Well what a long day I have had. It all started with the dying breeze last night. I ended up getting trapped in a wind hole with 4 knots of wind for hours and hours just drifting around at 2 knots of boat speed... The winds were very shifty going from the SE all the way around to the W and then the NW so I was kept on my toes just changing the course to match. At 2am I decided that enough was enough and I was going to jump in bed for a little sleep. I turned the genset on and let the noise of the generator charging the batteries wipe out the sound of the sails flogging. I had 6-8 knots at the time from the WNW so I was at least moving, by 4 am I was back to drifting around going nowhere. I knew that I was right on the edge of this wind hole and I just needed to get a touch further to the north east and I would have wind. By 5am I finally managed it and was sailing in 8-10 knots of wind from the NW. I was sailing with the full main sail and the genoa. I still had the storm jib up but i had sheeted this to the center of the boat out of the way. Unfortunately, when I woke up I did however notice that the last fuse of the Genset had blown while I was resting. Bugger. There is a way to work around it but I needed to spend a few more hours in the tiny lazerett locker to do so.
As I only managed 2 hours of broken sleep last night I went back to bed at 6am and managed to sleep until lunchtime. The winds built a touch further throughout the day to 15 knots but even with the amount of sail I had up the boat was handling it fine, so I left it to it. As I lost so much time drifting around during my wind hole I was wanting to make the best possible speed to the east as i could. You see the weather is not going to be kind to me at the end of this trip. I have a rather large low-pressure system passing me by on Wednesday however it will be far enough to the North that I will at this stage be stuck sailing in 35 knots head winds as they blow from the East. This means that the winds will be blowing directly from where I want to go as i near my rounding point at 45S 118E. So even though I know I will need to have to suffer through them I am attempting to make as much ground to the east as possible to minimise the time that I will be sailing close hauled into gale winds.
As the day progressed I made some calls and touched base with Chris again from SLR. I gathered up my tools and climbed in the back locker. Following Chris's instructions, I was able to bypass the control panel with the blown fuse and jury rig a system where I can still crank over the genset from the main cabin. It took a few hours while the winds continued to build but it is working fine…at the moment. One annoying thing is, I had this little switch for the fuel pump in the bulkhead and I needed to wire in the water pump to the same switch. I needed to disconnect the wires from the aft locker to crimp on a new terminal with the new wire also added. Once this was done, I then needed to re-attach the wires to the switch. As I was doing this the switch pushed free from the bulkhead and fell on the floor in the main cabin. I assumed that I would be able to find it when I climbed back into the cabin, so I poked the wires through the hole, packed up my tools and climbed around. When I got into the main cabin I couldn't find the switch to save my life and I still can’t find it. I ended up digging out a new one from my spares, I am sure it will turn up right when I arrive in port. The thing I need to be careful with is the fact that I now have no alarms so there will be no running the generator whilst I am sleeping. Finally, at 6.30 I crawled out and got to stretch my body out.
The winds were now touching 22 knots and I was still sailing with the full mainsail and the genoa out so I really needed to put in a reef. I just wanted to pack away the tools below beforehand. The weather gods didn’t wait and I was slammed with 28 knots of wind rounding me up and flogging all the sails. I really thought that I would lose a sail in that but thankfully they both survived. As soon as I could I was on deck and right away furled the Genoa away on the Pro Furler and then put in the reef. I knew that when the winds shifted to the WSW I was in for a little front offering me winds up to 35 knots tonight so I decided to just go straight to the second reef for now.
I had now been on the go for hours without a bite to eat or a rest of any kind so I decided to take 5 before gybing the boat. I had a bounce protein ball and some macadamia nuts along with some water. Feeling refreshed I went back on deck to tidy up from my reef. Once all the lines were tucked away it was time to throw the gybe in. The winds were still high for the amount of sail I had out, so I was very methodical and careful during the gybe. I also put out a small amount of the stay sail. With no issues, I continued to pack away the rest of the lines and went below. I knew there was some stronger winds coming and that they weren’t that far away, but I assumed that I would have at least an hour or two before needing to put the next reef in. I decided to get a meal in and made some pasta. I sat down for the first time today for dinner and was halfway through, when a bullet of wind slammed into the boat. All of a sudden, I was getting hit with 38 knots from the SW.
Forgetting about dinner I raced on deck in my Zhik waterproof trousers, midlayer jacket and life jacket. The boat was completely out of control laid over on her side with way way way too much sail up. I ignored the stay sail for the minute and focused on just getting the mainsail down. I went straight to the 4th reef but it was a mission to get the sail even to come down with so much wind. Finally, I had the sail set but I noticed that I had broken the preventer line. There was some chafe at the section where it wrapped around the boom. While the boat was laid over the boom was in the water. There was enough pressure to snap the line. Double bugger. When I have the Fourth reef in I purposely winch the outboard end of the reef so tight that it lifts the boom to the Kringle in the sail. This gets the boom on a higher angle so that when I am rolled in the swell the boom mostly avoids digging into the water. What this also does though is sets the boom so high that I have absolutely no chance of reaching it to re-tie the preventer line back on. The preventer line runs from the back of the boom to the front of the boat and then back to a winch. It is there to stop the boom from flopping across the boat when unintended, so it is quite important.
I ended up carefully going to the bow of the boat and retrieving the preventer line…. then I needed to winch in the mainsail on the Pontos winch. Once I had it close to the centre I was planning on releasing the reef 4 outboard line to lower the boom, the topping life and the lazy jacks also held the boom up so I released all of them and winched the boom low enough to re-tie the preventer line. Job done I then needed to ease the main out and come back up to the wind so that I could winch the fourth reef back in to its proper place lifting the boom again. So far it had been almost an hour and a half on deck in an increasing storm. It had been lightly raining so I was pretty wet and then I copped a good wave in the face…….. I was now completely soaked and totally ready to get below. The air temperature outside was 6 degrees so it wasn’t too bad as I was moving the whole time, but I wasn’t planning on lingering.
Back below I took off my Zhik midlayer jacket. These jackets are great because they are so light and keep you warm even when wet. They also have a slight water resistance, but tonight I broke the barrier. I took off the jacket and managed to wring out about a cup full of water from the sleeves alone. Once I had squeezed out all I could I put the jacket back on. While it might be wet the best and only way to dry it in my environment is to wear it and let my body heat dry it off for me. So, whilst I am still a bit damp, when I wake in the morning I should be crispy dry again. So now I am sailing with the Storm Jib and the 4th reef in the main and getting winds up to 40 knots from the SW, but mostly in the 30-35 knots range. I am sailing downwind so I am able to get a few surfs in, so I feel that I am making okay time. I would love to have the 3rd reef in and get a few more miles in, but when the winds are above 35 knots with that much sail up I tend just to round up into the wind instead of actually sailing. This little storm is expected to be around for most of the night and drop out in the early morning so I am going to make the most of it and try to get some solid shut eye and I am feeling quite tired……. Epic day.