Well what a testing 24 hours I have had. Yesterday after I finished writing the blog I heated up my hot water bottle and crawled into bed as the boat was sailing nicely with 20 knots. I had the 2nd reef in the main sail and the storm jib, so I was a little under powered if anything. I knew that there was likely more wind on its way so I left that sail arrangement. Lucky I did, because at 5pm in the afternoon, several hours into a blissful sleep, I was rudely awoken to a whole bunch of alarms going off.
High wind alarm was screeching at me, the off course alarm was joining in on the noise making. I was facing away from the instruments and my sleeping bag is quite narrow when you are all zipped up. It took me a minute to even roll over and look at the B and G Zeus display by my bunk. The second I did however, I was crawling trying to get out of my sleeping bag fast. The winds were reading at 42 knots. Eeekk…… I still had the second reef in. After I battled with the zipper of my sleeping bag I then glanced outside. It was a complete white out with rain sheeting sideways and the winds howling through the rigging. I started to get my foul weather gear on, by the time I was dressed and on deck the winds were back to 25 knots... Behind me, I could see crystal clear blue skies and in front of me was this frothing boiling mass of angry wind and rai., It is to date, the worst squall I have encountered this trip and hopefully one never to be repeated. I was just thankful that the main sail held up to the onslaught.
So with the adrenalin wearing off I crawled back into bed. I was still 30 nm from sailing past the Cape of Good Hope so I decided to get a bit more shut eye. At 8.30 pm I woke to a bang. An extra large wave had rolled the boat over until the boom caught in the water. I was surfing a wave at the same time, so the boat speed was above 10 knots. When the boom hit the water, all that counter force snapped something. I just didn’t know what just yet. In my sleepy state I assumed it was the turning blog for the preventer line again. This line pulls forward on the boom, so is countering the water trying to pull the boom backwards.
I was almost at the Cape of Good Hope so I decided to get up and investigate. I kitted up and went on deck. I was greeted with the most amazing night sky. Given all the winds I have had I was expecting to be climbing out into another dark night with lots of cloud,s so I was momentarily stunned with the sheer beauty of looking at thousands and thousands of stars. Nothing can compare to a clear night at sea for star gazing. This was no disappointment and would rate as one of the best night skies I have ever seen. There were so many more stars than what I would normally see on land, even with a half-moon shining….. it was beautiful.
After my distraction of the night sky, I went forward to the bow to take a look at the damage. As I expected, it was the preventer line that made that bang, only it was not just a damaged turning block this time. With a sinking stomach, I realize that the entire pad eye had ripped clean out of the boat, leaving a 5 cm x 5 cm hole in my bow, right through the deck. Before I left Albany, Mark McRay helped to organize the community to donate milk bottles. We glued the lids shut on these and filled the forward two collision compartments with them. In-case of a ruptured hull I also encased all the milk bottles in a netting so that they wouldn't be able to float free. Standing on the deck of Climate Action Now at the bow looking down I could see milk bottles. Not a nice feeling at all.
I was so pissed to put it politely. This should not have happened and really got my blood boiling. That pad eye was rated for a 2 ton load. You would think that the rope would break before the deck of the boat rips out…….. but the evidence was right in front of me, dangling on the end of the rope with the decking that was ripped out still stuck between the bolts of the padeye.
I say that this should not have happened. If you remember towards the beginning of this trip I kept snapping the preventer line, at least the section of rope that was tied to the back of the boom. I had purposely used an old crap rope for that job. If the loads got too much the line would snap before the boom or another part of the boat. I ended up breaking it so many times that I needed to replace it about 3 weeks ago with another bit of rope. Again, I chose the oldest piece I could find and the weakest one on the boat, but unfortunately, this weak bit of rope is still too strong…. hence why I have had so many issues of late with the broken bow, turning blocks and now the deck of the boat... I could sail without one but then I am constantly risking the crash gybe which can de-mast a boat and cause all sorts of damage, so I was picking the lesser of the two evils. If I had a weaker rope in use this would not have happened at all. This was the reason I was so mad. That, and the fact that I now have a hole in my boat...
