Wednesday, 22 August 2018

and then there was one.....part 2

The obvious first issue was to get the mast further away from the doghouse and minimise any damage. Easier said of course as whilst there was little wind, perhaps 4-8k there was a swell running of a metre or more which caused the mast to move up and down with some limb-snapping force. The mast was pivoting on the fairlead about 2 metres up from the heel with a similar amount in the water and the bulk suspended between the two. We managed after a lot of effort to slide the mast further out, hampered by shrouds, sheer poles, rigging etc and once clear of the 'house we were able to start on the next stage. It might be worth pointing out that when we'd hove to we'd done so under stays'l alone and on starb'd tack so the tiller was roped over to port. Also we habitually sail with the mizzen tied over to port as a) it gives easier access for us to the hatch and b)the mizzen sheet doesn't foul the wind vane. When the mast fell the tiller was thus out of the way the windvane was also spared as the mast fell to starb'd.
On deck. finally.
It became clear that we were not going to achieve much with the rigging in place and Bee grabbed the Felco wire cutters we'd had on board, unused, for the last 18 years. Nevertheless cutting though the wire, bright shiny steel, took two people considerable effort to do so. Cutting the running rigging a doddle of course but we still needed to separate the spars and sail from the mast if we were to manoeuvre the mast onto the deck. Each move had to be planned, spars had to be lashed to the boat before releasing for obvious reasons and once we had undone the bolts to split up the mast and spars we could do nothing about the latter trying to bash holes in the hull as we fought to get the mast on board using the main throat haly'd and tackles to get it to a position where we could safely lay it along the deck and turn our attention to the other danger. Obviously much lighter it nevertheless proved to be difficult as the sail was now soaked and holding water and the spars had managed to get between the self steerer rudder and the main rudder whilst the other end kept thumping up against the hull. Again the throat haly'd came into play and slowly, slowly we managed to get it aboard and on deck.
What was I thinking? We moved it further aft..

Now it all needed lashing down; the mast was moved to where we thought it would do least damage (wrongly as it happened as it protruded to far forward and the lumpy seas we were to encounter meant it would be periodically lifted and dropped, hard, onto the deck by waves coming aboard). Because the radome, blocks and vhf aerial would be in the way we needed to remove those items and get the shrouds off the mast too. Given the radome had been under water for several hours we had little hesitation with cutting the cables to it and the vhf. The sail locker was utilised for all the detritus we'd gathered, the sails being lashed securely on deck, solar panels removed and finally some 10 hours after it all began we realised we'd done as much as we could. We were exhausted of course and whilst we were about 60nm off the Icelandic coast neither of us had any hesitation about what we should do: sail south. No question at all – Iceland was close but we couldn't be sure how much damage we had sustained although we were pretty sure the hull was intact, the engine ran smoothly so no prop damage but repairs might be lengthy plus we had Toots to consider...and we know that area can be inhospitable later in the season, so we began to reverse our miles. Soon after the wind picked up and we marvelled at our luck – that it had been calm and not a gale; that we'd hove to on that tack not the other; that we'd bought those bolt croppers all those years back. I also cursed my stupidity at putting most of our comms on the mizzen, vhf, gps, radar, solar panels. As it happened whilst one panel was intermittently underwater we subsequently washed the circuit board with fresh water and both are still working, albeit with no where to site them. The gps still works and it will have a new home when repairs begin. The vhf uses the same aerial type as the ais so Bee switches cable ends depending upon which we need – a splitter is needed! The radome? Who knows at this stage. Perhaps the biggest casualties have been the very expensive doghouse extension we had made in the winter which used the mizzen as part of its structure and consequently was ripped apart when the mast fell and the simple rope safety rail that stretched between main and mizzen shrouds about a metre above deck and provided a very real mental and physical boost as we moved up and down the deck. The missing mast too as it had been used without thought as something to grab hold of or cling onto when things were lumpy. Now the cockpit seems very vulnerable, well no the cockpit is the same of course but we are very vulnerable. In an effort to make us feel a tad safer we ran a line from the mizzen horse to the doghouse, across the top and back down to the horse. It helped support the old cover we had but whilst it worked when we were sat down, moving across it involved either a limbo dance or going over the top. 
Water pipes instead of a mast..

Neither made you feel particularly safe and using the winches meant it would either catch your eyes or your neck so not the most user friendly change we had to make. We ended up propping the old cover up with water hose pipes that were not needed from our safety lines - not the most attractive of set ups but it worked to some extent and we were the only people who could see it of course.

Our hopes of getting back to Scotland in one go came to nowt as the wind pushed us ever further east and we were caught up in the currents around the Faeroes. A call to Torshavn Radio about forthcoming long term weather determined we should stop there and sit out the two days of light wind and stiff SW that were to follow. Explaining our situation and whether we needed to check in again was met with a request to hold on whilst he checked with customs and the very welcome answer that No as far as they were concerned we were still cleared. More good info followed on the currents and we turned and raced toward the very fjord, Ventsmanna, we had exited some days previously. Now of course surrounded by very thick fog we approached blind, radarless, but with the track of our way though the dogleg. Nothing was visible until breakers could be seen dimly some 50 metres away but, just as it did on the southern entrance , the fog began to clear as we entered the fjord proper and we made our rapid progress down toward the town and anchorage.
Troll's finger

After a couple of days rest and sorting out of various bits we made our way down to Miovagar and made our departure from there. We left about 1am on Mon July 16 with the hope of getting away from the coast and currents. Didn't really work like that of course but we plugged on under engine when the wind failed us before deciding to drift for the night. As luck would have it the tide changed soon after we stopped and we found ourselves heading north at well over 2 knots but little can be done in such a situation and tides do change. Eventually we closed the mainland even though the wind was now heading us and the tide had, once again albeit several days later, turned against us. We made it into Laxford July 19 around 5pm which it has to be said is not our favourite Loch but on this occasion it served perfectly: landlocked; good holding; not too deep and beautifully quiet.

