28 May 2012 6:25:00 AM AEST

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Well, the news for the day, by some amazing streak of good luck or good fortune, or the will of God, with a bid of fiddling at the forestay, I managed to free the sail from what was jamming it at the top.  A small piece of stiff wire, part of the strand that had broken off of the stay was lying on the deck.  I am saving that for some reason.  So I was able to pull out the full sail, not that it made any difference, since there is no wind.  But it made me decide to just leave the sail pulled out now, and not risk having it jammed again.  Just at dusk, a bit of wind puffed us off, and I swung to the west, for all of an hour, at about three knots, until it too died.  After a quiet night, when I slept through later until seven, I woke to hear rain, and the swish of movement.  We were doing six knots to the north west.  Straight from sleep, it frightened me, and I quickly suited up to go on deck.  I punched in to swing to port a few degrees, and by the time I got into wet weather gear, we had stopped, and I had to swing back north west.  At sunup, the seas were calm, we had fifteen minutes of sunshine, and I had downloaded the latest gribs.  Sure enough, it says that at noon, there should be a bit of sw wind, 4 knots, then at 6 pm, nothing.  But at midnight, southerly winds at fifteen knots, and then 4 days of that.  That is what they always are.  Tomorrow.  Tomorrow is going to be perfect.  Just wait another day, and then your prayers for good winds all the way in to Sydney will be fulfilled.  I should live so long.  But what can I do?  Wait.  I guess if I wait long enough, I will get there.  Sure teaches one patience, to once again sit and watch the bubbles float past.  Although right now, the familiar swish swish of three or four knots is reaching my ears.  And the generator is spinning, so we are making at least 3.5 knots..  to the northwest.  It is familiar ground to me.  Almost exactly where I had to hove-to two days ago in 30 knot winds.  We have been around and around this triangle for three days now.  I recognize the waves.  But actually, movement., the swish of the boat making waves feels good.  Much better than just watching the long sea swells coming and going and letting things depress you.  If the wind was a bit stronger, then I could sail closer to the wind, and swing a few degrees west, and then, when the winds change...tomorrow...swing south west.  Wow.  Wouldn't that be something.

27 May 2012 10:28:00 AM AEST

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Well, you might be relieved to know that I was not able to get up the mast.  I didn't have enough hands, and the rolling of the boat slammed me about so hard that I nearly lost my privates.  Good idea, but not one that had a chance of working in sea swells.  That leaves me with no alternative but to try and make mileage without the best sail.  The winds won't be strong enough or from the right direction until midnight, according to the gribs forecast, so I don't have a clue how many knots we will be able to make with this situation.  Probably not very many, what with the forecast 6 knot winds at first.  In a day or so they are supposed to increase to 15 knots, so hopefully at that time we might be able to make some progress.  It looks like it is going to take many more days to get there.

