We meant to blog about some our repairs early...unfortunately there have been some additional items needing repair. Our heroic skipper is convinced that making repairs keeps us out of trouble..... so if we complete everything, we will have to holly stone the deck - better to make repairs.
Boats are complex machines - the many moving parts that must flawlessly interact with each other in a harsh and stressed environment is either an engineers' dream (if drawing it) or nightmare (if depending on it). Parts are likely to fail and sometimes thise failures lead to a cascade of failures as interdependent systems collapse. Bad as that is for coastal cruising, offshore sailing does not accomodate a West Marine at the nearest exit. Offshore sailors must make due.
First, let me qualify this by saying that Shearwater is a meticulously maintained and outfitted by her owners. It's just the nature of the beast that, sooner or later, (stuff) goes wrong. I thought I'd highlight a few issues that we have had as well as our actions to correct the problem:
1. Innoperable vacuum toilet. The flushing circuit failed to operate shortly after our Newport departure. Trouble shooting included circuit testing and review of several relays. It was determined that valve settings needed adjustment for offshore use. A quick fix much the the relief (you know what I mean!) of the crew - after all 2700 miles is a long way to hold it.
2. Automatic bilge pump clogged. Something in the bilge is preventing the automatic bilge pump from operating. The take up location is a bit of a pain to get to so we are using the manual pump twice a day at roughly the same time to pump the bilge dry. we count pump strokes to monitor whether flow into the bilge is increasing - it is not. We'll affect repairs once we're in port and the boat is stable.
3. Spinnaker sail repair. Abrasion wear on the spinnaker was noted and we taped it using light weight sail tape to prevent the sail panel from ripping. Our ships doctor and co-owner effected these repairs. She indicated that this was a warm up exercise in the event that anyone needed a knee meniscus repaired.
4. Mainsail damage. On July 1, the mainsail ripped about 2.5' vertically along the luff just below the second reef point. Fortunately winds were light allowing us to take the sail down, apply a heavy sail patch on both sides of the sail and reinforce the patch by sewing along the rip perimeter. The process took about 2 1/2 hours and was largely done by headlamp illumination. Repair held out wonderfully, even through Friday's storm.
5. Mainsail car failure. A double sided screw used to hold two parts of a betten car failed - this is a small connection, frequently hidden by the mainsail or high aloft - failure under stress could have resulted in mainsail failure. We were able to locate and modify a bolt with nylon washer to replace the broken part. The other cars were inspected for damage and wear.
6. Boom vang abuse...Our boom vang survived slamming into several waves that Shearwater surged down during Friday's storm. Although the main was double reefed, the crew collectively held their breath on some of our sleigh rides down the front of waves watching the rig.. On Saturday, with relatively calm seas, we shook out the reefs to make top speed to England. After surviving all of Friday, the boom vang attachments parted and with a clunk it hit the deck. Boy were we lucky this didn't happen when the boom was underwater in a wave. - A boom vang is necessary to control the up and down movement of the boom and its use impacts sail shape - we needed one - but the mounting bracket cannot be repaired. So we borrowed a block and tackle from the running back stays to use as make shift vang. (see the photo in our blog).
7. Mainsail damage #2. During Friday's storm, we dropped the mainsail to raise the storm tri-sail and noted that the leach end of the sail from head to near the second reef point had separated. Saturday we deconstructed the ripped leach tape and using it and the extremely high sewing skills of our ship's surgeon, sewed the leach line over the new trailing end of the sail. This took the better part of 3 hours and again, we were fortunate enough that seas and winds were calm enough to allow the work. The sail is working well now but in our opinion, would not be able to withstand additional 30+ knot winds and heavy sea conditions. This was our primary reason for withdrawing from the TransAtlantic race 2015.
8. Gooseneck giving goosebumps. Today, on a routine deck inspection we noticed that boom had dropped about 6 inches and was no longer attached to the mast. This was rather shocking since it had worked free during the night without anyone hearing it. Fortunately we had a single reef in, and that had captured the boom enough to keep it from doing further damage. How do you make this repair with two engineers and a physics teacher aboard? The answer is very carefully. This included using a cutting board as a working surface to pound out the sheared off cotter pin. (All of this while the heroic skipper was getting much needed rest). We also fabricated a delron washer from the plastic top from a box of raisins. - see the photo on our blog
We thought these would give you an idea of the many things that can go wrong on a boat - I'm sure the other racers have tails of completely different problems and we're looking forward to hearing about them and their solutions.