Progress?

Monday Sparrow was greeted with 30-40+ knots and some more problems emerged. First, the jib halyard cover ripped apart so the clutch and self tailing winch at the mast are rendered useless. I will come back to this problem in a minute.

The second problem is the batten car above the 3rd reef has split and has detached from the mast car. Because the plastic split it looks like the only real solution is the drill a hole through it and lash it to the mast car. But I don’t know the internal structure of the batten car and if there is a bolt in the way. Although I thought about swapping one batten car for another that may receive less force? Since Monday, now a second batten car in the 2nd reef has separated from the mast car. Now I wonder if I shouldn’t just lash them all when I take the main down.

The third problem is eye-nut on top of the gooseneck pin (a long 1/2″ bolt) that held the mainsail clew has sheared off, taking the top 1″ of the gooseneck pin with it. So now the gooseneck pin has only friction keeping it in while gravity attempts to have it fall out. In a few days of upwind sailing, it dropped 1/4″ so I tapped it back up with a hammer. I need ideas to keep the bolt in place.

With every problem I first wonder if this is finally the show-stopper, the one I can’t overcome and have to make for port or turn around. So far I’ve been able to keep going, but back to the jib halyard…

I really need to keep the jib up. It is a good sail, 2 knots faster than the staysail. Yes I could keep going with out it, but this effort starts to get ridiculous. At the moment, I don’t know why the cover ripped apart. One reason could be there is a chafe point where the halyard exits the mast, but things look OK there to my eye and it seems like it would only chafe on one side and I would notice before total failure. Another possibility is the cover to chafe guard transition was weak and it just let go. If this is the cause than the existing halyard core may be OK to stay in place.

I have options. I could keep the existing halyard core in place and secure it somehow. I could replace the halyard with the Code 0 halyard (assuming I can strip the halyard tail, or I possibly to use the fractional spin halyard (most problematic). But, I don’t want to replace the halyard if there is a serious chafe problem at the mast exit. Finally, I could cimb the mast and somehow lash the sail up the hounds. Looking at photos there is not an obvious place to lash the head swivel to. I will contact some technical folks before deciding on a course of action.

I haven’t posted about all this before as I didn’t want this blog to be about nothing but problems. Oh well.

After beating upwind for a few days, I’m ready for some wind aft of the beam sailing, and to be able to sail on course. It’s OK as long as the waves aren’t chaotic and below 20 knots. Some magic happens above 20 knots and a lot of water comes over the deck and Sparrow starts bucking and heaving. Expedition says just run down the rhumb line. Not very helpful.

Now on to repairing the diaphragm stripping pump. I’m guessing some crud got into the valves.

Happy Thanksgiving from 3N

Hi Everyone,

A heartfelt Happy Thanksgiving from Sparrow!

Quincy – I hope you are not as lonely as I am today, and are doing well down at UCI. Study hard, play hard!

Annika – Take care of Cody, Dustan and your Mom. Love you so!

Dustan – Find things to stay busy!

Team Murtex – I am so grateful for you all. Please stay healthy. I shall open some wine tonight and toast 2020!

A small Thanksgiving story: A few minutes before I untied the lines to depart the California Yacht Marina in Wilmington, unexpectedly my next-slip dock neighbors arrived with fresh-out-of-the-oven chocolate chip cookies and a bottle of red wine. Nothing quite like warm cookies as you sail off into the dark on a cold October evening. I shall open the wine this evening to enhance my Thanksgiving.

Pass the love on.

Two Weeks!

Today is Day 14, marking 2 weeks at sea. Feels like every bit of two weeks and all I can say is I hope the next two weeks are more restful. I have to say I’m far more stressed out here than I was expecting. Something always need attention, something breaking or broken that needs attending to.

The last few days have been no exception. Since departing the lee of Hawaii Friday evening, the seas have been quite rough with the wind at 25-30 knots for most of the time, up over 40 knots in squalls. At the loss of getting farther East, I cracked off 30 degrees to make the ride more tolerable. Today there was a front of some kind, not a usual squall that had wind over 35 knots for 2 hours. Lots of water coming over the deck, large seas, new leaks. One over my day bunk, and one over my navigation station with all the electronics and power distribution. Not good. I’ve tried a few things to stop the leak but it’s just too wet and rough to repair today. Also a batten car failure above the 3rd reef for which I have no apparent repair. Good times. Who knew it was so windy and rough at 12 degrees north? Not the weather forecast! Called for 15 knots today. If I sound grumpy its because I am. Lots of toil over the last few days with little to show for it.