27 May 2012 7:44:00 AM AEST

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To prepare for the blow, first thing after sunrise, I took down the main and raised the stay-sail.  After rigging a block at the end of the main boom, it worked well, I could use the main boom traveler and vang to control the sail, with a line from the end of the sail through the block and back to the mast to a winch.  The jib and stay-sail didn't work together very good when sailing, so I used the genoa instead, just a bit more than a tea-towel, and we did over 4 knots.  When the winds got up, and the seas became too rough, I had to hove-to, by backing the genoa, and lashing the wheel to work against it.  Effectively we stalled, and I could watch the same bit of foam out the porthole to verify that we were stalled.  The difference at first was very noticeable, instead of pounding along pitching and rolling, we were beam on to the seas, and not moving, and of course this allowed a nice big swell to really whack us every once in a while.  After twelve hours of this I was bleary.  The grib forecasts showed 30 plus knots of winds, and a big rain system moving east.  Looking at the forecasts, it seemed we had to endure 30 hours and then it would have passed, and we would be back to 14 knot winds.  However after 15 hours, the winds just died.  Not doubting the forecasts of more 30 knot winds and rain, I stayed hove-to, but by about 8 pm last night after seeing the moon and some stars, I figured the gribs had got it wrong, or the rain we had had during the day was the system.  So about midnight I tried to sail, with the stay-sail.  Now the wisp of wind was tending from the south, so we could only go NE or NW.  But anyway at no more than a knot or so.  After two days, we have lost about twenty miles.  New gribs show the winds from noon today coming from the west, and then by evening, they become south winds for four days.  So I have swung us north-west, making a couple of knots, and expecting the winds to swing, and allow me to go first west, and then south west, and when a degree of more south, straight west into Sydney.  So goes my hope.  But now comes the problem.  A few days ago I mentioned that the strand of wire that had come loose on the spreader-top of the mast stay had fouled the furling gear at the top of the genoa.  Luckily by fiddling with it I got it loose, and with the genoa out, it was fine.  Now I try to set the sails for what should be the last time all the way into Sydney, and find that the genoa only comes out about three feet, the wire fouling the top has jammed the rigging from letting the sail out.  No amount of fiddling from below has got it free.  I also mentioned that I had tried to rig a system of lines to get me up the mast, but that when I put my weight on a line, I swung around too violently and it wouldn't work.  Facing what looks like the loss of the real working sail, I have to try to get up the mast again.  This time I have made an arrangement of four blocks, two at the top and two at the bottom, to rig a block and tackle to hoist me up.  It remains to be seen if I can cling on enough to be kept from swinging, but I have to try.  I will hoist the block up on a spare halyard, as high as the line I have will allow,hook the bottom two blocks to my bosun's chair, and see if I have the strength enough, and if four blocks give me enough leverage.  If they do, then I can hoist myself up as far as the rig will allow, then I have to anchor myself and raise the top of the block and tackle on the halyard and  then do it again, hoping that I get up there and can cut the wire out.  Seems risky, and I am worried about the mast swinging as before, but without the genoa, it will be slow sailing.  Most likely I will get thrown about too much to be able to do it, but a block and tackle is the only way to hoist yourself up the mast so I have to try.  My next report is likely to be that I failed, but here goes.  I still have to figure out how to secure the line from the block and tackle on my bosun's chair so that I can take it in and let it out as required.  What a way to learn.

24 May 2012 9:25:00 AM AEST

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I guess I'm not going to get away scott free. Granted, I went through a few instances of fierce winds and rain squalls where I was fighting for control, and sometimes a bit scared. This was mainly because I wasn't prepared for it, nor expecting it. But this time I am. The Sydney gribs for the next five days show a big rain storm coming off the land and heading east, starting in roughly two or three days time. Winds are forecast at thirty knots, not far short of gale force 8. In the rain, they show four barbs, possible forty knots, as winds in the rain tend to be higher. There is no way I can avoid it either, the front is about 500 miles long, and I will be in the middle. From the time the strong winds get to me, the rain will take about a day or a day and a half to pass over us. Since I am ready for it, I will be well hunkered down, sailwise, before the main weather hits, trying out my jib and storm try-sail combination for the first time. If that handles things well, I will continue sailing, with just those two small bits of canvas up. If it gets too rough, or I feel that I am not in control, then I will heave to, for the first time, and let it blow over us. After it passes, winds will be mixed, starting at about ten knots, and mostly coming from the west. I have been making good miles southwards these last two days. At noon on the 24th we are at 29 degrees south and 164 east. Sydney is 33.40 and 151.3 or so. If the winds swing a bit to the south west, as I am guessing they will, I will be able to go west into Sydney. This morning, in fairly strong winds, with reduced sail and still making 5.5 to 6 knots, a tiny little bird came in and perched on the stainless steel railing, trying to get some rest from the wind. It was not a sea bird, it had a reddish brown throat, and was about the size of a large sparrow. It tried a few times to find a place to perch outside, but finally came ito the cockpit. The rail was too big around for it to cling too, and the winds through the cockpit were a bit gusty, so after about a minute, it left. I saw it two or three times afterwards, trying to find a spot to land on the stern, and then ahead of the cockpit, but I haven't seen it since. What a land bird is doing 700 miles out to sea is a mystery. I sat real still and kept talking to the fellow, to tell him that he was safe, but he still left.

