Dee Caffari reluctantly makes hole in hull to carry out repairs to speed transducer 22/2/06

Date 21 February at 2315

Position S 46° 5 ‘/ E 141° 38’

The day was spent in 30-35 knots of wind yet again. We had one or two visits to 40 knots and conversely one or two visits to 27 knots. The sea state continues to be very confused and intent on making Aviva spend half her life as a submarine. The sun never took control of the daylight hours however, was around amongst the cloud all day making it bright if not delivering any warmth.

The drop in temperature is a good way of zapping my strength, compounded with the fact that just moving around below deck requires careful planning and acrobatic feats as you are constantly living in a braced position either to stop yourself falling to the low side of a yacht whose leeward deck is constantly under water or from the landings after the moments airborne as Aviva takes off from the crest of a wave and ploughs head first into the next wave arriving.

The barometer is finally rising as we are being lifted on a port tack to make a better course to the west rather than north. The wind is forecast to ease as we approach a high pressure that will swallow us if only for a few hours. Rather than dreading the prospect of having progress slowed by the high pressure, I am keen to get there and re group. My jobs list is large and we shall be busy getting ready for the next section of sailing. It will also give me a chance to move around Aviva in a relaxed state rather than using my muscles just to exist down below deck.

The night displayed a black ink sky where the only lights generated on deck were from the instruments producing a glow of red around them from the displays. It was difficult to tell if this cloud was uniform, if it would produce rain or stronger winds. We sailed on cautious about flying more canvas until we were confident in the conditions ahead. When the night is that dark it is always a little unnerving changing to bigger sails. Now just over halfway through the remote vastness of the Southern Ocean was not the time to get into difficulty and having spent so long in 30 – 40 knots of wind it is amazing how benign 20 knots suddenly feels.

Dawn arrived with no impact of colour apart from the standard Southern Ocean grey, but the wind had eased and we were able to shake the reefs out of the mainsail for the first time in a number of days. I also started my jobs list. The first job was to make a two-inch hole in the bottom of the boat, no mean feat I can tell you and yes I was very nervous. I had checked with the shore support team to make sure I could reduce my chances of sinking. The speed transducer had stopped working; it had been intermittent for a while but had now given up completely. I needed to pull it from the bottom of the boat to inspect it.

After I had checked the method and confirmed which transducer I needed to pull, as it sits next to the depth transducer in the hull, I set to work. There is something quite surreal about pulling something from the hull that when absent leaves a hole. I had been assured that a valve would close the hole and water would enter the hull slowly at a trickle, if I got it wrong I would have a two-inch hole and the water would enter pretty fast and fill the watertight compartment in about four hours. A relaxing thought to keep me company. I was confident and didn’t wear my mask and snorkel however, I did have some butterflies in my stomach. All was well and I found the transducer had a friend attached to it. I wasn’t sure if it was animal, vegetable or mineral and not being one for little nasties, I extracted whatever it was from the paddle wheel using a screwdriver, once clear I replaced the transducer back through the hull and hey presto the speed suddenly started working again. Another job successfully completed and I wasn’t sinking!

Now to rest of my jobs list.

Dee and Aviva