I thought the worst of it was over when we had escaped the rip tides of LeMaire Strait. 2 nights later we were at 47 south, romping north on a broad reach with yankee, storm staysail and 1 reef in the main. Suddenly, bang! One of those noises amid all the normal chaos which you know to be serious. Serious it was. Up front the yankee luff and foil were swinging through a wild arc – clearly the forestay had gone.
I rolled in the yankee (thank heavens the furler still worked) and winched both yankee sheets in hard. Ian steered downwind while I took the spinnaker halliard forward to the bow, winched it down and tightened the yankee halliard as much as possible. We tucked a second reef in the main, Ian made a cup of tea and we moseyed gingerly across the breeze. Fortunately the inner forestay, intermediate shrouds and runners gave the mast full support and only the top 12 feet were vulnerable. The bigger worry was the furled yankee and foil, lurching from side to side in the steep seas.
The next morning the breeze had eased but the big residual swell was very sick-making. We were slopping around all over the place. We put the engine on for a bit of warmth, but only illusory benefit – we only had 250 motoring miles left, with 550 miles to Rio del Plata. With some trepidation I went aloft and put a line round the forestay to tighten it back against the mast. This quieted its movement significantly. While I vomited, Ian (his usual tower of strength through it all) baggywrinkled the yankee sheets to protect the staysail, parcelled the sheets where they bore against the capshrouds, sipped red wine and cooked a splendid beef stew.
I am really pissed off about our snapped forestay. We’re limited now to a double reefed main and staysail, which doubles the length of our passage to Buenos Aires. In boats some things are meant to break and you expect it – all electronics, steering cables, sails, engines, ropes. But in my book the shrouds and stays are supposed to be inviolate unless you roll over. Pillars of strength. I have given that forestay all the attention it needed and deserved. It was loved and noticed, if not coddled. Only 7 years old, and supposed to last 15. I regularly checked the swage ends for crevice corrosion. I felt angry, depressed, let down, betrayed. The break occurred at the masthead terminal, which is up there flopping about innefectually. Stress fatigue, I’m sure.
So here we are, close hauled in 30 knots of northerly wind, crashing and banging our way in to Puerto Madryn. There we’ll try and lower the forestay and foil onto a jetty, dismantle it all, beef up the jury forestay arrangements and get some more fuel. Then off we go again. It’s a matter of hunkering down and transcendentalising until this bit is over. At least it is warmer – we’re almost up to the latitude of Hobart – and the main hatch is open.