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Old 03-06-2009, 11:45   #1
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Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Saint Simons Island GA April 19

Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island to Saint Simons Island GA April 19

We left you as we were rolling and pitching, having done all we could about corralling the flopping hourglassed genoa, in heavy seas and winds.

By this time, about 7AM, we’re well offshore, nearly 90 miles due East (due to our delay in turning West in dealing with the genoa) of the entrance to Saint Simons Island Sound. In addition to being carried north by the Gulf Stream all that time, in order to blanket the genoa, requiring that we go NE to have the wind behind us, we’ve been carried to near the eastern edge of the Gulf Stream. Of course, in all this, the wind has continued to clock and build, now coming out of close to WSW (I noted with, apologies herewith, that in the first installment I’d called the wind SE – it was SW, thus our eastward movement). The forecast from NOAA and Chris Parker has it that we’ll be experiencing 20-25 knot winds with squalls and gusts to 40 knots. Our forward motion would put that at a close beat – about 30* or less to the apparent wind – so we reluctantly turned on the engine again. I didn’t really expect to make very good progress, so our new ETA would be 9AM the next morning.

With the main sheeted tight, our rolling diminished as we turned west into the – let’s just say "fresh" - breeze and motored ahead. We had about a 6’ bag in the genoa, which was flapping mightily, giving about a quarter turn on each flap, to the furler and the associated gear. However, aside from the presumed damage that would eventually do to our sail, all still appeared well, noise level and rig-shaking aside.

By 11AM, it was apparent that we were getting some drive from the sail, as well. Nice to have some good news! Our ETA based on dead reckoning, using our new speed, improved to midnight. Our engine was very happy, too, with the oil pressure maxed, and our sometimes-flaky temperature gauge in a very comfortable range.

Accordingly, I upped RPMs by 50 at a time, until the temperature rose beyond 200, and then backed off just a bit, to 2650 RPM. With the mainsail’s drive helping Perky, our iron genoa, we were now making 7 knots toward our destination. WooHoo! That would put us at the entrance to Saint Simons Sound by about 8:30 PM. However, it’s a long channel due to the shoalings and reefs present, and we were headed for a spot up the Frederica River, adding about 2 hours to the trip. There’s also a pretty good tidal current there, and with our computer’s two navigation programs not sharing tide information, and, apparently, our chartplotter’s chips not having information on the specific spot we were heading to, we didn’t know if that would help or hinder.

Adding to unease about our genoa, the wind and seas picked up notably (not that they were benign to begin with!) at 5:30 PM, reducing our speed to only 6 knots due to the very tight beat pushing nearly directly at us. However, by 6 PM we had only 18 miles to go to our waypoint at the entrance, and we hit it at 8:45 as we entered the channel. Of course, once we got inside all the shoals and reefs, the seas settled down, and so did we.

The lighted marker buoys in the channel were very faint, and we had to strain to see them, but always found them before it became an issue. About halfway in, a very large motor vessel was apparently headed directly for us, but when we hailed, he acknowledged us and said he had us in sight, expecting a very clear berth. That indeed turned out to be the case, but it had a very curious look to it as it passed. We never could figure out what it was, as it looked like a ferry, but its departure was pretty late, and we couldn’t think of where it might be headed; we thought it might be one of those dinner-cruise/gambling sort of boats, but if that were the case, it would have been very late for them to leave, so we were left scratching our heads about it :{))

Of course, where we were going was up a minor river, and there were only daymarks to keep us out of the very shallow water outside the channel. Even in the daytime, we’ve sometimes found them challenging to see, so I got out on the bow with the spotlight, successfully spotting all but one well in advance. That unspotted one passed a bit closer than I like – but, happily, still well enough off that there was no risk of collision with it. Finally, after a nerve-wracking passage up the river, we were "home" – the anchorage nearby to Frederica Yacht Club, home to our friend’s boat, and in which slip we’d eventually get comfortable. By 10:30, after making sure we’d not impinge on any of the other boats anchored there, nor the breakwater dock for the Yacht Club (actually just condo docks; no facilities of any sort for the usual yacht club environment), we were safely on the hook, and welcomed our dive into our comfy berth.

