October 31, 2012

the sailing podcast: anasazi racing

During Anasazi Girl's stop in Melbourne, James Burwick and Somira Sao were interviewed by David Anderson for his web-site, THE SAILING PODCAST.

Direct link to interview below:

October 3, 2012

freo to melbourne - captain's report

by James Burwick

In the world of backcountry powder skiing we used to leave only our signatures down the faces of the peaks. These were short to long lived histories of our descents.  They all disappeared with time.  This last voyage from Fremantle to the Southern Ocean we made signatures again.  This time in Force 10 conditions.  The liquid mountains were white with foam.  The signatures carved by the keel were black. These lines disappeared with the very next wave.

We left Freo with light NE land breeze and sailed hard to get ahead of one giant low pressure system, planning to ride it all the way to the south coast of Tasmania.  The monster system was slow moving and 1500nm across.

We sailed with wind just forward of the beam to get past the great Cape Leeuwin.  Once past the cape and off the continental shelf the westerly joined us.  It started accelerating immediately and off we went on port gybe.  We were on the rhumb line to Tassie.  Every mile made was one made good.  I love this.

Some very fast days with small sails as the sea built.  The weather system accelerated to Force 10 and it was approaching us.  For some reason as luck was with us we stayed ahead of the front.  Surfing we did.

Seas were not smooth.  Four times an hour we had a southerly wave bury the boat.  The wave would bring a few calamari aboard to the delight of the kids.

The SW wind came and we gybed.  Wind speed high 50’s.  Sea state wild and steep.

The moon getting big gave enough light to spare the head lamps. The gybe went smooth.

Easy when the main sail is reefed so deep.  As the main crossed thru the eye of the wind, the traveler slid across the track and exploded on the control car.  I dumped the main and got a line around the boom .  I was concerned the car would dislodge from the track but it did not.

With the boom under control and the pilot driving the unbalanced helm I set about to lash another block on the boom and make a two part main sheet system.  Simple enough with some Dyneema, a block, and a few simple knots.

We were sorted and off again.

This was the first time I had worked with a two part system and it seemed good.  Except for the fact that my blocks were inside my stern pulpit.  This did not allow me to use the leeward main sheet but the windward one.  The system looked good enough but after some hours it was evident that I needed to re-tie the block as it was getting tangled with the original one.

I gybed and went north to leave the wind pressure.  After a day and some we found the wind gradient that gave us wind speed in the 40s.  Gale force.  I dropped the main again and re-tied the block.  All good.

Gybed back south and all seemed good.

Somira woke me to a squealing noise.  I went on deck to find the lazy main sheet caught under the tiller.

Seems a loop of line created when the girl almost rounded up created the slack.  I thought I would  put a sling on the center stern stanchion with a carabiner and control the line.  Keep it aft of the tiller.

But I put off doing it until morning light.

Big mistake.

Later on…

Another big side wave buried the boat.  She popped up and the bow turned up wind, the storm jib filled and pulled her down. The next wave pushed her deep down. This is a common occurrence in converging sea states.  It normally takes a few waves for her to settled down. The kids  call this "bumpy" and we all stop and hold on.

But the girl kept going down deep this time.

An almost gybe gave slack in the lazy sheet.  It looped one of the tillers. This stopped the rudder from moving as it was now tied to the main sheet.

The pilot pushed hard and pulled out of its mounting. The mounting  bracket was secured by 4 @ 10mm bolts held by heli coils in a block held to the carbon hull with spa bong adhesive, carbon and epoxy. The pilot was not responding so I switched pilots and went into the transom to investigate. The pilot was laying on the hull. I was absolutely stunned to realize that boat had steered herself with the small main and over sheeted storm jib.  That is the plan but this was the reality.  The system gave me some breathing time.  Steering.  Out of the mounting holes were stainless steel heli coils looking like children's slinky toys.

In the process the line took the carbon tiller away into the deep.

Big mistake not respecting the road sign that was given me earlier.  So against my years of sailing as a prudent sailor not a lazy one.  Classic cascade of events at night that happen time after time at sea.

Now we had:
1 tiller.
1 auto pilot.
In Force 10.
With a forecast for another low coming up from behind also Force 10.

First to fix was the auto pilot mount.

With instructions from a phone call to my friend Brett Burville of Windrush Catamarans in Fremantle,  I cleaned the holes, filled them with Devcon Fasmetal epoxy.  Greased the bolts and set them in the holes.  I dismantled the heater hose and strapped it to the mount.

