on 10 December
Another good day's run. Trying to finish before the light winds arrive.Yesterday was characterised by a few technical problems.
We had just finished the best dinner so far, cooked by Ron. It was announced as a mystery meal, and indeed that's what it was. For none of us had any idea what it was even when we had finished, except we agreed unanimously that he took the 'cordon bleu' for the trip. Anyway, the gas gave a last 'phut' as it was served, indicating that a new cylinder was required. The only spare cylinders that we had been able to obtain in Las Palmas were the double size 5kg ones, that don't fit our gas locker. We decided to sleep on that one, which meant no hot drinks through the night.
Just as the watch changed at 20.00 we noticed the pressured water sytem pump was running intermittently when nobody was drawing water. The rocker switch in the bilges was automatically cutting in and expelling water from the boat. This was almost certainly an internal leak which was being detected by the bilge rocker switch. We decided to sleep on that one also, and switched off the fresh water system. No washing of hands after using the heads.
Then at about 04.00 there was a gradual, elegant shut down of all our electrical systems as the batteries finally exclaimed that, despite what all of the black boxes had been saying for days, they had finally reached a point of exhaustion.
So, on with the engine and a 6 hour charge to revitalise the batteries. A problem to be looked at, you guessed it, in the morning.
As morning dawned the work parties set to. Having run the engine for so long over the past 2 weeks we were concerned about how much fuel was left in the main tanks. To suck air into the fuel system was to invite more problems, so we decided to refuel from the plastic containers that we carry in the lazarette. No easy task with the boat hurtling along at speeds of upto 12 knots and rolling through 60 degrees. However we have an ingenious device that appears to look like a simple syphon tube, but has a non-return valve at one end. Sttick the valve end into the container, the open end into the fuel filler and ensure it is lower than the valve end. Shake the whole inverted U assembly up and down a few times, and the syphon action starts running until it has emptied the container.
With so many empty fuel containers we made a space for the oversized gas container, secured it in amongst them, switched on and had our first cup of coffee for 12 hours.
We were all pretty sure where we would find the water leak. Prime candidate was the non-spec hose fitted to our water maker. We had replaced most of it in Las Palmas, and had brought along some spare hose for the few runs that still remained. Sure enough, there was a pin prick leak under the galley sink. Once solved, we switched the water maker on and drew lots for the order of showers today. Mik won 1st place, and we were all happy to see his beard trimmed to some semblance of order for the first time in 3 weeks
The very man has composed a few notes below on headsails.
(I know it’s getting near to Christmas, but this is turning into the Nine Lessons and Carols!)
Or jibs. Or Genoas, sometimes.
OK, the flat white sail at the front, attached to the fore stay. Except that being Millennium Carbon from UK Halsey Sails, they are covered in fine black stripes (“stress mapped”) and growing cream-coloured Kevlar anti-chafe patches as we go along.
The J120 class usually only bother with a #1 and a #3, and sets the sails on a roller furling gear on the forestay. Note, roller furling not roller reefing. Unlike some sails, ours are not designed to be used partly rolled – you either got ‘em or you ain’t got em.
is about 100% - i.e. it fills the whole of the fore triangle (space between fore
stay, mast and deck) without overlapping the mast. Easy to handle, no chafe from the
spreaders (crosstrees, to the uninitiated) and used in heavier winds. We
actually carry two of these. Graham’s old Dacron sail from North is used for
deliveries and cruising – it’s pretty bulletproof, doesn’t object to UV light
too much, and is easy for a small crew to handle. Horrible shape, and rather uncool. Its
#3 sails are often fitted with battens; both of ours are. The problem is, how do you get a metre of solid fibreglass bar to roll up around the forestay? Two possible solutions: The North has collapsible battens, which is a bit of a misnomer as they are there to stiffen the leech (back edge) of the sail. Imagine two lengths of the curved metal that tape measures are made from, laid face to face and sewn into a webbing pocket. It feels stiff enough, but will roll up from one end when you want it to, just like the tape measure. Sounds fair enough but they do go floppy with use, and ours are in need of the little triangular tablets.
The UK Sails #3 has vertically rigged hard battens, which lay parallel to the forestay and roll up with ease. They last much longer, but are arguably a little less efficient as a stiffening measure. Our only problem was how to fold up the bloody sail once we had got the battens in, as they run at 90 degrees to the normal direction of fold. We’ve fudged it, but do any of you pro’s out there have any experience?
The #1 is about 135%, overlaps quite a lot, and is used in light airs. You would normally expect to change up to the number three at about 13 – 16 knots of wind, as a #1 is usually built quite lightly to take advantage of softer conditions, and the boat should be fully powered up by the #3 at those wind strengths.
Jamie Collins at UK Sails had ours built much more strongly, and we have carried it successfully hard on the wind in 30 knots of breeze, although the rig and helmsman were both complaining vociferously.
Unusually for a J120 we also carry a #2, at 120% of fore triangle, which lives in the depths of a locker and is hardly ever used. On the last boat (a smaller J110) we decided that the extra performance given by the #1 didn’t warrant the handicap rating penalty it attracted, so Pete bought a lightweight #2 for use in light airs, as well as carrying a heavy #2. This was very successful, and we started down the same road in this boat. However, the J120 is much stiffer (accepts more power from the sails) so the #2 is really just a spare sail now.
The only thing have been able to do to extract more juice from the #1 on a deep reach (our only sail and point of sail used for the last 1500 miles, aargh) is to take the clew (back bottom corner) forwards and outwards from its normal position by means of a barber hauler, and no, I have no idea where the _expression_ came from. We use a spare sheet rove through one of our ubiquitous spare snatch blocks, attached to one of the midships mooring cleats by means of a patent webbing strap thingy. This stops the top of the sail from falling away to leeward, and applies more power.
If we carried a pole – booming out pole, whisker pole, spinnaker pole, whatever – if if if if - we could goose-wing the rig by having the mainsail boomed out on one side and the headsail boomed out on the other. This is an old-fashioned rig for sailing straight downwind in heavy airs. It is seen by cutting-edge sailors as a bit wimpish, distinctly uncool, and almost smacking of oldgafferism. We would all have given our left b--- , well, given a lot, to have one on this race.
It is possible to goose-wing without a pole but only in flat water, as the slightest roll collapses the sail. Not an option for us here.
At the moment we have given up trying to gybe the angles downwind under spinnaker or genoa, and are sailing straight down the waves under full mainsail only. Believe it or not, this gives us our best vector to the finish – we would go faster at an angle with a kite or genoa, but would need to cover far too much ground that we would achieve less progress in the desired direction.
Bring back square rig and the brigantine, I say!! Clew up yer tops’ls in the bunt me hearties, and all plain sail to the stuns’ls!! Ar Harr!!
Excuse me, I have been told to go and have a lie down in a darkened room. Fat chance.
And for your next instalment, the storm sails. As Eric Morecombe would say, “You’ll enjoy this, but not a lot”.