400 Mile Un-Qualifier

Departed Angel’s Gate late on Friday to head out on a qualifier to do the Shaka Challenge race to Hawaii. The plan was to do the race to Hanalei with Rod Percival on Rubicon III, then head up over the Pacific High during the return to test being at sea for a while, and learn more about weather tactics with low pressure systems.

The Fates, or rather my incompetence at rebuilding ProFurl head swivels, had other things in mind.

On the way offshore, the wind predictably built to 25 knots, gusting to 30 as Sparrow maintained a triple reef and jib with the wind just forward of the beam. I was expecting the wind to moderate so kept the jib up without shifting to the staysail.

The next afternoon, with San Nicholas and the Cortes Bank well behind the autopilot started acting erratically. At first it would just not keep a compass course every few hours. Then every hour, then every 10 minutes, then I had to hand steer.

Then in the late afternoon the jib came down unexpectedly, went in the water and Sparrow came to a sudden stop. I honestly can’t remember having any sail – even a spinnaker in the water like this. I put a halyard on the clew and winched the sail slowly aboard. Once the jib was on deck, I found the problem. The top swivel had parted, and the top portion was still up at the hounds. It would seem the rebuild project I did on the top swivel was defective, probably a result of not properly seating the very difficult circlip rings.

Faced with no autopilot and no jib, I decided I would need to do another successful qualifier before heading to Hawaii so turned around and hand-steered the 150 miles back.

But wait, there’s more.

Upon arriving at the dock I realized the head foil was cracked and irreparably damaged, along with what appeared to be a bent headstay.

This is why we do qualifiers, and I’m grateful I had 30 knots of wind to have a proper shakedown.

On to more repairs. The joys of boat ownership.

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