Half Way, Heading Home!

Well last night the winds continued to ease off, so it was no surprise that my boat speed started to really suffer because I still had the drogue out along with 3 reefs in the main sail and the storm jib.  There wasn’t much I wanted to do about that at 3am so I just gybed the boat off the continental shelf away from Estados island and sailed along the edge until I was at the 60nm gap between the island and the Burdwood bank.  Now while there is a gap, the depth still changes from 3km deep to 500m and given that I still had a large following swell I wasn’t too keen to cross over without the storm drogue still out. 

The problem was that I was now just getting carried by the current and getting taken the wrong direction.   I wasn’t moving that quickly and as it was still 4am in the morning and I was still exhausted from not much sleep and the post storm fatigue I decided that the boat could just keep moving along and I was going to get some sleep.  In 20nm I would need to gybe again to go NNE and shoot for the gap. At 7.30 am I was awake again to look at this gybe and my boat speed. I noticed that the batteries were now quite low so I went to turn on the Main Engine to run it out of gear and charge the batteries up.

I was using the main engine as the night before the storm the generator started playing silly buggers again and wasn’t working. I had not yet had the chance to play with it and try to fix it.  So, when I cranked over the main engine there was 'nothing'...  She didn’t fire. I was just thinking to my self ahh.  I really don’t have time for this and I was getting dangerously low on power.  It took me over an hour to get the engine going.  I believe it was the result of hitting the starter motor and the solenoid with a spanner that really got it going.  I didn’t care really…… as long as it worked.  I was starting to really stress about the power and had already gone dead ship.  Because I had the drogue still out I didn’t really need the auto pilot on, so I just turned off everything until I had power again.

Now that the extra challenge was over, I could apply myself too actually moving forward...  I was on deck with winds of 15-20 knots and still sailing with the No 3 Reef in the main sail and the storm jib. I needed to change my sail plan but that would only make me go faster and when the time came to bring in the drogue I would be really struggling. Given that the swell was now your friendly rolling ocean going swell not your steep dangerous storm swell, I decided to bring in the series drogue. 

I always knew that the hardest part of using the series drogue was going to be the retrieval.  There was no way to collapse the little parachutes, so even if I was moving forward a little bit the boat would still be pulling against the drogue.  I knew I was in for a long haul, so I had some water and a snack before getting started.  First, I needed to figure out how to get the drogue on a winch.

Using 2 sail ties I tied a rolling hitch to the drogue and then ran that line to a winch.  I would winch in on line 1 until I couldn’t get it any further. I would then transfer the load to line two.   I would re-tie line 1 further down the rope and winch again.  Each time I did this I managed to get in about 2 meters of line and finally got enough of the line it that the drogue its self could go on the winch.  Now the fun began.  Winching in the lowest gear I slowly brought the drogue in. There is a length of just rope initially and then you get to the cones. As a result, it was a bit of time before I could see the damage I had wrought on the series drogue over the last few days.  Most of the cones were shredded beyond use.  As I was winching the little stringy bits that were left kept getting stuck in the winch requiring me to stop and yank on it until I could pull it free. 

I very very slowly inched the series drogue in.  It took me close to 3 hours to complete all of this. The whole time the boat is very slowly moving in the wrong direction. My hands were getting more and more tender. A unique observation........... out of the damaged cones the ones at the back were in the best condition and the ones at the front or closer to the boat were in the worst condition.  These were the ones that were repeatedly pulling clear of the water and I wonder if that was what created the damage. In any case, I have a spare on board that was lent toby Jessica Watson, so I am still covered for the next big storm.

Drogue Recovery Complete

Drogue Recovery Complete

The other reason for the damage would be the fact that I still had some sail up.  Every time I have use drogues in the past I have always left just the storm jib up to give the boat control.  If I was bare poles (no sail up and getting blown by the wind) I would have been more at the mercy of the waves than I already was. The boat was continually getting side swiped, so by keeping a little speed I was not only able avoid getting a big breaking wave on the back of the boat, I was also less likely to get shoved sideways and potentially roll.  The other reason for it is that I like to keep the drogue under tension at all times and to achieved this I needed some sail up. 

I would have normally dropped the main sail, but given how quickly the winds arrived I deemed it more dangerous to be trying to drop the sail in those conditions than it was simply to leave it up.  Remember that my No 3 reef in the main sail gives me a sail area that is smaller than my storm try sail.  If I had 80 knots of wind I most certainly would have needed to go bare polls as the force of the wind on everything would have been too much.

So with the Drogue back in and flaked away, I set about getting the storm jib down and off the foredeck.  I then noticed that I had almost torn the whole top off the storm jib, so it looks like I will be doing a bunch of sewing over the next week or so.  Once the storm jib was away I then put most of the No 2 jib out and set about shaking out the main sail to the 2nd reef.  By the time all of this was done it was 11.30 in the morning and I was very tired.

I had some lunch and then crawled back into bed with my hot water bottle and fell into a bliss full sleep of 2 hours.  When I woke, the winds had reduced even further.  I was now sailing in 10-15 knots from the West.  I went on deck and shook out the main sail to the 1st reef and unfurled the head sail all the way.  I needed to play with the course a bit as the currents kept pushing me east right towards the Burdwood bank, but once I was holding a nice course I went down below.

I couldn’t sleep yet as I had another milestone of the trip coming up.  I was about to sail past 62 degree on the longitude. This is the exact half way point of my trip and once I sailed past it I would no longer be sailing away from home but starting my journey back towards it.  At 16:04:34 local time or 22:04:34 utc time I started my journey home after 51 days at sea...  I again took the opportunity to sleep and curled up once again with my hot water bottle……… and yes, the weather is still very very cold...

It was 10pm when I awoke again and I was starting to finally feel like I was alive actually alive. The muscle ache was almost gone and I could go for almost 30 min without yawning.  The winds were now 10 knots from the SW so I shook out to the full main sail and changed the jib over to the no 1 head sail.  The boat took off doing between 8-10 knots as we sailed along.  I was also at the turning point when I could go east again around the Burdwood bank and began sailing through the gap between the Burdwood bank and the Falkland Islands, on a course of 090 True………and here we go........heading home!