Almost Four Weeks - Really Need to Change Clothes

Last night, when I was getting ready to go to bed the winds were just starting to touch 25 knots.  I had the no 2 reef in the main sail, storm jib and the stay sail out and was making a relatively good speed of 7-8 knots on average.  There was a little cold front due and the winds were meant to be at their peak around that time, so I was closely watching the instruments.  For some reason, I was really tired, even though I hadn’t done much that day.  I woke up feeling more tired than normal and I had a killer headache all day as well, so I was really looking forward to getting to bed even if it was only 6.30 pm in the evening.  I had brushed my teeth, heated up my hot water bottle and finished getting ready for bed, the whole time I was watching those number on the B and G Zeus to see if the stronger winds I was expecting would arrive.  I started to turn out the lights and felt the boat get a gust, I looked over and was gutted to see 27 knots of wind....  Bugger.  I was happy to have the current sail arrangement up to 25 knots but felt that I was then pushing it to keep it in much higher winds.  The forecast showed that I could have steady winds up to 27 knots and gusts up to 35 knots.  If that arrived then I needed less sail area up.

I watched the instruments a little longer and the winds seemed to be slowly building as they were blowing mostly 25-26 knots and this was the most I had had all afternoon and evening.  The Barometer had stopped falling a short while ago and so I could expect the strongest winds of the night to happen right now.  As I was feeling very tired and I just wanted to sleep. I decided that I would beat the winds and chuck that third reef in the main sail and furl a little more of the stay sail away on the Pro Furler.   I got kitted up again and went on deck into a nice and cold drizzly misty rain.  There was no moon or stars as I was still surrounded by heavy fog.  I did as intended and put the third reef in the main sail and furled away half of the stay sail and returned back below.  I again started watching the instruments to see if I made the right choice and the winds frustratingly were back to 20-23 knots in strength.  I told myself to give it an hour and that the winds may still build.  I didn’t want to shake the reef out right away so I had another look at the forecast and it showed the winds easing around midnight.

I decided to get some sleep and that I would look at it at midnight.  The boat was still making okay speeds of 6.5 to 7 knots but not as good as I was getting.  It also made me frustrated as I was really trying to optimise the winds that night as I knew I would be having lighter conditions the following day and on Friday the winds are due to drop out altogether. Tonight, was my night to make some miles but I had been plagued by the winds.  At midnight, the winds were blowing 23-25 knots and seemed consistent, so I decided to leave the sails as is because the winds had moved more from the N to the NW so I was now sailing more downwind and was able to make good time like this.  I was also in a nice warm bed and still quite tired so I decided to sleep for another few hours.  I must have been tired because the next time I woke it was 7am and the boat was slowly sailing in 10-12 knots of wind.

Grunting with annoyance I rolled out of bed and went to brave the sunrise.  I decided to shake out to the first reef initially…… for 2 reasons.  That would mean a little less grinding in one hit as I was shaking from 3rd reef to 1st reef which took a lot of effort first thing in the morning. Secondly, I hadn’t watched the winds close enough yet to see if this was a lull or was the peak of the current conditions.  I still have my 3 small holes at the bottom of the main sail,so I like to be overly cautious until I can repair them.  If the winds blew over 15 knots I would likely be risking blowing out the main sail which would not help me much.  As I started to winch away, hoisting the main up from the third reef, there was 2 large slashes in the sky ahead showing me a clear blue sky and I could just start to see the sun rising.  By the time the mainsail was halfway up the sun was blinding me with its light as I watched the last of the sunrise through this little gap in the clouds.  By the time I had finished winching up the mainsail the clouds had closed back over and the sun had become a blurred haze of pale golden light in the distance and that was to be the only bit of sunshine that I have seen in over a week.  It was so brief though that I didn’t even get to feel the warmth on my skin.  I went below and decided another nap was in order so I slept for another hour and a half. When I woke at 10 am local time the winds had now dropped to 8-10 knots and seemed consistent, so I decided to hoist the main sail all the way.  I also furled away the stay sail and unfurled my larger headsail the genoa.

Since I left Cape Town I have managed to break the blades on one of my silent wind generators again and also lost the propeller off my Watt and Sea Hydro Generator, so I have been needing to use the generator to charge the batteries more than I would like…….. and today it didn’t want to play nice.  I was running it last night for an hour to top up the batteries before I went to sleep and it just started cutting out.  Today was the same.  It would run for 20 min and then drop to idle and stop putting out a charge.  I looked into it and noticed the temperature alarm was on.  It’s a little salt water cooled genset and I figured there must be something wrong with the system.  Putting my engineering skills to use I worked out that the impeller must have gone.  This is a little rubber paddle wheel of a sort that is driven by a fan belt and pushes the salt water around the engine so that it can cool the fresh water that is inside the engine and would explain why the temp alarm was going off …… and why I wasn’t getting any water out the exhaust.

I gathered up my tools and then spent a fun hour with my hands in the smallest little section to get the impeller out. All the little paddles on the impeller were snapped, so it was no wonder the engine was overheating. I replaced it with a new one and re-secured the face plate.  Job done I started her up and checked for water overboard.  All working great so I put the covers back on and went back below.  A few minutes after I was back inside, the generator did it again.  The temperature alarm was going off .  I phoned a friend and called Chris from SLR in Albany who is my go to for engines.  We talked it through and figured it must be either I was out of coolent or I had bumped a sensor free.  I climbed back into the aft locker and poked around.  The coolant was full so it wasn’t that, but I did find a loose connection.  Fixing that, I hoped it was the problem solved.  I returned to the main cabin and fired her up again and she purred like a dream.  It must have been the temperature alarm sensor that I had knocked free while I was changing out the impeller. I was glad to have resolved another generator issue.

It was 6.30 in the evening by the time I had finished playing engineer.  I had yet to complete the one task I had set my self today. New wardrobe day...  I have now been at sea for almost 4 weeks and in that time, I have remained in the same cloths.  Gross I know, but that is what life at sea is about.  It is also too cold for baths or stripping to change out my layers but I really really really needed to change my cloths...  So, I put on the kettle to heat up some dinner and while that was cooking I shivered while I changed out my layers and had a thorough rub down with baby wipes.  I have been regularly cleaning the important bits with baby wipes throughout the trip but I had yet to do the extras like my legs or arms. So, that was the goal of this little session. It was far too cold to think about washing hair or body with water, so baby wipes it is.  I do have to say though that I feel almost clean and it is nice to be in fresh cloths again.  I put back on the same numbar of layers that I took off, so I am still wearing a set of base layers, 2 sets of the Zhik marino wool thermals, a fleece vest and zhik's wonderful midlayers along with beanie and very warm socks.  I am able to keep toasty warm inside and out.  Finally, able to finish for the day I enjoyed my hot bowl of pasta and am now getting ready for bed.

The winds all day have remained 8-10 knots and I have been able to maintain 5-6 knots of boat speed.  The winds are due to shift from the NW to the SW tonight and so I can expect to have to get up and put a gybe in at some stage tonight. They are also meant to ease even further in the early morning as the trough passes over me.  The good news is that by Saturday I will have wind again, so it is something to look forward to. Even though I am sailing in 7-8 knots of wind at the moment, I am still able to average around 6 knots, so that’s not too bad.