The journey south along the mainland followed the usual; tidal gates, headwinds; some of the usual anchorages but a few we had either not used for yeas or had never used before until we made down to that old standby - Gigha. We've taken to using the southern most anchorage off the ferry overnight terminal as it is quiet and few, if any, boats use it. But this time, after checking the forecast we knew we needed to leave almost immediately if we were to stay ahead of the fronts heading our way. So we left within a few hours and sailed against a foul tide but with a favourable wind along the west coast of the Mull of Kintyre bound for Bangor where we eventually arrived around 5am the following morning. 
After several false starts we left Bangor around 10 on Aug 6th in the company of several boats from the nearby marina including a 50' Pilot Cutter. The day, wet, murky with a stiff headwind proved entertaining as we tacked with the cutter although they favoured long boards and we don't. Nevertheless as the day wore we began to think about where we might stop. The obvious place was Strangford Lough but it isn't ideal as a passage stop as it beset by very strong tides so timing is all and the anchorages are a long way up so we're not really that taken with the idea. We called up the cutter as they seem to have an alternative plan and they did - they were heading direct to Falmouth and we thought "You're on!" All that night and the following day we sailed south although we both had different tactics - they favoured getting closer to the Irish coast whereas we kept plugging on down the centre until we got south of Dublin and closed on Arklow. We then moved across to slide down inside the Arklow Bank and gradually the cutter caught up with us. By nightfall we were almost side by side, worryingly so at times and we were glad when whatever had caused their meanderings was sorted out and they squared away and were comfortably about 1/2 mile off us. I went down to rest only to be called up by a frantic Bee - the genny had collapsed and was flogging. At first she thought the sheet had come off the winch but it was worse than that. The heads'll are pulled out to the end of the bowsprit on a leathered ring called a traveller. You simply pull on a line and out the sail goes...well the line had broken and once we dropped the sail we hove to and set about roving a fresh line. In order to do this Bee has to don oilie trousers and a safety harness before grabbing the new line and sliding along the 3 metre bowsprit, running the line through shackle and onto the sheave and then back on board. Of course whilst this is happening the boat is rising and falling with the waves which were somewhere between 1-2 metres and the big waves would see her up to her knees in cold water... We came out of the hove to and hoisted the genny except it jammed and we realised the line had jammed in the sheave. Sail down, heave to and sort out the line and try again. It jams once more and this time we change the line and this time were successful and we can finally get moving again. All this had happened SE of Tusker Light, in pitch black and drizzle, where, again, tides are a major influence and again with rates in excess of 2 or 3 knots we had lost a fair bit of ground in the 2 hours spent trying to sort this out. The cutter, of course, had long gone.

Because we wanted to get back we opted to keep the full main up which was great for speed BUT it did mean we couldn't get the self-steerer to cope and ended up hand steering for most of the 77 hour journey from Bangor to the Helford. A brief stop over to see mates Nigel and Jude before a final amazing day back to Cawsand - sunshine, full main, genny and tops'l. 

Well for the moment we're back on the quay at Millbrook but not sure for how long. We've started work on the boat - the rigging is with a rigger to be replaced. We think the problem was caused by the guy who did the rigging years ago wrapped electrical tape around the wire before he served it and water got trapped leading to rust which is what actually caused the mast to fall. But many of the changes I thought of implementing: bottle-screws and tabernacle, have been shelved as we thought it through and discussed it with various people, particularly the tabernacle where the consensus was the reason we had so little damage was because the mast wasn't held captive and had it been we might also have ripped up the bridge deck the mast sits on. But also as Bee said - we've had that rigging 16 years and whilst the mast rocked back and forth it had never let us down until that moment so we just need to be more aware.

And we will be. A shame it happened as we really felt we were having our best season for a long time. The self doubt  and lack of confidence I've been feeling over the last few years seems to have quietened down and Iceland was a stepping stone to Scoresby Sound (Greenland) which we had hopes of catching sight of at least but they will both be there next year if we decide to go. 

Two other things have happened since we arrived. We'd drained the water from the radome when we'd removed it from the mast then shoved it below before rinsing it with fresh water a few days later. Once here we opened it up again, leaving it open to the elements, rain, mist, sunshine and wind for 10 days before tentatively plugging a spare cable in and firing up the radar and finding it worked....

And then we decided we'd take the mizzen off the boat and check it over. It took four of us to lift it up and off the boat and me 'n Bee kept looking at each other wondering how on earth had we lifted it - never would have managed it without that throat halyard for sure.


1 comment:

  1. See Toots is looking traumatized (not)! So glad you are safe if a little shaken.