Saturday, March 17, 2007

...and back again

Jan 9.
Warm summer morning. We stretched and grunted and slowly awoke. Had coffee, chocolate and a swim. By 10 the NE was getting up, and we started tacking out.
A relaxing sail out to the heads, but once there, we sat tossing, and elected to start the motor. For an hour or so, as soon as we'd get the motor running, the breeze would seem to get up, only to die as I turned the 'rude off. We had a few speights I'd frozen that were quite cold. Into the afternoon, the wind steadied a little.
Before leaving, I'd checked the marine forecasts. Two days of NE, 5-10 knots, small chance of a little n'west, etc. A km or so off Godley head, we started to get a good southerly. It was quite warm, and at first I couldn't believe it. Soon it was up 15+ knots and quite a battle. And still rising steadily. Jonno got the jib down, and we snuck- ok, banged and flapped- into Little Port Cooper, fixin' to reef. A couple of motor-boats were selfishly hogging the only pile. We had to put in the straggliest reef I've ever sailed under, pulled hither and thither under the cliffs and about the open bay. Then we headed back out, and it still wasn't easy sailing. We made slow but steady progress tacking up-harbour. On our second tack, under the cliffs between Little Port Cooper and Camp Bay, a big cruising motorboat offered help, but we waved them off cheerily. At the same time, I was a bit worried. Checking the LPC wind records after I was back at work, it was about 20 knots that hour- and generally you can count on max gusts being about half that again. 30 knot gusts throw Awakeri over, and bat her about. It's slow progress with the wind pulling up steep little waves, against the ocean rollers. We were getting wet. While we were coping ok, I just didn't want the wind to come up any more.
Approaching the big yellow bouy that bobs about off the rocky north shore of the harbour, about a km in from Godley Head, one of the two metal straps holding the rudder gudgeons to the rudder snapped. They've done this before. I could just hold the rudder into a semi-steering position while the remaining straps were intact, but the metal was twisting badly. We flapped along quartering the sea, pushed back downwind towards Godley Head.
Fortunately, Awakeri has a spare rudder. It was probably the original, substituted for the deeper, simpler dagger-board, which gives a bit more bite. (She needs it. When she tips- and she's quite tippy- the rudder starts to come out of the water, and you have to fight it not to lose steerage and come into the wind. If you tip enough, you just do come sliding helplessly into the wind, like it or not- not necessarily unsafe, but she can be a pig to get back under control. Sigrids' design balance is not quite right, tho' once you know them, mostly workable.)
Jonno jumped below and found the spare. AB Poff was a fine deck hand all trip, bouncing about on the foredeck in big seas, but this was his finest moment. We improvised a tiller out of the boat-hook, a stainless-steel spinnaker pole, a paddle, and some twine. Tacking on- into and out of the shelter of Camp Bay; past Ripapa Island, Purau, Diamond Harbour- the wind, tho still gusty, seemed to drop intensity. (Sidebar: There are no pics of the rough stuff. We were all too busy, Jonno's camera had no battery and it was too wet to risk a camera anyway).
Dropped Crispin off about 5, and Jonno took a look at this craft- and had a chat with Andrew Fagan, one-time Mocker, on an orange circumnavigation. The wind was down to maybe 15 knots as we trundled up towards the Head of the Harbour. Little rain squalls came and went. We were wet. Started eating lollies, peanuts and apples. I knew the tide wasn't in til 9ish- quite late- and we couldn't arrive too early. But I wasn't paying enough attention, and we ran aground on the shoal off King Billy Island. Immediately tried to get the center-board up, but it was jammed. I could see the wire cable had moved out of the groove that holds it in place- scraped off on the bottom no doubt. We managed to get off the shoal by tipping her right over- aided by some decent gusts- and we skulked off across the bay. In slightly deeper water on the MP side (off Boulder Bay), I stripped off and standing and slipping around on the muddy bottom, tried with feet and hands to pull the wire free, and get it back into place. NO go. The boat was moving constantly. I got in and out several times. Jonno tried to wedge things free from inside the cabin with wire. After almost getting it, then spending another ten minutes in the surprisingly warm water, I started to shiver uncontrollably, and went below and put on clothes, wet as I was, and the lit the little gas cooker and made tea.
We were just finishing when Alice came out with a canoeful of good cheer. Of course they'd been watching... Poppy followed soon after. I was indecisive. With the centre-board down, the beach was not a good home for Awakeri. But I thought what the heck.... and started the motor to come in- and at least get some gear ashore. We took off with a pleasing roar and the mast fell down. While standing and swimming alongside, I'd been holding the stays, and I must've almost completely loosened one of the turnbuckles. Remarkably there was no injury or damage to be seen. We pulled the mast in, rolled up and stowed the main, and raised the mast. Then Jonno, Alice and Poppy went in with a load of gear, and I quite quickly managed to get the cable sorted with my toes, and had the centreboard up before they got back.
Relief greatly lightens the spirits. Moored Awakeri and carried big loads up the hill, feeling a little touched by an angel. I need to break up the reassuring normality of routine family life by doing things like this de temps en temps. But it was grand to be home, beaming back at Oscar, kissing the twins goodnight, enjoying Penny's friendly ribbing. Sailing is great but sometimes it's like banging yr head against a brick wall- the stoppin' really satisfies too.

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