Thursday, February 20, 2014

Sailing to Windward

“I'm so done sailing to windward” - Trevor Turl, Skipper Knotty Buoys

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 distances.)

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 China.

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 Dominican Republic.

We only have a little bit of gin left.
Weather Picture

Proud Parent

Catch of the day

Always a scooter guy

Not my catch

Hello friends


Here grouper grouper

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