Vang Tang goes Bang
19 April 2008 | Hiva Oa, Marquesas
First, let me tell you how happy, and relieved, I am with the relatively light amount of gear-failure we experienced on the passage from Mexico to the Marquesas Islands. The combined efforts of wind and waves, multiplied over 25 days of 'round-the-clock sailing, can conspire to wreak havoc on even the most robust of designs. It is more the rule than the exception that a boat will experience gear problems, sometimes with dire consequence. While we did not escape the statistics-column, our issues were relatively mild.
Our first casualty was our whisker-pole. This is an aluminum pole, attached at one end to the mast, that is used to "pole out" or provide support to the jib (head sail) in light air. Without this pole, the jib would alternately fill and collapse, which is hard on the sail and rigging, and very inefficient for forward progress. The pole can also be used to support the jib for running deep downwind, at angles not possible without the pole. It was in this service that our pole crapped out.
We were running, almost dead-downwind, with the jib poled-out. Winds were in the high teens, and a good swell was hitting our stern quarter, attempting to round us up (turn the boat into the swell). As the boat would begin to round up, the pressure on the jib material would increase. This, in turn, increased the compression force on the pole. The fitting attaching the pole to the mast was the unfortunate recipient of this force, and it eventually gave out. No muss, no fuss, but it relegated our pole to the trash-heap until we can fabricate a new, and stronger, fitting.
Failure number 2 was really no more significant. Our boom-vang separated from where it attaches to the boom, but because of other miscellaneous bits and pieces dangling from under the boom, it was still "captured" so it could not travel aft (a good thing). It, however, could, and did, travel forward, which prevented me from tightening the vang when I wanted to harden the main sail for additional drive. It hadn't occurred to me prior, but after I lost the use of the vang, I realized how much I had been using it to adjust sail-shape. Anyway, it really didn't inconvenience us too much, but my confidence factor in the vang's design and strength dropped considerably. With the help of our good friends on Tin Soldier, we were able to provide some additional support, both in the fore-and-aft directions, which should allow us to once again use the vang until we can repair it properly.
On another, entirely un-related, note: We have often read how cruisers can "smell" land after a lengthy passage. Descriptions range from smelling the vegetation, the wet earth, etc. Well, let me tell you.all I can smell is.ME. And it's not nice. So, if this is what the impending landfall smells like, I want no part of it!