Settling into the SE trades

Date: Jan. 20, 2017, noon Position: 28 56.35 S, 11 25.79 E

The past 24 hours have been “sleigh ride sailing”, and our noon-to-noon mileage came out to 176 miles made good! Privateer is like a horse shooting out of the barn. Life has been a bit rolly for the past few days now, but we were happy to see the 1/4 way to St. Helena mile slip by & it hardly even seems like the voyage has begun.

Early this morning before daylight, Nep woke me up urgently. The boat was rounding into the wind. I shot out of bed from a deep slumber and instinctively jumped out into the cockpit and checked the Monitor. Once again, the rudder post tube had sheared off. Unlike the clean break like in the Indian Ocean, this time to rudder was bent off at 90 degrees. Damn! Thank god I got that extra spare for the spare in San Francisco before we left. I can clearly remember the moment.

This time, the repair went much smoother than the Indian Ocean heaving-to “astronaut” experience. I knew exactly what needed to happen now. We quickly rigged up the new electric tiller pilot to take over while we made the repair. Nep still had to hold me by the ankles as I hung upside-down over the rail to slip a few cotter-ring pins out. I was careful to tie multiple safety lines to each precious part of the Monitor that I disassembled. We lit up the cockpit with the LED deck lights, and at some point a squid must’ve been attracted to the light, because later on in the day we found a squid in the cockpit. I didn’t know they could leap out of the water! It’s human-like eyeballs dangled out of the sockets and it lay in a pool of black ink.

I worked quickly and carefully down below at the tool bench, and soon had the new tube installed. I also got a good look at the cracked hinge lever, which we need to repair in St. Helena ASAP. My cruising notes say there’s a good stainless steel welder on St. Helena, so hopefully we can find them when we get there. We’ve got 6,500 more miles of sailing in front of us and no chance of flying in any spares, so any fixes will be Alaskan “Wrangellized” style, as we like to say in Wrangell Alaska. We will also try and make new shorter rudder tubes by sawing off the broken ends and drilling new holes. The rudder is back on again and we are back in business.

Fortunately, it looks like the weather is taking a turn for the ideal! Winds are forecast to drop to around 10-13 knots with seas diminishing to 1.5 meters throughout next week. We’re looking forward to some quiet sailing, with hopefully enough wind to keep the sails from flogging.

Another setback with boat equipment today–our water-maker is producing un-potable water again, even after I had cleaned it out in Cape Town. I suspect we may have a problem with the membrane itself, which basically means we can’t rely on the water-maker on this passage across the Atlantic. Fortunately, we have loads of fresh bottled water on board already. And Privateer also has massive water tanks–about 250 gallons in 3 separate tanks, which are totally full. We will still use the water-maker to top up one or two of our tanks for doing dishes and showers, but all of our drinking water will have to come out of bottles filled in St. Helena from here on out.

Talking with the other circumnavigators in Africa, it seems as if we’re all at a point in the voyage where we’re all dealing with multiple breakages and gear failure. After using everything on the boat to the max for so long, it’s only a matter of time before things start to give out. We all take what spares we think we’ll need, and then deal with the problems as they come. Improvisation is key to success.

In other news, we hear that the orange-faced clown was sworn in as President of the USA today. Quite the contrast to Billy Bush, who lost his job after the jocular video surfaced. I smell a fraud…

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