Offshore! 3 Days

We left GTC at 7:30 am for the Chesapeake. We’ve a slight wx window of 4 days and a cold front coming through. If the front weakens we plan on heading to the Chesapeake, if it stays as expected we’ll head to Charleston, SC  or Beaufort, NC. We motored and sailed a little leaving the Abaco’s via Munjack Channel. It’s a mile wide channel from the banks to the ocean. Was bumpy getting out but once we cleared the 100 fathom line we set course for the Chesapeak. With a strong breeze going we set a reefed main and the 100% jib called a Yankee. We were flying and the seas were much larger then expected. The worst part is we ended up with 3 wave trains, relatively large ones from the NE (say 4-6′), another set from the ESE (again say 4-6′) and then the wind blown ones from the SSE (say 2 – 4′). Remember wave mechanic from school, waves add and subtract. So sometimes when they all added together we were close to 15′ from the troughs. What a ride going up one and then down the backside. The boat did well, W/ not yet so good. Today; however, we made 166 nm from anchor up to the first 24 hours. If we would have counted on the sailing only it would have been greater but I didn’t do that complicated math problem at sea. During that trip we kept breaking safety connections for the windvane. I’ve worked up some 250 lb monofiliment lines to connect the blocks and sometimes when a wave would roll though they would snap. W/ would yell, I would jump and then go into fix it mode. Finally I got tired of the monofilament; not feeling it was really breaking at 250 lbs of pull; but more like 100 so I went to small line to connect the blocks. That stopped the lines from braking but as with most things, there is the “law of unintended consequences”. Now the fitting I had attached to the boat was working – big time. Mike on Infini had told me that I hadn’t made it strong enough. (Mike- you were right). However; I mostly wanted to make sure the setup would work that way and it did. Now I get to make something stronger. So about 3 in the afternoon the fitting attaching the arm to the boat shear worked off a nut or two and sheared off one bolt. DAMN! I went back to work, crawled under the dinghy (the dinghy was upsidedown on the aft deck). To crawl under the dinghy I needed to move some stuff we had stored there; open the manhole cover to the propane locker and hang upside down in the locker to get a wrench on the nuts and add new bolts. This took me all of about an hour and W/s having to hand steer during this time while we’re riding up and sliding down some rather large waves. Finally repaired we hook up the windvane – again and thank Neptune that this happened in the daylight hours.

My repair lasted about 8 hours! Yep the next time it broke was about 11pm. I was on watch and we rode up this one rather LARGE wave and flew down the backside. The boat healed over enough to dislodge a sunshower (on deck) and threw our iPod stereo out of its secure (to date) location. Now we know that location is no longer secure! I tried to hook the control lines back up and all seemed to work but the boat wandered. DAMN. I crawled to the aft deck to see what was going on by the vane and the turning arm that the vane control lines are connected to was bent 90º. Words can no longer express my feelings. We had to hand steer till it became light out and I could evaluate the situation further. So we had a long and boring night steering an hour on and hour off. How boats circumnavigated years ago I’ll never understand. Steering is NOT FUN! Mostly the experienced ones figured out a way to get the boat to steer itself; and we could have on our last boat with a tiller, but I’ve not seen how to hook a wheel up to the sails and don’t know if I could have in the 6 hours till dawn. All the time I’m thinking how I can fix this and W/s thinking how she can survive this.

Morning arises and I discuss how I’m going to effect the repair w/ W and begin. While I’m doing the repair she’s stuck hand steering. We eat little, try to drink and try to conserve our energy. I gather the tools below and lay them out in order I think I’m going to need them. I then remove the arm from the boat by first opening up the manhole again and then hanging half on and half off the boat. I am tied in at this time but to go over would cause me great pain and neither W/ or I would want to try to get me back on the boat. So careful I am, so careful that it takes me longer to do the job; but, Hell, I’m going to still be here when it is completed.

I remove the arm and then retighten the fitting that is connected to the boat. I really snug down on the fitting and will most likely use some castle nuts or double nut it when I effect the repair in port. I take the fitting below and lay out a towel, plug in the dremel tool (damn glad we have an inverter and I don’t have to use a hack saw on this) and using the cutoff blades begin to cut 3 inches off the piece. Three blades later I have the end recut and the fitting ready to reinstall. I run the control lines through the fitting because if I drop this in the water I don’t have anything left to repair this with (at least I don’t think I do but maybe I would have found something). I snug the piece back into place and get the allan screw to help hold it. I didn’t drill it and put the bolt back into hold it. We only need another 24 hours out of it. I drop the allan screw in the water – @#$% – “oh well”. The force on the fitting will keep it in place.

I then take a wooden dowel I had left over from a temp repair I made on the bowpulpit before we left. I take two hose clamps and clamp the dowel to the arm and then up to the pushpit in the stern. That will support it from being pulled up and bent again.

