BVIs to the Azores - Day Seven 26 11.115N 057 13.832W

Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 3 Jun 2014 23:30
Just a little bit of a drama last night! The bad weather continued with low cloud, squalls and regular thunder and lightning. When squalls hit they had torrential rain and an increase in wind, but once passed the wind would often die completely for half an hour or so before picking up again. With no wind and a lumpy sea the boat would wallow and rise and fall on the waves. One such squall was our undoing. The tow generator rope had sunk with now forward motion and the big sea lifted the boat over the top of it. When the boat came down the rope, unbeknown to ourselves, was the wrong side of the main rudder and it got caught behind the rudder. Not good, but worse was to follow. Not knowing it was there, while turning the main wheel the rope got caught in the lower rudder bearing, jamming the wheel on full starboard lock. At this point we had no idea what had happened, only that we couldn't turn the wheel and so could effectively only go round in circles! And it was now dark. We immediately thought it must be the tow gen rope and could see it tight and disappearing under the boat. So what to do? There was little we could do in the dark, and with the main still up and the rudder hard over we were hove to, whether we liked it or not. So we added some rope to the tow gen rope to take the tension out of it and decided to wait for morning. So unable to move we were at the mercy of the squalls and thunder and lightning. Several squalls came through, but luckily the thunder and lightning didn't come too close. Given the circumstances we had a reasonable night. We both stood watches as normal and slept as normal, sleeping okay. At first light we could see what the problem was and before putting my wetsuit on to go in the water to sort it out, we tried putting my divers weights on a rope and sliding them down the tow gen rope to see if that would take it below the rudder. That took most of it, but part was still stuck in the rudder bearing. Using the very long boat hook that we have we managed to get most of the tow gen rope on board and the tow gen propeller (which I had thought we would have to cut off and let go). Pulling the other end of the rope up the other side of the boat we had a line that went from one side of the boat, under it to the other side. By each of us now pulling it forward (towards the bows), it pulled it out of the rudder bearing and freed the rudder. One end of the rope was then let go and the rope pulled up from the other end. It took nearly 3 hours to do, but what a relief! I really did not fancy going in the water with the swell and waves that we had. So we're back on our way again, and with a SSE wind, so can make the course we want. Having stopped for around 14 hours in all, we've only made about 60 miles in the last 24. The weather has continued to be wet and miserable most of the day - it's been more like sailing in a low cloud, but not so much squall activity. It's looking a little brighter this afternoon. Hope this weather clears soon - we could do with some sun to dry everything out!

With all the thunder and lightning about, the sat phone has been in the oven more times in the last 36 hours than it has in the last 6 years! Why the oven - it's supposed to protect it from lightning strikes - something to do with Faraday's Cage! If we can't put things in the oven, they get switched off and disconnected, so there are still bits we need to put back together. However, I think we'll wait and see what tomorrow brings!

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