Position Report on Saturday 5th April 2014

The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Sat 5 Apr 2014 16:24

Position Report on Saturday 5th April 2014 at 0800


08:03.6S  108:05.9W


So far, we've done 1,190 miles with 1,850 miles to go.  In the last 24 hours, we’ve done 140 miles which is not bad considering that we spent 6 hours bumbling along repairing the main sail again.  We’re sailing at 6 knots in 6-8 foot seas, still heading on a course of 260 degrees.  It's a fabulous day, blue skies, fluffy clouds - perfect trade wind sailing...  Here’s what we did yesterday and overnight.


4 April 2014   Galapagos to Marquesas (Day 9)


The weather this morning was much the same as yesterday, sunny with 15-20 knot winds from the southeast.  We've sailed 1,000 miles since we left the Galapagos, so we're over a third of the way through our passage. 


After breakfast, we turned the clocks back one hour because we've sailed through 105 degrees west and moved into another time zone.  Glenys was very happy when she went for her morning nap,  knowing that she'd have an extra hour in bed. 


Last night was very rolly, so we had a play with our sail plan to see if we could dampen the rolls. We're mostly sailing on a broad reach and I' m fairly convinced that having the genoa out causes us to roll more than when we use the stay sail because its centre of effort is much higher.  However, when the wind is around 15 knots, the stay sail is not powerful enough by itself and we slow down.


We tried using a barber-haul to pull the stay sail tight amidships with the genoa still out, but that didn't seem to affect the amount of rolling very much and the stay sail blanketed the genoa causing us to slow down.  We eventually put out a reefed stay sail sheeted in tight, which seemed to be the best compromise.  The genoa was partially blanketed, but the staysail provided some drive and also had a dampening effect.  However, we still rolled...


In the middle of the morning, I went to the foredeck to check a few things and to my dismay, saw that there was another small tear in the leech of the main sail.  There was no choice - it had to be repaired immediately before it got worse.  So, we donned our harnesses, rolled away the foresails and motored into wind, so that we could drop the mainsail. 


The change in apparent wind when going from downwind to upwind never ceases to amaze me.  We went from sliding down 10 foot waves with a pleasant 15 knot wind behind us, to crashing into enormous 10 foot waves with a howling 25 knot wind, putting walls of spray and water across the foredeck.  It took us 15 minutes battling in this maelstrom to get the sail off the mast and into the cockpit. 


After a short break for lunch,  we inspected the damage, finding two large, four inch tears and two smaller ones.    It looks like the problems are caused by the seam on the leech.  The material is UV damaged, very weak and is worn through in many places.  I think that leech seam is tearing when under strain and the forces on the sail are then directed onto the seams between the main panels.  The material on the main panels looks to be strong, but the failure of leech seam is putting undue strain on the panels and they in turn rip.


Unfortunately,  we didn't have enough sailcloth to replace the 65ft leech seam, so we patched the four rips and sewed twelve, one foot long strengthening patches onto the leech seam where the main panel seams meet the leech.  When we did the previous repair, we had to remove the leech line and, in doing so, had weakened the leech further, so we sewed a 1/2 wide tape along the whole length of the leech.  Hopefully that will be strong enough until we can find a decent sail-maker.


It took us six hours to do the repair - even with our brilliant Sailrite sewing machine.  We then had another epic struggle to get the sail on deck and onto the mast.  We finished the job at five o'clock, by which time there was just enough time to tidy up and have dinner before it went dark.


While we were repairing the main sail, we carried on sailing west using only the staysail and still averaged 5 knots over the ground.  When we got the main sail back up, we discovered that the wind had backed and we were now sailing almost downwind, so we poled out the genoa and had a heavily reefed main.


It was a lovely clear night with a bright moon and a starry sky, but the motion was horrible, rolling violently from port to starboard.  Up to now we've been on a broad reach and the boat has been mostly heeled over to starboard, so when we're in bed in the back cabin, it's been possible to jam ourselves against the starboard bulk head and get some sleep.  The downwind rolling was more central going from starboard to port and back again, so without any lee cloth on the bed, we were sliding around and getting no sleep.


Our only option was to sleep on the single berth in the main cabin, which has a lee cloth.  This is not ideal because the saloon is very noisy with objects banging and clunking in the many lockers.  One also gets disturbed whenever the person on watch moves around in the cockpit or goes down into the saloon.  However, at least we got a bit of kip and didn't spend our off watch hanging grimly on to the bed in each roll of the boat.