I was bent down clearing water from the center footwell when a flying fish landed on my back. Nothing further on that development except to know that a fish flopping on a bare skin back feels... like maybe it shouldn't be happening. My Whale Gusher bilge pump is now broken beyond repair, so it's buckets and sponges here on out. The rubber baffle which allows for suction is now full of holes. I'm now less than 700 nautical miles from Cairns. I got a lucky break south from what is now Tropical Cyclone Ann, helping my approach angles tremendously. Ann left my company as she was transforming from a tropical storm into a cyclone. That doesn't mean I didn't get a fair amount of punishment in the form of high winds and waves. I made it through relatively unscathed with the exception of one unfortunately placed breaking wave.
The winds were holding steady in the high twenties when a large squall made an appearance. This pushed the wind up to high thirties with frequent gusts into the forties. After about 25 minutes in these conditions, I sat opposite the chart plotter assessing the winds and my orientation to the waves. Emerson has a tendency to get sucked into high winds, leaving me broadside to the waves. I'm assuming this happens because my boat is shaped somewhat like an airfoil. It seems the wind passes around my boat faster on the windward side, creating lower pressures and a pull towards the wind. Regardless, I was a little too broadside for comfort. Since it appeared we were handling the waves just fine, I briefly opened the hatch door for a blast of fresh air. The timing couldn't have been worse.
The rain was coming down hard, yet suddenly it went quiet. That could mean one of two things - the rain suddenly stopped or I'm sitting low in a trough, there's a steep wall of water between me and the rain, and it's falling in my direction. It's well past sunset and the moonlight has no chance of piercing through the cloud layers above, so I can't see a thing. I have one battery monitor gauge remaining that tends to act finicky, but seems to work fine. As I'm paralyzed in the midst of the silence, that gauge, without provocation, spontaneously and eerily illuminated the blue LED backlight as if to say "times up." Because a split second after that LED came on, a large steep wave crashed directly broadside into the port side of the boat. The rain certainly didn't stop.
Luckily I was sitting on the same side of impact with my feet planted opposite, because I was suddenly standing over the electrical panel pushing hard with my legs, arms preparing for a fall. The noise was terribly loud, nothing but violent thrashing. The boat rolled 75-80 degrees, and as if in slow motion, I see a sheet of water in front of my face illuminated from behind by that same blue LED. Anything not secured has found a new home in the top right corner of the boat. After what feels like an eternity, the trashing slowly subsides and the sheet of water finds its way towards my feet. This is good, Emerson is slowing rolling back to vertical. The rain returns. The LED extinguishes. I assess. The footwell is nearly full of water, my bed is sopping wet, the electrics are still operational, I'm not hurt. But there's now an awful creaking sound. I have to exit the cabin and determine the cause.
I exit to find the two operational oars still securely in place. Unfortunately, I left the forward half of the canvas protection raised. I find the right side is dangling by the lower zipper, and the left side is dangling by the top snaps. Luckily, the left side was partially unzipped and the wave just finished the process. I quickly remove the canvas and notice the right side is dangling by the zipper because the snaps were ripped clean off the boat. I toss them in the aft cabin; I see there's nothing hindering the rudder mechanics. The creaking is too loud. I can't see the waves, the rain is pelting me, any new sound or lack of sound sends me into a low brace, preparing for a similar impact. I peek over the sides and find the cause of the creaking. The impact has dislodged my spare oars from the side of the boat. On both sides. These are secured by a forward cubby and an aft lashing. The blades of the oars are at least 6 inches deep in the cubbies. Not anymore; they are now dangling by the aft lashings, being dragged behind the boat.
I can't pull the oars in by hand, I simply don't have the leverage. I can only reach two feet down the nearly 11 foot oars. I can't let them be, those lashings will only hold for so long. I grab my parachute anchor retrieval line; it has a heavy metal clip. I attempt a loop around an oar and let gravity and the flowing water send the clip down below the surface. Luckily the loop tightens and catches far enough down that I gain enough leverage to yank the oar to safety. I repeat and tie them all off well above the waterline, then return to the flooded cabin. I can finish stowing the oars in calmer conditions. I'll spare you the details of the ensuing indoor cleanup. Suffice it to say, it took me about 2 hours. The only casualties in the ordeal were two cracked spare oars and the skin on my right pinky. I failed to put on gloves and left a hole in my finger somewhere in the midst of pulling oars to safety. And I lost some potatoes. Water flooded two compartments, one with food.
Everything is dry and back to normal, though remnant currents from Tropical Cyclone Ann continue to help me along at excellent speeds. She takes some and gives some. I can't help but imagine if I were in a different, lighter rowboat, I would've tumbled over during that spell. Emerson is remarkably stable, and for that, I'm grateful. In also did a full food inventory and found I've been saving better than I thought. I have about two months left without fishing, so I'm no longer concerned about food. I actually increased my food consumption to better match my pace. I'm now abeam Cairns, so I'm also feeling better about reaching my destination as planned. As of now, I'd estimate the shores of Cairns will be in sight between 1 and 11 June. Until then, I'll keep after it.