Damage takes its toll on Aviva 9/3/06

Date8 March at 2304

PositionS 43° 36’/E 94° 43′

It is a big boost to hear the distance to go is now under 10,000 miles, reducing that figure to just four numbers feels great.

This morning I had some very stormy skies with big black clouds providing some very gusty winds but I am pleased to say that as the afternoon has progressed the weather has improved and we are now sailing in some big seas with an increasing wind but under blue skies. Seeing the sun and bright daylight has a fantastic feeling of lifting spirits and makes me feel alive and keen to do things.

The gusty conditions this morning made life difficult to choose a sail plan. Changing the staysail according to the wind, although made easier due to it being a furling sail is still quite an operation.

While sailing upwind every time you change the staysail means that it flogs whilst you are in the process of changing the size of it, which is bad for the wear and tear of the sail. Also with the furling line run on the starboard side of the cockpit when we are on a starboard tack the whole operation takes a little longer. This is because I have to ease the sheet on the port side then cross back and furl some sail and keep repeating this process until the desired amount has been furled. Once complete then I can trim the sail as needed.

The other tack is made slightly easier as the two winches involved are next to each other. The noise of the staysail flogging in the wind is terrible and definitely makes you winch fast when furling the sail away so as to stop the noise and potential damage to the sail as soon as possible.

As the evening approached the clear skies were replaced with overcast skies and some menacing clouds. Blue was replaced with various shades of grey and yet again the sea temperature dropped by two degrees not helping build my confidence at all as the night was approaching. We have another frontal system approaching tonight with some strong winds and rain ahead of it, as it passes I will be able to tack and head north-west again so moving back to the warmer water again.

The front came a little earlier than expected and the alarm on the radar went first. Of course I left up and went to have a look in the pitch black of the night. I couldn’t see a thing, but it had started raining and the radar had picked up the rainsquall. I was relieved that it wasn’t ice, but that relief was short lived.

After the rain arrived so did 55 knots of wind and a 60 degree wind shift. I waited for the squall to pass and went for the tack. It ended in disaster. More wind decided I wasn’t going to tack, so I sheeted in on the original side again to find that the sheet had snapped and one end had wrapped itself around the top guard wire and snapped two stanchions whilst the other end had tied itself in knots and was swinging at the clew of the sail. I eventually tacked and hoped I could sheet on, on the new side and found that the sheet was caught in what looked like sail cloth or thread, it was difficult to say in the dark but the sail did look to be in one piece.

To avoid any further damage I furled that sail away and looked to unfurl the staysail instead. So progress has been slowed a little, at least until daylight and then until we have the right conditions to sort the sail out. In daylight I will be able to set about replacing stanchions and guard wires and making sure we are safe again. As always disaster strikes when it is the middle of the night that is pitch black and pouring with rain.

I am really frustrated as we have sailed nearly 18,000 miles with no damage and now I have managed lots at once. I guess that serves me right for enjoying stress free sailing.

Dee and Aviva