Moment of truth.
So Monday morning came round and it now time to see what this 'Shipyard' is capable of. I got out of bed and instantly there was a knock on the hull. Hello, I here you need some work! Its 8:00!! I talked through the engine and rudder issues and walked up to the shower block. I left a note on the guard wire to say I was using the internet and before I know It I heard a radio go off. 'is that guy around with the little boat' I was being demanded at the pontoon where five guys were waiting. Nervously I walked down the pontoon thinking I was going to be beaten up. How can I help I said. The reply was, 'your being lifted'. Before I knew it I was expertly plucked from the water and placed on stand. I agreed I would do as much work as possibly to reduce cost wqhcih they were more than happy for me to do. I dropped the rudder myself and then called the foreman over for a chat. The rudder was cracked and the lower bearing loose in its house and also loose on the rudder stock. Bert the fibre glass guy came over and we discussed wha I wanted doing. I asked if someone could make me a new bearing and I was answered with the machinist is on holiday. Is this were it is going to all go wrong?
The engine guy also was busy and couldn't make it down till Tuesday morning. I was starting to feel a little nervous. These guys now have my boat out of the water, trapped and I am supposed to be leaving for Bermuda on Friday??? How am I supposed to get the head gasket replaced in 3 days?
It didn't look like any work was going to happen today so I went fro a cycle to West Marine and found Neimeic marine who do parts for all types of engines. I spoken the the guys there who were really helpful and had all the Volvo Penta engine diagrams and parts lists. I couldn't believe it, right here, just down the road from the yard. I looked at the spares kits and decided it best to order the engine overhaul gasket kit. For the sake of $100 dollars it will save me a day waiting for parts. If I don't need the bits at least I will have them as spares for when I go cruising later in the year with Tam. I also went to another spares places next door and they were able to order me a new muffler/water trap. A bit confused as to how I could have ended up somewhere so helpful and with all the right suppliers I went back to the boat.
Tuesday morning - I woke up had a shower and went back to the boat. My rudder, where has it gone! Who has stolen it? What's that guy doing climbing the ladder to my boat with a tool bag? What is that guy doing with that tube thing.
My rudder was being dried out under a heat lamp. I had a new bearing made to perfection being fitted in the rudder tube and there was a guy looking for me to discuss my engine. Wow, am I dreaming, its Tuesday morning and things are really moving forward. There is no doubt Fairhaven Shipyard is a place where stuff gets done.
After a chat with the engineer about the engine we decided we better get it running. Will the engineer went down to sort out a hose. If you need a hose you et a hose at Fairhaven Shipyard, before I could get down the ladder three guys were rolling out a hose to the fool of the keel. We got the engine running and Will advised me that he thought it sounded and looked fine. This engine didn't get that hot. I noted the water flow through bucket the engine was drawing from seemed slower than when I usually winterised it in the UK so we decided to start inspecting the water ways.
The water trap I tried to fix had a bloody great obstruction in it and the plastic choker put into the cooling pipe to increase the water temperature and to aid the heating of the domestic water had melted and totally blocked a waterway. Ahah!!! It appears we might have found some, if not all of the problem. So we have decided to strip the engine down as far as needed to ensure that all the cooling water ways are clear. So that's where we are. We are waiting for the gasket and water trap to arrive and then when the boat is back in the water we will run it under load and see if we have cured the problem - should be tomorrow or Thursday latest. Will also ensures me that if it is the head gasket he should be able to replace it in a few hours - we have the parts to do that already!
Things are looking good for a sail to Bermuda on Friday. Fingers crossed.
I went to bed and had a very sleepless night. It was blowing about 25 knots at anchor and it was the first time I felt that helpless feeling I had so often in the middle of the Atlantic. I cant go to sea with an engine like this. The rudder that also felt sloppy during the OSTAR also was a worry. It was this night that and the howling of the wind that made me stop and consider my way forward. Having a smoky engine and a sloppy rudder coastal sailing is one thing, but sailing to Bermuda, the Azores and then home with it....
I made the hard decision to change my plans and not go to Mystic and New York. A real shame as I had negotiated a berth for two nights in Dennis Conner North Cove in Manhattan. It would have been a great experience to moor in the shadow of the sky scrapers. Oh well, i thought about the whole thing and decided that I was actually pretty lucky. This whole trip to America was about the OSTAR and not about New York and the other spin off treats that came with it. I still see myself very lucky that the atlantic was so kind to us and that I managed to make it across - so many people in the history of the race haven't made it on their first attempt.
