As the cold front approached the fleet, there were periods of intense rain. Before the front, there were forecast to be 40-45 knots of wind. These appeared. With big seas, heavy rain being blown at 45 knots, it was difficult to see, and when our radar detector signalled a ship approaching, I could see nothing on the horizon in any direction. I decided to try my new goggles, and they worked better. After 30 minutes, still without seeing a ship, the detector stopped beeping and I went below. The motion was still violent as the wind and seas were bigger. I bore the boat off and rolled the staysail and hoisted the storm jib with 3 reefs in the main.
Once back on course, I went below for a breather. I decided to take a picture of the goggles, baseball hat, and foul weather gear hood, so took the camera, pointed it at my face, and clicked. Braced down below, I was not braced enough. A particularly bad wave and boat combination, lurched the boat suddently, and I went hurtling across the cabin backwards, likely 5-6 feet and hit with my back on a grab bar, like you’d have in a bathtub, about 1″ in diaimeter. Intense pain and fear. Had I broken anything? I scrambled out of the leeward bunk compartment trying to see if I could move. I could, but my back was frozen, the muscles totally cramped. After a few minutes, I remembered the camera, and with a big effort, retrieved it from beneath the beanbag. It was in a little pool of water, end of camera.
Eventually, the front came through, and somehow I wore ship (gybed) to get to the new course. Now the wind died briefly, but huge tumultuous seas remained. The wind came back shortly, and now, because the front changed the wind direction, we could sail south, at high speed, but directly into the leftover seas that had built from that direction for days. If anything, this was worse than before the front.
The pain in my back was so intense that I could not reach for the satellite telephone to call Dr. Barnewolt (see Experts) to talk to him about the accident. I lay in a heap on the bean bag in the crashing chaos. Eventually I called, left a message, and then he called back. and we went through a list of questions, focusing on my breathing, the concern being that a rib may have broken and punctured a lung. My breathing was OK (given my asthma), so that dire circumstance was unlikely. He said start ibuprofen and he’ll call back in 4 hours.
Over the course of the night, I had not felt in control of the boat, with staysail and 3 reefs, in 30 knots of wind, going into that chaotic sea. So I decided to roll up the staysail, back way off, try to preserve the boat and me. I knew that I would sacrifice 50 or 60 miles or more, but I had to do it, and did. We sailed with only 3rd reef for the next 10-12 hours. So we dropped back in the fleet some more, but it did me a world of good. The ibuprofen helped the pain, and I actually got some rest into the morning. Finally I rolled out the staysail at noon, and got going again.