Upper Rudder Bearing Squawk

A fog descended on Sparrow yesterday to add to the ambiance of this place. Now not just cold, but damp and more dreary. Seas are not large, but very confused and sloppy with a fun long period swell from the West so we get to surf a little.

The big news today is the upper rudder bearing complaining. It squawks and binds when the rudder is under high load, basically whenever a large wave throws the stern over and the autopilot pushes to bring her back on course. I can’t think of a way to fix this problem. I have no teflon sheets aboard, even if I could get access to the bearings. Next bail-out point is the Falklands, over 2,000 miles away.

Since yesterday I’ve been sailing very conservatively, less sail and using water ballast to keep heel to zero or even a little to windward. This keeps the rudder loads and squawking down. Unless some brilliance strikes, not much to do but see how it evolves. These things always get worse with time. It’s just a matter of how fast it deteriorates. As far as I can tell, the lower bearing that takes most of the load is just fine.

Compounding this problem is the coming weather. Looks like the wind will be coming up all week next week and I can expect 30-40+ as 3 low pressures systems roll by before I get to the Horn. I will likely be running with 3 reefs and the storm jib.

Will be an interesting week! In the meantime, I’ve got water, food, power and things are dry below for now.

Day 38

Cold, cloudy and dreary but benign down here so far. Everything good. Reprogrammed the hydrogenerator yet again to charge better with the lithium bank. I think I have it now, so we are all OK with power as long as the hydrogen keep working. 3/4 of a tank of fuel, so if we can make it to the Horn without using anymore fuel we will be good to the finish.

Solar panels have been disappointing due to a nasty trick Victron played on me. Apparently when I was near Hawaii and my iPhone connected, the Victron app updated. I didn’t notice of course so when I checked the panels on the app, it said I couldn’t view the settings without updating the firmware on the controllers. It’s amazing how everything demands that you be connected to the internet, all the time.

The Mountain House food just isn’t working for me. High carb & high sodium is hard to take over time. The Peak Refuel is so much better. Not awesome, but I don’t cringe when I pick up a pouch. Some of it is quite agreeable, and really glad I weeded out the meals I didn’t care for before departure.

The large albatross down here are mesmerizing. They are huge, bigger than me. Sort of like a dinosaur I guess. The ones that have been around zoom through the swells and disappear in the troughs, so smoothly against the turbulent ocean. An astonishing evolution of life. I will attempt some photos when one comes back.

Christmas is coming fast, hope everyone is ready!

2,150 miles to the Horn. Gotta go gybe to the East.

Quarter of the Way Around

As of 12/14/2020 (Day 36)

Stage 1 (GGB to Hawaii) 2,131nm (100% Complete)
Stage 2 (Hawaii to Cape Horn): 6,310 (60% Complete)
Stage 3 (Cape Horn to South Cape, NZ): 9,836
Stage 4 (South Cape, NZ to GGB): 6,348
Total Distance: 24,624 (25% Complete)

Sure doesn’t feel like I’ve sailed 25% around the world.

Sparrow and I have had some lovely sailing days underneath this funny high pressure zone, beating into 5-10 knots. Yesterday was sunny and cold (low 60’s), today cloudy and warmer. Boat speed has mostly been OK, but the wind direction has been difficult and we have been beating into the breeze, tacking some in shifts. Forecast says another sluggish 24 hours, then speeding up. We shall see.

Passing through 40 degrees South today, so things should start to get real. Saw a very large albatross this morning. Feeling better organized, issues dealt with so progressing with cautious confidence and trepidation.

2,400 miles to the Horn.

Champagne Sailing

View aft today!

We are enjoying a champagne sailing day today. Cooler and drier weather, in the 60’s. 36 degrees South now, basically back on Pacific time. Close-hauled, but the wind is only 8-10 knots and seas much calmer than yesterday. Decks mostly dry so that allows me to eat and read outside. Lovely going.

So of course I spend the morning in the lazarette, organizing and lashing things down for the coming low pressure systems. All good back there now.

