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Tuesday, April 20, 2004

April 21, 2004-Beating to Galera

Photos From Philippines

Oh how I love a day at sea when the wind blows strong and the sea turns midnight blue and is flecked by whitecaps as far as you can see, and you sheet the sails in hard and carve a course against the wind, straight into the teeth of it, and then you feel the power a great boat driving to windward.

On Sunday we sailed up Verde Island Channel to Puerto Galera, forty four miles to windward, on a single, long, windy, rough, and intensely sunny, but glorious day of sailing. We arrived at Puerto Galera just at sunset, salt encrusted and sun burnt, tired and a trifle sore, but happy, satisfied that we had been tested by the sea and we had met the measure.

It was a great sail. I love it when a cape you worked hard to get around in the morning is left far behind in the afternoon, and then fades into gray haze, followed by three others after it.

I love it all. And no boat can do it like WINGS, she is just superb in these conditions, 25 knots of wind in the open sea, and she flies upwind, throwing aside the waves, making miles disappear astern. If only there was another boat out here with us so we could astonish them with our performance.

But there wasn't, it was only our boat and us, the blue sky the sea, the spray, and the cloud capped mountains on the islands we passed.

This kind of a day doesn't come exactly easy. The wind was strong and we had to reef, and there was a lot of tacking and some of the waves we knocked aside blew back onto us and we got drenched. Just moving about on the boat was difficult; we put on safety harnesses.

Since we needed to go fast, we worked the boat hard too, and that wasn't easy either. Without the full power of the main it was hard to keep the speed up in the lulls, and we had a worse time getting the speed back after the tacks. It took ten minutes after each tack to get the boat dialed in.

To make our forty-four miles we'd had to get up early, and we'd have to sail all day long. Almost too long. It was a tough beat, tough as they come, with winds in the high twenties and a big chop, and we did it dawn 'til dusk, endless tacks, endless grinding in of the jib, setting the runners, adjusting the windvane. We worked hard, tacking on every shift, watching every shade of the sea to find the best wind, the smallest waves, the right course to the mark. Then there were the lulls. At times the wind dropped to 15 or less, and the leftover waves just about stopped us. We tracked our speed towards the mark, (VMG) and calculated when we would arrive. Five o'clock was looking iffy; we shook out the reef, and it got better. The boat powered up quicker, pointed higher. The VMG improved.

Then in the afternoon the wind got back up to near thirty, (thirty six over the deck) and we had to put the reef back in. The waves got bigger than ever and Judy's back was starting to hurt; we got depressed. Judy cried in frustration that maybe we couldn't do this any more, maybe we wouldn't make it to Galera by dark. Then what? Go in after dark? We didn't relish the thought. Judy took a pain pill, and we both just sucked it up and got back to work.

The wind saved us, it shifted NE at just the right time giving us a big lift, right up the track. The VMG climbed into the sixes, and we sailed just parallel to the shore for once, instead of getting knocked as we closed to it and having to tack out again. We got better at dialing in the boat after the tacks, found the right settings for the jib, the traveler, the wind vane. The boat sailed higher, faster, and carried the speed through the lulls.

At four o'clock in the afternoon we reached the shelter of Minolo Point, and while the wind stayed in the high twenties the sea went completely flat. We tacked one last time and caught another big lift up the shore. More our speed climbed; still we pointed higher. We took over steering from the windvane and gloried in the conditions, hitting seven knots and pointing like bandits, coasting up in the puffs, carving even higher.

We reached Puerto Galera just before sunset, and made the channel in daylight. A friendly voice on the radio, Russ, from KARIS, talked us past the reef. Just before darkness fell completely, we picked up a yacht club mooring and rested.

A great day, all in all, wouldn't have missed it.

After an hour's rest and a shower, we went in to the yacht club and had a great steak dinner, some wine, and plenty of good Philippine rum. Sleeping was easy that night.

Click here for more photos from Philippines

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Puerto Galera

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