Saturday, 10 October 2015

Heavy Sailing, Ile St. Marie To Nosy Hara

We sailed up the east coast of Madagascar from Ile St. Marie in a strong South Easterly trade wind, building from 15 knots the first day to 35 knots as we rounded the northern cape (Cap D'Ambre) and then headed south west down the "sheltered" side of the island.  Despite the wind speed the swells remained manageable as we rounded the cape, mainly thanks to a 3 knot current moving with us.

Yes Warm Clothing - We Were Cold For The First Time In Many Years
"Sheltered" is kind of a relative word - once around the cape the wind blew even harder and we raced south in flat water watching a very dry and barren landscape ashore.  25 miles south of Cap D'Ambre we moved into a sheltered anchorage, welcomed by friends on the very fine Wharam catamaran Pakia Tea. We had covered 356 nautical miles in just over two days.

The last 24 hours of the voyage were completed under staysail alone, as for the first time we had some wear failures on our mainsail.  Nothing too serious - Crystal Blues has full length tapered battens in the mainsail, with adjustable tensioners to keep the batten curved.  At the forward batten ends the webbing attachments for the track slides were failing - two of these let go on the second day of the passage, so we lowered the main and kept running on just the staysail.

Nosy Hara is a stunning island, reasonably barren but with healthy reef.  We anchored on sand in 15 meters of water and spent the next two days working on the mainsail and island exploring.

The damage is obvious in the image at left, with the protective leather completely worn off and the webbing almost worn through.  Still, it was reasonable after 12 years and over 30,000 miles of sailing !  With two attachments already failed, we decided to replace all six attachments.

We cut away the worn materials and firstly shaped new leather protective pieces for the luff of the sail.

These were pre-punched to make the sewing easier, then fastened onto the sail with Gore Tenara thread.

This was the first time I'd hand-sewn with Tenara, and it is slippery stuff - kind of difficult to work with, but the best thing to use in terms of surviving long-term UV exposure (all our sails are sewn with Tenara thread).

Then we measured the webbing to length, allowing multiple turns through the mast slide and the batten end, for strength.  With the webbing clamped in place we drilled holes for the stitches using our small battery drill and a 2mm drill bit.  We still managed to break half a dozen needles on the project, but the pre-drilled holes were a real finger saver.  The batten ends were then fitted back into the Ronstan plastic holders and we were done.

Of course there are another seven slides (not attached to batten ends) that are still looking a little worn - we'll no doubt have to service them when we get to South Africa.