Nasty swells, high winds and a broken padeye!


d'Albora's Action Project: AUS 360 Blog Update

Presented by Pivotel

Afternoon all,

Well, the last week of any challenge like this always seems to be the hardest and things are no different now. That wind that arrived yesterday morning caused havoc all day and well into the night blowing at 35 knots from the South West and kicking up a nasty swell. My autopilot was really struggling with the swell and so at around 5 pm, I went on deck to take a look. I had a steady 4-5 meters but every now and then there would be this incredible set of waves that would come through standing steep and tall at well over 8 meters. There would only be 2 or 3 waves every 30 minutes or so but they were enough to send me into a broach every time and dig the boom into the water. I was sailing with 2 reefs in the mainsail and the smaller jib up particularly furled so I was nicely balanced with the winds but this swell just kept kicking my ass. In the end, I downloaded another forecast and saw that the weather was due to ease at midnight so I went on deck to gybe and decided to hand steer for a while as I could anticipate the swell much better than the autopilot.

As it was still very windy with gusts up to 40 knots I didn't want to gybe the boat in the swell as it would be hard not to have the boom come over by accident while I was winching the mainsail in and with that much wind I was likely to break something so I decided to try a safer option and do what we call a granny tack. This is when I am sailing downwind but instead of gybing a go the other way and swing almost a full 360 as I come up to the wind, tack and then bare away on the other side until I finish in the position I would have been in if I gybed. Gybing is the most dangerous sailing manoeuvre you can do as the wind is behind you and gets a lot of leverage on the mainsail throwing it violently so a granny tack is a safe option in high winds however for me it went so horribly wrong that I really wish I had just stuck with gybing.

I have never needed to do a granny tack before on my boat but I have done them with a student that I teach so I knew the drill. I set everything up and went for it and it all seemed to go okay until the running backstay got tangled in my life ring holder and then again on the spreader, I lost the back end of the preventer line so I needed to dig out my boat hook to get it back and overall it was not my finest moment and I was so tired and frustrated as I really just want to be on dry land now that I ended up getting my sleepy grump on. This is a definite tell that I haven't had enough sleep as when I get really tired on these trips something small can just set me off and I lose it like a two-year-old throwing a temper tantrum all banging fists and red-faced. It is times like this that I am thankful that I am on my own and no one is around to witness. After I calmed down and the boat was sorted again I took the helm as the sunset.

4 hours later and I was starting to feel really cold and tired, the winds and swell had abated enough for me to be able to leave Climate Action Now in control of the autopilot and I went below. I hadn't had dinner yet but I was too tired to worry about making anything so I just had a protein shake and some muesli bars for dinner. My muscles were feeling quite sore after all the challenges of the last 48 hours and I really needed a rest but it was 3 am by the time I crawled into bed. The winds were still abating so I ended up waiting up to shake out to the first reef in the mainsail as I still needed to maximize my boat speed in these more mild conditions. I would love to say that I managed a great night sleep but it would be a great big lie.

I was waking up every 30 min to check on everything and 2 hours after climbing into bed the winds had dropped to below 20 knots so I dragged myself out of bed to go and hoist the Mainsail all the way up from the first reef and change the headsail over. While I was up there I noticed that the block that the preventer line runs through had shattered overnight. Bugger. This means that the preventer line is now running around my safety rail and not through a rated load bearing block. I almost just went back to bed because I was so tired but I know that if I leave a job to be done later it almost always compounds into a larger issue so I ducked below and grabbed a new turning block and the tools that I would need to replace the broken one before heading up to the bow of the boat just as the sun crested the horizon.

As soon as I got there I imminently noticed that the starboard preventer blog was also broken. The block itself was okay but the padeye that it is attached too on the deck and not quite ripped out but instead ripped forward gouging a 10cm hole into the bow of the boat. Bugger. This hole went right through to the inside of the boat and I was still getting water over so I really needed to deal with this problem now and not later. In the end, I replaced the broken port side block and re-ran the starboard one to another padeye before grabbing my sika flex gun and filling my new hole in the deck with sikaflex. It is a definite temporary fix but it should do until I can reach Sydney. It was nearly 8 am now and I still had only managed 2 hours of naps so I went back to bed until midday.

When I got up I already had a list of jobs I wanted to do as the weather was lovely light winds making it a good maintenance and storm prep day. The first job was to re-run my Jack stay (this is a line that runs from bow to stern that I clip to when working on the foredeck) as this was attached to my broken padeye and I will definitely be using it in the coming days. It was a quick job before getting the storm jib on deck and hoisting that. I was sailing in 10 knots of wind however I always liked to get my storm jib up before the really bad weather arrives and I was so glad that I did this now while the boat was flat and the winds light as it almost took me 2 hours to get set to hoist as I needed to finish the assembly of the system I use on my baby stay. After I managed to get this up I then needed to pump out the water that was in the bow from my new hole in the deck and then I wanted to sponge out all the bilges ahead of the rough weather.

Running with 35 knots is challenging and I wipe out often but sailing into 35 knots and the boat is pinned on her side the whole time past 45 degrees so any water in the bottom of the boat has a bad habit of splashing over everything including my electronics so I needed the boat to be dry. Now I still just have to finish getting the water out of the bow, top up the fuel in the day tank from my fuel bladders and get the water out of one more compartment before I can rest for the night. I am feeling tired and my muscles are sore but I have managed to get heaps done today and feel ready to take on this NE storm on Wed night/Thursday.

Also, many of you may have noticed that I have been having a few issues with my tracker. I am trying to this resolved but in the meantime, at 1900 AEST I am in position 41 25.08S 150 35.50E on a course of 020 T and making about 6 knots. You will see that I am 50nm from the top of Tasmania but I am also 100nm out to the east as I try to put some room in the bank for this incoming storm. All is well.

Thanks to the following Sponsors for all their continued support: d’Albora Marinas, Pivotel  B&G, Australian Geographic, Zhik , Park Fuels, Karver, 3M, White Bay 6 Marine Park, and Great Circle Life Raft