Greedy for Speed

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 16 Jun 2012 05:12

12.30 Position: 38 44.0 S 142 27.3 E
Course: ESE Speed: 6 knots
Wind: NW F6, strong breeze
Weather: cloudy, showers, cool
Day's run: 180 nm

With a stiff breeze behind us we have made very good time overnight, averaging 7.3 knots over the last 24 hours. We have been sailing much of the time wing on wing with the jib poled out to port but as we rounded Cape Northumberland and came up a little more to the south east we have been broad reaching with the mainsail double reefed and a scrap of jib for balance.

All was going well until 11.15 this morning when we went aback. I went on deck, sorted things out, and then went back below to my reading a Classic Boat article, in the way of a break from reading some of Shakepeare's sonnets, which was a bit of break from reading interminable Proust (practising my Proustian sentences), when we went aback again. Something wasn't right. I sorted things out again and checked the wind vane. Sure enough it was pulling to one side regardless of wind direction. I looked over the stern and saw that the rudder post was bent. Clearly all this speed had put a bit of a strain on the wind vane system, though I think the root cause of the problem was the coral head we struck back in Rangaroa last year. I dropped the main to slow things down and get Sylph under some sort of control then lay down on the stern and reached down to the rudder to secure a lanyard around it so that if it broke off I wouldn't lose my nice new expensive rudder. Which was just as well for about 10 minutes later this is exactly what happened. With the aid of a second piece of rope I hauled the rudder on deck and lashed it to the coach house roof, then went back to assess the situation. I have basically two options, continue on to Melbourne of make for Apollo Bay. Apollo Bay is about 60 miles from here and Port Philip just over 100 miles, so I reckon for now I might as well keep going for Port Philip. I started to hand steer, thinking about old Josh Slocum steering the Spray for three days straight in the teeth of a gale trying to hold ground to get into Magellan Strait and thought, well this shouldn't be too bad, but after about ten minutes I started casting around thinking about ways I could get Sylph to steer herself. Hmm, the wind vane part of the self steering mechanism still works, it has a bit of a tiller built into it for emergency steering (not much good without a rudder on the end of it), I had a couple of small blocks, some light vectra line, and some shock cord; it probably wouldn't work but it was worth a go. So after about an hour of messing around I have managed to get Sylph to steer herself to some degree, though it is very delicate, only moving the wheel through 10 degrees either side, but this seems to be keeping her mostly on course despite the rough seas. Thank goodness for the “finger tip steering” of Alan Payne designs I mentioned a few days ago, or there is no way this would work. I am not confident how effective it will be for the next 24 hours or so and expect I will have to still hand steer for a fair bit, but it all helps.

I suspect I am in for a long night.

All is well.