Day 6, Guernsey to Lanzarote

Stravaig'n the Blue
Wed 14 Oct 2020 21:38
Position: 39.04.41 N 009.33.46 W (18NM SW of Peniche)
Position timestamp: Wednesday 14th October 2020 11:00 BST (UTC+1)
Distance travelled last 24 hours: 157 NM
Distance travelled total: 849 NM
Average speed: 6.33 knots
Distance to destination (Arrecife): 643 NM
ETA based on average speed so far: Sunday 18th October 2020, between 02:00 and 05:00

Having made good progress during the day yesterday, it was disappointing that this did not continue overnight. And having reduced sail for a comfortable night, it was anything but.  There were several squalls with winds in excess of 30 knots and the seas became very confused from the point at which the Atlantic goes from very deep (3000 metres) to relatively shallow (200 metres) in the space of a few miles.  So we were over canvassed during the squalls and under canvassed the rest of the time, the sea state was so turbulent we hardly slept and we had the busy north south shipping lanes to cross to get inshore to get a 4G mobile signal. The long and the short of yesterday’s progress was 157 NM sailed but distance to destination reduced by only 97, hence our ETA moving back into Sunday.

The first thing I did when we picked up a 4G signal was download the weather forecast for the eastern Atlantic for the next seven days. (I use the LuckGrib app to download and display these forecasts and can recommend it highly.) The forecast shows northerly winds all of the way to the Canaries continuing, albeit also decreasing, until Saturday. But there’s a significant low pressure system developing over the Azores from Friday and this will bring southerly winds to the Canaries starting on Sunday. Time to get our skates on. Time to deploy the Blue Water Runner, our other downwind sail (also made by the Danish sail maker, Elvstrøm).

If our destination lies directly downwind, the BWR allows us to sail there directly. If we use the Furlstrøm in that situation, we need to zig zag to our destination, the theory being that the extra speed we gain by sailing off the wind (ie not directly downwind) more than compensates for the extra distance travelled. The theory certainly works in practice for high performance sail boats but results can be variable in more conventional craft such as Stravaig.

Given that our destination has been directly downwind since we rounded Île d’Ouessant why havent we deployed the BWR before now? Well, at 150 sq metres, three times the size of our mainsail, its a bit of a beast. We did deploy it in 20+ knots on a very fast passage from Guernsey to Alderney during the summer but that just convinced us that we wouldnt do the same in the dark or in stronger winds.

With the wind forecast to drop over the next few days and yesterday’s zig zag wanderings yielding poor results (other than to remind me to give Captain Beefheart’s Safe As Milk another listen), the BWR was deployed this afternoon. It was quite a lengthy process, taking the best part of three hours. The Furlstrøm had to be furled, dropped to the deck, stripped of its furling gear which it shares with the BWR, and packed away. We then had to turn the boat around, into the wind, to drop and secure the mainsail which isn’t need when the BWR is up. The BWR was winched out of the sail locker, fitted with the furling gear, sheets and halyard, hoisted into place, unfurled and trimmed. And all the while the boat is on the move, rockin' ’n’ rollin’ in the swell.

The wind has been at the upper end of what we are comfortable with when the BWR is deployed but we are flying along. It is also quite noisy. This is because the swell is catching the back of the boat from time to time, pushing us off course and causing us to roll and the contents of certain cupboards to crash about. The swell should reduce as the wind reduces so we are going to put up with another disturbed night for the sake of some good progress being made.

All is well, apart from the crashing and banging.