Wish we could have 10-15 knots, relatively smooth seas and sunshine everyday! Oh, and a fresh water shower.

But where is the fun in that?

Gooseneck Pin Solution

Spent much of the day yesterday cutting up one of the plywood steps I use to move aft for this contraption. Hopefully this will resolve the issue for the next 20,000 miles and I won’t have to worry about it. Feels a bit over-engineered, but I dig it. Kudos to Eric Lambert, Master Shipwright Extraordinaire, for the idea!

Gybing Anarchy

Got scared last night. Wind built up to 25-30 knots with Sparrow holding full main and jib. The boat gets on an edge where if it rolls too far downwind, she crash gybes and if she rolls too far upwind she broaches. I cranked up the autopilot gain and watched for a few minutes. Yup, scary stuff. I didn’t know if the autopilot and rudder could take the physics of it all. We weren’t going all that fast: 11-14 knots, but maybe it was the darkness and lumpy seas that contributed to my fear. Anyway, I reefed the main and jib. Watched for a while and things were much more stable with speed at 9-10 and the wind dropped down to 22 knots.

With that I hit the bunk for a bout of sleep, awoke at dawn and before I had my morning coffee, Sparrow got blasted with 40 knots again. Crash gybe ensued. After untangling that mess, I put another reef in and did my first chicken gybe. It was blowing 30 and my balls just aren’t big enough to do a high speed gybe in 30 knots, even with 2 reefs in the main.

That’s why they call it a chicken gybe.

(For those not familiar with the term, a chicken gybe is when you tack around into the wind instead of actually gybing.)

Anyway a bit messy this morning, but we are learning.

Wind Behind Sparrow

Yesterday afternoon was spent chasing big, ugly looking squalls for wind. 4 knots of speed in sloppy cross seas without a squall, 8+ knots with one. Squalls also have the benefit of clouds and rain, let me explain. First, the clouds block the sun, which is nearly directly overhead at this latitude at this time of year so the temperature relief is most welcome. Second the rain rinses the salt off the deck and all Sparrows gear, the salt is quite corrosive to everything over time. Finally yours truly got to get the second shower of the trip, complete with shampoo and Irish Spring. An understatement to say I’m a new man. Along with washing me, I managed to do some laundry which mainly means washing the salt out of things as best I’m able with detergent.

Late in the day after dinner, the wind filled in from behind (14 knots) and we are finally sailing offwind. Only took a month! This looks like the start of the train to get to the Horn. Gotta say, it’s a bit weird to have the sun to the north of me. I’ve been in the Southern Hemisphere before, but don’t remember that part.

Anyway, looks like relatively easy going for the next week, if not particularly fast. These are perfect A2 conditions, and we are going 2 knots slower than we should. Easy and safe miles with just the main and jib though.

28 South, Day 30

Sparrow appears to be in a bit of a transition zone. Wind finally swung around behind the beam at 1am and now is astern at 5 knots. So we angled East to try to make way, hoping the wind fills in soon to carry us to the Horn.

The first day with dry decks! I was able to eat dinner last night up by the mast which was amazing as we were slipping along at 8 knots with the sea shimmering with starlight as disk settled to night.

With the relatively calm weather I went for another swim to check the keel. Some leaks are appearing at the at end of the keelbox, so I figured there would be cracks at the keel-hull joint where there is typically flexing that goes on that causes cracking. With the slamming from the last 3 weeks, water was being forced up the crack and out the keel box in the interior. Not much but apparent. There is not keel movement so I’m just counting this as a minor leak and pressing on. Hopefully it stays a minor leak. No leaking at all in this easy weather.

The gooseneck pin epoxy trick has failed already. I will just inspect twice a day and keep tapping it up. Chafe is starting to appear in some critical areas. I didn’t bring along any extra chafe cover material, big mistake. I have spare lines and I’m sure I’ll just have to get creative as I go.

3,470 nm to The Horn