Spinnaker Blowout and Pirate Swing

Cap’n Alex

07 February 2012 | somewhere mid Atlantic Ocean

The South Atlantic is the easiest of the sailing oceans with its steady southeasterly tradewinds and lack of tropical storms, gales or squalls. The stretch from St. Helena to Ascenstion is no exception, being 700 miles of dead downwind sailing with sunny skies of white puffy clouds. However, pleasant weather doesn’t exclude mishaps and we had our fair share.

First we noticed the engine was running hot to discover our water pump had sprung a leak. Needing the engine to charge our battery bank for the autopilot we resorted to hand pumping water through the engine to cool it every time it ran. I write this on day six at sea and our engine has nearly exhausted our water supply.

On night two during a routine jibe with the whisker pole the port wench seized causing the jib to flap violently with pole still attached. After getting the sail furled in and under control Diego approached the cockpit and took a seat, shaken up and out of breath. Not being able to see what had happened in the dark from where I was, Diego explained how the pole had nearly smoked him in the head which would have knocked him out or worse. If knocked overboard at night the chance of recovery is slim. Instead he was lucky with just a bruised shoulder but the incident reminded us of the potential danger in the slightest of errors in the open ocean.

Of course the brand new autopilot gave us slew of errors taking me into the crawlspace on several occasions. We hand steered half the passage but that’s something we are quite accustomed to.

On night three we blew out the spinnaker which up until this point had been our most used sail in the Atlantic as we were mostly running with light breeze. The tear ran the length of the sail and was beyond an at sea repair.

Despite these the things our sail has been quite the enjoyable experience. Every morning Diego collects all the flying fish that have landed on the boat throughout the night and occasionally hangs them over Jack while he sleeps. My back has been acting up so after Jack wakes and thanks Diego for the fish they hang me upside using a spanish bowline on a halyard and much to their amusement and my groaning.

Our daily food consumption consists of mostly potatoes and onions and the ongoing joke is guessing what is going to be for dinner. To keep morale high and mutiny at bay, I dug deep and on day three we shared some nesquick. Its amazing how much better something tastes in the middle of the ocean.

On day 5 Boredom overtook us and after fixing the autopilot and finishing our daily chess tournament we rigged up a pirate swing on the foredeck. Of course I had to go first and with the roll of the ocean I found myself swinging over open water as we sailed under full canvas at 7 knots. Swinging out was fun, crashing back into the boat rigging was not, leaving me with rope burn and scrapes across my back and side. Diego was the next guinea pig to perfect the positioning of the swing and after a little bloodshed himself (a little scrape on his shin) we had the swing operating under captain approved safety standards. Jack was then able to use the pirate swing injury free.

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