(Day 16) Last 3 days was busy, busy, busy. First we were recovering from the gale 4-5 days ago. We checked the boat. Took care of few small leaks in hatches. Then we started watching and preparing for the new much bigger and more visous storm brewing over the Azores and expected to travel roughly NE towards UK to cross our path some time between Wednesday and Thursday. 2 days ago the situation was looking very uncertain. The 6 weather models from Predictwind were showing 6 different scenarios diverging all the way from hurricane force winds on the nose all the way to no low forming at all. Among the ones with the low in the forecast the track and timing was also all over the place. Initially we assumed the strategy to keep going and if nee be to significantly slow down, stop, or even turn around to avoid the system entirely and let it pass in front of us or safely East of us. We decided ignore the desire to go for the knee jerk reaction and agreed to wait 2 days for the decision to allow
hopefully the models to converge to form more precise picture.
That just about exactly what happened this morning. Perhaps they are not showing exactly the same thing, but at least the 4 out of six agree that the expect center of the low track has shifted significantly to the West. This made us shift gears in our strategy from possibly slowing to going as fast as possible to literally outrun the low and end up in front or well East of it when it arrives at this lattitude, which should guarantee strong winds from the South allowing us to run away even faster. Of course it’s a bit risky, because if the monster takes an unexpected turn we might and up getting bulldozed by 50 knot headwind in the worse case scenario. But that is exactly why we are now for the first time in the last nearly 3000 miles are actually in a hurry and can’t afford any delay. So far so good. We have been ultimately defeat by our spinaker that has refused any further cooperation by ripping in a whole new section 3 meters above the fix that we did few days ago that actually held up. Now we are sure that the tape reinforcing the edge has somehow been damaged in few spots. In any case the need is a mother of all invention. At first when Pawel proposed a wing to wing config dead downwind on a fast multihull everyone laughed it out. Now we are fully embracing the idea and it is literally saving our butt. We have tried every concivable configuration in the last 3 days. Jib with genoa, genoa with gennaker, and the classic mainsail and genoa. They all actually work well providing the waves don’t make the boat turn to much and the autopilot is set to the true wind following. It literally is a genious setup despite the mainsail being let out only about 20-30 degrees, because of the shrouds running so far back on this and many other mutihulls. Letting it out any further for an extended period of time causes the sections of the mainsail with the battens to chafe on the shrouds to eventually make holes.
Hence it is not an option. So thanks to this setup we are still making really good progress straight East despite the spinnaker being decidedly out of commission. Right now speed is our friend and making progress a bit faster than the routings at adjusted 65% downwind (for the lack of spinnaker) at this point that was dead on for the last few days feels pretty much like buying an insurance policy against the approaching low. The idea is that once we are comfortably East of the expected track the arrival will only give us more wind from the South which is straight abeam which is the fastest point of sail for this boat allowing us to keep escaping the worst of it. Once it overtakes us on its way NE we should see the winds turn behind us that again is not a bad option should they be pretty strong. I write a lot about this, because a lot has been talked and thought and analyzed here about this situation. I invite you to look at this forecast and our position assuming about 200 mile a day progress straight East and comment iwth suggestions how do you think we should proceed. It is still possible to make course adjustments that could make a difference between a comfortable downwind ride in fresh breeze and fighting for life with 50 knot headwinds in the worse case scenario. Obviously I want to avoid the former at all cost, and perhaps there is something that you see that we don’t.
Aside from the post and pre-storm jobs we have had a few things break unrelated to the high winds we experienced 4-5 days ago.
Spinaker being one of them that I already mentioned. Yesterday, the shackle on top of the genoa holding it to the roller snapped, leaving the sail flapping, and the roller upper bearing near the top of the mast (fractional rig). Fortunatelly, the seastate allowed to climb the mast without making the mission suicidal. Imagine a rocking boat and then multiply the rocking effect by a 24 meter arm of an 8 story building tall mast. I am sure you get the idea how every boat motion gets radically multiplied by the lenght of the mast and how every wave could jerk a guy climbing a mast away from it just to bang against him right back. No fun. Don’t try it at home ;). So we got it done and genoa is back in running order again. However we unfortunately discovered the spot that the broken shackle chose for landing and it happened to be on one of the solar panels.
The patient is in critical condition. It is still producing power, but the entire glass outer layer is shattered. Apparently we were still short on entertainment and the charging on the main engine broke. I diagnosed the external voltage regulator and by the time I got done with all the tests it started working. I don’t like fixes when I have no idea how it fixed itself, becasue the next time around I am at the starting point again, which is exactly what happened not even a day later. Right now I am mentally imagining walking towards the engine wit the new alternator I picked up in the “local store” in the right ama (yes, sailing ultra long distance is not so much about sailing as about having enough spare parts and know-how to fix all the things that will invariably break along the way. The sailing experience only reduces the amount and depth of damages hopefully to the manageable level. So I am only imagining rather than actually heading towards the engine room as I have no-conviction whatsoever that the alternator replacement will fix the issue. I am also hoping that it will fix itself to the point where we can simply make it to Poland and then properly take care of the issue and/or it fixes itself for good :D. While I was in the engine room I did however try to resurrect the Webasto heaters that haven;t been started for 5 years now and in the meantime the fuel tank feeding them has rusted through and been rendered useless. So Icut and cleaned the fuel lines and installe a plastic water bottle with diesel to serve as a small temporary fuel tank to see if they even fire. One did, but kept shutting down the other wouldn’t even talk to me, so I just had to find another blanket for the night. I tell you, 46 N lattitude in the Atlantic is not a cozy spot :D.
Last 24 hours has been somewhat draining. A lot of squall lines showed up and passed shifting winds sometimes 90 degrees and gusting extra 20 knots sometimes. That kept us on our toes granted we could not just not give damn and set a small job an dbob along at 4 knots between the sualls becasue we would have been late for the low arrival in two days. So we made more course adjustments and sail changes in during last night than probably during the entire last season in the Caribbean alone. Needless to say please excuse the possible low level of my communication coherence :D.
On the domestic front we haven’t missed the movie night. Squalls, storms, calm regardless. We have been have much fun watching some movie together every night. Morale is high not only because the lively entertainment and collective crazy sense of humor, but also thanks to Ania’s effective lead in the kitchen and really good provisioning to begin with. Thank you Ania, Ania, and Adam for preparing everything so well. You guys should see the Excel sheet Adam made specially for provisioning long passages. In any case Ania and Jacek made and amazing bread XXXL edition. It would have lasted a while but it is so good that I am afraid that with this crew it won’t last more than a day ;). Needless to say morale is high, specially now that we are within 3 digits distance from the English Chanel that our collective crew psyche recognizes as the gate to our own backyard. We have nearly 3000 miles behind. We have “only” the North Sea and the Baltic Sea to traverse to rejoin with our families and friends. On the other hand some are already voicing a bit of nostalgic sadness about the end of this adventure appearing slowly in sight despite of the more than 5000 miles being initially incomprehensibly long in terms of both time and distance. I do understand though. I will miss these guys for sure. And I also hope to sail with every each one of them in the future.
All right my friends. Thank you for following us and don’t forget to send us your weather strategy.
Current data: ground log 51285 (start 48470), course 090, speed 9 knots, position: N46 17 W025 29, time zone: Poly 😉 GMT-1 (imagine there is no city in Android, Windows, and iOS system that we could find that had GMT-1 time zone, so we created our own as we progress East and keep adjusting our ship’s clock to reflect the state of the surrounding nature)
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