January 20, 2016

It's really windy here

It's very windy in Simonstown. Here's a snapshot of the past 7 days of wind speeds. These are in km/h so divide by slightly less than 2 to get knots. i.e. 74 km/h = 40 knots. 37 km/h = 20 knots

This weather station is at a lighthouse slightly more than 1 mile from us. It's actually a bit windier in the marina due to some wind funneling affects. We had a day a few days ago where 40 knots was considered a lull. As in "It's lulling 40!", instead of our more usual "it's gusting 25...".

For sailors approaching False Bay, here's the real time link, though sometimes it goes down:


We found the wind acceleration effects started right on the eastern side of False Bay, getting stronger as we approached Simonstown. Earlier in the day we were sailing with 10 knots and as we got into Simonstown it was hitting 25.

Another weather station in case the above one is not working:

This one is from Fish Hoek (a town about 4 miles away from us, on the same side of False Bay).



January 16, 2016

Friendship in a Bottle

As far as a letter of introduction goes, I’m going to call Maia’s letter to Sara and Stof the most unique. Just over four years ago, on November 3, 2011 actually, Maia threw a bottle over the side when we were in the Grand Passage near New Caledonia. Specifically we were at 18° 39’S 163° 09’E.

Despite this accuracy of detail, none of us remembers the moment the bottle went in. I recall Maia suggesting we have wine—and reminding her that we rarely imbibe while on passage. In the end we found an empty wine bottle, she scrawled a message in green ink and over it went. The bottle then travelled against the current and washed up on remote Huon Reef where Sara, Stof and their friend Dave found it on the beach when they stopped in for repairs three weeks later. Happily Maia’s letter-in-a-bottle skills are well developed and she gave her contact information. A month or so later the email arrived from the crew of Takalani.

Huon Reef--Sara and Stof's photo
Takalani and Ceilydh almost met multiple times crossing the Pacific. We sailed from Mexico within a few days of each other and crossed wakes and swapped anchorages (ending up with many common friends (Graham)). We both even went solo into the remote northern parts of Vanuatu—both thinking we were the last boat left and that it was time to turn west.

A nice note saying they found the bottle is where it may have ended. But several months ago we got another note—Sara reminded us who she was and told us that she and Stof were back living in Cape Town with two adorable new crew, and would we like to meet? So we joined them in their home so they could meet Maia, return her letter (even Dave was there) and of course, have a braai.

Next up was a fantastic day (01-16-16) spent swimming 16 of the (very cold and colder) tidal swimming pools around Cape Town for Sara’s b-day, followed by a braai.

Meeting local people is one of the best parts of the cruising life. The first time we went sailing we carried a stack of hand written letters introducing us to people around the world (it was pre-easy internet). The letters were like something out of Downton Abbey—each a request to the recipient that they give the bearer (us!) every possible assistance.

These days, the letters of introduction are a bit more casual and come through facebook, friends, family or our blog. South Africa has been remarkably rich with wonderful introductions. There was one introduction which resulted in a curry lunch at the Oyster Box hotel, another ‘friend-of-a-friend’ has graciously ensured we have someone to call on in every port we visit. A South African sailing friend we first met back in our Annapolis days (now in BC) gave us an entire list of names and we hope a meeting won’t be too far in the future.

 We were also lucky enough to share in another boat’s family introduction to the very lovely Shaun Visser, Tania & Lynette. We had one afternoon of so much laughter and fun my stomached ached afterward. This was followed by an incredibly warm welcome to a ‘traditional’ Christmas dinner complete with Mother Christmas and lamb on the braai ( Photos and great post by Neil and Ley on Crystal Blues).

Our next fantastic meeting came a few days later when we arrived in Port Elizabeth. Neither Maria nor I can recall when we started writing to each other (we’re both writers, with daughters near the same age called Maia/Maya and they are planning to head off sailing) but we’ve been planning to meet them ever since South Africa went on our agenda for the year.

It almost didn’t happen when a weather window opened up, which was going to take us through to Simons Town, meant we’d speed on by. But cue the well-timed rudder problems—which we would never have recovered from in < 24 hours without Maria and Mike’s fantastic local knowledge (and the fact they have some crazy good connections). The outcome was a total stranger drove to East London, talked his way into a closed workshop and repaired our rudder fittings.

The next hop took us to Maria, Mike, Maya and Murry and a fantastic braai (seriously, no South African encounter can happen without one--which we love), a great New Year’s Eve and we even squeezed in a visit to the stunning Addo Elephant Park.

The good news is we’ve been socializing a lot and now have a very healthy stack of bottles saved up. Maia’s next task is to start writing more letters. I think tossing a bottle or two off the Cape of Good Hope is the way to go.

January 9, 2016

Breaking stuff - for fun

I noticed some chafe on one of our spectra (dyneema) lifelines. This spot is at the forward most stanchion, where I was in the habit of clipping a spinnaker halyard. Its also where the lifeline makes a sharp angle down to the deck. This photo shows the new lifeline place. The chafe was very obvious on the old one.

Here's the chafe point - clearly a lot of the strands are broken:

Once I replaced the lifeline with a new piece of spectra, I decided to do a bit of semi-scientific testing of the old lifeline. I broke it. I attached the eye splice to a deck padeye with a spectra lashing and then led the lifeline to our primary winch.

It took about 90% of my maximum effort to get the lifeline to break. In other words I really had to crank very hard. Our primary winch is a #46 power ratio. Typical maximum handle load using a single winch handle is around 50 lbs for a "strong" user. Using a double handle as I did, the maximum load might rise to 65 lbs or so. So the most force I can exert on the line is about 46 x 65 = 2990 lbs. The chafed portion broke at what felt like 90% of that or around 2700 lbs. That's low compared to a new wire lifeline.

Here it is after breaking:

But what about the non-chafed portion of the old lifeline? I tied a bowline in the end, and loaded it as much as I could with the winch. I could hit a pretty good musical note with it. But I couldn't break it. So the load on the line was around 3000 lbs. The bowline is supposed to reduce the breaking strength of single braid spectra around 50%*. So the unknotted portion of this used rope probably has a strength of >6000 lbs. Approximately. Anybody with a small load cell that they want to send us?

I think these old lifelines were Samson Amsteel 60 grade. They are 1/4" diameter with an average breaking strength of 7400 lbs and minimum breaking strength of 6500 lbs. So I think that these lifelines, after 7.5 years, mostly in tropical UV conditions, were still close to the original minimum breaking strength, and still quite stronger than typical vinyl covered stainless steel wire lifelines. New vinyl covered stainless steel wire lifelines with a 3/16" core have a breaking strength of about 3700 lbs.

In summary, older spectra lifelines are still showing adequate strength, after several years of use. Here is the lower lifeline, aged 7.5 years. I adjusted the lashing to check for chafe. The left side of the lifeline is the portion that used to be inside the stanchion. It shows a small amount of chafe.

- Evan

*Evans Starzinger found that bowlines in regular polyester double braid only reduce the strength of the line by ~25%  http://www.bethandevans.com/load.htm. He found that bowlines would slip in single braid spectra at around 50% of breaking strength but I was using well worn rope and the rope didn't slip. Other bowline like knots such as the water bowline had a strength loss >50%. So assuming a non-slipping bowline reduces strength by 50% seems to be a reasonable and conservative assumption.
He also has some data that 8mm spectra can suffer uv damage resulting in strength loss of between 30 and 60% after 5 years and suggests that typical strength loss is somewhere in between these extremes.