Pay the Piper, Monte

May 25, 2019

Day 232

Noon Position: 37 08N 60 26W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SE on drogue, 2-3 knots

Wind(t/tws): NNW 30+ (40 in the afternoon)

Sea(t/ft): NW 12+

Sky: Heavy overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1007, rising slowly (1004 was the low point)

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 34

Overnight, wind veers into the W and diminishes to 20 knots. I get some sleep, but Mo jumps like a startled hare on these seas, and staying wedged into my bunk is a game I lose once an hour.

By dawn, wind has swung into the NW and is blowing 20 – 30 knots. On the chart plotter, Mo has passed through a perfect U-shaped course since I streamed the drogue and is now headed slowly SE. And I am relieved at the sea state, which appears to have suppressed all of the expected SW component during the night.

The NW wave train grows rapidly during the day as does the wind’s increase. By afternoon, its blowing 40 and seas are as large and steep as anything I’ve seen in the south. Crashers over the stern regularly.

Mo is buttoned up tight. Her running backs are set hard; the main is lashed to the boom and the boom is lashed to its crutch; lines are coiled down firmly, hatches are locked. On deck, the boat looks comfortable, riding easily on a vast plane of mountainous heavers.

But below is a chaos of motion and noise. I am repeatedly thrown. Sometimes when Mo falls off the backside of a wave, I go slightly airborne. Cupboards knock and bang, even though their contents are cushioned with wool socks and fleece. I try to write, then read. Then I give up and nap. Boat movement is too intense for anything but sleep.

By afternoon, seas tower over the boat and are breaking heavily, and Mo has taken a few of them square on the stern. But while in my bunk and attempting an essay by Jack London on Dana’s *Two Years before the Mast*, I feel a collision as if the boat has hit a wall. Then a grinding sound.

It takes a few moments to don foulies, but once on deck, I see that Monte’s water paddle, lashed in the upright position so as not to catch the drogue bridle, is gone. From the stern, I see the torn lashing, and the paddle, though still attached, is mangled and dangling in the water. The wave has broken fully over the boat, lifted the drogue bridle up and over the secured water paddle, and ripped it down as the line came under load again.

The pinion gears have also been stripped out of alignment, and most amazingly, the frame is bent upwards by at least two inches on the starboard side. Though it freed by the time I got to it, the grinding I heard must have been the bridle continuing to pull at the Monitor assembly. This last revelation takes some time to see and is a shock. A damaged water paddle is like a parted shoelace; a bent frame is a wreck of a different order.

I spend the next four hours working to get the paddle and the swinging pendulum off the frame. The quick release mechanism for the paddle is jammed and the paddle is broken free of the pendulum by swinging it back and forth at the bend until the metal fails. Removing the pendulum is much more challenging, as its main connecting pin has been jammed in its socket when the frame bent. Using a large hammer and dowel I finally get it pushed all the way toward the bow, only to recall that that is the wrong direction because it butts up against Mo’s gunwale before it is fully extracted.

Now the pin is stuck half out and the pendulum is dangling but not free. Once during this time, its lower, jagged edge catches on the drogue bridle, but luckily, within two waves it releases.

This entire exercise is like trying to do dental work while riding a mechanical bull. I’m crouched with knees braced to the gunnel and am using one hand to work, two hands for brief seconds. Often I have to abandon the job and jump up into the radar arch frame to avoid a gusher. I don’t know what to do, but, bottom line, the pendulum has to come off to avoid further damage to Monte and possible damage to the drogue.

I can hacksaw the pin, a one-inch stainless steel rod, or I can cut a small hole in the gunnel and continue drawing the pin forward. I opt for the latter, aluminum being the softer metal. Within five minutes I have the pendulum in hand.


Overnight I can hear from the lowering whine in the rigging that the wind is backing off. By morning, sun, but still, a ragged sea. I plan to be underway by autopilot by noon. Monte may be repairable, but it will take some time to rebuild the pendulum and pinion, and installation will take a much tamer sea.

8 Comments on “Pay the Piper, Monte

  1. Monte takes it on the chin and goes down for the count! I hope he can recover under the tender mercies of the Nurse Captain…

  2. It must be very difficult to prevent a drogue line tangling with self steering. Cheers Chris

  3. Wow – what forces. And that recuperation is incredible. Glad you have autopilot backup, hopefully wind generator still good and enough fuel for genset/batteries and the grand entry to St Johns! Looks like you have been in a powerful north pointing Gulf Stream eddy all these days, hence the horrible seas. Right now looks like you are being pushed north by the last of the warm eddy – hopefully you will be able to tack towards St Johns later today before you hit the Labrador current pushing southwest, not as strongly as the Gulf Stream but still noticeable ! … you will know by the temperatures! About 600 miles to go – sending all good prayers … !!!

  4. Wow! That is crazy! It is amazing that the force of the breakers trashed the vane. Definitely humbles the soul. Continue to stay safe. I am enjoying following you even though sometimes I feel very frightened for you. Take care

  5. Yes have often thought catching the windvane with the drogue was something waiting to happen. BUT it still tells me the JSD kept you safe.

  6. You are so close to Lunenburg , come on in .You would be in great company , the barque Picton Castle is expected Saturday or Sunday .

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