Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sun 24 Jan 2010 16:33
Position: 49 03.1 S 067 11.4 W
Course: Northwest, Speed 2.5 knots
Wind: Southwest, F6/7 strong breeze/near gale
Weather: sunny, cool
Day's Run: 52 miles.

Drat! Foiled again. This time with too much wind. I knew some was coming just wasn't sure when and I was hoping we might have snuck into San Julian early this morning before the strong winds arrived. But t'was not to be. The wind gradually backed from northwest to west and increased in force from a moderate breeze to a strong breeze, then later a near gale. By midnight we were heaved to under a double reefed mainsail and early this morning as I lie in my bunk and listened to the wind's shrill cry through the rigging I wished I had set the trysail late yesterday instead. We had an anxious night as the wind continued to back into the southwest and increased further in strength to a full blooded gale. Fortunately we were close enough to land to be getting some protection so the waves were not as big as they might have been, still they were steep and many broke over Sylph with a resounding bang. These waves actually do not worry me too much as generally they have spent their energy before they hit and it is all noise and spray. It the ones that seem to sneak up and break almost underneath the boat that cause the most trouble.
During the night as I poked my head out the companionway for a look around I cast an anxious eye overhead to the old patched up mainsail and wondered whether it would make it through the night. I thought about dropping it but then thought that the attempt in the dark might cause more problems then it would solve. We were riding OK, the sail wasn't flogging at all, just a nice steady strain so I decided it would be safer for me and the sail to wait until daylight.

During the night we were once more being steadily pushed out to sea. With the strong southwesterly wind and large waves and reduced sail we were only making good a course of southeast, so as we got further away from the coast the waves were beginning to grow bigger. At 8 this morning I looked out the companionway and decided something had to be done. The wind had increased a notch and we were rapidly heading out to sea. Feeling reasonably well rested I donned foul weather gear, safety harness and two tethers and braved the elements. First step was to drop the mainsail and firmly lash it to the boom. As I lowered the halyard I thought my worst fears were to be realized, the sail stuck about half way down and started to flog, a sure recipe for destroying a sail in short order. I looked aloft and after a few moments spotted the problem, the luff had caught around a mast step. A bit of jiggling and it soon came free, the sail was down and lashed. Undoubtedly you have all read the dramatic stories of sailors struggling with sails and lashings so I won't bore you with my episode, but certainly some of these stories came to my mind as I had my little struggle. But it was soon down and lashed. Next I wanted to alter course back towards the land so that we didn't go and disappear off into the vast rough and tumble of the Southern Ocean. I unshipped the windvane which wasn't doing much in any event, unlashed the wheel and wore around under bare poles. Now we had the wind on the port side I relashed the wheel a couple of spokes to windward and hoisted the trysail. Previously I have always set this sail well before we needed it and it has been a relatively straight forward job. This time conditions were a lot worse and as my cold wet hands fumbled with the sail slides I thought of a few minor modifications to make to the sail track to make the job a little easier next time.

Now the trysail is set, holding us into the wind and waves quite nicely, and we are slowly closing the coast. We shall have to wear around and head back out to sea again in about two hours, otherwise we will be aground. Also I have some consternation over the interaction of these waves with the relatively strong tidal streams that run close to the coast, so do not want to come too close in.

It doesn't look like we are going to make San Julian today either. Not to worry at least out here there is no chance of dragging anchor and ending up on the beach. The barometer has started to rise, maybe tomorrow.

All is well.

Bob Cat.

It's times like these I would much rather be a Bookstore Cat. Adventure is all well and good as long as it doesn't interfere with one's sleep. I don't mind saying that last night trying to keep the skipper relaxed and calm kept me wide awake. And all that noise didn't help either, the food bowl was beyond reach and the feline heads (toilet for you landlubbers) was somewhat hazardous. Things have either eased a bit or I have become a little habituated to it all. Regardless, time for a . . . Zzzzzzzzz.