1999 New Zealand - published newpaper story PDF Print E-mail
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1999 New Zealand - published newpaper story
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Charley has his and Ivan has the other in the cockpit with him. I turn the cabin light on occasionally to check the state of the hull. I have to conserve the boat batteries though. We have had no sun for a few days and the batteries must be getting low. We turned the freezer off earlier in the afternoon to save power. We could always run the engine to charge the batteries, but that is not the preferred way.

None of us are sick, but the vibration and diesel fumes are not something we really need. The water still seems to be constant but every time Ivan loads the steering up, we get a few little fountains sprout. Even the rudder stuffing box gland is spurting a lot of water now.

The movement on the skeg has been allowing the rudder shaft to compress the gland material allowing water in. Ivan calls out the wind has increased again. It is time to pull down the main sail altogether and run with just run a bare mast. Charley and I throw out wet gear on and harnesses. This is the bit that really scares me.

I hate being on deck in these conditions in the dark. It's like working on the edge of a huge sheer cliff. Going off the side of the boat in these conditions would be akin the fall off the cliff, but slower. It is one of my greatest fears, the slow lingering drift in the ocean, knowing that they will never be able to turn around and find you. Rather than a harness in this case you would be better off with a sack full of bricks. I go to the mast and clip on to the spinnaker pole ring.

My heart is racing and the wind is blasting spray into my face. Turning my back on it and hooking an arm through a halyard coming out of the mast, gives me enough support to start to pull the sail down the track.

Nothing fancy tonight, just a big mess of sail with the wind trying to catch it. Charley passes me a sheet rope and I just lash up the mainsail so it can't thrash about. Ugly, but secure. No way I want to have to come out during the night to have another go at it. The boom is just lowered down onto the hand wires at the side of the deck. This is also tied down securely. I am already soaked and cold.

The three of us are back in the cockpit and we check the speed. Still doing 6 knots, with no sails up. Not what we hoped to achieve. We sit in the cockpit and consider our own thoughts. Mine include a lot less wind and three mild days sailing to the coast.

Thoughts of Auckland Harbour and a few beers in a local pub, while we pat each other on the back and tell each other how terribly brave we all are. Although this image in my mind doesn't have the clarity that it did a few days ago. We are all having some quiet doubts. Pumping up the inflatable dinghy was significant moment. We have all discussed the prospects of having to use the raft.

Not because we want to use it, but we are all agreed that we don't want to use it. Sitting in the lounge room in my mothers house and telling her not to worry, "we have a life raft", is a whole lot different to sitting on a "leaky" boat 200 nm off any land in a gale. The idea of getting that raft off its mount and to the side of the boat, seems daunting. Ivan assures me it takes two good men to move it in good conditions.

Then there is the prospect of inflating it then getting all three of us in it with our Epirbs.


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