Despite the fact the squall activity at night has eased off, there are still patches of excitement, where the wind will increase by about 50% for 5 or 10 minutes, before reverting back to its previous state. On one such occasion last night a really breezy patch came through, and unable to see the gust lines on the water in the dark, the first I knew about it was the boat suddenly taking off like a rocket, leeward guard-wires digging in, and the rig loading right up. I could tell the rig loaded up because all I could see through the spray was the leeward rigging hanging slack off the side of the boat; such was the force on the masthead. Calling down, Henry and Stars were up double time to snug a reef in, and we were settled in for the rest of the night like that.
That night saw us blast almost due east with no letting up. Despite the novelty of helming having well and truly worn off this far down the line, it is still quite the exhilarating feeling at times to be at the helm, fully powered up, flying into the night ahead, unable to see anything ahead with the comprehensive cloud cover, purely reliant on the feel of the boat and the instruments in front of you.
Without a horizon visible or stars above, your world quite literally reduces to the 20ft in front of you, and the 85ft above you. The red glow of the compass is directly ahead, with the green glow of the instruments just in front of the main cockpit providing all the information you need to keep the boat moving as efficiently as possible. The headsails are invisible only 20ft ahead of the main hatch, normally another red glow, occasionally ablaze with white light as the next watch prepare the come on deck. The windex, sharply highlighted in the stern section of the tricolour 85ft above is the only other reference in the darkness. It’s funny that even in such a small bubble of the deck one can feel quite so connected to the expanse of the world around.
The day was a busy affair. We ran with the good progress until lunchtime, then hove-to and cracked through a busy to do list with a vengeance. First up was dealing with Renaud’s chilaquiles nacho speciality, which he produced after being pleasantly surprised to find a healthy supply of nachos still in existence – the result of superhuman restraint on my part over the last week. Then, while Ty and Renaud dealt with a tidy up down below, namely being some attention to the bilges, Henry and Stars put me up the rig to address the issue with our mainsail car.
With one reef in the damaged area was at such a height I could sit on the second spreader while assessing the situation, a rare luxury of working up top. Of the range of damage that could have occurred, we were lucky to have ended up with an issue at the lesser end of that scale. Our mainsail has a series of small ‘cars’ (sliders) attached to its luff, which run up a track on the back of the mast. There are a number of ‘intermediate cars’, which have webbing from the sail stitched around a small pin on the car to hold the two together. Then there are several more substantial ‘batten cars’, that have a steel stud from the fibreglass batten holder that is bolted through the sail itself that sleeves around the pin in the car to hold it all together.
On one of our batten cars the connecting pin had sheared off, leaving the car loose on the track, and the mainsail completely detached for that section. This had then started to damage the track where the unconnected stud on the sail had been rubbing on it, metal to metal. Luckily, none of this had caused any show-stopping damage to either component, and we just needed to get the two reconnected. Unable to easily recreate the solid stainless steel pin, almost 10mm in diameter, that was previously there, we dug out a steel bolt from our stores that was the closest match to the length and width required, and set about cutting it down to a rough fit. Once ready, I was back up with the spanners to fit it in place, and a short while later our mainsail was happily flying as the designers intended. While our fix will not be as strong as the original, I’m confident it will see us the rest of the distance to LA, and if not I’ve an idea involving a big shackle and an angle grinder which would be a bit more labour intensive to fit, but suitably bulletproof if the occasion was called for.
The boat tidy, dry and together again, the highlight of the day arrived. With only five of us aboard we use significantly less water than on some of our previous ocean legs, leaving me relatively confident in a surplus supply, even on an ocean crossing. Not having a water-maker means we are very careful with our fresh water use, although it is not rationed, and we keep close eye on our consumption, always intending to end a passage with at least one tank completely untouched, as a backstop for any unexpected circumstances that might arise. However, being more than halfway through our passage and still on our first tank, I decided we were in a comfortable enough position to take the unprecedented step of permitting everyone a hot, fresh water shower as a special treat. This was done on the pretence that everyone might enjoy a little freshen up, however it was purely selfish on my part, in that the crew had become completely unbearable to be around and I just couldn’t take it any more (but don’t tell them that).
As the two with long hair, both Ty and Stars were in a situation where their ponytails would stay fully fixed in place without any form of external support or assistance, and were fast at risk of ending the trip with a single, irreversible dreadlock. I don’t like to end any passage having caused long-term damage to the crew, so figured it would be good to remedy this while there was still hope. We are now a clean and fresh smelling boat, and for those of us that have enough hair, it is flowing freely in the breeze once again.
Maybe for once, we might not clear a large space at the bar when we arrive somewhere due to us all wearing our very special ‘Disco Fragrance’. We must smell so good people just can’t bear to be around us we’re so irresistible.
Date: 2nd July 2017
Position: 27°22.3N 134°58.0W
Wind: NE 4-5
Swell: NE 3-5ft
Sky: 8/8 altostratus
Weather: Fair, with isolated showers at night.
With the support of our partner Weather Routing Inc.
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