KatieKat 2003 Cruise Chapter Eight

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GoBackTo 2003 Cruise Chapter Seven
1 September 2003Fiji Passage Preparations
5 September 2003More Fiji Passage Preparations
6 September 2003Never Say When You're Going To Be Leaving
GoFwdTo 2003 Cruise Chapter Nine

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1 September, 2003 -- Fiji Passage Preparations

We are presently preparing ourselves and the boat for the (significant) passage to Fiji, with a lot of emphasis on analyzing the weather to at least have a few nice days at the beginning.

Of interest to yachties, a mainsail reefing modification I had installed just prior to departing Queensland (and which we had used minimally since then) showed up as a problem. Specifically, the way the tack previously attached to the gooseneck horn was with a stainless ring attached to the strap through the eye in the sail (each end of the strap terminated in a stainless ring.) Well, the problem with this was that the ring occasionally banged against the mast because the upper straps had to be long (about a foot) to reach down to the gooseneck over the bunched-up sail. So what I did was have the sailmaker replace that strap with a strap loop through the tack eye (four of these, one for each reef point). All well and good, but guess what? We were running downwind up the coast from Tutukaka and the wind picked up. As I was lowering the mainsail to reef it, one of these loops jammed into the "V" formed by the diamond wire coming in just above the lower spreader and the mast itself. This now effectively prevented me from lowering the mainsail (this is not good). Raising and then lowering the sail merely repeated the problem, which refused to clear. Since the wind was not all that strong (in the low 20's), I turned the boat into the wind and was able to lower and reef the sail successfully since the sail was now no longer resting against the spreader and the loop was blown back away from the mast. Had this been a nasty squall hitting us, this situation could have had some unpleasant consequences. The solution? I'm trying four things:

1. Run the topping lift mouse line through the loops. The topping lift mouse line is nothing more than a continuous1/8" dacron line run up over the topping lift block and down inside the mast and then back out - I installed it in order to be able to quickly reeve a new topping lift should the present line fail (a Seawind owner had told us he had broken two in quick succession - mine is ok so far). I keep this mouse line very taut and thus I hope it will keep the loop clear of the mast.
2. Attach a line to the third reef loop (the one that jammed) and bring it down to the boom. This will not only allow me to pull the jammed loop out of the "V" but will also help me to be able to drag down the sail if I'm lowering it off the wind and the battens have wrapped around the shroud.
3. Rotate the loop so the lumpy part is in the sail's eye. Still need to restrain this somehow.
4. Place something (a foam block?) between the mast and the diamond to eliminate the "V".

Glad I experienced this before we took off!

[Reefing Loop]This is one of the four reefing loops.

[Mast Note the "V" formed between the mast and the diamond wire. That's what jammed the loop, which was squeezed into the "V" as the sail was lowered when the boat was running before the wind and the sail was resting against the spreaders.

[Kathy Drinking] [Kathy Monkey Book]

Kathy preparing herself for the offshore passage.

We are poised to take off with the next favorable weather window. The next cruise update will hopefully come from Fiji. We'll be heading for the west coast of Viti Levu.

'Bye for now. Joe & Kathy

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5 September, 2003 -- More Fiji Passage Preparations

Well, we still haven't left. Here's why:

[Low]This is the low seen coming at NZ a couple of days ago and which is presently just passing over us - the wind is howling and the rain is horizontal, but by morning the winds should be under 30 and we're taking off since they're from the south and we're heading north!

[Rain] View out my study window this morning.

Thought I'd share a few photos of our preparations. The first, and most important one, is the solution to the jamming reefing loop. Dave Howell from Wales, who founded the UK Telstar Trimaran Owners Association, sent me an e-mail and suggested using a bungie cord. Thanks, Dave, and as you can see I took the simple way out and merely attached the bungie between the two upper loops.

[Reef Loop Tensioner]The partially-hoisted mainsail shows how the bungie between the two loops tames them. For good measure, I've also run the topping lift mouse line through these loops, which is why they're slightly pulled away from the sail.

[Shroud Tensioner] [Prusik Knot] [Loops]

The left photo shows the crude but effective technique for pre-tensionsing the shrouds to keep them from "twanging" when beating. The left photo also shows the outside jacklines which I still rig for a passage but no longer use for attaching the harness tether - they simply make a great additional stabilizing handhold (the jackline now runs down the center of the boat on the cabintop). When previously discussing knots, I forgot to mention one of my favorites: the Prusik. It's great for attaching loops onto rope, wire, railings, etc. I always keep a bunch of loops on hand - both rope and straps. Actually, the endless line shouldn't be called a loop - perhaps someone can tell me what the proper name for this thing is?

