Monthly Archives: March 2010
00° 44.8 South 090°18.4 West The Galalpagos Islands otherwise known as The Enchanted Isles because they certainly were. We took a 5-day holiday aboard Daphne with air-conditioning while someone else did the driving.
We arrived Wednesday 10thMarch at 10am – what a relief. We found a space to anchor and Tony from BWR came on board to complete our check-in process. Bill wanted to put the temporary fix on the shroud straight away. I again found myself holding on to the mast but in the anchorage I felt more in control. Bill had to spend quite a bit of time filing the bottle screw so we made the right decision not to attempt it at sea. That evening Enchantress and Lucy Alice joined us for champagne to celebrate our safe arrival and then we all went ashore to The rock for happy hour; a big cheer went up when Bill walked in. We ate out in the kiosks, a row of ramshackle restaurants with tables and chairs in the street; it was good value and nice food. We slept well that night.
Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz was established in the early 1970’s and is full of multi-ethic contrasts between the Ecuadorians and immigrants of European decent. It thrives well on the passing yacht trade and visitors flying in to join the many island cruises available. It has a very good water taxi system so it wasn’t necessary to put the dinghy down.
There was a good supermarket by the dock and a good market further up in the town. I spent the next few days back and forth from the internet café trying to log on to a very slow connection to download our mail and various other tasks. The cost of living seemed cheap in the Galapagos so we enjoyed several meals out for a change.
On the Sunday Tony from BWR had arranged for us all to have Sunday lunch in a lovely restaurant at Angermeyer point just across the bay. Luckily it was on the water taxi route so we didn’t have to take our dinghies, which was probably just as well because it had a very small landing stage. It was a lovely day but very hot as usual. We all had a delicious barbeque meal with some wonderful salads. Afterwards we walked to the beach but as it was Sunday the beach was a bit crowded so we went back to the boat.
We had an ‘out and about’ day on the Monday. It started with a taxi ride to the Darwin centre. There is a very good breeding programme involving giant tortoises to try to prevent them from becoming extinct.
We were able to walk around the raised walkway overlooking their pens. We found Lonesome George in one of them with his girlfriends but sadly he wasn’t showing any interest. There’s a possibly that once he dies that particular breed of Tortoise will become extinct. We spent a couple of hours wandering around there. We walked back into town and, after spending a bit of time in the internet café, we joined the rest of the BWR crews for a coach trip to a nearby farm for a briefing for the next leg. The farm was also a resort hotel with a pool so after the briefing some of us got changed and enjoyed a refreshing dip in the water. The bar was opened and ‘all was happiness’ to quote Tony from BWR.
A local band came to entertain us and played some traditional pipe music. We all enjoyed a delicious barbeque before returning to the boats by coach.
On Tuesday our new rigging parts arrived in the afternoon and Bill was anxious to fit them before we left Camomile at anchor while we were on Daphne. Ian and David came over to help. I spent the afternoon packing our bags for our mini holiday.
Wednesday morning we locked the boat, got in a water taxi and went ashore. We were met by Charlie our guide and naturalist and left in a coach at 11.00 with the crews of Enchantress, Lucy Alice, Mercury Rising, Fai Tira, 2 of Roundabouts crew and 3 Canadians. We were off on our holiday and guess what – it was raining. We drove for an hour to the other side of the island where Daphne was waiting for us. She was a really nice boat and had just had a refit. We were shown to our cabins, ours was really nice on the upper deck. It had a double bed, a nice shower room but best of all, air-conditioning. We sat down to a nice lunch while the crew gently motored us round to the next bay.
We all got into the large dinghy and were taken ashore. We went for a walk along the beach and saw lots of blue-footed boobies. We snorkelled off the beach where there were lots of fish. We returned to the boat to relax for a few hours and have a long shower.