So once I made the decision to get the boat all sorted I managed to get to sleep. When I woke up I looked out of the hatch to find the boat Sea Wings coming straight for me. It was my friends Dick and Sue from Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. Was I pleased to see them. They moored along side and we discussed my problem. I decided from the information in the Waterway's guide that the best and closest harbour of Fairhaven was probably the place for me to seek my repairs. Dick and Sue then escorted me the 11 miles trip across Buzzards Bay in case the wind should drop of the engine should fail - or both.
We both managed to sail the whole way across the bay and I only needed to turn the engine on when a few boat length from the hurricane barrier. The yard I had chosen was Fairhaven Ship yard and located just inside the harbour. Smoking away I made it into the marina and tied up. Sea Wings turned around and went off on there was back to Judith Point. Thanks Dick and Sue for helping me out.
Okay so now in Fairhaven Shipyard - ummm, were my initial thought. This is not that place for me. I saw nothing but huge commercial fishing boats and the odd 100ft super yacht. These guys aren't going to know much about 18hp inboards and Sigma 33 rudder bearings!
Tuff, I am hear and the Waterways guys said they were a yard capable of anything....lets hope so as I am stuffed if not.
The yard had some great facilities, shower, laundry, internet and loan bikes - all for free. You could tell this place was set up for the big professional boats and crews. It's a bit like the place in Savona, Italy where I once worked on a Wally yacht.
I had a shower, took a bike to the local pizza place and then went for a bike ride. This sint too bad, there is a West Marine, a Engine parts supplier, engine workshop and oh look there is De Frenchman!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I couldn't believe it, just around the corner from where I was staying was Bart in Popes Island marina. I left a note in the cockpit and later we met up for dinner.
So with the boat securely on a mooring bout in Nantucket I went ashore and explored the island as best I could for the day. I like Nantucket. It was full of big sports fishing boats all offering charters. By the looks of things there were some big fish and even sharks to be caught. The town itself was full of boutique types shop for the rich and famous who turn up in their super yachts. Apparently Ranger the J was there only a few dasy before hand. While I was there two huge power boats turned up with mini's and helicopters on the decks. I looked around and found the whale muses which was quite interesting. I didn't know that the only reason we hunted whales was for the oil - we used it for lamps, candles and machinery. I spent the rest of the afternoon walking the town until I got a tour bus for a quick blast around the island.
I bumped into the friends I met in Martha's Vineyard and they came aboard in the morning and gave me a lift ashore. I bought supplies for my trip to Mystic and left after lunch. The wind was light and from behind for the majority of the trip so I sailed for as long as I could bare it until I started the engine. I timed it right this time and caught the tide and was well on my way to Cuttyhunk for a 6hr sleep stop before moving onto Mystic.
Unfortunately about 3 miles form Cuttyhunk I opened the cockpit locker to find my temperature light on and the buzzer sounding. Why couldn't I hear it!! I slowed down hoping that it was just that I had been running it hard for 6hours but it didn't stop so I shut the engine off and check the impeller. It was mashed to pieces. 100's of them. I swapped it over and started the engine up again. - still no water! Okay so I took the impeller out, left the cover off and start the engine. The spindle the impeller fits on wasn't turning. Bugger - my engine is bust!
I sailed as close to Cuttyhunk island as I could and found a mass of lobster pot in the anchorage! There was very little are for me to anchor between the beach, the reef and the lobster pots. Sailing in and trying to drop the anchor almost seemed an impossible task but I managed it. It was no about 7-8 in the evening. I took the water pump out of the engine and inspected it. The drive gear that connects into the engine had lost most of its teeth. Bugger again - this is going to need parts! Once I realised there was nothing I could do I had a VERY hot shower using the calorifier water and had dinner.
