I'll attach a few quotes from this mornings ARC logs and add a few comments on each. I didn't have time to read them all, but the ones below offer a few lessons for those dreaming of crossing oceans. (Note: I haven't corrected typos in the log posts.) See World Cruising Club - ARC Logs
Ailsa writes...."They say fire at sea is the worst nightmare well we had smoke in the engine compartment arising from the generator! No flames on this occasion although the fire control team were standing by. Scotty tried to rescue the situation by changing the impellor – a pretty trick manoeuvre in a heavy sea – but the culprit appears to be the generator coil itself??? Outwith the scope of the onboard expertise me thinks. Well we have two alternative supplies of charging – the engine and the solar panels. The latter have had disappointing use to date but there is sun today so that will help."
From my experience in the USN, I can second the comment about "fire at sea". It's one of the best ways I know to ruin your day. This log post raises the question about the type of fire retarding canisters you use. For years I sailed with the powder type until a guy asked me if I'd ever seen the aftermath of using a powder extinguisher. I had not and he went on to tell me about what a mess it makes -- the powder is very fine and gets into everything -- electronics, engine intakes, food, clothes, bedding. Now imagine that you have to let go with one or more 5 # powder-filled bottles when you're mid-ocean and then have to live in the residue for a week or more. The thought of that caused me to invest the few extra bucks in the newer halon-type extinguishers that kill the fire and leave no mess behind. Just a thought for the next time you need to invest in one of the little red bottles.
Second thought that arises from this post is this -- why is it that a generator (or, for that matter, any other piece of vital gear) that has run perfectly for years and years decides to pack up three days into a passage when it's performance is critical to safety and comfort on the voyage? I have no answer for that other than "sh*t happens". For some reason gear fails on long passages that hasn't failed on all those coastal trips you've taken over the years. I guess the lesson here is that all critical systems need a very thorough going over before departure and, if something is getting near the end of its useful life, perhaps it's best to replace it before it breaks, especially if you're facing long passages like the ARC.
Baringo writes...."Fifth day at sea and our first belated blog. As by now well reported the start was not as in the brochure! It was cloudy, blustery, squally and as we headed out to sea a big swell developed. Not much has changed! We have been running downwind with wind speeds of about 25-30 knots and a large swell. The boat is rolling all over the place and difficult to keep anything in one place. We have broken our main genoa having inadvertently gybed it several times in strong winds so that the clew ring has nearly parted from the body of the sail. So we are using the smaller genny which is working surprisingly well giving us speeds of about 6 knots or more. But it would be nice to go faster in this wind but steering would be more difficult so perhaps we would be using the smaller sail in any case."
A couple of thoughts come to mind here. First, while there are many advantages to rallys like the ARC, one of the big disadvantages is that you need to depart with the fleet (of course, you don't have to, but the psychological pressure to do so is intense). Starting a long ocean passage in marginal weather, as they did with this years ARC, is not optimal because the crew has not had time to "shift gears" physically and emotionally from live on the hard. Going from a secure marina berth to 40 kts and 15 ft seas in 4-6 hours time is a rude way to adjust to life at sea. On a long passage like the ARC you will probably have some rough weather, but IMHO its better to have it after the boat and crew have settled into a passage routine.
Second thought -- for those who haven't yet experienced the joys of offshore sailing is the comment above about "rolling all over the place". It's true and it's generally no fun -- yes, you get used to it, but there is just no way to know the toll it will take on you and your crew until you've done it a few times. So, just for "fun" find some really windy, big sea days close to home to "practice" rolling around for 12-16 hours. It's an important part of getting ready for that idyllic sailing life you've dreamed about.
Finally, the log references issues with the sails and unintended gybes. Chances are that if you leave with old sails you may not arrive with them intact (unless they've been very well maintained over the years). Long ocean passages are 24/7 affairs. You will probably put more miles / hours on your sails in one ten day passage than you will in a season or more of coastal sailing. The ARC is a 20 day trip for most boats -- that equals 2-3 seasons of coastal sailing. In some instances the passage is harder on the sails as you will use them in conditions that would probably be avoided in summer coastal sailing.
And, re gybes -- they happen more than you'd think offshore where the seas are big, the boat is pushed around more than you're used to and where the helmsman is tired, or the autopilot isn't up to the sea conditions. There is NO reason not to have a preventer rigged on the main when the wind is more that 90 degrees apparent. You don't have to change course that often, so preventers MUST be part of the standard rig practice. Re gyping the genny, as mentioned in the post, you can't "prevent" it as you can with the main, but when conditions rise to the point where gypes are dangerous, perhaps it's best to run with something smaller than a poled-out 130% genoa.
Just Do it 5....."About 2pm the wind drops and 3/4 hour later we gibe to head more west. Nathan ends up on the wrong side of the sheet durng the gibe and he's lifted off the deck saving himself by hanging on to the stays."
So what's the lesson here? Communicate? Life can change in an instant? Be careful out there? From the sounds of it, the main sheet had some slack in it. The only gypes you want to do offshore are of the highly-controlled variety where the main sheet is bar tight before you move the helm to weather. And it he winds are really strong -- say 35 kts +, you can always do a long circular tack. It's safer in most circumstances (big, steep, short-interval seas being a possible exception).