Graham. Hair by Wind & Sea, Eyes by Sleep Deprivation, Makeup by Total Exhaustion
This morning at first light we made our way through the pass into Minerva Reef to find, bliss, calm water and a good anchorage after a testing night. As reported yesterday, Stromvogel had managed to lash their Hydrovane unit after one of the main mounting bolts sheared but at 8.30pm we had a frightening call on the VHF – one of the shrouds (wires) supporting the mast had broken! Peter and Heidi had heard a loud 'bong' and the next minute the mast was wobbling around in a way that it certainly shouldn't.
Having dropped the sails, Peter called back for ideas and explained that the starboard lower shroud, which connects to the mast about one third up to keep the lower part of the pole from moving, had dropped to the deck; the 't' fitting that slots into the mast had fractured in two. He and Graham quickly discussed options to stabilise the mast, which was in real danger of collapsing, and then Peter did a brilliant job of using the two spinnaker halyards, winched tight, to get the thing back under control.
After that, Stormvogel motored in a horribly rolly sea (sailing yachts make terrible motorboats without the sails to steady them) whilst we stood by, under sail, hoping that the fix would hold. In the early hours of the morning we received another call, this time to say that the second bolt on the Hydrovane had sheared off and the whole thing was in imminent danger of being wrenched off the stern. Through a Herculean effort, Peter and Heidi managed to remove the final bolt and heave the whole thing onto the deck and lash it down safely.
So there were two very tired and relieved crews here in Minerva Reef this morning! After a couple of hours' sleep, Graham and Michael, the skipper of another German boat Anico which also arrived today, went over to Stormvogel and worked through a more permanent jury-rig to secure the mast for the 800 miles to New Zealand. Graham took with him a length of Dyneema rope (high-tech stuff that's as strong as steel and doesn't stretch under load) and climbed the mast to attach it around the lower spreaders whilst Peter and Michael set up a block and tackle at its lower end to enable us to tension it sufficiently to get the mast straight and stable. We were very pleased with the result and it should enable Stormvogel to sail, with foresails only, on to Opua; needless to say we'll be standing by.
This has been another unlucky strike for Stormvogel (both the rigging and the Hydrovane were newly and professionally installed before they left, 18 months ago) but Peter and Heidi's resilience and determination in adversity continue to inspire, even though they must wonder why the dice keep rolling against them. The forecast looks good for heading south tomorrow, thankfully, so we aim to leave the sanctuary of the reef in the morning to make steady progress to NZ. Hopefully we'll all sleep better on passage!