South Atlantic - Days 7/8

Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Mon 14 Jan 2013 23:44
19:19S 001:17W  1436 miles covered
We have crossed the Greenwich meridian and the degrees of longitude are counting up again.  But not counting up very quickly because the wind has died away to about 12 knots from the south-east which means we can only sail at about 6 knots directly downwind.  St Helena is almost exactly to our north west so there is no wind angle we can exploit to go any faster.
Still, with the lower wind comes a smooth ocean and it was a warm sunny day today.  Quite conducive to lying around doing crossword puzzles and listening to audio books.  Six knots is just fast enough to feel like you are still getting somewhere, so nobody  was really frustrated, although Andrea got a bit bored this afternoon.  Just bored, not quite doldrums mad yet.
The only downside of today was that we ripped the clew ring off the mainsail (again). 
It started with a simple gybe of the mainsail.  Anastasia has dual main sheets and gybing involves relocating a pair of blocks, moving one block from the starboard side to the centre, gybing the mainsail and then moving the other block from the centre to the port side (or vice versa).  Not difficult.  Pretty much the only thing that could go wrong would be to move the central block to the port side, gybe the mainsail and then try and move the starboard block to the centre.  Fortunately you can’t undo a snap shackle when it is loaded, so even if someone did it in the wrong order they would not be able to release the starboard block.  Except in light wind conditions when the boom is bouncing around and the tension is coming off the block, then the shackle would release OK and the person holding the block would be left feeling rather foolish when the wind filled the mainsail again.  Anastasia has more sail area than a windsurfer.
That didn’t rip the mainsail though.  It just sent the boom crashing over with more force than planned.  All we had to do was pick up the loose block, attach it in the centre and winch in to take up the load.  Not quite so simple.  While winching in the sheet, somehow the zipper of the lazy bag got firmly stuck through the block at the end of the boom.
No problem, you might think, just use the boathook to pull the zipper out.  No, it is well stuck in there. 
How about sling another line around the end of the boom and take the load off by hauling it in using a jib winch.  Nope, zipper still too firmly stuck to pull out with the boathook. 
Bring the port block back to the centre, and now you can crank the boom back over the stern while you work on the snagged zipper.  Still no joy, because the zipper is really stuck and the boom is too high to reach it very well. 
Loosen the topping loft, so you can pull the boom down to a level where you can reach it easily.  Finally a solution that works, but it does flatten the mainsail and put load on the clew ring.  It shouldn’t be a problem except a sail repair person used inadequate tapes to attach the clew ring after the last failure, and a single flog of the mainsail ripped the ring right off.
So now we are having to use reef 1 on the mainsail, which means we are going even slower.  Hopefully I can sew the ring back on while we are anchored in St Helena.  
All good fun.