Montevideo, Uruguay
We’ve been busy working on a bunch of projects on the boat. Nothing really exicting, just a bunch of stuff that needs doing. Tied up next to us on the dock is one of the Montevideo Pilot boats (pilots go out to meet big ships at sea, board the ships and help them into the port). The platform on the top of the boat is to allow the pilot to step off the boat and onto the boarding ladder of the ship.Today was a pleasant, sunny, 30 degree (86 degrees Fahrenheit) day, and there was a photo shoot on the pilot boat. It seemed to warrant a picture (perhaps this just means I’ve been on a boat too long :) ).

The Case For Roller-Reefing

Atlantic Ocean
This is the first boat I’ve done much sailing on that had roller reefing (sails that roll in and out by pulling on ropes from the cockpit instead of going forward and raising and lowering them). Previously, I did not think much of roller-reefing–it is expensive, complicated, adds windage and weight up high, and a big problem if it breaks. I discussed this with Yann, the previous owner, who said he wouldn’t want to sail the boat without roller furling, due mostly to how wet one would have to get to handle the sails. At sea, you try to avoid getting wet as much as possible, because you often don’t have dry clothes available to change into afterwards. Now that I’ve sailed this boat a fair bit, I’m really glad it does have roller-reefing, despite the disadvantages mentioned above. Issuma goes to windward quickly enough that the foredeck (front of the boat) can be a very wet place, as seen in the picture, so being able to completely control the headsails from the cockpit is a really nice feature.


Piriapolis, Uruguay
Piriapolis is a pretty resort town in Uruguay. It is popular among foreign yachts for its haulout facilities. I stayed in Punta del Este for a day, where two of my new crew, Matt and Ted came aboard with the assistance of the ever-helpful Yacht Club Punta del Este. We then day-sailed in very pleasant weather to Piriapolis, then Montevideo (port of Buceo). Sailing with experienced crew is a lot easier than singlehanding :).

A Full Gale

The picture is of the nice, downwind sailing conditions before the Force 9 (Severe Gale). I did not take the camera out or go to the bow while in the force 9 :).After the anchor had been well-secured and I no longer had fears of it breaking loose, the forecast winds steadily increased. I was in deep water offshore, planning to cross the continental shelf (where the water is shallower) soon on the way to Rio de la Plata. The winds were forecast to be from behind me (NE) for a couple of days, strengthening to force 5, then 6, then 7. I felt it would be fine to be on the continental shelf for a force 7, but if it got to force 8 or above, it would be better to be in deep water, where the waves would be longer and less steep. Despite really wanting to get into port quickly, I thought it would be prudent to stay in deep water in case the wind was higher than forecast. That was fortunate, as the forecast wind did increase to force 8 and 9 as the gale approached. The gale itself was force 9 for several hours, and force 8 for many more. Gales are really not enjoyable…they are loud, wet and uncomfortable. I ran before the gale with a Galerider drogue, which is a kind of mesh bag that is designed to slow the boat down, not stop it. It was the first time I’d run before a real gale (previously I tended to heave-to), and the first time I’d tried using a drogue. It worked well enough, pulling the stern of the boat back when waves hit. Running before a gale seems to involve far more waves coming across the deck than heaving-to does, but seems a better way of handling bigger seas. Everything on the boat held together, and after 18 hours the wind moderated and sailing became much more pleasant.

Pleasant Sailing

I mentioned this has been an unusually busy trip. This has been due mostly to the number of things that broke. I wrote about the anchor breaking loose, and that was the worst of the problems, but there were others. There hasn’t been a lot of pleasant sailing on this trip, but here is a picture of sailing in very nice conditions, late in the afternoon. As we get farther south, the days get longer, and the sunrises and sunsets are slower. In benign conditions and safe waters, it is nice to have one glass of wine in the late afternoon. After spending all day hove-to, in an adverse current, going slowly backwards while securing the anchor, after I got sailing again, I decided it was time to celebrate the anchor being secure with a glass of wine. As I was sipping the wine, it occurred to me that I was having a glass of wine when the windvane broke, and another when the fisherman sail ripped. I had not had time to fix either yet. The wind continued to lighten, then died entirely. Frustrated that all day we had gone nowhere but about 10 miles backwards (due to the current), I decided to drop the sails and motor for a while. Sails down, I turned the key and found that the engine would not start! Clearly, drinking wine was causing the boat to break! :)So, no wind, no engine, current taking us in the wrong direction, past sundown, and being safely far offshore, the sensible thing to do was sleep–sail if the wind came up, otherwise just work on the engine in the morning. I tried to sleep, but kept thinking about the engine, and realized I could probably get it started with a boost from another battery. I did so, it started, and I motored for an hour to charge the starting battery. There is a master off switch for the starter motor on this boat (an odd thing to have), which I had forgotten to turn off when I left port, and that drained the battery. After motoring for an hour, the wind came up, and we were able to sail again. The following day I was able to fix the fisherman and the windvane self-steering. For the rest of the trip, I had no more wine, and nothing else broke :).

