Sunday, February 8, 2009

** Xplore loses main halyard in Drake Passage **

Shit Happens Well what was a smooth departure from Antarctica, with a good breeze and forecast, soon became a very careful game of chess for skipper Stephen and his team. At 2325 first mate Audrey went on deck to trim the main sheet as the winds had picked up, we had already reduced the Yankee and were sailing with four reefs in when the unexpected happened; after only a few turns on the main sheet Audrey saw the world collapse around her, the entire main sail went 'bang' and started flapping like a rag, then dropped to the deck and boom. Stephen at the nav table heard the squeals from Audrey and quickly popped up on deck to see that the main halyard had parted at the headboard of the main sail. With flaps and flakes of sail piled onto the boom in total disarray, Audrey and Stephen proceeded to lash the sail to the boom in not-so-easy conditions. Blowing in the 30's, luckily the sea state hadn't built into the washing machine that it could have; we were still on the continental shelf of Antarctica making any strong winds the recipe for large seas. We hung on and tidied the mess on deck, the halyard was at the top of the mast waving around like a school kid up a tree, 'come and get me down.' it was calling, but for the night the top of the mast was where it was going to stay. We slowly thawed out below as any wind and water in the south makes for cold, cold conditions; even though Audrey and Stephen are more than acclimatised to these temperatures, more than 10 minutes on deck means your hands and faces are freezing. We sat and talked about what had happened, and Stephen started to look at the ramifications to the careful course planning he had devised for the crossing. The key factors that effect Xplore now are as follows: Xplore has 1.75 tanks of fuel left onboard (approximately 500 liters). With minimum engine revolutions we will still use approximately six liters per hour. The sea state is still too rough for anyone to venture up the mast to recover the main halyard, let alone carry out a temporary repair. Seas and temperatures don't allow at present to change the No2 Yankee to the slightly larger No1. We currently have winds above 21 knots that means that under sail we can make 6.5 knots of boat speed which is quite reasonable, we have planned on making a minimum of 140 nautical miles per day to be able to position ourselves in the SW corner of the next monster blow that is already starting to show its first stages of building to the west. Whilst pondering options and plans on their first day-time watch today, Stephen and Audrey were watching the winds speeds slowly drop, and as the winds dropped the boat speed diminished. We sat and saw it tumble 5.9 - 5.4 - 5.1 ... oohhh God ... 4.9 ... Stephen was staring at the wind gauge and began talking to it, 'Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh come on up you go Hewey! Please just a littler bit more, don't leave us this way, we love you and your strength!!!' Audrey by this stage knows that Stephen can be a little bit crazy but this was taking it to a new high: 'He's gone bonkers!' The next thing that Stephen said to the wind to encourage it was that he would sacrifice a 'Chocolate Hob Nob' to the seas as an offering !!! Audrey was mortified. Hob Nobs are the most prized cookies onboard, purchased from the Falklands -- we are already on the last packet, for Stephen to offer them away was treason. But always good to his promises, minutes later Stephen entered from the galley with one Hob Nob in hand and proceeded to exit the companion way and throw it to the winds and the sea. Audrey nearly wept: as a confirmed chocoholic this was terrible. We sat and watched the wind speed to see if Stephen's stupidity would work. 18.2 - 18.7 - 18.9 and then 19.1................ Yehhhhh, Audrey was gobsmacked, it had worked ! Our boat speed continued but if Hob Nobs were needed to continue motivating Hewey then we were going to need a truckload. We continued along, with average speeds enough for us not to have to use the motor and maintain a reasonable course. This crossing may be a slow one, more news to come ~ Stephen

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