Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019

November 10, 2019
Pandora’s bow is pointed toward Antigua, finally.

It’s Sunday evening and I am plenty happy to put the last 36 hours behind me.

Before I get into all that, and there’s plenty to write about, I’ll note that we are FINALLY HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION, toward Antigua.

Remember, we have been heading on a more easterly course for what seems like months now, waiting for the southerly winds to let up and shift east, to the more normal trade winds that are normal for this area.

Chris Parker, our weather router, predicted that the southerly winds and seas would begin to die down today and they finally did around sunset.   We waited a bit for the lumpy seas to begin to settle down and turned south, directly toward Antigua, now still about 550 miles south of our position.

We have mostly been on hold for several days now as we sailed east, while waiting for these southerly winds to die down knowing that we would likely be motoring into light winds for about 24 hours before we finally, and I do mean FINALLY, connect with the long awaited easterly trades.

I was checking my notes on the run home from Antigua two seasons ago, and recall we enjoyed trade wind sailing hundreds of miles to the north of where we are now.  On that trip, heading north, we did the entire run in about 8 days and not the 10 plus that we will likely spend clawing our way south to Antigua.

Brenda has been watching the shared page for the rally and tells me that we are ahead of most of the fleet.   Oh boy, I don’t feel like we are ahead of anything.

So, about my day.

At about 04:00 this morning we heard a noise and discovered that the mainsail was down on the deck.  I couldn’t frigging believe it.  The same thing happened on our way north two years ago when the headboard was pulled off of the sail and I had to go up the mast to retrieve, the most terrifying thing that I have ever experienced.

So, there I was, it was still pitch dark and the day was getting off to a terrible start.

Somehow the main sheet, the line that holds up the sail, had parted where it goes into the masthead and down the sail came in a lump.

George and I got started cleaning up the mess and getting the sail lashed to the boom while Cliff made sure that we didn’t get into any trouble and manned the helm.   What to do?

We talked it over and decided that the best option was to remove the topping lift line from the aft end of the boom and use that as a secondary halyard to pull up the main.  Then we took a spare halyard from the front of the mast and threaded it back to provide some support for the end of the boom.  It was a difficult lead as the line came out of the mast on the bow side so it had to be swung around the shrouds and lead aft.   That wasn’t a good lead and could easily lead to bad chafe.  However, I wanted to be sure that there was something to support the boom if we ran into problems again.

So, some hours later we were back in business with the mess cleaned up and flying the main again, although with one reef in to be sure that we didn’t put too much stress on that new line.

Problem solved and I headed to the galley to get some breakfast together.  I put a good healthy amount of raisin bran cereal in a bowl, reached into the fridge to get some milk and promptly dumped the entire bowl of cereal down into the fridge.  I couldn’t believe my luck.   Another mess to clean up.

But wait, there’s more.    A while later we were hit with a large squall, not one with lightening but there was plenty of strong wind up near 40kts and deluges of rain.  Ok, one more squall and it wasn’t our first on this trip.

I went down below and discovered salt water dribbling down from behind the headliner, all over the settee cushions, TV and down the bulkhead.   I had seen a tiny drip the day before and made a mental note to check on it when we reached Antigua.  Now, with much more water coming in, it became much more urgent.

My first thought was that the leak was coming from the fittings on the deck that house the hydraulic hoses for the boom and I spent about 30 minutes, all while being splashed by seawater coming over the starboard bow and caulked them with care.  And, let me tell you, it’s not easy to work with sticky black glue while being tossed about and splashed by passing waves.   And, to add to the picture, all this involved taking out tiny screws, saving them and reassembling a sticky glued up mess when I was done.

Mission accomplished and I headed back down below to clean up and put on some dry clothes.  Another squall passed and the leak, was worse, much worse.

Back into my wet clothes and up on deck again.  That’s when I discovered the “real” source of the leak.  On either side of the mast are stainless tube bars designed to lean against when working at the mast.  The are aptly called Granny Bars, for those that need a bit of extra support.  Anyway, these have three legs, each bolted to the deck.  It seems that one of the nuts on the thru-deck bold had some loose and the base was pulled up out of the deck exposing a 3/8″ hole in the deck.   I guess that we had dislodged it somehow while working on the mast.  Actually, I checked behind the headliner and discovered that there wasn’t a nut on the hold-down bolt.  It was plenty rusty and I expect that perhaps the problem was that when the boat was built a steel nut was used by accident and it had finally rotted away.

Fortunately, I was able to find a nut in my hardware supply that fit, no easy feat given the fact that it was metric.  I put a liberal amount of sealing compound under the fitting and tightened it down.  Problem solved?  I sure hope so as I have worked hard over the years to find leaks, track them down and dry things out, often a very difficult game of cat and mouse.

I guess that the leak is resolved as not 15 minutes after I had come back into the cockpit, the largest squall of the trip hit us with winds up to 40kts and a deluge of rain.  No leak, or at least none that I could detect but perhaps I was too busy.

So, there you have it, a day that proved once again, that “into every life a little rain must fall”.

No kidding, today was a real soaker on that account.

However, all is well as we are FINALLY pointed toward our destination, Antigua even though it is still over 500 miles away, the fact that we are going in the right direction, makes it feel like it’s right around the corner.

So, if we are able to keep up an average speed of 6.5kts and nothing important breaks, we should arrive in Antigua at some point on Thursday morning.

Oh yeah, one more thing.  During one of the squalls today, as we bucked from wavetop to wavetop, something crashed onto the top of the dodger and bounced into the water, our circular TV Antenna, which must have broken loose from all the wave action.   I haven’t yet checked but am now wondering if it hit one of the solar panels.  They are glass…

So, Pandora’s bow is finally pointed toward Antigua and tomorrow should be better.

We deserve it.

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