Ships Log 13 Dec 2003

Oh Island in the Sun...except our first sight of St Lucia, it wasn't. Came Saturday dawn, 20 days at sea, and there huddled beneath squalls was St Lucia, the only decoration vivid rainbows arcing down from the clouds. Some boats have been motor sailing almost continuously for the last 3 days to get in before 20 days, but since we did 19 days in 2001 we feel no such compulsion and have mostly sailed through light winds although we still have lots of fuel. Then we are hit by the squalls and ... the poor much abused pole that acts like a boom for the foresail cracks. The end has already broken (jury - repaired) but this is a crack in the middle. We readjust ropes and plunge on, nearby squalls cooling us, cutting corners round Pigeon Island as we race other boats for the finish after 2740 miles. Finally there is the speedboat that takes photos of yachts, the ARC boat at the finish line and we tighten up onto a beat and with all full sail race across the line yelling like mad and waving at everyone. Bernard and Beryl have smiles like a caribbean coconut, Nicky and I are punching the air, we've done it, no injuries this time.

 
Sails down, motor into Rodney Bay Marina, and into our (tight) allocated berth, lots of shouting and pulling from lots of helpers and we are in. Strangely reluctant to step onto dry land for the first time in 20 days we receive a hamper of fruit and rum, cold beer, sort out forms, then move berths to a better position, more forms, friends we last saw 3 weeks ago, and we are starting to believe that the world really can be still. This year we understand that there have been at least 1 dismasting, 1 very near dismasting, 1 grounding, 1 death (on board - a heart attack), at least 1 complete engine failure, 1 boat is running short of food and still has 10 days to go and.............a lot has been happening.
 
Thank you everyone who sent us emails, we REALLY appreciated them, it kept us interested in the long night watches and helped keep our otherwise tenuous grasp of the real world. Just to reiterate, if you fancy a week or 2 or more on Intrepid - in 2004 cruising up the east coast of the USA, in 2005 in the Pacific - we are genuinely very happy to have friends along, quite a number have already, just suggest an airport and a month, or ask where we are likely to be in any month and we'll try to see what's possible. Intrepid holds 5 very comfortably. We tend to sail about 100 miles/week, on 2 or 3 days/week, sometimes less, the rest is exploring whatever country we are in. Food is BBQ's or local.
 
So how did we get through the last week? Well, it was certainly not without incident....................... Beryl kicks off the story:
 
Day 16(I think) of the Black Country couple's first Atlantic crossing.  We're starting to dream of fresh sheets, chips and a floor which stays still when you put your feet down.
 
We're nearly at the last but one celebration - less than 500 miles to go (542 at the moment so we should have our last celebration dinner at sea tonight).  The last celebration will, of course, be a cold beer when we arrive safely in St Lucia.  Last night we ate the last of the fish which we caught on Saturday - Nicky cooked a delicious Dorado tika masala!
 
We've not seen as much sea life as we had expected, only one school of dolphins on the evening of day 2 and a few sea birds - petrels and rose footed terns.  This morning the flying fish were 'doing their thing'.  While I was on watch, one flew onto the boat but fortunately for him, he'd been in training and leapt far enough to land on the coach roof and slide off the other side back into the water.
 
The wind isn't being as cooperative as it could be - too much to justify motoring but not enough to do the average 6 knots which we would like. 
 
We haven't yet had the skipper's daily announcement of who won the previous 24 hours mileage logged competition.  We've done this every day and so far Bernard has won more times than anyone else - is he cheating on the early watch? 
 
Nearly there.
 
Towed by a squall to get away from a hurricane!! Dead calm, dead at night, (1am) motoring for the the last 1.5 hours. Then a light wind picks up, sails up, and 2 large squalls appear behind us, the bright full moon obscured by dark black menacing clouds with rain. They rapidly overhaul us, one passes ahead, the other looks set to hit us. But the wind behind a squall often veers (moves clockwise in direction). We steer to get in behind the squall and the changed wind direction hits us straight on our side. This is about the fastest point of sailing and we suddenly accelerate like a train and we cream along at 7 + knots - almost exactly the speed that the squall is moving. This means we keep the wind in the same direction and suddenly we are being 'towed' by the squall at a great rate, and are pulling ahead of the 2nd squall which passes harmlessly behind. As our tow squall slows a bit we furl a bit of the genoa and for 2.5 hours we manage to keep in the same position relative to our squall doing some 20 miles towards St Lucia.
 
Useful miles because Nic has heard on Voice of America that Hurricane Peter has formed in mid Atlantic some 500 miles east of us - they are very rare in December (global warming?) but when they do form they usually track west..... where we are. Better get further west as fast as we can - which thanks to our tow squall we are doing. Nothing about it in the forecasts received yesterday, but Nic gets in the weather fax on the long range radio from the Tropical Storm Prediction Centre at New Orleans, and there is Hurricane Peter in a circle 20N to 30N and 29W to 37W. Its directly in the track from Canaries to Caribbean and we hope yachts coming behind us are OK.
 
Our tow squall starts to bend to the right, slows down and as Bernard and Beryl come up for their watch at 4am, the squall is starting to leave us. I go below, when as I write, (and search for a lost contact lens) the wind shifts right through 180, ie completely reverses direction, then....swings again and is now coming from dead ahead, then drops to 5 knots. Useless for sailing, with Bernard and Beryl we furl all the sails, motor on and I finally get to bed. 0830 the wind reappears, and we put up the genoa and main, then Big Green Monster and are bombing along at 6.5 knots just as we get the latest latest faxes from New Orleans at midday - Hurricane Peter has decided to move North East, and is dropping a bit. Lower adrenalin, cup of tea, midday position and send the daily log.
 
