Oh Lord hear our pleas from those in peril on the seas!
I never thought I would right those words when talking about our adventures cruising on the seas of the world. What an adventure we have just had in the Tasman Sea. Not the kind of adventure you dream about or even want to experience. A typhoon and a fire!
We sailed from Hobart Tasmania on a beautiful evening looking forward to two days at sea headed for Milford Sound in New Zealand. Crossing the Tasman Sea is always a bit of a crap shoot as the weather can change rapidly. The first day was perfect, blue skies, moderate seas and wind. The second day of the crossing was a bit blustery with clouds, a few rain showers and winds gusting to about 25-30mph…nothing we haven't encountered many times before.
Towards evening on the second day the winds began to increase and the Captain announced that the forecast was for rain and winds overnight and slightly worsening weather for our day of cruising through Milford Sound but that we would proceed as scheduled. That night the seas built up and so did the
wind….walking back from dinner we did a ten rail bank shot down the hallway to our stateroom.
By morning the seas were around 20 feet and the wind gusting to 45mph but we ducked into Milford Sound and cruised around the sound in very calm if a bit rainy conditions….which only added to the spectacular waterfalls on both sides of the Fiord. The Captain announced that we would sail back out into the Tasman Sea for a run down the coast to Doubtful Sound and perhaps even Dusky sound. He warned us that the seas might be a bit rough but that the forecast was for conditions to improve.
Mother Nature has a way of really sticking it to you when you least expect it. Unbeknownst to the weather forecasters or anyone else the huge depression to the north of us suddenly deepened and became a violent storm and then a full typhoon. It happened so fast that there was no chance of warning mariners and we got caught right in the middle of it. Within less than an hour of leaving Milford the wind went up to 60mph and the seas to thirty feet. The Captain turned
south putting the storm winds on our stern and made a dash for Cape Providence on the tip of New Zealand, hoping to find shelter in the lee of the cape. The ship was swooping up and down as the seas came rumbling by…large humps of ocean with white water streaming off in the wind.
By mid afternoon as we neared the cape the winds were up to 80-90mph and the seas over thirty feet. We secured our cabins as best we could…bottles down on the sofa, things wedged including us…watching the awesome display out over our veranda. All the outside doors were locked and everyone was told to not open veranda doors at all and to use hand rails if attempting to walk about. Out of the driving rain we could just make out the tip of Cape Providence when the Captain came on the PA and announced that the winds were steady at 115 mph and seas were running up to 40 feet!
The Captain had decided that it was too dangerous to attempt the rounding into the bay and that he felt we could no longer run with the typhoon behind us…the safest course would
be to turn into the wind and force a course directly to the North North East. The turn was going to be very dangerous because the ship would be broadside to the 115mph wind for a few minutes. With superb seamanship we came around…everyone hanging on as the ship listed more and more as the wind forced her over. The sounds of sliding furniture, breaking glass and groaning ship filled the air…then we were around and steadied on course. The stabilizers did a great job of dampening the motion but what a ride!
You can’t imagine what the sea looks like in typhoon conditions…40 foot seas breaking over the bow, white water covers the sea, the air is filled with flying water, rain passes horizontally in sheets, the wind howls and drives water through every opening, furniture on the verandas overturns and bangs against separation panels that break loose in the wind, bits and pieces of things fly off astern, the ship groans and bangs pitching and rolling….pandemonium is a word that comes to mind.
Yet through it all the crew was totally professional, the captain calm, the updates coming every 15 minutes and no panic at all.
Most passengers took it all in calmly if a bit nervously. Everyone settled in for a long bumpy night knowing that the typhoon would blow over by mid morning. But not so fast there matey.
0430…the PA clicks on throughout the ship…”This is the Captain…Code Bravo, Code Bravo…aft of funnel deck 12…Code Bravo”. A fire! We both sit upright in bed…its pitch black…I reach for the light switch…no power. Oh oh. Fortunately ever since the Concordia disaster I keep a small flashlight close to hand. Up and dressed and out the door to check the situation. The Cruise Director comes on the PA explaining what is happening and not to panic ….situation is under control. A quick scan from the forward deck confirms that the crew has the situation under control. A few frightened passengers stand around clutching their lifejackets but are quickly calmed and sent back to their cabins.
Seems a light standard had broken off in the wind and fallen on some stacked deck loungers. The arcing wires had started a small smoldering blaze that was quickly extinguished. It was very impressive to stand to one side watching what a really well trained and well led crew can do in an emergency.
By morning the storm had blown past us and the sun was peeking through…a few dolphins cavorting alongside as if to say cheers. Cheers indeed! What a story all the passengers will have to tell and now you have read mine.
Some thoughts about the South Pacific and impressions of Australia coming soon.
Harry and Connie
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