Editor's Letter: Wrath of the Rollers

Yachting's Editor-In-Chief recaps a cruise where Mother Nature flexed her muscles.

Ocean, Waves
Cruising in high seas can be intimidating.Jeremy Vessey

I could hear the waves all night, their white, frothy tops rolling over and onto themselves, sliding down the wave face and lifting the 65-footer up like a balloon. Sometimes the boat floated back down. Sometimes she sat suspended, momentarily, before gravity repossessed control of the situation and she plunged into flybridge-high troughs. The boat’s spine repeatedly hyperextended as our crew’s spines compressed. Welcome to October in the North Atlantic.

The offshore forecast had projected seas that would max out at 5-footers, completely comfortable for the boat. But 100 miles from our nearest port, things escalated quickly. The wind intensified, and the seas grew. Those 5-footers were now at 10 to 12 feet, and then grew to 15. Waves with razor-sharp teeth broke over the bow as our captain kept the boat’s nose into the sea. We bounced around and waited for daybreak.

I usually love to watch sunrises offshore. But not on that day. The big orange orb came up from the east to show us a stacked, seemingly infinite white ocean. I looked at my brother Chip. He looked at me. We were in a heightened state of awareness. The crew had faith that the boat could get us home, but we both knew it was going to be quite the slog.

"Looking through the salon windows, Chip and I watched a green wall barreling at us. we weren’t getting over this one."

For the first 45 minutes in gear, we traveled virtually nowhere. The captain kept looking for an angle to make some progress northwest to our nearest port. Even at about 5 knots, the propellers pulled out of the water every third or fourth wave. Then, looking through the salon windows, Chip and I watched a green wall barreling at us. We weren’t getting over this one. Our crew braced for impact.

Seawater flew over the bow and crashed full force onto the windshield. The glass popped into the boat. Water washed one of our crew mates through the salon and into the cockpit door. He was startled but not injured.

We boarded up the window and carried on — for 15 more hours. By the time we got to our inlet, it was dark again, but lights from the beach told us we were home. After securing the boat, I walked over to the marina’s parking lot and sat on the asphalt for a while, exhausted. I was happy to be back and humbled to have witnessed Mother Nature’s raw power.

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Photo by Tom Serio.Tom Serio