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Days 6&7 - Fun & games on the high seas!!

Mon 15th March

If only sailing were always like this! We're creaming along in bright sunshine at well over 6 knots (although losing up to 1 knot to current), in NW wind of ~10 knots, under a clear blue sky, in company with albatrosses, petrels and others... Swell not too bad, although expected to increase, and wind expected to back gradually over next day or so. I'm hoping to keep the reasonable wind strength as I head NE to move away from 40S where strong winds & big swell are forecast in 2 days or so. Sea not calm enough today to try to replace rudder on windsteering unit, unfortunately, but with Kiss wind generator going nicely in the wind, we seem to be managing power requirements of autopilot, so no worry just now.

I've been seeing to domestic duties so far this morning - always nice to have a clear galley area and a pumpkin has been chopped up ready for making soup in the pressure cooker - a safe item to cook in on board. It helps to be able to use the sink properly - not being heeled over so much, I could open the galley sink seacock, so the water drains away normally.

Sun 14th March - Great fun and games....!!

It all started with trying to let out reefs in the mainsail as the wind dropped - but I soon realized that the main halyard (rope via mast top to head of sail, used to raise & lower it) was caught right up at the top of the mast, around a mast-step. For a moment, I wondered whether I was finally going to have to climb the mast to free it, but then decided it was safer to lower the sail completely in order to grab the halyard and swing it free - which eventually happened ...

But while perched on a lower mast-step & winch trying to grab the halyard when the sail was down, to my horror, I heard something clatter onto the deck. It was the clevis pin holding the headboard of the sail to the car (which holds the sail to the mast) . What luck it didn't bounce into the sea - as normally happens when Murphy is around.... I thought a small split pin had gone missing, but then realized that wasn't so - the toggle holding the pin in place had simply come adrift. (Maybe it was a stroke of good fortune that the halyard had decided to get caught now, since for the sail to come away from its fixing to the mast in strong conditions over the next few days could have been nasty!!) I've never liked that system and a small toggle had early on been replaced with a larger one on the Hamble in England. When I replaced the clevis pin, I secured the toggle with a cable tie, so hopefully it can't come undone again. Whoever invented those plastic (electrical) cable ties should get a knighthood - brilliantly useful items in so many situations! (Easy to fix and easy to cut away)

Next job was to raise the mainsail again - so the genoa (large headsail) needed to be furled in so we could come head-to-wind to do that .... but the winch made peculiar noises... So now I had to take it apart to check it out & service/grease it (something I'd already done in Cape Town) - no big deal and soon back together again & sounding sweet!

So finally, I get the main up (being careful not to get the halyard caught again!) and the genoa unfurled, so we're sailing gently again in not much wind and fairly calm seas ... Time to try replacing that windsteering rudder again, I thought... boatspeed only ~1 knot so going really slowly through the water (one mile per hour!) .... Took ages, what with harnessing myself onto steelwork at the stern to be safe, manoeuvring both myself and the heavy, big rudder into position on the stern steps, in a very restricted space, and tying on the rudder safety line securely. Leaning out over the stern feels very precarious.... With only one spare hand to try to get the rudder vertically onto the rudder post from below, with it being moved around vigorously by the seawater motion... this just wasn't going to happen...!

Just after sunset, with the seas even calmer, I tried again, this time heaving-to first, so the boat was more-or-less stopped in the water. The problem now was that the stern kept moving up and down with the swell - which crashed onto the stern and regularly submerged it in a rush of water making it again impossible to keep the rudder still enough to fix in position.... I kept locating it onto the hole... but couldn't keep it vertical, with only the one hand available, so I could slide it up... (I tested my Goretex seaboots well and truly... they came out trumps!... at least my feet stayed dry!!) ..... Hey ho!... What fun!! Retire gracefully.... Back under sail and using the autopilot... I cooked a nice meal, feeling my efforts deserved it!

With the wind right down to ~4 knots, I actually motored quite a bit last night, having taken on extra fuel in jerrycans in Cape Town with that possibility in mind.... I had a call from WRI who were worried about my being caught at 40S with 20ft swells and strong wind in 2 days' time ... I reassured them that I was heading ENE-NE to get further north ... What with my regular grib weather files I download each day, my contact with the S. African Maritime Mobile Net each morning and occasional input from concerned friends, as well as WRI who keep an eye out for nasty conditions I might encounter, I'm not short on weather info to help me try to head the best way possible, despite my having no Internet access. Of course, having said that, my speed is very limited and the weather often does its own thing, regardless of forecasters!! "What you see is what you get..."

About to have a good meal - think I deserve it!

Written by : Mike

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