Day 6 – Monday 14 November
Atlantic Challenge -Damage update from 14.37N 38.46W
We have had a couple of challenging days but the conditions have improved and we are working on our strategy for a safe arrival in Barbados.
We departed Mindelo on Wednesday 9th with most of the fleet . Strong North Easterlies kicking up a big sea – Stormbreaker handled these conditions very well and we raced along at up to 9 knots. Later, as wind speed and wave height increased we reduced our sail area with two reefs in the main and a greatly reduced headsail Stormbreaker felt well balanced.
With the wind almost directly behind us and big following seas the concern was to avoid a “Crash gybe”. What is a crash gybe – with the wind behind you and the mainsail pushed right out at 90% to the boat you have a choice on which side to set the main – port or starboard, once chosen it is vital that the boom remains on that side irrespective of the motion of the boat- if the wind catches the rear of the sail it will fling the sail and boom across the boat with great force and at great speed this would happen VERY fast and the boom would CRASH from one side of the boat to the other.There are a number of ways of preventing this with the use of lines running from the boom to secure it in place – these are not unsurprisingly called Preventers.
Stormbreaker has 2 preventers to protect against a Crash gybe. Stormbreaker’s autopilot steers the course we select, we can select the rate at which it operated to ensure a tight and steady course is maintained . In big seas this rate is set to maximum however in extreme conditions there is always the risk that a big wave will throw the boat sideways and before the autopilot has time to adjust a crash gybe could occur.
So Stormbreaker was well set up for the conditions however early Thursday morning a HUGE wave crashes into her and spins her around – before the autopilot could adjust the gale force wind catches the back of the sail and hurls the sail and boom across the boat- both preventers instantly snap under the huge forces, the movement is violently halted by the mainsheet which is designed to take the load of many tons however all this energy must be dissipated somewhere!
As the autopilot adjusts to bring us back on course and the wind returns to the correct side of the sail, the boom and sail return to their original side with an enormous crash and a terrifying vibration is transmitted through the boat.
All this happened in just a couple of seconds. In the pitch dark we could not establish what damage had been caused – crash gybes can easily bring down masts –Stormbreaker’s was still up however we urgently needed to drop the mainsail as a further jibe would inevitably bring down the rig.
To drop the main we needed to turn around into wind and head directly into increasingly mountainous seas. With two exhausted crew and in the pitch black this would be a challenge. It took over an hour to drop the main in the howling wind and enormous seas, it was not possible to inspect for any damage – this would have to wait for daylight. We both collapsed exhausted into the cockpit unable to carry out any of our normal watch keeping duties, we had to leave our fate in the care of our good ship Stormbreaker.
The following morning brought no respite to the conditions but daylight to inspect for damage. Life jacketed and connected by lifelines I made my way forward to inspect mainsail, mast and boom. A glance at the ruffled sail did not indicate any obvious damage however as I lifted a section of hanging sail close to the mast my blood ran cold and my mouth instantly dried. The boom is connected to the mast by a substantial Stainless Steel fitting known as a Gooseneck- this articulates and takes all the loads and keeps the boom attached to the mast.
The unit had exploded and only small tangled remnants remained –the boom was no longer attached to the mast- so why was it still there ? When a mainsail is reefed, a small rope runs inside the boom down to the lower mast to return to the cockpit- this small piece of rope was the only thing stopping the 6 meter boom, the huge mainsail, countless blocks and fittings from going over the side and falling into the still foaming Atlantic Ocean.
I had to work very quickly as with every wave Stormbreaker lurched violently and the rope would be unlikely to last much longer. I managed to lash the boom to the mast with as much rope and wire as I could find. I secured the rear of the boom with the toping lift and the front with the main halyard.
The boom was now secure but the question remained – how were we going to cross the remaining 1700 miles of the Atlantic without a mainsail!
From Stormbreaker’s blog.
We were treated to very mellow, but very steady trade winds today. We had about 12 knots of wind from the East with almost no variation in speed or direction. Again, we did not touch the sails or autopilot for most of the day.
The waves were small, but there was still some swell that caused the boat to roll, so we had to hold on tight most of the day when walking around or when cooking.