We got changed and joined everyone in the little lounge, which was beautifully finished in wood with new seating. We were offered a welcome cocktail and introduced to the crew. There were seven, all men, including the captain plus Charlie who spoke perfect English. We introduced ourselves while Charlie translated for us. We sat down to a delicious dinner in the little dining room/bar before retiring to our air-conditioned cabin. Heaven!
We awoke to a beautiful day. During the night we had motored to the small island South Plaza. Located on the east of Santa Cruz, the main characteristics are the Opuntia cacti and the carpets of red sesuvium, a succulent plant that turns green in the rainy season. The cactus is the main food of land iguanas. We landed on a jetty and went for a nice walk to see the land iguanas sunbathing under the cacti.
The more you looked the more you saw, there were so many and they weren’t bothered by us walking past at all. As they approached each other they would nod their heads up and down which is their sign to say ‘this is my bit of land’. We had a beautiful walk up over the hills. We saw swallow-tailed gulls and red-billed tropicbirds nesting, and boobies roosting on the south cliff of the island.
As we walked back to the jetty we saw lots of sea lions playing in the water below and sunbathing on the rocks around us. We were taken back to Daphne where the bar man had fruit juice and cookies waiting for us. I could get used to this.
We weighed anchor and motored 2 hours to Santa Fe, which has one of the most beautiful coves in the archipelago.
A turquoise lagoon with two small white sand beaches which are protected by a peninsula where sea lions lie in the sun. After lunch we swam near the boat and saw lots of fish. We were taken outside the cove in the dinghy and snorkelled back. We saw a sea lion in the water and swam with 2 big turtles. At the entrance to the cove there was a fish ball below us. I’ve never seen so many fish together; there were literally millions of them. Later in the afternoon we landed on the beach.
The island contains one of the largest sea lion colonies. A trail runs alongside the coast and then crosses through an Opuntia Forest. The Santa Fe species of land iguanas are larger and of a paler yellow than on the other island but we only saw one. On our way back we walked passed the sea lions lying on the beach with out a care in the world and they weren’t the slightest bit bothered by us wandering amongst them.
On Friday morning we found ourselves anchored off the island of Española that, as one of the smallest islands, is flat with no visible volcanic crater or vent. We landed on the beach for our daily walk. There were lots of brilliantly coloured marine iguanas lying in the sun on the rocks and walking across the beach, again oblivious to our existence. We continued to the seaward side of the island and saw lots of nesting birds including Nasca boobies, Mockingbirds, Galapagos doves and Galapagos hawks.
It was amazing to be so close to birds with their young. This photo of a Nasca boobie with her baby was taken right next to them and not with the zoom lens, they were sitting in the cliff just above our heads. We stopped on top of the cliffs for a photo opportunity. With the heavy swell running below it was creating a spectacular blowhole with thundering spray shooting 30 metres into the air.
The spray was forming beautiful rainbows as it fell back onto the rocks. It was a spectacular sight. We returned to Daphne for lunch and motored round to Gardner bay on the eastern side of the island with its magnificent beach again full of sea-lions. In the afternoon we went for our usual snorkel. We were dropped off about 1km away and drift snorkelled back. We swan into a cave where lots of fish were collecting in the entrance. The captain and some of the crew were in the water with us and spotted a shark and several turtles for us. We returned to Daphne to relax on the sun deck before dinner. We motored to the island of Floreana over night.
Saturday was our last full day on Daphne and they seemed to have saved the best for last. We were anchored off Floreana, perceived as one of the most exotic islands of the archipelago.
We were in Post Office bay, home to the legendary post barrel that whalers used to send their mail. There were letters and postcards in the barrel. Traditionally if you put an item in to be posted then you take one out to post. We all choose some postcards to be sent on from our next destination. I took one for New Zealand, which I’m going to hand deliver, one each for Sweden, US and Ireland, which I’ll send from the Marquesas. We continued on to the lava tube. We had to climb down a ladder to enter and it was very dark inside. We paddled in the pool but Susan and Glenda very bravely waded deeper and swam in it. I’ve seen too many creepy films to venture further forward in the dark.
