Day four – Drawbacks and advantages of sailing double handed

Day four - drawbacks and advantages of sailing double handed Penultimate blog for this crossing which compares most favourably with our two previous southbound trips, but more of that later. Vital statistics: we sailed continuously, noon to noon, and covered 157 miles through the water, 151 miles towards our waypoint. The discrepancy is explained in part by the slightly differential rates of tidal flow and partly by not being able to sail directly towards the waypoint because of the wind direction. It was a good day however you look at it. While the statistics refer to noon to noon the rest of the narrative covers 24 hours from midnight. Confused? You will be! Does anyone else remember the old American comedy 'Soap'? We could probably have sailed faster if we had been able to use just the first reef for most of this morning, rather than the second reef. The 'lost' reefing line meant we did not have the choice, though we did pull out more of the genoa during the morning. Now we come to the first of the drawbacks of sailing double handed. John has spent some time each morning doing battle with the Iridium phone, downloading e-mails including the all important weather forecast. Subsequently he has spent ages as, first of all, unofficial VHF net controller and weatherman (think broadcast radio weather people) then HF net controller, before returning to VHF to read out the long range forecast. This is fine, we both enjoy the radio nets but if the crew, i.e. me, is busy doing something else Starblazer has to look after herself. Don't get me wrong, I'm still keeping a lookout, just a bit preoccupied. This morning I went back on deck to find the sails slatting, almost no wind and coming from a different direction. A lot can change in 5 minutes. I set about pulling out the mainsail reef, forgetting that John had tied the loose line from the first reef back to the mast. The sail did go up, I did spot the problem with the reefing line, but not until it had torn a length of the new Sailtainer I'd made. The sewing machine isn't just ballast, it will be used in Baiona. And my point? It might still have happened with both of us on deck but it is likely the problem would have been spotted much sooner. With both sails fully set we sailed on, not very fast, for another hour before the wind dropped even further. Our last chance of sailing was the cruising chute, that big colourful thing with a mind of its own. We got it up and set and accelerated away, briefly, but the wind was rather unstable and it became more and more difficult to keep it filled. At one point we were almost heading for America! It had to come down. That is when the fun started. The sock would not pull down, even with all my weight on the down haul rope. John tried, no success, so we had to revert to more traditional ways. John sat on deck pulling the sail in as I controlled the halyard, it worked well though he had a lap full of sail and couldn't move. In hindsight we should have dumped the mess in its bag and turned the engine on, we didn't. We painstakingly sorted out the twists in the sock then raised the whole lot again, careful to keep the two outer edges of the sail together with no twists while carefully working the sock down the length of the sail keeping the control lines straight. Nora Batty's stockings are nothing compared with our 16m snuffer sock. Then we dropped it again and stuffed it in the bag. It all took nearly an hour and we found we had made just 0.9 miles towards the waypoint. On with the engine. We motored on into the night, approaching the separation zones off Cape Finisterre. When I came back on watch at 2300 we could probably have sailed but this is the second disadvantage of short handed sailing. I cannot tack the boat efficiently on my own and, given the blackness (100% cloud cover), the constraints of the area we were sailing (fishing boats to right if us, fishing boats to left of us, not to mention the separation zones for ships going north and south) we continued motoring. Another pair of eyes would be useful for spotting fishing boats as well. This is the fourth time we have rounded the fear inspiring Cape Finisterre in almost a flat calm under engine! Perhaps this should be the last time? Can we be so lucky again? Final instalment should follow shortly. I realise I haven't mentioned the advantages of being double handed. There are some, I'll think about them for my next blog. Menu has also been omitted as has wildlife spotted. I promise the next blog will be much shorter. Joyce.

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