06/10/2015 – God news, bad news

The good news outweighs the bad so this will not be a negative log, I promise not to moan. We passed the halfway point soon after 0100 today so we can start to look forward to our arrival in Mauritius. OK, so that is likely to be either Tuesday (fantastic) or Wednesday (expected) of next week. The fastest boats will probably arrive over the weekend. For non-yachties, the speed of the boat depends on a number of features, especially waterline length, sail area, weight and hull shape. The biggest boats have the longest waterline length and greatest sail area so are fast. The light weight racing or performance boats often carry a lot more sail than a cruiser of the same length and and have their waterline length maximised with a faster hull shape. Starblazer is a fairly heavy cruiser, and the third smallest in the fleet. When bigger or faster boats talk of making 9 knots with a double reefed main sail we can only dream! To illustrate the above comments on speed I’ll describe Sunday afternoon. The wind, which had gusted to 25 knots from a fairly constant 22, built to 25 with prolonged gusts of 27-28. We still had one reef in the main but a full genoa. Starblazer was bashing forward at 8.4 knots; the boat felt uncomfortable and sounded worse. We rolled away a lot of the genoa, the boat flattened out a bit, the speed dropped to 8.1 and the noise level reduced considerably, the boat felt happier. When the gusts subsided we still managed to make over 7.5 knots in 25 knots of wind The seas have flattened significantly, partly because the swell generated by the storm much further south has abated and partly because the winds have reduced from Force 5-6 to Force 4 so wind driven waves are smaller. Living on board is more comfortable and sailing feels easier but there is a downside. The wind is coming from just off our quarter (rear corner) so the speed we make running in front of the wind reduces the apparent wind that reaches the sails so we are not making the heady speeds of a few days ago. We never expected to average about 7 knots for several days but we would hope for 6.5, sadly today it is likely to be just about 6. The difference doesn’t seem much but a 1 knot difference is 24 miles a day and they add up. We still have about 8 days to go at 6.5 knots, at 6 knots we will be nearly 200 miles short so that will add another day and a bit. We have now shaken out the reef in the main and unrolled the rest of the genoa so we have full canvas now. On the cooking front, we are eating well. The last loaf of bread was a triumph over adversity, it came out loaf shaped rather than with a distinct heal. Later I used the last of the bananas to make a banana bread. When we finish that I feel a carrot cake coming on as we have some ricotta to make the frosting with. No wonder I don’t lose weight on passage. Now the bad news, we have had our first breakage in over 2,000 miles since leaving Christmas Island. For a change it is nothing to do with the engine! To maximise our speed when the wind is fairly close behind we sail ‘wing and wing’ with the main out on the leeward side and the genoa held out by the spinnaker pole on the windward side. This maximises the sail area presented to the wind otherwise the mainsail blankets the genoa which doesn’t draw properly. Monday afternoon the jerking motion of the genoa tore the bottom 30 cm or 1 foot of the track off the front of the mast enabling the car holding the pole end to fall off, dropping its Delrin ball bearings all over the deck. The pole was hanging by its uphaul/downhaul line at the mast end plus the uphaul and downhaul line at the far end together with the sail. We quickly rolled the sail away and lowered the pole to the deck. So far we have found 48 little green balls, we don’t know how many there should be. We can’t repair the track at sea so we now no longer have the use of the pole, which means we cannot maximise our downwind sailing speed, which means we will be very happy if we arrive by Wednesday afternoon, especially as the wind is forecast to be much gentler for a couple of days. Joyce

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