I got up in the middle of the night to call VOLSPEC in the UK. A Volvo Penta dealer I have used before. I got the part numbers I needed and then set about finding a dealer open on a Saturday on the east cost of the US. There was certainly no Volvo Dealer on the island of Cuttyhunk - I don't think they even have phones. Tam helped and search on the internet and e-mailed me the dealers telephone numbers. I found one open, who had the part. Right - now to get it to the island asap. I was given a telephone number of a random taxi driver need the Volvo dealer who I paid $50 to pick the $18 part up and take it to the Ferry terminal. There is only one ferry a day to Cuttyhunk and it was at 1pm. I spoke to the lady who ran the ferry and she agreed to pay te taxi driver the money and pick it up - I think she was quite used to collecting stuff for people in a panic. Thanks to Sue on the ferry, Pat at Atlantic boats and Bill the taxi driver. I got the part and canoed back out to Elmarleen, shaking with anticipation I fitted the new gear and impeller and started her up.
There was still no water - Bugger. The cabin filled with smoke so I turned off the engine. Okay lets look at the exhaust. Why is there smoke in the cabin. I climbed down the back of the cockpit lock and got to the engine. My water trap had melted. Its funny how a water trap is for trapping water and muffling the engine noise. In the UK we call it a water trap but if you go into a US parts supplier they haven't got a clue what you mean - they call it a muffler!
Anyway, I took the exhaust to bits, got the muffler out and noticed that the inlet was now a solid lump of plastic and that there were two holes in it where the bracket held it in place. That is how hot the engine must have got!
I didn't have the tools but having explained the initial problem to the harbour master at Cuttyhunk thought I would ask if I could use his workshop. So I started the very long canoe from outside the harbour to the harbour masters pontoon. Right - can I borrow a drill and some tools. He turned around in his shed - the size of a carpark attendants shed (deck chair size) and said this is it I don't have any tools. Not even a cordless drill. Anyway, I did manage to open the whole up and when back on the boat I used a chisel heated on the gas stove to melt the holes closed.
I started the engine - this time it worked but it was very smoky. A white smoke that got worse with more revs. Oh my god, I hoep this isn't the head gasket. I was gutted, the effort to get hold of the parts that day, the canoeing to and from the harbour, the remoulding of the muffler and I still want going anywhere. Not only that I was still miles from the mainland.
Hi guys. I have no idea if anyone is checking my blogs or looking on Blogstar anymore but I'm now ready to start writing again. So the OSTAR is well and truly over and the last few boats are finish and the majority of the fleet are in the Azores or well on their way home. The parties in Newport have been and gone and I am amazed at how quickly the fleet dispersed. Well thats not quite true, four days is enough to do Newport so my 11 days did start to feel like it was dragging. What I mean is that other competitors just turned around and went back. I couldn't do that. Having sailed all this distance I have to at least spend a few weeks exploring, which is what I am in the process of doing now. I guess jobs have quite a lot to answer for and it those guys who dumped there boats and flew back I feel sorry for the most. Marco, I don't know how you did it. He was back in the office in less that a week after finishing. The OSTAR was a fantastic experience but the cruising I am doing now and over the next few months is just as much fun as the race its self. Beagle is up for sail and I guess Marco is planning his next adventure/campaign. Finish one and get on with planning the next, I guess that is how you deal with being back in the office.
So, I left Newport on 29th of June and sailed with Tam to Block island. I heard it called the cheap or poor mans Nantucket and having visited both I understand why. Oh and if any of you are wondering, Yes, in America you still get those power boats charging around and making you roll about - just had a stink pot the size of Southampton steam past making a mini Tsunami.
Block Island was nice. We spent two nights and one day there, what I firmly believe to be the minimum stop over when cruising. We anchored in the Great Salt lake and used our $36 toy tender to ferry us into the harbour. It must have been a sight watching from the Oar's bar, this little silly toy rocking up on a pontoon with loads of $3000 dollar Avon and West Marine tenders. Who are these idiots, people must have thought - little did they know I had sailed from the UK.
Anyway, after Block Island a quick trip down to Cutty Hunk a tiny little Island on the far western tip of Buzzards Bay. The trip there was awful. I felt sick, Tamsin felt sick and the weather, which started off reasonable in the morning turned into the worlds worst thunder storm. Tam and I were actually quite scared and though a number of times that it was only a matter of time before we were stuck by lightening. Forks were coming down around us in every direction and the clouds looked really evil. We both hid below and I wrote down our Lat and long in case we were actually hit and lost all electronics. Little did we know at the time that Bart was out there in the same storm and was hit by lightening! He is now back in Newport replacing his electronics.