We started fishing today, but we didn’t catch anything. That is not entirely true; we caught several flying fish on deck each night. One fish landed in the cockpit during the night when Robyn was on watch. Unfortunately, by the time we find the fish in the morning, they are dead (well dehydrated).
We often marvel at the very low chances that a fish would get stuck on the boat. Out of the entire ocean for flying, it would have to have the very bad fortune to fly in the vicinity of our boat. Beyond that, it would need to jump high enough to clear the decks. Even beyond that, it would need to aim so carefully as to fit in the narrow gaps between the child netting surrounding the decks. Angela even wrote a story about the experience of an unlucky fish during our Pacific crossing in 2003. A diligent blog reader might be able to find that story on the Pacific Crossing section of our former blog on http://www.ourdotcom.com.
So, with these unlikely chances in mind, one flying fish last night had even worse luck. He had the misfortune to fly in the vicinity of the boat, clear the decks *and* clear the child netting. He somehow landed in the very narrow area of a section of the bow locker that always contains about one inch of seawater. This is analogous to scoring a random basket in the middle of the ocean. The poor fish must have thought “wow, I cleared the lifelines to hit the boat, but somehow I landed back in the sea”… only to find out that it was nearly impossible for him to jump out of the bow locker back into the sea. Unfortunately, by the time we found this fish, it too, had perished.
The lighter winds contributed to a slower day, but we still managed to log a daily run of 136 miles in the direction of Barbados.
Day 7 – Tuesday 15 November
In many ways, Day 7 was much like Day 6, and Day 5, and Day 4. We had a consistent 12 knots of wind from the East and we sailed at about 5-6 knots towards Barbados.
We were visited by a swallow that circled our boat many times, eyed the squid lure we were towing, and then took off towards distant horizons.
We encountered several patches of unusually choppy water. The typical sea conditions in 12 knots of wind are fairly consistent waves and very few breaking white caps. However, on several occasions, we passed through areas that had shorter waves with about 30-50% of them breaking as white caps. These patches were approximately 1 km wide. They were very broadly spaced and, from what we could tell, not periodic. We only passed through about 3 or 4 during the course of the day.
Because our knot log (paddlewheel speed sensor) has been jammed stuck since leaving Mindelo, we were only able to get our speed as SOG from the GPS. Therefore, we were unable to measure the difference between the knot log and SOG to determine if these were different ocean currents. You can imagine the frustration for the physical oceanographer onboard! Perhaps some colleagues will be able to provide an idea of what was causing this phenomena.
We crossed another major milestone today — logging a total of 5000 miles below Laridae’s keel since we purchased her in Guernsey, Channel Islands, in July 2015.
With the moon rising a little after sunset, we were privileged to have some skies dark enough to see the numerous stars. During night watch, Eric saw a brilliant shooting star. It looked like a green comet falling to earth. The bulbous front of the shooting star, and symmetrical left and right sides of the streaming tail, light up the sky for a solid two seconds. After the green glow subsided, the smokey trail remained visible in the ambient starlight.
We logged a total of 133 miles towards Barbados in the calmer wind and sea.
Read the full post on www.laridae.ca
Traversée Jour 5, 6, et 7 : Scoumoune avec belles éclaircies
Quand je lisais des livres pour préparer cette année la voile et notamment la traversée Afrique -Caraïbes, les auteurs ou témoignages évoquaient les alizés, vents réguliers d’Est en Ouest et la longue houle qui poussent les voiliers vers les Amériques. Je me souviens même de témoignages qui faisaient part de l’ennui de ne rien faire, de ne pas toucher aux réglages de voile …
Comment dire ? Ce n’est pas ce que nous vivons !
On commence par la scoumoune ? Hier en début d’après midi, alors que nous commencions déguster la dorade la bahianaise préparée par Isabelle, je vois avec stupeur notre spi asymétrique partir vers l’avant, depuis le haut du mât (14 mètres), puis se coucher avec lenteur le long du bateau, simplement retenu par l’emmagasineur. Drisse cassée au niveau de la poulie de tête de mât ! On venait de faire une vingtaine d’heures, dont la nuit complète avec cette voile pour aller chercher le vent un peu plus au nord. Ça nous avait fait regrimper la moyenne après une journée de pétole.
