ARC 2015 - Day 13 -Dec 3rd - Heaving to with Harry Hydrovane

Steve and Lynda Cooke
Fri 4 Dec 2015 09:06
Heaving to with Harry Hydrovane.

The situation in the back cabin had been getting steadily worse.

Seawater is coming in. At first it was a couple of cup-fulls sloshing about as we are thrown about the cabin to go to the heads. Then as the swell increased and steering became more challenging, it was becoming a bowl full, four or five times a day.

We started talking about “braving the stern swamp” on the run to the heads, and “passing swampy”.
Something had to be done.

To start, skipper Steve was blaming the old problem of the stern rudder gland. The rudder was dropped last year, and new Jeffa seals installed, so not likely, and some further investigation proved the it was the Hydrovane installation.

The difference between putting something on the boat for coastal cruising, or preparing a boat for blue water is remarkable.
Instead of being in harbour later or tomorrow, putting up with rubbish bought from overpriced chandlers, and making do, everything needs to be thought of long term, and where repairs are more challenging. Near enough is NOT good enough.

There was no backing pad to the bolts. The hole on one through hull was elongated, and the bolt too short. The washer had no backing, and consequently water was streaming into the boat through this hole.
The fact that it was attached to 15 tonnes of boat, yawing backwards and forwards over waves of up to four meters, and had been going through winds of up to 40 knots was probably highly
contributory. The back of Nina is now regularly buried in a wave up her stern, so no wonder it has been thoroughly tested.

We stopped using the Hydrovane, and took the vane sail off the top, to try and relieve the pressure.
With the back bunk stripped out, and the stern exposed, and with two meter swell, first Mike and Frank tightened the nuts and bolts, then Peter and Mark.
To no avail.
Swampy continued to grow with a vengeance!
The additional problem is the amount of water coming in to the stern had incapacitated the Raymarine autopilot, Pap. This would have been a complete disaster, as we would have had to hand-steer all the way, so a short bolt and no backing pad could potentially have left Nina without any self steering, half way across the Atlantic, in mountainous seas, big winds, and the crew having to hand steer 1,300 miles.
Doesn't bear thinking about.
We dried all the wiring from the Autopilot, and pulled wires out of the Autopilot computer, so that we could continue to use it, but it doesn't give any position feedback from the rudder.
But it still works!
Perhaps yesterday was not the best day to fix it. Twenty to twenty five knot wind. Wind driven swell with white horses and to quote the log “lumpy sea”, but it just shows how complacent and nonchalant we become about the conditions, especially when they are “better than earlier”.

How to stop the headlong charge across the ocean?
“turn the motor on and turn round?” Nah, that would be a roller-coaster ride over the approaching sea, and we would need to be motoring pretty fast to overcome the headwind.
"run downwind with no sails out?" Nope, the seas are still coming over the stern platform.

Skipper declares we will “heave to”. So that is decided upon.
Big difference between trying it out on a nice day, with a light breeze, to having to do it for real in anger!
We turn round into the wind. Suddenly a following breeze of eighteen knots becomes a howling sea of twenty five knots, with all the fun of the Atlantic breakers coming over the port bow.
“She'll settle down in a minute”, and she does, as the hard over rudder pushes against the backed foresail. "Hang on in there Nina, its only for a while"
We crawl forward at a knot to three knots, depending on how wind and waves hit us. A bit of a roll in the swell and waves, but we soon get used to it. Mark asks from below if we can have an occasional Starboard roll to match up the banging on the left side of his head.
Skipper Steve at the wheel, adjusting and making sure it all stays calm. Mike hanging over the back to drop Harry's rudder and tighten bolts. Chris helping to keep him on the back and pass tools. Mark and Peter down below in the stern cabin, with spanners, neoprene, washers, sikaflex sealant, Frank tending the main and giving helpful advice.

Half hour later, with the rudder safely stowed in stern locker, whats left of Harry tight like a tiger on the stern, and Nina galloping down the waves the right way, it seems a distant memory already.
We now have a very expensive paperweight.
Another job on the list for St Lucia.
“Heaving to, a piece of cake, har-de-har”

Spag Boll for dinner tonight…………. we might just have earned a can of beer!