Wednesday/Thursday 5/6th January 2011
Wednesday 5th January
The NW winds of 30-35kt of Tues evening were up to 36kt, gusting 41kt, by midnight with seas of 5-6m, occasionally with sections of breaking crests. Hit by waves often and frequently surfing to 11-12 kt..... By early morning, it seemed to have calmed down a lot, with a weak sun trying to get through a thin layer of cloud and wind down to 24-30 kt. Among the prions, I spotted a white-chinned petrel and there was a pair of black-browed albatross. Checked in to Patagonia Cruisers' Net with Wolfgang - asked him about ice situation - he felt it was OK and in chatting to someone else, it seemed that within 200 miles S of Chile, there was no problem.
By midday, with occasional waves hitting us and washing the decks, I was beginning to feel decidedly concerned, with the wind back up to 35-37kt, forecast to increase, and big seas to match, we hove to with triple-reefed mains'l and stays'l. Changed the running backstay over and centred the mains'l. Grey skies, some rain. We were well heeled, and there were plenty of big seas...and suddenly, near 2.30pm LT, while I was fortunately leaning back against a wall in the head, all hell let loose - and everything that could move was re-located to the port side of the boat.... Water was pouring in from under the sliding hatch and there was chaos everywhere.
Slowly we righted and soon after I looked to see what damage there was - clearly there was some - no instruments, for a start!.. but I could not budge the hatch to open it - try as might...! I had to climb out of the aft cabin hatch to access the cockpit - which I'd already seen enough of to realize the boom was broken in half and the canopy/dodger over the companionway was missing, along with its framework ..... there was safety glass everywhere. I soon realized why the hatch wouldn't slide open - the halyard bag full of heavy wet lines, was lying on top and was soon removed along with several lines lying loose... Going down below, I noticed the perspex hatch was cracked in half vertically - a worry if we should ever get pooped. Next, I got the instruments working - a connection in the aft cabin had been hit by flying/sliding objects...
In brief, I didn't know where to start... Tried to clear up a bit on deck - not much I could achieve there... down below - impossible to clear up wet things ( all pillows and bedding were sopping wet at their end.. still beam on to oncoming seas... not good ... another knockdown imminent??- I tried everything I could to get us to head downwind... a bit of genoa plus some stays'l... downed the remaining main as much as I could.. tried to tie it but that got dangerous in the big seas running, so was forced to abandon that... Later decided to reduce all sail since series drogue shouldn't need any - furling line on stays'l broke - sail unfurled totally and flapped madly and violently - whole boat shook with the violence... not good ... what to do? Had to lower it - and keep it inboard and low down and together in the strong wind, not easy to lash it down... As it flapped, it caught the pole and broke it in half .. Things were going from bad to worse...!
Once finished on deck, I returned below to the awful,dripping, wet mess there - even the chart table lid had clearly been flung open and its contents had been thrown across to the galley, to mix with spilled items there, including toiletries from the head - wet paper all over everything else... impossible to deal with and not drying in the cold, damp air. Decided I'd better let the authorities know of my plight - not yet life-threatening but not good... Here I was in the Southern Ocean ... and fore-reaching south in the dark at over 2 knots!
To cut a long story short, the Chilean Navy and Falmouth CG both got involved - it was lovely to get the friendly, helpful Falmouth phone calls - an English person at the other end of the phone - no language problems!!! Helping with all that was Bob McDavitt initially - deeply appreciated, Bob - and the American Maritime Mobile Net on 14300 kHz - Bill (KI4MMZ) in particular, with Fred (W3ZU) helping with relay. Good for my morale was chatting to the Pacific Seafarers Net also.
A fishing vessel, Magallanes III, came along, ready to tow us to safety ... the winds not expected to ease much until next day...and seas even later...
Conditions were pretty strong then and for a time after - no sleep until early morning (3hrs). I felt another knockdown was only too likely since we were beam on still to the seas - makes for feeling very vulnerable! The only ray of light was my realization that we had an engine - I tried it in neutral - it worked!! Slight problem was two lines I'd seen overboard - one I retrieved but the other was jammed in something - the prop?? ... or the rudder?? Another problem came later after the realization that I could keep us headed more downwind (and so less at risk from beam seas) by using the autopilot to steer us - but then, to my dismay, we took off SE at over 4 knots, with just the still strong wind catching the lowered, but not very well tied down, mains'l - the series drogue was doing nothing - had the fishing boat, in circling near me, run over the line?? Yes,it had.... Our course was taking us away from land.... but we were no longer so much at risk of another knockdown and conditions were expected to ease next day....
Thursday 6th January
Been a good day since waking up to clear skies & bright sun after 3 hrs sleep this morning - and then getting engine going OK. Removed wire on gear shift cable with some difficulty - but I finally won out and was delighted to find there was no problem with the propeller, having thought a line might be caught around it. (There's a sharp rope-cutter on propshaft near to the prop so it could have been cut away) End result was no tow was needed.. sigh of relief on my part - no worries about additional resulting damage..! The fishermen, who'd been not far away all night, didn't seem to mind too much losing the income from a tow and sent me their best wishes!
I'm making a straight line for the Horn now - the sunny, clear skies of this morning have slowly clouded over and there's invariably an albatross of one kind or another not too far away. Swell has slowly been dying down - hardly noticeable now - just an occasional one, bigger than usual.
When I retrieved my series drogue, my suspicions were confirmed ... Looks as though the fishing vessel, when approaching and circling us in the night, cut the line with its prop - of 125 cones, only six are now there with a very reduced length of line... and no chain, of course...!
I've been contacted by Falmouth CG and the Chile Navy by satphone, and have had regular radio contacts on 14300 over the day - all very supportive and friendly - very many thanks to all of them. (The Chilean Navy phone me for 4-hrly position updates from Puerto Williams!)
I'm also looking forward now to rounding Cape Horn in daylight and in good conditions! The reason for heaving to in the strong winds and big seas of Wednesday was to let that system pass so as to be on the shallow shelf near the Horn in reasonable conditions - now and for the next two days. Should be at Horn around 1400Z on 7th Jan and in to Beagle Channel early on 8th Jan. - have slowed down to avoid arriving too early in morning but looks as though I'll need to anchor for a few hours at least.......
24hr DMG to noon UTC: Wednesday: 140 n.ml. Thursday: 69ml (supposedly hove to!) (See maps showing track & position via links on my website 'Travels' page)
At 1200 Wednesday UTC: Position was 55:40S, 072:34W. Cape Horn 180 ml; Chile (nearest point) 58 ml ; N.Z. (S.Island) 3916 ml 222T; Mexico (Cabo S. Lucas) 5080ml 326T. At 1200 Thursday UTC: Position was 56:33S, 071:15W. Cape Horn 137 ml.