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pacific crossing mishaps

Posted by on June 12, 2013

April 23 – May 13, 2013

Day 2: The clew to the mainsail tore apart from its attachment to the boom. Fortunately, Wil happened to notice the separation in the webbing before the foot of the main came totally loose. We put a reef in the main, and continued to sail while we made repairs. What Wil thought would be an easy afternoon of sewing, turned into three afternoons of hard work, and the job is still not completely finished.

First, we had to remove all damaged webbing and threads, as well as further open the protective leather covering. Then, after much trial and error, we were able to stitch some rock climbing webbing over top of the original good webbing. Between the sail thickness and the webbing, there were a lot of layers to punch through with a needle. Therefore, we sharpened a nail punch to create an awl of sorts. Using a mallet, we’d beat through the layers and then push the needle through. We still have to sew the leather covering back into position. However, we were tired, and even today, we still dread the thought of driving a needle again.

our beautiful stitching on the mainsail clew!

Day 3: This one was a doozy!! Wil opened the starboard engine room to check on something, and he got the surprise of his life. The engine room was rapidly filling with water, and the free spinning transmission was spraying the water over the entire room. (This room houses our lithium batteries, battery charger, inverter, and watermaker, not to mention the whole host of wires and electrical connections!) It also didn’t take long to realize that the electric bilge pump wasn’t working. The manual bilge pump was attempted, but it had come disconnected. We very quickly got out a portable 12-volt pump that we have onboard, and ran a hose out of the engine room and into the cockpit. We tried to run it overboard, but the steepness of the slope didn’t allow for a fast enough flow.

Once most of the water was out of the engine room, Wil was able to assess where the water was coming from. To our surprise, it was the brand-new, bronze thru-hull fitting to the raw water engine intake. The threads had cracked! The potential for disaster was extremely serious, and the leak had to be stopped. Before going overboard with a plug, Wil made a few attempts to stop the water from within the engine room. One of those attempts was with Rescue Tape, and it failed. It would not adhere to itself. Ultimately, the thru-hull ended up with 5200 smeared onto it, wrapped with a piece of heavy duty rubber glove, and cinched tight with 2 hose clamps. Eventually, the water inflow was slowed to about one cup every 24 hours. A much more acceptable rate!

In the event that this temporary fix didn’t hold, Wil placed an emergency stash of tools and plugs in a nearby lazarette. For many days to follow, we held our breath with constant worry. To this day, the original fix is still holding. Since haul-out facilities are so far away, we are constantly thinking about how we can replace the thru-hull without being hauled.

the shiny new shackle replacing the broken one

Day 6: We were sailing beautifully along under genaker alone when suddenly we heard a loud pop. We rushed to deck to find the base of the genaker detached and flying high. The shackle that holds the furler to the sprit had broken and disappeared. We immediately released the genaker halyard and wrestled the genaker to the deck. Once we had a new shackle in place, the sail was raised and back to normal.

All was good again, but by this time we were starting to get jumpy. Our nerves were more and more frazzled with each new noise.

~Day 9: A second brand-new, bronze thru-hull produced cracked threads!! It was in the same starboard engine room, just on the opposite side. Fortunately, this thru-hull was discovered before the engine room filled with water. The only thing we could deduce by this time was that we’re still having electrolysis issues. Both of these thru-hulls were bonded. The bronze thru-hulls in the port engine room appear to be fine, and they are not bonded. We have since removed the bonding from the leaking thru-hulls. Wil repeated his temporary fix in the same manner as the previous thru-hull.

5200 smeared on the first leaking thru-hull


the 12-volt fan installed above the autopilot

Day 10: The autopilot started to overheat and kick itself into standby. Yikes! We were roughly halfway, with about 1500 miles to go, and the idea of having to hand-steer for 10 or more days was a dreaded thought. At first, Wil ran an extension cord to a fan which he situated near the autopilot. After referring to the manual and speaking to Pete on Saliander, he eventually used a mallet to tap away any possible carbon buildup on the brushes. Then, he installed a more permanent 12-volt fan directly above the autopilot. After that, the autopilot continued to run without overheating. Whew!

~Day 15: We forgot to tighten up on the topping lift and didn’t realize that the boom was touching the bimini. As the boat moved with the waves, even though the traveler was tight, the boom rubbed a hole in the bimini. This is when we kick ourselves for not noticing something so simple!

the boom rubbed a hole in the bimini top

Day 17: After having such great winds at the start of our passage, we gradually reached winds that were 10 knots from our stern. Therefore, we flew the spinnaker for quite a few days and nights. Normally, we follow good practice by always reducing sail at night. However, with the wind dead on our stern, and no way to pole out our regular sails, the boat would wallow in the waves causing the sails to flap and slam. It was tough on the rigging, noisy to listen to, and an uncomfortable ride. Therefore, we began flying the spinnaker at night. When the spinnaker was up, we watched the horizon and the radar like a hawk, keeping an eye on any squalls. If there was any doubt, we pulled the spinnaker down.

On this particular night, Wil saw a squall coming, so he pulled down the spinnaker. Once the squall had passed, he raised the spinnaker again. The sky was clear and the stars were bright. Suddenly, the boat speed rapidly increased to over 10 knots. In a matter of seconds, the wind jumped from 9 knots to 30 knots. With the increased wind, the tail end of a line that was tied to the port clew of the spinnaker blew off the trampoline and straight overboard. This was not a small line by any means! Almost immediately, this line wrapped around the free spinning port prop.

Pulled out of a restless sleep, I was called to deck and instructed not to start the port engine. There was no time for Wil to explain details. We just needed to get the spinnaker down. As Wil tried to pull the spinnaker sock down, the wind was so strong that he was literally being lifted off the deck. We had to work as a team. As he pulled the sock line, I needed to tail the line around the cleat. Eventually, little by little we got the spinnaker down. We both collapsed on the foredeck when all was safe again.

Next we had to focus on the fact that there was a line wrapped around the prop, but that could wait until morning. When the next day arrived, dealing with a fouled prop was the last thing we felt like doing. The idea of getting into the water to untangle the prop was not appealing. Fortunately, after reporting our mishap on the Beagle Net, we received some good advice from s/v Always Saturday. We could attempt to turn the shaft from inside the engine room.

Later that afternoon, we executed our plan. With Justine at the helm, we turned the boat into the wind in order to bring us to a stop. Wil went into the engine room to turn the shaft leading to the prop. I stood at the stern pulling the tangled line. Surprisingly, the line came out with ease. Within 5 minutes, we were doing high fives all around. We were amazed at the quick success. Another sigh of relief!

one of the many worn items of the journey

Regardless of the mishaps, overall we feel like it was an excellent crossing. Except for a few squalls, the weather was extremely kind to us. The seas never got too big or uncomfortable. And, there were no serious health issues.
Others in our fleet weren’t so lucky. There were broken stays, torn sails, nonfunctioning autopilots, helms that fell off, a dinghy engine swallowed by a wave, some had steep rough waves in a storm further south, one person broke a shoulder blade, and a few were at sea for over 30 days. After hearing stories from others, we began to feel quite fortunate.
Now, we can say “We did it!” and know that our longest passage is behind us.

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