hear you got in and are nice and comfy for the blow they are predicting. We are closing in on eachother! Shoot us an email at and hopefully we can get together. We will go to georgetown tomorrow or sunday depending on how nasty it is and theb we are going to be very slow for a week or so to meet up with family, so chances for a gam are good. Take care.

    Grant and Amelia
    SV Velocir


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.