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27: A Directional Challenge
12/23/2011, Atlantic Ocean

At the start of the "Magellan Net" the controller calls for priority traffic. They don't usually expect a reply, so Janie of Tsolo was taken aback when I piped up with the problem of our lost rudder. The response from other crews was encouraging, and the consensus was that we should deploy a drogue astern to steer the boat. Fatty of Wild Card even came up with detailed instructions on ways to improvise one. We were asked to radio in every two hours with an update, in case we needed further help.

Adapting their ideas to suit Egret, we made a drogue incorporating a bridle from the stern mooring cleats, a long warp, a kedge anchor, four fenders and some chain. Also attached to the anchor were two long lines lead to port and starboard through snatch blocks at the mid- ships mooring cleats, then back to cockpit winches. These lines could be adjusted to maintain a straight course, and also, by pulling hard on one or the other, to tack or gybe. The next problem was to get Egret to sail downwind, as sailing boats have a natural tendency to round up into wind. The best she would do with a small headsail set was to sail on a beam reach, but eventually we got her to bear away to about 120 degrees off the wind by setting a staysail to leeward and a small area of genoa hauled out to windward.

The wind and sea state had been building all day making working on deck quite demanding, but we had everything under control by the time we reported in to the evening net. John, of Mary Anne II, announced that they were sailing towards us to assist if required. Exhaustion helped us to sleep tolerably well during our off watches that night, and it was a huge relief to see a sail appear over the horizon early next morning. Mary Anne II stayed in close proximity for the next 48 hours as winds continued unabated at 24 to 30 knots with confused 4m high waves. We had been heading WNW, but the grib files suggested that the weather would be kinder further south, so on the second morning we succeeded, at the third attempt, in gybing and heading off to the SSW. Sweden Yachts are good sea boats and ride well to the seas, our cockpit was almost dry and the motion down below tolerable, so we were content to sit it out and rest until conditions improved. We were more concerned about conditions on Mary Anne II, especially as John had told us that green seas were regularly sweeping her decks and they had to keep changing between sailing and heaving to, to keep down to our speed. Eventually we persuaded him that, as other boats were nearby, it would be safe for them to leave us and continue on their way. We are very grateful to John and Julia for their sacrifice in standing by for so long.

During the morning net, Peter, of Norna, told us that he had sought the advice of "Herb" - the legendary Atlantic weather forecaster - on our behalf, and received the advice that we should head south, a huge relief and confirmation of our tactics. Several boats astern had asked if we needed anything, so we had asked for more diesel, just in case we had to do a lot of motoring later. Firstly Awaroa kindly diverted to pass close by us, then Tsolo, but in both cases we had to abort a transfer due to the conditions. One bit of good news though was that on further examining the steering system we had detected a small amount of "feel" through the wheel. This could only mean that there was still a piece of the rudder intact, which would greatly assist steering once the weather calmed down. By the 6th morning, wind and sea conditions had eased sufficiently for us to set up two small headsails poled out, and, at long last, we were able to point the bows directly at the Caribbean, 1,200 miles away.

12/24/2011 | Hazel and Godfrey
Glad you're still safe. We're watching your progress with fingers crossed. Happy Christmas.
12/26/2011 | John Entwistle
Fantastic improvisation - hope that yo get to celebrate New Year with a Rum or Whisky Mac in Barbados
We are all following your progress
Happy Christmas
12/26/2011 | Roy Burnham

Not a note but a question. I have not read all your blogs but you refer to Megellan Net. Is that 8122 at 0800UTC? I am a friend of Joyce Moon and we both wish you well in completing your voyage to the Caribbean. I am wintering on Ile de Re (Saint Martin) and hope to move south in the spring and across December 2012.
12/26/2011 | Roger Nelson
following the blog with interest..sounds a bit hairy..when you make it to the Cayman islands I'll teach y to kite surf..much safer
12/27/2011 | Dave & Sue Ellis
Just got back from Christmas with Sue's family (and we thought that was a bit challenging). Shocked to hear about your problems but glad to hear that you are making good progress. Bloody well done with the jury steering and hang in there, it can't be far now.
12/28/2011 | Brian Dandridge
Have been tracking your progress every step of the way along with many other members of the Club. Wishing you all the best at this time of the year and look forward to reading that you have made a safe landfall and are able to start effecting proper repairs. Well done in keeping us all informed of your progress. Must have been a "challenging" time.
12/28/2011 | Peter
Well done and good luck for the rest of the leg. We are thinking of you. Peter and Veronica.
12/30/2011 | Dorothy
Oh my goodness! I am SO relieved to hear that you're making good headway now! I'm all a-blubber!! You must be exhausted. So pleased to hear that you have such practical support all around you. Big hugs from us both. Lots of love J&D xx

We are safe and well, and Egret is making steady but slow progress towards the Caribbean. The next instalment will be uploaded shortly, and in the meantime we are posting regular position updates on the map.

