Day 103 – Worse Than Hoped

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 26 Mar 2022 09:07
Noon Position: 43 08.0 S 060 21.8 E
Course: ENE Speed: 5.5 knots
Wind: S, F4 Sea: moderate
Swell: NW 2m, SW 2m
Weather: mostly cloudy, cool
Day’s Run: 134nm (96nm Easting)

While conditions yesterday forenoon were better than forecast, my hopes for better conditions for the rest of the day were not realised. Indeed, the Ineffable’s predicted time for the passage of a frontal system was uncannily accurate, for which I am grateful as it makes preparations that much simpler.
We spent all of yesterday beam reaching to the SE on the port tack. The winds freshened around 1700 which saw the third reef in the main and all but a scrap of jib rolled up. While furling the jib I encountered a jam. I checked the masthead to make sure no halyards had wrapped themselves around the foil, but they were all clear; then I checked the drum, that was fine; and then I noticed that the furling line had frayed to the extent that the outer sheath of the line had chafed through and piled up against one of the fairlead blocks like a scrunched up sock. I managed to clear the blockage but conditions were too rough to do any repairs at that time.
Come 1925, the wind had increased further and I dropped the mainsail and secured it to the boom. This left us with the staysail and about 10% of the jib unfurled. We were still making good a steady six knots. It was pitch black and hard to assess the sea state but Sylph’s motion seemed stable and relatively comfortable so I decided that the drogue would not be necessary. I retired below, shipped the storm boards, made myself secure and comfortable in my bunk and waited.
Just before midnight Sylph’s motion became chaotic and boisterous, pitching and rolling sharply. Looking up at the GPS she had turned 150 degrees to port and was now heading north. The front had clearly just passed and the wind vane was following the wind shift from the N to the SW. While the wind was still of the port quarter, Sylph was now punching into the residual sea and swell from the NW with a new sea developing from the SW. We really needed to gybe but the motion was quite violent and I thought it best to let things settle before venturing on deck. Sylph was well snugged down and while the motion was extremely unpleasant I judged it to be safe, while attempting to do any work on deck in such conditions would have been unnecessarily hazardous. Besides which, I figured with the confused sea state it probably wouldn’t matter what course we came to, Sylph’s motion would be just as chaotic. So I hunkered down under the warmth of my blankets and waited some more.
At 0400 conditions seemed settled enough to make it safe to venture on deck. Accordingly I donned foul weather gear and clambered out over the storm boards. With only the staysail and scrap of jib set, gybing was a simple matter and I was soon back down below and in the warmth of my favourite spot on board.
Come 0800 the wind had eased considerably and Sylph was starting to wallow. Time to once more don foul weather gear and venture on deck. I unshipped the storm-boards and set the mainsail with two reefs but left the jib mostly furled until I could attend to the chafed furling line. I had breakfast and, most importantly, a cup of tea then returned on deck with some whipping twine and a sailmakers needle and whipped a couple of sail-maker whippings into the chafed braid to prevent them slipping and jamming in the fairlead blocks again. Then I set the full jib and shook out the second reef in the main. The furling line needs to be replaced but that will have to wait for better weather as replacing the furling line requires the entire drum to be dismantled with the attendant risk of losing some important and irreplaceable component over the side.
The seas are still lumpy and confused and Sylph’s motion is similarly chaotic, but for now there is sufficient breeze to keep her moving. Tomorrow’s forecast is for light contrary winds. I can only hope that the seas will have smoothed out a lot by then otherwise I will be having one of those Zen challenges to my equanimity.
All is well.