Cutty hunk is crazy. Its tiny and must have a population of about 40 people. We bought a breakfast from the Cutty hunk Fishing club which was served on plates from the 70's and you often see in charity shops back in the UK. The morning was miserable and yesterdays thunderstorm had left this miserable drizzle. I asked the lady at the fishing club what the weather forecast was and she sounded like she had never looked before. I don't watch TV or listen to the radio, she replied, its raining now and anyway what every they normally say is different when on the island. So, well informed of the weather Tam and I has a stroll around the island and then head back to the boat. Next stop Martha's Vineyard.
Oh, when achored in Cutty hunk we heard two boats circle us late at night. We couldn't work out what they were doing at the time but in the morning a nice man from Marion came along side and asked us all about the race. He had followed the race all the way over and couldn't believe we were there. So he offered us a lift ashore and bought us coffee from the local coffee stand on the pontoon - two people, a plastic table and a large umbrella. Phew, we didn't have to use our super stylish tender! Bumping into OSTAR race followers didn't stop there and later we meet two more.
The weather cleared up and Elmarleen, Tam and I set sail for Vineyard Haven a harbour on the Northern coast or Martha's Vineyard. Its approach was very similar to Cowes and even had the passenger and car ferry shooting in and out from Woods Hole . Again we anchored and I made camp here for a whole week. Tam flew out on the Saturday afternoon on a tiny little Cape Air flight direct to Boston airport. I think the plane only took 8 passengers. Before she left we went to Oaks Bluff for a day trip on the Friday.
I went to Edgertown direct from dropping Tam off at the airport to watch the July 4th fireworks. Well when I got there the precession was in full flow. WW2 vets, Star Wars, Fire brigade, you name it they were out there wearing there uniforms and outfits with the Stars and Stripes in the back ground.
I spent the remaining three days just doing some basic stuff on the boat - tidying! And looking around the island. I went to Menemsha on the local bus, but fell asleep and had my wallet stolen. So I ditched that idea and went back to the boat. Tried again the next day and did the full island tour without a hitch.
On the Friday night before Tam left we had another tender rock up along side Elmarleen. Hello, we heard and it was another follower of the race. As you are so far away from home fancy coming onboard our boat for a few drinks! We did and it turned out that they were originally from the UK and knew Warsash Maritime College as well as having kids who were in Southampton.
Same thing happened a few days later. I was chatting to someone while filling up with water at the town tap and before I knew it, he and his wife were on board looking at an OSTAR yacht.
Anyway, I left on Wednesday from Nantucket which turned out to be a bit of a pain. I wanted to get there Wednesday evening and no later as I am running out of days to get to New York. It was tide again from the first few hours and I was doing 2.5knots. I couldn't have left earlier as I was waiting for something to turn up in the afternoon delivery to West Marine. Well I got to Nantucket but it was a very slow trip and I got there in the dark. I tentatively went into the harbour dodging moorings and anchored boats and then threw the hook down. What a mistake! I had chosen an area where the current in Nantucket harbour runs really strong. Elmarleen wouldn't sit to the wind or to the current. In the end I had the anchor warp wrapped around the keel. It took me two hours to untangle and in the process I kicked a genoa car and ripped two toe nails off. Ouch. I still had the problem of how to settle for the evening. I through out the drogue and a bucket off the transom. It helped a little but not enough. I pulled them in and set the storm jib on the backstay and sheeted it in really tight. That worked so I went to sleep. An hour later the wind got up to 20kn so I dropped the storm jib. The tide must have dropped to as the boat seemed okay.
The following morning I looked at it all again and I wasn't happy to leave her at anchor. She was all over the place and riding over her anchor chain all the time. So I gave up and paid the $60 fee for a mooring bouy. The plan was to only spend one day in Nantucket before starting a west course towards New York.
To be continued
A massive thank you.
It was always my intention during the race to write to everyone individually who has helped me and support me getting to the start. Well I am now at the finish and I never got around to writing those e-mails. Why, I was a lot busier than I thought as sea and secondly there were just far too many of you.
So here I try to sum up in one blog the biggest thank you I can muster.
The raffle ticket helpers and sellers - Thank you, the money you raised me is now paying my mortgage.
All the guys at Marchwood Yacht Club who helped, joked and supported me in the months before the race.
Mike Peckham for the loan of his life raft, a few other bits and pieces and for giving me the final push I needed in January to post the entry form off.
