The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Day 36. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Tuesday, 27 April 2010,
Our position as at 2100 GMT/UTC (1700 NYC; 2300 Ffm):
S 08 degrees 12.95 minutes; W 128 degrees 20.79.67 minutes;
576.6 Nm to Hiva Oa

Yesterday and the day before are very boisterous with large and very
confused seas. This makes, on the one hand, for very uncomfortable
travelling down below; like living in a washing machine. Every task was
made triply difficult because one has to hang on for dear life once you
get off your berth, and even staying in the berth requires lee cloths and
cushions to keep you wedged in. Moreover, we have to spend whole watches
in the cockpit trying to keep the boat on course; the weather is bright,
sunny and windy, but the waves wanted to bump us one way or the other; the
windvane steering cannot get it back on course fast enough. Nevertheless,
Kathleen does make a new loaf of bread. We were feeling very fed up by
evening, so decide just to have Spam on the delicious new loaf. By
evening, too, things have settled down a bit and we can leave the steering
and stay below. Night comes and there is a full moon; it is almost like
daylight once it is well up in the sky. We shall have to put the clock
back another hour since it is well after 1900 (local) when the sun finally
goes down. Only one more change after that (30 minutes) when we arrive in
Hiva Oa.

The jibsail provides us with another chapter. Once the jibstay turnbuckle
had parted (last chapter) I tightened up the jibsail halyard to act as an
ersatz jibstay. Yesterday when I come on my morning watch and am
patrolling around the deck I think the jibsail is sagging off to leeward
and take up a few notches on the winch. It doesn't seem to have much
effect, but I tie the halyard off at the mast cleat and return to the
cockpit. Hardly there, I hear a loud crack. The halyard (three-ply line)
has parted at the masthead; the halyard itself falls onto the deck, the
jibsail, still loosely tied at the bowsprit, falls dragging into the
water. I call Kathleen on deck to handle the steering. I go forward on my
hands and knees to recover the now heavy and soggy jibsail, wrap it
sausage-like with sail bands and secure everything to prevent damage to
the sail or the boat. This all takes quite a while. The nearly-healed
abscess on my right knee of course is scraped open again and bleeding, so
I look properly heroic.

Kathleen is very apprehensive, but I can assure her that there is no
danger now. Of course, we now have no jibstay, ersatz or regular, and the
mast is no longer supported fore and aft from the bow at masthead level
with a jibstay (there is still the forestay at spreader level, of course).
We don't want to overload the mast head above the spreaders, so we shall
not be shaking out any reefs in the mainsail; it is already carrying the
load of the main boom using the topping lift and has a distinct aftwards
bend in it. This means, for one, that the mast squeaks all night as the
wedges settle and finally drop out into the cabin, and that our speed to
Hiva Oa will remain slow. But at least there should be no more exciting
chapters to the jibsail saga.

As I mentioned, the winds and waves quiet during the day and more so at
night. This morning we are almost becalmed. Our speed last night is very
slow and, without much wind, the boom starts slatting around again. Today
is better but we do barely 3 knots on average. I debate jury-rigging the
small storm jibsail by attaching it to the bobstay at the bow and using
the staysail halyard to get it up to the spreaders. After discussion
however, we decide that we shall just carry on carefully and slowly to
Hiva Oa as we are (double-reefed main with staysail). A bit more wind
would be in order though. But, at least for the moment we are spared the
confused seas and big swells. And, of course, something else to fix when
we arrive - in about five or six days at this slow speed. We really would
like to go faster and have this whole thing behind us. But, we also want
to be cautious. Once everything is fixed up at anchor in Hiva Oa we can
debate other sail combinations and the like.

This morning in the calm seas I go forward and reset the wooden wedges
around the mast where it comes through the mast collar at deck level. I
also tune up some of the shrouds that appear to me to be too loose. It is
pleasant out, there isn't much by way of sea, swells or rolling, and I am
happy to have the little jobs to do. Early in the morning the boat had
gone through an involuntary jibe (perhaps a wave pushed us of course) and
Kathleen, later me too, had gone on deck to sort things out. It was still
dark and we started getting impatient with the boat, the windvane
steering, the trip, life on the Bounding Main, the South Pacific in
general and of course each other. Eventually we got things sorted out so
we could stay below. This sort of snapping at each other doesn't happen
often. Usually some sleep or some coffee helps.

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