What is the point of a sea trial?
Phil May and Andrea Twigg
Thu 13 Mar 2014 16:06
Yesterday we said goodbye to the manatees, pelicans and to our neighbours (Kent and Mary Lou Carpenter) and sailed out of Fort Pierce at 7:30 to cross over to the Abacos (Bahamas).
On Tuesday we took Anastasia out for a test sail, since we had not done any sailing since having the jibs, prop shafts and rudders off. Everything went swimmingly and we were in good spirits for the departure. The wind was predicted to be ideal, 20 knots from the south west, so we could plan on covering the 110 miles during daylight hours and arriving in time to find a good anchorage (most good anchorages in the Bahamas do require navigation in daylight to avoid the sandbanks).
Everything proceeded according to plan and we made good progress. The wind gradually increased until it was gusting to 27 knots and I decided to conservatively put a reef in the mainsail. That was when we first discovered the halyard was jammed. We spent a miserable half hour motoring into the wind and waves pulling on every line we could think of that might interfere with the halyard, getting periodically doused by the spray coming over the bows. No luck.
So, fingers crossed the wind did not increase any further, we just pushed ahead for the Bahamas. With a full mainsail we were doing 11 knots and that would give us a spare hour of daylight to fix the problem.
We were not going to head into a tight anchorage without being able to drop our mainsail, so we anchored in a wide open space five miles from Grand Cay, in the “lee” of some rocks. The rocks didn’t really do much of a job of stopping the waves but it was a little shelter. Then we had to stop Anastasia trying to sail away from the anchor. Leaving the boom swinging freely is not an option in 30 knot winds, but by loosening the clew downhaul and outhaul we could slacken the sail a bit without too much flogging and so reduce the tendency to tack up the anchor chain.
Then we spent another half hour trying to get the mainsail down. Still no luck. The halyard would go down a bit and then clunk to a stop. The only option was to go up the mast, so we made the preparations. The main halyard is what I usually use, but that was was stuck and so the only option is the topping lift. However, the topping lift is needed to support the boom when the sail comes down, so we had to pile seat cushions on the cabin roof to secure the boom before removing the topping lift. That was when the rainstorm hit us. By now it was dark as well. I was not going up a slippery mast in the dark, so then we decided to just sit it out until morning.
We watched TV for a while to calm down, ignoring the groaning and clunking from outside. The anchor alarm went off once during the night – we had sailed about 100 yards but it re-hooked before I had to do anything.
In the morning the wind was still howling and the waves were bigger so we sailed into the lee of Grand Cay to work on the sail. It had not magically fixed itself overnight. I went up the mast and found that the batten car header was stuck on the track. I hammered out the pin, releasing the sail. Without the weight of the sail I could freely move the car up and down a few inches before it stopped with a clunk. Obviously a loose screw somewhere underneath the car, but not something I could fix in the swelly gusty conditions, so I came down and we dropped the sail, leaving the top car in situ. Now the sail is safely stowed away.
To cap it all our toilet stopped working this morning. Fixing toilets is the job I hate the most.
Andrea is asking why we left Fort Pierce.
Pictures from happier times
Spot the problem (Hint: You can’t, the loose screw is under the top slider, but it was worth a try with the camera)
We used our newly made eyebrow in the rainstorm. (In the end I held the heat gun and Andrea did the skilled bit of bending the perpex.)