Course: East nor’ east. Speed 6 knots
Wind: West F5 strong breeze
Sea: moderate. Swell: south-west
Weather: overcast, mild.
Day’s run: 149 nm
We have enjoyed a good run over the last twenty four hours with the wind freshening from astern, so much so in fact that I have reduced down to three reefs in the mainsail, which ended up taking a bit of doing. We had reduced down to two reefs a little before sunset but a few hours later we were still running along at over seven knots and it was obvious Sylph was straining. With a heavy displacement boat once you reach maximum hull speed, which for Sylph is about seven knots, any extra energy that the wind puts into the system has to go somewhere, and seeing as you can’t go any faster the boat just converts the energy into making bigger waves. The theory goes that if you put enough energy in, that is if there is enough wind, with a heavy displacement boat like Sylph she will eventually make a wave big enough to swallow her up, what they call driving a ship under. I reckon we would broach or lose the mast long before this happened but I have no intention of finding out, so at nine o’clock I decided to put the third reef in.
This is not such a simple procedure on Sylph because, in order to save on string, weight, and windage aloft, I only have two reef-lines rigged, and when it comes time for the third reef I have to transfer the first reef-line to the third reef cringle on the leech. This involves bringing the mainsail in close hauled then balancing a little precariously on the cockpit rail and dodger while feeding the line through the cringle with a light messenger line I leave rigged between the second and third reef cringle for the purpose. I know, that is all as clear as mud, but anyway you sort of get the idea that it is a little tricky to do when the wind is piping up.
Last night this involved a bit more than the usual rigmarole because the sail jammed as I was trying to lower it. After a thorough inspection, hoping that I would not have to climb aloft to clear the jam, I worked out that the sail was caught on the trysail track which runs alongside the mainsail track. I figured the stopper at the top end of the track must have broken off and left the hard edge of the track exposed which, with the wind pressing the mainsail against the mast, was causing one of the battens to catch on the top edge of the trysail track. I figured the best thing to do was to gybe. At least gybing Sylph is no big deal, unlike a lot of sloops. So I soon had this done and the sail lowered down to the third reef. It only took a little bit of cursing to get the reef-line rigged, then we gybed back and resumed course towards the Bass Strait oil field.
I was a bit hot and sweaty after this little exercise because I had donned full foul weather gear, having earlier been caught out while gybing round Wilsons Promontory. Despite the large sea running Sylph had up until this point remained relatively dry and as putting on full foul weather gear is a bit of a chore I decided to risk working on deck without the full clobber. This proved a mistake, as in the process of gybing the rig was unbalanced causing Sylph to come a little more beam on to the sea which allowed one to break on the quarter and dump a large part of its watery mass into the cockpit and all over me. Oh well, it wasn’t as cold as I would have expected, and I needed a bit of a wash.
But my best trick for last night was nearly running down an oil rig, which would have been up there with all time colossal blunders. How this one happened is all very silly, in fact so silly I am not going to talk about it. Suffice to say, I glanced at the GPS plotter, saw a suspicious mark on it, a mark that was not on the old paper chart I was using, consequently stuck my head out the companionway, and, with just a little surprise exclaiming, “Where did that come from?”, promptly adjusted the wind vane in time to give it a wide berth, though just a tad inside the two and a half mile clear zone that is established around these things. Something about rule five from the “International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea” springs to mind. I shook my head in disbelief and pondered that maybe there are things I have left yet to do.
For now we continue running wing on wing, the number three jib poled to port, and the triple reefed mainsail to starboard, still making good seven knots.
All is well.