Ok, here’s the story of the day:
To start with, after spending last night crawling along with the staysail, today I couldn’t take it anymore and rolled out the working jib and started cranking. This was dicey since it was very windy for the sail and a stupendously thrilling ride with long falls off waves resulting in horrendous crashes onto the water waiting at the bottom of the trough. Even more exciting, flying directly into the next wave coming, with the combined speed of the boat and wave making for bone crushing, nerve wracking, ear splitting smashes that have to be heard to be believed, but it was better than sitting there with the staysail, which is only slightly better than being hove to. Keep in mind that if we had the mainsail and boom still intact we’d have a lot more different “gears” to adjust to the wind.
Well, I was having second thoughts on the whole working jib/crash banging, sitting at the nav station, gritting my teeth, trying to hang on approach, when I looked down and I saw a thin stream of high pressure water squirting across the cabin near my feet….
There was a mounting screw for the ballast tank bulkhead that had been put in the wrong place a long time ago. Last year we took out the screw (which was leaking then) and filled the hole with epoxy from the inside of the boat, but didn’t go inside the tank. Somehow the epoxy didn’t stick well enough or broke loose, when all of a sudden it start peeing across the inside of the boat like a brand new baby boy.
The resulting fire drill was having to bear away, drain the tank, hoist the staysail, and properly roll up the working jib. Then try to get going again, which was basically impossible on starboard tack, without the use of the ballast tank to give the boat power upwind.
Obviously we should have done a better job and epoxy/glassed over the screw hole from both sides. Oh well! It may have been fine for a long time if not for the extreme pressure produced inside the tank from the serious pitching of the boat in the heavy seas. This was especially so with today’s wild ride, which is as hard as I have pushed the boat upwind so far. But that’s why I’m here in this race, to learn as much as possible, hopefully to still finish and have a good leg or two along the way. This is the only way to have a shot at doing well in the Vendee Globe. I just didn’t expect to learn so much so soon….It’s going to be a real struggle to fix whatever I can out here, get to England, and then pull off a heap of miracles to make the start of leg two.
At the moment I’ve tacked back to port and am heading mostly south. On this tack I can use the ballast tank (with the staysail, no more working jib till the wind is consistently under 23kts). The ride is still horrible, the waves here are big, and have an attitude of disdain for us silly solo sailors. I’m going to try to get a bit south, the wind models I have the wind clocking to the right some tomorrow, then I can tack and sail low enough to keep moving towards England. I may try to fix the tank leak tonight, which will be tough but I have some MAS epoxy and supplies with me. We’ll see.
Wish me luck,