Friday, March 28, 2014

Passage in the Pacific - Day 14

Sent from Sea - day 14

Weather: [Sunny, calm]

Sailing conditions: [very light and variable winds]

Food: [Lunch: Egg fried rice, Dinner: Cottage pie]

General Comments: [We've had NO Wind for the last 15 hours, crushing any thoughts of arriving today. Yesterday was a very distressing day. At around 9:30, with Kyle asleep, and me at the helm, we hit something hard. The boat lurched and rolled over something big and heavy. After the noise and the lurch of the boat I saw a whale in a pool of blood pass by us to our starboard. I was in total shock; as though I'd just driven over a young child with my car. I had the sense to wake up Kyle (he'd been woken anyway), and he had the sense to take over and check over the boat for leaks/holes. I was stood in the cockpit crying; crying from the distress at having obviously hurt an innocent animal, while also being frustrated 'why didn't you move out the way, there was no way I could see you'.

Soon after another whale started to follow us, head out of the water as if attempting to make eye contact. My thoughts swapped between sincere apology and Moby Dick style fears; would we now be subject to a whale attack in retaliation?. The boat was fine, Kyle eventually dived on the bottom to be 100% sure and reported a LOT of missing bottom paint and cracks in the paint only (we hope) from two obvious impact points. The other whale stopped following us after a couple of minutes, presumably returning to it's friend/child/mate? For the rest of my watch, I imagined that every white cap was a whale, and I was jumpy and still distraught. I did see plenty more whales, mostly in the distance luckily, but some I was ready to divert for. We hear of other boats historically that have hit a whale and subsequently sunk. All day I was grateful that we were not added to that list, while being concerned at the unknown state of the whale we did hit.

[Kyle]The initial bang woke me. In my half sleep I first assumed it was just an odd wave, but then there were more impacts and lots of violent motion. I didn't feel any sudden deceleration so I was pretty sure we hadn't come to a stop against anything. When Maryanne called out for me with alarm and distress in her voice I thought that the mast had come down and slammed into the boat on the way. She said that we'd hit a whale and I emerged to see a giant eddy to the right of the boat, followed by a large black dorsal fin angling away. Maryanne had initially thought that we hit the whale with the starboard bow since this was the one that reared up most, but upon inspecting it I could not find any damage. In the process I noticed through the trampoline, on the port hull, a square meter of missing bottom paint. A quick check of the bilges and compartments within the boat showed no signs of leaking, but we decided I would dive under the boat to check the extent of the damage and the conditions of the rudders, props and keels. It was pretty apparent where the whale hit, the fiberglass had flexed, shattering the new paint, and causing it to come off, but there was no more substantial damage. Of course after this, it was impossible for me to go back to my off watch and get the sleep I should be having; we were both too wound up by the event.

Later yesterday we had troubles with our traveller car that helps us keep the main sail in the best position for the point of sail. It keeps getting stuck. It seems a screw had dropped down and is jamming in the track holes where screws secure the track to the boat. For now we have is centered (at least) but we'll need to (somehow) get it off and address the problem...

Progress: so far we've made [127] nm on this passage and have [127] nm to go. Last 24 hours we made [64] nm.

Updated after the fact..

Sunsets again add color to our days at sea

[Kyle]We ate up the miles. On day 12 the wind shifted to the east making it too far down wind to use the jib effectively, so we rolled it up and hoisted the spinnaker. We were flying it when we hit the pilot whale; we were going about seven knots when it happened (pretty fast for us)…

With the spinnaker up, you cannot just turn upwind to stop, but must pull down the sail. After hitting the whale the boat had slowed, before picking up speed again, and we were nearly a mile away before we had assured ourselves that there was no water coming in and we could eventually bring down the spinnaker and stop the boat. There was no sign of any whales when I dove in to check for damage from the outside of the boat.

The evening of “whale day” (day 13) we lost our nice wind and once again were back to hourly speeds of zero-point-something as a norm. We were now 40 miles south of the eastern most islands of the 150nm long Galapagos archipelago. It was agonizing after five days of good wind to be almost there and then slowed to a crawl.

The next afternoon I went for a swim to wipe what little growth we had (mostly algae) off the bottom. We didn’t even bother to pull down the sails while I did it. (Galápagos has strict rules and was know to have recently sent some boats away from the island to have their bottoms cleaned at significant expense and hassle).


kate rodenhouse said...

Holy shit, I'm so distressed for you guys... largely, I can afford to feel much more in favor of your safety than the whales but I know how hard you must be taking this. Thank goodness, thank goodness Begonia has come through it with minimal damage - that is lucky indeed! Oh man, I'm at a loss... just so happy you are not hurt but still feeling for you and your worries about the whale. Please post further updates when you can. We are all thinking good thoughts. Love you both.

Karen said...

What an awful ordeal to have gone through - for both of you and the whale, the boat.... Since you mentioned whitecaps, I guess there was plenty of wind that day to have come upon the whale so hard as to draw blood. Too bad for once the seas weren't calmer, although something tells me the whale will be fine. :-) In spite of the scary, sad, frustrating, unnerving experience though, at least Begonia didn't have any significant damage and you two are OK.

Hoping you've arrived by now and can relax and enjoy those fantastic islands.

Happy sails!