Thar She Blows

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 26 Jul 2007 18:48

Noon Position:  46 04.7 N  057 49.5 W

Course: 080, Speed: 4 knots

Wind: West-southwest 10 knots

Daily Run: 116 miles

Average speed: 4.8 knots


The wind freshened sufficiently yesterday to warrant a reef in the mainsail, this is where we reduce the sail area so as not to overpower the boat when the wind gets stronger, like taking your foot of the accelerator when coasting downhill in your car.  Sylph’s mainsail has three reefs where I can reduce the amount of sail in large slabs, hence it is called slab reefing, though I never use the third reef, if conditions get that bad I use my storm sails which fortunately is not very often.

During the evening the winds abated but the seas that had built up lag the wind so I left the reef in overnight to reduce the amount of slatting from the sails, especially the mainsail.  Early this morning the seas had calmed sufficiently, matching the light wind, to allow me to shake the reef out.  Now we are experiencing only the occasional crash as the sail flops over and is brought up suddenly, the rig all a quiver, in response to a heavier than normal roll in the short swell.

The highlight of the last 24 hours occurred yesterday afternoon at about 5 p.m. when a school of dolphins appeared suddenly, joining us as they often do to play around the bow wave.  This time however they seemed intent on other things.  Dolphins are graceful powerful swimmers, easily passing Sylph at many times her speed.  Looking at them they barely appear to move, the occasionally flick of their tail sends them careening off ahead of us.  I was attempting to take some photos of them, a difficult thing to do, as they appear only momentarily, you have to anticipate them, taking the shot a fraction of a second before in the spot where you expect them to appear, which of course most often they do not, as they swerve and skid in all directions, leaving one with a lot of photos of blank ocean.  As I was enthralled watching their antics all of a sudden a large dark shape emerged barely 100 yards away on the starboard side.  A whale, our first sighting for the voyage!  Then another surfaced on the port side paralleling our course, going in the opposite direction to the first, unusual.  But they didn’t stay long and by the time I had aroused Paul and his camera the large cetaceans had left us.  It dawned on me as I became more conscious of the larger than normal number of birds swirling around us that this was a feeding frenzy.  We must have been passing through a school of smaller fry that were being set upon by the whole food chain above them, the birds picking up the crumbs floating up to the surface from the dolphins’ feast below.

In looking through my books I later identified the whales as a sei whales (pronounced ‘say’).


“If the mind releases its fiduciary grip on time, does not dole it out in a fretful way like a valued commodity but regards it as undifferentiated, like the flatness of the landscape, it is possible to transcend distance – to travel very far without anxiety, to not be defeated by the great reach of the land.”  [or ocean].   Barry Lopez,  Arctic Dreams.