Campbell – I want to be a Pirate when I grow up

20 12 2011

Since Ross’ new found passion for blog writing has taken over, I have had to wait until he is asleep and will make the most of it, apologies for the length.
It’s been an action packed 48 hours. Since Ross’ blog about our attempt to charge through the night with a spinnaker up in 48 knots, the work rate has been right up there – relentless.

On reflection the whole incident with the squall is quite comical. We had passed through a series of squalls and the pattern of building breeze, then lull (making you think about taking the reef out), then the serious puff, big shift, then the rain, then reef out and off you go again – we had the routine established and were quite happy with the transition from 25kts to 35kt gusts then back again. I had the feeling of building breeze so put a reef in the main and just settled back onto the helm when the wind dropped to about 20kts causing some obscenities to be whispered under my breath, only to feel the rain start, except it was hailstones. Here we go I thought then bang, here is 38 knots. Shouting to Ross downstairs who promptly shouted back ‘is everything all right?’ makes me think I should practice my ‘oh s***’ voice. By the time he could get on deck we had mid 40’s and were on our bikes and pretty much committed to ride it out – there is no way you can change helm in those conditions – however a slight lull to a mere 38 kts we quickly swapped and I charged forward to drop when a full 48 hits us, and a quick turn around back to the cockpit to grab the knife.

In full ‘I want to be a pirate when I grow up’ mode, I put the knife between my teeth and went back forward to cut the halyard which had decided it had had enough. In all this it was quite light, and I could see the spinnaker flying horizontally off the sprit with such force that the noise almost overrode Rosses screaming at me to cut the tack line – knife back between the teeth (thanks RSB Rigging in Palma for the nice wooden handled knife) and back to the pit to execute the tack line. The spinnaker was training us in the water by now and pretty much had written it off but wanted to get the sheets back so slowly ground back to the boat whatever was left and tried to haul it back on deck. Mammoth task that was almost abandoned so that I could get the knife out again but thankfully didn’t. Once we were satisfied that everything was locked down I went forward again to start untangling the sprit from the jib, lifelines, forestay and pulpit (the sprit had been dragged around and over-rotated picking up the foot of the jib and the somehow wedging itself around the pulpit which all took me about 2 hours to figure out). Once done, I came back to find Ross in the cockpit with a big grin on his face, incredulous but happy as hell that the spinnaker was still in one piece.
In all an incident I will remember for a very long time, and certainly not in a rush to repeat.
Over the last 24 hours we have had big pressure with winds in the mid 30’s gusting 40’s. Some of the most spectacular seascape I have ever seen. Last night the skies crystal clear glistening with millions of stars, lighting up the ocean of massive southern ocean swells – only to be superseded by the Aurora Australis – southern lights – putting on a performance. Ross and I found ourselves sitting in the cockpit gazing at the horizon to the south with the lights shimmering away and backlighting thunderous storm clouds. Definitely stuff of oil paintings. Day break today and still massive pressure, feeling weary from the constant howling wind, but with cloudless skies, a huge swell running and what can only be described as a boiling sea. A stunning seascape that no photo is ever going to do justice.

Later today as the wind eased we were about to change sails – Ross engaged the pilot and promptly said it wasn’t working. This filled both of us with a certain amount of dread as the pilot is essential for many reasons. We have a full redundant system which can be switched to however has limited functionality – on investigating figured that the motor had given up – I don’t blame it to be honest, what a thankless job – so spent the next 3 hours wedging myself into the confines of the under deck in the back of the boat which is a challenge at the dock let along screaming along at 48 south with full gear on. Numerous trips in and out of the back of the boat which has to be done one limb at a time for a guy like me, lots of swearing, grazed knuckles, some improvisation and some more swearing and the rams a pumps were changed over from one side to the other. Ross had to stay on deck driving while all this was going on and pretty sure the thought crossed his mind that I was catching a cheeky nap in the back of the boat. Both of us held our breath and I pushed ‘auto’ and hey presto problem solved. I actually danced a little jig in the cockpit, thanked all the fans in the crowd, and Ross offered to make me dinner (mexican chicken). The thought of hand steering the rest of the leg wasn’t appealing. What has been a nice surprise is the pilot is steering better than ever.

Amongst all this action the daily grind of weather, scheds, eating and the odd hours sleep here or there is going on.
This has been a relentless and windy leg. But we are in good shape, and the ‘Young Ones’ to the south east have been charging. They have a good buffer but there are some interesting scenarios coming up over the next few days – we have not given up the chase looking for opportunities to exploit. Never, ever give up.

Tasmania is only 600nm away, dtf Wellington around 1850. The debate has started about when we are going to get in, and what to do when we get there. Haven’t got the ironing board out yet but that will be quite soon.