FROM 1-26. Through the Barn Door

Oct 28, 2005 - 0330hrs UTC

0330hrs 28 Oct 2005 UTC 37’50”S 021’32”E Ref 495

Here we go again! As expected, the nice 20 -30 westerly evolved into the usual 40 -50 stinker and, as usual, it hit us just at dusk. #2 and main off earlier as it deteriorated, to poled out 4 & 5 then as the first squall rolled in around 2100 (now yesterday) we climbed out into a screamer and dropped both of them and put everything away – after the last one, prudence, persistence, perseverance is the go. We’re bare poled, now in a gusty 30 – 50 westerly with steepish but not threatening waves – so far anyway. We are ‘sailing’ ESE at 4.5 knots and seem to be out of the current. But it doesn’t stop – just had a 65 knot gust. Like the man in the waterfall, we’re following Destiny but I do wish, occasionally, that Destiny was a kinder path.

Mark L – I should have qualified my note to you – a litre is excessive only as long as you are sure the stern gland is working as it is supposed to and have ruled it out as the source. If it is one of the older stuffed ones, it could drip a litre easily, but if it does, it probably needs tightening or restuffing.

Now blowing a steady 50 and I just saw a flash at 70. That’s the problem with sitting here – I have the numbers directly in front of my face. It is due to abate over 24 hours or so but certainly has lots of attitude now. I think I’ll go to bed and let it howl!

That was at about 2200 yesterday. At 0330 today, it’s still blowing but may be abating a bit – still some nasty squalls but the lulls seem to be easier. One or two dumping waves but not too bad. Perhaps a couple of storm jibs in an hour or so when the sun is up.

Now 0500 – we went out and put up the storm jib, had a bit of a feel and took it down again and, once again we’re bare poling at about 3+ knots to the SE. The boat handles the storm jib and the seas really easily for 98% of the time – but it’s the other 2% that contain the knockdown waves and the occasional one out of left field that Kevvo can’t hope to handle. And they generally seem to come with the gusts. As we pulled it down, we copped a rainsquall with a nice rainbow to the south and 55 – 60 knots just for us. Anyway, prudence reigns for the mo. Also means there’s too much nastiness to rig the solar panel, so we will need half an hour of engine later.

A word on bare poling – there’s more on this elsewhere on the website – but for the newcomers and non sailors, there are three ‘last resort’ ways of handling potentially overwhelming conditions.

The first, which everyone has heard of, is to heave to. The boat is set up deliberately so that it lies beam-on to the wind and waves and it drifts sideways or very slightly forwards. To do this may require a small sail forward, set so that the wind hits the ‘wrong’ side of it – so that it is ‘backed’ and to have the helm lashed to leeward. It works fine until the waves get to be so big that they start to roll and break over the boat, by which time, you are somewhat committed. Been there and I really don’t like it!

The second method is to combine a heave to with a drogue, (a sort of water parachute on a long line) or that a drogue be streamed instead of heaving to to keep either the bow or stern into wind and waves. Both these are essentially passive methods. I have never tried a drogue, so can’t comment, but we tried streaming warps in the 1961 Fastnet storm and they helped to slow the boat and keep it stern to the waves. I don’t remember the detail of that night too well – it was a long time ago!

The third method is what we are doing now. It does require either an automatic steering system or someone to steer the boat. If the latter, then it is likely to be unpleasant and dangerous for whoever draws the short straw. Essentially, all sail is removed, everything that can be is stowed and the boat is steered so that the wind crosses it from behind the beam, and the pressure of the wind on the rig and the hull moves it forwards. This is an extreme form of sailing and I think it works far better that the heave to. It sets the boat up so that the waves hit it from the quarter and it runs diagonally down the face of each normal wave and usually wallows a bit on the backs. It gets to be very stimulating in Cape Horn sized waves and big winds, but if you are out there, what works best is what is likely to save your skin. As with every potentially dangerous situation, it is often the so-called freak wave that does the damage, coming from a different angle and amplifying or radically changing the wave pattern as it passes.
And there will always be situations where none of these work and you have to hope that your experience can cope. Each one of them will be different for different boats as well, but you cant really go out and practise in the real thing – just play around when things aren’t too critical and learn how your boat handles.

Ed: Fenwick, a follow of the saga, sent this with a request to Alex to “push Steve to put it on the website”. Well, here it is:

Alex Pete,

Berrimilla shirt in frame
Shirt in the Frame

We had an opening bid of $500 last night at the briefing, I have sent a photo to Mali.
and something to put on the web for any bids from the web page and arranged with Dal Wilson to pass on any bids we may get via sat phone donated by telstra for the race.
on another note when you called me erudite I now remember when I was doing my phd. my lecturer said something to me” erudite” and I thought the same as Pete, “Poffter bastard”
I now recall he explained after I decked him and I was released by the uni security guards that I was contreversal,
Occasionally saying what i’m certain is true and hinting at that for which I have no evidence, it adds credibillity, I will let you take that on board and use it as you will.
Regards Allan

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