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Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Saint Simons Island GA April 18-19

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  • Skip Gundlach
    Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Saint Simons Island GA April 18-19 Making ready to bid Lucaya a fond farewell, I did my usual engine checks. Hmmm. That fan belt
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 1, 2009
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      Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Saint Simons Island GA April 18-19

      Making ready to bid Lucaya a fond farewell, I did my usual engine
      checks. Hmmm.

      That fan belt I'd bragged on - and just tightened - so recently was
      very stretched out. Since I'd just tightened it, that was a clear sign
      that it was on its last revolutions. As we had a fairly long passage,
      including a Gulf Stream Crossing ahead of us, I might find it useful
      to have the engine running. Accordingly, I put a hold on the countdown
      and changed the alternator belt. As it's behind the raw water belt,
      one must first remove that, but as many times as I've had the raw
      water pump off lately, this was a walk in the park. Ten minutes later
      we resumed our countdown. We cast off our lines from the poles we'd
      borrowed, and at 7PM, headed for the entrance to Port Lucaya.

      The exit was a bit fussy, as it wasn't full tide, but we saw nothing
      less than 9 feet and basically followed our track we'd made on the way
      in a few days ago out past all the buoys. Because of the way the
      island lays, we weren't able to make a direct run to our destination,
      but the nature of the shoreline and sea bottom was such that we hugged
      the coast pretty closely.

      By the time we got to Freeport, it was full dark and the oil platforms
      and pilot ships were very brilliantly lit. We made sure to give them a
      wide berth, and enjoyed viewing the large ships moving into the area
      from a reasonable distance.

      As we approached West End, about 9PM, we heard one of our recent
      acquaintances hailing us on the VHF. They wondered how we were doing,
      and I wondered back about their anticipated departure the following
      day, as conditions were supposed to worsen by dawn. We'd later wonder
      how they made out, given our experiences.

      Once clear of Grand Bahama Island, we set a rhumb line for Saint
      Simons Island. The weather was forecast to be good for the Gulf
      Stream, and I wanted to ride it as far as we could before getting off.
      Our acquaintances, also Chris Parker clients, were very concerned
      about the western wall of the Gulf Stream, wanting to stay close to it
      to jump out in case of a reversal of the primarily southerly wind.
      (The Gulf Stream runs roughly north, with up to 3.5 knots of speed.
      When that's hit by a north wind, things can get very uncomfortable
      quickly due to the wind against the current producing what's known as
      "square" waves - very short period [the time between waves] and very
      steep angles. *Lots* of north wind makes for not only discomfort but
      also potentially dangerous circumstances. Most sailors won't go out in
      the Gulf Stream with a wind that has "N" anywhere in it.)

      We made about 7 knots pretty consistently for the first several hours.
      Lydia thought we must have been in the Stream, but listening to the
      forecasts showed that we were still some 18 miles east of the eastern
      wall, so our speed was due to our clean bottom and easy wind.
      Unfortunately, the wind got even easier, about 10 knots, by 4AM, and
      the sea state's rock and roll made for a lively ride, despite our
      speed of under 5 knots. When the occasional puffs arrived, we got back
      up to 7 knots, but they were infrequent.

      We estimated arrival in the Gulf Stream somewhere between 7 and 9AM,
      and, sure enough, about 7AM our speed picked up to 7.1 knots, no
      thanks to the wind. As we moved further into the Gulf Stream, our
      speed over ground continued to build, and by 10AM we were making mid-8
      to low-9 knot progress, with the wind at only 8-10 knots.

      By 1PM, the wind had shifted to nearly south. Dead downwind is the
      least efficient point of sail, but if you have the main out to one
      side, and the genoa out to the other, sometimes you can make very good
      progress. We tried to use our spinnaker pole, but the pin which
      releases it from the deck mount, and from the sheets on the sail in
      case you have to get it off quickly, had frozen (well, seized), as it
      does if it's not used frequently. I got out the loosen-er-up and gave
      it a shot, waiting for another day.

      In the meantime, we prevented the main, and did the best we could with
      the genoa. The rolling made for a pretty floppy sail, though, and a
      lot of pressure as it filled each time it rolled back the other way
      from its dousing at the hands of the waves. So, unlike the pretty
      pictures you see of the sailboat going downwind on a perfectly calm
      sea, genoa full and main out to the other side, a wing and wing
      configuration, I characterized ours as wing and flop :{))

      However, we were still making 7-8 knots speed over ground, and by 4PM,
      the spinnaker pole's seizure had abated. Accordingly, we put the genoa
      out on the pole, albeit with more effort than usual, a curiosity which
      didn't strike me until later. That made for a much quieter, and
      somewhat faster ride, of course. No sooner had we stabilized than we
      caught our Mahi for dinner. Fortunately, the seas, while rolling a
      bit, were soft, so I got myself into my harness and out on the
      platform to clean the 30-incher. I'm getting much better at filleting,
      now, and we had a very substantial portion to put into the marinade.
      At least three meals from her.

      No sooner had I gotten cleaned up than I saw that our pole needed some
      adjustment for better orientation of the clew (the part at the end of
      the sail) - it was too low the way I set it first. I tried, but couldn't
      make it go any higher. DANG! The pole lift (the part connected to the
      end of the pole that controls the height of the sail end) was fouled
      around the radar. Fortunately, at 6PM, I was able to clear the foul,
      and, once again, the end of the pole went up and down easily. Small
      victories :{))

      Because we'd been in very overcast, mostly calm conditions in Lucaya,
      our batteries were a bit low due to the lack of solar and wind
      assistance, so we turned on the iron genny to charge up a bit.
      Checking to see how my exhaust system kludge was working, I saw water,
      again! This time it was a fitting in the cooling water riser. Off
      comes the engine, and I root around in my plumbing bin until I find a
      part that will work, make the repair, and start again. No leak.
      Another small victory, but I'll have to lay in some more spares when I
      get ashore, as that was the last of the type I had. By 8:30, we were
      motor-sailing. I did the calculations and found that we'd made 170
      miles in our first 24 hours, very good, indeed, given the
      circumstances. It looks as though our Savannah-bound folks were right,
      and it would be a fairly quick trip.

