Day #7 - Nov. 12, 2016
LTY DAILY STATS: (I’ll use this same list each day for those of you who like to keep track and experience the sail a bit more this way)
LTY (local Fiji) time: 17:45 Nov 12th, 2016 (LTY time/NZ time = UTC +12)
LOCATION: about 870nm south of west end of Fiji
POSITION: 30 27.821 S 173 10.356 E (can cut & paste into Google Earth)
SOG: 6.1 kts = 60 degrees over Stbd bow
SEAS/Swell: 3m & confused out of the SE
WEATHER: Winds and waves continued to build all night with one gust over 50kts and seas over 3m. But now starting to ease off slightly as evening approaches.
SAILS: VERY heavily reefed main & genoa (furled in to be very small)
AIR TEMP: 63.9F 17.7C
SEA TEMP: 73F 22.7C
DISTANCE TRAVELED last 24 hrs: 137nm
APROXIMATE DISTANCE to go to OPUA: about 330nm
DAY #7 MOTHER NATURE’s SMACKDOWN!
I LOVE Mother Nature! I can’t count the number of ways but I can tell you that one of them is how effective she is at keeping me humble and balanced. She reminded me of this again today.
I’ve been waxing poetic about how fabulous our sailing has been the past few days with the wind and the waves right behind us and our two sails poled out “wing on wing” one on each side. Mother Nature also threw in bright sunny days and a big moon to add to the positive effect and the ride has been fabulous. Until it wasn’t.
We had been dashing downwind as I’ve been describing and it continued after dinner last night and on through the rest of the night. The winds and the seas were high, winds about 25+ and seas building up to 3 meters but with both wind and seas directly behind us, they combined to give us this rolling magic carpet ride you’ve been reading all about, ad nauseum no doubt! As the winds started to build up to 30 we reefed in the main to be less than half its full size and reefed the Genoa in even more to give us a very well controlled, comfortable but still fast ride south. However about 4am this morning, a bit later than the usual 2am schedule such things seem to always happen, we got hit by a very big gust out of nowhere that took wind speeds gusting up over 50 and ……………………………..BANG!, like someone shot a revolver in your ear, one of the blocks on our preventer system blew out and set off a whole chain reaction of fun events. The preventer is a line on a 6:1 block and tackle that we use when we want to have he boom moved out as far sideways as possible in these downwind conditions. However when you do so there is a danger that when the boat rolls, the wind could catch the front side of the sail and suddenly swing the boom the opposite direction. Quite easy to “prevent” hence the name by using the preventer to keep the boom pulled forward and unable to move back. We run the preventer from the underside of the boom down to one of the big bollards/cleats about midships and cinch it down nice and tight pulling against the regular mainsheet lines on the opposite side such that the boom is now locked solidly in this position and can’t move. Works great, till it doesn’t!
When the preventer broke the boom now swung very quickly over towards the opposite port side but fortunately with the unusual way we have rigged up a double main sheet system, it was only able to move about 25 degrees back towards center but it did so VERY quickly. In and of itself, not big deal but with the winds now staying up in the high 40’s to 50’s and in 3+ meter seas, things got interesting for awhile as Learnativity rounded up into these big winds and seas which overpowered the rudder and we can’t correct. This too is not that big a deal except that the genoa (sail on the front) is no longer filled and is flailing wildly in these high winds. The sail is like a rag in the mouth of a very big angry dog who is shaking the living $%& out of it with unbelievable force, speed and noise. To make things even more interesting, we have it poled out from the end of the spinnaker pole so it is all the trickier to get this sail furled in. But we do so as quickly as we can, also get the boom and main sail under control and pulled back in closer to center and fire up the motor to give us the power to take control of steering instead of having Mother Nature and the winds controlling our direction. So we now have the boat under control and safe, now time to check out the consequences of all this action out on deck.
Normally quite easy to do but in the dark and with the boat pitching and rolling like a wild bronco and these big winds and seas blasting all around, it makes it a bit more challenging to make your way around out on deck and fix things. However I’ve got lots of practice with this, as you faithful followers all know, so out I go for this latest adventure. We’ve been able to reef in the big Genoa but there appears to be some damage to it with some bits and pieces flapping around it as it is all rolled up on the furler. Can’t see just what is wrong in the dark and not something we need to deal with now, so I leave it till morning and pleased to say that it turns out to be just a severed leech tension line with its normally Velcro’d on cover out flapping. Easy to fix when we get to Opua. The sheets or lines that pull the clew of the sail aft are a different story as the whipping has turned them into a huge spaghetti like tangle that is now whipping around near the end of the spinnaker pole. Again, normally bringing in the spinnaker pole is something you do in light winds and is very easy, but wrestling this 23 foot long 4 ½ inch diameter pipe back onto the boat and locked in place vertically up the front of the mast is a slightly different technique in these winds, washing waves and rollicking deck. Fortunately, so to speak, this isn’t the first time I’ve needed to do this and so I prevail once again and manage to raise it up the mast on its mast end car, pull the outer end back onto the boat, up over the lifelines, release the tangled mess of sheets from the end jaws and get the pole locked back into place against the forward side of the mast. OK, what’s the next challenge?
