Wednesday, May 11, 2016

At sea

30 degrees 22 minutes north
072 degrees 46 minutes west
If you draw a line directly south of the tip of Long Island NY that intersects with one from the northern border of Florida, that is approx. where we are. 434nm to go to Bermuda. 
Yesterday, I was a very proud sailor! We had overcome a calamity, something  that probably would have made us turn around and limp back to port ten years ago.  
When we left the United States, Barry and I had a discussion about whether or not our sails would get us across the Atlantic.  The genoa was made in New Zealand and we had the main made in Australia. That was approximate twenty five thousand nautical miles ago. Barry uncharacteristically thought they should last while I had my doubts.  There have been numerous rips and tears lately which indicates they are becoming brittle, the sun and the wind have worn them out. 
We had some very squally weather as we left the Bahamas, thunderstorms with big winds, which after their passage left us with big seas and very little wind.  That meant the sails were slatting about ( that is a very salty term which means banging back and forth, inflating as the boat rises over a wave and then deflating with a big slap on the downside of the wave). Well, the main just could not take it and it tore right across the sail about 2 feet from the top. We managed to get it down, luckily the line that runs up the back of the sail was still in one piece so I could pull the detached bit of sail down by the very thin line!  It was at dusk when this happened so we had no chance to repair it right away. We sailed under genoa  alone and at some point we tacked it and Barry noticed a big horizontal rip in it.  OH NO, both of our major sails out of commission at once, YIKES.  The genoa was rolled in and we fired up the iron jenny and motored on. We talked about going back to the States and ordering a new sail, we were about two hundred miles away, and while we were waiting for a new sail our weather window for crossing the Atlantic would slip away, June is hurricane season and we have no desire to tangle with one of those. 
At dawn I rustled Barry out of bed and as we had very little wind we were able to drop the genoa  without a problem. I washed both sides of the sail around the tear to get the salt off and let it dry.  Then we taped it up with our newish sail tape which sticks really well and put the genoa back up.  Sail tape held and we were able to turn off the motor and sail again while we contemplated our decimated main. 
It had separated on a seam across most of the sail, not bad, easily fixed, but then there was a tear which included a part right where one of the slugs was sewed on.  The slugs attach the sail to the track on the mast and are a point of great strain, NOT GOOD! 
We both problem solved for about ten minutes and came up with a good repair plan.  Remember that we are still sailing, the boat is heaving around and we are sitting on the cabin top underneath the boom, with a huge mass of sail jammed around us as we try to maintain our seats while we get tossed back and forth. We taped one side of the vertical seam and Barry sewed it for additional strength, I taped the slug back onto the sail and then reinforced it with 2 inch wide webbing on both sides so that it would not tear off again. We taped the foot long rip and reinforced it with sail material on one side and sewed it as well. 
Sewing by hand through tape, two piece of thick webbing and sail material is a real pain.  There is something called a palm which is a round piece of indented steel which is attached to leather strapping which goes around your hand that is used to push the needle through the material.  I had to push with all my strength to get the needle though all this.  This great force can lead to broken needles if you are not careful so we have a good assortment of various shapes and sizes of needles on hand. 
We finished all this at sunset, we had worked all day on it only taking breaks while two thunderstorms had passed over us. When the threatening clouds got close, we would stop sewing, gather up all our tools and put sail ties in three places on the sail and lash it down to the boom or whatever ropes we could. The first storm was vicious with driving wind and rain, soaking us to the bone, it lasted for well over an hour, living the dream indeed! 
We tussled with raising the main, getting it halfway on and figuring out there was a twist in it. Down she came, we flaked it on the deck and raised it again. When we had it almost up Barry was unable to get it any higher and we discovered the halyard was caught around the stair at the top of the mast.  We had to lower the whole thing for the second time, untangle the halyard and haul it back up.  Barry got his workout for the day. I was so proud and happy when I felt the boat leap ahead as the wind once again filled the main, that I shouted with pure joy. It is 36 hours later and the fix is still holding, YIPPEE! 
Combined, our knowledge gleaned from a sail repair class taken eleven years ago through the Bluewater Cruising Association and our experience in fixing numerous other rips and tears made it possible to turn a calamity into a proud moment. I remember buddies of ours, David and Linda from Toketie, BCA members of the fleet of 2006, described a similar situation, when they crossed from Tonga to New Zealand. Now I truly understand and appreciate their accomplishment in repairing their torn main.  All I can say is YEAH US, sail on!!!