Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Nice night. Finally. Well, allmost.

Tuesday, June 21. 1130.

Overall, a happier circumstance than yesterday.
Yesterday evening, we had enough breeze that flying the spinnaker was attractive. After rigging the repaired spinnaker we unfurled it expecting the wind to do its usual work and flinging the spinnaker off the roller furling
in a couple seconds. Not to be. The drum locked. This happened once before and when I disassembled it, I found that the locking pin designed to prevent unwanted unfurling but allow it when desired had bent, thus
locking the drum from moving in either direction. This piece is supposed to have a weak spot in it so that it will break under excessive load rather than something else. But it had not broken, and the bent pin stopped
up the system. With the bent part broken off by me, all worked well except there was no longer a locking mechanism. However, I left the spring loaded broken stub of the pin in place, I think in order to show me how
it is placed should I wish to put a new one in. And thereafter, everything was fine.

Until this evening when the drum locked again. So, down with the spinnaker cable stacked with my invention of pool lane marker balls whose purpose is to prevent reverse wrapping of the spinnaker on the underlying
cable, another malady that then renders the spinnaker inoperative because when it is unfurled in one direction, the reverse wrapped segment just gets tighter. The float balls seem to have solved this problem.

When dismantled last night, the residual pin had relocked the drum and foiled our plans. It was easy to remove the pin altogether- as I should have done the first time it jimmied up the works.

By the time I finished the repair, the wind had come up to around 15-20 knots- too much to carry the spinnaker without blowing it out.

So, during the night, the wind slightly backed into the west-southwest with glorious sailing conditions under a full moon and scattered brightly backlit cumulous clouds.

This morning at the completion of John's 0300 to 0600 watch, the splendid conditions continued with winds in the low 20s and we were headed straight to Bermuda albeit with an adverse current of 1 knot still stalking
us from the malificient cold eddy of last night.

But there was a hitch. At daylight, John noticed that one of the sail stiffening battens had come out of the pocket going forward of the mast! That, I have never heard of.
The cause was three of four missing bolts holding the batt slide in place and capturing the forward end of the batten. This had also never happened before.
The fix required dropping the main, furling most of the jib and using the mizzen sail to keep us weather vaned into the wind, and then trying to find replacement bolts and nuts. The replacement bolts that I bought
a couple years ago from the batt slide supplier were too short. All this was hazardous given the now significant seas of about 6-8 feet and howling winds of well over twenty. Maintaining one hand for the boat (sailor's
rule for not falling overboard or coming to an abrupt end to a fall at the end of the safety tether) is difficult when two hands are needed for the repair.

So with greater deliberate care, we finally got the job done. During it, I saw broken ice on the deck but of course it was not; it was broken spreader light glass.
The job took three hours with essentially no forward progress To Bermuda. But now, back to glorious conditions, sailing at 7 to 8 knots as opposed to an average of about 2-3 knots for the previous day.
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Monday, June 20, 2016

What is so fun about this, I ask.

Monday, June 21. 1800

D Day. Here, drifting under the influence of scant wind, the first D stands for Debacle.

Spotty winds gradually filled in, mostly behind us, allowing us to follow our strategy. The frightening new and concentrated low was to be ahead with the west side the preferred side with decreased winds. Since the low was somewhat coincident with a large cold eddy to the south of the Stream, we could also get on its positive or west side and have just heavy wind and positive current. Having encountered the Gulf Stream much further north than the models predicted, and of much shorter duration with rather mannerly currents and waves, we made a mistake in placing too much stock in the predictions.

There came a time late this morning when the wind favored flying out spinnaker, which we did after difficulty sorting out all the lines as we attempted to hoist it. Finally, we were flying along at about 6 to 7 knots for a few minutes when with a great crash, the spinnaker had fallen completely in the water. John yelled that the halyard broke. But what we found was that the lashing of the spinnaker head to the head of the furling line had broken. It took 3 hours to get it dismantled, and fixed but by that time the wind had died and we had to proceed mostly downwind at too large an angle to carry the asymmetric spinnaker.

First, no low. No big winds. no big waves.
Second, we had a precise spot planned for entering the cold eddy in its region of southerly changing to easterly flow. We did in fact find prolonged flow of more than 3 knots for many hours, but it was against us. . So, the eddy, with its countercurrent flow, must have moved west since the predictions and hence we were too far east to get into the southern flow. The winds during during this time were depressingly low, and made more so in the apparent wind by which boats sail.

