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Ocean Planet Vendée Globe Update:
Thursday, Dec 30, 2004
Position 48 19S, 156 49E, @ 01:00 UT

Edge of the Tasman

It is late Thursday night here on the south edge of the Tasman Sea. Only about an hour ago I finished an interview with the Vendee media center in Paris and had a good chat.

There was a lot to talk about as everyone wanted to know why I took a rather sharp hitch to the north last night in addition to getting some more news on the disastrous effects of the tsunami waves in the Far East. What a sobering reminder of the enormous power of the sea and how much more research is needed so that some warning is possible before such terrible effects on life.

Regarding our much less dramatic efforts at sea, I have been battling to stay in front of a ridge of high pressure that would park us for some time if we get caught. The options have been limited; either very far south towards the icebergs or the more northerly route we are taking. Right now we right on the edge of the ridge just barely staying in the wind, and that is why we jibed to the north for a few hours last night, which worked quite well. If we can hold on, hopefully we can pass under New Zealand without getting swallowed by the high. If we get stuck then there will be headwinds afterwards, so the going will be very slow.

Behind us, Conrad on Hellomoto is flying with good winds while we try to keep crawling along. But that is the way it goes. He is also apparently willing to sail a very daring course right through the area of icebergs south of New Zealand at 51/52 degrees latitude. I wish him luck.

We have been getting a few emails asking how I made it up to the radar tower a few days ago to rig control lines. It was a rather complicated affair, and I wound up writing it down for our friend Rich Jones in Portland, Oregon. So, you might as well get the story too…

Okay, here goes: 

I took a spare spinnaker sheet and ran it around behind the radar tower. One end I hooked to the masthead halyard. Then the other end I ran outboard of the runners, forward to the mast, then back (outboard of the runners again) and hooked the three ends together. That is, both ends of the spinnaker sheet and the masthead halyard. The spinnaker sheet was basically a loop running around the tower and up to the mast with the halyard hooked to spot in the loop. Make sense?

Okay. So then I pulled the loop in a circle to pull the masthead halyard back to the tower and raised the masthead halyard to pull the loop up to near the top of the tower. So, one side of the loop went around the tower just under the radar and up to the halyard/sheet joint a couple feet about the radar. From there the other end of the sheet goes up to the mast where it was tied off tight. The end looping around the back of the tower also went up to the mast and was tied off. So now I had these two lines running back to the tower with the “upper” one held up by the masthead halyard. They both go around the windward side of the runners.

Then, I hooked myself (in a climbing harness) to the upper genniker halyard (the next halyard down the rig from the masthead spinnaker halyard), set up at a predetermined height that would just reach the tower if could pull myself back there on the upper of the two lines running aft. In order not to go flying off to leeward when I hooked the genniker halyard to the harness, I trapped the upper line of the loop aft in the connection of the halyard to me. So I was suspended about three feet above the deck at the mast dangling from the genniker halyard but hooked onto the line running aft.

Lying roughly horizontal, I pulled/slid my way aft to the runners. I stopped there, about eight feet in the air, to size things up. I had to go back once to readjust the genniker halyard height. On the final go, I pulled my way back to the tower on the line. But there was a lot of slop in the system as the tower is bending, and the halyard that I’m on wants to pull forward, etc, etc. So it took a lot of force to get the last few feet. At the tower I had to loop my legs around the side stays and hang on with all my might, and I could still barely reach the top of the dome. The last bit I just sort of had to force my way aft and up to feed a spectra webbing/Velcro strop through a space in our new carbon wind wand bracket on top of the tower. Then I tied small spectra lines to the strop, let them dangle, and got the heck out of there. I was too tired to tape up the mechanical actuator arm so it is still hanging off to the side a bit. I was at the tower maybe 20 minutes trying to get the strop over the top and through, and I still have bruises inside my legs from the side stays.

After I got down, I had to mess around for an hour with a boathook (now it was dark), standing on top of our stainless antenna railing on the back of the boat to get the strings to run correctly over the edges of the radar dome so the strings would work.

What fun. But in the end:

It’s working!

Yesterday and today I had a couple of more sessions with the rudder boot, but hopefully that’s over but no guarantees. I also discovered that the primary autopilot ram had managed to loosen the bolts to its mounting bracket and was sliding about a half inch either way when moving the tiller. The bolts had been working, and they didn’t break when I cranked them down tight. Let’s hope they stay that way.

Right now we are starting to beat into a constantly changing southeasterly, but are staying in the wind. I need to go adjust the sails again so bye for now!

Bruce Schwab, Skipper
USA 05/Ocean Planet


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