07/11/2014 – Bang, Bang, BANG, Rattle, Bang – An interesting 12 hours!

We sailed quite well all Thursday until late afternoon. The winds had stayed in the 20-25 knot range for 24 hours and the seas were quite big and nasty but Starblazer was handling it well. At about 1700hrs we were having a drink in the cockpit when we heard a bang. We both immediately looked at the shroud but that was still in place. John thought we might have hit something in the water then he spotted that the fuel cans were lying down on port side. The piece of builders’ plastic barge board which they were tied to had snapped into two. Within half an hour there was a bigger bang accompanied by the sound of a flogging sail. One of the 14mm diameter sheets (ropes which control the headsail) had chafed through. That was easily fixed by rethreading the other, lazy, sheet forward of the mast, through the genoa car on the traveller, through the turning block and back to the winch in the cockpit. A quick and easy fix. We settled down to eat dinner and had nearly finished when there was a loud bang. Looking behind us our beautifully bright, hopefully never to be used liferaft had launched itself and inflated. It was bobbing along behind us on its tether. The wind was still in the low 20s so pulling it to the stern was going to be difficult. We immediately ‘hove to’, tacking the main across to the other side but not allowing the jib to tack completely. This has the effect of stopping the boat from any forward motion and it lies sideways on to the wind. The big seas and strong wind still bounced us up and down and heeled us but it was far more comfortable. John managed to attach a line on to the rope which runs around the outside of the raft and I attached a block and tackle to it, with one end lifted I managed to get another block and tackle attached at the other end. It was soon obvious that we were never going to retrieve it over the transom or that we could ever retrieve it inflated. The manual tells you how to let the air out, simply press your finger into 4 valves, Unfortunately the valves were on the far side so John stabbed the two tubes and the overhead arch to deflate it. We then dragged it around to the leeward side, the side sheltered from the wind, attached the topping lift to it (the rope which usually holds the boom up in the air) and I winched it up until John could drag it inboard. We then lashed it down just ahead of the windscreen, another job for NewZealand. The whole episode took just two hours in which time we had drifted about 5 miles back to New Caledonia! The watch system started nearly an hour and a half late. About two hours into John’s first off watch I heard a rattling sound and quickly identified that the forward lower shroud had come loose. John dashed up on deck and we immediately hove-to again. The lashing had chafed through but the security strap John had tied up held the shroud and prevented it swinging around. This time we went for the ultimate repair we could think of. John found a 16mm diameter bolt and a couple of nuts and we reattached the toggle using the same soft shackle as before to replace the broken U shaped strap, this time with the Dyneema line on smooth rounded surfaces. It worked brilliantly, the shroud was adequately tensioned and the job completed in 45 minutes. The rest of the night was peaceful enough, if you call 30 knots peaceful, and we looked forward to a better day ahead. One last throw of bad fortune was the second sheet fraying through, fortunately we had reattached the damaged sheet and so just rethreaded that but this time through a different genoa car. It wasn’t obvious what it had frayed on so we are hoping for the best. On the positive side, we have made good progress towards our destination. Wednesday’s food started well with eggs and bacon for breakfast, bean salad with tomatoes and ham for lunch and cassoulet for dinner. Today was a ’comfort food’ day starting with porridge and honey, soup and sandwiches for lunch and chicken in an orange and ginger sauce, pre-cooked in Noumea, with rice and ratatouille for dinner followed by yoghurt and honey. The wind has dropped to below 20 knots and backed so we can aim a bit closer to New Zeasland and the seas have flattened somewhat so we are hopeful of a good night. I have had enough of the ‘excitement’! Joyce

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