'a fully laden Mounts Bay lugger can really surf!'

Pete Goss and his crew on the replica Mounts Bay Lugger, Spirit of Mystery, have weathered a force 9 as they approach the Canary Islands.

On his blog, Pete describes the scene on board as Spirit of Mystery surfs down mountainous waves…

“I can’t quite begin to tell you the variety and challenge this trip has thrown up so far as we fight our way south. The Channel did its usual and had us cold, wet and seasick. The Bay of Biscay proved frustrating with light variable winds with grey rain and progress was well below what we had hoped. We always knew it wasn’t the best of weather windows but at least we were on our way…

“I asked Lee [Meteorologist] for his thoughts, he came back to say that we could expect a force eight to nine that night which was a complete surprise. Here we were off the Portuguese coast with the sun getting hotter and the sea warmer, so winds of that nature were just not on my radar screen. We had gybed and were heading for the Canaries on a course of 210 degrees and it was with some trepidation that we prepared for our first real test. This was to be a big and nasty few notches up the learning curve for us all. Would we measure up and how would the boat hold out?

“I decided to take the safe option on sail changes and stay ahead of the curve…Everything was lashed down including all the spars to the deck, un-hungry tummies were filled, the grab bag was double checked and all the lee cloths strung up. The boxing ring had its ropes and we needed the fight to begin. In a funny way its arrival bought a sense of relief for we now had something to get our teeth into. At 0300hrs the ride was getting wild and we handed the mizzen as we galloped into the night. The double reefed lug on the foremast had her both steady and game as we charged into the night. Helming was manageable but only just, and we stood Eliot’s fourteen-year-old arms down. We opted to work through the night with two hours on the helm, two hours snoozing on the cabin floor on standby in full gear, followed by two hours in a bunk. No sleep was to be had.

“Come the morning we were up against the bottom line and it was impressive. I found myself taking the helm at dawn and was immediately immersed in a world of contrast. The seas were both massive and mean as they drove a relentless path before a force eight gusting nine. One minute the world would be contained between the tops of huge waves, the next it laid before me for mile upon mile as we crested a harsh and unforgiving scene. With dawn the sea took on a cold and impassionate slate grey, broken by heaps of breaking white, its surface unable to contain the angry restless energy contained below. A roar to my right grabs an adrenalin induced glance to reveal a stunning rainbow in the spray. The colour all the more vivid in this monochrome world.

“Every helm has his big wave in a storm and mine heralded itself with a deep throated roar as tons of water let itself go at the stern of our gallant little ship. Engulfed in white she lifted her defiant stern and I was aware of being overtaken by breaking water either side of the bulwarks. This ‘Spirit of Mystery’ was not going to have, and she lifted her skirts and was out of the starting gate. I leant back and looked down the face of a ski jump with a gulp but there was no doubt in ‘Spirit’s’ mind. She was off and surfing down that wave like a teenager. I just couldn’t believe it as we bounced our way down like a tin tray with spray everywhere. Each bump, if that’s what you can call it, causing jets of water to skirt up through the scuppers. I don’t know if I was more shocked by the size of the wave or the discovery that a fully laden Mounts Bay Lugger really can surf.

“Roll on a break – for we not only need one but have earned one. This rooky crew has been blooded and have found ‘Spirit of Mystery’ to be a tank.”

Keep up with the voyage at Spirit of Mystery