October 14

Last night was very nice. For a change, the sky cleared and the stars and moon were out in plain sight. We had almost forgotten what they look like. The seas remained rough, however as the wind remained strong at 25-30k. The upside of this is we made good speed through the water and this helped minimize the affect of the seas. The sunrise was beautiful but was accompanied by 2 new items on the to-do list, both marked Urgent.

First, in the night, the windvane wheel hub (a round disk which is attached to the steering wheel by 5 standard hose clamps) came loose. First one clamp popped off and we replaced it. In the morning Kate noticed 2 more had fallen off and we had to disengage the windvane immediately and use the autopilot instead. Normally we use one or the other depending on conditions but have been favoring the windvane as there was also a problem with the autopilot. But back to the windvane first. I replaced two more hose clamps on the steering hub and then noticed the final clamp was about to let go. They just rust right through after 3 years even though they are stainless steel. Additionally, the starboard side pendulum line (which leads from the windvane paddle to the wheel) was starting to chafe through and needed attention.

Next we had to tackle the autopilot (while the windvane was steering). The problem here, which is recurring and not altogether serious unless we let it go too far, is that the bolts holding the tiller arm to the rudder stock (the AP has its own tiller arm separate from the quadrant which the steering wheel's cables are attached to - this is great for redundancy) work themselves loose over time. The result being that whenever the pilot has to make a hard turn, like in rough seas when the boat skews on a quartering sea, the key in the arm makes an audible sound which is caused by the play introduced by the loose bolts. This could have dire consequences. Any time you have excess play in 2 metal parts which are supposed to be joined one of them will eventually break. Most likely it would be the keyway, the key or the tiller arm itself.

Repairing this required us to empty the entire contents of the Stbd. side cockpit locker to gain access to the rudder stock. This is especially difficult in rough seas as many of the objects are quite heavy. Further, we don't really want to stack the gear on deck as that would make it vulnerable to boarding waves and going overboard. So, we stacked everything in the cockpit as well as we could and I went down in the hole to tighten the bolts. Problem solved.

So it was an eventful morning, but we are back in shape now. Next the wind began to abate. This would not be a totally bad thing as 25-30k is more then we need, but the problem is that the seas are in a state of full development having been whipped up by these high winds for many days. Further complicating things the wind has decided to shift around to due East putting us on a broad reach instead of a beam reach. The waves of course did not get the message and are still coming from the SE giving us confused seas of great size (still 8-12ft). So now we are being slewed about and rolled heavily which is very uncomfortable. Furthermore, this causes the sails to slat about and the mast to shake and rattle giving me fits of hysteria as I imagine what will break next. The is only a real problem when the wind gets down below 20k and most of the time is in the 20-24k range. But our average speed has suffered as each time we build up speed a wave slews us around and we are back to 5.5k. Most of the time though we are able to maintain 6-6.5k over ground so we are still making decent progress.

We have another 210nm to go before we pass over Chesterfield Reef after which point we can turn Southwest. This will put us back on a beam reach which will allow us to greatly increase our speed giving us more stability and a better angle to the seas. Of course by then we are expecting the wind to be down to the 15-20k range and the seas reduced. At least this is what the forecasters are predicting.