Why Does It Always Happen At Night?


Sept 22
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 12

Noon HST position: 39.13.10N by 146.35.73W
Miles since last noon: 179
Total miles of passage: 1592
Avg. Miles per Day: 133
Course: E
Sail: main double reefed; #2 jib triple reefed; then #2 jib only, double then single reefed, wind moving between abeam and quartering.
Speed: 7+
Wind: SW 15 – 30
Sky: Mixed cloud cover
Waves: SW to 12
Bar: 1011
Air Temperature: 78 degrees
Sea Temperature: 66 degrees

Why does it always happen at night?

1am. Sleeping lightly in my bunk on portside. The press of my body into the portside settee cushions is comfortable. Such a relief from the constant twist and roll. But too comfortable. Not right. Mo is on her side and staying there.

In the pilot house I see the indicator shows wind 90 degrees to starboard and pegged at 30 knots. I have up a double reefed main and triple reefed jib. We’ve been on the edge all day, frothing along. Now we’ve tripped over it.

Blap Blap Blap. The AIS alarm. On the chartplotter, the signature gray triangle of a ship and our course, which has been E, is now SE. It appears on the screen that we’re set to T-bone the larger vessel.

I look into the cockpit. Monte Cristo’s (wind vane) steering chain has fallen off the tiller. Odd. That only happens in light winds. I used to lash it to the tiller (the lanyard is sitting right there), but in any wind at all it stays perfectly secure in its chock.

“Moli Moli, M/V Regent Star.” I do a quick measure. Four miles out. He’ll have to wait.

I dash into the cockpit and grab the tiller. Here I see the ship half hull down, lights along its deck are dipping in the distant swell and the vessel’s already abeam. “Couldn’t hit you if I tried,” I yell. Blap Blap Blap. “Moli Moli, M/V Regent Star,” says the radio. Jesus but these ship guys are sensitive.

The wind is up for sure. Its force in the rigging is an impressive roar, and I can feel it warm but hard on my chest. I give the tiller a heave. With wind back on the quarter, I slap the chain in place, but something is mushy. The cover on the starboard tiller line is sliding around.

I follow it back and see that where the line passes the dorade vent, the cover has broken revealing the bright blue dyneema core.

“You everlasting bitch!”

This is a known chafe point, so I check it regularly. I had, in fact, checked that afternoon and seen only the slightest frizzing on the cover. Shouldn’t have seen any! I changed that whole line out two days ago due to heavy frizzing of the cover at the first turing block. I did note then some broken strands at the dorade. But the whole run is new!

Mo takes a dive; slams on her side. First order: get the main down.

I strap in and crawl forward. Anything beyond my headlamp beam is black. Ship is long gone. No stars; no moon. Not even white caps, though the ripping white noise says they’re there. Spray in my face. Every surface on Mo covered in a slippery, salty film.

I rig the lazy jacks and begin to lower sail. The angle of the lazy jack line looks wrong. It’s pressed against the mast and has snagged a sail car. Yank yank yank. Ten minutes to get unstuck. Why do lazy jacks make things more difficult?

Sail wrapped loosely. It’ll do till morning. Mo’s motion much better.

Back in the cockpit. Thinking. What next?

The wife has asked why I call the wind vane Monte Cristo. “Because I *Count* on him,” I say. He’s a singlehander’s most essential piece of kit.

Nothing for it but to change the tiller line now. Too much pressure on Monte. And I can see the dyneema core is looking worn already. Can’t risk it breaking.

But what is going on?

Maybe my replacement block is too large (this is the one that froze on the trip down). Maybe it’s changed the angle of the line and into the dorade. I dig out a smaller block and begin the process of reeving new line down and through Monte’s cascade of blocks. It’s quick enough work, but involves hanging my ass over the stern and reaching down into the water for the line’s bitter end.

It makes no sense, I think. To chafe so fast. Almost like it was cut. One more time I trace where the line touches the dorade and the ring moves. What? The dorade ring is loose. I tighten it all the way down and note that in doing so I close off a line-sized gap that allowed access to the threads.

I also note Handel the gecko sitting in his usual spot, a witness to the accident. “You were watching! Was that what happened?” I ask. “That the line got trapped under the dorade ring and the threads cut the line?” Handel said nothing, so we’ll just have to see.

4am. I roll back into my bunk. Problem fixed for now but not solved.



Donning foul weather gear in topsyturvyville can be a real trick.


To add insult to last night’s injury, this morning my coffee making process, which has worked … forever … failed. We rolled on a larger swell; the cup slipped, and a filter full of hot water and coffee spilled generously into the galley. I’ll be cleaning up grounds for weeks

2 Comments on “Why Does It Always Happen At Night?

  1. It’s Handel’s fault. He was right there, saw the whole thing, and did nothing. Maybe he’s protesting what you feed him. What are you feeding him BTW?

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