We came back to the surface and walked back to the beach. Just as we were leaving in the dinghies we caught sight of some rare Galapagos penguins swimming close to the boat.
The crew moved Daphne nearer to an eroded volcanic vent called the devils crown.
We were all loaded into the dinghies for a snorkel. It was probably the best snorkel we have ever had. There was a fantastic array of wildlife, white tipped and black tipped sharks, manta ray, octopus, starfish, turtles and hundreds of different kinds of fish. We were dropped off at one end and drifted with the current over the top of all the wildlife. It was like looking down into an aquarium, just out of this world.
Not believing they could top the devil’s crown, after lunch we were taken on our last walk.
We walked past a lagoon, which seemed to have a pink hue to it. It had lots of elegant flamingos standing on their slender legs; we stopped for a while to watch these graceful birds wading through the water picking at the tasty morsels beneath them. We continued along the trail to a beautiful white sand beach made from ground coral so fine it looked like flour. This is the nesting sight of the green sea turtle.
Tracks were evident across the beach where the turtles had dragged themselves above the waterline to lay their precious eggs. Sadly we watched a Frigate bird repeatedly dive into the sand dunes trying to grab the baby turtles as they were emerging from their nest. The Galapagos policy is not to interfere with nature and we weren’t allowed to chase the birds away. We turned our attentions back towards the water and saw several turtles waiting to land on the beach, which they would do after dark.
We also had rays swimming around our feet, there were so many we had to be careful where we stepped. The fine sand was lying on their backs.
We wandered over to the rocks around the edge and saw many Sally Light foot crabs with their beautiful red and white spotted legs attached to their blue spotted bodies running sideways across the beach.
It was probably the beautiful beach we had been on, it certainly had the most wildlife. We reluctantly left the beach and walked back across the island looking over our shoulders many times to get one last view of the stunning blue water.
We returned to Daphne ready for the journey back to Santa Cruz. Bill wanted to have a look at the bridge and was welcomed in. Pictures were taken with the Captain and we asked him if they ever see Dolphins.
As if on cue the call of “Dolphins” was called out and everyone rushed to the bow of the boat to watch them. We’ve had Dolphins many times swimming in our bow wave but Daphne was travelling at 15kts which is twice as fast as Camomile and the Dolphins were still managing to keep up. The extra speed seemed to excite them more because they were also leaping right out of the water in our wake. It was going to take quite a while to get back so we watched a BBC Galapagos documentary, which was very interesting. We arrived back to a cloudy evening.
Camomile was still where we had left her. The crew kindly took all the men round to check on their boats and they managed to bring back various bottles of alcohol. Most of the crew went off duty leaving us all to have a party on board. The next morning we reluctantly packed our bags and enjoyed one last breakfast together. Sue and David, crew from Roundabout had finished their time with the BWR and headed to the airport. The rest of us went on our final excursion to the Highlands to visit a Tortoise Sanctuary.
We donned Wellie boots and went to find the tortoises, who were wallowing in the mud. We went back to the dock for our luggage and were taken back to our boats. What a fabulous time we’d all had. We spent the next few days getting ready for our longest passage …… across the Pacific Ocean.
There’s one final part to this story. To reach the Galapagos we had to cross the equator. The ‘Crossing the line’ ceremony is an initiation rite which commemorates a sailor’s first crossing.
We were all Pollywogs and needed to become Shellbacks or sons of Neptune. After crossing the line Pollywogs receive a summons to appear before King Neptune. This is preceded by a beauty contest of men dressed as woman and then Pollywogs have to go through a number of disgusting ordeals. So we decided to organise our own ceremony on each of our boats. The men would dress as woman, the woman would wear their clothes inside out and back to front and we would perform our own ceremony on the front of our boats for the entertainment of the others.
