Where Next?
Bob Williams
Wed 15 Jan 2014 06:26
Noon Position: 25 59.9 N 130 55.4 E
Course: West Speed: 6 knots
Wind: North nor' east, F7 near gale
Sea: rough Swell: North east 3 meters
Weather: sunny, mild
Day's run: 141 nm

It looks like we didn't quite miss out on the gale after all. This mornings weather fax rather confirmed what I could see outside Sylph's windows, that it was windy and rough. Nonetheless, once again we have made better progress than I had anticipated.
At sunset we were approaching Kita-Daito Shima (shima is Japanese for island), the light of which we raised at 6 p.m.. This put us at 26 degrees north latitude, the latitude I was aiming at in preparation for today's strong winds. Once past Kita-Daimo we eased sheets a little and headed west. At a little after eight the wind started to increase so I put a second reef in the mainsail and dropped the jib. I thought this might be a little under-canvased but it still had us doing over six knots so I was well satisfied. We had a reasonably comfortable night until five when the wind started to increase again. Donning all my foul weather gear and safety harness I went on deck and decided the simplest thing to do was to drop the mainsail. This left us plodding along under the staysail alone, but it doesn't take much to keep Sylph moving and the staysail was sufficient to keep us doing four to five knots. We were not quite making the course I wanted, for that we really needed a bit of mainsail or the trysail, but putting the third reef in the main or setting the trysail are both a bit tricky, so I decided to leave things as they were until morning when I could see more clearly.
Come dawn it took me a while to find the resolve to don the foul weather gear again and venture out on deck, where I knew I was going to get wet, wet, wet, wet; but eventually the sight of Sylph's latitude slowly slipping south gave me the motivation needed and at eleven I went on deck, rigged the third reef line and set the mainsail. This did the trick bringing Sylph 's head back up into the wind, but of course also increased her speed, up to six to seven knots.
After a bit over an hour of bouncing over and through steep sided waves, and Sylph occasionally rounding up and causing the staysail to flog noisily, I decided to try something else. Once more I climbed into my clammy foul weather gear, this time sans boots, as my last trip on deck had seen me knee deep in green water which managed to half fill my boots and of course saturated my socks and the legs of my nice clean track pants that I had put on only this morning. Bother! While the northerly wind has a little bit of a chill to it, the sea water temperature remains quite warm so bare feet when exposed are a little cold, but immersed in the ocean waves as they climb down Sylph's side decks are quite pleasant. OK, so now I am in my foul weather gear, minus boots, barefoot (sorry, but it does take a while to climb into all this gear). Out on deck I drop the staysail, and leave Sylph under the triple reefed mainsail. This seems to be doing nicely. We are holding our desired course of west and maintaining a useful speed of about five knots.
Conditions are forecast to moderate overnight down to about twenty knots, with the wind veering a little into the north east, which will make for a better sailing angle. Okinawa is now only one hundred miles away. This means we should be rounding the southern point of Okinawa around midday tomorrow. We could probably make Naha tomorrow afternoon, but I think I will play it safe and give Japan Coast Guard an ETA of 10 a.m. Friday, and if necessary stand off overnight. Hopefully I might find somewhere out of the swell.
All is well.