We are now on a course in the vage vicinity of Bermuda at about 2 to 3 knots.

US Sailing constructs boat specific polars. These are charts predicting boats speeds at various wind angles and wind speeds. And upon these, the handicapping system is derived. The problem is that the polars are not always accurate and hence the handicapping suffers. We particularly suffer. The boat was in very good racing form and still, boats to whom we owe time ( we have a faster handicap) sail right through us because this boat, while nice, pretty, and a very good, stable ocean boat, is not fast, and will not point close to the wind well. We are screwed before we start.

With all that happened today, we expect to get to Bermuda Thursday night for our slowest race evr. Oh, despite being under no load, a shackle on a mizzen halyard broke and the halyard was found in the cockpit.
I sit here amidst an unholy cacophony with the rigging crashing, the sails sounding like small explosions as they flip from side to side in the waves unaccompanied by any wind to stabilise the boat.

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What is so fun about this, I ask.

Monday, June 21. 1800

D Day. Here, drifting under the influence of scant wind, the first D stands for Debacle.

Spotty winds gradually filled in, mostly behind us, allowing us to follow our strategy. The frightening new and concentrated low was to be ahead with the west side the preferred side with decreased winds. Since the low was somewhat coincident with a large cold eddy to the south of the Stream, we could also get on its positive or west side and have just heavy wind and positive current. Having encountered the Gulf Stream much further north than the models predicted, and of much shorter duration with rather mannerly currents and waves, we made a mistake in placing too much stock in the predictions.

There came a time late this morning when the wind favored flying out spinnaker, which we did after difficulty sorting out all the lines as we attempted to hoist it. Finally, we were flying along at about 6 to 7 knots for a few minutes when with a great crash, the spinnaker had fallen completely in the water. John yelled that the halyard broke. But what we found was that the lashing of the spinnaker head to the head of the furling line had broken. It took 3 hours to get it dismantled, and fixed but by that time the wind had died and we had to proceed mostly downwind at too large an angle to carry the asymmetric spinnaker.

First, no low. No big winds. no big waves.
Second, we had a precise spot planned for entering the cold eddy in its region of southerly changing to easterly flow. We did in fact find prolonged flow of more than 3 knots for many hours, but it was against us. . So, the eddy, with its countercurrent flow, must have moved west since the predictions and hence we were too far east to get into the southern flow. The winds during during this time were depressingly low, and made more so in the apparent wind by which boats sail.

We are now on a course in the vage vicinity of Bermuda at about 2 to 3 knots.

US Sailing constructs boat specific polars. These are charts predicting boats speeds at various wind angles and wind speeds. And upon these, the handicapping system is derived. The problem is that the polars are not always accurate and hence the handicapping suffers. We particularly suffer. The boat was in very good racing form and still, boats to whom we owe time ( we have a faster handicap) sail right through us because this boat, while nice, pretty, and a very good, stable ocean boat, is not fast, and will not point close to the wind well. We are screwed before we start.

With all that happened today, we expect to get to Bermuda Thursday night for our slowest race evr. Oh, despite being under no load, a shackle on a mizzen halyard broke and the halyard was found in the cockpit.


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Sunday, June 19, 2016

Bermuda race 2016

Sunday, June 19. 2200.

Under the same sail configuration (code zero, main, mizzen) sailing was a breeze under moderate northerlies allowing us to reach across the wind. We are finding that our access to outside data is minimal. The data downloads via the sat phone are aborted by the Expedition race strategy program with time our errors nearly every time I use it. Using the Apple computer, I am consistently able to access email and grib (gridded binary) files to evaluate and predict wind but unfortunately, Expedition is unable to read these files, although it could do so previously. To compound matters, the grib file reader on the Apple no longer works (it did last month) so despite successfully downloading the files, they are not accessible on either computer. Frustrating. Beyond frustrating- way beyond.

