Monday, November 30, 2009

Rocking & rolling

Latest update from Sam in mid-Atlantic:

Running wing on wing with the Genoa poled out, big swells rolling like a good 'un.  Can't put anything down. Had the curry on the cockpit table last night and with every roll it slid threateningly over the plate towards your lap.

Our sewing on the sail seems to be holding up, pity about the rest which is unravelling readily. It seems that the Med UV has taken its toll of the sacrificial strip stitching, and the sailmaker who did the check for Alan did a crap job. Overall sail integrity ok though and I do not fancy taking it down again when we would either have to restitch the whole thing or cut it all off.

Other boats report equipment damage and  failure. I did not really appreciate what a pounding everything takes.

More flying fish today. One boat had an egret drop in for a rest and another had a killer whale (they think) swim under the boat.

The good news is that we are halfway. According to Lauren we are 22nd overall on uncorrected time (or is that corrected?) anyway, respectable performance. Another 180-plus over the last 24 hrs but we have been warned of a wind hole on Thursday. Herb is hard to contact at the moment but maybe we can get him tonight. Alan has updated the website with a data send via the Iridium.

Starting to think about coming home but there is still at least another nine days if the wind and everything else holds.

Nearly halfway

As of yesterday Moonstruck had covered 1100 miles and had 1600 to go. They are suffering a bit of wear and tear - blew their spinnaker out after a couple of broaches, and had to get down the genoa and stitch it back together - but overall it sounds like steady although unspectacular progress. They are here (see what this means on the ARC site):

Extracts from Sam's emails:

29 November

Really disappointing night, poor progress mainly due to a windshift in the night that brought the wind into the east, We have been having problems with the sails. Genoa sacrificial strip is fraying and we have already lost the leech line on the main ( I may have told you that already) Anyway, we were on main and staysail only and the windshift posted us way down south, making only 3-4 kts VMG to waypoint. Very rolly too, hardly any sleep.

So today, we took down the genoa and bundled it into the cockpit to carry out repairs. Alan has a sailmakers palm but it is left handed. There is also a patent quick stitch awl but neither of us could get it to work, so I used it to make the hole and pushed the needle in by hand. There was quite a bit of damage so it took us a couple of hours. Then we had to rehoist the thing. I copped a big wave all over me. Very warm and salty. Had to stay head to wind and in the end we put the engine on (allowed in these circs) an d I steered. Job done -- but the fat lady had still to sing and Alan wanted the jib poled out. Fortunately we had a dress rehearsal in Gran Canaria so it went up fairly painlessly. Much better motion, some rolling, but importantly we are dead on course and making good speed. We did 185 miles on the log noon to noon today, but I expect we lost in distance to St Lucia.

One thing has struck me, Kalessin is a much more efficient vessel and much easier to sail well. Winches, cleats, deck gear, all sensibly placed, this boat has very primitive sheet leads that cannot be adjusted from the cockpit. The boom vang adjustment required you to go out to the foredeck (you could I suppose dive through the front of the greenhouse) and the power winches are a pain with complex sheet leads so that the power winch can drive them. What's wrong with a bit of manual?

Joan and Lauren both played blinders in today's turmoil and I suspect we shall all sleep very well tonight roll or no roll. When It's like this I sleep in one of the main saloon bunks with lee cloths. Felt the need for an Indian after all this effort and so Joan is doing a chicken tikka balti. Let's hope things are stable tonight. I am about to have my shower and put some clean clothes on. Balti on your t-shirt spoils the effect!

Saw our first flying fish today and last night a three masted schooner. Sunny and hot. Took a pic of the schooner but it was probably too far away. Flying fish ditto.

28 November

Wind flukey last night, lost speed. Couldn't get a good connection with Herb [weather guru] either. Better this morning , back up to 8 knots. Problem today, topping lift rope has worn through leech line pocket on the main, so we have a fluttering leech. Also some chafe on top of one of the batten pockets. Object lesson in chafe protection (or not).

Have set staysail which seems to be helping. I miss our boat and our crew.

26 November

Never been to thanksgiving before, let alone mid-Atlantic! Delicious aromas coming from the galley. Due to eat in about 45 mins. Good run last night, around 180 miles noon to noon. Gybed the boat at 0300 and now making better Westing, more direct route to St Lucia. We are getting weather info and routing from a guy called Herb Hildenberger via SSB. He lives in Canada. He suggested we get down to Lat 20 where he expects better winds. The northern placed guys look set to find winds dropping to 5kts and as we have no light airs sails (any more!) we need to follow the wind.

We are thinking of ways to jury rig the wrecked spinnaker. We could only use it in very light winds, but it would be better than nowt. Lauren thinks our spinnaker would look better in a Paisley material. Personally a nice pastel tartan would suit me!

No more alarums and excursions, quiet night, no ships seen or yachts. Skies overcast. Getting hotter, butter is melting and we have turned right!

Some problems with rest of fleet. One yacht abandoned with rudder failure. Crew rescued and yacht now salvaged by Tenerife based rug. Two other yachts returned to Las Palmas with rig and other problems and a nice crowd of Canadians we met are diverting to the Cape Verdes with an injured crewman. We think he may have fallen and broken something.

