Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 8 Dec 2009 15:44

Noon Position: 32 43.7 S 050 54.9 W
Course: Southwest. Speed: 4.5 knots
Wind: Southeast F3 - gentle breeze
Weather: Sunny, warm
Day’s Run: 151 nm

For much of yesterday we were fast reaching to a fresh southeasterly, the skies were overcast and grey, and the seas donned a cloak of matching ilk. We had a reef in the mainsail and the jib was partially furled. Towards evening I donned foul weather gear and toured the deck. The wind vane mounts were looking solid, I looked anxiously at the mainsail but it too looked fine. I considered reducing sail for the night but Sylph didn’t seem to be straining at all, just pushing boisterously through the moderate seas in a flurry of spray, the odd wave crashing over the foredeck, but this is nothing unusual for Sylph. The jib looked good and all looked fine aloft. I retired below for a cup of coffee and to pick up where I had left off “War and Peace“. Poor old Prince Andrei has just died of his wounds from the battle of Borodina in the loving care of Natasha, his one time fiancee, and Princess Marya, his devoted sister; and it looks like Pierre is about to be executed by the French army occupying Moscow. I like Pierre. I am brought back to Sylph, something has changed, things have gotten quieter, we seem to have slowed down, there is less spray pattering over the decks. I go on deck and look around. The mainsail is OK but looking forward the jib definitely is not. It is torn from foot to head along the leech just inside the UV panel, and partially along the foot. It is a mess. “Oh bother!” as I am inclined to say at such moments. I start to furl what is left of the jib but stop at about half way, thinking that I need to get this sail down and if I furl it fully it might become hopelessly entangle with the remnant shreds of sail So I leave it only half furled and then adjusted the wind vane to turn us down wind a bit to reduce the apparent wind across the deck; it is amazing the difference this makes. I then unfurled the sail and dropped it on deck, dragged its tattered remains back aft and stuffed it into the cockpit, then went below and pulled everything out of the quarter berth, including Bob Cat, to get to the spare jib buried beneath all the gear that accumulates here, including every other sail in Sylph’s wardrobe, the spare jib being on the bottom as I really didn’t think I was going to need it, the now torn jib being less than 18 months old. It didn’t take very long to get the spare jib up and within an hour we were once more tearing across the grey seas in a flurry of spray. I once more reviewed my decision to reduce sail but really saw no reason to. We continued overnight averaging six to seven knots without further incident. As I stuffed the “new’ jib into its sail bag (it was too windy to fold its ragged remains so the bag containing the jib’s disorganized remains is occupying most of the back half of the cockpit) I considered my situation. I have to say I am very disappointed in this new sail, the woof of the fabric seems extremely weak as I can tear it easily with my fingers. Goodness knows how old the spare jib is, it came with the boat when I bought her, I shredded that one down in South Australia when hit by a sudden squall that snuck up on us from behind Kangaroo Island. Its problem was UV damage along the leech so I had it cut down, a new UV strip sewn on it and have kept it for emergencies such as this. I purchased a new headsail in South Australia which gave me many years of service before being shredded in a gale up in Newfoundland two years ago (the first time I needed the old cut down jib). It had also suffered from UV damage along the leech but the damage was so extensive it was not worth repairing. So I had a new sail made, now lieing in shreds in the cockpit) and cut the second jib up for the sail fabric which was still in good shape.

While roller furling has definite advantages mainly in its ease of handling it suffers from some major draw backs. Probably its worse fault is that because the sail gets left up on the forestay almost continuously it is being constantly bombarded by ultraviolet rays which, despite the protective UV strip, ultimately damage the layers of fabric lying closest to the surface when furled. Its other major disadvantage is that when partially furled in strong winds the sail loses shape so is less efficient but more significantly is that this puts a large load on the leech and foot, especially the leech, and I suspect this is what caused my latest sail to fail, that and what I believe is a weakness in the fabric. My last yacht was a cutter rig with twin forestays and while it was less convenient I am coming to the conclusion that for higher latitudes and heavy weather sailing this more traditional rig is to be preferred. Many modern yachts now have twin roller furling headsails which is a reasonable compromise but I baulk at all that windage and extra top weight, not to mention the expense and added complication to the rig. Sylph has a detachable inner forestay which is for the storm jibs, rarely used to date. I do like the sloop rig, it is a simple, efficient rig, but . . . Anyway enough of analyzing rigs, now I need to solve my problems: the solution like a large percentage of our problems - more money.

I am currently planning on making my next stop Piriapolis. It is a bit closer than Montevideo and my notes indicate there is a travel lift there (Sylph also needs a haul out and bottom paint) so I am hoping there may be other yachting facilities, namely a sail maker. We will see what next when we get there.

Meanwhile this morning dawned with clear blue skies, the sea has a tinge of green to it now that we are back over the continental shelf and in shallower waters. It is a beautiful day.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

There I was, as usual minding my own business, when all of a sudden the skipper decides to turn my very pleasant sleeping quarters upside down. I find myself unceremoniously dumped on the cabin sole, along with sail bags, containers, ropes and other assorted paraphernalia which a moment ago I had been sleeping on. I protest of course but, as usual, the skipper seems totally oblivious to my concerns and ignores me. And also as usual I adapt, make my way back to the settee berth and continue my work. Later all seems settled again, the skipper had put my quarter berth back together so I returned, it really is a nice comfy and secure abode. Last night the moonlight streamed in through the companionway along with a refreshing breeze played around my towel curtain, the moonlight casting shadows about my head and the breeze playfully puffing my fur. All quite poetic really. Nonetheless, I still have to catch up on some serious work that the skipper rudely disrupted last night . . . Zzzzzzz.