Besides depriving us of data for strategic decisions, the race committee at the captains meeting on Thursday scared the hell out of us predicting strong winds and violent seas brought to us by a totally unpredictable low pressure ring. They have also been sending Commanders weather predictions every morning in narrative form and we are told that another very local, very strong low lies across our path with predicted winds of over 40 knots and in the Gulf Stream, waves with a very short periodicity of about 12 feet. With all this scaring the fleet, a number of boats have dropped out.

The nice sailing came to an abrupt halt at nightfall. The winds fell zero, the sails were making a terrible noise and we finally lowered the main sail to allow better use of he spinnaker unimpeded by a wind shadow from the main sail. Eventually, we doused the spinnaker too: we could not keep air in it.

We bobbed around all Saturday night, directionless and motionless except for a slight positive current.

This morning, the misery ended. Beautiful clear day with a decent breeze from the NE to east: winds of 10 to 18 knots and we carried main and mizzen plus the asymmetric spinnaker and the new mizzen staysail that gave us enormous power.

Under this rig, we got as close as 6 miles to Moonracer. I talked to Mike Hudner for a few minutes and we exchanged Happy Father's Day greetings.

Our strategy today has been to try get the west side of the intense low pressure zone with the idea that we would have more favorable winds and perhaps slightly less nasty winds. Also, we hoped to use the same strategy to get the west, or favorable direction of current in the cold eddy southwest of the Gulf Stream. But this takes us quite a bit west of the rhumb line and as far as we can tell from AIS, we are going there alone.

The wind picked up through the day until we took down both the mizzen stay sail and spinnaker. Whisper had become far overpowered by the wind/sail combination. The autopilot could not cope and we were making aggressive swings of direction between wind angles of 90 to nearly 180 degrees on port tack. This all happened as we were headed for out planned entry point in the Gulf Stream calculated such that we would exit the stream at the proper point to pick up the back side of the low.

Rather abruptly, the water temperature rose from the low 60's to 82 degrees F. and we were in the Gulf Stream 55 miles too early based on the predicted course. Adverse current of 4 knots in the ENE direction antagonized our intended SE course and we headed up on port tack under jib, main, and mizzen to cut more directly across the stream. We had good speed, winds of close to 20: we were fat.

The dreaded high seas in the Gulf Stream never materialized; the 12 foot ferocious waves were a mannerly 6 feet and pretty as we watched the reflection of the falling sun in the uneven sea. We left the stream after only 4 hours in, and about 20 nm.

After dinner of mussles and pasta, things started to fall apart again. The winds became erratic and light, but the seas now were minimally heaped up. Where are the predicted winds of the low pressure of 40 knots? For that matter, where is the low? The barometer at 30.04 in. has not begun to fall. So far, as we close in on midnight, nothing predicted has occurred.

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Friday, 17 June 2017. 9:30 pm, S/V Whisper

Three bells just struck: I am ½ hour into my 2100 - 2400 watch after our 1520 start of the 50th Newport Bermuda race. John Browning skippered for the start and most of our first several hours of the race. He is a very good sailor. An enthusiastic sailor. He is in this 25th consecutive Newport Bermuda race (held on even years only) so after 50 years of this, the former is unsurprising but the latter must be unusual to sustain after so many years. Considering the excessively slow speed of our boat, he sailed skillfully as most of the fleet passed us- the double handers started early before most of the other boats.

"Out on the briny with the moon bright and shiny," as Mr. Buffet would have described the night. An almost full moon, pure white- almost silver- tinged with the faintest of yellow, illuminates the sea and every reflective part of the boat with a startling brilliance.

We are sailing peacefully along, scattered mast head tricolor lights gradually receding from us as the fleet spreads out with a rare one receding aft of us. With a westerly breeze of about 8 knots, minimal sea, we are making about 5 to 6 knots under mizzen, mainsail, and a code zero we hoisted about an hour and a half ago with a speed increment of a knot. Were we not encumbered by the need to constantly squeeze every tenth of a knot out of the old lady (it is, after all, a race), it would be even more peaceful and relaxing.

Saturday, June 18, 0300.

Not so peaceful any more. The breeze has died to around 2 knots and the boat speed to between zero and 0.4 knots. The sails slat with the motion of the waves making a jarring racket. "Thwack," followed by a metallic foundry-like sound and in a couple seconds as the sail falls back to the other side, the same unpleasantness.