[Bridle] [Bridel] [Bridle Bag]

In preparation for this passage, I've stowed the anchor down below and pre-rigged the para-anchor bridle. I've also added back a couple of lifelines across the bow - using bright-yellow Spectra. I've left off the third (lowest) line so that the para-anchor can be deployed more easily. I stow the spinnaker sheets (the red and green lines) by attaching them to the seagull striker.

[Drogue Bag]The drogue with bridle and line resides on the targa seat. I've partially pre-rigged the tether, and will finish the job after we pull away from the dock and the cleats are clear.

[Stowed anchor]The anchor now resides, together with its chain and rode (in the red bag), in one of the Rubbermaid boxes by the main bulkhead in the port hull under the desk in Kathy's boudoir. Alongside is a spare 20-litre water supply. The other spare water supply container is in the starboard hull. Another Rubbermaid box contains most of the books onboard. All of these heavy items can be quickly dragged aft if I find the boat not rising to the waves as nicely as I feel it should. The cardboard box contains the additional solar panel, which I suspect we'll rarely need.

[Door Latch]A very minor upgrade that was long overdue: added a latch to the cutlery drawer for a more positive lock in heavy seas.

[Map]Fiji is that island group just a hair to the east of dead north of New Zealand.

Well, we've already checked out with Customs and plan on leaving at dawn tomorrow (6th). As I type this in the late evening, the wind has died down a bit and it's stopped raining. If you're reading this around this date, it means I was able to get my acoustic modem connected to the payphone and the upload was successful.

'Bye, again! :-)

6 September, 2003 -- Never Say When You're Going To Be Leaving

First, you have to appreciate the scenario: after typing the above, I finished about midnight. The wind and rain, after diminishing earlier, picked up with a vengeance. I put on my rain gear, wrapped up the Mac in a plastic bag and ran over to the phone - it's rather exposed. Opua Marina does not provide a phoneline where one can plug in one's own computer (all the other marinas in NZ we've stayed at do). So now I take out the acoustic modem, attach it to the headset, go through a fairly complex dialing routine, and then finally get connected (usually at 26.4K, but sometimes as fast as 36K!). I sit down on the wet cement, protect the Mac as best I can, and then proceed to upload the website, download the latest weather, and up/download e-mails. All this in the company of some very hungry sandflies which are still voracious despite the bitingly-cold weather.

[Joe Phone] This photo, taken last December, gives you the idea. Add pouring rain, a biting wind, and the pesky sandflies to complete the picture. Believe me, after almost an hour of uploading/downloading I could barely move.

All right, so what happened? The previous forecasts all showed this present low going through and moving NE, to be followed by a lovely high pressure system moving off Australia which would provide gentle southerly winds to comfortably propel us to Fiji. Yeah, right.

[Wx] On September 4th (NZ), this was the 72-hour prognosis. Looking good, with generally light southwesterlies anticipated. That low to the south of the South Island was to move east. We'd check out with Customs, tidy up all the administrative stuff, and take off early Saturday the 6th.

[Wx] This is what I downloaded last night. The dramatically-changed picture (to my untrained eye) now showed a low developing with associated northerlies.

[Wx] This morning, the prognosis is for strong (30-35kt) westerlies in the area we'd be in, with two companion lows around the north island of New Zealand.

These images are just one example of the weather information we use. Actually, I end up downloading about twenty images from Australia and New Zealand met offices, the US Navy, and a very nice one from the Victoria University in Wellington.

So what's next? Well, as I type this late Saturday morning (incidentally, we just measured a 40-knot gust right here in the protected marina!) we've notified Customs that we are not departing (so did another boat that was going to leave for Vanuatu, and a third heading for Tonga is presently sitting at the fuel dock still thinking about it...), I've re-signed up with the marina, and now it's looking as though we'll be leaving perhaps around Thursday the 11th, but no more predictions!

Off to town to buy a box of wine, rent a DVD, come back to our warm and toasty boat and veg out while the wind continues blasting outside (it was supposed drop during the night...). (sigh)

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