Gybe Ho!

Noon Position: 18 56.4 S 100 05.3 W
Course: 275 Speed: 6 Knots
Wind: East sou’ east F3-4 Gentle to Moderate breeze
Weather: Overcast, warm
Day’s Run: 143 miles

We are running square on the port tack, wing on wing with the jib poled out. A good sized swell runs out of the south east and the sea is piled up on top of that. When the breeze is fresh Sylph sails as steady as a rock, and I barely notice the waves, just the steady hiss of Sylph pushing forever forward. But the winds are not entirely consistent. Small line squalls pass through on a regular basis, you can see them coming as a dark band of cloud, and when they arrive the wind backs and increases in strength and a light rain falls. They are nothing to worry about and often as they approach I contemplate whether to put a reef in or not. Often I don’t, Sylph just picks up her skirts and surges forward, her bow wave white and bold before and the quarter wave rises up and streams off from her counter stern, occasionally collapsing over the gunwale splashing cool and wet beside the cockpit coaming. As the wind picks up it also backs a little and the wind vane automatically follows, such that Sylph powers off to the southwest away from where we want to go. Now I contemplate another decision, do we need to gybe or will this be just a short burst? Typically I hold off for a while, then put a reef in and gybe. Gybing Sylph is no big deal but it is a little time consuming. In fact while Martina was here she commented on how little fuss was involved in gybing Sylph - how nice it is to have an informed and appreciative audience. For those interested and who can follow here is what is involved in gybing Sylph: First I remove the boom preventer (connected from the end of the boom to a cleat on the bow and tensioned with a small tackle), then slacken off on the vang/preventer (these are unique to Sylph and serve as both boom vangs and preventer, and are lines which lead from the gunwale near the shrouds up to the boom through a block where a boom vang would normally be, about a third of the way back from the gooseneck, then back down to another block on the gunwale and then led aft to a cleat on either side of the cockpit). Having removed the preventer and slackened off on the vang/preventer I can now haul the mainsheet traveller to windward. Leaving a turn of the vang/preventer on its cleat I adjust the wind vane to bring the wind fine on the opposite quarter and start hauling in on the mainsheet. As the wind catches the mainsail on the opposite side I control it as it gybes through with the mainsheet and the turn of the vang/preventer on its cleat also acting as a boom brake. Once the mainsail is over I haul in on the new working vang/preventer and turn my attention to the headsail which is now blanketed by the wind shadow of the mainsail. I furl the headsail on its roller, then go forward, lower the whisker pole, detach the jib sheet, move the pole across to the opposite side, shifting the fore and after guy over, place the new working jib sheet in the pole’s parrot beak, and raise the pole - the guys ensure it raises up and out without interfering with the forestay. Then I proceed back to the cockpit set the jib on the new side, and last of all put the boom preventer back on. So while you might not follow all this you can see it is a rather involved process but one in which I can keep everything well controlled in any wind strength where it is safe to run square with the mainsail up. Now typically what happens is I hang off making my decision to gybe, then when I do decide to go through all this rigmarole of course I find that once I have everything squared away on the new tack that the wind has veered and eased again such that we are once more off course, this time heading off to the northwest, so I have to go through the whole process again. This is basically what happened last night, I gybed at 23.30 and then again at half past midnight, what a pain. Still it keeps me occupied.

Right now it is sunny and warm, the wind is steady but a little on the light side, the seas are a deep dark blue, white capped, steep and toppling causing Sylph to roll and weave from side to side, the wind vane struggling to hold a steady course in the lighter wind and relatively steep sea, but still doing a good job for the conditions. Meanwhile I sit down below writing my blog and enjoying a fresh cup of coffee. This afternoon’s agenda includes reading some essays on Camus, practicing a bit of flute, and studying a bit of French (where is my French teacher?).

All is well.