This is an excerpt from Steve's Journal:
Wednesday July 10
Wednesday night I went to bed at 830. I was a bit sunburned on my knees from sitting on deck for several hours in the warm sun for the first time on the trip.
My berth is comfortable but I can reach up and touch the ceiling while lying on my back. It was hotter than usual as we are getting into warmer waters. Rick had measured water temperature in Genoa Bay at 5 degrees and now it is 20. The trade winds are fairly steady at 12-15 knots making you feel deceptively cooler than it really is. It must be 80 on deck but it feels like 70.
The overcast sky clears on and off during the day letting large amounts of sunshine bake on the deck.
After reading for a while I drifted off to sleep to the rolling motion of the Fury. At 130am I awakened abruptly to the sounds of sails luffing and gusting winds. Things had been quiet and steady when I had gone to bed.
Tim was standing at the electrical panel reviewing the data when I came into the room. I quickly fired 2-3 questions.
What is speed over ground: He responded 8-8.5 knots.
What is wind speed: 20+ knots and wind direction northwest at 330 degrees
Our course was set on autopilot at 180 degrees so I knew immediately I was going to need to take action.
It was spitting rain on deck. Wind was coming from the stern. A northwesterly somewhat stiff breeze with 3 points interruptions of gusts from due north that would cause the main sail to slap into the shrouds. Gusts were dangerously high and random for the position of the sail.
Earlier in the day Rick and I had set sails to wing on wing for a steady northerly breeze of 12 knots. This maintained us at 6 knots, feet over ground. We had reefed the main sail to reduce its surface area and balance out the mizzen. Everything had now gone amiss. The main was luffing while the fullness of the sail was slapping the shroud. The slapping was worrisome. Fortunately we had tied the booms via pulleys and winches to minimize the chance of the booms swinging freely with wind changes. That was a wise decision.
I sat on the stern bench looking up at the Mizzen sail. It was pitch black with a light drizzle and gusting 20 knot winds. I had a headlamp on and could look up into the sail and see that two top batons (rigid sail support) had blown through the shrouds and now the Mizzen sail was impaled behind the shroud.
Rick and I sat together and sized up problems:
- Mizzen sail trapped in the shrouds, likely to tear if we try to reef it
- Wind direction has changed necessitating a change to sail position and trim
- Increased wind speed best treated by reefing the sails
- strong winds with 8-10ft swells
Half of the crew was asleep and unaware of the situation. Despite yelling on deck and trying to out yell the sound of the wind, no one below was aware that anything had gone a rye.
Rick was the more nimble of the two of us, so by default he would need to climb the mizzen mast in the dark.
The mizzen mast is only slightly shorter than the 55 ft main mast, and during the rolling motion of the top of the mass, it was moving 20 ft back and forth at its highest point. Rick would need two safety harnesses to clip in during the climb. That was just in case he lost his balance or slipped out of one of the stirrups.
Rick had no light so I stood beside the cockpit on the gunnel's and shown my light up against the convect side of the sail.
Rick has always been able to climb with the agility of a cat. He used to be on the diving team in high school and was right at home on a diving platform.
I stepped into the cockpit and loosened the halyard while Rick held on to the mast in his right hand and leaned out as far as he could to grab the luffing edge of the sail, and pull the baton in front of the shroud. It took two tries but we were successful.
Rick quickly scampered down the mast to the top of the cockpit and together we reefed the sail.
The last of the reef ties required Rick to tuck the sail from the top of the cockpit, while I stood on the peak railing leaning out over the water to reach and tie the fastener below the reefing lines. I tied a reef knot as quickly as I could. As I leaned out over the water Rick had one hand on the boom and one hand on my tether which was also attached to the tackings.
After 30 min, the first of four challenges was resolved.
Next we slid the mizzen traveler to the port side and loosened the safety lines and winches, repositioned the mizzen boom from starboard to port, and trimmed the sail to a 30 degree jibe. The sail promptly filled with wind and stopped the luffing. Wind began to whistle through the running rigging.
Next we trimmed the main, by pulling the main sheet and traveler to optimize wind direction.
Now I felt one with the conditions.
Tim was tired and went off to bed, and Rick took over his ship watch.
Together we went to the bow spritz and laid on our backs on the deck, heads resting on the sail bags as we looked up into an incredible star filled sky. We visited for nearly an hour about the universe and the celestial manifestations of Gods creations.
Imagine the ancient mariners using the sun by day and the stars by night to track latitude. Longitude was quite another matter. As recently as 1800 and before the first reliable Harrison chronograph, navigators were trying to chart longitude at sea by monitoring Jupiter’s moons and comparing them to star charts, oh, what we take for granted.
Wednesday 1500 hours
The seas remain steady, 8-10ft swells, 15 knot winds, and northwest at 330 degrees. SOG (Speed over ground) 5.5 knots. 1200 nautical miles to Hilo, we have passed the half-way point and are south of the latitude of San Diego.
After 11 days the ice box is still full of ice blocks, chicken had started to thaw.
Brian made some delicious sweet and sour chicken balls over sticky rice for lunch.
As I write my journal on deck, the swells of the sea coupled with the trade winds are gentle and soothing whereas just a week ago they were a source of restless fear, dizziness and nausea.