Tuesday 11 October 1906 UTC 2006 BST
Wind 17 knots NNW, COG 044 Deg True, SOG 6.9
After I left you this morning and I had breakfasted
I got stuck into searching for the source of the 4 bolts found on deck.
Having searched al lof the deck and eye level I
concluded it must be from somewhere up high....
The previous night the leech of the jib had been
doing quite a lot of "motoring" - that's when it rapidly vibrates or flutters.
On a sail this size however it can cause considerable vibrations through the rig
and the boat. As it was quite boisterous and the foredeck was very wet I was
reluctant to have a go at it but eventually on port tack I was able to re
tension the leech line and remove the motoring. I thought no more about it until
today when I was searching for the source of the bolts.
Looking aloft the horrifying thought struck me that
it could be the mast "splice" this is the jointy in the mast. As the mast is
over 28m high it is made in two pieces and "spliced" together .... with bolts
..... remarkably like the four in my hand!
I tried to view the area with binoculars but the
angle and the motion were such that it was not possible to get a clear view.
However though it looked like the starboard side were all fine, they were in the
light, the port side looked like ther might be some bolts missing but I couldn't
Only the main was out and I was reluctant to put
the jib out and add more load. I used the engine to maintain the boat on
starboard tack. Then I thought about the motoring of the mainsail and the load
the jib had been under having been bashing along on the wind the past day or so.
I took the bolts and checked them against a spare mainsail halyard swivel of the
same manufacture that I have and though the size was different the markings on
the screw were the same. I knew there had been problems with some of these types
So later in the day I was about to confront what
would be a fouur hundred mile wall of 20 knot winds and I and Rhiann Marie would
have our shoulders against it for the next four or five days, so something had
to be done. I measured the screws in my hand and e-mailed Discovery to get
the sizes of the screws used in the mast splice.
I was closing the coast of West Africa,
Mauritania to be precise and studied the charts of Nouadhibou some fifty miles
away. I could be there by evening and anchor up to get the inspection and
repair completed. I e-mailed Rhiann my daughter to check noonsite.com for any
info on Mauritania. Just typically at this time the computer could not locate
the web site for the satellite and I had to work my way through a lisyt of
potential problems with that. Eventually after tightningall connections and
re-booting both the computer and the satellite system I got it going again. When
I git Rhiann's e-mail here is what she found after following links to the
advise against all travel to the eastern and northern provinces of Mauritania
- Tiris Zemmour, Adrar, Tagant, and Hodh el Chargui - due to the continuing
high threat fromterrorismthroughout the
country. This includes all areas bordering Mali, Western Sahara and Southern
also advise against all travel to the western provinces of Dakhlet-Nouadhibou
and Inchiri. This includes the road from the port of Nouadhibou to
advise against all but essential travel to the rest of the
have been a number of demonstrations in the capital, Nouakchott over the past
few weeks. Some involved clashes between police and demonstrators. There is a
possibility of further demonstrations. Developments elsewhere in the region
may also trigger public unrest, especially after Friday prayers. See Safety
and Security – Political Situation.
advise British nationals to keep a low profile, exercise caution, and avoid
all areas where there are large gatherings of people. If a demonstration or
disturbance is taking place, you should leave the area as quickly and safely
as possible. British nationals should make themselves aware of developments by
listening to media reports for further information, as well as monitoring our
is a high threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in
placed frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
is a high threat of kidnapping in Mauritania and surrounding countries by Al
Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQ-M). See Safety and Security -
in Mauritania can be difficult and conditions are poor for overland travel.
You should take all necessary security precautions, especially outside of main
urban areas and maintain a high level of vigilance. See Safety and Security
-Terrorism, Safety and
Security - Local Travel
It also states
that’ West African pirates are copy-catting the Somalian
This is the main commercial
port of Mauritania. It lies on the eastern shore of a long, narrow peninsula in
the far north of the country.............
Oh for goodness sake! So ....... that did not seem like a
"go-zone" more like a "war zone". To hell with that I thought....
In the meantime impatient as ever, knowing that the
breeze would firm up later on, I decided to attempt to climb the mast. Now
for this trip I deliberately did not take any solo mast climbing devices as I
would be alone and I thought that if something goes wrong up there I shall
just have to "pull in" somewhere rather than attempt a climb. I should have
known myself better.....
I put the boat onto slow ahead with the autopilot
on and us on starboard tack as the breeze had eased to 8 knots. I put on a padded mid layer, shoes, crash helmet, my back
brace, gloves and stepped into the bosuns chair. I took my phone with a note of
our position when i began, took the remote control for the autopilot, a
VHF and a few tools.
I set a halyard bar tight to the foot of the mast.
The technique was to have two short strops and a lifeline attached to the bosuns
chair. I rigged two rolling hitches on the strops round the halyard and
proceeded to walk up the mast, sliding each of the hitches up the halyard in
turn. It sounds easy but in fact was highly ineffective and relied on my trying
to hold my whole weight with one hand while I slid the rolling hitch up the
halyard with the other! One of the main problems was as I "walked" up the mast
the halyard no matter how tight I put it pulled out and away from the mast.
After a couple of attempts I and having reache dthe first spreaders I really
felt I was an accident waiting to happen so decended.
Nevertheless when I was back on deck I turned my
attention to the possibility of them being from the halyard swivel. So I
prepared the set up to drop the jib and eased it to the deck. I checked the
swivel which was fine - BUT - there on the foil was a peiece of the drive (
hidden by the sail when furled) was the fitting with about 9 out of ten bolts
missing from it. I tried to replace the ones I had found but they were all
stripped. I got longer bolts from my extensive stocks and tensioned them up
Replicating the technique I used with the genoa in
the South Atlantic I rehoisted the jib and set sail again making nice
progress north. Just to my west was a huge fish ball with birds and larger fish
"boiling" the water. The skies were perfectly blue as the sun started sinking on
my port side and the plump full moon was starting to ascend in the still daylit
sky to my starboard side. I made the decks good again prepared for my long beat
and sat and had a wee gin and tonic. The raising of my spirits liquid and
metaphorical was directly proportional to the setting of the sun on a dramatic
but happily resolved day.
The anxiety that had befallen me the past few days
about this long beat and the worry about something failing on the last lap
left me and I think now though it is going to be a slog I am more than
resolved, though less than looking forward to it.
However here I am in fairly flat
seas cruising along nicely at peace and
under a full moon.......... Sure there are lots of ships around and the evening
comedy show on the VHF continues but all is well - for