12/23/2011 | pam
Greg and I are thinking about you and hoping you are safe and sound.
12/23/2011 | Pam
Greg and I are thinking about you and hoping you are safe and sound
12/26/2011 | Gary
Leaving Lanzarote around 10th Jan hopefully catch up with you in the caribbean. I'll keep a look out for your rudder enroute! Safe landing the otherside. Gary & Denise
26: Atlantic Adventure

Like most dinghy sailors, I used to have fun sailing my boat without a rudder. One could learn a lot about the optimum set of the sails, heel and fore and aft trim in order to keep a straight course as well as to tack and to gybe. Doing it for real in a 39ft. yacht weighing 9 tons in mid Atlantic at night with a force 7 wind and 4m waves was an experience we could have done without.

We departed Mindelo in the Cape Verde Islands at 1500 on Tuesday 6th December. and shot through the acceleration zone between Sao Vicente and Santo Antao in 30 knots of wind, then continued 50 miles south before turning west in order to avoid the islands' huge wind shadow. By midday the next morning we were heading directly towards Barbados, 1,950 nautical miles away, with full main and the cruising chute set under a blue sky with a few puffy clouds; we were in the trade-winds. In the evening, whilst swapping the chute for a poled out genoa, a large pod of dolphins came alongside and started performing some extraordinary antics, leaping vertically out of their water and gyrating on their tail before dropping back in with a big splash.

As usual, we took part in the evening "Magellan Net" over the SSB radio, an informal "sked" hosted by Fatty, an entertaining US yachting writer, whom we'd first met in Lanzarote. Any boat can report their position and talk about the important matters of the day, such as the quantity and size fish caught - the Kiwis being particularly competitive in this field. The morning net is more formal, with a role call of all boats at sea, each giving their position, course, distance to go and wind and sea state. We are in contact with about 25 boats strung out across the Atlantic, with a few arrived in the Caribbean and a dozen still in the Canaries or Cape Verdes. It is very comforting to hear so many friendly voices over the air waves when you're alone in mid ocean.

On the 4th day, with freshening winds, we decided it was time to try our new trade-wind rig. This comprised the genoa poled out on one side and our new, extra wide staysail, hanked onto the inner forestay and poled out the other. I'd approached several sailmakers with the idea of a "downwind staysail" and none had heard of one, but my old friend Dick Batt was keen to have a go and made a beautiful job of making it in blue and white striped storm spinnaker cloth. We were delighted to find that the arrangement worked perfectly, and Egret flew down the rhumb line, rock steady, at about 7 knots. Everything became much quieter and more comfortable down below as well. That evening we celebrated 1,500 miles to go to Barbados.

The joy of surfing down waves under a full moon ended abruptly with a sickening graunching noise from beneath and the flogging of sails above as Egret careered off course. We thought at first that the autopilot had malfunctioned, but we couldn't get her back under control with the wheel so we hurriedly furled the sails and lay a-hull to assess the situation. Our next theory was that the linkage between the rudder shaft and wheel had failed, but when the emergency tiller fitted to the top of the shaft couldn't steer either, we knew the problem was below the waterline. Concerned that the force required to break the rudder could also have damaged the hull, we checked the bilge for water and inspected the area where the shaft penetrates the hull and were relieved to find nothing untoward. By now it was daybreak, so we decided to have breakfast and a rest until 0900, when we would be able to report our predicament to the "Magellan Net".


Blog 25, completing our time in the Cape Verde Islands, will be published later.


We are now crossing the Atlantic, and hope to be able to post positions on the map every couple of days. However this will depend on getting a connection over the SSB radio.

We've been struggling with internet access recently, so apologies for erratic text and photo postings and also for any lost e-mails.

I've just uploaded blog 22 which, all being well, will be posted in the correct chronological position.

12/19/2011 | Dorothy
Thinking of you as we decorate our tree with lots of bits of Christmas that you have given us over the years! Hope you're getting a good supply of those cupcakes Patrick!! Guess there's not a lot of time for gin at the moment! Take care, love lots from J&Dxx
Blogs 20 & 21

These have recently been posted below

12/06/2011 | Pam
By the time you read this message, you should be in Barbados. I hope you had a great journey. It is good to know that you will have the support of other sailors on your trans Atlantic sail. I am enjoying your blog very much.
12/07/2011 | Katja from NUBIA
Hi, Amanda and Patrick,
are you already on Barbados or still on the Cap Verdes? Actually I´n in Germany. Mike´s heading for the Cap Verdes, probably arriving on Saturday. I hope you´re fine.

Best regards Katja from NUBIA
12/08/2011 | Hazel and Godfrey
We're watching your blog. Fingers crossed for your safe arrival in Barbados and a very Happy Christmas when you get there.

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