I cooked this for 6 hours and YES.
Solid as a rock.
I could not budge the bolts to loose.
I switched pilots and looked listened and felt.
Wow.  For years I have tried products that come in tubes and they never work.  I always wanted more out of the product than the marine environment demanded. 

Next was a plan for another tiller.  I have spare carbon battens a hacksaw and the original bolt through the tiller head.  A drill motor and a drill bit and some line.  I did not make one but it would not have been a problem to heave to and do the fabrication.

Somira and I discussed our options and the real answer came before we could decide. The NKE system shouted out a true wind direction wind shift that kept on going South as the weather system now had advanced.  With southerly flow and our more Northerly position to The SW Cape of Tasmania there was no way to penetrate Force 10 upwind on this boat. 

We bore off down wind to the Bass Strait.
Once in the Strait the weather was benign.

We were in a daze.
Forecast for continuing to NZ great.
But…  Not cool to pass a major port that we could enter fix the boat and leave again.
To sail the rest of Bass Strait and the Tasman Sea with respect.

Here we sit among new friends in Victoria. 

October 2, 2012

images: bight/bass - freo to melbourne

Gum-drop treats always a help when the kids are stuck inside during an 8 day passage.
The girls on watch and the boys resting as we approach landfall.
Tormentina checking the electronic chart and radar as we get close to making landfall.
First view of the entrance to Port Phillip Bay and the Rip, also know as the heads.
Point Lonsdale Lighthouse at the entrance to Port Phillip Bay.
You can see the wild currents even at slack tide.
Happy smile as Tormentina enjoys being out on deck for the first time since we departed Fremantle.
Port Phillip Bay. 
Port Phillip Bay 
Port Phillip Bay
Cookies & Kisses, Tormentina & Raivo, Port Phillip Bay
No more need for the mainsail as we slide into flat glassy water and sunshine inside Port Phillip Bay.
Port Phillip Bay
Cityline view of Melbourne, Victoria.
Our welcoming crew L ro R:  James Disney, Rowan Stephens, Darcy Disney, and Chris Disney.
Thanks to Chris & crew for meeting us in the bay and helping us dock after our passage. 

aussie bight & bass strait / 8 days: fremantle to melbourne

by Somira Sao

The third week of September, the boat was ready, we were ready, and the weather looked good for us to depart Freo.  A big thanks to Chris Bowman, Joel Ciszek, John Lyus, and the Windrush crew for helping us get sorted with the final items on our punch-list.

By then I was 6 months pregnant, and moving slower.  This trip would be the second Southern Ocean passage for baby #3 in the womb.  During the previous voyage from Cape Town, I didn’t realize that my excess seasickness and fatigue were just first trimester symptoms until we arrived and I started to investigate the cause of what became a rapid case of the “landfall belly.”  Check-ups, scans, and tests were all healthy and good, and everything low-risk.  Our sailing tribe would now be complete and Anasazi Girl would be making miles with her biggest crew yet.

In Freo, Tormentina and Raivo celebrated their 4th and 2nd birthdays.  Both of them grew up fast in the four months we were in WA.  Raivo especially, who was now off the breast-milk, talking like crazy, and in the first weeks of September, he had trained himself to use the toilet.  This would be our first passage without diapers!  What a nice reprieve with the upcoming arrival of #3.

Our plan was to depart Fremantle and sail via the Bight to the south-side of Tasmania.  If we needed or wanted to stop, we could pull into Hobart, but if the boat and everyone were well, the weather forecast favorable, then we would continue non-stop to New Zealand.

The day before we left, my friend Madeleine Stephens helped me do a final provisioning with my wild kids at the supermarket.  That afternoon & evening, we said goodbyes to all the good friends we had made in Freo.  Super nice to have so many people call, come by the boat, and send us their good wishes.

On Sunday, September 23rd at 3:45 am, our friend Bruce Diggins and his son Oakie showed up at the dock to help us untie our lines in the dark.  The last time we were helped off the dock at night was in La Trinité-Sur-Mer, by our friend Stephane Fauve.  It is unbelievably nice to have a send-off by friends like this, and especially appreciated at such an early hour in the morning!

Just after 4 am, we were on our way, booking it south to get ahead of a low pressure system that was forecasted for the Bight.  Big relief for me to finally be on the water again, away from the land, in motion, and on another adventure with my family.

