Archive for October, 2010

Lat: 12 18.340′ S
Lon: 52 43.530′ E

We aren’t exactly screaming along with half a jib, but we’re managing to average about 100 nm daily, and everything is holding together. That speed has us sighting land in two days! Unfortunately, we’re probably going to sail right by the land we sight.

DSC_0727 Even partially furled, the workhorse keeps moving us along

The spare part hasn’t been ordered yet, but with the repair holding together, it’s looking more like we’ll head for Mayotte if the piracy situation doesn’t look too bad. We were really looking forward to seeing the Nosy Be area of Madagascar, but with the cyclone season officially starting tomorrow, we need to keep moving. Mayotte, a French possession in the northern part of the Mozambique channel, is only two extra days of sailing and looks like a much, much better place to ship parts. We can take on good quality, duty-free diesel, fill our water tanks, find western groceries (though they’ll be expensive), and best of all, have the part shipped in without taking weeks to clear customs and having to endure the risk of “complications and delays”.

The weather has been beautiful since we had the rigging failure, which has been a real blessing. The sunny skies, moderate winds, and relatively light seas have made the slower pace easier to deal with and given us less cause to worry about the jury-rigged repair.

Listening to Bob on Boomerang describe conditions nearing Richards Bay, South Africa, has been a sobering reminder of how treacherous the area can be. A few days ago he was at sea in the Mozambique channel current for a SW “buster” that blew about 25 knots against the current and created steep, close, 16-18-foot seas. A couple days later a small coastal low turned intense and he was hammered with 40 knots of sustained wind and seas that towered over the boat, all the while trying to dodge shipping traffic coming in and out of the busy port. His response on the morning net as to how things were going was simple: “Not good.” We’re hoping our plan to hug the Mozambique coast will give us the chance to be at anchor during those types of blows, but it’s certainly no place to sail with rigging problems, so we’ll be waiting at the north end of the Mozambique Channel until we can get and install a new part.

Sensory Deprivation

Lat: 12 32.030′ S

Long: 055 51.888′ E

Less than 400 miles to go to the Cape! We are finally closing in on it. Dallas’ rigging repair seems to be holding up very well, which has been a huge relief. It was so nice to start sailing again after two and a half straight days of motoring, and we really couldn’t ask for better weather. The seas are calm, the wind is fair, the sky is blue, and at the moment we are in a current that is pushing us right along. We are going 5 knots using only half of the jib (so that we don’t put too much strain on the rigging).

Despite the idyllic conditions, I’m no longer feeling as though I could stay out here indefinitely. I’m ready to be there yesterday! Just kidding. I’m not desperate (yet), but I am really looking forward to going to bed well before 3 a.m., having some new scenery to explore and people to meet, and of course, eating some food I didn’t prepare accompanied by a nice, cold beer or a glass of wine.

Dallas asked me what I would rather have when we go ashore: a cold beer or a salad. I told him that it depends on the salad and the beer. I would almost certainly opt for a greek salad with chicken over a can of Bud Lite, but given a choice between a garden salad and a pint of good lager — that’s a no-brainer. However, I did dream about salad, and to my knowledge, I haven’t dreamt about beer!

Being on passage tends to make for some interesting dreams. We were discussing this with some other cruisers in Cocos and deduced that it is because sleep is more disturbed by the noise, movement, etc., so you wake up and remember dreams more frequently. I think another reason for it might relate to the function of dreams. Typically, dreams are thought to be our mind’s way of consolidating information that was processed throughout the day, but in the case of being offshore for 2 1/2 weeks, there’s not a whole lot of new info coming in. For me anyway, it seems like the mind responds by cycling through old material. I have dreamt about people and places that I haven’t thought of for many years. It’s like being on a garbled and disjointed version of “This is Your Life”. Or maybe this is what it’s like to be in a sensory deprivation chamber. People pay good money for this!

In our waking hours, Dallas and I are both reading up on Africa. I’m reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”. Of course it’s an amazing story about the ability of a group to affect change (stop apartheid) through sheer determination and devotion to their cause. It also led me to realize just how Africa-ignorant I am. For example, I’d never heard of the Xhosa nation of which Mandela is a member, and reading about their customs gave me new appreciation for what makes African culture unique, at least by Western standards. For example, as a child psychologist, I found it interesting to read that Xhosa children are expected to learn through observation and imitation. Asking adults questions is considered impertinent and probably will not result in a response. I can see how this could foster respect for elders but think it might backfire when used with more inquisitive types who need to know “WHY?”.

