Bay of Biscay

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Mon 24 Aug 2009 11:53
Noon Position: 47 19.1 N 006 12.1 W
Course: South sou' west Speed: 6 knots
Wind: West sou' west, fresh
Weather: Overcast, mild.

Day's run: 106 nm

Another tiring night with a moderate amount of shipping to watch out for, initially a headwind had me tacking a few times to stay close to the rhumb line, then as anticipated a front came through at 3.35 a..m., I was expecting it a little later but not far out. At the time I was dozing in my bunk when I awoke and knew something was wrong, I lay a moment wondering what it was, "Yes, that's it," I told myself, "We're heeling the wrong way." I was laying against the lee cloth instead of the settee back. At first I thought we had simply gone aback which sometimes happens when close hauled, a little wind shift which the wind vane can't quite keep up with, the jib goes aback and then unless I am up on deck straight away to unlash the wheel and bring us back on course the jib pushes us around so we are facing the wrong way, and with the jib sheeted over to the windward side we stall out and go nowhere. Such was the case when I got on deck, I let fly the jib sheet to haul it onto the other tack and in the process noticed that there had indeed been quite a significant wind shift. When I had finished trimming sheets we were heading to the west instead of south, the wind had veered into the northwest. Fantastic I thought, and eased sheet such that we were galloping along on a beam reach at six and a bit knots.

Alas, it was not to last. As often happens a short while after the front had passed through we struck a dead patch and were lolloping in the residual lumpy sea and swell, sails slatting and crashing about once again. I tolerated it for a while hoping maybe the wind would fill enough to fill the sails but no, so at 7.20 this morning it was down sails, and into the drifting and rolling along mode of going nowhere. This time fortunately it was only a short wait for the wind to fill in again, at 9 a.m. we had a nice nor' westerly and all plain sail was tumbling us along up and over and occasionally through the swells at six knots. Since then the wind has backed a little into the west, so once more sheets are firmed up and we are all but close hauled on the port tack. At this stage we are able to maintain track as long as we do not get headed any further. The forecast for the next 24 hours is pretty much more of the same, maybe we will be headed a little so will be hard on the wind again. I shall have to go back through my logs at some point and work out what percentage of the time since leaving east coast USA we have spent close hauled; well over 50 % I'd would hazard a guess. There is an old cruising adage that says if you are going upwind you are going the wrong way. Hmmm!

Boy, I sure do talk about the weather a lot - life on the ocean waves.

All is well.

Bob Cat:

Weather, yes how dull, except perhaps as it pertains to sleep. For instance it has been my experience as a nautical feline that the quality of sleep on a small sailing craft is directly proportional to the wind's angle on the bow, the smaller the angle, the worse the sleep. The worst sleep is when the wind is close to the bow, with the boat leaning over, bouncing around and often making lots of noise. The best sleep is when the wind is directly astern, that is the angle from the bow is the maximum possible. At this angle the boat is generally upright, quiet, with maybe a gentle roll which is all very conducive to the slumberous state. Now the relationship between wind strength and quality of sleep is a more complex function which requires careful analysis. I shall expound on these and other weighty matters another time. Perhaps such data will make an interesting annex to my memoirs, I am sure it would be very useful information for any feline considering a career at sea. But now it is time or more data collection .. Zzzzzz.