But the moon! It has fallen almost to the horizon in the west, and is now a magnificent pumpkin orange with flame in the water reflection reaching from us to the edge of visibility.

Based on the weather reports, light air for a couple days, perhaps, until we reach the Gulf Stream and simultaneously run into a gale and a deep low pressure vortex. This forecast was sufficient to cause several boats to drop out of the race as it started.

0900. Fresh bread in a few minutes provided that the oven performs. Soft boiled eggs, orange juice, coffee. The fresh eggs were purchased at Wishing Stone farm in Little Compton two days before the race and have never been refrigerated or washed. Thus, we expect at least a two week shelf life without refrigeration.

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Tuesday, July 8, 2014

We beat Arthur

Friday, July 4

We beat Arthur


Thursday, the winds resumed, and we continued to sail.  With minimal spillage, Mike, Greg and I managed to transfer the 10 gallons of diesel from the jerry jugs to the starboard tank. 


Hoisting the spinnaker furled on the antitorsion line we found first that the upper portion of the sail was twisted extremely tightly, and that when we began the unfurl, the lower portion had reverse twisted.  Thus untwisting the top twisted the bottom tighter and vice versa.  This has been a common problem that plagues this device and occurs when the twist stored in the antitorsion line is released at the end of furling.  As it untwists, it grabs sail, usually below the clew, and twists it in the reverse direction.  Then, when unfurling, the event is impossible because unfurling above furls the bottom even tighter.


Down on the deck, I was able, I thought, to untwist the reverse furled part, and now with free spinnaker at the bottom, I used yarns to gather it up into sausages as was done in olden times (pre socks, pre furlers). Back up, pulling on the sheet as we unfurled the antitorsion line, only a bit of sail came out to catch the wind.  And then, the sail ripped extensively.  Another casualty of the $%#**&#@ top-down furling system.


We still sailed well with jib, main and mizzen until after dinner when the skies began to look ominous.  We lowered the main, sailing jib and jigger until we saw big squalls marching across Massachusetts Bay toward us and at around 10 pm, with all sails down, were hit while motoring with 40 knot winds and thunderstorms.  No problem.


Avoiding fishermen as well, we finally pulled into our mooring at 1 am on July 4th.  Tired and facing too much wind to safely go to the CYC dock, we just sat on the mooring until 5:30 when with dawn, we went to the dock, cleaned the boat, and Addie met us with pastries from A&J King bakery.


Post script, 7/7/2014.

      Took the spinnaker to Quantum Thurston in Bristol.  It was hopelessly and multiply reverse wrapped and wrapped so staggeringly tightly that the layers almost seemed annealed together.  Each layer had to be peeled from the next.  A technology that has a few bugs to be worked out.  Back to the sock would be the wisest move.

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Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hurricane Arthur

Arthur the Hurricane
Thursday, July 3, 2014. 0500


Since Tuesday, we have been watching on the grib files a low coming up from Florida with intense cyclonic winds of 50 plus. Now, it is officially Tropical Storm Arthur predicted to grow to Hurricane Arthur as it follows a cold front straight to Marblehead, with arrival late tomorrow. We should beat it in although I am concerned about safety of boats on moorings in Marblehead. I was able to get a 24 hr surface analysis from a weather fax yesterday showing the transition from TS to hurricane as it passes the Carolinas.


We had great sailing yesterday up to a point. As predicted, accurately for a change, the grib files showed excellent wind from the south until we crossed west at 68 degrees west. Although it did not happen precisely on that longitude line, by dinner, the wind faltered and we eventually took down all sails as our boat speed fell into the 2's, far too slow to allow us to beat Arthur with about 175 miles sailing to go (as of dinner last night).

Prior, we had various sail combinations including poled out jib, main, mizzen, and mizzen staysail in increasingly heavy following seas. We were surfing down waves with boat speeds in the mid 9 kt range, and maintaining steady speeds in the high 7's and 8's.

No more. Motored all night at about 5 kts and now have a bit over 100 miles to go. From yesterday, the water temperature has gone from 82 down to low 60's, and we had fog all night with radar on, and fog horn blasting. As we knew, the AIS has far greater utility than the radar.

Now expect arrival Friday morning. And are hoping for sailing winds to resume although diesel fuel should not be a problem, especially with two jerry cans of it on the deck worth an extra 50 miles.