Right now I want to know why the fish aren’t biting. Dallas rigged up two new lures with in-line bungees to absorb the shock of the hit on the other end, but we’re trolling both to no avail. The fish aren’t even responding to my shouts….like I said, time to get off the boat!

Sailing Again

Lat: 12 37.037′ S
Lon: 58 56.775′ E

After dinner last night, I had a short call with Colin Mack of Mack Sails in Florida (thanks to Tim for helping us set up the call). Mack Sails helped us re-rig the boat in Ft. Pierce before we left and Colin’s been great at taking calls and answering questions on the two occasions that we’ve been far from boating resources and had concerns about the rig. He’d read over the issue and temporary fix on the blog and recommended we secure the shroud with a strong shackle instead of a lashing with small line that could chafe through easily. Although I didn’t trust the lashing enough to sail, it wasn’t chafing and I still hadn’t been able to come up with a good shackle solution.

The problem was finding the right sized shackle, one small enough to fit through the turnbuckle but large enough to be able to encircle both the turnbuckle and the clevis pin. After finding nothing that would work, I started looking around at everything on the boat to see what I could possibly use that hadn’t yet come to mind. In the anchor locker I found just the right thing–large, pear-shaped stainless shackles that we occasionally use for our anchor bridle. The size was just right, so there was only one problem left to solve.

DSC_0700 The table was covered with shackles, etc. for a couple of days

DSC_0701 Drawing out a better solution and trying to get the spacing correct

The new problem was tensioning the shroud. Usually you would just loosen and re-tension it by turning the turnbuckle, but with the jury-rig shackle attached, the turnbuckle would be frozen in place and would instead have to be pre-adjusted to the proper length. After some careful measurements (which I somehow managed to screw up even with a detailed drawing and measuring twice) we got started. Lauren turned the boat downwind and we loosened the starboard shroud until we couldn’t safely loosen it any more. As we loosened it, we also tightened the mast-supporting halyards on the port side, slowly bending the mast to port and creating slack to work with in the port shroud. The key was finally figuring how how to rig a block so that we could use a winch to pull down the shroud itself with lots of force while still keeping it lined up with where we needed to attach it. Eventually it was in place, and after a couple of tense moments fixing the clevis and cotter pins in place while the block was groaning, we were finally re-rigged with all stainless. We finished by re-tightening the starboard shroud, adding a backup lashing to the port jury-rig, and cleaning up. This time around, the seas were much calmer and we didn’t have to deal with the mast shaking and dancing above us. The rig is still looser than it should be, but tonight I’ll feel comfortable sleeping below instead of up in the salon waiting for something to let go. We still have the main halyard and topping lift tied off as backup supports and the re-rigged shroud has three backup attachments, so even if our repair lets go, we shouldn’t lose the mast. I’m also really looking forward to a day without working in such close proximity to hardware under high loads.

DSC_0703 We ended up making a spacing change and adding a backup lashing, but this it what basically what we ended up with.

We have half a jib out now and were making 3.5 to 4 knots before a squall came through and the wind died down to almost nothing. Hopefully we’ll feel good enough about things tomorrow to put the whole jib out. The good news is that even if it’s slow going, we’re sailing and feel much better about the rig. Thanks to everyone who’s helped us out. It looks like the next challenge is going to be getting into port and then finding a way to get a replacement part before the tough journey down the Mozambique channel.

Still Standing

Lat: 12 40.251′ S
Lon: 61 11.557′ E

Just a quick update to let everyone know the stick is still up and we’re moving along. After looking at a few options, including the sparsely inhabited Agalega Islands, it looks like we’re headed to Antisiranana (Diego Suarez). It’s the closest port of entry and thanks to the SSB and Bob on Boomerang, we’re getting an email full of info on it. Apparently they don’t get many boats, and there was a Swiss boat that was treated so well that they spent 2 months there. Evidently theft is a big enough issue that you have to hire someone to stay on the boat and protect it, but other than that they loved it an even have contact info for an engineer working in the shipyard. We’re marginal on fuel in terms of getting there by motoring the whole time, so we’ll probably try to rig a makeshift sail tomorrow. I still don’t trust the rig enough to use the jib, but I think we can rig a storm sail in a way that doesn’t strain things.

Most of today was spent working on the engines. With the unexpected motoring, one engine needed an oil change, a water temperature gauge failed, and I found yet another screw hole in the hull leaking in the starboard engine room. When I took a closer look on the port side, I found at least a dozen holes, but none of them are leaking.