In the end, it was about a 51 hour trip, castoff to anchored firmly, and, not counting the detour miles, an average of over 6 knots. Our move into the slip was another minor adventure, in that the Watkins that we’d expected to take out to the mooring I’d helped the other of my Saint Simons Island angels establish had entirely dead batteries – and no charger aboard. After obtaining a charger from the aforesaid mooring owner, and after much charging and no success, an offer of an open slip into which to pull her for a time was made by another of the condo docks’ owners.

Accordingly we made plans to tow her around to that slip, but when we first tried, even with two dinghies working very hard, low tide had her very fast aground. Throwing out an anchor to keep her from swinging into the adjacent boat in the double slip (we’d gotten her almost out of the slip), we secured the stern and waited for high tide the next day.

Oops. The Edson cable steering mechanism I’d made plans to help the first angel repair had failed, and the helm was hard over to starboard. (That it happened then, and not on the weekend sail that he and some friends had made not long before was certainly a blessing. Imagine having her out in a stiff breeze, current, tight channel, and failing in a hard-over position. Things might have gotten very interesting, very quickly!

That hard-over position made towing a bit challenging, but eventually we succeeded in backing her into the proffered slip and breathed a sigh of relief. No rest for the weary, however, as we wanted to get our boat into the now-vacant slip, too, and slack tide was the best time to do it.

Off we zoom to Flying Pig, giving Lydia’s mom instruction on where to stand and how to toss the lines as we came in, and Lydia buzzed back to the dock to catch. Of course, as is the case in most marina environments, as it turned out, there were others there happy to help. As I came in, the tide had turned, and there was a bit of a breeze, so, despite my confident expectations of nailing it, I went around when I found myself in an uncomfortable attitude. However, I’m pleased to say that the second time was a charm, and as is usually the case when I dock, I cautioned the line-holder not to throw it, but instead hand it to the person on the dock as I nestled her into position, and we were soon secure.

Damage assessment would have to wait for another day, as I didn’t want to be taking down the damaged genoa (it had torn in several places, looking a bit like an aged flag in the unsecured areas) in anything other than dead calm. That day arrived in short order, however, and I discovered, as I prepared to drop the sail, that the clevis pin holding the bottom of the genoa had apparently thrown its locking ring, and, of course, soon after, the clevis pin itself. That allowed the sail to ride up in the slide into which the luff rode by a few inches. Whether that contributed to our challenges in furling I can’t say, but certainly, it didn’t enhance the performance of the sail from the time it happened!

Before I could drop the sail, though, I had to get all the lashings and turnings and rat’s nest of lines undone. I saw that the sheets had both been damaged close to the tack of the genoa, and that all the rotations of the furler had not only severed the spinnaker halyard at the top of the mast, it had chewed through the furler line. The furler line just needs shortening by the few inches involved, whipping, and reinstallation, so that’s no big deal. Likewise, the sheets needed only to be milked (pulling down the cover to make the inner section firm), damaged section (again, only a few inches) cut off, whipped and heat-sealed. However, the spinnaker halyard was cut in the middle, so another (now our 3rd!) would have to be ordered.

Once I had all the lines removed, and the counter-folding/counter-wrapped undone and the sail unfurled, the sail could come down easily. Yeah, right… The hoist came down about a third of the way and stuck firmly. Up/down/up again, it still stuck. I could see nothing to suggest why it should be hung up, so the only solution was to go up the mast and pull myself out over the forestay.

Furlers use foils to contain the luff of the sail. They’re made in sections, with inner joints to keep them together. They’re under no tension – they just provide a track to take the sail up, so are under no particular lengthwise pressure, either tension or compression. That’s very comforting, given what I saw when I discovered the source of the jam. The sections are held in place by roller pins – hollow pins that have a seam in them which causes them to push outward under pressure, preventing movement in ordinary circumstances.