We had a 4th boat join us called Briet and the skipper Duco was already a shellback so he was Neptune. Bill, David and Ian dressed in our clothes and we all crossed the line together with Duco, as King Neptune, counting down the degrees. Then the fun could begin. Bill squirted water at me from the super soaker.
Ian threw several buckets of water over Glenda and she threw several back but David and Susan carried out the works. David doesn’t like Couscous so he threw that at Susan then she squirted cream on his feet and had to kiss it,
then came the buckets of water and then finally they opened cans of beer and tipped some over the bow of their boat and drank the rest. It was all a lot of fun. The funniest part of the afternoon was when Ian turned round to go back on deck and the wind got up lifting his dress to reveal nothing underneath. His excuse was that, as he couldn’t fit into any of Glenda’s kickers he thought he wasn’t allowed to wear any! After the fun we continued on our journey because we still had another 100 miles to go. Lucy Alice, Enchantress and Briet were able to sail and they adjusted their speed to match ours, their support was invaluable. We arrived the following day having motored 491 miles in 104 hrs. We had used all our jerry cans of fuel but we still had our mast.
Bang! It was 01:30am, very dark, blowing F4-5 in a choppy sea and, although I had never heard that sound before, I knew instantly what it was. Still slightly groggy at the start of my night watch I spent the next second travelling towards denial, no the rig is not that old and then back to reality “I really have lost a shroud, what now”?
Camomile was 447nm into a 937nm passage between Las Perlas and Galapagos on the 2009/10 Blue Water Rally. The wind had recently started to blow from behind so we were sailing under our twin headsails poled out with a twizzle rig.
Deck lights on! It was the port lower shroud and it had parted low down around the turnbuckle. It was now snaking its way through the air like a whip with each rolling movement of the boat.
Engine on! I fought to turn the starboard bow to the wind and waves to reduce the boat’s rolling movement. Then I noticed that the mast was bending to port alarmingly in the middle with each roll of the boat, snapping back with a rattle as the remaining starboard lower took up the slack. I knew I did not have much time before this became a dismasting!
Broken shroud, what now?
I put the auto pilot on and went out on deck as Sue came up the companion way. Grasping the loose end of the shroud which I noticed still held the turnbuckle I heaved it towards the cockpit where I handed it to Sue telling her “don’t let go of this”. Just at that moment the autopilot decided it was not going to hold its bearing into the wind and the bow sheared away from the weather increasing the roll instantly. Again I struggled for control, adding more engine revs to regain our heading. After what seemed like an age she responded and the movement lessened.
We had to stabilise the rig and fast. I grabbed the turnbuckle from Sue who had, with gritted teeth, heroically stopped it from thrashing around the deck and unscrewed the lower bolt which left me the body. I planned to pass a line through this so I could tie it directly to the chain-plate leaving the removal of the broken toggle, which was still attached, until later. Grabbing 12mm braided line Sue and I went out on a pitching deck where she held onto the shroud while I passed six turns through and around heaving it down as I went. The shroud flapped but seemed to hold and the mast was still moving, but not nearly so badly. I started to think that we were getting to grips with it but I was about to get my second surprise of the night.
A large lurch and….Bang! The lashing snapped like cotton. I was shocked at the forces involved and realised that only steel was going to hold in these conditions. Sue went to the cockpit locker where I keep a selection of stainless shackles while I hung onto the shroud feeling for myself as I did the relentless pull at every roll of the boat. I took the shackles and Sue hung onto the shroud again while I linked a short chain of them together passing one through the lower opening in the rigging screw barrel. I planned to pass the lower shackle in the short chain through the chain plate loop as Sue held on to the shroud to stop it whipping away into the darkness. This turned out to be very difficult as the shroud was continually being pulled away as I attempted to put the shackle pin through.
