Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April 15 - 17, 2007 - On passage from Aruba to Panama

The nonchalance with which we approached this 600 mile passage, which is nearly as long as the run from Newport to Bermuda and is, in Jimmy Cornell's opinion, one of the worst five of a circumnavigation, is telling of how far we've come in the past few months. On Sunday morning, we looked at the latest GRIB files and decided that it would be a good day to go. We managed to get on and off of the customs dock in Aruba without further damage to the boat and headed west. The first 36 hours of the passage were uncomfortable, with rolly seas, but we were making decent headway. Last night, as I was thinking how bored our Newport to Bermuda crew, Bill and Merrill, would be with this trip, we got a stern reminder of how powerful the forces are out here.

We were running dead downwind under main alone. The main is prevented from accidentally jibing by a preventer line run forward to the bow. The boom is prevented from pulling upwards by a boomvang that connects the boom to the base of the mast. We had put on considerable vang tension to flatten the sail and to keep the uppermost portion off of the spreaders and reduce chafe. Shortly after midnight, the wind shifted and the main backwinded. The preventer did its job and kept us from jibing, but as we came out of a deep roll and the sail refilled, the vang tore out of the underside of the boom. By 0130 we were back to running under jib alone, sacrificing a knot of speed while we waited until daylight to take a good look at the boom, determine how extensive the damage is, and decide whether to rig up a block and tackle vang temporarily. Once we get to Panama, we'll determine whether it can be repaired, or if the strength of the boom is now too compromised for offshore work.

As I write this, we are just about half way to Panama, about 50 miles off of the coast of Columbia, running under main alone with our temporary block and tackle vang.

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