Untangling the rats nest that is supposed to be our two Genoa sheets which are 9/16” lines running from the Genoa back down each side to turning blocks and the very aft corners of the hull, goes rather well and gives me a chance to take in the full glory of Mother Nature’s show going on all around me as I sit on the gyrating deck. She even throws in a free salt water pressure wash to save me the trouble of needing a shower later in the day. As I say, I LOVE Mother Nature!
As I’m getting ready to make my way back from the bow to the cockpit, a large stainless steel over center turnbuckle swinging with abandon out off the far Starboard side of the bow catches my eye. Hmmmm, what’s that? Looks very similar to the inner forestay that runs from near the top of the mast to a point about 2 meters aft of the bow, and now that I glance over there, sure enough its missing in action. VERY big action in these conditions and with the weight of this very large solid SS mass swinging every which way, I can see that it has that mischieveous look as it eyes up potential targets back on the boat it used to be attached to. I can see it thinking that Gee, those big glass salon windows would be fun to crash into. Or maybe I should go for those big shiny freshly painted blue sides of the hull. Hmmmm, so many great choices. What’s a wayward forestay to do? Fortunately I seize this momentary indecision on its part as my chance to go grab it as it swings back onboard, hopefully without it choosing me as a target to bash into, and am finally able to wrestle this mass of SS turnbuckle on the end of a 50 foot stainless wire cable back to one of the side shrouds. As luck would have it, the line from the broken preventer is available so I take the forestay over there and use this stout line to lash the recalcitrant forestay to one of the side shrouds and keep it under control till I can attache it properly in slightly calmer conditions. Lest you be concerned about the integrity of the mast and rigging by the way, this inner forestay is an optional extra which we use for both added strengthening of the mast and for raising a small storm sail on in very high wind conditions rather than using the larger forestay. So no problem in having this forestay unattached and now safely secured off to the side as it often is.
OK, everything up on the foredeck seems to be under control, at least all that I can see in the light of the two foredeck lights shining down from the spreaders above which I fortunately replaced with new halogen bulbs before we left. On my way back to the boring serenity of the fully protected cockpit, I check for any damage the broken preventer might have caused and it is quite minor but too dangerous to remove the broken block from the underside of the boom, so with one end now lashed to the Starboard shroud holding the forestay I tie off the remining line so it doesn’t go overboard or start getting into more mischief onboard.
That should do it for now, but as I make my way along the Stbd side of the cockpit roof, I hear a noise and a bit of movement catches my eye and I see that the naval naughtiness of Learnativity’s equipment has extended there as well. Climbing up on the cockpit coaming to see the roof, the whole SS pipe rack with the three big solar panels has pulled itself apart in the big winds and rolling seas and is now slid all the way over to Port and hanging off that side of the roof. A bit tricky as the coaming, the flat area surrounding our cockpit seats, is very slippery and not too grippy in these rock and roll conditions but I’m eventually able to wrestle this whole assembly back close to where it belongs in the center of the dodger/roof and Christine hands me some lines so I can lash this down for the rest of the evening as well.
With all that looked after I’m able to climb back into the sanctuary of our fully protected cockpit where we stay nice and dry and warm and bask in the relieved eyes of my Brilliant Bride and give her a kiss and a “Honey I’m home” greeting. Next we set about getting the sails all reset and adjusted for these conditions, get back on the heading we want for the next few hours, turn off the motor and get back to sailing through this boisterous night. Whew!
During the day today I’ve been able to go look after things out on deck a bit better with the help of Mother Nature’s bigger and brighter light and have everything ship shape again on deck. During the rest of the day the winds slacked off a wee bit, mostly under 30 now and seem to be ever so slowly easing off. The seas are doing the same and so while it is still very active out here, it has been another bright sunny day at sea so what’s not to like?
All this weather is quite the opposite of what had been originally forecast and we thought we were going to have very little wind in this section, but what would have been the fun in that? Fortunately, Mother Nature prevailed once again with this latest set of reminders and is now back to being her benevolent and generous self, rewarding us with what is looking to be a very colourful sunset off to the west as we rock and roll our way south.
Christine just called up to say she has our nightly appies ready so I’ll sign off for tonight and be back same time, same channel, tomorrow night for the latest update in the adventures of the crew of the Good Ship Learnativity.