By now it was about 02:15, we were getting exhausted and we were also both very frightened, each trying not to show it to the other. Sue shouted at me “you can do it! Keep trying!” Again and again I came tantalisingly close to pinning the final shackle and time and again the shroud snatched it away. Sue told me later that this was the moment that she felt we should be cutting the rig loose altogether as the 50’ mast flexed like rubber away from it’s loose shroud. I was thinking “we will not let this beat us”. A momentary lull, perhaps a double wave, I don’t know. What I do know is that the pin went home and I got 3 turns on it before it snatched again, this time fast against the chain-plate.
The rig was more stable now but it still had no shroud tension so the middle of the mast was still loose against the lowers. Sue grabbed four sturdy braid lines from the cockpit locker and I passed 2 bowlines around each shroud leading the bitter end to our 4 forward winches. I
took more 14mm line and passed turn after turn after turn up and through the chain plate and rigging screw body not so much to reinforce the shackles but in an attempt to dampen the shock loads going into them. This done I tightened the 20mm lines winch by winch bending the shrouds into tension back and across the boat. The result was a cat’s cradle of creaking lines but it held and the mast finally now stood straight and fast.
Stable but what now?
The time was 03:00 and we were shaking with exertion but elated at having got the situation back under control.
However although we had the rig upright, we could not use it to hoist sails. It was nowhere near well enough supported and I had no idea what damage might have been done higher up the mast while we were trying to get it under control.
The choice was to return 447nm upwind to Las Perlas or down weather to Galapagos. Without the sails we only had the engine however we did have enough fuel in jerry cans to motor more that 600nm. Given that down weather would stress the rig less, we would have the Bluewater Rally fleet around us and that returning could also prevent us visiting the “enchanted isles” altogether it made sense to continue on the further 490nm run to Galapagos.
A call for help
Having reached a decision we put out SSB calls to the rest of the fleet and reset our original course. We sent an email to Blue Water Rallies
explaining what had occurred and letting them know that we would be in need of spare parts when we got there and could Tony bring them when he flew out to support the Rally stopover.
We made voice contact with S/Y Briet at 06:00 and the Skipper Duco kindly agreed to call Tony via Iridium to alert him of our situation.
In the meantime I had carried out a deck level damage assessment and was shocked to find that the starboard shroud toggle had snagged sideways on the chain-plate while slack and looked as if it could have been close to shearing off. This would have left us with no lowers and a certain dismasting. Far far too close for comfort.
We motored through the rest of the following day, finding that around 4 to 5 knots kept the boat fairly stable which in turn kept the stress off the cobbled shroud fixing.
Support from the Rally
Blue Water Rally control had been busy too. They put out an SSB email to all the boats close to our position. Lucy Alice, an Oyster 406, steamed towards us and was the first to arrive at our position. It was a huge relief and comfort to see them appear over the horizon of an ocean which had, until then been empty and very lonely. We both knew that there was little they could do at that time but her skipper Ian offered calm advice and gave us such confidence saying “don’t worry we’ll get you there whatever it takes”. It was a turning point for our morale; at last
we started to believe we could still do it. We were joined a little later by Enchantress, an Aphrodite 44, and escorted by both boats, one to port and one to starboard as we motored on into the Pacific Ocean together.
Richard Bolt from BWR had in the meantime been in frantic conversation with XW Rigging owned by Ian Cochrane (an ex Westerly rigger, hence his company’s name and a past owner of a Sealord too). He reacted quickly, he knew the parts I needed and would provide 7 of them so that I could replace all the toggles throughout the rig. Thanks Ian, fantastic! Would I please check though that they were all left handed threads and that the diameter of the thread was all the same throughout to ensure that the right parts were sent.
This resulted in yet another memorable moment as, because of the time difference and the urgency of getting them sent, I had to carry out this check in the dark. So it was that I found myself crawling around on all fours with my harness and a head torch on gripping a micrometer in my mouth going from shroud base to shroud base trying to see which way the rigging screw thread ran and measuring the diameter of each. Bizarrely enough it was only at this point that I questioned my sanity, who would have thought it!
