ARC 2015:-Engineering Dept to the Rescue

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Fri 27 Nov 2015 12:41

21:01.67N 24:16.63W

Day 5 - Nov 26
Engineering Dept to the Rescue

The early watch from midnight to 4am reports some of our biggest seas yet. Chris, Mike and Frank have a busy time under a full moon keeping on course in a mass of heaving blue water and foam.

Nina has a gantry on her stern where the fibre optic panels are mounted. We estimate its height at 3m above the waterline. When we're in the trough of a wave, the view looking back to the helm is a wall of water all the way up to the top of the structure. So our roller coaster tonight is thanks to these ten foot waves following us, lifting our stern and tossing our 15-ton lady around like a cork. The wind is gusting to 35 knots off our port quarter.

We get through the night with some concentrated hand steering, a close eye on the autohelm and plenty of tea and biscuits. At the morning changeover of the watch, we gybe at last to the west and declare ourselves on the rhumb line to St Lucia at last. But thanks to the unfolding drama below from the stern cabin, nobody notices that the weather has suddenly improved.

Wherever the leak is, it has been shipping water through the night. Now we're baling a full bucket at a time from the stern cabin. First suspect is the rudder gland: but this was renewed afresh before leaving and is not the likely culprit. Mike has a theory about the bolts supporting the Hydrovane self-steering fixed to the transom. He clips on and investigates with a spanner: one bolt seems loose. We need more input: he and Frank strip the space behind the bed to check the reverse of the bolt. There it is! A definite squirt of water with each dunking. 10 metre waves and a following sea didn't help: but we've identified the issue. Frank reaches in with a spanner to hold the back of the nut while Mike hangs over the stern and tightens.

While this was going on, we learn that the autohelm is now not working, probably due to the water in the stern cabin affecting the potentiometer ... oh, forget the technical stuff, it's just not working! After a bout of head scratching and reading of manuals, Mark strips the vital part and dries it out. No joy. What do we do now? Pete gets on the satphone to Raymarine tech support, who propose a rebooting solution. Could we hand steer for another two weeks? Probably, but it's very welcome to see Peter bring this vital boat system back to life by disconnecting four wires (no, we have no idea either why disconnecting wires makes marine electronic systems work).

Over the ARC email updates come tales of the (even worse) weather we managed to avoid by tracking south and not taking the direct route from the island. Magritte, a venerable Moody, and a world ARC boat, has disconnected her boom and is diverting to the Cape Verdes for repair. Another ARC yacht is shipping water through her transom door and is also diverting.

On Nina we're back in great shape. Skipper Steve proposes sundowners to celebrate. Cans of Heineken never tasted so good; Frank marks the moment with canapes from the galley: Tuc crackers, Emmental cheese and tomatoes. As the sun sinks under our bow, we're all happy to be in the trade winds at last, sailing due west to keep the headsail filled. The sea is a slow lazy roll of azure blue. Over our stern, a stunning orange moon has risen over the Sahara desert, 500 miles behind us.

In the cockpit, the discussion is of the relative dunkability of Hob Nobs and Ginger Nuts. Steve is beaming from ear to ear after his crew's sterling display of teamwork.

Under full jib and reefed main, Nina is pootling along superbly in the moonlight at 8 knots.

Ahead of us, 2,200 miles of ocean to Rodney Bay.

Stay tuned!