Il va falloir que je monte en tête de mât pour tenter de récupérer l’extrémité de la drisse, si elle n’est pas passée par le réa. Si les conditions sont bonnes on le fera avant la Barbade, sinon après. On a pensé une solution alternative pour utiliser notre voile encore. On continue à réfléchir !
La météo est changeante. Isabelle a subi la pluie pendant trois heures cette nuit. On a “essuyé” cinq grains (coups de vent localisés) en deux jours, qui nous contraignent rentrer les voiles ou les ariser (réduire la toile). On commence être au point au niveau des manoeuvres et nous sommes très contents (pour le moment) de notre réparation de bôme : toute la structure travaille bien. De très belles éclaircies
Je redis comme c’est satisfaisant d’être autonomes, de réfléchir et trouver des solutions, de réussir réparer, régler les voiles … Je pense souvent la question que nous avait posée notre prof d’arts plastiques l’EN, (Mme Rahbi ?) : comment définir la créativité ? Personne n’avait trouvé, bien sûr … elle la définissait comme “la capacité trouver plusieurs solutions à un même problème”.
Des globicéphales. Ce matin, pendant qu’on mettait en place le tangon, on a vu des masses noires en transparence dans les vagues derrière nous. Puis, on a reconnu les nageoires et la forme de la tête : des globicéphales. Ils sont venus jouer avec l’étrave de Peer Gynt, comme des dauphins un peu paresseux. Le groupe était vraiment très, très nombreux et leur passage a duré une heure. C’était superbe de les voir surfer les grandes vagues, avancer presque sans mouvement apparent, de les voir respirer …
En tout cas, on ne s’ennuie pas ! Je me demandais parfois ce que j’allais bien pouvoir faire pendant 16 18 jours sur un bateau de 11,62 m…
Pour ce qui concerne les 7 premiers jours, Isabelle et moi savourons les moments de repos.
Day 8 – Wednesday 16 November
Half way there!!
1010 miles to go!! Unfortunately 9kn wind means we will be another 9 or 10 days!!!
Dad off watch and resting, Jenny sunbathing, and me reading up on Astro Navigation on watch!
From Lady Rebel’s blog
Dawn on our eighth day at sea arrived with moody skies threatening of rain or squalls. We were warned that the likelihood of encountering squalls would increase as we sailed westward. The squalls can come with loads of rain and strong, shifty winds, or no wind at all.
As this particular rain cloud approached from behind, we quickly rolled in the genoa in preparation for shifty, gusty winds. Fortunately, we only encountered a few moments of rain and no change in wind speed or direction. The rain was enough to wash the salt spray off the decks and wake the young crew at sunrise.
The early start to the day was not wasted; the goal was to get all homework tasks accomplished before lunch so that we could have an important celebration in the afternoon —- Half Way There! The crew (kids and adults alike) worked on decorations for the Half Way There party. We made a sign (“Yay, 1/2 Way”), decorations for our hair, and pom-pom shakers.
As the important distance milestone approached, we gathered in the cockpit to enjoy ginger beer and lime mocktails and to make some noise! Just at the instant of crossing the magic halfway line, a fish hit our lure and we went into panic mode!
Get the kids harnessed in a place to watch the landing; get the gloves; get the gaff! By the time we were organized enough to start hauling in the 50 m fishing line, the fish got away. We pulled the lure in to find that two of the three hooks had been straightened by the load of the fish fighting against the boat. We would have loved to catch a fish, but not TOO big a fish!
After sorting our the mayhem, we returned to the cockpit to celebrate getting that much closer to Barbados with a lot of cheers, all captured on a very memorable video!
During the afternoon, another White Ibis landed on the boat. It found a quiet corner with no wind in the lee of the dodger, and decided to take a rest. It joined us all evening and all night; pooping on the decks fairly regularly.
We celebrated getting half way to Barbados with a dinner feast of (canned) Indian food, steamy rice, warm naan bread, and chilled mango chutney. It was certainly a feast to remember.