By this time we had had offers of help and support from across the fleet including emails to Richard informing him of who was flying out to Galapagos to join which yacht and when. In the end the parts went with some friends of Jackamy, whose owners Paul and Derry laid on a special delivery to their business address in the UK and bent over backwards to make sure it got off the ground and headed towards us as quickly as humanly possible.
Back on Camomile spirits were high as we were joined by yet another rally boat Briet, skippered by Duco and we all started to look forward to crossing the Equator and becoming Neptune’s latest shellbacks, but that is another story.
During this time I was carrying out regular checks on the state of the jury rig but my observations were leading me to believe that it was weakening. I could see through the “mummification” of line that one of the shackle pins had started to bend. I knew that this is a favourite pre-failure mode for shackles so I had to do something about it. I did not have a spare toggle assembly so I dug deep into my tools and bits locker and found just the thing I needed, a piece of 5mm thick flat bar. As I carry a heavy engineer’s vice and a club hammer on board (subtly had no place here) I soon fashioned this into a “make do” toggle at least as strong as the original one if not quite as pretty. Fitting this would stop
the rot and possibly even allow us to put some sail up if the upper rig was sound.
The next challenge would be to replace it in a seaway as the cobbled shroud linkage would have to be disconnected completely. This would bring back all the problems of the first time except that we could now do it at a time of our own choosing. Two things were against us though. Firstly the sea would not settle and secondly the rigging screw body end looked as if it might have become burred by the shackle that was now fastening it and, if so, would have to be removed from the lower shroud to be re-worked with no way of securing the shroud while this took place.
3rd time lucky?
With trepidation I called the yachts escorting us to brief them that I was planning to make a manoeuvre to find a “sweet” direction to steam in causing the least stress to the shroud which was currently on the windward side of the boat. I would then strip the fixing away and replace it unless the burr on the turnbuckle prevented it.
Some little while later with all the tools in place I turned Camomile for the first time since she had lost her shroud. I found a good direction although it was still far bumpier than I would have liked and started to remove the outer lashings of my joint.
As the chain of shackles was revealed my heart sank. Not only was the rigging screw body seriously burred but several of the shackle pins were showing signs of fatigue. I had to abort fitting the new part immediately as to do otherwise would have put the mast back at risk but I could not leave the chain as it was with over 300Nm still to go.
I set about building a second line of shackles to back up the first taking the tension out of the rigging by slacking off on the winches for just long enough to get the last pin in so that when tightened it would share the load. I then re-bound the joint with line putting tension into it as I went. I was not sure, in the end, whether this binding would have done anything if the worst happened and shackle chains failed but it might give me a few minutes of reaction time so I thought it worthwhile.
Onwards to Galapagos
Once the last binding was on we turned the boat around and set our course for Galapagos again hopeful that this time the fixing would fare better.
We motored across the Equator listening to the tensioning lines creak at the crest of each wave and checking every few hours that the shackles were not distorting. Finally, after 490 of the longest nautical miles we
have ever travelled we nudged our way into the anchorage at Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz in the Galapagos.
The modified fix had lasted all the rest of the way without incident and with no further signs of fatigue. When we walked into the adopted rally pub that afternoon to see the rest of the crews again we were met with a raucous cheer and a round of applause. We knew that we had arrived!
Safely at anchor now I stripped the joint down to replace it with the made up toggle and made ready to go up the mast to inspect for any damage. I checked all the lower and cap terminals and fixings which amazingly and to my huge relief were without any obvious signs of damage. All I had to do now was enjoy the Galapagos while I waited for the new parts to arrive from the UK and thank all the kind people who had supported us so well through this difficult time.
To read a response to breaking a shroud follow – https://yachtcamomile.wordpress.com/job-list/response-to-shroud-breakage/