Just Driftin' Along

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 7 Jun 2011 01:48

Noon Position: 20 41.0 S 177 32.5 E
West sou' west, Speed: 3 knots
South sou' east, F2/3 light air/slight breeze
Sunny, warm
Day's run: 86 miles

The wind faded away overnight, in response we first resorted to the drifter, Sylph's light weight red and white gennaker with a blue kangaroo on the bunt, but then the wind faded completely leaving Sylph rolling in the long rhythmic swell, and the drifter draping and dragging uselessly across the shrouds, so we dropped this and drifted for three hours until sunrise, at which time sufficient wind had returned to set the drifter once again and then by late morning had filled in enough to drop the drifter, hoist the mainsail and roll out the jib. But as I sit and write I can hear the mainsail starting to slat again so maybe we will need to return to the drifter soon.

One thing I worked out the other night as I was listening to the mainsail slatting, jangling on my nerves and wondering surely there must be a way to reduce the slatting without dropping the sail, especially as at the time we had a nice useful little breeze blowing, only the steepness of the swell was causing a problem. Then I recalled that when we were back in the Chilean channels sometimes when I tacked in light winds there was insufficient force to blow the battens through to the other side so I would slacken off on the mainsail halyard thereby reducing the tension in the sail which would allow the battens to blow through. It occurred to me as I lay in my bunk wondering whether to drop the mainsail or not that if I slackened off on the halyard a tad then I would be reducing the amount of potential energy stored in the tensioned battens and therefore the shock caused by the battens as they crashed through on each roll. I tried it and it worked. It doesn't stop the slatting but it certainly reduces the crashing shock as the battens pop through and back again. So now I can keep the mainsail up that little bit longer in light winds. I am sure a good racing sailor would have been able to tell me this long ago but that is one of the joys of single handing – having to work most everything out for yourself.

I have just taken meridian passage and the sun's daughter, the moon, is following her at a respectful 63 degrees right now, a very useful angle for having another attempt at working out a lunar distance. I have taken the appropriate sights, now I just need to do the calculations, so this should certainly keep me well occupied for the rest of the day … maybe longer. Tune in tomorrow and I will hopefully be able to tell you whether my digital watch is keeping good time or not.

All is well.