We also celebrated that we had been a “carbon neutral” boat for the past 72 hours. The solar panels and hydro-generator had provided enough power for past three days to supply all of our power requirements on the boat, including running the navigation instruments, the autopilot, the refrigerator, the lights, and the numerous mobile phones and tablets. We also have a wind generator. However, when running before light tailwinds, the apparent wind over the deck is too low to provide much power from the wind generator.
As night approached, the winds lightened to about 10 knots and we slid silently through the water towards Barbados. Over the SSB net, we heard that many boats were reporting less than 5 knots of wind, so we were very thankful for our 10 knots.
However, shortly after midnight, the wind dropped for us and we, reluctantly, started the motor to top off the batteries and keep forward speed to help improve the motion of the boat.
Our total run for the day was 120 miles.
Read the full post on www.laridae.ca
Day 10 – Friday 18 November
Slight Squalls around. (Hit by our first squall at 1420 with gennaker.
We were too slow snuffing the gennaker, then the snuffer got stuck 1/3 the way down. Most educational.
Ce matin vers 7 h 30 nous étions au milieu de notre traversée : 1010 miles (quasiment 1900 km) jusqu’à la Barbade et 1010 miles derrière nous, au Cap Vert. Faut pas avoir besoin d’allumettes… ça tombe bien, on n’en a pas besoin.
Jacky nous a offert une bouteille de Gigondas pour cette occasion : on va en boire (un peu) ce soir, en regardant les étoiles.
Nous sommes à présent plein vent arrière et roulés d’un bord sur l’autre. On slalome entre les grains et on profite d’une lumière et de couleurs extraordinaires.
G’sundheit ! Santé !
Day 11 – Saturday 19 November
Escape is in position 13 40.05N 50 06.0W.
Squally overnight with variable wind strength and direction, sorted itself out now and back to ENE 10-18kts.
Otherwise all’s well, though beer supplies are getting low!
Day 12 – Sunday 20 November
We have sailed well since 1700 yesterday (local time as we adjust every 15 degees). Still got ok winds. The bread that I made was a success! Brown bread. The odd squall i enjoyed but not sure about crew.
The southerly current is still here and influential. I suppose that the cats will arrive soon.
500 mils to run to Barbados
We are well into day 12 of our adventure – calmer seas and favourable winds push as swiftly towards our destination. Life on board has settled into a routine of watches, eating and sleeping.
As we move West we have encountered a number of squalls- these are basically small thunderstorms common in this area. The strong sun shines on the warm sea and huge volumes of water evaporate each day to form these moisture laden monsters .These clouds quickly grow in size until they can carry no more water so they dump what they have and the result is a localised rain shower of biblical proportions. These may only last for a few minutes but it enough to wash and rinse the boat of the encrusted salt that has accumulated on her over the last 12 days.
We monitor the approach of these squalls with our radar which can to some extent predict their movements so we do have some warning however the Radar will only display rain – it does not display the huge increase in wind speed and dramatic change in direction that these squalls put out.
Squalls mainly occur at night although we have seen an increasing number of daylight squalls over the last few days. It is tempting to speculate that the strong wind will pass you by and therefore there is no need to reduce sail- be warned a number of Rally Yachts have “Blown” sails out over the last few days (Blown is a sailors term for “Blown to Shreds”).
On Stormbreaker we study the radar and if in any doubt we reduce sail. With the damage already sustained to our mainsail we can’t take any chances. So the last few days has involved a fair amount of activity as we watch clouds and reduce then increase .sail
As we move West we must contend with that common question asked on passage – What time is it – mainly to establish the proximity of the next meal.
As we progress each day the sun rises and sets later each day and whilst the boat time is (UTC is PC for GMT) the time at our destination, Barbados, is in fact 4 hours behind UTC
We use UTC so we can keep track of the times of radio nets to talk to other Rally participants. VHF, the normal radio used for inter ship only has a range of 20-30 miles so with our fleet spread-out over hundreds of miles we use our SSB Radio to chat and have designated times when this happens – all UTC.
So the good news is that it is always meal time on board Stormbreaker as we mix and match between time zones. As we close Barbados we will have to adjust our watches, eating and sleeping patterns in time for arrival.
From Stormbreaker’s blog