January 8, 2014
Noon. Jeannie is up and immediately comes over to get the weather forecast- "anything bad?". I go over it and she heads to the pilot house to read.
After a ham sandwich we clean up and read until 3:00 when I put on my gear and go out on deck; strap on and scramble up to the bow and back, looking for anything out of sorts. Back in the cabin, I call Graham again.
Bad news: the wind is now going to back around to the south east and build to 30 knots. We go around the boat stowing everything; decide our main with three reef will not be too much . We will roll in the jib as needed. As it turns out we should have changed the mainsail for our storm trysail
The wind builds through the afternoon: thirty, thirty-five, forty, peaking at forty- five knots late afternoon. The seas are twenty feet, rolling over the pilot house. We have the wash boards in the companion way to keep the waves that washes into the cockpit out of the cabin. We are now sailing downwind and off-course, but by running north east at nine knots the forty knot wind from the south becomes thirty-one apparent. It's a 22% reduction and the waves push us instead of knocking us back.
We play gin to keep from staring at the wind speed. Jeannie wins.
Jeannie thaws and heats up stew frozen for nights like this. Conditions dictate that we eat out of mugs. The temperature has dropped and the warm stew revives us. It is eight and time for me to climb into the coffin while Jeannie cleans up and goes on watch. The winds are down to 30 to 35 but the seas are angry. We will run down wind through the night.
January 9, 2014
A clanking in the engine room caused my anxiety level to rocket. The rudder post that comes up from the bottom and through the engine room where the autopilots attach is wobbling and grinding.
We are fifteen hundred miles from the closest help and in danger of losing our steering. There has not been a ship within 20 miles of us for days.
On my way to the cockpit I delivered the grim news. Jeannie's color drained from her face and her anxiety level went into orbit. In the well of the aft lazette the bearing that holds the top of the rudderpost in place is sliding about and the sheared off bolts rattle about.
We must get to a sheltered anchorage.
A search of the boat rewards us with two 2 foot long 2 x 6, a piece of plywood 2 feet by 1 foot and some small blocks. Jeannie and I drop the sails. We are able to get two of the bolts back in but the sheared off bottoms of the other four are embedded in their holes and must come out before new bolts can go in. The motion of the boat and waves keeps the rudder and bearing in motion. We set about wedging the bearing in place and achieved some success but there was still some motion. So the struts work themselves out which I replace and note and work on a better design in my mind. I dont want to saw wood until I am sure.
January 12, 2014
Two hundred twenty-six miles to St. Paul. The winds are building to a gale that will pass with a cold front in the dark hours tonight. It will test our bearing repairs.
I improved my support structure yesterday which eliminated all of the movement and the struts now -so far anyway- stay in place. As the wind increases we reduce sail, trying to keep Onora balanced so the rudder does not have to work too hard. The wind is up to 25 knots and is on its way to 35 (or more).
It will be a long twenty-four hours.