We rerun the lines and hook up the vane, and breath a deep, deep sigh of relief. She’s working. I get some food stuff for W/ and I and we begin our 3rd day. The winds are getting fluky. We put the main up, it blankets the jib fom the wind, we take it down. We try a couple of different courses, there is not enough wind to overcome the effects of the seas so the sail pulls for a few seconds and if we’re lucky a minute or two, then the seas roll us and the sail snaps like a cannon. A good part of the am it’s like this. On top of this our furling gear for the jib whistles when the wind is about 15kts or greater and when we roll the forestay passes that speed and it whistles. All the while when we had the main up and we would lose some wind in it the topping lift would snap back to the boom and crack like a whip. Whistle, Whistle, quiet, snap, snap, whistle snap, quiet, pop. All day long. This becomes quite wearing.

We’re going to see about covering the furling with some tape or a line so there is no space for a whistle and we’re looking at a boom vang (lift) that we can eliminate the topping lift. That would cut out a lot of extranious noise and also simplify the awning setup since we wouldn’t have to work around the topping life.

Most of that day was wind less then 10kts from the S. We’re heading due N or so and with the seas rolling the wind out of the sail it wasn’t exceedingly fun. In the afternoon we had to power because the wind was so light we were making less then 4 kts and at that speed we  wouldn’t be in safe harbor before the front blew through. And it was predicted to BLOW! So much so that even I thought it prudent to seek safe harbor so we altered course from the Chesapeak to Beaufort, NC.

While motoring we had some good fortune and bad. There were rain squalls around but mostly they all were rain events. Remember our windvane steers the boat but no wind means we have to steer. So W/ and I are back on the helm alternating. Steering is easy but the wave trains rolling through make it a pain. Finally; rain came. I loved that all the salt was now washed off the boat. Then on one of W/s turns a few hours later, more rain came. Then again on W/s turn at the helm  in the middle of the night more rain came. Enough already. The boat is salt free. The waves have calmed a bit and we’re  clean and not getting anymore spray.  Earlier in the day; roughly dinnertime, we had been motor sailing. On this boat I don’t believe we’ll do that anymore. As I was at the helm we took a good roll. The engine is purring along and when we roll the wind falls out of the sail and then when we roll back the sail picks it up again and bam! This time though it wasn’t a bam it was a BAM! I look up to see blue right where I should see sail. The foot was ripped out. We busted open a seam! By the time W/ got on deck and we lowered the sail we had torn all the seams out to and through the leach of the sail. DAMN! Two repairs to take care of. Worst case is we don’t have a full main to use anymore. Best case is that I can always if need be pull in a reef and we’ll have the majority of the sail to use.

Finally about midnight we were able to put up the jib and hook up the control lines to sail towards our destination. Fortunately the rest of the trip was uneventful. We both saw falling stars make wishes for our survival. 🙂  We saw a HUGE rainbow, one I’ve never seen so fat or bright on land before; we had some dolphins greet us as we closed in on the North Carolina coast. We didn’t fish – I don’t really like how I’ve had it setup and the seas were not really comfortable to run around the boat on. They were large long and lumpy to much like the Gulf of Mexico. We learned that W/ could make egg salad before we leave for off shore then we’ll be able to smear it on bread. Less time in the galley. Planning ahead for food will work for most of our time in the next year, as the trips will be about 5-6 days between ports. However; once we reach the Pacific side there is one 25 day or thereabouts passage and by then she’ll have all her sea legs and be able to prepare meals off shore. Also, the waves we sincerely hope in the trades will not be as wild nor from as varied directions. We both remember years ago when we sailed in the trades the motion was there but they were much more comfortable. And this boat is MUCH more comfortable than our last. However we’ve not grown use to the sleeping.

On our 32 we were slightly aft the mast – our berths. Plus outboard of the berths were lockers so the water going by wasn’t as noisy. On this boat, we’re faster; the water going by can be quite noisy, the berths are at the center of gravity and we end up rocking about our hips which is a different feel. I’m sure we’ll get use to it but right now it’s not as comfortable as our waterbed was in Florida. 🙂 Duh! We actually found the cockpit was quite comfortable and W/ slept a little there. I encouraged her to go below; warmer, drier, and you can go through some of the routines that help with the onset of sleep; brush your teeth, clean – dry off, take off the foul wx cloths, etc.

And the last day we caught some of the Gulf Stream, saw some freighters, dolphins visited, saw some squid hanging out in the water and slowly made our way to Beaufort, arriving about 11 am. We contacted  Beaufort Marina for a slip and were promptly tied up. I went ashore and called Customs for clearance since we had departed a foreign port. I went though all the questions from the officer and he said tomorrow he would be by to finish the paper work. We had clearance to leave the boat but the boat was still quarentined. Today this am officer Rushok showed up on time, checked the boat; checked the paperwork and as my sister say’s “now your back in the good ol’ USA”.  On to laundry and buy stores for the boat and warming up.

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