09/11/2016 – The curate’s egg!

The past 24 hours has been a mixture of good, challenging and frustrating thanks to the vagaries of the Wind Gods. We continued our forward charge with the sails out either side, rocking and rolling our way to the next waypoint where we were to turn to get a bit more easting in. The course we were on would, in fact, take us almost directly to Tortola if the wind direction stayed the same. As we get further south we expect the trade winds to start making their presence felt, being predominantly easterly rather than the northerlies we are currently experiencing. This would make our southeast passage a close beat which is not the most pleasant point of sail. We had a 1,000 mile beat to New Zealand and have no wish to have that experience again! We made our course alteration at 1000, a modest 20 degrees which we expected to give us a broad reach. On this point of sail the wind comes from just aft of midships but far enough forward for the headsail to get some clean air and not be blanketed by the mainsail. It worked for a while before the wind backed from NNE to N, enough to cause the mainsail to blanket our jib, so we gybed the jib and held it out on the pole. The day’s run to noon was a pleasing 155.4 miles. The wind had abated somewhat overnight but the seas were still rather large but, after our course change, they were more comfortable because they were hitting the boat more squarely. Since noon frustration has begun to set in. The wind started dying so we shook out both reefs early afternoon. We continued to make steady progress then, during dinner, the speed shot up. When it showed 8 knots on the GPS and 23 knots of apparent wind it didn’t take a genius to calculate the combined total (because the wind was from nearly straight behind). 29 knots with full sail up was still comfortable but the fear is always that the wind might continue to build and we would shortly be starting our watch system. I went to the mast while John helmed towards the wind and I dropped in two reefs. By the time that was finished the wind had dropped to 15-20 knots of true wind and our speed had reduced to about 6.5 knots. At 2300 watch change John reported some very light winds but the average speed was still about 4.5-5, not fast but acceptable. Around midnight it dropped further and, for about a quarter of an hour, we were drifting at 2 knots! I didn’t want to start the engine for two reasons: John would wake up instantly and there was a chance that the wind would return. It did, slightly. At the 0200 watch change I went to the mast, John helmed, I shook out the reefs. This is a disadvantage of sailing double handed; if the wind suddenly builds and a reef is needed there is no question about rousing the off watch but sailing slowly, while frustrating, does not really need instant attention. With more crew the reefs would have been shaken out at midnight. Now, with another hour to go on my watch, the speed is down to 2 knots so I’m going to start the engine and hope John goes back to sleep quickly! John: and then the wind came back a bit so she didn’t start it. Dinner was open cooked BBQ spare ribs with roast sweet potato slices, leeks and broccoli. Joyce

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