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SHTP Day 9

Sun 2nd July (Late in - finally got SSB working Mon afternoon!)

I've managed to stay in good winds so far by being this far west & have been trying to zoom S as fast as I could while most of the rest of the race fleet are caught in light winds!! As a result, I had a bit of a nightmare last night & early this morning in 25-30kn winds with full canvas + spinnaker...oops! But I was regularly making 8 knots or more!!
Problem arose when I badly mishandled the adjustment to the Windpilot as we slewed around in a big gust - I had to take over the helm at around 3 o'clock in the morning - and was then trapped there, rushing along in the darkness and big seas/winds, thinking I couldn't use Hermann, waiting for the morning light (and hopefully for an easing of the conditions) with the instrument lights regularly turning themselves off. I seemed to be forever switching them on again so I could see the wind direction relative to the boat - being on almost a dead run, I didn't want to back the main by steering too far to port but wanted to stay on a course that took us as far south as possible (to keep good wind speed away from the centre of the high over the next few days). The GPS also kept 'beeping' at me frequently, screaming 'no data'... !
I could see that the spinnaker badly needed to be taken down since it kept jerking about and snatching in the big, gusty winds. I'd already spotted that part of the problem was that the aft guy block was no longer held down on the aft quarter, the shackle holding the block down having disappeared - obviously the pin had come loose ("why hadn't I moused it?") so the line was now effectively several feet longer than it had been and leading directly to a winch, catching on a lifeline as it did so. I could also see that the spinnaker forward guy (downhaul) was catching on the pulpit and moving it about violently - I was very worried about major damage occurring there - already some damage had possibly already taken place because the upper lifeline had become very loose. The problem was how to get the spinnaker down when I had to stay at the wheel.. seemed to me that I couldn't heave to from a run with the genoa poled out! (And where would the spinnaker have wrapped itself then, anyway..?)
Eventually, as light came, I was able to furl in the genoa, bit by bit, and then discovered that 'Nereida' seemed to be staying on course with no problem - Hermann was back in business again (& could probably have taken charge a lot earlier!).
Getting the spinnaker down in the strong, gusty conditions was another nightmare - on going forward, I started pulling down the sock, nearly losing the lines completely in the process - and then, to my horror, watched as the spinnaker flapped about & wrapped itself thoroughly around the forestay/genoa - how ever was I going to get it unravelled...? It had also been jerking madly at the pulpit - damage there was clearly extensive already - I just had to get it down. Somehow, I managed to catch hold of & pull on the after guy without being parachuted into mid-air (close call there!!) and found that, by persevering, slowly the spinnaker unravelled from the genoa - then it flapped madly and wrapped itself again!! No...! The after guy was clearly also too short for me to get the sock down fully - back aft to release what I hoped was just enough line. I finally unravelled the spinnaker again and hauled the sock down to tame it, eventually lowering it to the deck with a feeling of relief. By now, it was nearly 9am - race fleet rollcall time. I let out the genoa on its pole again and we were sailing nicely with Hermann in charge. I could relax.....
My intended job of the day had been to investigate the mis-behaving GPS and autopilot by getting to under the aft bunk (no mean job!) - that I did, and found a slightly loose connection on the GPS input to the course computer. Sorting this out meant lying almost upside down, no mean feat... Nothing else seemed amiss, but I checked all wires were well pushed in to their connectors, fuses, also power & data input/ output while I was there - I'm getting quite good at using a multi-meter these days! Finding that the GPS was no longer regularly 'beeping' at me,I congratulated myself on a job well done - especially when I spotted that the 'auto' was, for no really obvious reason, now coming on - the autopilot was OK?? (Having Hermann in charge, with the wheel locked off, I didn't want to check that out any further, but that seems to be the case- time will tell.)
Having put everything back, I decided it was time to write up my log and check weather & emails - went to switch on the SSB - nada!! Unbelievable... what else was going to go wrong...?? I decided it had to be a power supply issue... cleared space and wriggled myself in to under the radio (in the aft cabin) to check the rear fuses, having found my spares first. They were both fine but I changed them anyway. So now to the switch... I took off the cover... to discover a bare & corroded positive lead hidden away beneath .... cause of the problem?? Some worker hadn't made a decent connection & obviously reckoned it wouldn't be noticed, being out of sight.... thanks!...
It was getting late so I left dealing with that job for the morning and sent an email of my position and the SSB loss to Lucie (race cttee) using my Inmarsat C terminal- at least that (for now!!) is working and satellites are usually (not always!) in good view. I also put my Iridium phone on charge (expensive, but occasionally irreplaceable). I hope L. communicates to the fleet so they know why I couldn't check in. I definitely felt a bit down/isolated with the SSB loss - I use it so much for keeping in contact with friends & really look forward to getting their news, quite apart from the fact that I now have no way of getting proper weather info - so I can't be sure where that high pressure system centre is and where to aim for, or avoid, to make the best course to Kauai. All I have is the 4-day forecast from this morning to work with & hope things don't change too much.
I was thankful for my ready-made meal from yesterday and got down to sleep early - I was tired, not having got much sleep last night.

Written by : Mike

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