Day 141 – Next Leg

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 3 May 2022 08:37
Noon Position: 06 32.4 N 075 16.9 E
Course: ESE Speed: 5 knots
Wind: W F3 Sea: slight
Swell: SW 1.5m
Weather: overcast, hot, humid
Day’s Run: 133 nm

With Minicoy Island beind us, another major milestone for the voyage has been realised. I estimate that we have now completed three quarters of the voyage. The next waypoint is at 04 S, 090 E, and from today’s noon position bears 120 degrees at a distance of 1,350 miles. It is another point chosen somewhat arbitrarily in the middle of the ocean, in this instance I chose it to allow us to use the SW monsoon to get us as far east as possible before turning south to once again cross the SE trades, then back into the W’lies to take us on the final leg home (about 5,500 miles to go).
And we have made a decent little dent in that distance over the last 24 hours, though not without a few moments of excitement. The first moment came yesterday afternoon at 1400 with the passage of an intense thunderhead. The wind picked up to force five and veered into the north requiring a reef in the main and the genoa to be mostly furled. And the rain bucketed down as the lightning and thunder cracked and boomed all around. Again I collected as much water as I could and all the cockpit containers were soon full, plus a couple of buckets. While I can’t say I enjoy the heat and humidity of the tropics, nor these furious balls of atmospheric energy, it sure is nice to have an excess of water allowing the luxury of being able to do some laundry and have some fresh clean clothes to wear.
We then had a relatively quiet night with only one more thunderhead passing over. It was a relatively tame one so while I reefed down it was not as exciting as the afternoon affair. There have been a lot of ships passing by so I have dropped south of our planned track so as to get out of the shipping lane. Fortunately the AIS has been working well and I have been able to pick up ships at a good range giving me plenty of warning of any avoiding action that needs to be taken. I have been told by a couple of my readers that Sylph is not showing up on any of the marine traffic websites at the moment, and has not done so for several days. I checked with a passing merchant ship a couple of days ago and the watch officer advised that they had held Sylph out to some twenty miles, which would indicate that Sylph’s AIS transmission is quite strong, so I really have no idea why we should all of a sudden dropped off the plot.
The second moment of drama happened this forenoon. While I wanted to get south of the shipping lanes, I figured by mid-forenoon that we had gone far enough and that we needed to gybe to make for next waypoint. In the process I managed to get a severe wrap of the genoa around the forestay. Normally I roll the headsail up before I gybe but because the genoa is so much larger than the number two headsail, which was the sail I had configured the furling gear for, it turned out that I had not put enough turns on the furling drum to roll up the genoa completely. Consequently, when we gybed there was still a good portion of the genoa flapping in the breeze as I changed poles over, and before I knew it the flapping sail had wrapped itself around the foil in the contrary direction to the drum. I tried all sorts of things to unwrap the sail but it had wound itself up nice and tight, high up on the forestay. I stood on the pulpit (with safety harness attached) and tried to reach up as high as I could to unwrap the sail but to no avail. I could not reach anywhere near high enough. I considered climbing the mast and then lowering myself down the forestay to get to the wrap but that would have been extremely difficult, potentially dangerous, and there was no guarantee that once I had unravelled the wrap that it would not have gotten itself tangled up again by the time I had returned to the deck.
In the end I hoisted myself up onto the pulpit again and undid the two sheets. I then rolled the sail up with the furling line and then unrolled it with the drum at the base of the forestay, hoping that this and the breeze would allow the sail to unravel itself. And I am pleased to say that it worked. The only problem was that I now had a full genoa flogging in the breeze with no sheets to get it under control. I decided the only way to get it back under control was to lower the whole sail. This I duly did and in the process decided that seeing as we were past the doldrums and within the relatively steady monsoonal breeze that I may as well change back to the number two working headsail. So that has been done and we are now running wing-on-wing once more with the jib poled out to port, while the genoa sits on the starboard side deck waiting for the cool of the evening to be folded and stowed.
All is well.