The race finish has finally been called and we have arrived in Da Nang. Both the crew and the boat are battered and bruised but we have survived 31 days on the ocean in hot, calm and stormy weather with lots of entertainment thrown in the mix. We had breakages on the boat and crew including my hand which is causing some pain and inhibits me doing my job aboard the boat. I hope it is only bruised but I will need to get it seen to in Da Nang. It is one of the many events this week such as having a fishing buoy and rope caught around the keel and rudder, running backstay shackle on the mast broken and being grounded for 30 minutes on the Han river in Da Nang despite having a pilot aboard.
On Monday we picked up a fishing buoy with a lot of rope attached. The buoy was made of netting with lots of polystyrene. The rope attached to it was wrapped around the keel, rudder and propellor. We tried to clear it but couldn't in the dark and bumpy sea, so the next morning a brave crew member went for a swim under the boat and cut the lines with his knife. He was a bit wary about sharks and other things coming up from the deep depths of the Pacific Ocean but got safely back onboard with a limbs attached.
During the night it became very windy and we had to tack. This is changing course so that the sails are on the other side of the boat. I was on the active Yankee sheet and had to pull in a lot of rope. The wind caught the sail I bit earlier than I expected and the sheet got pulled out and my hand slammed against the winch. I could make a fist, so I did not think anything was broken. I attended to another two running back stay evolutions and then decided to go below because it was the end of our midnight watch, 02:00 and my hand was now very swollen. Painkillers, ibuprofen and an ice pack were applied and I went into my bunk. The next morning my whole hand was blue even the inside of my palm. So with more ice packs and ibuprofen to keep the swelling and pain down, I remained below deck for four days until we arrived in Da Nang on Thursday whilst doing navigation tasks and other jobs below deck.
This week has been eventful for other reasons too. Not only did we pick up a fishing buoy, we also broke a shackle that attaches the running back stay to the mast. Sailing upwind was impossible as we could only sail on one tack and reaching Da Nang using sail only was therefore not possible. We started to motor-sail, keeping the mainsail up and sailing using the engine. However, because we had done so much motor-sailing before the start in Airlie Beach and because of the diesel tank leakage there was not much fuel left. On top of that we were running the engine a bit too fast which turned out to be very in-efficient and it burns a lot of fuel. After some communication with the Clipper maintenance crew in the UK it was decided to reduce the speed of the engine which drastically reduced fuel consumption. It allowed us to safely reach Da Nang with just enough fuel.
No this is not all!! We finally started our approach to Da Nang. The river is very shallow and the Da Nang authorities had dredged a 10 mtr wide channel for us to negotiate with the help of a pilot. The pilot guided us through the narrow channel and I was calling the course to the next way point using the chart plotter in the nav station. We were slightly left of the line when we touched the bottom. The skipper steered sharp starboard, the pilot could not tell quickly enough which direction to go in and we ended 30 meters right of the channel, stuck in the mud. The pilot boat could not get us back into the channel and a tug was requested to do the job. It all took an hour or so to get alongside the pontoon in Da Nang where we received a tremendous welcome which we have not seen before on this adventure. Alongside the quay were drummers in original Vietnam dress and we paraded to a large stage to be given a welcome wreath of flowers and a bottle of champagne which of course was sprayed all over us to celebrate our achievements.
A crew member organised hotels with the help of our liaison person from the foreign office and off we went for a shower and a rest after an eventful month a sea.
Back on dry land, staggering about. It is a strange feeling to have solid ground beneath our feet.