Every Cloud has a Silver Lining

andromeda of plymouth
Susan and Andrew Wilson
Fri 9 May 2014 16:50
N18:45:232 W64:28:231
Every Cloud has a silver lining.....
Although we have owned Andromeda of Plymouth for just over 6 years now, and having left the UK in 2009, there has only been one other occasion when we had to sail with no assistance from our engine.
Like many cruisiers around the world we tend not to beat to windward unless absolutely necessary. For non-sailors - beating up into the wind can mean a very lumpy sail as you slam into the waves, sounding very much as though some one is throwing concrete blocks at your boat. And as Susan tends to get seasick in those circumstances we have kept the experience for her to a minimum.
The choices we had at Midnight on Monday when our gear box failed were to carry on up to Bermuda - a distance of over 500 miles or return to the BVI's - 276 miles back the other way.
Going on there shouldn't be much beating but with two days of very unsettled changeable light winds conditions forecast (and here we weren't talking about every few hours, we had already experienced the wind not blowing consistently for even a couple of seconds in a row) and then there was the position of the Bermuda High. But with no engine to help us through the light patches we were going to be sailing all the way.
The other choice is turn around and go back meant we were faced with 276 miles some of which would definitely be against the wind, but we hoped it would be more settled.
At Midnight with only 2-3 knots of 360ing wind and a rolly sea we did the only sensible thing and left Andromeda to it and got some rest. As soon as it was light and we could see the sails more easily Andrew rapidly decided to use out APC (all purpose chute), it being the lightest sail we had it seemed our best choice.
After dousing the sail and getting very frustrated with battling to to keep it filled with the winds going from 3-8 knots and swirling all the time, we suddenly got a gust of consistant direction  and slowly picked up some speed. we weren't necessarily going in the direction we wanted to but at least we were now moving a little bit. After trying a few different things it was obvious that at that time we were more likely to make some headway South, so South it was to be.
At first this looked like a very good choice - the wind speed built up, we were progressing not much South to be sure but South a little bit and east a bit and this was important as the further South we went to more easterly the winds should tend to be.
Sailing along with our bright orange and blue APC flying the winds were getting a bit high so we doused it again and rolled out the genoa - just in time - some really big gusts came through (25knts + ) but after a bit of a flurry it all died away again.
Having sailed dinghies for quite a few years before taking to cruisng and buying Andromeda, we are well versed in the art and theory of getting wind into your sails. However a lightweight dinghy is a very different ketttle of fish to a 1977 very sturdily built, blue water boat. Andromeda is also our home and so has much more clutter and 'essentials' that you  don't get with a dinghy for that matter. Andromeda tips the scales at around 19 tons.  She is ketch rigged and it takes a lot of wind to get her even moving.  We knew all this and we watched the wind speed indicator with dismay.
3,4,5 knots At first everything we tried showered us with 00.00 boat speed. Then patience and practise took over. We began to coax .5knots, .7 knots of wind and 1.0 knots of speed out of her - working up to enough speed to tack or bring us round so we could go in the direction we wanted to.
It was frustrating at first and still is because between thees long periods of going at a knot or 2, suddenly the wind builds and we can be screaming along at 5 and for one glorious half hour, even reached the dizzy heights of 6.5 knots.
Then of course when we have wind it isn't always an easy sail for our destination and so, yes, we have been doing a lot of beating.  The good news is Susan hasn't been seasick.
For us though one of the long lasting memories of this event will be when we got really excited when we managed to coax Andromeda up to 0.5 knots of speed, and having been stationary for quite a while, we felt like we were racing along - just a bit of a downer that after half an hour we would only have covered half a nautical mile - and not necessarily in the right direction.
Well this is sailing......
Up date for today Friday, we had an eventful night with squall after squall coming through, we had two reefs in the main and only a bit of the genoa out but were rocketing along so much so that our Noon to Noon total for Thurs/Frid was 145.9 over the ground, unlike the previous 24 hours when we managed only 94. We are now approached the northern end of Tortola and as long as the wind keeps up we should reached Nanny Cay again later this afternoon.
More in due course,
Andrew & Susan
S/V Andromeda