What is hard and what is not?

Salsa af Stavsnas
Ellinor Ristoff Staffan Ehde
Tue 12 Mar 2013 20:54
We got a wonderful mail from my stepmother Margareta, and as usual we get good questions.
As I was answering some of them I realize it might be good to explain what is hard sailing and what is soft.
If you would have asked us before we left the answer would have been that hard wind must generate hard work but we found that is not the truth.
We are very shorthanded, being two adults working i shifts, that is hard. Especially since we have two children that live a "normal" life on board, meaning they go up at about seven in the morning, require all meals during the day and go to bed at 20.00.
During that time they play a lot for themselfe but sometimes we need to create some fun to make a change in a life that is lived in a few square meters.
So hard sailing for us is when the boat needs a lot of attention, especially at night.
The best situation is an even wind, fairly strong, around 20 knots is the best, smoth waves, high does not matter as long as they are long, no boat traffic and a nice temperature.
Then we can read, write or sleep. Yes we sleep during watches, but only for 20 minutes at the time, we set a clock and just lay down for 20 minutes, you can get very good at that. Why 20 minutes? Well thats how long it would take a boat to get close from the horizon.
At night we use radar a lot and that means we can "see" boats from 40 miles around us.With AIS we have about the same range. The danger with all electronic aids is that you can get lazy with watching with your eyes, so we remind each other. Once we had a big fishing boat 150 miles off Cap Verde that just turned up from nowhere, they where not visible on any electronic aids.
What is a hard night?
A lot of boat traffic of course, meaning we have to watch their movements, and there are a significant amount of tugs towing miles of cable with a barge behind. You cannot ask them to stay away from us and they take a lot of space, and have the title restricted manouveribility (spell that!).
OR a research vessel that have us take a detour because of equipment out can keep you busy during the entire watch.
Well that can be little wind, under 14 knots when running with the wind, choppy waves that make the sails bang and put a lot of stress on the rig.
You simply cannot relax until we have the rig quite and working, then the wind picks up suddenly and you have to reset the sails, to drop dead again. So it goes. And you cannot relax.
It can be fair winds with a lot of squalls coming around you, that too is a dangerous situation that you cannot relax from. A squall can hit so bad you loose sails or even the rigg. So yo have to reef in and let the sails out all the time. And worse, most of the time a squall will not hit, so you work for nothing. But the saying goes, when you do not prepare, you will be hit.
The latest hard sailing was due to really hard winds gusting to 46 knots, gusts are terrible because as you start to relax with 30 knots and think this will work out fine, a gust will roll in and with a gust the wind is veering to the right in the Northern hemisphere. Vering means the boat either steers with wind rudder and adapts to the wind but then the waves start to hit from another side. So as the wind goes above 40, and that is a LOT , the wave train goes higher and steeper with that gust, the boat veers with the wind, gets a hit from a wave and is thrown aside, meaning the windrudder or Autopilot looses control. You have to jump behind the steering wheel and work hard to get her back on course. When the wind is up to 40 that takes a lot of work as the waves have other opinions than you do. So when you are done and all is set on course again you relax and hope it takes long before it happens again, and it does not take long. Soon you are there again and that means you have to sit behind the steering wheel for hours and hours, and nothing happens, until you leave the wheel again.
The situation does not feel dangerous, just uncomfortable. Even at night you just do not care about the waves, you can't see them anyway so you just get a hit and have to live with it. This last trip was hard on that the hits produced a  lot of spray coming in from behind, we sail with the wind, remember? That means that everything gets wet with salt water and salt water is only fun when you are on vacation for one week. Not when you live with it and it destroys everything. You feel sticky and the nice pillows you could have rested on are soaking wet.
I bet there is a lot more of hard sailing we have not experienced yet, but I will get back on that. I guess if we would encounter a real storm anything thereafter would be comfortable. So do not take my words for what this is about.
What is the good news about sailing being uncomfortable?
That when you get to San Blas it feels untouched! If sailing was only fun and comfortable we would have been millions of boats here.
This place is probably so pristine because the sailing here is known for being one of the worse.
Now we can enjoy it, and we do!