21 May 2012 6:44:00 AM AEST

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Rafiki has a windvane, an Autohelm, one of the early models, with a vane that resembles a big piece of tin with holes in it that you raise on the stern.  It some would have liked, if I could afford to spend my few bucks times gets too close to the supports for the solar panels mounted above.  When I was in Mazatlan, there was another steel boat that was being scrapped, a Canadian woman who had to leave her boat there for a couple of years because she had some serious medical problems.  In the end, it rusted through the hull.  One pundit said that when it was sitting in the boat yard, that if you lit a candle inside it and went outside, the hull looked like a starry night, with so many pinpoints of light showing through.  So it was decided that the hull would make a nice fish haven just off the coast, and it was firesale time for everything on the boat.  It had some very nice woodwork inside, custom designed, and a shame to have to tear out.  But it also had some bits I would have liked to have if I could have spared some of my scarce dollars.  Like an extra set of batteries.  Or her windvane, a newer model, with a retractable fin.  My Autohelm worked on an auxiliary rudder, using a trim tab like on an airplane wing to steer, with what looked like bicycle cables linking the wind vane to the trim tab.  So a new model would have improved the look of my boat, possibly.  Bob Buchanan of Total Yacht Works quoted me a 'few hundred dollars' to install it on Rafiki, the angle on the other boat, being steel, and Rafiki were close, and it was adjustable, so it just need to have a few holes drilled to put it on.  The auxiliary rudder was sort of a safety item.  If something happened to the regular rudder, you could rig a line to the wheel and use the thing to steer the boat.  It was a big ugly item, six feet down, two and a half inches thick, and two feet or more in depth, so it could really be a rudder.  It was mounted on an angle iron frame, not very pretty to me.  So I thought, if I could get the other wind vane cheap, I would pull off the second rudder and have a better looking metal vane that had a retractable fin.  In due course I asked her how much she wanted for the unit.  She was asking twelve hundred dollars.  Way out of my budget, I was thinking of more like one or two hundred dollars.  After all, none of the yachts in Mazatlan needed a second hand windvane.  I was probably the only chance she had to sell the thing. And it was a firesale. Guessing, a new one would probably cost only two or three times what she was asking.  So I dropped the idea.  If she wanted to deal, she could come to me.  She didn't of course., and went back to B.C.  Eventually, when Rafiki was in the yard, Bob asked me if I wanted the vane or not, so I e-mailed her, asking for her rock bottom price.  She came back with five hundred dollars.  So I looked close at the thing, taking up space in Bob's shed.  Bob also looked closely at it too, and it turned out that the thing had seized tight, it had been installed upside down, and likely not used for a while, and it would need a lot of work to make it right.  And I didn't have five hundred anyway.  So we dropped the idea.  The point of the whole story is, that two days ago, I decided to try something, to see if the trim tab would make any difference to the autopilot as we sailed., thinking that if it tweaked the steering it would make it easier for the autopilot, which would save energy.  As I adjusted the wind vane to match the angle of the wind, something looked wrong.  There was no trim tab.  In fact, there was no auxiliary rudder.  The thick, heavy rudder had snapped off just above the waterline.  All that is left is the thick plank, two feet high, and the two thick stainless steel supports that held the rudder on.  It is as if the bottom 65 or 70 percent has been sawed off clean.  What it took to break a very thick three foot deep rudder off like that is a mystery.  It must have happened on one of those nasty squalls where I was busy wondering more how I was going to save my skin than noticing that we were taking damage of that size. The cables are broken off clean, the trim tab is gone, and I don't have to wonder what I needed a second rudder for anyway.  If something happened to disable the main rudder, like hitting a whale or landing on a big reef for instance, I questioned how a second rudder, not made of metal would have survived anyway.  The only way it would have worked, would have been if Bob's workers had not bolted the main rudder back properly and it had just fallen of.  And we all know how diligent Bob's crew are, don't we?  Maybe Bob has an idea of how the second rudder vanished?

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