28 Days At Sea “Squalls”
Over the last three days we have been fighting our way through the lite air and squall filled ocean. This lovely area of the Atlantic ocean we are currently in is the doldrums which is a stretch of ocean near the equator that has very little wind. Luckily we have been getting low winds of 8 kts to high winds of 25 knots and is staying on our beam to stern starboard as we continue to the Caribbean BVI’s. The problem with doldrums is the amount of sail changing that needs to be done to keep Dragonsbane moving safely and on course. In any given 4 hour shift the sails may be change 2 to 6 times because of the continuing squalls that plague the area we sail in. Our worst squall so far was two days ago. It began in the morning around 10am and continued with heavy rain and 20 knots of wind that swirled from bow to stern along our starboard side for 8 hours. We had been running our lite drafter head sail on a spinnaker pole making way at 5 kts but do to the length of the squall we were in and the bluster winds I decided to drop the drift headsail and switch with our heaver cruising sail.
I waited till the winds died down to 18kts and the rain slowed a bit to allow us to see what was going on. Cary and I came up with our plan and dropped the pole and drifted with out a problem. I stuffed the drifter into a sail bag and dropped it below. We then prepped the headsail, Cary would feed the sail into the foil track and I would grind the winch hoisting the sail. I put Dragonsbane on a pinch course to the wind to make hoisting the sail easier. The wind picked up to 22 kts and I wanted to take advantage of the wind so I proceed with hoisting the sail. The sail went up with no problem except for the last 6 feet of sail. The luff cord on the front edge of the sail that feeds into the foil groove jumped the foil track and was jammed. Cary told me to release the the halyard so I did dropping the sail 10 feet, Cary managed to get the sail un-jammed and working again. I winch the sail up again and once again the sail popped out of the track. Cary could not get the sail un-jammed and at this point the sail was flogging violently shaking the whole boat and rigging. I went forward to help and saw the luff cord had ripped a bit and would catch on the feeder when you tried to take the sail down. SO now we could not raise the sail or take it down. I decided to roll the sail up and did so wrapping the sheets around the sail. This was a big mistake. The wind pulled the lose sail off the fuller and began flogging uncontrollable. The sheets were now swing at our heads hitting both Cary and I in the face and body. The sheets wrapped around the sail now knotted and I could not unroll the sail now. Dragonsbane now crashed up and down in the swell and heavy wind. The headsail banged, and slapped the haul of the boat. From cranking on the winch so much I was out of energy and Cary tried to control the sheets from hitting us. But I managed to free the sheets from around the head stay. I then ran down below grab a screw driver and unscrewed the foil feeder from the foil. Cary released the halyard and the sail dropped to the deck and into the sea. I pulled with everything I had to get the sail out of the ocean as it filled up. Cary ran forward jamming his toe and helped pull the rest of the sail to the deck. We lashed the sail to the rail and hoisted the Staysail instead. We were exhausted from the 30 minute ordeal. We are now battling a 1 knot counter current under full sail and makeing slow progress as the squalls still swirling around us and soak our already soggy souls and sails.
Current Position: 22:43UTC 5deg 18.9min N, 38deg 52.2min W, SOG 4.7kts, COG 320deg-m, Swell 1M, WS 14kts, 1012MB, Overcast/Rain
Jacques & Cary