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HURRICANES: Don's stories, experience and advice

Tale of a Gale

In 1997 the 60th anniversary race of the Dragon Gold cup was being raced in Dunleary (theyacht harbor of Dublin). The Street family owned two old dragons Fafner built 1937 one of the 13 dragons Johannsen built to create the Belfast dragon fleet and Gypsy built by Anker and Jensen in1933. My son and namesake D111 had done a magnificent restoration of Fafner making her look like a modern Perttigrow. We trailed both dragons to Dunleary.

We sailed Iolaire our 46’ engineless yawl built 1905 to Dunleary to act as mother ship. We had 226 years of wooden boats on one mooring.

At the end of the regatta we trailed the dragons back to Glandore and sailed Iolaire back. The day Iolaire left Dunleary was the Friday of the Irish Monday August bank holiday weekend. Every Irishman that had a boat would be out on the water that weekend.

As we sailed out of Dunleary, the Irish marine weather forecast was “east force 3 to 4, “ ideal for heading west, to Glandore. but I looked aloft and said to my crew “the guy is nuts, he should have looked out the window. We are going to have wind and a lot of it. Look at the sky, “mackerel sky and mares tails make tall ships carry low sails”.

We had nice beam reach down to the Tuscar(south east corner of Ireland) swung west rigged genoa to the spinnaker pole an, eased the main, rigged the main boom preventer/forguy. We were off to the west wing and wing. Sailing, as the main coast schooner skippers would say “reading both pages of the book”

As the wind increased, we slowly shortened down until finally we were doing 7 plus kts under staysail alone. At this point I decided to heave to as it would be impossible to sail into Glandore harbor which is narrow and lies in a northwest southeast axis The wind was out of the north with a bit of wear in it..

So we rounded up, rolled up the staysail, hoisted the missen and sheeted it flat. Within half an hour I had her balanced with the helm lashed half down. Tiller lashing lines are permanently rigged on Iolaire. The ends of the lashing lines are secured to lashing eyes on the top of the cocpit coabing by a loop of fairly heavy shock cord. This forms a shock absorber so there are no sudden loads on the tiller.

It was blowing a full gale, yet Iolaire was ridding comfortably 60 degrees off the wind, drifting to leeward leaving a slick to windward.

When I went below the crew told me that listening to the radio they had heard that eleven boats were in trouble, all the RNLI boats were out helping the yachts in distress.

Upon hearing this, I felt that my wife Trich might be getting worried. Our youngest son Mark was home with Trich. He was re assuring her ”dad has D111 and a good crew on Iolaire, nothing to worry about” but she was worried.

I got on the radio, raised Cork Harbor radio. I identified myself and Iolaire hove to off the Old Head of Kinsale. I asked if they could give me some help.

They said all the RNLI boats were out helping yachts in distress, could I hang on for a few hours. I said I did not need a RNLI help but could they relay a land line phone message? They replied affirmative, I gave them our home phone number, they repeated it back.

I gave them the message ”whoever answers the phone just tell them Iolaire is hove to off the Old Head of Kinsale and the skipper is busy making a mushroom omlette!”. They did not understand at first and asked for a repeat. The message was delivered, Trich relaxed.

We had an excellent breakfast, fruit, mushroom omlete, freshly baked muffins all served in a civilized fashion on a gimbled table. Lunch was soup and sandwiches, dinner at a time when Roaches Point was reporting 70 kts, we enjoyed roast pork, roast potatoes, baked apples and spinach. Red and white wine was served, but the center of gravity of the wine bottles was too high so they were relegated to the lee bunk. Simarly the center of gravity for wine glasses is to high for the gimbled table so wine is drunk in short glasses.

We slowly drifted westwards, gale moderated. The watch captain on deck , who was an excellent seaman who does no panic, and has a sense of humor, opened the aft cabin hatch. He said “skipper you have a bit of a problem and handed me a 6’ length of beautifully varnished tiller!”.

The tiller had snapped off leaving two foot stub. The emergency tiller was back in the garage in Glandore.

No problem, a cow hitch around the stubb of the tiller, lines were lead to cocpit winches port and staroard, sails hoisted. Since Iolaire was a well balance long keel yawl, we had no problem steering. The rudder just became an adjustable trim tab. Tacking was achieved by backing the missen.

We bear to windward 15 miles to Schull and anchored there as another gale was predicted.

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