Steve Sedgall for making all those bits in the tool room.
St Peter's Pharmacy for my First Aid Kit
Jon Coleman for the loan of Lucky
Ben Greer for his support on the raffle
Richard Gibson for getting me endless discounts and helping out in Plymouth.
Adrian Walker for providing me with position updates everyday and also for his help in Plymouth.
Matt Glasgow for being as predictably unreliable as ever. Thanks for you help over the years.
Paul Austin at Hydes sails who has done an awesome job at providing the tools to do the job.
Yachting Sports - Probably the biggest thank you of all. You guys taught me everything I know about boats. How to build them, repair them, sail them. Derek, Tony, Nick - I did this for you. Without you I wouldn't have bought Elmarleen. Walking in the door of Yachting Sports in February 1998 changed my life.
Tim Rees - for suggesting I take enough spare rigging to make a lower should one break.
All the guys from the Triangle race last year who came out to the start line to see me off.
Rob of Advanced Cover for making me the best sprayhood you could ever want and turning it around in less than a week.
My house mate Emma who has put up with my sails, liferaft, cushions and general boat stuff all over the house and who heard nothing but Ostar this and Ostar that for the last year.
Everyone who sent messages, texts, e-mails, phone calls comments on the blog, they were read and taken to heart and helped in driving me to the finish. Thank you
Ben Meakins and Vicki G for helping me get my story into print.
David Thomas, the Sigma owners and all those who responded to the PBO article.
The guys at Raymarine who helped get the gear on the boat sorted, upgraded software, serviced autopilots in their lunch time, helped me make my own sat phone antennas, turned a blind eye to me designing stuff for the boat during working hours - you know who you are.
My catering manager - Cheers Mum, and thanks for all the help in the early days in Norfolk.
Dad, Gemma, Clare, Holly and Izzy who are just the best.
Oh and of course the inevitable, anyone and everyone I have forgotten. Thank you I couldn't have done it without you
The worst night of my life.
The main reason for the not posting the previous blog was as I was writing it the wind started to drop off. Surely not now, with less than 20 miles to go. Being very tired from the previous night dodging the huge number of fishing boats I started to panic. I was so close to winning the OSTAR (I feel I can finally say win without jinxing myself now) and yet the corrected time lead I have could now be wasted away as I drift in site of the finish line. I have learnt quite a few lessons about life through sailing and one of the most important ones I have learnt is, its not over till its over. I have been winning many a dinghy race and seen it all fall apart as I've got caught in the tide or a wind hole just before the finish. Well is it all going to fall apart now?
Very tired and after 23 days of leading the race I panicked. I looked at the grib files, that made it worse as there was very little wind forecast. I looked at Barts position who was a few hours ahead and he had stopped moving too. I ran the corrected time calcs over and over again looking at how much time I had to waste drifting around. I looked at the distance to go on the chartplotter and the SOG every 30 seconds to see if I had made any progress - It was my idea of hell and by far the worst and most stressful I have ever been. Forget work deadlines, exams, etc - 23 days at sea leading a race on handicap and here it was falling apart in front of me.
Very tired and now dark, sails flogging relentlessly, I cut up a cupboard door and attached it to a long pole I use to make my lee cloths. I drilled holes in the door, and cable tied it to the pole - the boat that I was quite proud of how tidy and organised she was after 23 days, turned into a bomb site - I started to row. Autopilot on, I paddled and rowed and then looked at the boat speed. The RWYC changed the rules to allow oars and paddles to be used. The more effort I put in the hotter I got more the boat started to rock and roll, flogging the sails more and more. It was hell. Tired, stressed with the clock ticking, hungry, sweating from rowing I just lost it and started to cry. The boat speed went from 0.9 to 1.1 - rowing wasn't worth the effort. Surely not, how cruel can this be. My story, Will and Elmarleen, the buying the boat, restoring her, leaving work, the ostar, the last 23 days leading the race and now the final chapter to this story could be spoilt by the lack of wind. Where would I come, 2,3,4,5 - the gap between the competitors was so close. It could be worse. I looked again, wind speed, boat speed, SOG, distance to go and nothing had changed. I tried rowing again as if my life depended on it and I made next to no difference. It was the hardest and most difficult time of my life, made so so much worse as I hadn't slept for the second night.
