Squalls and Sail Repairs

1500 Position: 31 01.7 S 156 41.7 E
Course: West Nor’ West Speed: 5 knots
Wind: South West, F4 – moderate breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: South West 2 meters
Weather: mostly sunny, mild
Day’s run: 80 nm sailed, 46 nm made good

Overall conditions have continued to moderate, however, occasional squalls have persisted and taken their toll on Sylph and crew.

We had settled for the night with the full main up when, just before midnight, Sylph started to heel over and pick up speed, sign of a possible squall approaching. I donned foul weather gear and went on deck but by the time I got there, before I could put a reef in the mainsail, the mainsail had torn near the clew. The damage was extensive but limited to below the first reef, nonetheless I dropped the mainsail and furled the yankee until the squall passed. At half past midnight, the squall was over and we were back under the single reefed main, staysail and yankee.

At 3.30 I awoke to Sylph once more heeling over and picking up speed. I climbed wearily out of my bunk to assess the situation. Another squall. Again I donned foul weather gear and went on deck to shorten sail. The squall wasn’t too bad and I was satisfied just to put a second reef in the main. As I was about to go below I looked up at the main and could tell that there was something amiss. I shone a torch on it and sure enough a seam had come apart towards the top of the sail. I immediately lowered the sail and took stock. This was not good. Without a mainsail Sylph’s sailing ability was severely impaired. I inspected the tear, it was only a seam and was something I could sew up, but not in the dark. In the meantime what to do? We were basically drifting north with only the staysail and yankee set. I decided to try setting the storm trysail to see whether this would be sufficient to help us hold our course.

I had the trysail set a short while later and was pleasantly surprised at how well it did in holding us up into the wind and giving us extra speed. It was nowhere as good as the mainsail of course, but better than nothing. At this point I turned in to await daylight and have a closer look at the mainsail.

At eight this morning, I dragged my weary body out of my bunk, had breakfast, then attended to the mainsail. I have spent nearly all day sewing up the parted seam. I carefully lined the seam up and held it together with sewing pins and started to sew by hand, following the holes where the machine stitching had been. All the sewing pins made the sail something of a sharps hazard, resembling a porcupine, and I had pricked myself in several places and left a few drops of blood on the mainsail before it was finished. But now it is done, The tear below the first reef point remains, but the mainsail is back up, with two reefs at the moment, and we are forging ahead once more, now at six knots.

All is well.