Made good progress South over the last few days though. I do need to somehow work my way more East.

In the early morning hour, maybe around 2 I was awaken by Sparrow crash gybing. Stumbling out of the bunk and into the cockpit, I tried to gybe her back, but no go. The autopilot had completely stopped, requiring a reboot. I went below to reboot, came up on deck and same problem: “average current too high.” Uh-oh. Realizing this wasn’t a quick fix, I hove-to by rolling up the jib, easing the main and lashing the tiller to lee. It was still blowing 30 knots. I visually checked to autopilot drive and in the dim light it looked like the ram piston had simply broken. Heading aft with the tool bag, a bit terrified of what I might find. Turns out the pin fitting had simply unscrewed from the piston, so I screwed it back on and cranked down the locknut. Then put the assembly back on the rudder pin. Above deck test quickly showed autopilot was OK.

Now to unwind the jib and get moving again. I unrolled the jib, but then found I could not bring in the sheet. The deck light showed lots of wraps from the lazy sheet around the working sheet. So at 3am, I found myself buck naked sitting on the foredeck except for the harness, getting drenched by waves as I untangled the jib sheets. Just a little story to let you guys know what it’s like out here.

Dearly need another calm-ish day for more maintenance. Hoping it shows up soon.

Sorry to ramble, rough even for typing. Sparrow out.

Stage 1 Complete

Coach roof glass-epoxy patches

The morning was highlighted by the light show with my coffee, a cell signal, and epoxy work. I patched up the deck, then the underneath with major, amazing coaching from Eric Lambert. Sure, I’ve destroyed any resale value in Sparrow, but made her more ready for what’s coming.

Along with the epoxy patchwork, I lashed some blocks to the mainsail reef points to reduce chafe, as I expect to spend a lot of time reefed down South.

My other to-do is to get up the mast. I’m a bit whipped now, and the wind has come up. Now is the time to straighten and tidy things up, and head South.

Stage 1 complete. Stage 2 to The Horn is 3 times longer. We shall see how it goes.

Hawaii Ho!

Getting some tradewind sailing in for a few days on approach, an easy 9 to 10 knots. Birds have returned, but still not much shipping traffic with the AIS and radar detector silent. I’ve seen no trash on this trip, very different from the 2012 SHTP that ran after the Fukushima earthquake.

Looks like I will round Hawaii after dark, a bummer as it’s quite a dramatic coastline. Also a bummer as I will come into the lee in the early morning hours. I have a few things to attend to in the hopefully calmer waters behind the island. First up is to epoxy woven roving patches on the topside where there are cracks opening up in the coachroof. I spent some time yesterday prepping the areas for patches as shown in the photos. The underside will need patches also, which will prove troublesome as gravity will work against me. The patches should stabilize the cracking, and then I can address the leaking.

Second up is to drop the sails completely and check over the halyards, and lash blocks onto the outer reef points on the mainsail. I’m already seeing significant chafing on the reef lines which are critical for getting through the Southern Ocean.

Third task is to go up the mast to see if I can repair the radar reflector mount. We shall see.

I will say that despite some setbacks, the longer I’m aboard the more confident I grow.

What, That’s All You Got?

3 am this morning – it’s always 3 am – a squall hit. Not too bad, 22 knots. I happened to be awake, about to make some coffee. Full main and Code 0 up. Before I could climb into the cockpit to blow the mainsheet, Sparrow rounded up and broached. No worries, I thought as I eased the main thinking she’d get back on her feet as the rudder dug back in. No go. I then moved to roll in the Code 0, but then realized it was in shreds, torn from head to tack right down the luff. Maybe someone can school me, but I don’t find this very good service out of a very new sail.

By now I’m used to clearing messes, even in the dark (Sparrow has a great deck light with the oh so convenient cockpit switch). My knife is getting too much use, I think. I cut it away, unfurled the jib and left final cleanup for daylight. This sail was my other main downwind sail, and it was a big loss for speed. Sparrow is now down to working sails, solid Hydranet which I have a lot of confidence in. Definitely in cruising mode now, and the sailing will be much simpler. More time for my reading list.

But wait, there’s more!

While I was cutting away the sail, it appears a slightly loose lazy jack line near the end of the boom caught the NKE GPS antenna that provide Sparrow’s position to her electronics and Expedition. It’s also gone & I have no spare. It crossed my mind more than once to get a spare before departure, but I never acted on it. I do have multiple other GPS devices onboard, so it’s not a show stopper. The Vesper AIS is feeding GPS data to the NKE system now, but for some reason now the NKE Wifi box isn’t talking to Expedition or anything else. A headache I will hopefully resolve tomorrow.

