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Homeward Bound

Well, yesterday changed my plans somewhat. It had been an average night, we’d been heading WNW under No 1 staysail and 3 reefs in the main doing about 6 knots in about 25 knots of wind. By 1100 the wind had dropped below 20 knots and we had set the genoa with 2 reefs and shaken out one reef on the main, we were going along at about 5 knots. Midday came and went. At about 1300 with rising wind I set No 1 Staysail and furled the genoa again, I had been watching the log because we were close to the half way distance between Plymouth and Newport. At 1400 we passed the half way mark, sometime after this, I forget how long, 5 to 20 minutes I think, I was going up on deck to have a look around and wondering whether to put in the third reef in the main as the wind was now back up to around 23 knots. As I was getting into the cockpit there was a bit of a bang from the port side and I saw the mast come down over the starboard side into the water.

Thoughts went through my head: ‘that’s that then, I’m a long way from anywhere, do I abandon, is there any other damage.’ Meanwhile I go on deck to see what needs to be done to cut the rig away. (There is no way of re setting a mast at sea and whilst it is attached to the boat it is banging away and liable to cause damage to the boat.) The Boom was still on the starboard side of the deck, the mast had broken a stanchion and the mast foot was above the rails on the starboard side. Going forward I noticed that the port lower shroud, deck fitting had come away. We were rolling around a bit but there wasn’t much happening in the way of banging or further damage. I thought I might have time to salvage the boom and thought I’d try to as it might come in useful. The tack of the sail was secured by a small line, cutting that was easy, the clew and the reefing points were attached with ropes, these I cut too. The boom fitting to the mast was a pin secured by a split pin and this came out without much trouble along with a similar arrangement on the kicker. I thought that I’d now released the boom from the rig so started releasing the pins holding the stays to the boat. The forestay and port cap shroud came out easily, the back stay was attached to a hydraulic tensioner and I thought I’d better try to save that so spent a bit of extra time undoing some wires so that I could undo the bottlescrew attachment although not having my glasses on it was difficult to see to grip the wire to untwist it. Going back to the starboard side where the mast was there were some coils of halyard on the mast within my reach which I removed and cut free, in case they might come in handy. The mast was now attached only by the two starboard shrouds. One has a bit of plastic drain pipe over it to help the sail around it when tacking, this was covering the deck fitting. I thought I’d try and do them both pretty much together so went below to get the hacksaw and bolt cutters to try to get rid of the plastic pipe, It turned out that I didn’t need them as I managed to push the plastic pipe away from the deck fitting whilst the boat was rolling (because when it rolled to port it pulled the mast up a bit from the sea and when it rolled to starboard the boat roll was quicker than the mast’s moving back down again). I pulled out the small pins and then, with the roll of the boat pushed out the big attachment pins and helped the mast over the rail so it wouldn’t take that with it. The mast and rig then disappeared into the depths.

Time for a cup of tea. I made one and emailed Graham telling him the situation, and saying there was no longer any need to order spares from harken for the foil! Assessing my situation I realised I was perfectly safe in a seaworthy and undamaged boat but without mast. Looking at the chart it was about 650 miles to Nova Scotia and about 1500 miles to Scotia itself, however Canada is upwind and current whereas home is downwind and current. I decided I would try and head home. I had brought a dinghy mast with me as a spare along with a sail for it and had, in my mind, a means of rigging it. Meanwhile the wind was 25 knots from the SW and we were rolling around too much to make work on deck comfortable, the forecast also had stronger winds for the next 24 hours so I didn’t want to rig anything until the weather had improved. I had a look at the broken fitting, or what was left of it anyway but there isn’t much to see. I put some sikafllex in the hole in the deck to, hopefully, stop water coming through it.

At this point I thought we could maybe just try turning our tails to the weather and see if she would steer herself, I took the tiller and tried to turn downwind and slowly, slowly, she came around. Once heading around NE I put the autopilot on. This seemed to hold the course well so I then set up the windvane and this too seemed to work. We were blowing. NE at about 3 knots.

I phoned Katharine to let her know the situation and then Graham.

It’s now 0830 GMT on the 25th, I had to get up a couple of times in the night to help her back on course but we’ve made 55 miles so far back towards home.

Food wise, I’ve plenty, water too. I’ve used a bit of fuel running the engine to top up the batteries and I can’t really afford to do that anymore so I’ve turned off the fridge and some electronics to cut down the load so that, hopefully, the solar panels can now keep up with the charging. What this means however is that I’ve some bacon, mince, a sausage casserole and some polish sausage along with a fine selection of cheeses which probably won’t last much longer so it may be some days of plenty followed by leaner times.

It’s still blowing hard and the odd wave is still hitting us quite hard, and I don’t think I’ll get a chance to rig anything today jury rig wise but I can mentally and possibly physically prepare a little.

Now it’s time for some breakfast. I think I’ll have a bacon sarnie.

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