The following is a December 11 blog post from Captain TEEM, a group of sailors we made contact with as they were passing through Sausalito in October. We featured them in December’s Cruise Notes, and they can be found at To Sail or Not To Be. (If you know of a fun and exciting cruising blog from Bay Area sailors — or people who’ve passed through — please let us know.)
What is it with Cabo? First we could not get there fast enough for the captain to take on another job. And then, it would not let us go again. We tried several times. Twice we were all ready to go, thought we had the motor fixed, and twice the motor failed on us. Each time it caused a couple-days delay, as it was always right in time for the weekend with no mechanics in sight.
And now the weather doesn’t play well, which made things quite difficult for everyone in the anchorage. It started with swell followed by strong winds, which made being on the boat feel like being inside a washing machine. The constant rolling and up and down made Mats and myself feel motion sick. After a night of no sleep, the captain packed us up, drove us to shore with the dinghy for an egg breakfast and found a great hotel right by the marina. And he did that right in time before things got worse. Here’s a little clip when things were a bit more mellow again, to give you an idea.
The Captain’s attempt at going back to [our 42-ft custom Dutch-built steel sloop] Alsager almost ended in a disaster — and us losing our dinghy. When he tried getting into the channel, a big wave threw the bow upwards and water rushed over the stern into the dinghy. The captain had to throw himself forward to prevent the dinghy from swamping. He shuffled the water out as best as possible and made a second attempt. He made it to Alsager, and while the waves threw the dinghy against the side of the boat, he tried to hold on and find a moment to get onto the vessel. I wasn’t there, but we have done it with a kid and dog onboard, and even when the situation is not so intense, it’s always an adrenaline rush to get everyone from one boat to the other safely. So, very glad he made it OK!
He noticed, that boats around him had all kind of problems, but since he was by himself, he had to attend to the safety of ours first. He immediately started the motor to make sure he could hold Alsager in place, in case the anchor started dragging. Then he got a second anchor out and with the help of a nice neighbor who assisted in his dinghy, they were able to set the second hook.
He stayed most of the day on the boat while Mats had fun at the pool and both of our bellies started feeling better. Poor captain. When he felt good enough about leaving the boat. I ordered a well deserved hamburger and margarita for him and we all passed out quite early that night. Now let’s see if we make it out of Cabo!
Just over three days into the third leg of the round-the-world Volvo Ocean Race, the fleet of seven Volvo 65s is sailing east at more than 20 knots, preparing to batten down the hatches and deal with their first major Southern Ocean low-pressure system. A throwback to the old days of the race, the VOR is sailing a leg from Cape Town to Australasia for the first time in a dozen years as recent editions of the race opted to depart South Africa and instead sail up toward the Middle East to appease race sponsors. This time however, it’s all vintage VOR: a screaming start out of Table Bay, a light spot for the fleet to collect their thoughts, and then an entry into the Roaring Forties before the arrival of the first big low-pressure system that will carry the fleet toward Australia’s south coast and a finish in Melbourne sometime around Christmas.
Dee Caffari’s Turn the Tide on Plastic team has opted for a more northerly route in an effort to avoid the worst of the conditions, while the rest of the fleet has opted to take a more southerly route they believe to be both shorter and faster, though with more intense conditions closer to the center of the depression. Forecasters are expecting up to 60 knots of breeze in the depression, with monstrous seas. As light air is oftentimes the great equalizer in yacht racing, major depressions and storm systems can work as the opposite, doing much to spread a fleet out. As some teams may handle the system differently than others, there is always the caveat that significant damage could occur to any of the boats at any time.
At the pointy end of the fleet, it’s little surprise to see Dongfeng holding off overall race leader MAPFRE while the American/Danish entry Vestas 11th Hour Racing comes charging in from the north with Brunel, Akzonobel and Scallywag bringing up the rear. The more experienced crews in the race have definitely begun to live up to the pre-race expectations over the last two legs, and nowhere will that be more evident than in the Southern Ocean, where the much younger and less experienced crew on Turn the Tide on Plastic are choosing seamanship and moderate conditions over a quicker finish time. As the old sailing adage goes, "One man’s storm is another man’s sailing breeze," and nowhere could this be more true than in Leg 3 of the VOR. Who will push hardest? Who will break the boat? Who will tiptoe through the worst of it? And, most importantly, who will arrive in Melbourne first?
Stay tuned to find out!
What’s your longest-lasting ‘temporary fix’? With the best of intentions we’ve solved some minor inconveniences while underway, swearing we’d create a more permanent and reliable solution once we hit the dock. But something strange often occurs once the docklines are secured. Sails get flaked, covers put on, washdown begins, friends stop by, and suddenly commitment to a long-term solution joins a list of other waiting-to-be-done projects.
We’re happy to report we recently crossed a small one off the list. Last summer the small screws holding up the jammer on the mainsheet block somehow came loose and vaporized into thin air. This caused a problem, because when you pulled down on the mainsheet to release it from the teeth, it would just tilt down and not release. Not good on San Francisco Bay, where releasing the mainsheet can be important. It was a beautiful day, and we wanted to keep sailing. Searching the trusty Tupperware container filled with various bits of line, we found some small nylon braid to lash the jaws up, so when we pulled down, the mainsheet released. Problem solved.
We eventually got in touch with Don Whelan of Harken to describe our problem with an exact description of the ‘thingamajig’ we needed that, you know, goes on the side of a mainsheet block. With appropriate questions narrowing the options he figured out exactly what we needed, and, once acquired, the project took all of five minutes.
We recently asked more enterprising and skilled sailors about major DIY projects and received replies about some pretty ambitious projects that we’ll share later. On the other end of the spectrum: Is anyone out there using these sunny days to fix a few of these ‘temporary fixes’ that might otherwise last the life of your boat? Let us know. (Reminder: Thin nylon cord and duct tape always make great Christmas presents.)
We swore we’d fix it right away but it was working and there were other things to do. Now we’re trying to remember, did that happen last summer or two summers ago?