Does thoe boat stay in one piece?
We have found solid trade winds. The pacific shows another face as Hope surfs down the waves with two reefs in her main. Everything vibrates while whe push a white foam crest ahead while clocking nearly a thousand miles per week. We are thousands of kilometers away from land so we have to keep the boat going no matter what. This week some insight in keeping a small yacht going on a big ocean.
During this trip we damaged the electric autopilot, broke some u fittings, tore the spinnaker and damaged some sheets because of wrong tuning, nothing special for a month at sea. Before departure we try and limit trouble by making sure we are up to date with the maintenane and we have top materials in place on key areas. Nonetheless breakage is part of sailing.
Crawling on deck; inspection
Every day before sunset I crawl on deck to the front deck to do inspection; rough wheather or not. I make my round and check Hope for the night; I make contact with her and give her some loving attention. I do this before the short trips and at sea during the longer ones. I spend special attention to mast, rig and sails. By checking regularly I can easily see if something has changed. NB: Before daytrips checking is as important.
Preparation is key; backup
Mast, rig and sails make a sailing yacht a sailing yacht, so they have to be in order. These days, the temptations of gadgets are big though and a digital radar or supersonic plotter often get prefered over replacing an outdated rig or buying a new main sail. I also almost fell for this but in the end did change my rig for top quality. Also I had the sails and mast thoroughly checked and important appliances on board are doubled. We start with the best but if something brakes it is important to have a backup ready to use. In the picture for instance you can see Hope’s spare halyards (yellow and blue). Nonetheless good gear is of little significance without good seamanship.
The battle against wear and tear
When one sails everything is moving, sometimes for days on end. It causes wear and lines can break because of it. Especially the halyards and sheets, the lines operating the sails, suffer. I protect these lines with a piece of sewn in hose (picture red line top right). or I regularly change the friction point. When in doubt I lay down on my back on the front deck and I look up with binoculars. But also the standing rigging deserves attention. When under full canvas the lee should be stiff. If too loss the dangling rig will work as a paperclip which you bend back and forth, after a while it will break and you lose the mast.
Modern materials can also help prevent breakage. Hope for example is equiped with compacted strand rigg, a cable which is 25% stronger than regular thread and stiffer. Another example is the use of Dyneema (think Kevlar) which I use for some strained applicances.
The sailing season in Europe has started. How about crawling or in port walking around on deck and checking your mast, rig and sails? Is it sufficient or do you need to tune or replace? We over here have only 500 miles ahead of us. Hopefully everything stays in one piece and next week we write from French Polynesia!