Kalifi to Zanzibar – Day 1 PM

Who sings that song with the line in the chorus “I think I’ve had a shit day?”
You know I said last Wednesday was FUBAR? Uh huh, nyet, nada, nein, and any other no!! It’s officially been taken over by the pm of Monday 18th January!
We had reduced our fore sail to less than a pocket handkerchief and put our the sea anchor, slowing Rangi down to barely a crawl, to let Ibis catch up. They were struggling with the sea state, tacking away from us East, apparently nervous to jibe in this weather. At one point when they got close we waved them over but they only waved back. They didn’t equate all our frenzied gesticulating with a wish to talk to them. Josh wanted to take them in tow and get moving. We were wasting hours waiting for them. But they took off again.
So we all resigned ourselves to further slow bouncing until we got another chance to yell at them!! At about 1330 I looked up and said “I can’t see Ibis”. We hunted but she’d vanished. With the sea state we’d be unlikely to spot her if she was further than 2NM away.
Worried and cursing equally, we debated whether to go looking for them or head to the top of the next big Island and anchor. We were running out of day as that was still 4hrs sailing. Josh was worried about our own safety as well as about our friends. It was a nasty choice. In the end we decided to seek an anchorage. They’re good sailors but didn’t have many rations so we hoped they’d do the same albeit slowly.
We got under way, probably averaging around 7 knots. Josh had the helm as it was a bitch to drive. The waves were a good 2 metres and confused  ie:coming from different directions, mostly off the port quarter.
Eventually he decided the wind had dropped and put on the auto helm. I took first watch and the others tried to snooze. Around 3pm I suggested we should steer again as I felt the auto helm wasn’t coping. I got teased and told not to be a pussy!! At about 1530 I looked over my shoulder to see a massive wave almost on us. Unable to reach the wheel myself in time, I yelled “starboard the helm, turn the wheel” Mary was on it asap, with Josh almost as fast.
We nearly broached. Foxtrot, it was close. But the proverbial hit the fan. The yacht flicked back up and then the port floating stay and the main stay snapped. The helm whipped dangerously (Mary said later it must’ve arched nearly 2m) with the stays flailing in the wind.
The next half hour or so was a mad flurry of activity, trying to save the mast. I really didn’t think we’d do it. Josh was  amazing, he really was. What an incredible young man he is.
He put Mary on the helm while he and I got the sail in and jury rigged stays out of line to hold the mast. Bea was fetching where she could but as I know the boat better, as often as not it was me that sprinted down the hatch to grab what we needed.
It sounds sterile, describing it now, but if that mast had gone over we’d have been in deep guano. Josh gave clear instructions, calmly and with encouragement. He showed maturity and leadership well beyond his 24 years. I know little about sailing though obviously a decent about in general about boats, after 9 years in the navy! With his direction I could do what needed doing. Poor Bea had a baptism of fire on working under duress in rough conditions. Mary did an awesome job on the wheel. All of us worked like a team and got the job done. Miraculously, we saved the mast and got control of the boat, though Josh stayed on the helm!!
Josh decided to make for the nearest anchorage. He wasn’t going to get a mutiny out of that!! It was so lucky we hadn’t gone searching for Chapsie and Ali. We still had a long way to go but more like 2hrs, not four.
Poseidon was not done with us.
The port steering got tricky. After much teeth gnashing, Josh found the auto helm had partly re-engaged itself.
Then his cell phone, which he navigates off with cool soft ware, was low and the charger wouldn’t work. This just as we had a reef on the starboard side and were looking how to approach the anchorage!
So we had to navigate on the secondary chart with a lot less detail. A bit nerve wracking in the dark, with reefs, into an anchorage we don’t know. But Josh came through!
I had checked the cable was free to run, but when Josh said to let go, the anchor wouldn’t run out. The winch was stuck tight. We freed it and I put out more cable than I think we’ll need. We need a good night’s sleep!!
We squared away, said a prayer for the boys in little Ibis, cracked a beer and Mary lit a bufti!! I’ll tell you about those another time. We gave hugs of gratitude all round, especially for our skipper. Bed time.
The cheers for the captain and his crew!!
Maybe Rangi in the sky was watching us, pulling the bird at Poseidon, because it’s a miracle we have no more than cuts and bruises, and a jury rigged mast.
Please be watching Chapsie and Ali too.

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