A Long and Difficult Day

Evening All.

Well since my last blog I was intending to get a great night sleep however the weather gods had something else in mind.  I knew from the forecast that the winds were due to drop out almost entirely before coming back in from the NW so when the winds continued to ease it was no surprise.  It was however quite frustrating to be going 3-4 knots when I was pushing so hard to get south.  I figured like other times that there would be a period of about 8 hours with light winds and then the shift would come.  I ended up having 2 hours of light winds and then the winds started to increase in strength in such a way that every 2 hours through the night I had to get up and put another reef in so by morning I had not only managed to get very little sleep but I was once again in 30 knots of wind.  The winds were blowing from the NW and were forecast to just keep increasing throughout the day.

I figured I was in for another long day so I forced myself to have a large breakfast of Weetbix and then went on deck.  Bob (from Metbob) had texted to say that I needed to slow down or I would find myself in an 8m plus swell and deeper into this storm. So, the first task was to put the 4th reef back in the main sail, in an effort to slow the boat down.  I also packed the stay sail almost completely away so there was only 2 square meters of sail out.  The stay sail is the second sail on the foredeck and is on a Pro Furl furlersponsored by Wrichard Pacific.  In lieu of being able to hoist the storm jib I now need to use the tail end of the stay sail as a storm jib.  When Quantum sail made the sail, they doubled up the fabric on the foot and the leach of the sail so that when furled away it would be much stronger than normal so it could be used just like this.  I did have intentions of trying to get the storm sail up by using the genoa halyard but that was soon forestalled.

Once I had put the 4th reef in I noticed that the storm Jib halyard that I had tied off at the base of the mast the night before, had somehow managed to flog itself free and tangle its self around not only the lazy jacks (lines coming up from the boom to catch the main sail) but the running backstay (control lines for the rigging) as well.  With the way that it was tangled I was also in the position that I was unable to tack the boat until I got it cleared.  This whole time the swell is just getting bigger and the winds are getting stronger so time was running out.  I was feeling once again frustrated with the scenario that never should have happened.  I got out my boat hook and managed to grab a hold of the halyard but stretched up on my tippy toes I was barely holding on.  I was also on the low side of the boat and all it would take is a momentary loss of balance and I would easily go over the safety rails standing as I was, so I decided to drop the halyard and go back to get some rope and sail ties.  This would be much easier to untangle if I could make it a bit longer.

Second time around I inched my way back into position at the leeward shrouds (rigging wire), got a hold of the rope and tied an extension on to it.  It then took me another 2 hours to figure out how it was tangled and how to untangle it.  This whole time the boat is bucking over waves and crashing to a stop in the troughs.  I was often in knee deep water and on the leeward side of the boat. This was not a very pleasant task at all…… with one very close call. 

Almost at the end I was standing with one arm around a piece of rigging wire when there was an extra-large wave that not only laid the boat over on her side, but completely engulfed the boat in white water.  As I was standing with one had on the halyard and one around the rigging my feet were washed out from underneath me and the next second I realise that I am dangling completely outside the life lines (safety rail).  There is nothing but heaving ocean below me. If I let go I would have been overboard.  I was tethered on but it can be just as hard to get back on the boat once you are in the water.  Somehow, I managed to grab the rigging tight enough that by the time the boat righted itself I was safely back inside the rails. It was a very close call that left me shaking and desperate to free this F*&%ing halyard because it was now putting me in danger...

By the time I crawled back into the boat the winds were touching 40 knots and there was no chance of getting the storm sail up now.  I would need to rely on the Stay sail to hold up in these winds.  I called my friend Ini, who is very familiar with the boat. We talked through some options for jury rigging the storm sail for securing the furlers a little more.  My biggest concern was that the furling line could chafe through during the storm.  This would result in the whole of the stay sail becoming un-furled and flogging in the wind. lt would likely destroy itself before I would get it down.  So for additionalback up we decided that I would add another rope at the bottom of the sail to act as a secondary furling line should the first one fail.  The winds are now 45 knots and the swell is getting to the 8-meter mark. Going on to the foredeck was not a fun prospect butI would rather take a few bruises on the bow than lose my most used sail. Crawling forward on my hands and knees I could barely see a thing with all the sea spray, but I made it safely to the bow.  Once I arrived it was like trying to do work on a bucking bronco where every second you needed to hold on.  I manoeuvred my body so that when the bow crashed off the waves I would slide into the inner-forestay and not around the deck. This mostly left my hands free to set up my new rope.  I tied the line around the sail using a clove hitch and a few extra half hitches for good measure and then taking care to follow the same direction as the furling line I wrapped another 10 loops around the sail and then crawled back to the cockpit.  I then secured it by running it through the clutch that normally takes the Genoa jib sheet.

I had also noticed a bit of chafe from the vang on the no 4 reefing line, so I wanted to put an extra strop on this as well.  Taking an off cut of rope forward, I climbed the mast steps until I could reach the cringle for the fourth reef.  I secured one end of the line to this and the other to one of the deck padeyes.  If the reefing line snaps it won’t be pretty but I won’t have heaps of sail flogging around either.  Carefully I made my way back to the cockpit and ducked below the cover.  As soon as I did this I was hit with the biggest wave of the trip.  It came at me with such force that it sounded like a crack of thunder. A millisecond later the whole of the cockpit was engulfed in white water as the wash passed over us.  I was so extremely lucky that I was where I was because the force of the impact was so strong that it would have ripped me off the deck if I was out side.  I even needed to check the side of the boat as I was sure it stoved in the hull with the sound it made.  The hull was fine but it was a very clear indicator for me to get below and out of the weather.

Finally after all of that I got a small lunch in and tried to get 2 hours sleep.  It was 2pm at the time and the winds were reaching 50 knots.  I was waiting to see where the barometer would fall as I was trying to decide if I hove too or not before nightfall.  Given not much else to do I got an hour’s nap in before I decided to go on deck and hove too.  Last time I did this is was with the storm jib up. This is a larger area of sail than what I currently had out and i was hesitant to put more sail out as I felt I would risk blowing out the stay sail so I was unsure if hoving too would even work.  It took me several tries to get the boat to come around in the 40 knots of winds but finally I got her around on a port tack (winds coming over the port side of the boat) and into a hove too position.  Surprisingly it worked, the boat wanted to sit at an 80-degree wind angle rather than 100 like last time and this was likely because of the small amount of jib out but I was still sitting well to the swell and winds.  However, I noticed that I was drifting almost north at a rate of 4 knots, the wrong direction...  So, I decided to tack the jib over and set the boat in a hove too position on the other tack.  This way my drift would at least be mostly the right direction.  This proved easier said than done as this time around I simply could not get the boat to tack. In the end, I gybed the boat around and she settled into the hove too position rather well.

I have now had a hot meal of tomato soup and plan on riding the rest of this storm out from my bunk. 
Goodnight all.