Mon Oct 12 0:00:00 EDT 2009
The picture is of the nice, downwind sailing conditions before the Force 9 (Severe Gale). I did not take the camera out or go to the bow while in the force 9 :).
After the anchor had been well-secured and I no longer had fears of it breaking loose, the forecast winds steadily increased. I was in deep water offshore, planning to cross the continental shelf (where the water is shallower) soon on the way to Rio de la Plata. The winds were forecast to be from behind me (NE) for a couple of days, strengthening to force 5, then 6, then 7. I felt it would be fine to be on the continental shelf for a force 7, but if it got to force 8 or above, it would be better to be in deep water, where the waves would be longer and less steep.
Despite really wanting to get into port quickly, I thought it would be prudent to stay in deep water in case the wind was higher than forecast. That was fortunate, as the forecast wind did increase to force 8 and 9 as the gale approached. The gale itself was force 9 for several hours, and force 8 for many more.
Gales are really not enjoyable...they are loud, wet and uncomfortable. I ran before the gale with a Galerider drogue, which is a kind of mesh bag that is designed to slow the boat down, not stop it. It was the first time I'd run before a real gale (previously I tended to heave-to), and the first time I'd tried using a drogue. It worked well enough, pulling the stern of the boat back when waves hit. Running before a gale seems to involve far more waves coming across the deck than heaving-to does, but seems a better way of handling bigger seas.
Everything on the boat held together, and after 18 hours the wind moderated and sailing became much more pleasant.
Sat Oct 10 0:00:00 EDT 2009
I mentioned this has been an unusually busy trip. This has been due mostly to the number of things that broke. I wrote about the anchor breaking loose, and that was the worst of the problems, but there were others. There hasn't been a lot of pleasant sailing on this trip, but here is a picture of sailing in very nice conditions, late in the afternoon. As we get farther south, the days get longer, and the sunrises and sunsets are slower.
In benign conditions and safe waters, it is nice to have one glass of wine in the late afternoon. After spending all day hove-to, in an adverse current, going slowly backwards while securing the anchor, after I got sailing again, I decided it was time to celebrate the anchor being secure with a glass of wine.
As I was sipping the wine, it occurred to me that I was having a glass of wine when the windvane broke, and another when the fisherman sail ripped. I had not had time to fix either yet.
The wind continued to lighten, then died entirely. Frustrated that all day we had gone nowhere but about 10 miles backwards (due to the current), I decided to drop the sails and motor for a while.
Sails down, I turned the key and found that the engine would not start! Clearly, drinking wine was causing the boat to break! :)
So, no wind, no engine, current taking us in the wrong direction, past sundown, and being safely far offshore, the sensible thing to do was sleep--sail if the wind came up, otherwise just work on the engine in the morning. I tried to sleep, but kept thinking about the engine, and realized I could probably get it started with a boost from another battery. I did so, it started, and I motored for an hour to charge the starting battery. There is a master off switch for the starter motor on this boat (an odd thing to have), which I had forgotten to turn off when I left port, and that drained the battery.
After motoring for an hour, the wind came up, and we were able to sail again. The following day I was able to fix the fisherman and the windvane self-steering.
For the rest of the trip, I had no more wine, and nothing else broke :).
Fri Oct 9 0:00:00 EDT 2009
The anchor being lashed on by ropes and, later, chain to avoid the ropes being cut by the sharp edges of the anchor, as below, was enough to get through the near gale. No weather more severe was in the forecast, but I always try to have a plan for what to do if the wind gets two Beaufort Forces higher than expected.
My plan for the new anchor, if we got into a Force 9 (Severe Gale), was to disconnect it, unlash it and jettison it at sea. I really didn't like this idea--of throwing away a new and expensive anchor--but considering the damage that a loose anchor could do to the boat (especially the roller furlers, which I would need working later to continue sailing), if we encountered a severe gale, jettisoning the new anchor could be the least bad option.