I went back to the cockpit to think on what to do. My boat is a bulsa cored, so if I get any moisture into the bulsa it can rot out over time and weaken the boat. My primary focus was stopping the water from reaching the bulsa as it was already wet enough. While I was thinking, I also sailed passed the Cape of Good Hope at 19:59:30 UTC or 9pm local time. Other than noting my time, I didn’t even take a picture, I had other things to deal with. I ended up digging out the sika flex this is a compound filler/glue that is similar to silicone. With my sika gun, ready I went on the bow with a roll of paper towels in a ziplock, gaffa tape and set to work. I filled the whole space with sika flex and then after trying my best to dry the area I taped it all over with some gaffa tape. Nothing was wanting to stick and there kept being a timely wave every time I went to add more tape but eventually with much colourful language I had the hole sealed for the time being. This wasn’t going to be the final repair, just my quick fix to get me out of trouble for the night. In all honesty, I didn’t think that it would hold that well but I was hoping that the tape would give the sika flex a chance to go off before being washed away. With nothing much I could do in the dark of night I went back to bed.
It was 4am when I finally decided to tackle the day. I was too depressed to get out of bed earlier. It was time that I needed to Gybe the boat so I kinda had to get up. I knew that I would end up being on deck for a while so I had my porridge first to give me some stamina and then gathered up the tools needed to repair the bow in a way that would hold for the remainder of the trip. Using my jig saw, I again butchered my shelf under the stove and cut out a 15cm x 15cm section of ply wood to attach over the hole in the deck. Armed with all the tools including metho to prep the surface, I set out on deck just as the night started to turn to day.
I was still sailing in 25 knots occasionally 30 knots of wind. The swell was still an easy 6 meters meaning the bow was often take spray. I gybed the boat first and then put the third reef in to slow the boat down. Sailing on a port tack on a broad reach I was somewhat able to keep the bow section dry. With all my tools in a bucket I started forward. My jack stay line was also tied to the broken pad eye, so I ended up clipping on to the furling line that ran forward. I carefully made my way to the bow. Once there, I cut away all the tape that was flapping in the wind and not stuck to the deck. I then wiped the surface down with metho to dry, it and squeezed a thick bed of sika flex on top of the stuff I put in last night. This needed to be completely water tight so lots of sika flex was used. I then took my piece of wood and squished this on top. Lastly, I used my drill to prep the holes and screwed down my piece of ply to the deck to hold it in place and back filled the edge to ensure that the water would not be able to lift it free.
Now that can all be typed up in to one paragraph, but with the swell causing me trouble, trying to send my bucket to the sea and the water kept on wetting my nice dry area, it took me some time to get the job done. Finally, I was happy enough. It’s not pretty, but it will get me home safely.
Looking over the stern of the boat I can already see the sky changing with this cold front that I was expecting. There was a bank of clouds coming over the horizo,n so I needed to wrap things up before it and the rain underneath hit me. Making my way back I also took the jackstay and the damaged pad eye with me.
I would need to re-run the jack stay so that I again have something to tether on to. Casting another look behind me, I needed to be quick about it if I was to beat the rain. I ended up attaching the jackstay with a bowline around the base of the inner forestay and took up the slack at the back of the boat. All jobs completed I went below again and noted that it was now after 7.30 in the morning and i had been on deck for over 2.5 hours running repairs and tending the sails but I did manage to do it all before the storm hit, so that’s a plus. Inside, I re-heated my hot water bottle and zipped it up inside my layers to try and warm me back up.
Not that much later, the boat was engulfed in rain and wind. The winds building to 45 knots at times, so I was quite happy to have the third reef in this time. I even stood at the hatch and watched the storm in its fury and was quite entertained to watch the storm petrels flying backwards as they tried to get somewhere... Even though I am in gale conditions again, the rest of the morning has passed without too much trouble, aside from the odd wave slamming into the boat. The worst of the storm is expected over the course of the afternoon and evening so I will be keeping the third reef in for the time being, as i dive once more into my bunk for a well-deserved rest...