Fair Weather and Fishy Stories

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 5 Dec 2009 15:33

Noon Position: 28 46.1 S 045 33.0 W
Course: Southwest. Speed: 4 knots
Wind: South sou’ east F3 - gentle breeze
Weather: Sunny, mild
Day’s Run: 113 nm

We continued on last night with one reef in the mainsail and reduced jib. Towards sunset I donned foul weather gear for the first time in several months to have a look around the upper deck for any problems before it became dark. We had been bashing into moderate seas for several hours by then and I had a heard a couple of noises during the afternoon which were not normal and I could find no obvious cause for. Also the wind vane looked to be wobbling ever so slightly so thought I should peer over the stern and have a look at that. My wander up to the foredeck revealed nothing untoward, peering aloft all looked well, looking over the stern . . . . oh oh, that’s not right, one of the struts holding the wind vane to the transom had broken loose, a bolt had sheered. My evening challenge was to make like Sir Francis Chichester on “Gypsy Moth IV”, lying prostrate over the stern, first I lashed the broken strut to the wind vane so at least it was doing a little good, then I tightened up the remaining bolts to the other struts. A fairlead digging painfully into my side as I leaned out over the transom and the odd wave swilling along the decks and crawling up the leg of my foul weather trousers did not totally distract me from noticing the beautiful shining silver swirls of sheet vortices detaching in the dark sea beneath from Sylph’s long keel as we heeled, plunged and slipped sideways to the wind. Poor old Chichester apparently was continuously repairing his wind vane while sailing single handed non stop from England to Sydney. Interestingly (to me at least) it was the designer of “Sylph VI”, Allan Payne, who did a few modifications to Chichester’s boat to improve its balance and therefore the ability for the wind vane to hold a course. I have had better luck with Sylph’s old vane, bought second hand ten years ago though a local Sydney sailing rag for $400, experiencing only the occasional problem which can only be expected. Concurrent to ‘War and Peace’ (an odd sort of book) I am also reading Dr David Lewis’s account of his voyage to the Antarctic in his little “Ice Bird”. His wind vane was completely ripped off after only a few weeks in the Southern Ocean; we are doing a lot better than that and as we have no intention of visiting the latitudes that Lewis felt insanely compelled to explore I am reasonably optimistic that Sylph’s wind vane will complete the circumnavigation. So all looks good for now, I am confident it will get us to Uruguay barring extreme weather, where we will attend to it more thoroughly. My list of “things to do” in Uruguay is growing, and once more sight seeing is dropping off the bottom.

I streamed a lure a few days back, the thought of fresh fish was occupying my mind. With a gibbous moon dominating the sky for much of the night I had left it out during the dark hours, checking it occasionally when I do my rounds. This morning I held the nylon cord in my hands, and felt - nothing, not even the vibrations of the lure on the end. Bother I thought, the lure has broken off. I wound it in to find what was left of the lure still on the end of the heavy wire trace, but the rubber ’fish’ had been stripped off leaving the lead ballast and a straightened hook behind. Something large had obviously had a go at it. Now I regretted having streamed it, knowing that a large beautiful pelagic fish has a piece of rubber in its gut and undoubtedly a large gash in its mouth. Hopefully it will survive. I know my brothers and fishing friends will raise their eyes to the heavens in disapprobation, but there it is. A bigger hook they’d say, but I am no Ernest Hemingway.

Some good news, I have got one computer up and running as this lengthy blog entry reveals. After replacing the hard drive (I have a spare from a previous laptop that committed hara-kiri against a bulkhead last year in a knockdown off Cape Hatteras) and disabling some keyboard functions it seems to be behaving itself for now. Hoorah! I think the solution to my little netbook’s problem is to buy an external keyboard, not ideal but better than nothing.

Meanwhile the fresh southerlies have blown the humidity away, and as yester-evening faded into night the darkness revealed the myriad stars shining brightly through the fresh clear atmosphere overhead. This morning as a high pressure system moves out over the South Atlantic from off the Brazil coast, the sky remains clear and blue with only the odd wisp of morning cloud which, now as afternoon draws on, have burnt off leaving an unmarked sky. Beneath it we make steady progress, a light frothy white wake trails behind, we have eased sheets a little as the wind backs and lightens with the encroaching high. The seas are a deep royal blue marked with only the odd little whitecap, and a long majestic two meter swell rolls regularly by. Nearby a great southern shearwater arcs it broad wingspan skimming over the swells, dipping and gyring with rarely a flap. It looks as I feel for the moment, quite at home and at peace.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Did I hear fish? It got away? Damn! I am just going to crawl back into the quarter-berth and have a good old cry. Yes by gum, a bigger hook is the answer. Skipper? Why oh why me? I shall just cry myself to sleep … Zzzzzz.