January 20, 2004-Death of Old North
We said goodbye to an old friend today, we blew up Old North, our last cruising spinnaker. This 3/4 sail has been with us since we bought WINGS in 1986, and it was old then, too old, it was deemed, to be of any further use as a racing sail, even back then. So by now it was an ancient sail, one we have used as a cruising sail off and on, all these years. It has given us many happy downwind days.
Today, whether out of restlessness or boredom, and justified by the need for a little more speed on our way to Palau, (to get there before dark on Monday, you see), we hoisted our old friend, on a broad reach in 14 knots of breeze. Not too much, even for an old guy, I reasoned. I rigged the pole and sheets and guys and we hoisted. It set well and when it filled our speed jumped from 5.5 knots to over 7 knots.
There is little I love better than the wonderful feel of power on a brisk reach under spinnaker in the open ocean. It is glorious. The bow wave roars, the wake streams out behind you in a froth of white, and the boat sings a song to you. And when the wind hits 20 and a big wave lifts the stern, you bear off down the face of the wave and feel joy as the speedo winds upward. The feeling is electric. It's you and the boat and the sail and the ocean and the wind and the roar of the bow wave, and the strain of the afterguy… Ecstasy! Gorgeous! Energy flows through my veins.
It feels so good. It even feels good to the off watch. Judy poked her head up and asked if I was having fun. I was.
I put a chair on the afterdeck and put on long pants and a long sleeved shirt for sun protection. And a hat. Got my water bottle. I was ready for a whole day of this.
I saw some speeds of over eight on the speedometer and I was aiming for nine.
Then, after just two hours, with no warning or any problem (no we hadn't collapsed and refilled this sail) it just burst, with a soft "pop", and then it was just tatters streaming out ahead. We put the autopilot on and got the sail down, all the parts of it, and cleaned up.
No major harm done, we're still sailing, and we have been expecting this to happen to this old sail every time we have used it for the last 2-3 years. Maybe I was rash to set it in 14 knots, or to leave it up when the wind built. But the sail died, I am sure, having as much fun as I was. It had a good life.
By the way, this is the last of our old "cruising" spinnakers. We started this cruise in 1996 with three of them, and they have all come down the same way in the end, death with their boots on, so to speak. So I guess we have to buy a new cruising spinnaker. It will be another one just like this one, red and white and blue, son of Old North.
Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Western Pacific Ocean, on passage
(06 deg 26 min N, 140 deg 04 min E)
PS: I fixed the sail the next day and we used it again.
Click here to see our sail repair set-up.