Bob on Boomerang and Nat on Bahati really came through for us as well. I’d emailed Nat asking for info on the Agalegas, which are administered by Mauritius, where he just made landfall yesterday. Even though he had his own boat repairs and a fall on land that resulted in being knocked out and visiting the hospital, he managed to get some valueable info. The Agalegas don’t have regular air service and the supply boat schedule is irregular, not someplace to be stuck trying to get a part. Bob had collected info on Diego Suarez for us from the Swiss boat.

The weather the last couple of days has been the best of the trip. We have clear skies for the first time, no squalls, and the seas are down a bit. Although there are still occasional 8+ footers, we can actually see the horizon. It would have made for some incredible sailing, but for now we’re just happy to still be in one piece.

Nearly Dismasted

Lat: 12 42.495′ S
Lon: 62 31.360′ E

About 6:30 am yesterday, I was resting sleepily on the settee between 15-minute checks when I heard the sound of metal breaking under load. It sounded like it had come from the mast, so I hurried outside and looked over the mast and rig, but didn’t see anything. The sound was unmistakable, though, and I kept looking for the source every 15 minutes when I went out to check. About 8:30, I happened to glance at the port chainplate and saw it: the port (windward) cap shroud toggle had broken on one side and was opening up. The other side of the toggle had held, but couldn’t do so for long. We have a three-point rig, which means that the mast is held upright by three 1/2″ stainless steel wires stretching from the masthead to the deck. The forestay runs from the masthead to the foredeck, and one cap shroud runs from the masthead to the aft starboard side of the boat, while another cap shroud runs to the aft port side. Being only a 3-point rig, if any of them fails the mast will come down, and there was only a small bit of stainless left holding our port cap shroud up.

DSC_0658 Hardware holding the port cap shroud to the boat (photo taken the day before the failure)

DSC_0680The broken toggle

I woke Lauren up, and we furled the jib to reduce the strain on the rig, started the engine, and then ran the main halyard and topping lift to the aft port portion of the boat and winched them tight to help take the load off the damaged shroud. Much to my chagrin, I don’t have any spare cap shroud fittings, so I began looking through spares and parts to see what could be used to effect an emergency repair. To make a long story short, everything I could think of seemed to be one piece short, and it took until sunset to come up with something that seems to be holding for now. We first removed the broken piece while the rig was being held by the halyard and topping lift and then used shackles, line and a winch to tighten it back up a bit. There were several failed attempts at a repair, and each time I had to disconnect the shroud and leave it tied by a line, not taking any load. When the boat was rolled by a wave, the loose shroud would swing and jerk against the line, and the mast would shudder and dance ominously. The last attempt involved cutting off the broken toggle piece and lashing the threaded stud to a new toggle of sorts made from two old forestay tangs and a couple of clevis pins. The lashing was done with 5mm Sta-set using leather from an old laptop bag for chafe protection. This setup let us tension the shroud enough that things “feel” normal, although the halyard and topping lift are still holding a good part of the load.

DSC_0686 Wrestling the loose cap shroud into a temporary lashing while the mast is held by the main halyard and topping lift

DSC_0698 The makeshift lashing

I’m writing this portion of the blog at about 4am, and hourly checks on the lashing haven’t shown any signs of chafe or wear yet. Unfortunately, we’re 770 miles from the cape, a bit less than that to Antisiranana (Diego Suarez), 150 more to Nosy Be, and 250 more to Mayotte. Mayotte is French and we could reliably have a new part sent there. The nearer locations are in Madagascar, and are not known for reliable delivery of packages. Our cruising guide, which was written about 15 years ago, recommends not having parts sent to Madagascar. We may have enough fuel to motor to Antisiranana, but to get to Nosy Be or Mayotte, we’d have to drift or sail as well.

I haven’t gotten up the nerve to sail yet on our jury-rigged rig, but we may have to at some point. It would be nice. It would also be nice to go up the stick to attach a strong new line in a location that won’t chafe, but so far the consensus is that it’s not worth the risk.

Needless to say, it was really nice to hear another voice on the SSB tonight when we tuned in. Bob and I talked things over a bit. I’m always thinking about what can go wrong, so it was nice to hear some confidence from him that the halyards could hold things. Today I’ll try to talk to the rigger that helped us re-rig the boat in Ft. Pierce and get some more advice. Lauren and I have already started talking over daily adjustments to prevent chafe, etc. and will be trying to make the makeshift rig as reliable as possible. It’s also nice that our last weather report showed lighter winds for the next week or so. Just yesterday we were enjoying watching the big seas, but now every wave that jostles the boat makes me wish for calm seas and 10 knots of wind instead of the 20+ we often have.

We definitely have our hands full, but we’re doing well, have the communication we need, have managed to keep the stick up for now, and are developing a plan.