Mystic Monk hors de combate. 18:00hrs UTC January 5th, 2016
Transiting north to south off T.V's "Fort Boyard" we could see in the distance waves breaking and over-falling on the shoal banks of the Gironde Estuary. These would be left a few miles to our Port hand side. Two large ships were away off our starboard bow some five miles. Wind was a reasonable Force 5 to 6.
With no warning we found ourselves lifted and looking down some 10 to 15 metres at the surface. A freak wave had erupted under us and was carrying us at an impossible but very real 17.6 knots towards the shoal bank. Another surge at 16 knots finished the job and sat us firmly in the middle of a maelstrom.
Hit from all side by hundreds of tons of white foam sea we were knocked flat six times, took around 20 big hits to port, starboard and above as more monster waves broke over us. At least three times the masthead was under water, tearing away the pigstick and burgee. The reefed in mainsail scooped up sea as the yacht righted itself and the track cars gave way leaving the sail attached at top and bottom only. With the cockpit full of water the yacht flattened out on its side again. This time it righted leaving behind safety rail furniture, horseshoe buoys, fender baskets and boarding ladder.
The yacht interior was awash. Still the battering continued and more than once the entire front half of the boat was under water, heading for the bottom but hull integrity and built in buoyancy plus a surge from yet another wave brought it clear of the water and ready for the next blow. Two hours of this and the steering gear failed. It was now dark and the situation was getting silly so we popped a flare. Electronics having failed we had to rely on a handheld VHF radio with only a 3 mile range but thankfully it was enough. A helicopter appeared with a searchlight and found us. The complete set of cockpit and coachroof canvasses had been ripped from their mounts and were hampering our efforts so were cut away. Somehow we got some of our steering back and were able to follow the searchlight beam which led us to the Port of Royan all weather lifeboat racing towards us.After another hour of difficult manoeuvres they got a line to us and towed us at speed to Port Medoc where they nudged us onto the fuel quay jetty where, four or five hours after it all began, we could relax.
Or so we thought!
Having decided to wait until daylight to assess the situation we found what dry ish parts of the boat we could and slept. Shortly after the smoke alarm started. There was a fire somewhere onboard but as it was behind electrical panels, in pitch darkness, we could only guess where to aim the dry powder extinguishers.