Normally we are pretty relaxed, but yesterday morning, when a sail and spinakker came up over the horizon, the Big Green Monster was up pretty smartish and they slowly sank back beneath the horizon. Same for another boat in the afternoon and we chased another one ahead - was 8.4 miles then 7.8, then night fell and we lost them. But the rest are not enthralled by racing so we tend to be a race for 12 hours then negotiate about how much sail we have at night.... Another day in the Atlantic. 130 miles done, 400 miles to go.
 

HALLIARD WRAP! When we first heard the term it sounded more like a chocolate candy than the disaster many sailors fear only less than a man overboard or an actual dismasting. Neil Cox giving the ARC seminar on rigging before we left said that. Its when the rope pulling the spinaker or cruising chute up wraps itself around the forestay (the wire holding the mast up at the front). Harmless you might think. But once its tightly wrapped round its usually impossible to pull the spinakker or chute down - usually several thousands of of sail have to be cut free - or the halliard as its twisted ever tighter can even saw through parts of the forestay weakening the whole rig and in some cases bringing it down. The only alternative is sometimes to haul a man aloft on a bosuns chair to the very top of the mast 60 feet up that is swaying around some 10 feet in either direction every 5 seconds with the waves to try to work it all lose.

 
We had motored all through the night in less than 4 knots of wind. Venus was dramatically bright in front of us near the horizon, and at 9pm a huge golden ball started to show over the horizon behind us. The moon comes up very quickly - in about 10  minutes it was clear of the horizon. But the moon is so bright the other stars fade away, and by 0730am we were desperate to sail if we could. The wind picked up to 10 knots from behind, I got up and Bernard Beryl and I prepared to put up the Big Green  Monster. Easy we thought, we had tied the BGM along the rail last night, so all we had to do was untie it, attach the halliard and haul it up. What I hadn't noticed was that the halliard had been put away twisted round the forestay. I checked, but its a long way to see to the top of the mast, and peering up into the bright sky I must have persuaded myself it was OK.....
 
The sail took quite some effort for Bernard to winch up - this should have warned us. Then the full BGM opened up and we saw the mess above. Fortunately we always launch the BGM behind the genoa and the wind hadn't filled it. We yelled to Bernard to let the sail down and Beryl and I yanked hard and ...........thankfully the BGM was wet enough and slithery enough to slip down still wound around the forestay. Relief all round a problem in the making that hadn't. The BGM sets beautifully 2nd time up and we are rushing along at almost 6 knots to St Lucia in 12 knots of wind. 275 miles to go. Bimini up (the new sunshade that we can have up even when we have all sail up), fishing lure out, Bernard is composing a Calypso for our Intrepid shanty challenge and all's well ..........in the end. About 30 boats had finished on the positions we received yesterday, so the race is on to be in before the celebrations are over.
 

The Atlantic doesn't stop setting us problems! Immediately after I had sent yesterdays log about halliard wrap, and as I was speaking to Galadriel on the VHF, there was an urgent then VERY URGENT call from the cockpit. Intrepid had been steering a course to keep her at a constant bearing to the wind, with Big Green Monster Chute up and mainsail. The apparent wind had suddenly shifted hugely and the top 25 feet of the BGM had swung a complete turn round the forestay . The middle had tried to follow but was constrained by the rope holding the back end so it twisted (with bits of BGM) tightly around the forestay about 30 feet up . The lower half followed the top but with fewer turns, producing an hour glass or egg timer effect with sail billowing out at the top and bottom and a twisted knot with bits of sail in different rotations round the middle. You may have seen photos of yachts like this - it can happen all too frequently. The top of the BGM was alternately filling and flapping twisting more turns of BGM round the forestay and allowing even more sail to get entangled in the knot in the middle while lots of wind pulled the knot even tighter. Its not called the Big Green Monster for nothing

 
Its not easy to see exactly whats happening 30 feet up  when you have to stand at the bow bouncing up and down peering up through wildly flapping sail. The knot seemed impenetrable, and the sail was very close to ripping itself to shreds with the differing forces and strains. But luckily (?) we have had this once before. We took down the mainsail, put the motor on, and with a bit of trial and error started to turn Intrepid itself through complete circles around the forestay, trying to find the right number of turns that reduced the twisting in the upper half to a minimum,while Bernard and I held the lower half to stop it twisting even more. After about 3 complete turns, the BGM started to pull upwards, and with Bernard and I still clinging grimly to the lower half, slowly then with increasing momentum the top half unwound, the rope became free, and Bernard and I were nearly pulled over the bow (we were wearing lifejackets) with the pull of the sail. This after all is a force that pulls 12 tons of Intrepid forward at 8 knots and Bernard and I dont weigh 12 tons.
 
Free - long deep breaths, get Intrepid back on course, mend a tear in the BGM, then main sail up then very gingerly the BGM which on the 2nd attempt fills OK and we are back to 'normal'. Lovely sail the rest of the day and a brilliant panoply of stars comes out during dinner then the spectacular moonrise show then the wind dies again the motor is on. At 1.30am the wind picks up again, motor off (which wakes everyone of course) and we sail on at 5.5 knots, 250 miles to go rolling from side to side until we put out the jib which balances the other sails. On the VHF other boats are complaining about the worst night's sleep they've had - so is Nicky. A large fish takes lure and line; I make another lure and rig another line. Beryl is trimming Bernard's beard on the foredeck.The going is easy..............Sail fast live slow
 
And so it was, we have now arrived, our son James flies out to join us over Christmas, Bernard and Beryl fly home and we turn our attentions to going up the East Coast of the USA.

 

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