Thursday March 9 - Day 4
I woke this morning to the now unfamiliar sound the the Gardner engine a got up immediately to see why it had been switched on. Mick said that he did an oil check on the gear box transmission to find it bone dry, a bit worrying to say the least. Where had all the oil drained to? Any why??. He called Charlie and he suggested it might have something to do with keeping the engine in neutral while we sail (keeping the engine in neutral allows the propeller to spin under sail, sometimes erratically, however, creating less drag. To the contrary, if you were to leave engine in gear, the propeller would simply act as a massive handbrake as it would not spin). Anyway, we filled it back up with oil and ran the engine again to spread the oil throughout the transmission. All seemed ok for now, touch wood.
Friday March 10 - Day 5
I started my watch this morning at 4am. With a rising swell and the wind picking up, we were sailing along nicely at around 5.5kts. Come 7am, the wind had reached 25kts and was gusting 35kts. I made the call to drop the Jib sail and to do so, had to rouse everyone from their slumber. We took down the staysail first with ease and the Jib followed suit. We then chucked a reef in the mizzen before raising the staysail again, this is where it went a bit pair shaped. We hadn't sheeted in enough (the rope that anchor’s the clue of the sail to the ship) and the sail luffed (flogged) violently. Profanities flew from all the lads mouths as the staysail ripped before reaching full hoist. “Get it down, get the thing down!” We got it down before any major damage occurred and got away with only a small tear in the foot. It should be an easy fix for the in house seamstress. It was at this moment that we all looked at each other and realised no one knew how to sew… Classic. How hard could it be?
So we got the spare staysail out on deck only to realise that the hanks were too small to fit the shroud (for you non sailors going “what the hell is he on about?” it just means that we weren't able to hoist the sail), amateurs… We should’ve checked this before the trip. Looks like we’ll have to run the engine for a few hours while we sort out the issues with the staysails. Mick got his sew on, meanwhile, I lashed on some larger hanks so we could render our spare staysail useful.
With the wind now gusting 35-40kts, “the head of weather” checked his 6 day old weather forecast and said, “Hmm, this isn't on the forecast”, we all laughed. Toothy made a really funny joke.
Well into the afternoon, Starlight rolled, twisted and jerked in the increasing swell. We would sink into the troughs of the waves and the following crests would be well over Starlights’ roof height. Only mildly rough weather, but lets hope it doesn't get any worse.
Saturday March 11 - Day 6
When the sun broke this morning, nothing much had changed. The wind was still blowing its tits off and the swell was still around 4m. I got stuck into a bit of carpentry which is always fun when there is a bit of swell pushing through. The piece of hardwood that supports the belay pins had come loose on the port side of the main mast. Lucky we saw this, cause if it had’ve broke free with a sail sheet attached to it, it would’ve been like letting loose some medieval weapon which would’ve been flogging like crazy on the clue of the sail. Mike and I re-enforced it with a few longer coach bolts and as a precaution and did the same to the other 4 around the deck. After a quick feed, we were now ready for the sails to be hoisted again. We poled out the staysail (the spare one, the seamstress was still working on the rips in the original) and the big Jib for a downwind run. We were easily making a good 4-5kts, but the big following swell was rocky as hell and made it hard to steer on course. We’d surf down the faces of the waves, broach a little, then do it all again. Sounds fun hey, but trust me, it gets old pretty quickly.
Sunday March 12 - Day 7
What a terrible night of sleep! The first night without a wink of shut eye. Last night we sailed with 30kts of wind and Starlight was groaning and creaking under the pressure of the sails and the junky swell. We were on a reach due to a strong ENE wind and having trouble keeping on course. At one point I looked at Starlight’s track and wondered if the watch keepers had decided to head to New York instead. With this sail configuration clearly not working, we decided to gybe. And wow, what a storm in a tea cup that turned out to be. With halliards, stays, and sails getting tangled in a comedy of errors, the gybe took no less than an hour and a half in the shitty weather. However, once we had made the gybe, we were running with the swell a little more and Starlight settled down a bit. Toothy even set the hammock up and had himself a little siesta. When Mike saw this he said, “hammock, where’d you get that? Where’s mine??” So he went downstairs, pulled his mattress from his lounge room/bedroom, and set it up in front of the wheelhouse and enjoyed an afternoon sundowner.