I was out with my lovely lady racing about in the air being pushed by a menacing cloud system. We had been giving family "tourist" rides all afternoon in a moderate breeze. I knew it was going to get exciting when the anvil shaped cloud system began to form to the south. We were pushing it and I knew it. The wind changed from a northerly to a southerly in about 2 minuets. Guessing the gusts were going to 30mph...hard to say. My wife is pretty good about getting out in trap with the assistance of a chicken line to the transom (it has saved the day again and again). We had about 4 minuets of in and out wild trap and then a big gust slammed us...slow motion blow over.
I was running the main sheet manually, feeding line in and out as needed so when we went over, the line was let go. The jib stayed set. I jumped towards the end of the boom, rolled off the side of the sail, and swam around the transoms towards the backside. Meanwhile, my lady was still up on the windward hull and the boat was quickly heading for a turtle, driven by her weight which was now over center. I hollered at her, but by the time she slid into the water, the boat was mast down. It happened so fast! We went from ripping to turtle in 10-15 seconds. It was my first turtle! Reaching my righting line on the topside was difficult. I had to hold my breath and dunk my head in order to get the reach around the dolphin striker. I never realized that while upside down, the tramp happily lives 14" under the water with the hulls curving up around us. The contents of our cooller were floating around us: fork and spoon (straight to the bottom), baked beans, potato salad, several beers, blue freezer packs, and some random articles of clothing. luckily, we were wet-suited up. In the ensuing chaos, the floating vittles and various other bits were left to fair for themselves. Waves were crashing and it was just impossible to salvage any of the floating debris. I had bigger fish to fry.
The bringing of the boat from turtle to sideways was easier than the actual righting. She easily came up to broadside...surprisingly. I put the line on the windward hull and the tramp helped to catch the wind and bring to sideways. Now the wind was gusting to the point of grabbing spray off the waves and blowing it airborne. Once sideways, I reattached the line and we leaned back. As fast as it was righted, it bounced over to the other side and over it went again. We walked back and forth until the mast was near 45 to the wind again, and again...righted for a second and back over the other way! I leaped for the far side of the dolphin striker once it looked like she was up. When she slapped down and headed back over the other way, I was lifted out of the water to my waist before I could no longer hang on. Once, we had it near up and it "rolled" over its transoms and did a 180 degree flop. My brother was near with a Hobie 18 with 3 on board. He got close enough for someone to bail and help us. The three of us were able to right it and keep it on its feet. We limped back to shore as a 3 pack while lighting lit up the sky 3 miles away and gaining fast.
My wife kept a smile on her face the whole time, even while I got a little short and did some yelling, as seems to happen in the tense dumping scenarios. I'm sure we would have eventually got it on its feet without the 3rd hand, but it did help keep it right side up. I wonder what I was doing wrong? I know the main was un-cleated as I was driving with the sheet around my wrist for ultimate control. Was the cleated jib presented to the gale enough to knock the boat back over again? We had it up 3 times only to flop the opposite way and down again. We shouldn't have been out; the lightning was getting closer and we were toying with the storm, but loving every minute of it!
I'm no longer afraid of the turtle...we've crossed that bridge! But the tossed over again and again got a bit old...