False Start On Thursday -> Head sail clew blew out

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Sat 13 Nov 2010 07:34
23 12.8 S 177 00.2 W

Quick update for our recently unkept blog: All is well although a very tough
ride....seas are 4 meters plus...wind considerably above what was
forecast...most of the time in range of 30 - 35 kts; we are sailing at about
70 degrees off the wind and taking quite a shellacing from the seas. Not
sure when it will improve; all forecasts are proving to be very understated
on wind strength.

When we left Thursday shortly after 12 noon, we only got 3 hours out when
the head sail clew (point at which the jib sheet attaches for sail control)
let go....all 5 webbing straps broke away from the sail as the sewing
threads attaching them failed. So we rolled it up with the hydraulic furler
to get it safely managed without any sheet attachment. Only sensible choice
at the time was to turn around and head back the 3 hours to .....first of
all get the sail down which could not be reasonably handled at sea in the
prevailing 35 -30 kts of wind at the time; then see if we could find any
help anywhere to work on the repair...reinstalling/restiching the clew
webbing straps, and then consider options for a return to our planned
passage to NZ.

This part of Tonga is NOT a sailing region....so NO Sailmakers available at
all; Upholstery shops don't have a big enough/strong enough sewing
machine....and our assessment of the required repair ruled out our doing it
by hand. The sail thickness, sail material is just too thick at the clew to
be able to manage all of that extensive stitchin by hand.

It was just approaching dark as we got back to Pangaimotu Island/ Big Mama's
so the day was really over for trying to find help. Anyway, we got the sail
down on the deck, got the dinghy back into the water, and went into Big
Mama's to inquire about any leads they might have re needed help. As we
talked about it, an idea came to mind to contact a resort owner and/or his
professional captain on an old Ketch used for taking guests on
charters....maybe they would know of someone....turned out they had an
industrial sewing machine on the island and thought that it "might" do the
job....although concerned about the thickness of the sail fabric on a boat
as big as Sea Mist. Early the next morning we took Sea Mist the few miles
over to this other island and took the sail ashore in dinghy and then wheel
barrow to one of the work buildings at the resort. We tried a whole bunch of
ways to make the sewing machine capable of doing the job...but it just
couldn't. When the resort owner came by to see how we were doing, he also
tried but suddenly he recalled that there was an old sail for his sailing
ketch in one of the other out buildings...maybe it could be repaired with
the sewing machine, and although it was not at all right sail design for Sea
Mist....it just might work to get us to NZ....and the sail could be returned
to the captain right where we are staying in NZ as the captain is taking the
sailboat to Whangarei in a couple of weeks time....to get off season work
done and to be out of the cyclone season.

This old sail was in tough shape....but the sewing machine operator, the
captain and Sea Mist crew worked at extensive repairs to it....the sewing
-machine could handle this sail....and VOILA...>> by mid- afternoon, we had
the sail in a condition that we thought just might get us to NZ. The wind
was blowing so hard that we could not install the sail on Sea Mist at the
anchorage at this island; we sailed over to Big Mama's in hopes of maybe
getting a little lee protection there from the wind....but it was not to be.
We then sailed across to the city and found a somewhat sheltered space
beside their container terminal...and the sail was on ...with the help of
the Captain of the ketch and 2 very experienced Aussie sailers who were at
the resort for their honeymoon....and happily joined in to address the

......OVERALL>>>>ABSOLUTELY unbelievable help from everyone involved over the
course of the day. We made a quick run with jerry cans to retop our fuel
tanks in case needed...and we got down a fresh 7 day marine weather forecast
for the passage route....and decided to depart immediately so that we would
have the little remaining daylight to get outside the reef passes before the
darkness of night was on us.

So....we departed this 2nd time from Nuku'alofa at 6 pm local time last
evening.....and we are now 26 hours into the passage....and as I said at the
outset....a tough ride!!

We have lots of meals prepared ....but so far eating is far from the
mind....fighting sea sickness is higher priority.

Will update when we get a chance....(I have misplaced one cable that
connects the computer to the Sat Phone and can not find it....trying to do a
workaround with this message to get it our someway....hopefully it works.

DTG To Opua, NZ: 855 nm