16/01/14 – A close shave and a rude awakening

Don’t worry, the close shave was quite benign. Soon after midnight Wednesday I felt a splash on my face and heard a slap, most likely I had company in the cockpit! I searched around but didn’t find the culprit then I heard a slapping sound from below. A flying fish had landed right beside the saloon berth where John was sleeping. I removed it and threw it back from whence it came. It could easily have hit me or, better still (let’s see if the captain edits this), in the bunk with John. We made rapid progress all night, passing our waypoint just before 0300, but we continued on the same track because to alter course meant changing the sail plan. The midnight UT fleet positions put us 15th in the fleet which left St Lucia, our best position yet. We just kept charging onwards, in the wrong direction as usual. We didn’t download the noon UT positions but we did receive an e-mail from my brother Phil noting that a) we were 19th and b) much further north than the majority of the fleet, especially those ahead of us. Time for action. Thanks Phil, we need a gentle kick sometimes just like a horse. After lunch we planned how to carry out the sail changes. 1: roll away the genoas; 2: stow the poles; 3: reroute the sheets; 4:pull out a bit of genoa, both sails on the same side; 3: release the lazyjacks on the leeward (downwind) side of the boom; 4: alter course to bring the wind on the beam; 5: let the main boom out and pull it out with the preventer; 6: heave up the sail, disentangling the battens from the shrouds as necessary; 7: alter course towards the waypoint, pull out and set more genoa and set mainsail. The order of operations was logical but it took nearly an hour. With the genoas rolled away we were still making 6 knots in the same direction! The poles were a bit of a problem. The uphaul on the port side had parted from the shackle attaching it to the pole during the early morning and had wrapped itself around the sail. John managed to retrieve it by pulling it out of the mast, brutal but effective and a job for Shelter Bay Marina. It wasn’t gear failure or chafe, the knot came undone. This meant the pole promptly tried to go swimming as soon as the sail was rolled away. That pole is an old one we were given and the only pole end we could find to fit the pole and the loop on the mast track doesn’t quite fit the loop. It needs a big hammer to remove it so we left it attached and lashed it down on the foredeck. That means the pole permanently attached to the mast can’t reach the steel loop it clips to when stowed so that’s lashed as well. The sails pulled out, we altered course slightly, John released the lazyjacks and the mainsail toppled out of its stack, burying the lazyjacks. Fun. It took a bit of time to pull all the strings back to the mast, then we altered course again to enable John to heave up the sail. We were successful. We were sailing again towards the waypoint. It’s not that we are inept, but… Normally we would motor directly to windward to pull up the mainsail, even then the battens try to get tangled with the lazyjacks, however this race, which is not a race, carries a motoring penalty and anyway I’d hate to have to motor back into the big swells! Since mid afternoon we have been making good progress in the right direction in some of the strongest winds so far. The cross seas are evil. Yesterday’s noon run was a stunning 205 miles of which 183.3 were through the water, close to hull speed for 24 hours. The current helped, but it helps all the boats. Dinner was chili con carne with one meal for 2 to put in the freezer for the future. Now for the second part of the title, not a good end to Wednesday. At about 2100 I was asleep, somehow, in a bunk that appeared to have more in common with a tumble drier than a bed. Suddenly that ‘tumble drier’ became ‘washing machine’ as a deluge of seawater landed on me. John was at the nav table at the time and said the water had splashed in through the companionway. Several hours later it happened again, just as I was getting ready to go back to bed. Someone had opened the saloon hatch to let some air in a few days ago, it was closed but not locked down. The curtain acted as a distribution point, sloshing the water straight on to the berths either side! More tomorrow. Joyce

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