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Friday, April 01, 2011

April 2, 2011-Blasting Into Reunion

How we came to be blasting into Reunion Island under spinnaker is a bit of a story.

Judy and I talked about it on the way out of Port Louis and we had a plan for the trip; the winds were supposed to be fresh so our idea was to make this first leg an easy one, to set the tone for rest of voyage. We put up the #4 jib even when we both knew the boat would nicely carry a #2.

The reduced sail area worked OK for the first 18 hours. Watches were spent laying about the cockpit and the off watch slept below. No stress. No sweat. Yeah, we were a bit slower than we could have been but we were still looking at a noon arrival in Reunion and things were relaxed.

The weather forced us to change the plan. During the night the wind got light and by dawn we had no speed. Four knots or a bit more but what was worse was that even just to fill the jib we had to sail high of our course. We were looking at a jibe sometime in the morning and that would result in a very unfavorable heading and add miles to the distance.

At dawn I did some calculations and saw that our arrival in Reunion would be after dark Friday instead of noon. Time for a new plan.

I called for all hands and the 3-A kite and a sleepy crew came on deck and set the big red sail and then they all went back to bed.

I worked the boat by myself for a couple of hours, coaxing every knot I could out of that breeze and watching for some increase in the pressure of the wind. At first the spinnaker was barely an improvement; the wind had dropped further and 4-5 knots was still the best speed I could make, but at least we were headed the right direction and I just felt that the wind was going to build. I saw the island of Reunion appear in a cloud bank 40 miles ahead: my goal.

The wind came. By 7:00 I had a few 9 knot puffs and in them I could make 6 knots of boat speed. The wind continued to build. By eight I had 10 knots and 7 knots of boat speed. Jean-Mee came on deck for his watch. When the wind hit 14 knots we set the pole and bore off directly for Pointe des Galets. A higher puff came and the boat surged to over eight.

We had even more wind in the next few hours, up to 20 knots, and we flew towards Reunion Island. I gave the helm to Jean-Mee and he was hitting nines when we passed the town of St Denis. Jean-Mee was having a blast steering and I liked the miles we were making. At noon we took down the kite and turned for the port which we made by 13:30.

It was a fun sail and we were flushed with excitement and satisfied as we motored into the harbor. It was a great ending to a fine passage.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Reunion Island

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