The wind and swell were increasing so we set sail from the Desertas Islands late evening heading directly for the Canaries. We were going to have to miss the Savage Islands with the huge Atlantic swell arriving from the storms off Spain. This meant two long nights at sea.
I settled into my night watch, another pitch black night, cloudy with no moon, and I heard the jib sail rattle. The wind was gusting 20kts, we were making 7-8kts with a reef in but it suddenly dropped to 4kts. I looked up trying to see in the pitch darkness what was happening and I couldn’t see the jib (front sail). It was gone, totally gone. What had happened? I clipped in my harness and leaned out to see more. To my horror I could see we were dragging the jib in the water, trailing 55ft in the water behind us. With my heart and adrenaline pumping I went below deck to wake Russell, calling him from a deep sleep to be on deck immediately.
A long painful night ensued as Russell carefully dragged the heavy sail out of the water and lashed it down as the wind and waves broke over him on the foredeck. Without the front sail the boat is not balanced in high swell and wind, so we were instantly heaving all over the place in a stomach churning roll. It was terrifying, not helped being in the pitch black of night too. Eventually over an hour later Russell retrieved the incredibly heavy wet sail and we decided it was too dangerous to do any more both at night and in the current conditions. Russell attempted to get some rest as I continued my night watch in a roller coaster motion we were now set in. Sleep was impossible for anyone (except the boys who miraculously sleep through just!)