170614, 0627 UTC, Day 28, 43-36 N / 174-34 W
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We continue to make progress though we had a few days stuck in a sunny high pressure system with very little wind resulting in runs less than three figures in 24 hours. We made up for that the following day with the best run of this passage so far: 128 nm. We paid for those miles though; close hauled on a starboard tack, wind gusting over 30 kts, 3+ meter seas, rain and cold, Carina driving through the seas and often falling off the peaks, landing with a "gathump" that jarred every molecule aboard. An uncomfortable night for sure.
We have seen few vessels on AIS but only one visually as we've mostly been engulfed in fog. This morning we had our first official gale, winds generated by a deep low passing west of us on its way to the Aleutians. The hull temp is 46F. Our GPS says we have less than ~1,650 nm to go but, as all sailors know, it lies.
The Laysan albatrosses are back with us, wheeling across the sky and skimming the waves. We had a couple of days in a row where dolphins and minke or pilot whales visited. Philip muttered "I sure hope he knows what he is doing" when one whale surfaced and blew 20' from Carina's starboard quarter. Eventually, they disappeared and we haven't seem them since. Another surprise visitor was an eared pinniped (fur seal?), ~4' long, that swam up to Carina's side and frolicked around for about an hour. We were shocked to see such an animal so far from shore (we thought they stayed close to land). He obviously wanted to come aboard - he kept rising from the water and examining the deck - but our freeboard was too high and our lifeline netting prevented access. Eventually he too went away.
We have had a few instances of "issues" with which we've had to deal. This is pretty much expected on such a long trip. A few days ago, Leslie was was making routine rounds of the cockpit when she looked down at the paddle of our self-steering Monitor wind vane and exclaimed "Holy #@$&^%! - the hinge pin on the Monitor paddle is about to come out!" So in a flash we took in our genoa and staysail, hove to, removed all the impediments from the stern: sliced the lashings of the half-high Phifertex weathercloths, untied fenders, lifted the Danforth stern anchor inboard, moved throw cushions, etc., in order to gain unimpeded access to the Monitor. Philip reached over the stern on the port side and Leslie snaked her body through the narrow opening on the starboard side, one time thinking she might get swept overboard as Carina rose up and over a 3 meter swell, tilting the stern sharply downward. (She was tethered in so if she'd gone overboard she would have at least still been attached to the boat). Leslie jammed a screwdriver into the hinge assembly to try to align the pin/spring combination which was under pressure. As she would get it aligned in the pitching sea, many times up to her elbows in cold seawater, she'd shout "pound it" (meaning the pin) over the shriek of the wind. Then "stop" as a wave and a twist of Carina's hull sent the whole affair off kilter again. Then jam, align and "pound", again. Philip finally hammered the pin home and Leslie slipped in a cotter pin and after nearly losing cotter pin and screwdriver to waves, secured it by spreading the legs so it would stay in place. Even though we were hove to, waves came crashing up immersing us as we tried to work. Eventually, we got everything secure, though for a seemingly simple job, it took us about an hour. Adrenaline coursed through our veins for hours afterwards. Should we have lost this pin and the hinge, we would have had to bring the paddle aboard, replace the parts with our spares (not an easy task to do even on a calm day in port) and try to align and replace the pin holding the paddle. As Philip said then "I don't even want to think about it". The alternative of course is to hand-steer, which is not an alternative at all. The good news was that we discovered this at 1000 hours local and we had plenty of daylight in which to work. I'm not sure how we would have dealt with it if happened at 0200 on a moonless night. The bad news was that it was blowing 25-30 kts and gusting higher; one of the reasons it took so long to fix.
The day before yesterday, we noticed that the genoa was chafed near the luff about 6' off the deck - from the cockpit Leslie could see daylight through a small area at a crease. Winds were light so we rolled in the sail to the area of chafe, cleaned the cloth with acetone and applied adhesive Dacron on both sides. We will stitch the patch when we reach port.
During our rough night of beating we lost the contents of one of our water jerry cans on the side deck. We still have the can but it's empty. Our watermaker has developed a leak in its cleaning valve, too, so we're being even more cautious about our water supply.
We're still eating well - pasta puttanesca and marinated artichokes for supper, fresh bread in the oven - and sleeping well in our cozy, warm dry bunk. The fresh breezes make it too cold to spend much time in the cockpit despite our thickly layered clothing and we're keeping the cabin warm by keeping the windowed companionway cover in place.
All is well.
Your friends of the yacht Carina,
Philip, Leslie and the spirit of the fat cat, Jake