Lanzarote to Grenada, day 7 (sorting out the wrap)

Stravaig'n the Blue
Sat 16 Jan 2021 23:58
End of day 7 position: 20:33.7 N 028:24.5 W (290 NM NW of Santo Antao, Cape Verde)
Position timestamp: Saturday 16 Jan 2021 12:00 UTC-2
Distance travelled last 24 hours: 139 NM
Reduction in distance to destination last 24 hours: 128 NM
Distance travelled total: 1049 NM
Average speed since departure: 6.2 knots
Shortest distance to destination: 1995 NM
ETA based on shortest distance and average speed so far: evening of 29 January (20.4 days in total)

It’s a wrap. In most cases this would be considered a good shout. But not in sailing. It means that something has become wrapped around something it shouldn’t be wrapped around. This is never good. The classic wrap is a downwind sail wrapped around the forestay (the wire at the front of the boat that holds up the mast). We had a classic wrap on Thursday.

Just before lunch, with the wind exceeding 30 knots at times, we decided we should furl the Blue Water Runner (despite only half of it being out) and deploy the smaller regular headsail. The day before, when furling the full BWR, there had been too much wind pressure on the sail (despite the sheets being well eased) and it had unfurled midway through being furled. The thing that stops the sail unfurling while being furled is the friction between the rope furling line and the grooves on the inside of the furling drum. The wind pressure had overcome the friction resulting in the drum being able to spin, the sail unfurling and a 30cm section of the the outer core of the polyester furling line melting!

Concerned that the same thing would happen again I came up with a cunning plan, never to be repeated. Before starting to furl the BWR, we unfurled the staysail which had the effect of blanketing the lower half of the BWR from the wind. With the BWR’s sheet eased to further reduce the pressure I started to furl. The bottom half of the BWR furled perfectly but the top half, full of wind, ballooned and started to spin around itself, in the opposite direction to the furling, getting smaller and smaller until it was tight at which point the entire BWR started to wrapp itself around the forestay. It all happened so fast. About 10 seconds start to end. No time to do anything except say “Gosh, it’s a wrap. Oh bother.” or words to that effect.

The BWR was wrapped around the forestay twice.  This was fairly easy to undo during which activity the BWR was dropped to the deck and lashed to the stanchions as punishment for its bad behaviour. Over a very late lunch we decided to leave it there overnight (further punishment) and defer sorting it out until yesterday. 

We started immediately after breakfast. I thought we would have more space if we worked on deck so we started by laying the sail out along the deck. The sail is 16 metres long and the useable deck only 13 so it didn’t quite fit but we started the unravelling anyway. It was warm in the sun, the wind was still blowing 20+ knots, the crashing of the boat through the waves was noisy, the motion of the boat was challenging and working on hands and knees was hard.

So Linda persuaded me that we should take the sail below decks.  Good call despite there being only 10 metres length to work in.

We had hoped that only the top half of the sail would require sorting but it soon became apparent that we’d need to unroll all of the top half in one direction and all of the bottom half in the other direction and do something complicated with the tight ugly clump where the two halves met in the middle. Five hours later we had all 150 square meters of sail (or more precisely two triangles of sail, each 75 sqm, one on top of the other) laid out reasonably neatly, all of the way from the forward cabin, through the saloon, up the companionway steps and out into the cockpit and around the cockpit table.

This allowed us to confirm that there were no twists or wrinkles that could cause problems during the next stage: furling the sail around its 25mm diameter rubber furling rod.  The manual furling took a further four hours and yielded far from the tightly furled result when the sail is furled in situ. The furling can be best described as loose and the sail is tied every meter with twine plus sail ties for good measure.

As we will have only one shot at unfurling the sail if we are to avoid repeating this exercise we are now waiting for light winds.  The BWR meanwhile has taken up residence in the saloon.  It was an exhausting day.

On the Vendée Globe race, a few days before we left Lanzarote, Pip Hare also managed a downwind sail wrap. It is reassuring to know that we are up there with the best although, hats off to Pip, she sorted hers out single handed.

Speaking of light winds, the light winds that were forecast for the area north of here from Sunday onwards, and whose impact we have sailed south to minimise, are now not going to materialise. And just when they might actually have been of some use to us. The current forecast is for good wind (high teens from the ENE/E) all of the way to Grenada.

Taking this more southerly route added a day to the journey.  But had we taken the shortest route and had the light winds materialised, we would have spent three or four days next week making painfully slow progress (or equally painful, motoring). So still the right decision based on the information available at the time.

All is well.