This carried on until sunrise, by which time I had reduced the distance to the finish by a mile or two. But then the little breath of wind that there was changed direction. It was now on the nose to the finish. It built to three knots and I could generate about 5 knots apparent if I sailed free an easy but it was still no good. The tide was starting to turn and with the finish in sight all I could manage was to reach parallel on either tack to the finish line. Desperately looking for wind lines as the sun got higher I took some reassurance that the tide would turn in six hours and start to help me. Six hours - loosing six hours, how would that effect my overall position? 2,3,4,5. I was clearly tired and not thinking straight. I down loaded further gribs in a panic and they said that there would be very little wind. Oh god, its going to happen, I am going to throw this whole race away with just 12 miles to go.
Then as the UK woke up, the text messages started to fly in - Will have you won. Where are you, Tracker says you haven't moved - Have you finished? It was awful so I turned both my mobile and sat phone off. I just sat there reaching parallel to the finish line at about 2 knots. Praying for a puff more breeze and the direction to swing around. I cannot describe how I felt. I wondered if I would every race again, surely I would never recover from a cruel blow like this. And then as I hand steered the boat I felt a chill on my face and the direction of the wind changed, I was knocked. Tacking within a few minutes and once I was sure it was a steady change, I was on the favourable tack from Castle Hill. Then a moment later I got the lift of my life and the wind swung round so I could lay the finish. I burst into tears and just prayed it would stay . I was doing about 4 knots and it would take a couple of hours to close the line. Please please please wind hold on. The lucky wind that Holly and Izzy (my two nieces) blow towards me before going to bed on Tuesday night had reached me.
I made the call to race control that I was an hour from the finish and I sailed into the mouth of Newport. I could see both ends of the finish line and I started the short tacks up the eastern side towards the Castle Hill light house. Taking much bigger risks than I ever would normally, sailing within a boat length or the shore, I felt Elmarleen and I were invincible. I crossed the line moments later at 13:00UT after the worst night of my life.
I wrote this blog on Tuesday night with four hours to go to the finish but I never got around to sending it.
I am so sorry I haven't written any blogs for the last few days. I have been concentrating so hard on getting this boat to the finish line and just wanted some time to myself to focus. I also have had the small problem of having no fingers. My nerves got the better of me and after chewing through my finger nails I moved onto my fingers. I am typing with my nose.
I have just come into mobile reception and blackberry is going crazy. I can not believe how many people have been e-mailing me with support. I have only flicked through a couple as there is at least a weeks worth of reading but I am so so grateful for all you support. I f I had had any idea you were all e-mailing me I would have kept blogging over the last few days. I so hope you haven't lost interest and will check my blog when you get up tomorrow (Wednesday 17th)
Well I am here, I am in American water, I can see Martha's Vineyard. I am approximately 35miles from the finish. That's 5-6 hours if the wind keeps up. It is by far the best evening of the whole trip. I have a steady breeze from the NE I'm sailing at 6 knots under asymmetric kite. I am listening to the stereo and wondering if I really have to finish - to top it off it's a lovely sunset, I have just had an amazing meal - (mutton stew mum). This is what life is all about. I am even writing this in the cockpit.
The last few days have taken there toll on my nerves. I can honestly say I have not enjoyed it at all. I have learnt that there are two parts to the OSTAR. There is the challenge, the taking part, the making it, the beating the Atlantic and then there is the race; the trim trim trim, no sleep, push push push. The race has spoilt the last few days as I have not been able to relax or enjoy this amazing experience, I have just had to concentrate on Grib files, gybing angles, cutting the edge off the shallows. The possibility of a win. I'm sure I will soon forget about it but over the last few days I wish i had been coming last and then I wouldn't have been under so much pressure. It all started on the 2nd night when my shroud broke, I got a text from Richard - 'Will, you legend, keep it up, you are winning' Ever since that text message, for the last 21 days I have been trying to ignore the possibility of me getting that result, fighting between keeping the boat together and sailing as fast as I can.
Anyway, I am here, I am spitting distance from the finish. I may do quite well. What a 3 weeks. I look at the time and it feels like ever and like yesterday at the same time. I have missed my friends, family, Tam, like mad. But I have loved the being at sea. I love the sailing, the daily challenges, the being self sufficient and most importantly the freedom.
