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Saturday, June 03, 2017

June 3, 2017-Sailing is an Outdoor Activity

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Nikon Selfie

Sailing is an outdoor activity. We love that part of it; we love being outside.

When we can sail on the open ocean in the sunshine under a clear blue sky with the wind in our face and with salt spray flying...we love that most of all.

Like today
The sun is shining, the wind is blowing, the ocean is gorgeous, its warm but not hot. It's fantastic. Judy is off watch. She is sleeping on the settee. I think Judy is missing out by being below deck.

But me, I'm having a great sail.

The wind vane is steering. I am sitting in the companionway. I scan my instruments which are right in front of me. I look around, I have 360degrees of unobstructed visibility. The boat is going fast (we're going 6.4 knots upwind in 14 knots of breeze) and the windvane is locked onto a great 15 degree lift. We are already sailing a beautiful course up the Mexican coast and the wind looks to be lifting more. Most of all, I am outside, on the water, on a wonderful day and it is great to be alive. This is the kind of sailing I love.

Not every cruising sailor feels this way. In fact apparently few do. Most boats have complete canvas covers over their cockpits. They are walled in on all sides from the wind and the sun, from all the elements really. I don't get it. I wonder how much to trust a sailor who is OK with never feeling the wind in his face. As far as wind goes, many sailors are as good at avoiding wind as we are about finding it. Yesterday two boats arrived in Chemela from Barra after motoring the whole way even though there was a nice SW wind blowing which would have been a beam reach for them. They both left today before daylight headed for Banderas Bay, the same destination as we have. I heard them discussing it on the radio.

"If we leave before daylight maybe we can get past Corrientes before the wind comes up, and anyhow, Banderas Bay will be calm by then too."

So why have a sailboat?

We left at 1:00 in the afternoon. It had been blowing all morning at about 12 to 13 knots, and we usually leave when the wind comes up, but we want to arrive tomorrow in the daylight, so we delayed our departure a couple of hours.

The wind was westerly and our course made for long tacks up the coast on port and short tacks out on starboard. We expected the wind to shift to the right and so we stayed on the right side of the rumb line and played the beach. Close some times. Once Judy took us in to 60 feet, just outside of the surf line before she called me on deck to tack. That was unusual for her, she usually sails more conservatively than that.

wingssail images-fredrick roswold
Making Speed

This afternoon the wind has been building. From 13 knots of true wind speed it has increased to the 18-20 knot range. That means up to 26 knots over the deck; quite enough I think. The boat speed is up too, to 6.6. I check the chart plotter and on the last 60 second average we have been sailing at 7.2 knots over the bottom. (Later I see 7.8, maybe we have some positive current.)

To deal with the stronger wind I've changed gears. By adjusting the sail trim, flattening the jib, flattening the main (but not too much, we need the power to drive through these waves) I've reduced power of the sails. I also cranked on more backstay and eased the runner. We've already been carrying the mainsheet traveler below centerline and now I ease it way down. At this point the boat is optimized for the heavier breeze and bigger waves. If the wind goes up much more we'll put a reef in the mainsail but right now we are fine. It is only the waves which are bothersome. They are bouncing us around quite a lot; we are in constant motion. It's hard to hang on even below decks. There is the danger of a fall down below; we try to be careful. Sometimes we hit a big wave and the boat pounds pretty good. It's not a good sound.

We are expecting conditions to ease off after dark. We are hoping the wind will drop and the waves will flatten but so far the wind stays in the same range, or at least it is staying over 16.

We are again approaching the shoreline. I shudder as I think about what would happen if I fell asleep on watch. The boat would sail right on relentlessly until it hit the beach. I am not confident that the depth alarm would wake us up. There are some risks in this type of sailing.

I watch the land as we draw closer. In the late sunlight the long sandy shoreline and the brilliant dunes in front of the dark green low hills is quite beautiful.

I can't tell how far off we are; the charts show us on land already and the breakers are pretty close. There are no rocks or reefs on the charts but these charts are notoriously inaccurate. The bottom is coming up steadily it's now under 78 feet.

It's time to tack out again.

I put my head down and peer into the companionway.

"Judy", I say softly.

Judy opens her eyes and asks what time it is.

"7:00 O'clock" I say. "It's time to tack out".

Judy comes up and she surely wants to tack out, the shore looks too close to her.

She sets up for the tack and calls, "Ready".

We tack. I release the windvane and turn the boat. Judy throws off the jib sheet, puts on the new runner, then turns to the other side of the cockpit as the boat rolls to the new angle and her arms flail as she tails in the new sheet. I release the old runner and reset the wind vane. She finishes off grinding the jib with the big double winch handle. It is smoothly done. We're good at it, but I guess after thirty years we should be.

On the new tack the solar panels need to be changed to face the low sun now on the other side of the boat. I adjust the windward one then swing across back of the boat, hanging on the backstay like a monkey, thinking about what happens if my hand slips, will I fall off? Maybe. I hold tight and rotate the other panel. This will keep the voltage on the batteries up for another hour.

This will be a short tack, just enough to clear Cabo Correintes up ahead and then we will tack back. By midnight we should be around the cape and into Banderas Bay. If we do we will have averaged 6.75 knots along the course we actually sailed (longer than the straight line due to our tacks) and a VMG of 5.25 up the rumb line, which is very good.

It has been a great sail and we're close to the end of it now, but there will be more.

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Fred & Judy, SV Wings, on passage

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