In this case, the first foil section’s roller pin had come halfway out. It tapped in easily, and the sail came down – partway! Having gained a clue (many say I’m pretty clueless, but I gather and hoard clues every chance I get!), I immediately expected, and was proven right about, more displaced pins. Those, fortunately, didn’t require a trip up the mast, just a bit of something for me to stand on. Shortly, the sail was on deck, where we’d flaked it as well as we could in its tattered condition. Rolling it up, we took it to the dock for closer inspection…

It was a sorry sight… We flaked, folded and bagged it properly for sending off, along with the spinnaker (already in its bag), courtesy of a Mack Sails rep we’d met working on another boat in the marina, to the Mack Sails shop in Stuart, FL. The sailmaker confirmed that there were 4 panels that needed replacement, either due to shredding or excessive wear. They were able to source the roller pins for me, and I’ll install new on each of the points where the foil sections meet, as well as one at the very bottom. The cost, not counting the transportation costs of very heavy stuff, given that we’d been able to very economically purchase our sails, was nearly half what we’d paid for it new, so very little time ago. Still, that’s good news in that the rest of it survived, and with new panels in a nearly-new sail, the repair will be inconspicuous, if not invisible. We’ll also have a fair amount of material from which we can make sail bags, line bags, jerry cans covers and the like, from the removed, worn sections.

Other good news was that the spinnaker didn’t, in fact, have a small seam separation as we’d originally thought, our several pinholes were easily sticky-patched with very small dots, and the dousing chute was repairable with the total time on the spinnaker being only a couple of hours.

Other aftermaths include the apparent failure of our oil gauge, as it remained maxed out. So, apparently, we weren’t really at max pressure (which isn’t really surprising, given that it usually was halfway at power revs, and about a quarter at idle), but instead have some electronic or sender issues. I may have to replace the oil stuff, but that was a recent purchase during our refit, so I’d be surprised to see an actual failure there. Troubleshooting ahead!

Likewise, already on our list for replacement is our temperature gauge. The original (to the boat when we bought her) had a top of only 200* - and since we have antifreeze which would allow higher temperatures than that (despite a 180* thermostat which, when not under stress, kept the temp solidly there), I got nervous each time it approached the end. I really want to know what the temp is, not just that it’s up near 200! – thus the replacement during our refit. However, frequently, perhaps due to the electronic box in the engine room, which sends the information to the dial not being happy in the heat, the dial would either peg or go to zero. Once it did that, it stayed that way until the next time we ran the engine. Not informative enough for me :{)) So, that’s on the to-buy and to-do list, as well. Either way, I’ll have to get into the pedestal for the temp gauge, so I could replace both the oil and temperature gauges at the same time.

We leave you here as we await the arrival of our repaired sails, having gone to the mountains of GA for family time, not the least of which was Lydia’s help with her grandson, newly out of open-heart surgery. When we return to the boat, we’ll have the usual small boat chores to accomplish, which will take a couple of weeks. I’ll also help our slip-providing angel with the repairs on his boat, dive our auto-providing angel’s mooring to retrieve his anchor which had fouled on the abandoned (but now his) mooring, and, shortly head back to the Bahamas.

Both of us have land-fever, the unease which full-time cruisers develop very quickly when away from the boat and our lives on the water, and we’re most enthusiastic about our return :{)) We look forward to hosting our angels aboard shortly after we get back to the Bahamas, and continuing our adventures.

Stay tuned!


Skip and crew

Morgan 461 #2
SV Flying Pig KI4MPC
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boats-or *with* boats.
In or out of 'em, it doesn't matter. Nothing seems really to matter, that's
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Whether you get away, or whether you don't; whether you arrive at your
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anywhere at all, you're always busy, and you never do anything in
particular; and when you've done it there's always something else to do, and
you can do it if you like, but you'd much better not."
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