The last we’ll see of “Big”

I captured his reflection in the hatch … It looks like a ghost sail, a premonition of things to come. Maybe I’ll write about it. He certainly deserves an epitaph.
Big, you were always quiet, lying low in your bag in the forepeak. You barely had any scar from your previous battles on the French racing circuit. In fact, you are a hand me down from Class40 #115. We struggled to get to know each other. I didn’t know how to handle you. But Sylvain made a few adjustments to your sock, certainly not an ATN sock, and then you were ready, looking fit for a trip to nowhere. Your sock! She had trouble, and was the cause of your demise. That and of course bad luck, and a novice skipper. For that I’m sorry; it didn’t have to come to this. But while we sailed together down to the doldrums, you gave me my best moments of sailing. Such a beauty it was to see you pull Changabang away from land and into the vast Pacific Ocean. Such pleasure it was to steer CaB under your power. You sent us clear of Marie. And now you rest in tatters. May your efforts not have been in vain. I’ll miss you. And the lost spinnaker sheet. At least I didn’t let you out to soil the sea. Although tempted to cut you off as you were desperately trying to hug on to CaB, being torn apart by the weight of water, I mustered all I had to get you back aboard, like I would have for my best friend. You belonged to the air element. Not water. You were great. You were “Big”. And now I mourn your retirement.

Squalls and heat!

There’s no day off on a sailboat! But first a quick update about the autopilot: I’m not sure anything is resolved but the primary hydraulics are back to driving the boat; all the while the B&G electronics driving the secondary hydraulics have decided to steer the wrong way. I’m puzzled as I didn’t touch the wiring on that system. Thanks to Brian and Tom for helping with this. Several phone calls and emails at least got the primary working again. We sailed all night and part of the morning under mainsail alone, doing reasonable progress. As I looked around us when I came out of the cabin it became clear that we had entered squall and “damn, it’s so hot I’m sweating it all” territory. I wanted to get a headsail back up, and after lots of debate, I went for Big. Because … well who knows? But it’s very light. Big wasn’t happy about going back to work, and he made sure I knew it! Twice I had to struggle the foot out of the water, twice I had to hoist the sock. The truth is: skipper needed a meal! So I had a bunch of granola, blueberries and milk, with water. I also drank a lot.


Looking for a bit of fresh air I take a peak through the hatch, Bang! We’re in our first squall, and zippadimboumdoum CaB broaches. Sequence of following events: ease spinnaker sheet (poor thing told me she needed a mate), let out boom down haul, pull out hydrogenerator, ease main, grab the tiller. We recovered, and I continued handsteering until we were clear. The bit of rain was nice, cooled me down a bit (very temporarily). We’re now in the same light winds as before the squall hit. I remember reading Stan Honey saying that you go to school with the first one, and the others will be similar; don’t go quoting me. And so we did just the same for the two that followed. There doesn’t seem to be more for a while. The ambient wind has picked up so we’re moving swiftly. Skipper needs to find its groove again. I’m facing so many new things, and having a tendency to worry, I’ve lost my excitement. I’m sure it’ll come back with a hearty Louisiana bean and rice meal! ’til next time!

Autopilot troubles!

Well Saturday 10/10/2020 continues to dish out surprises. To improve my mood after the not so great morning, I disengaged the autopilot to handsteer, you know have a bit of fun! Surprise, the autopilot stopped steering but I couldn’t move the tiller. Somehow it was locked. I tried a few things but ultimately had to disconnect the hydraulics from the rudder shaft so that I could use the backup autopilot: the old trusty B&G, which is paired with used hydraulics I got off eBay. The NKE hydraulics are supposedly fairly recent (2017 I think). I tried to move the rod by hand but couldn’t. I made a call to Brian to discuss options. There is oil in the lazarette where the hydraulics are, so there’s a leak. With a hammer and tap tapping I was able to get the rod to move again. I also topped up the oil reservoir. I’m not supposed to mix oils, so I’m hoping it’s the same oil that’s in there! I reconnected everything and the NKE is driving again. I’ll check in an hour to see how bad the leak is. We are under mainsail only, which is not comfortable! And obviously slow …

