Wednesday 16 July: Headwinds and Fog

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Sat 19 Jul 2014 21:39
1500 Position: 53 20.9 N 168 31.8 W
Course: West nor' west. Speed: 2 knots
Wind: North east, F6 strong breeze
Sea: slight. Swell: negligible
Weather: fog, cold

I awoke to a dream which had us hitting a rock, and the sound of it was very
real. I leaned out of the bunk to look at the GPS display. Nope, we were
within our swinging circle, but I tend to take such subconscious stirrings
of my mind seriously and climbed out of the bunk, donned boots and went on
deck to have a look around. All was calm though there was a hint of a
breeze from the west. I concluded that the sound I had heard was that of
the anchor chain shifting along the bottom in response to the shift in the
wind direction. The wind was light but it was fair. The barometer had
started to fall yesterday evening so I figured we must be in for a change,
maybe this was it.

Inanudak Bay was not the place to be if the change was indeed from the west
so I decided to make use of the light breeze and get under way. I followed
my usual procedure for getting under way under sail; I shortened the cable
in until it started to offer some resistance, then I set the wind vane up to
hold us head to wind, then hoisted the mainsail sheeted in close to midships
so that Sylph wanted to sail to the anchor. The idea is that she sails up
to the anchor, the anchor than arrests her headway, meanwhile the wind vane
is trying to steer her into the wind, the combined effect being to bring
here head to wind and onto the other tack. As she does so the chain goes
slack and I heave in as much as I can until it comes taught when Sylph tries
to sail off on the other tack. I repeat this process until the anchor
breaks free, then, if we are not standing into danger, I heave in the
remaining cable, proceed back to the cockpit, adjust the wind vane for the
desired heading, set the jib, trim the sails and we are off.

This morning with the light breeze the anchor was soon inboard and we slowly
tacked out of the Cove. The wind remained light so it was slow progress
clearing the bay, but the sun was shining, we were in no hurry, and it was
relatively warm. After breakfast RC and I sat in the cockpit and enjoyed
the scenery passing ever so slowly by in the bright sunshine. I was hopeful
that once clear of the bay that the wind would strengthen and steady from a
favourable direction. Well, it strengthened alright, so that we were soon
down to a double reefed main only, but the direction was the same as
yesterday, from the north east, right on the nose.

We were effectively heaved to against a force six, going nowhere fast. I
was very disappointed. What to do? The wind did not look like it was going
to change any time soon so I decided to return to Stepanof Cove, anchor for
the night and perhaps try again tomorrow. I eased sheets and set some jib.
Now with the wind on the beam even with the reduced sail, we were doing
close to seven knots and within an hour were back inside the shelter of
Inanudak Bay. In fact once inside the bay the wind faded away altogether
and I had to resort to the motor to get to the Cove, but as we were
approaching once again conditions changed abruptly. The fog which we had
left behind at the entrance to the bay started to roll in from the south,
enveloping us and hiding everything from view. Maybe a change was about to
come. I was paranoid about getting trapped on a lee shore and without any
real idea of the overall weather pattern nor any sort of forecast the risk
of getting caught out seemed higher than I was comfortable with, and the
consequences of getting caught out in this remote part of the world were
potentially disastrous. A breeze was also coming into the bay from the west
but I had come to the conclusion that all the mountains and valleys around
the bay made any local wind an unreliable guide for what was happening
outside. I decided to hold off from anchoring and tacked away from the cove
to wait and see if I could get a clearer idea of what the weather was going
to do.

And from there I just kept on going. Once back outside I found the wind was
still in the north east but not as strong as when I had turned for shelter.
It was too late to change my mind again and, in any event, I was just not
happy to anchor in a bay exposed to weather from the west to north west with
such unsettled conditions and without a reliable forecast.

We continue on towards Dutch Harbor.

All is well.