When watch changed in the early morning, at 02:00 it was already blowing 40kn and over.
We were sailing already just on Lower Topsails and Storm lower Staysails, doing between 7 to 9kn on an Easterly direction, bearing off from 070º to 090º under storm conditions building up. During the night the harsh weather situation kept increasing and by 06:00h the Main Lower Topsails was also furled and also Aap was taken away. We try to have breakfast on 50 to 55kn of wind and WSW swell that had been increasing up to 8 mts. Regular wind field is between Force 10 and 11, but the strongest gust we recorded was over Force 12 (68kn). The Europa sails and surfs those wild seas and winds on her Starboard aft quarter, just with little canvas set but still reaching speeds between 8 to 10kn.
On such impressive and spectacular, but challenging conditions, the watch system is on hold, and just later in the morning we can enjoy the fresh air on the poop deck, helping as lookouts, but the steering is done from the bridge. Not many of us are around, just trying to hold on during the whole day. From time to time Wheelhouse is crowded with curious faces and wide-open eyes looking outside to the imposing seas where we wildly roll, pitch and heel. Sun shines in the blue skies in between rain showers and small squalls, as the decks are continuously awash by swell rolling over the caprail.
The permanent crew has a busy and wet morning rushing on the decks when necessary to secure ropes, tighten braces and sheets, take ropes off the scoopers, and then bracing around to Starboard tack, between Broad Reach and Downwind. After lunch the conditions start to calm gradually, both wind and swell ease down, and soon we start setting more canvas. After the spectacular morning, now we come back to more regular conditions and good sailing Under 25 to 30kn of SW wind, we start to sail downwind at 7.5 to 7kn as we set all Square sails in the Fore Mast, but the Skysail. On the Main mast we set the Top sails, also the Middle staysails, Inner jib and Dekzwabber come up.
After all this busy work on deck we have a deserved dinner, and after our daily meeting (where we are informed about our progress from noon to noon, 189nm, and just 240nm to go, and the weather forecast, with decreasing winds) we are active again on deck and up the rigging setting almost all remaining canvas on quickly dropping winds and swell. Now it blows SW-ly 22 to 20kn and even less, as we steer 070º still doing around 7kn. As the night hours pass by, the weather situation still calms down even more, wind and swell lessen, and the full moon finds her way through the clouds.