      That evening had us making high 10 to low 11 knots over ground, in
      estimated 15-18 knot south wind, which was lovely to experience. By
      11PM, we were making 11-12 knots in an estimated 15-20 knots.
      Unfortunately, for whatever reason, after more than 24 hours of never
      spontaneously going into standby, at 1AM we had multiple instances of
      our autopilot taking a vacation. The boat's response was to instantly
      turn into the genoa, trying to put us in irons. I was pretty busy
      controlling it, and finally gave up and manually steered for a while,
      still making 11-12 knots.

      At the 2:AM watch change, when Lydia took over, the winds were
      building, but all was still well when I went down to sleep. The motion
      was still rock and roll, but manageable for my sleep. However, I was
      awakened at about 3:30 by the sense that all was not well. In addition
      to our rock and roll, suddenly (well, maybe not suddenly, but it's
      what woke me) we were also slewing notably from side to side, and the
      rolls were getting more pronounced. I was instantly awake and on deck.

      As the wind built, so did the seas, and we were no longer roughly in
      phase with them. That creates a condition where, if it becomes severe
      enough, you can have an induced broach. Dinghy sailors call it the
      death roll because each successive roll becomes worse, and each
      successive yaw increases; eventually, the keel catches broadside to a
      wave, and suddenly you're on your side. In our case, it would mean
      either the genoa pole or the boom would be hit with the massive force
      of the water pushed by our 40,000 pounds moving at up to, I later
      learned, 13.3 knots. That was not a circumstance I was eager to
      experience. We had to get the genoa furled.

      We estimate that the wind had built to 25-30 knots, and the seas to
      6-8', contributing to the yawing we were doing as we slid down one
      side of a wave, and up another. The sea state was significant enough
      that before I even got started, the life raft came flying off the
      perch on the deck (in the cockpit, behind the dodger), along with all
      the starboard cushions in one of the port rolls. The rest of the
      cushions followed suit as it rolled back to starboard. That had me
      pretty focused on getting it in, and I knew I'd need to use the winch
      on our furling line due to all the pressure on the genoa.

      Our spinnaker pole setup is such that the genoa can be furled with it
      in place, and, in my urgency to get it in, I overlooked one very
      crucial point in rolling up a genoa in high winds (well, always, but
      especially so in these conditions). That is, in addition to
      controlling the sheet which is pulling on the sail, you have to keep
      slight tension on the other one, the "lazy sheet" - which in this
      case, with the genoa flapping mightily, wasn't lazy at all. Instead,
      both sheets were tangling with both the other sheet and the sail
      itself as they flailed.

      The end result was to have the sheets foul as we wound in the genoa,
      and we were presented with an hourglassed genoa. That's where part of
      it's furled, but the top and bottom aren't, and those are flapping
      away. Well, nothing to do but turn on the spreader and foredeck lights
      and go out there and try to get it fixed. Things were, to be
      charitable, pretty busy out there, so I had to clip in at the bow to
      one of the lifeline strong points, which severely limited my movement.
      After trying mightily, and failing, to undo the foul, I had Lydia run
      downwind to try to blanket the genoa as much as possible with the
      main. Of course, we're still in the Gulf Stream, and moving north
      inexorably, but now, since the wind has changed to southeast - and
      increasing - we have to go offshore, as well, when we do that.

      That maneuver didn't materially alter the situation out on the deck. I'm
      a pretty strong guy, but there was no way I was going to win against
      the howling wind in trying to make the sail unfurl to the point where
      I could unfoul the sheets. Eventually, I gave up and tried to lash it
      with the spinnaker halyard. That's a process we go through whenever we
      expect a major blow; it keeps the edges of the furled sail from
      getting caught by the wind, getting wind under it, and eventually
      causing damage. My thought was that I might be able to get around the
      balloon above, similar to dousing the spinnaker with the sock, and
      eventually get it controlled enough that it wouldn't be fully loose.

      No such luck. The spinnaker halyard was nearly instantly captured
      inside a fold of sail, one I couldn't make come out. After many tries
      of hurling our anchor snubber's stainless steel end over a gap in the
      sail at the clew, in order to pull it down, flattening the open
      section a bit, some of which included being bonked in the head several
      times when I missed, that part succeeded, but didn't materially
      improve matters. Next try, pole lift. Meanwhile, I'm crawling along
      the deck, clipped to the jackline on a very short leash, to get back
      to it, and then back to the bow. I have some, but very little, better
      success with the pole lift. Since I'm tethered right there, on a
      violently pitching deck, I can't do what I'd ordinarily do, which is
      to get a turn over the sail, and then walk it down the deck, back over
      the deck and again forward, all the while keeping tension on it. The
      result is a very poor compromise, but it's the best we can do. The
      unrestrained remainder of the ballooned portion of the sail flapped
      and flailed mightily, leading to visions of forestay failure, but we
      had nothing else we could effectively do other than to press on. Of
      course, the knowledge that our rig had survived an estimated 3-5000
      impacts during our wreck gave us a little confidence that it would
      also survive this :{)) Just after dawn, I'd done all I could do, and
      we turned back to the West.

      As is usually the case, I see I've succumbed to logorrhea, and will
      leave you here, pitching, rolling, with the building seas and winds.

      Stay tuned!

      L8R

      Skip and crew


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      Morgan 461 #2
      SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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