Posted by: asolare | 07/12/2009

Asolare Ship’s Log 16 – 1200 Sun 06 Dec 09 – 1200 Mon 07 Dec 09 – Battling the Elements

157nm covered in 24hours. Average speed 6.5 Knots
Position at 1200 UTC 7 Dec 09 was 14.30N 58.58W

The afternoon of Sunday 6 Dec began on ASOLARE much as the previous 24 hrs.  The Parasailor was flying well but a wind speed of 12-14 Kts kept the speed down.  Still, all was calm with the crew enjoying the fine weather.  Stephen cooked up the Roast Beef of Old England with Yorkshire Puddings and Mark hooked a Barracuda off the stern.

Night fell with no moon so it was particularly dark.  The weather turned squally on Sallyanne’s watch between 2100 and 2359 UTC and the night remained unsettled.  At approx 0315 the crew were startled by the sound of the Parasailor flapping madly in the wind.  Previously we had noticed that the Clews (corner attachments on a sail, in this case metal rings) on the Parasailor had been wearing through our sheets (control ropes) so we had added D-shackles to each Clew.  The shackle on the starboard Clew had come loose and the right of the sail was flying loose.  The crew mustered on the deck while Peter directed the operation from the Cockpit.  As the Sail had lost all its wind it was easy to snuff (this type of sail is hoisted inside a sock which, when at the top of the mast is peeled back to release the sail.  To lower the sail we ‘snuff’ it by lowering the sock.  The sail is neatly stowed using a carbon fibre funnel or snuffer).  We had no need to lower the whole sail as we could work on the Clew on the deck.  A new shackle was attached and we were sailing again within 30 mins.  Worryingly though the sail had acquired a new hole but it seemed that it was not in a critical place.  A quick brew and the off-watch crew went back to their bunks.

It had seemed only minutes before we were roused by the Parasailor in distress again, this time at approx 0730 UTC, some 2 hours before dawn.  As we got up there was an horrendous sound of ripping sails.  We were confronted with the sight of part of the sail disappearing into the sea as we hurriedly donned our life jackets again.  Snuffing the sail again we lowered the sock and then set to hauling the shreds back on board from under the Bow.   As all of us were clinging on to the guard rails, having clipped our harnesses onto the boat, the wind hit and with it the rain.  There was nothing that we could do but remain still to protect the sail from going back overboard and potentially fouling the propeller and rudder.  The rain came down in torrents and took some 5-10 mins to pass.  We were utterly drenched but we recovered the whole sail and stuffed it into the sail locker at the bow.  We were now sailing on white sails (mainsail and gib) and our hopes for a daylight landfall at St Lucia faded, as did the squall off our Port Bow.

The mood of the crew was subdued as they sat in the cockpit, soaking wet, nursing mugs of tea.  None were more down than the Skipper, Peter who contemplated the loss of his beautiful sail.  Now was not the time for a full debrief, we would analyse what went wrong in due course.  ASOLARE had been knocked back but she was still ploughing forward and with the wind at one point hitting 35 Kts she was still managing 9 Kts though the water.  (It should be noted that Stephen slept through this particular Squall at about 1000 UTC.  His father will not be surprised as Stephen slept through the 1987 Gales that devastated SE England).  It is possible that the Parasailor will be repairable as none of the damage appeared to be near the wing but we will be able to assess this once at St Lucia.

Now on white sails we are moving more slowly through the water.  We are less than 150 nm from our destination and finally we are starting to see other competitors as we all converge on Rodney Bay.  BARBARA and TILLYMINT both popped up on VHF and are now on the horizon. We are hoping for landfall at about 0300 UTC on Tue 8 Dec.

By Stephen (and Crew Peter Sallyanne, Mark and Clare)

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