Squally Trade Winds

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 24 Dec 2013 05:19
Noon Position: 03 42.0 N 153 21.7 E
Course: North Speed: 4.5 knots
Wind: East nor' east, F3 gentle breeze
Sea: moderate Swell: North nor' east 2 meter
Weather: overcast, warm, and humid
Day’s run: 92 nm sailed, 76 nm made good

Yesterday afternoon as I was looking around and contemplating the conditions which lay ahead it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to rig the boat for heavy weather conditions. In particular carrying the genoa partially furled on the furler is neither good for the sail, the furler, nor the rig. Paradoxically the best time to change down to Sylph's heavy weather rig is in relatively light conditions, especially changing over the headsails. The wind was about ten knots but forecast to increase to fifteen to twenty on the morrow (that is today), so I thought no time like the present, and proceeded with the not insignificant job of changing over the headsails.
Getting the genoa down and the number three jib up was not a big problem, but once the genoa was down the tricky bit was to fold and stow the damn thing. It is a big sail. I tried my usual method of folding it on the side deck, but even the relatively light ten knots of wind that was blowing across the deck made the job a complete mess. In disgust I dragged the whole lot back to the cockpit to deal with later while I got on with getting the staysail up.
At four thirty a minor squall went through which necessitated one reef and lowering the staysail, and before this kicking the mess of the genoa down the companionway out of the wind and rain. As I dealt with things on deck every now and then I would cast my eye down at the sail now taking up half the cabin space and pondered what the hell was I going to do with it. I thought maybe I should just jam the whole lot up in the V-berth and fold it at another time, but I was not keen on introducing a salt damp sail into my little harbour sanctuary. Eventually I decided to have a go at folding the sail as best I could down below. Now the whole length of the cabin, from the aft bulkhead in the galley to the forward bulkhead of the saloon, is about half the length of the foot of the genoa, so the normal way of folding the sail concertina fashion from the foot to the head was just not gong to work. I decided to use a dinghy folding technique of rolling the sail up along its luff from the head down. With the sail laid across the chart table and the dinette I managed to roll about half of the sail up before its length started to defeat me. But I thought I have got a large part of the sail done, surely I can finish it off somehow. Now, with the top half of the sail more or less under control, I went back to the more traditional way of folding the sail. I managed to stretch the foot out along the sole, with the tack hard up on the V-berth and the clew out in the cockpit, and some how I got the thing down to a reasonable compact shape, which, with a bit of additional encouragement from standing on the whole lot, and the judicious use of a couple of sail ties, I actually got it down small enough to fit quite comfortably into a sail bag. So that was my big achievement for yesterday and the sail is now stowed mostly out of the way in the quarter berth.
During all this time poor old RC didn't know where to turn, for wherever he did turn there were folds of sail. He did manage to find a spot on the dinette settee where he was mostly free from the noisy stiff folds of sail, and I was pleased to see that he was relatively nonplussed by the whole episode.
And it seemed my decision to change headsails was rather prescient, for much of last night we had squall after squall pass over us. At a little after ten, as the first squall came through for the night, I reduced down to a double reefed mainsail. This, along with the number three headsail, seemed a pretty good combination for the twenty five knot gusts that regularly hit Sylph during the night. As I lay in my bunk I could feel the wind pick up and hear the rain come down. I always got up to make sure everything was OK, but in all cases Sylph simply leaned over a bit more and surged ahead at six to seven knots. As she did so her head would come around from north to the north east, as the wind in the squalls invariably veered into the south east, and of course the wind vane would follow the changing direction of the wind. As I was happy to be making ground to the east I did not feel the need to go out into the wind and rain to adjust the wind vane to keep our heading of north. Rather I remained in the relative shelter of the dodger.
I am pleased to say that we got through the night unscathed, and have had a reasonable day's run. The squalls have dropped off a bit as the day dawned grey and overcast. Now the staysail is back up and there is but one reef in the main.
Meanwhile, poor old RC has had a few dramas this morning. He went out into the cockpit and started mewing about something. I misunderstood the problem and encouraged him to come back down below and put him on the settee berth where I thought he would be secure and comfortable. Unfortunately he then decided to relieve himself on my sleeping bag. Oh, that was what he was mewing about. I was obviously not amused. Then I thought I would temporarily move his cat tray to make it easier for him to get to in the rough conditions. Mistake number two. RC just went to the place where the cat tray is usually housed under the dinette table and peed on the rug there. I was unamused for a second time, though not quite as bad as the first.
So the rug has been dragged over the side for a few miles, the sleeping bag stuffed into the heads for the time being (I have a spare), the cat tray returned to its usual position, and peace offerings made between myself and RC. I am going to have to have a bit of a think about how to better meet RC's sanitation needs in rough weather. I think the solution is to place more non-skid mats around about so he can get to the cat tray safely without having to skate across the cabin sole. I am sure RC would agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The wonder is always new that any sane man can be a sailor.” And I admit I would find it hard to refute Emerson's assertion.
All is well.