Sailing to Windward
“I'm so done sailing to windward” - Trevor Turl, Skipper
We couldn't agree more.
Well we got our weather window from Rum Cay to Acklins Island.
Then another to Mayaguana, then another to the Turks & Caicos.
Now when I say weather window I again mean wind direction and
strength, wave height, period and direction. When one talks of
sailing “south”, from tropical paradise island to island, one
actually means south east because this is how the islands lie.
The prevailing wind conditions (i.e. vast majority of the
time) are from the east, south east and north east (in that order)
meaning that if you want to make any progress you have to sail into
the wind, to windward. (Ed note. experienced sailors can
skip the rest of this paragraph). While a sailboat cannot sail
directly into the wind (someone please invent one!) it can
sail “close” to into the wind (about 40°
off the wind). So if you want to go Southeast (135°T)
you can sail either East (95°T)
or South (175°T). This
means a lot of tacking back & forth and covering more distance
than a direct line. Furthermore, for reasons I won't go into here,
when sailing close to the wind the boat heels over a lot (up
to 35° - rail in the water)
which makes for an uncomfortable sail (and stuff falling all over the
place). Over the last few days we've lost a winch handle (dropped
right out of the mast winch) and mainsail batten. Furtherfurthermore,
the waves typically come from the same direction as the wind so the
boat is bashing into the waves, bouncing up & down and
slowing progress. Hey, you'd pay a lot of money for this at an
amusement park! Sailing upwind is super fun in a racing context but
not so much in a cruising context (i.e. moving your home over long
There are strategies to deal with cruising to windward, most
famously described in the renowned Gentlemen's Guide to Passages
South: The Thornless Path to Windward by Bruce Van Sant. His
philosophy is to make each passage as “leisurely” as possible by
waiting for weather, making relatively short hops, sailing at night
and using the island lees. All to arrive in time for a Sundowner
Gin & Tonic (SG&T). We have been reading & re-reading
each section and following his instructions as closely as possible.
We have put a lot of miles under the keel in the last four days.
All overnights. 18-24 hours. All exhausting. All went well though.
Even though we are at times flying at 6 knots, overall by my
calculations with all things described above we are essentially going
at a speed of 3.5 knots from departure to destination. Slow boat to
Unfortunately many of our friends have turned back north to stay
in the Bahamas. Brin de Folie, Oceane and Angelica
who we cruised with for many moons have made that toughest of
decisions. We really enjoyed cruising with all of them and
hope that we will meet up again soon. Now we continue on with the
Knotty Buoys. Our sadness at losing compadre's when leaving
Rum Cay was tempered briefly by the joy of of having a family of four
dolphins frolicking in our bow wave for fifteen minutes. While we
have seen many dolphins before we've been waiting a long time
for this quintessential cruising experience. Sweet.
We got confirmation that Cassandra's parents will meet us in the
Dominican Republic in a few days so we are driving hard to get there
ASAP. There are still some formidable passages to get there though,
the Caicos bank (super shallow), the Turks passage (super deep with a
strong north current) and the long 90nm leg from T&C to the
We only have a little bit of gin left.
|Catch of the day|
|Always a scooter guy|
|Not my catch|
|Here grouper grouper|
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