7-12-07 Belated Ships log!!

Rebel T
Tim Walsh
Fri 7 Dec 2007 14:58

So...Where do we start?

It is Friday at 12.48 lunchtime according to Copey's watch and its barometer
reads 1020.
We are currently sailing in 32-38 knts over the port quarter. The waves are
too big to think about as far as I am concerned. They are what most modern
writers would call. "Awesome" or "Majestic" Those Bastards are mental. These
waves are "Appallingly Large" Truly appalling.
They have of course built up over the last few days and are becoming more
organised than they were, that helps manage the boat, but makes things more
accentuated if you get it wrong. We won't.

The overnight casualty list from the fleet was fairly full, mostly broken
booms and sails. Electrics seem to be a next favorite fault and then
straight forward leaks. One boat had a forehatch torn off.

Last night Ant and I sat in the cockpit in pitch black in huge seas that
were invisible to us sitting on a "Bucking Bronco" , ( It was "Bucking
something!) and watched the rain squalls creep across the radar screen. They
look like blue and yellow space invaders trying to shoot us down. Vicious
amaebas hunting us out. Last night we had 43knts for about 10mins, but 32-40
all night. The horror is that you can only tell what is happening by the
dials...The boat starts to roar, so OK we are surfing, then as the motion
flattens and the bow dips, you look down to the log to see if it is going to
be a bad one or not. The fastest last night was 16.6knts..But you need to
understand the following.....We had no bloody sails up!!.

Rebel was surfing at 16.6 max, (once ) but 14-14.8 regularly with no sails
up. I had the starb'd engine running at 1,800revs just to give steerage. Any
sail would have increased the surfing and in the dark I simply was not up
for it. Another factor was that at the crests she screws around up to 20
degrees, enough to back the jib, it happened once or twice and the noise and
shaking were horrifying. Something would break in a short time, be it the
sail or the sheet, whatever I didn't and don't want the risk. Trevor feels
the same, so we are taking this very steadily.

The idea from the start was to be safe and to get off the boat as better
friends and more confident humans, I do believe that will happen but not if
we start breaking things or people.

I just emailed CatmanDo, they emailed during the night, we had emailed and
rang on the iridium to ensure they were OK after they failed to report
position and failed to send us their 11am position, which they do as
habit....We got through OK.... It transpired that they were OK but in all
the action had forgot to send it. They had a shackle burst, but I don't know
from what, but they are fine.

I congratulated them on shoving their old crate along so quickly, being
Northern and all, and declared that us flabby Southerners wished them well
and safe.

Had I been capable of writing this daily, I would have been able to tell of
many incidents, but honestly, it has all become a little blurred to us. As I
have said before , because there are 3 wake ups and sleeps every day, it
becomes hard to remember accurately what happened when.

It was all going spiffingly up to half way point..we had a ceremonial glass
of champagne, complete with photo session from Jeff. minutes later the
wheels started to come off as they say. At the time we were in blowy
conditions, but flying Picasso, the sky had been OK no squalls, in fact very
clear. Once we sipped our glasses we could see an strangeness on the water
behind. No cloud seemingly, but a flatness and change of colour, it was
getting towards evening mealtime, so we decided to snuff Picasso in favour
of the genniker, as we did so, the wind went from 22ish to 28 as we snuffed
to 30 by the time we set the genniker...so we didn't...we set the genoa.
From that point the wind just strenghtened into the night with bad squalls
and really it has been like that ever since. The main difference being the
amount of rain accompanying the squalls. Sometimes none, sometimes some and
sometimes torrential.

The wind is strongest at night and most fearful in the first 4 hours of
darkness because the moon is not yet risen and therefore our world is
totally black. Once the moon rises we can judge the waves to some degree and
also guess a little at the squalls by monitoring the radar and matching that
against black areas in the sky.

In reality though, we cannot really dodge them, so we only monitor their
approach, but it gives a sense of control that we know when they are coming.
As I said earlier, for 2 nights we started with no sail and some engine, so
there was no sail reduction to be done. As dawn helps viz, we put up a rag
of sail to increase speed a little. Last night, when the gust pushed up to
the 40's again I considerd trailing warps. I have never done it before, only
read about it. I was worried that I was over reacting, but I had no
benchmark, no frame of reference. The thing that was issue was the wave size
and violence. We started to surf too far ,too often and for too long. 16.6
was just too fast and as I say under bare poles.
In the event that was the hardest gust and 37knts is so much less in feel
and noise that I decided to wait. If we had gone back into the 40's then I
would have trailed warps. I have on board an Ace Sailmakers of USA, Series
Drogue designed for Rebel. It hangs off the back hundreds of yards and has
small 4" diameter cones built into it. This line is strung to a bridle and
then the bridle tied to the boat at each transom, led to a winch each side.
The idea being to winch the bridle from one side to the other to change the
angle of run.
Given the conditions, it would have taken the whole crew to deploy. I would
have wanted a "buddy" for each person handling the rope and me overseeing it
all, I felt there was a real risk to us at that point, so as I said, I
waited and in the event held back.
The drogue is very profesionally put together and all the ropes have
waterproof labels with directions for use. The bag cannot be opened unless
you remove waterproof deploy instructions. Right across he top it reads,
"Practise with this drogue before you need it for real". Mmmmmm!!

Fishing...We have given up. We had little choice in the end. Unless we
caught tiddlers, they were too hard to haul in and broke the line.

Advice to a beginner.......get big heavy tackle, a big serious reel and lots
of heavy line, many many metres of the stuff. The only things one catches at
8knts or more are big predator fish. Not only do you have to fight the fish,
you have to fight it against the speed of the boat.
Unless the tackle is really heavy, it breaks. This happened to us until all
the tackle was gone.

Mike and Betty finally ended their relationship. The crew were in favour of
staging a ceremony of some sort, captured digitally for our audience,both
present and future. Mike felt differently, he requested no drama, no long
goodbye's, no tears. He just wanted it over. To this end, once he knew that
we knew, he knew we knew. He simply went forward to the deck hatch grabbed
Betty and slung her overboard with precious little sensitivity.
We did not capture the moment on film, but we sang, "No Regrets" by the
Righteous Brothers to the best of our ability by way of dignifying the

As I write, 14.14hrs the wind is back up to 40knts, but the sun is shining.
It is forecast to ease over the weekend, down to 15-20knts, but to build
again Monday. We can but await matters. Our forecaster says it should be no
stronger than we have had, possibly less.

Lastly, yesterday the ensign flown on the starb'd transom began to work
loose, the rope holding it had worked loose. Mike was determined to put it
right, despite it being beyond the guard rail...we tied him on, snapped him
on and set up a backstrap type of affair so that he could lean against
somthing to brace himself. All went well and we got some pics. As he climbed
back inside the rail Jeff, Ant and I sang "Jerusalem" and the event went
down on video as well.

I am going to go now. Pics will follow later today hopefully. We are all
safe and fit, the boat is being handled safely, we are staying alert and all
getting on well. We hope to arrive St Lucia Friday late afternoon in 7 days
time. It is currently 1052 miles away.

We appreciate you all reading and staying in touch. Thanks to Mark Dixon for
ringing a short while ago, Colette and Lorraine are always in touch with us.
if you want further info.

Gaw'd bless us all!! Tim XX

And a quick "Hello" to Trev's Mum and Dad who will be reading the blog on
Saturday. See you in January - Trev xx