A fond farewell
09 June 2011 | 16N; 126W
Last night was pretty rough and not very restful. The seas were pretty big -- in the 10-12' range -- and not very organized. It made it tough for Otto to steer to and consequently the crew was jostled about a bit. I actually was able to somehow get some good rest through it all.
We bid a fond farewell to the spinnaker this morning. It was sad. About 1020 the wind had died down to a paltry 15k and I decided we may as well go ahead and throw up the spinnaker. We were running downwind with an apparent wind angle of about 140 degrees. We got the kite up all right and she pulled well for about half an hour. But the aforementioned sea state had Otto steering like a drunken sailor. (I suspect he has been nipping at the vodka in the fishing locker!)
Anyhow, I punched up the response level on Otto a notch so he would steer a straighter course. About 15 minutes later we got sort of knocked down. It wasn't a real knockdown where the kite is flogging. We just had a wave push our stern around so the bow came up closer to the wind. We had the kite over trimmed so it kept drawing but now more on a beam reach. Just as I was thinking of going for the helm Otto took over and got the boat back on track. Well, that was the warning.
A few minutes later it happened again with the boat essentially leaned over sailing on a beam reach in 15k. This time I hesitated to see if Otto was going to correct the course and that was the spinnaker's undoing. Otto was taking his dang time getting the course corrected so I moved over to the steering station to do it for him. But before I could get to the wheel I heard a big bang like from a shotgun. I looked up to see the spinnaker trailing off to leeward, floating in the air above the water like a butterfly.
My heart sank but I didn't have time to dwell on emotions. I jumped up to the bow and instinctively tugged on the dousing sock. Of course, I wasn't dousing anything -- all the sail material was floating above the water. I called for Jim to come help and he came up onto the foredeck with me and started hauling in the now wet spinnaker from the water. I didn't want to run over it and foul it in our prop nor did I want to go 'shrimping' and have to try to haul a water balloon of a sail out of the water. Fortunately Jim got the sail on deck without incident and we were able to put it away.
Some after-the-fact investigation has shown that the spinnaker block attached to the top of the mast failed completely. When it failed, the shock load on the sail finished it off. I will talk to Harken, but I am sure all they will do is replace the block. The sail is on me! So it looks like we will do the rest of the let to Hawaii as well as the return trip to Seattle with just the jib and main.
I am pretty sad about it. When it blew up the first time in the Atlantic during the ARC I was mad at myself and upset over the incident. Now I am just sad. That sail has given me/us many fond memories. Like sailing into Hvar, Croatia under full main and spinnaker. Or trimming her like I was racing while Otto drove off the coast of Italy. Or screaming along Ibiza on our way to Fomenterra in the Ballearics. Or Sailing her solo (with Will sleeping down below) while crossing the Ionian Sea to Greece at night. There are many more memories, but I wanted to list a few as a fitting tribute. It is like losing a part of yourself.
On a more pragmatic level, we put in 180 nm yesterday so we are closing fast on our target. We caught 4 bonito this afternoon and threw them all back. I felt bad because I am pretty sure one is not going to make it. So I killed a fish and lost a spinnaker today -- not the best of worlds. But we remain safe, and I am forever grateful for that. The seas are building -- in the 12' range with the larger ones approaching 15'. They are on our quarter so it isn't too bad. Still quite uncomfortable, though. We'll manage just fine.
Farewell my good friend.