Anchor Secured for Sea

The anchor being lashed on by ropes and, later, chain to avoid the ropes being cut by the sharp edges of the anchor, as below, was enough to get through the near gale. No weather more severe was in the forecast, but I always try to have a plan for what to do if the wind gets two Beaufort Forces higher than expected. My plan for the new anchor, if we got into a Force 9 (Severe Gale), was to disconnect it, unlash it and jettison it at sea. I really didn’t like this idea–of throwing away a new and expensive anchor–but considering the damage that a loose anchor could do to the boat (especially the roller furlers, which I would need working later to continue sailing), if we encountered a severe gale, jettisoning the new anchor could be the least bad option. As it was a light headwind day, the waves were quite small, and it was feasible to think about carefully moving the anchor and securing it better. I hove to and spent most of the day preparing and moving the anchor to the position in the above picture. I drilled a hole in the fluke and put a shackle in so I could tie a rope to the fluke and rotate the anchor up where it could be better secured. The sharp edges of the Raya’s shank were rapidly cutting into the plastic roller. By putting the anchor into a position where it only contacted steel, I hoped to avoid it cutting the plastic more (which would cause further movement as it cut away its support). So, after almost a days work (one needs to be very careful and ready to move quickly to work with an anchor on the bowsprit at sea as the boat is still going up and down in the waves), the anchor was well supported and secured with enough chains and ropes connected to shackles that I felt it was ready for a severe gale. A few days later, there was a severe gale (Force 9), and I was very happy to have better secured the anchor, as it did stay in place. More about that later.

Anchor Breaks Loose in Near Gale

When I left anchor, no winds stronger than Force 6 (strong breeze) were in the forecast for the planned week-long sail. That changed when I got farther offshore, and the next day the forecast was steadily upgraded to Force 7 (near gale) and Force 8 (gale). Fortunately the wind was from behind, so running with the gale (instead of stopping for it) would be helpful. A couple of hours into the near gale (F7), I heard the new anchor banging around and went forward to look at it. A tab that had been welded to the anchor to make it work with the anchor mounting system on the boat had broken off. Now the anchor was only held to it’s mount by gravity, so when the boat hit the waves, the water pushed the anchor up and out of its mount. A heavy, sharp steel anchor is a really bad thing to have loose at sea! I carefully lashed the anchor onto its mount with several ropes, taking care not to get pinched by the moving anchor. That was enough to get through the near gale, but only by re-lashing it later with more ropes and chain, as shown in the picture. A problem with the Raya anchor, which I had not understood before, is that the shank (the handle, not the part that grabs the seabed) is cut from a plate of steel, and the sharp edges from that cut were not rounded. When fitting the anchor, I noticed the sharp edges, but didn’t think of them in terms of how to lash such an object at sea, because the sharp edges keep cutting through any ropes used to lash them. On my todo list now is grinding down all the sharp edges of the anchor.As night fell, the sky suddenly cleared and the wind dropped. This happened really quickly, so I figured we were in some kind of eye of a localized part of the near gale. A few minutes later, a light wind picked up from the opposite direction, and rain clouds appeared. As it was getting hard to predict what the wind would do next, I lowered the one sail I had up and lashed the steering. Heavy rain followed, with much lightning and thunder, as I waited it out below. The boat is a pretty safe place to be in lightning, but only if one avoids touching metal, so it is much better to be belowdecks when in lightning. The waves dropped quickly, which was nice, probably due to the relatively shallow water we were in. An hour later I was able to set more sails and get back on course in lighter winds. I’m late in posting this because its been an unusually busy trip, of which I will write more about later.