As it was a light headwind day, the waves were quite small, and it was feasible to think about carefully moving the anchor and securing it better. I hove to and spent most of the day preparing and moving the anchor to the position in the above picture. I drilled a hole in the fluke and put a shackle in so I could tie a rope to the fluke and rotate the anchor up where it could be better secured.
The sharp edges of the Raya's shank were rapidly cutting into the plastic roller. By putting the anchor into a position where it only contacted steel, I hoped to avoid it cutting the plastic more (which would cause further movement as it cut away its support). So, after almost a days work (one needs to be very careful and ready to move quickly to work with an anchor on the bowsprit at sea as the boat is still going up and down in the waves), the anchor was well supported and secured with enough chains and ropes connected to shackles that I felt it was ready for a severe gale.
A few days later, there was a severe gale (Force 9), and I was very happy to have better secured the anchor, as it did stay in place. More about that later.
Mon Oct 5 0:00:00 EDT 2009
When I left anchor, no winds stronger than Force 6 (strong breeze) were in the forecast for the planned week-long sail. That changed when I got farther offshore, and the next day the forecast was steadily upgraded to Force 7 (near gale) and Force 8 (gale). Fortunately the wind was from behind, so running with the gale (instead of stopping for it) would be helpful.
A couple of hours into the near gale (F7), I heard the new anchor banging around and went forward to look at it. A tab that had been welded to the anchor to make it work with the anchor mounting system on the boat had broken off. Now the anchor was only held to it's mount by gravity, so when the boat hit the waves, the water pushed the anchor up and out of its mount. A heavy, sharp steel anchor is a really bad thing to have loose at sea!
I carefully lashed the anchor onto its mount with several ropes, taking care not to get pinched by the moving anchor. That was enough to get through the near gale, but only by re-lashing it later with more ropes and chain, as shown in the picture. A problem with the Raya anchor, which I had not understood before, is that the shank (the handle, not the part that grabs the seabed) is cut from a plate of steel, and the sharp edges from that cut were not rounded. When fitting the anchor, I noticed the sharp edges, but didn't think of them in terms of how to lash such an object at sea, because the sharp edges keep cutting through any ropes used to lash them. On my todo list now is grinding down all the sharp edges of the anchor.
As night fell, the sky suddenly cleared and the wind dropped. This happened really quickly, so I figured we were in some kind of eye of a localized part of the near gale. A few minutes later, a light wind picked up from the opposite direction, and rain clouds appeared. As it was getting hard to predict what the wind would do next, I lowered the one sail I had up and lashed the steering. Heavy rain followed, with much lightning and thunder, as I waited it out below. The boat is a pretty safe place to be in lightning, but only if one avoids touching metal, so it is much better to be belowdecks when in lightning.
The waves dropped quickly, which was nice, probably due to the relatively shallow water we were in. An hour later I was able to set more sails and get back on course in lighter winds.
I'm late in posting this because its been an unusually busy trip, of which I will write more about later.
Sun Oct 4 0:00:00 EDT 2009
There was a lot of rain and consequent flooding in Navegantes/Itajai last week. The port was closed for a while, so I was late in leaving. On my first attempt to leave, a few miles downstream the engine over-temperature alarm went off and, having no easy place to anchor, and not having tested the new anchor handling system yet, I pulled alongside a steel fishing boat and tied up so I could shut off the engine and see what was wrong. In my haste to get the boat tied up and the engine off before it stopped itself, it wasn't the gentlest docking, but that is what strong boats are for :).
I checked the raw water impeller and cleaned the strainer (filter for taking debris out of the seawater that is used to cool the engine), which wasn't really dirty. I was pleasantly surprised that this seemed to fix the problem, as I didn't actually fix anything, but upon starting the engine again, the cooling system was working properly. The fishing boat I had tied to had to leave, and was nice enough to wait ten minutes for me to check the impeller and strainer. So I left and the fishing boat left. I continued down the river towards the sea, wondering what had really gone wrong with the cooling system, and if the problem would recur. As I approached the entrance (exit) of the harbor, a stiff onshore wind had come up, and from a distance I could see a fair amount of white water (breaking seas) near the entrance. Without getting closer I couldn't tell whether the sea was breaking in the entrance channel, or just beside it, but, given that I wasn't convinced I didn't still have a cooling system problem that could possibly cause me to lose the engine at a really bad time, I decided to turn back.