By Day 3 we rocking and rolling, the miles melting away.  We had passed Cape Leeuwin, and were moving along nicely ahead of the big, slow moving front.  As we headed toward Tasmania, it was uncomfortable with big waves, bumpy seas, and wind speeds building up in the 40s and 50s.  Moving around underway was more difficult with my big belly and I was still finding it hard to keep the food down.  The kids and I were hunkered down, safely tucked into the berths, not moving around much in the cabin.  No trips to the head solo for either of the kids, no using the stove, & just eating simple food that required no cooking.  These were the conditions I had expected for the Southern Ocean.

Then things got complicated. 

James came down below to tell me that one end of the main sheet traveler car had exploded, and all the balls went flying into the sea.  I took a deep breath.  In the 13,000 miles we had traveled on the boat with the family, I realized that this was the first time we had really broken anything critical.  James immediately went back out to deal with the problem.

I opened the door and looked out at him standing in the cockpit surrounded by a mess of lines, the boom secured, but still swinging.  I remember thinking it was scene that should be photographed. But I decided I should probably stay hands free to keep the kids safe and help James if needed.  He said he would need to make a 2 to 1 mainsheet system, and got right to work sorting us out.

Down below, I listened and waited.  Big conditions we were in, and big appreciation for being there with James who always kept his head together in tough situations.  He worked alone steadily, and it was a big relief when all the unusual noises on deck stopped and Anasazi Girl was cruising along smoothly again.  James came down, totally bummed about the traveler car.  He said the new system was a little inconvenient, but that it would work.

Everything ran smoothly until late that night when I heard creaking noises outside and felt unusual vibrations in the hull.  I woke James up to investigate.  There had been some slack in the lazy main sheet and it had wrapped itself around the port tiller.  He freed it, and said we were super lucky.

The next day, James focused on possible temporary fixes for the broken car.  He also made some emails and sat calls to line up parts for us for the in-port repair.  We found out the end caps for the traveler car were now being fabricated out of aluminum instead of plastic, but that the parts were in-stock, off the shelf, and easy to get.  As we continued onward, James watched how the boat performed, we discussed our options for continuing as we were, or pulling into port.

Unfortunately, we were so focused on the traveler car, that after the first close call with the lazy main sheet line, we made a big mistake and did not clip the line back away from the tillers.

Later that day, we had a terrible repeat:  excess slack in the line that looped itself around the tiller.  This time, the wrapped line, pulled up by the force of the snapping main was strong enough to tear our starboard tiller off, and away into the sea.  This caused the rudder to stop momentarily, putting an intense resistance on the starboard autopilot, which sheared right off its mounting.  We didn't hear a thing as the mount pulled, but James immediately sensed that there was no response from the pilot, and he switched to our secondary pilot right away.  

We gybed to head north and get into calmer conditions to assess the damages, this time with the excess lazy main sheet clipped back with a biner and webbing to prevent the possibility of losing both tillers.  

A small mistake, and a cascade of bad events, and we suddenly felt f*#@'d! being left without our back-up systems.  I thought about the possibility of losing the second pilot, and imagined a horrible scenario of James outside driving manually in the rough conditions until we made it into port.  Serious mind control to not let your mind go "there" to negative thoughts.

James worked quickly, remounting the pilot so we would not be without a secondary, crossing his fingers that his fix would work.  We discussed options for making a spare tiller with the materials we had on board, and discussed options for pulling into port.  I laid awake with James that night, listening to the heater blowing as we waited for the epoxy to go off.

On Day 6 we were back in business.  The mount was fixed and holding, that pilot was driving again, and the 2 to 1 was working perfectly.  As we gained confidence in the repairs, the stress of the previous day's drama finally eased.

Unfortunately, we had slowed down enough during all the repairs that the big system had caught up with us.  We were now dealing with Force 10 winds, and realized that there was no way we could safely push south as planned.  We were forced to head east toward Bass Strait.

We talked things over, and though we felt we could continue now to New Zealand, we made a decision to head to Melbourne for the repairs.  The sailing conditions completely mellowed out as we committed to our new course.

On Day 8 - with the help of Chris Disney and Brett Avery, Anasazi Girl slid into a berth at the Sandringam Yacht Club.  Simultaneous feelings of relief that we were safely in port were mixed with exhaustion, and sadness that our trip was cut short.  Difficult to stop just as we were starting to get into the groove and rhythm of sailing.