It’s a wrap

If you’re not into sailing you can skip all this, the summary is: he got into a mess, made it worse then fixed it but lost something important for sailing. Where to begin? As the sun came up a larger wave pushed on the quarter as the AP was coming up to fetch more wind: CaB went into a broach. The AP recovered after a few too many tries, and when I was on deck Big (our biggest spinnaker) had wrapped his many square meters around the sock dousing lines! That’s preferable to a wrap around the stay, so yeah! I had been discussing letterbox drops with Skip so I proceeded. All went fine and Big went into the cabin, probably to have a chat with the AP. At that point I should have listened to my inner “take it ease” voice, and take a rest. But no, I decided to put up another headsail, our medium size spinnaker. So that went up the mast (with the reef in as it was in) only to find out there was a twist in the sock. So it had to come down again, and the twist sorted out. And that’s when the biggest blunder so far happened: I lost a spinnaker sheet. So much for slip knots at the end. That’s a big bummer. Anyways, back inside the cabin, wrestling with a very large sail, a spaghetti of cloth and sheets, I discovered a few tears in the sail, which I fixed (hopefully good enough), but there may be more. I do have another large spinnaker if necessary. Then I untangled the mess (insert a healthy dose of swearing here) and stuffed Big back into its bag. Next was to snuff it back into its sock, using the genoa halyard. Pfew, all in all, about 4 hours of sweating hard inside a hot cabin! As I write this, I lie in my own poodle of sweat. I do have a mini fan with me so I turned it on, but it died right away so it’s back to charging. I have a backup for it in case it’s dead. Not pleased for not listening to my inner voice and losing a spinnaker sheet. Trying to relax a bit now.

If your weather guy says “stacking”

You better do your stacking! Stacking (“mattosser” in French) is simply the grueling task of moving the heavy stuff where it helps the boat be more comfortable, but mostly faster. I moved all 3 heavy reaching sails, which frees a better sleeping area for moi (well it’d be better for me to sleep on port as far as stacking is concerned). Now I just need to move my mattress, which is simply a couple large flat fenders …

Blessings in disguise

I had enough of thinking I was going slow so I dropped the sock on “Big” to stop the boat. But then I thought better and dropped the sock altogether. What a wonderful idea that was as can be seen on the picture. I’m amazed the halyard came down with no problem in the first place! The cover was completely chafed through So what next? Well, first thing first, let’s check that the debris on the keel is gone. GoPro goes back in the water and skipper takes another salt shower. But it would seem the keel is clean! Gotta put Big back to work now as sailing with just the mainsail is not fast, comfortable though. I remembered there was a spare halyard in the lines bag; it’s not as thick though, but it’s pink, and pink is strong. Just ask the Panther. I pulled up my messenger line, swapped halyards, and voilà Big is happy. Let’s hope that this new halyard will be strong enough. It looks in great condition. My guess is the chafe came from flying the small spinnaker but there may be something else as I should have noticed this when I hoisted Big last time. So the pink halyard will have to come down for inspection regularly, until I feel confident there’s no additional problem here. Let’s have a look, and see if I can repair the damaged halyard now. Well, I’m sure I can but I do want a Dyneema chafe sleeve on the last 6 feet. And I’m not sure I have enough of that … All that just in time for the stronger afternoon winds. Here’s to hoping the new halyard holds up!

Picking up trash?

This morning I was doing my usual blade check (making sure nothing is caught on the keel or the rudders, which slows the boat a bit, or a lot depending on how much is caught up); I do this using the GoPro. And we are dragging something. I can’t figure out what it is. It’s going to be interesting to try to take this off now. My first approach will be to wait and see. It may come off its own accord. Unlikely though, so another plan will have to be devised …

Trade winds sailing

A new chapter was opened yesterday as we began trade wind sailing in earnest. This is mostly new for me so we’re going to have to learn! I guess my main concern is finding myself in too much wind with “Big” up. For now, wind is light and the sun is rising up. In the service and maintenance department, we don’t have much to report, besides the repair discussed in the previous blog post. This morning I saw the port twing block flying loose on the twing sheet. I thought it had broken but nope, just the pin screw had come undone. Lucky for me all parts were still right there on deck for me to pick up! Now I did notice carbon dust by the gooseneck, probably because of all the mainsail banging in light air. I rigged a boom preventer, that should help reduce this. Definitely one to keep an eye on. Judging by the color of the mast boot cover (blackish) this has been going on for a while.

First week opening

Joëlle and Luna put letters and presents together for me to open at sea, as seems to be a tradition for long solo passages. Her well written heart warming first letter was just the kicker I needed as we enter this new chapter. And the pictures were beautiful too! All good aboard.

First repair at sea (minor)

As I was handsteering I noticed that the tiller was getting a little loose, with a bit of a widening play. So I decided to screw things a little tighter. To no avail! Screws were simply broken due to corrosion (stainless steel against aluminum). One came out ok, but for the other I had to use the drill. I suspect the two others may come undone at some point. Things are better but there’s still a bit of play in there. I could tell this happened before by the remnants of other screws. Anyways, that’s the first real repair I suppose. Glad I picked up the drill!

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