Gale Force Winds on our Maiden Voyage

We picked up our brand new Bali 5.4 at the factory in Canet-en-Roussillon, France and set off on our maiden voyage around midnight on October 20th, 2019. We were delayed slightly, waiting for a weather system to move through and for the sea state to improve after the storm. Our first stop was supposed to be Cartegena in Spain, a distance of about 400 nautical miles. It is an easy 48-hour sail, or so we thought.

While our Windy App information of predicted wind direction was correct, the wind strength was way above the predicted 15 to 20 knots. The wind picked up substantially throughout the night into the morning. By midmorning we had sustained wind of 35+ knots and saw wind gusts of up to 45 knots with torrential rain. Fortunately, we had wind from behind, but the sea state was very confused with huge 10ft rollers.

By this point we had a very reefed main and small jib out. As the morning progressed, gale force winds forced us to totally drop the sails. Thankfully we were able to reef and then drop the sails from the flybridge without having to leave the cockpit. We surfed down the waves at 12+ knots under bare poles. We had an engine just ticking over to hold course and maintain steering.

Stephen says: “People asked us how we think the boat behaved in these extreme conditions and concerns were raised about the windage of the boat. Best is not to get into these situations in the first place but it happens from time to time, specially when you are on a time constraint as we were. The wind was behind us and running with the weather was the best course of action for us. The only other smart option would have been to “hove to” and let the gale blow past but we felt comfortable enough to continue. By early morning we were under bare poles with the windage of the back door and the flybridge enclosure acting as the sail and we were still doing double digit speeds down the waves. I had the engines running for the first hour or so in case I had to engage astern to slow the boat down in order to stop the bows pegging into the trough. After a while it became obvious that because of the angled underbody of the bridgedeck pushing the bows up, the buoyancy of the foredeck combined with the forward speed, this was not going to happen and we were able to relax a bit. Overall the boat behaved very well and tracked straight. The rudders are big and right at the stern, so we were able to keep good control of the boat”.

The crew held up well under the circumstances. It was not a pleasant sail and the howling wind was downright scary at some points. It felt like we were on a very wild rollercoaster ride and we experienced torrential rain and icy temperatures. We were holed up in the flybridge under thick sleeping bags, waiting for the weather to abate. The boat handled the conditions with grace and we never at any time felt concerned about the boat’s ability, either structurally or in its performance in these conditions.

However, we decided to stop short of our destination due to this hellacious weather. We have simply had enough and sailed into port in the late afternoon, well short of our destination. Even though we were eager to get through the cold and unpredictable weather in the Mediterranean, typical of this time of year, we saw no reason to get beaten up any longer.

We went into port at Greenwhich Marina, 30 miles east of Alicante, Spain. This marina is situated on the international dateline with coordinates of 00.00.00 longitude, hence the name of the village. Once in port, the crew put things back together, cleaned the salt off the boat and headed straight for the local hangout where we indulged heavily in adult beverages and a hot plate of food.


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2 thoughts on “Gale Force Winds on our Maiden Voyage”

  1. Well done.
    Live to fight another day!
    Great footage as you had to deal with that breeze and sea state.
    Beautiful boat that really proved itself on that stretch of water.
    Be well.

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