Wild Rumpus performed like a champ crossing heavy seas as we departed Cape Town in winter heading to St Helena. The beating we took showed the boat to be solid and the crew capable (if a bit nauseated), and it also revealed a couple of flaws. However, those flaws did nothing to diminish our excitement at visiting St Helena — one of the most remote spots on earth. The novelty of isolation, remoteness, beautiful landscapes and virtually no internet, plus Jonathon, a 190-year-old tortoise — the oldest living mammal — made this visit 100% worth the effort.
Rode Hard and Put Away Wet
First, some context. Wild Rumpus was brand new and barely sailed before our first short shakedown up the west coast of Africa. After that, our next sail was 1900 nautical miles to St Helena in relatively rough seas. While bouncing around the south Atlantic, it occurred to me that if an average day sail is about 15 nautical miles, then this jaunt was the equivalent of 126 days of sailing. Also, since most sailboats get used one day a week, that is about the same as almost 2.5 years of use. So, it is not terribly surprising some stuff broke, chaffed, etc.
For much of our first leg, we used two headsails in a wing-on-wing configuration — the screecher and the Genoa. You can kinda-sorta see through the helm in the picture below how the screecher is on the port/left side, and the genoa is on the starboard/right.
The screecher is raised using the spinnaker halyard. The spinnaker halyard runs from the helm to near the top of the 79′ mast (the top red line in the photo below) out a small fairlead, fed down to create a loop in which the sail block will ride and then returns up to a point where it is tied off just under the block (the lower portion of the red line in the photo below). So, to be clear, what you see in the photo below is the same red line coming down from the top of the mast, going to a block we have tied off somewhere, and then back up to where it is affixed to the mast.
About halfway to St. Helena, while doing chafe checks on everything, we noticed that the spinnaker halyard was fraying in the mast. We kept an eye on it and continued to use the sail (not a decision I’d make again in hindsight) all the way to St. Helena. While moored off St Helena, we lowered the sail and inspected the line, which was in bad condition at this point.
We determined (well, really Nik — the Xquisite rep who joined us and would be welcome on the boat or even to bring his family to visit us in California anytime) that the chaffing was inside the mast, about 6-8′ below where the line exited. Fortunately, the line was long enough that we (again, Nik) could cut the line above the chafe, reinforce the chaffing area with Gorilla Tape, and reattach it to the mast.
With the halyard covered in a thick layer of Gorilla Tape, we felt reasonably secure using the halyard for our next leg and gave it no more thought. There were, after all, bars ashore to visit.
I’ll discuss this more as the trip progresses, but I don’t want to leave anybody in suspense. We did use the sail/halyard to Fernando De Noronha, Brazil. Unfortunately, the line chaffed through the tape, so we discontinued its use after Brazil, which really slowed us down. The diagnosis — when setting up the lines, the folks who set up the mast ran the spinnaker halyard on the wrong side of the . . . . wait for it . . . . . anti-chaffing bolt.
Water Maker Issue
No pictures for this one, but it was such a dumb mistake that I put it out here as a warning for new boat owners to look at EVERYTHING. The company that installed the water maker and signed off on its commissioning installed the charcoal filter but failed to remove the plastic wrapping from the filter. Doh! Ultimately, this did not cause any long-term problems, but if we hadn’t caught it, it would eventually have led to expensive repairs. And once again, when I say “we” caught it, I mean Nik.
St Helena is an odd spot. It is incredibly remote and isolated, having only 1 flight in/out every other week. The island barely has internet, uses its own currency (and nobody else’s), does not use credit cards (back to the internet problem), and has a rope swing visitors use to get on and off the ferry.
The ferry approaches the seawall, and guests wait for the swell to bring the ferry high enough to grab the line and jump ashore.
Once on land, the initial view is not all that grand because it is crowded with very old buildings and many new cargo boxes. But, as we would later learn, one of those old buildings on the left houses the St Helena Yacht Club, where we were made to feel very welcome!! (And, they spotted us some beer until we could get to the bank the next day and get St Helena $).
After immigration and customs, we walked into Jamestown — the main town on St Helena.
As you can see, the town is nestled in a valley with some pretty fantastic views.
We also visited Napoleon’s home. Weirdly, Napoleon’s exile house is a French territory, and there is a French Consulate on the island. Imagine what bit of jackassery some French diplomat must have engaged in to end up exiled to St Helena. 😉 (kidding, of course, it was lovely)
Napoleon’s house is also the home of Jonathon, the 190-year-old tortoise believed to be the oldest living mammal.
More to Come
We said goodbye to Nik on St Helena and departed for Fernando De Noronha — a voyage of another 1800 miles. Stay tuned.