So in the last 23 days have I found myself, met my inner demon, discovered who I am. No, I haven't I have just confirmed what I already knew. That I, Will Sayer can do anything if I put my mind to it. As my mother said when I was little, 'You can do anything if you try hard enough'. If you look at the route I have taken to get a boat, repair it, make the modification and get to the start line, it makes the race one tiny chapter of a seven year story.
I have written a lot of blogs on this trip that I chose not to upload. I am quite pleased I didn't post one in particular. The first week of this adventure must have had Elmarleen looking like a disaster with bits breaking, falling off, snapping. Well we have had a few challeneges along the way, but I wrote a blog pleading wither her to stick together until the finish. Well, in a less tired state, I take it back. Elmarleen is a tough little boat and more than capable of cross the Atlantic. I have huge confidence in her and what she can do. The majority of breakages seen at the beginning of the race were not show stoppers and never would have been but were due to lack of time on the water before the start. They would have all been highlighted weeks before the start if I had just got out there and done more sailing. The Atlantic finds these weaknesses and expose them straight away, it did that alright, but once it did and we had them sorted Elmarleen has been brilliant.
Only 4 more hours to go. Fingers crossed this wind holds together.
So its 3 am UT and I am sitting up watching the kite. It is an amazing evening the stars are so bright and clear. I have had the kite up all day pretty much, apart from 10 minutes when the Atlatnic thought it would tease me. The wind piped up like it did on Thursday and I thought I better drop it. Better play it safe. Well no sooner had I got it down the wind dropped and backed off a bit. So it went straight back up.
Tonight the wind is supposed to be from the North or even North East according to the grib file I have been watching all day. Well, here I am sitting up wondering whether to drop the kite and go with the Genoa. The wind has come forward to about 50-60 apparent, right on the limit of the kite. Well its actually gone past that as I have cracked off 15 degrees. Do I drop it and go white sails or keep it absolutely strapped in and hope that the wind is going to come back to where it's forecast to be. You know dam well that the second I have it dropped the wind will be on the aft quarter within 15 minutes.
Come on just free up 15-20 degrees, let me come back on course and get some sleep.
20 minutes later .....................
Okay that is what you call a drop by feel. I decidd that it woudl be best to drop. It appears that in the 10 minutes its taken to drop the wind has backed so probably a good decision. My deck light is broken so I have been using my steaming light to shed light on any midnight foredeck work. But tonight my head torche seems to have given up the ghost too. Without crew to hold a torche it was just a case of do it blind folded! It came down so far without a problem but it did take me a while to find the knot in the spinnaker halyard. Good job it wasnt windy.
So now sailing a little higher and a little faster under white sails, im going to try and have some sleep.
Its been much of the same here for the past few days. Not a huge amount to report apart that my finger nails are pretty nonexistent, something to do with the way things are looking under corrected time. Its all a bit close to call right now and I do wonder if it could be possible, the thought I have had since night of day two and I have been desperately trying to shut out of my mind. It's not worth thinking about it until Castle Hill light and Kettle Bottom rock are firmly behind me.
So two boats have finished and its looking like, in marathon terms, the masses will start to get in Monday and Tuesday. I have been studying the weather very closely over the last day or so and it is all going to be quite close. I have a fantastic breeze right now with the asymmetric kite up flying along at 8 knots SOG, you couldn't ask for more. The wind looks like it will stay like this until Monday and maybe even into Tuesday, but then it goes lights as a high covers Newport. For me its quite straight forward, I have to use this good wind I have now to get every mile out of it to minimise any time spent in the light airs on Wednesday. If I get stuck in those light airs for more than a few hours I could simply see any chance I have of getting a good result fade fast. So I have about 450 miles or so to go to the finish and 3 days before the wind runs out. That's three days of 150 miles a day. It is possible and I have had a best run of 160 miles in one day, but I need to hold three back to back. I feel I am well on the way there for day one with the way thing are going now. This might mean I have to forget any sleep for the next few days and just keep this kite pulling as hard as I can.
