Yesterday, while running before a gale with water bucketing over our cabin roof, we thought back wistfully to our time in New Zealand. On the sea, the grass is certainly greener elsewhere - or at least there is grass - and nice solid earth under it!
As the wind dropped, today, the seas continued rough and irregular - mounds of water the size of a house throwing us around like the play-thing of some irritable child. Unfortunately our main preventer (light nylon line) broke during a violent lurch and because there was little wind to steady the sail, the boom swung violently back and forth a couple of times and a shackle at the traveller twisted and parted, leaving the boom swinging freely from side to side. I dropped the mainsail and then grabbed the boom and hung on to the dangling main sheet while Rani started the engine to keep the boat pointed into the swells. Cleating off one of the reefing lines tamed the beast, while I went through our collection of spare shackles to replace the damaged one. Fortunately a 1/4 inch anchor shackle fit and we are now progressing under motor in a rolling 2-3 meter swell.
Post mortem on the traveller shackle: The main sheet purchase is all Garhauer gear. While their blocks and stainless hardware are generally very good, the stainless shackle had bent and the pin pulled free. This is not the first time we have put sudden shock loads on the traveller, so to be fair, the shackle may have been weakened earlier. However, it looks to me like the shackle is a bit undersized. It is sized the same as the other three shackles in the purchase, which only take partial loads. This shackle takes the full load of a multi-part purchase and also must handle potentially strong side loads from the boom as it comes across. I was able to bend back the shackle and re-thread the bolt, but I will not trust it for normal duty again. I hope we will be able to find a stronger one in Fiji!
I spent the rest of today cleaning out the cockpit locker near the fridge compressor and drying everything out. A previous owner put a vent over the top of the electronic controls of the compressor, so in rough seas, water sprays the poor thing. Rather then stop working, the fridge gets stuck in the on position. I dried it out today and everything now works again, so this solves a mystery of more than a year as to why on some passages the fridge gets stuck running. I had thought the problem was related to angle of heel or continuous pounding, but it was much simpler, I think - just a short due to wetness. I have duct-taped the vent shut and hope this will help (although water will still get in around the locker seat lid in foul weather).
One thing that is hard to envision when coastal cruising is just how much water can come over the top of your boat in a big sea. Yesterday, I was lying down on my off-shift when I was awoken by a bang followed by a yelp. A big sea completely broad-sided us and Rani, who had been looking out one of the port lights when this happened, was not particularly happy. It was my turn to yelp later in the day when I was discussing the weather on the SSB with another cruiser and a similar wave arrived about 6 inches from my right ear!
Life feels a lot better today. Surprisingly, yesterday was the first real gale we have experienced at sea in Ladybug II, in over ten thousand miles of sailing . We have gone through many squalls and shorter periods of gale force winds, but nothing that lasted for 30 hours. Fortunately memories seem to be short and we are both quite cheerful today despite another low, which is forecast to reach us tonight. Rani preserved some hot New Zealand yellow peppers - a parting gift from our friends Holger and Roz and is now preparing a lentil curry to enjoy tomorrow, when cooking will be the furthest thing from our minds.
Our 3pm position was 26 53 S 175 43 E - about half way from New Zealand to Fiji. We ran 122 NMs in the last 24 hours and made good 111.