25 November

Drama strikes! Good night run with spinnaker (cruising chute really) then at about 0800 monster broach. broken glass all over floor, me stuck like a stranded beetle in my bunk. Autopilot overcome by combination of big wave and sudden gust. Boat recovered but spinnaker dipping in water. Went on deck to raise halyards a bit.

All settled and I was below changing into shorts after breakfast when big bang, spinnaker tore straight across the head, sail in water. Took Alan and me around 30 min to recover the sail, it will see no further service this trip! Now under reefed jib and main, less rolly but speed down. I guess we should really have downed the spin earlier. Wind 20-24 true so bearable. Swells 2-3 metres. No worries all well. Only casualties some wine glasses. I am staying safe.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Final call

Sam just called to say Moonstruck is about to leave the pontoon. He says it's mayhem, bow-thruster city, even through there is a staggered start - they are actually due to cross the line at 1300. He says he is nervous, in fact everyone is nervous. Even I am nervous on their behalf.

I'll be following Moonstruck on their crossing log and their position on the ARC site.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


At noon tomorrow Moonstruck will head across the start line off Gran Canaria and out into the Atlantic, on her way to St Lucia, with 219 other yachts in the 2009 ARC, the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. Sam will be on board with Alan and Joan Teed and their daughter Lauren, and they expect the crossing to take around 20 days.

Sam flew out to Las Palmas last Friday, and I went too, for a few days of warmth, sea, and soaking up the atmosphere of one of the world's biggest cruising events. The enormous pontoons were filling up fast, and so many of the yachts were over 45ft that anything the size of Kalessin looked like a dinghy by comparison (although in fact the minimum size for entry is a modest 27ft). I've just looked at the entry list and the smallest entry is a Sadler 29, the same as Magewind, our previous yacht. Good god, I am impressed. However, out of the 220 yachts only half a dozen are 10m (33ft) or less.

There are loads of parties, dinners, briefings and other jolly events including the opening flag-raising (tasteful reflection, above) and an entertaining dinghy race. Overall however the atmosphere is a bit on the tense side. People are worrying about rigging, electronics, navigation, safety, fuel, weather and victualling, and indeed anything else they can think of.

Busy noticeboard

By the time I left on Tuesday the gate to our pontoon was permanently open so El Corte Inglés could deliver endless supplies of shrink-wrapped foods. Boats with dodgy watermakers, or none, were shipping dozens of huge water containers. Someone was always up a mast somewhere, and anyone with diving gear and a scrubbing brush could do quite well for themselves cleaning hulls. Many yachts were still waiting for parts - Sam managed to bring a key exhaust elbow for Moonstruck's Fischer-Panda generator out from England, the one ordered from the Spanish agent is probably still on its way, very slowly after Alan declined to pay an extra €70 for express shipping. The Israeli boat across the pontoon was running its generator for an hour or so every morning and only managed to get water flowing through it consistently on Tuesday. (An un-cooled generator is an extremely noisy animal).

Alan and Joan have been in Las Palmas for six weeks and have been able to devote all that time to planning and worrying. Supplies of food are documented in a spreadsheet, with meals planned day by day and snacks allowed for. Joan was very concerned that there was enough Pepsi for one can per head per day, but what if Lauren suddenly decided mid-Atlantic she wanted Fanta? An Italian yacht with six crew was shipping 200kg of pasta, which works out to around 1.5kg per head per day, unless they were expecting a really slow passage. A Canadian racing crew were planning to live almost exclusively on freeze dried food - all of them were males, so no surprise there.

The massive Independence of the Seas towers over the port. Note substantial three-masted schooner on the far left for comparison

Sam and I took a bit of time to wonder around Las Palmas. I must say that if we ever do the ARC it is not a place where I would want to spend six weeks, although the old centre is nice (but small). Based on my vast experience of Las Canarias (about 11 days altogether) I would spend four weeks in San Sebastian de La Gomera and head over to Gran Canaria as late as practicable. La Gomera is not so handy for the airport (the nearest is on Tenerife), or for the huge array of suppliers in Las Palmas, but to my mind a much nicer atmosphere.

Moonstruck is a beautiful yacht and it was a pleasure to be able to spend time aboard, and to enjoy spending time with Joan and Alan - and even a bit of reminiscing about the old days in Essex. (Apparently I once went on a date with Alan - we went to the cinema together - and I'm ashamed to say I don't really remember it. His mother drove us there and back in her Triumph Herald). Some of the American-style luxuries - air-conditioning in each cabin, brilliant lighting of every nook and cranny, onboard showers every day - seemed strange to us. I guess perhaps we are just stingy Brits. It took us months to get used to having pressurised hot water on Kalessin...

Meanwhile Guy is down at Suffolk Yacht Harbour completing his RYA Day Skipper theory course. He went down there after supper yesterday evening intending to spend the night on the boat, and at around twenty to eleven I got a cross phone call asking where the hell Kalessin was (she came out of the water around 10 days ago). After an hour's searching in the dark and cold he found her down by the lightship, hundreds of yards from where she was last week. Apparently the yard moved here because she was next to a huge tent which seemed likely to blow on to her. What a pity they didn't tell us. Sam, 1500 miles away and in touch by text, is Very Cross. But at least Guy found her in the end and had a good night's sleep.