Sunday, May 8, 2011

Day Three: Back to Square One

I know a man who sailed alone in a sinking yacht round Cape Horn, across the South Atlantic, decided to keep sailing it past South Africa where he could have got help, sailed across the Indian Ocean and decided to sail past Australia where again he could have got help, sailed across the Tasman  Sea and finally stopped for repairs in New Zealand before continuing on. How do I know the boat was sinking? Well every day with a bucket he bailed several TONS of water out of it. This same man also sailed an open boat 18 feet long across the entire Pacific and most of the rest of the way round the entire world - one wonders if such a being is indeed a man or perhaps a superman?

As for myself, not being a superman but a mere man, and an admittedly inexperienced one as well, in so far as sailing is concerned - well I turned back to NZ from 50 miles out in a yacht that was sailing perfectly. My problems were trivial by comparison but I didn't feel confident to continue without proper  communication. Several other small problems that developed but didn't on their own deter me, in combination made it seem sensible to turn round and get them all sorted. So that's what I did.
That Rainbow
I did however have one exceptional days sailing in winds up to 35 knots, I saw the Moko Hinau Islands again, and I think the most intense rainbow I have ever seen, a complete semicircle of colour that Sapphire appeared to be sailing under. In wild weather yesterday as I returned to Port with my dodgy reef line in place and no headsail on a broad reach there was often water all over the boat which remained dry. I was soaked by a couple of waves which crashed against the starboard side and sent water flying up into the sail or into the cockpit and we surfed some of the waves and reached 7.6 knots on one occasion - this way too fast for Sapphire- but I always felt the boat was safe. It was exhilirating sailing but I felt depressed to be heading back
Moko Hinau Lighthouse

AIS Warning : Sapphires track Top Left

The problems that I encountered, in order were firstly overheating of the small electric motor that drives the wheel autopilot. That hadn't happened ever before, I don't yet know  why but I realised I could easily manage without it. Next, at about 2am Friday when I went to reef the main in winds getting up to 20 knots, the line replaced a few weeks ago came undone at the boom end and disappeared up its track in the boom from where it could not be retrieved. I used a mooring line to lash the sail at the first reefing cringle, and it worked well but was less than ideal though I felt was manageable. Thirdly, in the morning, Friday morning, Sailmail wouldn't work. This also hadn never happened before and  meant I couldn't send or receive email - which I could live without though realising it was important to me, and to the people following the trip - but more importantly I couldn't receive my weather files (GRIBs) and I did feel I needed to. I tried rebooting the Computer, tried reloading the Sailmail software, tried restarting the Airmail  after and before and during activation of the PACTOR Modem...nothing would make it work. All these frustrations and problems and I had only made about 50 miles, as the wind wouldnt go north to where it was supposed to be. So I turned back. 
Dramatic Northland Coastline, NZ
Today Saturday I have to check back in with Customs and then plan my next moves. The range of possibilities that have suggested themselves to me in the last 24 hours include selling up,giving the boat away  or sinking it, fixing it and living here permanently, or going somewhere else, or just sticking to the Original Plan. Right now none of them seems attractive to me, but I have been given food for thought by the bright yellow steel  yacht nearby that arrived last night with no mast after being rolled west of North Cape a week ago on their way here from Lord Howe Island. The point is, they made it.

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