I motored back up the river, heading for the boatyard I had come from. Before I got there, I was passing my friend Fernando's other fishing boat (he has two fishing boats, one of which I was tied beside in the boatyard, the other of which was at another boatyard further downriver), and he was aboard, saw me, and invited me to tie alongside his boat. Knowing there is someone to throw docklines to when tieing up is always nice when you are singlehanded, so I tied up there instead. Everyone in the boatyard or on the fishing boat seemed interested in my boat, so came aboard for a look around (very few yachts come to this area...it is all working boats). Fernando asked his engineer to look at my engine, and he pointed out that I had air in the cooling system (this happened for several reasons and had been building up for a long time) which likely caused my overheating problem and showed me how to bleed it.
Late the next day, after finishing a few jobs, I left Brazil for the second time :). The engine worked fine, I motored out of the entrance in much less wind, and started to head south. Now that I was in the waves, the anchor started banging around badly, and as soon as I was in deep water, I tied it up to keep it from moving. A nice tailwind had come up, and I began sailing nicely south, but needed to sleep, so sailed onto anchor after only a few miles. It was a rolly anchorage, as I wasn't being picky, just wanted to sleep and then continue in the morning. The new anchor held fine, which I would expect it to, as it wasn't a particularly difficult anchorage for an anchor of that size.
In the morning I noticed the hydraulic steering cylinder was moving around a lot and I realized the bolts were loose. I tightened some of them, but needed to get to a quiet anchorage to get them all done properly. I also wanted to work on padding where the anchor was held to keep it from banging around. Fortunately, there were lots of good places to anchor around, so I sailed to Florianopolis, anchored there and did the repairs.
After doing a lot of stuff to a boat, it is common to do sea trials, to confirm what is working and what needs more attention. One way of doing sea trials is to provision for a journey, head to sea knowing where alternatives (anchorages, shelter, etc) are, and test and repair as necessary.
The following day, in a flat calm, I motored off the anchor and out to sea, in my third attempt to leave Brazil. Sometimes, you just have to keep trying :).
The picture is of Ilha Santa Catarina, seen from amidships. You can see the new dinghy is mounted upside down on the deck.
Wed Sep 30 0:00:00 EDT 2009, Navegantes, SC, Brazil
Its not everyday that you step out to see an overtaking Pirate Ship :).
Tue Sep 29 0:00:01 EDT 2009, Itajai, SC, Brazil
Another pretty church in Itajai.
Tue Sep 29 0:00:00 EDT 2009, Itajai, SC, Brazil
Church in Itajai
Mon Sep 28 10:06:04 EDT 2009, Navegantes, SC, Brazil
This is a work-in-progress picture of what's changing in the cockpit. The sliding companionway hatch has been replaced by a stainless steel frame covered in 1/2" (12.7mm) polycarbonate (and plywood on the top piece). The stainless steel straps across the door are part of the hinges, making it strong enough to handle a lot of weight hanging on the far edge. The door is 1" (25mm) marine plywood. A window in the door is still to be added. The bolts in the middle of the door are for the handle that is on the inside (not visible in the picture). There are two handles to hold the door closed (top and bottom), which press against a rubber gasket making it watertight.
The outside steering wheel, which was always too large to be easily used, would have obstructed the door, so it was modified to be the same size as the inside steering wheel.
There are now rope clutches (by the red rope at the right side of the picture) on each side to make the preventers (ropes that prevent the boom from moving) easy to use.
Not well shown in the picture is a larger main halyard winch, which was moved from the foredeck (where it was never got much use).
Sun Sep 27 9:19:49 EDT 2009, Itajai, SC, Brazil
Museum in Itajai