Friday, November 20, 2009

November 19, 2009 - Pressure Drop

Yet another benefit of being beamy: Not having to share a slip

Our week began with a traumatic trip to Durban for Sten (he saw dead people) and a most wonderful visit from some cruising friends who live nearby. Despite the dismal weather we've been having here, George and Colleen off of s/v Affirmation were determined to give us a proper welcome to South Africa. So in the cold and the rain they made their way up to Richard's Bay from their home outside of Durban, loaded down with bottles and bottles of luscious South African wine, a container of dukka, an aromatic North African mix of nuts and spices that they first introduced us to in Chagos, and a welcome gift bag full of other local goodies they wanted us to try, including Rooibos tea and Eet-sum-mor biscuits. No mere monsoon was going to keep these guys from a joll (party).

At some point that evening (long about our third bottle), Sten arrived back from Durbs looking completely frazzled and talking a mile a minute about bodies and engines. We poured a beer into him and took him up to Captain Cook's Restaurant (home of the Captain Burger) for a comforting plate of fish and chips. The next morning we had a very American feast of waffles with maple syrup, before sending our South African friends off to their next joll.

We've been busy the past few days doing jobs around the boat. The rigger has picked up our broken inner forestay and is making us a new one. We are eliminating the big lever quick disconnect on the forestay and adding a toggle at the bottom which should eliminate the fatigue bending that caused the failure in the first place. As an added bonus, the staysail bag will be closer to the deck when stowed.

During a brief lull in the weather, we got the headsail down (the one that failed on the way here) and found broken threads on the crosscut seams that hold several other of the panels together. Since the problem was so extensive (it would have taken me days to hand stitch it), we sent the sail down to Quantum - Durban for an evaluation and a quick repair. Depending on what they say we will look into getting a new headsail in Cape Town. Quantum's worldwide production loft is there and apparently the prices should be quite reasonable as compared to other parts of the world. So, our plan now is to hold off on the minor repairs to the main and all the canvas work we need done until we get to Cape Town where the loft is close to the boat.

Today, while I was off enjoying a spa day with the ladies off of three other boats, Sten and the boys had quite an exciting time of it in the marina. A small low developed unexpectedly and delivered 50+ knots and heavy rain for several hours. Because we aren't sitting at anchor on a mooring, we don't turn with the wind. Here in a slip, we are subject to cross breezes. During the squall, our escapist cockpit cushions were keen to take flight. After recovering several from the side deck, Sten brought them all down below, soaking wet or not.

The docks here are not too friendly with lots of metal edges and sharp corners. The wind was pushing us hard onto our fenders and it looked like several were loosing air so Sten was getting concerned as the wind kept increasing. There is no one next to us and we have a line across to the other finger pier to reduce the pressure on our fenders. This was bar tight but still not holding us off the close finger dock. During the blow, Sten managed to change this line around and get it onto the port side staysail winch and take some of the pressure off the fenders using the mechanical advantage of the winch.

While Sten was chasing cushions and trying to keep our fenders from popping, the guys tied to the dock behind us were running their engines in full reverse, trying to keep their dock and their bows from getting any closer to our stern. The whole situation was pretty sketchy. One just doesn't expect marina docks to move as much as these do.

We're not the only boat here with stays off for repair. During the blow several masts around us were doing their best impression of spaghetti. One crew member was so freaked out that she crawled over a buckled section of the dock on her hands and knees to get to shore. Meanwhile, back at the spa, we were all blissfully unaware of the drama.

Interestingly, during the blow, our wind gauge stayed in the high 30's while others saw gusts in the high 40's and even 53 knots several times. This really makes us question the velocities of some of the winds we've previously seen.

Changes in the weather come amazingly fast here. Sten commented today that watching the charting barometer is like looking at a roller coaster. Things are supposed to mellow as the summer takes hold. We're going to head off on Saturday to do some touring by car while we wait for things to settle down before we attempt to move down the coast.

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