I am using the autopilot rather than the windvane now and I plan to use it all the way to the finish. I believe is holds a better course, especially in these downwind conditions. I have so much diesel I might as well use it. Its day 20 and I think I have used less than a 3rd of my tank. I had no idea that my engine would use so little running it out of gear to just charge batteries. So I have a routine, I run the engine twice a day, once first thing in the morning and then as late as I can in the evening before the volt meters hit 12v. I run it for anything from an hour to two, it all depends on this bloody sterling alternator regulator, I whish I hadn't fitted it. Every single alarm it has goes off, but never the same one. I've had, high battery voltage, high alternator voltage, high battery temperature and also no charge what so ever! I know using the alternator in its standard way without these advanced thingys isn't getting the most out of them - but it is getting something out of them! Anyway, I have plenty of diesel so I'm just living with the issues.
Since the Banks as the mostly running weather has kicked in I have really started to appreciate what an IPOD can do for moral. I'm not a huge listener of music, I have an IPOD,I have a stereo in the car and boat but I'm not someone who has their earphones plugged in all day at their desk at work. Well, pump it up and play some of those tunes that bring back those days at school, uni, in the workshop fitting out the boat. Its just a shame you cant pick up Jonny Walker out here.
Talking of running the engine. In order to start mine I have to burry my head into the cockpit locker and do the whole cold start procedure before turning the key. Well its getting seriously unpleasant in that locker. It's starting to smell like the next door neighbours wheelie bin that hasn't been emptied for a week or two while they have been on holiday. I'm sure you know the smell I mean, if not just pop down to Port Solent when the winds blowing in the wrong direction!
I'm off to go and tweak this kite, I'm rolling all over the place.
I have been sailing since I was seven, using spinnakers in Mirror's and 420 since my early teens. I have raced both asymmetric and symmetrical spinnakers on dinghys such as Laser 4000's, 505's right the way through to doing foredeck on Ben 40.7s...yet I still manage to get my knickers in a twist when I'm dropping my 58sqm kite, single handed in 25 knots of breeze!
It was a close one and one that I will use as an example for the rest of the race to make me slow down, take my time and above all don't push it too hard.
It has been a lovely afternoon with the sun out and a steady 10-15 knots of breeze at about 120' apparent. I have been flying with the kite up and the autopilot driving. The grib files didn't show that it was due to get any winder so I was planning to hold it up over night and until tomorrow afternoon when the wind is due to come round a little more southerly.
The wind has been gently building as the afternoon continues but nothing to much to worry about. As you get more confident in the autopilot doing its work and recovering those knocks and twists by the waves and you start to relax. I'm on port tack - the broken shroud side - and surfing down waves in excess of 10-11 knots. Fantastic for improving my average speed. It starts to get a bit edgy so I decide I will take the tiller and simply steer for as long as I can - 4 -5 hours until I struggle to concentrate. Every hour I spend sailing at 8-9 knots is worth the agro of hand steering as I'm travelling twice the speed of my handicaps calculated average speed. Basically 4-5 hours would equal the best part of half a days run.
Anyway, I'm more tired than I imagine so I switch back to the pilot and at this stage realise that is actually to much for it. I start to plan my strategy on how to drop the kite when I find I'm broaching all over the place. My bad shroud!!! Jesus Will, why am I taking these sorts of risk on this side of the boat. In a blind panic I am layout out ropes, preparing winches for the inevitable fire of the halyard. In the process as another broach. I grab the tiller and sail dead down wind - that should sort it - no, the waves are now causing the kite to flog and spiral around the forestay - Jesus Will, I'm going to get a wrap. I grab the tiller and go the other way - Jesus Will, I broach again as a wave spins me round. This is probably the least in control I have felt during the whole of the race. On one hand I have a broach situation on a make shift shroud - that quiet simply isn't tight enough and on the other I am being rolled so badly I keep on getting the spinnaker wrapped around the forestay.
I blow 2 meters or halyard, then blow the guy. I then grab the lazy guy will all my might and pull hoping that I can gather the entire width of the kite behind the main sail before firing the halyard. No - I see the spinnaker pulling but now pulling 30 foot from the boat. The lazy sheets caught on the windward side and the lazy guy I am supposed to be pulling is smoking as it burns through my hands.
I got the thing down in the end but it didn't half give me a wake up call as to spinnakers, lumpy sea, single handed sailing and pushing just a little too hard. I am now sailing under white sails only and yes it has knocked the edge off my speed, however I am still sailing well above 6 knots, I'm in control and I'm not faced with a 4-5 hour marathon steering session.
Lesson learnt - and I still have a spinnaker and a mast, either of which I could have lost.