FIRST 640 miles nonstop solo AND all to windward.. ARUBA to BVIs

Thu 18 Dec 2008 01:03
And a few more personal milestones achieved
A bit of a synopsis of that one.. for the sailors amongst you
first the bare statistics:
Direct line  course detail   
distance 471 nm
bearing 45 degrees true (north east)
Actual course sailed
distance over ground 640nm (distance through water .. dont know due to malfunctioning log ... but definately more than 640 nm)
number of tacks made 44
Wind direction varied from east to north east
wind speed for first 2.5 days 10 to 15 knots a few hours down to 7/8 knots
then increased to 20 to 25 knots with spells dropping back down to 12 ish knots  
From Aruba to the east end of Puerto Rico east, then north east ... strongest in the 1st 18 hours around Aruba ... easterly at over 2 knots!
sea state
significant swell from the north east (cold front coming off America caused it)
waves calm to slight till the wind picked up... then in the shallow waters up the island chain short very steep seas up to 6 to 8 foot ... just like the ones in the straights of Gibraltar!
Which put in my terminology.... made it a close hauled slog for over 5 days (and nights!) never once did I ease sheets in the whole trip!
Gaviota went like a dream, even without being able to calculate the tidal effect, we averaged over 5 knots and a vmg of 3,8 knots ... not bad for a heavy weight cruiser going to winward and with an enormous amount of growth on her bottom even at the end of the trip ... must be too long in marinas!
With the wind direction and the steep seas the autohelm couldnt cope without both slowing the boat down AND going off the close hauled wind angle by between 5 and 10 degrees... Which as I wasnt prepared to do (take forever to get here) that meant lots of helming, time below was almost none... just about every time I thought she was happy and settled and went down to do something.. like cook wash etc..half way through the autohelm would "lose it" and I could feel a rapid increase of speed as she took off on a flying reach across the waves.... or even worse she would go too close to the wind and TACK .. every sail aback had me flying up on deck in all states of undress! those genoas are bloody expensive and I didnt want one ripping in half.. Oh yes I better explain..
Had the inner forestay up permanently and most of the time in the strong wind had the jib set on it ... effect, to lift the bow up and over most of the steep waves  and good for pointing  and low cut.. but a massive power loss... so..... unfurled the genoa enough to create just enough power to increase the speed to the maximum without putting the lee rail under or making her drive straight through the waves!! AND very easy to shorten sail in a hurry! ... but a sod to tack ... especially after the power loss to one of the tacking winches!  One of the disadvantages of that rig setup is, needing to have running backstays to support the mast at the top of the inner forestay.. more ropes and more winching on each tack!
SO a non planned tack was a b... nightmare... will have a go at raymarine (the autohelm people) ...
maybe they are better now.. but I doubt it ... The simple one with a tiny wind vane I had 20 years ago was more effective upwind (but crap downwind!)
So it was just as well I decided to cook myself 4 evening meals the night I left!!!
And sleep ... just wasnt a problem ... even though I didnt think it would be... Just rely on my trusty "watch commander" a clever egg timer! with alarm and siren set to 25 minute intervals... Had me awake in an instant.. do my routine check of everything and back to sleep again .. (lucky for me the wind was with one exception less at night)  autohelm coped with a 2 to 3 knot slow down... I would set up her up to sail at between 3 and 4 knots at night... or there would have been NO sleep! An interesting side effect was that even during the day whenever things got a bit easy I would fall asleep for ... 25 minutes at a time!!!
So bed was the cockpit seats .... could be a bit wet at times!!! but really surprisingly comfortable! 
What has surprised me most ... but I should have remembered from the earlier islands we visited... The temperature difference from "down there" ( ABCs Venezuela area) to here.
The wind is actually cold .. after a swim you need to get out of the wind pretty quick .. no lying on a windy deck to let the sun dry you off!  And the sea is not the same temperature ... not quite warm enough to just drop in and stay there till you become a prune... A bit of action needed ... not a lot just a bit!
In fact that is how the afternoon tea started ... after a 4 o clock swim and shower a nice hot cuppa was (and still is) just the job!
So now its all cleaning .. inside and out and clothes to get rid of the salt.. as much af the bottom to scrub as I can manage.... I shall try and hide here till I have done the worst and then see what the place is like.. and next thing you will know it will be christmas and then next year!!!
Until I leave the BVIs thats me signing off ... Happy christmas and a good new year to all my readers