Frankly, it’s been a week I wasn’t expecting, and I’m feeling bowed but unbroken. No doubt some would say I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Maybe, but I’m still chewing!!! I had a little discussion with Poseidon today: “What, that’s all you got!?!”

Just a guess, but I’m pretty sure he has more tricks up his sleeve.

Hawaii approaches. Take care of each other.

A2 Gone, but maybe that’s a good thing

I wanted an adventure, looks like I’m getting it. Reader’s Digest version: spinnaker wrap and my own ineptitude resulted in spinnaker in water & I had to cut it away. Jumped in water complete with knife to clear saildrive & rudder.

Long version: I spent about 2 hours getting the Code 0 down and the A2 up, perfect for the running conditions here in the Tradewinds. While enjoying the 10 knot ride, I went below to make some well deserved lunch. While eating I looked up and saw some ugly wraps around the inner stay. The old me would have jumped up and attended to it right away, but I decided I needed fuel and kept eating. Maybe a little faster, but kept eating.

Once on deck I performed the magic trick: just gybe the main over and watch the spinnaker unwrap. Part of the trick is to go below for tea for 15 minutes, then come back on deck to magically find the spinnaker unwrapped. In this case, just having lunch I stayed on deck to observe the proceedings. It did magically unwrap itself from the inner stay, but refused to go further. With maybe 10 wraps to go to unravel itself, it decided to stop no matter which gybe I was on, or sailing angle. I quickly found the sock to be useless as it wraps itself up also and can’t be pulled down over the spinnaker, so now I’m left to drop the thing on deck.

Here we go. The singlehander attempts to drop a 2400 sq ft sail & get it down the hatch before it makes mischief. I bear off down to 170 degrees off the wind. Spinnaker halyard tossed overboard and trailing behind, I then grab the halyard in my left hand and go forward. I open the hatch and gather in the foot to the clue & stuff it in the hatch and start to run the halyard through my hand. Wind catches the sail and it gets in the water and it’s over. I run back to raise the halyard and the 20 year old sail starts to rip. I try pulling on the clue but that only results in more water and ripping. I realize I just have to let it go and cut the lazy sheet, then the sheet and watch it trail off the stern. I go below for the dive fins, mask, a spare line and knife to cut it free from Sparrow. Donning my gear and tying the rope around my waist, I jump in off the stern, knife in hand. Swimming forward, luckily it was only caught on the saildrive and easily freed. I can also report no kelp!

Good to know the stern is easily boarded using the hydrogenerator bracket. Back onboard, refreshed from my swim but exhausted, I can’t say I was grieving. In some ways a relief as the sail’s lack of manageability was trouble looking for a moment. It only took 4 hours to find one, and thankfully in benign conditions with warm water!

So now I only have sails that furl or hank. I’m very good with that. I will go 1 or 2 knots slower in some conditions – such as the moderate air run to Hawaii, but I will get around in control. Definitely cruising mode, and should have time for my reading list.

As punishment for my ineptitude with the A2, Poseidon has taken another swipe at me. The active radar reflector mount is bent, no doubt occurring when I was attempting to bring down the sock. So now I have to go aloft to the 2nd spreader to address this. It will be my first mast climb at sea. Maybe I will wait for the doldrums.

In other news, before I started playing with spinnakers, yesterday I reprogrammed the hydrogenerator controller. It stopped charging, apparently thinking the batteries were fully charged. Going into the software, it looks like it just dropped the earlier programmed absorption voltage levels. For those wondering why I don’t just use the factory defaults, it’s because my battery has LiFePO4 chemistry and they only have lead acid options. Anyway, it’s been restored and charging away.

In sum, not a great day yesterday as I will be slowed down (hopefully for only a few days), but I have reliable water, power, and plenty of food so things are actually looking pretty good. I am learning more about Sparrow and how to manage her. In the moments I catch my breath and take in the experience, I find Sparrow to be an amazing boat with smooth motion and reasonably fast so as to be a real joy to sail. I take in the continuous light show that is the Sea, and what a privilege it is to be out here to experience all this. In a few days I will reach a “bail-out” decision point as I approach Hilo. As things look now, I will keep Hawaii to port and head for the Horn.

1,000 miles to Hawaii.