Sailing south past our destination.

We are going too fast!! Our ETA window (Estimated Time of Arrival) starts at 16th February. This means we cannot enter Da Nang before that date. Another source of exitement are the large container ships and tankers sailing to and from Singapore, crossing our bow or stern in the dark. Did they see us??

Another mother's duty this week on Saturday. Made pasta Bolognaise with freeze dried mince as we have run out of frozen fresh meat. The freeze dried mince looks like thin square pieces of cardboard but rapidly transforms in delicious meat in the hot water of the pasta sauce. “Everything is relative” as I often say.

A bit of good news was that we were not the only ones to have destroyed their spinnaker, although our strategy to get the sail down and in the sail locker was a bit more extreme. One boat diverted to an island for shelter to pull the spinnaker down. Other boats sustained damage to their diesel generator and other important equipment aboard. So we are not alone.

A new week with new entertainment was provided this week. The weather has been deteriorating and the wind has been increasing. This means that when the boat becomes over-powered, we have too much sail up for the current wind speed, we then need to reduce the main sail area. This is called “putting a reef in” or just “reefing”. As we were on a reach course, the wind is coming in from the side or behind the boat, the main sail and the boom is outside the boat. This can be dangerous because if we surf down a big wave the boat may turn rapidly and too far and the boom crashes to the other-side of the boat. To prevent this from happening we attach a rope from the end of the boom to the bow, called a “Preventer”.

But when we put a reef in, the boom needs to be brought inside the boat and the preventer must be eased off. Just at that point the boat got lifted up on a wave and we crash-gybed. The boom came across the boat at high-speed and the main sheet hit two crew members. The boom then crashed back to the other side damaging one of our pedestal grinders. Luckily one crew member only sustained a blue eye, heavy bruising on the leg and shoulder. But the grinder was hanging at a strange angle held in place by a small piece of carbon-fibre. It could have been worse.

Our destination of Da Nang in Central Vietnam is now getting close, only a few days away. But we cannot enter Da Nang before the 16th February, because of the New Year celebrations from 7th February onwards, VISA restrictions etc etc. The Race team has therefore added additional way-points, points on the map we need to round or keep at one side of our course. This has lengthened the journey by hundreds of miles. Many crew, who have been looking forward to an extended stay in Da Nang, are not happy and we have some grumpy people aboard. We are now sailing past Da Nang to a point north of Borneo to then turn west towards South Vietnam and then north again. It also means crossing many times the main shipping lanes to and from Singapore.

Ships over a certain size have an AIS system (Automatic Identification System). It does what it says, it automatically identifies ships within a certain range of the boat. From the measured speed, course and location it can calculate whether a ship will pas in front or behind the boat and the nearest distance to our boat, called the Closest Point of Approach (CPA). If the CPA is too small, the ship will be passing to close to us and we call the ship on channel 16 of our VHF radio.

On a number of occasions we have called the big container ships and tankers without getting any response. We are a sailing boat and have the right of way so big ships need to avoid us. Being a commercial ship with time pressure to get to their destination they do not like altering course and we suspect that is why we often do not get a reply. We therefore need to be alert and make quick decisions especially at night when it is difficult to judge distances.

We have past our destination of Da Nang and need to amuse ourselves for another 4 to 5 days sailing in circles until it is time to point the boat to Da Nang.