Oh So Slow!

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Tue 8 Nov 2016 01:44

Noon Position: 37 54.0 S 149 05.5 E
Course: West Nor’ West Speed: 3 knots
Wind: South West, F3 – gentle breeze
Sea: slight Swell: South 1 meter
Weather: overcast, cool
Day’s Run: 58 nm sailed, 29 nm made good

The last 24 hours have been a little frustrating, even more than the previous 24.

Yesterday afternoon we were plodding along in the light airs, keeping our eyes peeled for signs of an approaching front. A ship in the distance showed some interesting signs of refraction, with two horizons visible. On the uppermost horizon the ship looked flattened, its superstructure a small rectangle on a thin hull, and in the narrow band between the two horizons the ship’s hull was fat and red with no sign of its superstructure. I figured it was a sure sign of two distinct air masses ahead of us, that and the dark wisps of cloud with tendrils dipping down from their bases. At 17.00 I put a reef in the main in way of preparation, which proved good timing for at 17.30 the front hit. Winds gusted up to over thirty five knots, whipping the sea white. I furled the headsail and reduced down to a double reefed mainsail.

We remained under the double reefed main just long enough for the worst of the front to pass and an hour later I set the staysail to get us moving again. Fifteen minutes later the winds had abated enough to allow a reef to be shaken out, and less than an hour later we had full sail up and a skipper gnashing his teeth at the cursed lack of wind and the sloppy seas. We motored.

As the strong winds were only short lived, the short seas soon smoothed out and at 21.00 I shut down the motor and allowed Sylph to take care of herself while I got myself some supper and some sleep.

At 23.00 what little wind there was shifted sending Sylph aback and forcing me on deck to sort things out. I could hear a whale breathing nearby but nonetheless was rather taken aback myself to see the huge tail of a large humpback whale hanging high in the air, perhaps only ten meters away. I suspected the whale might have thought Sylph one of her kin. Once I had allowed the headsail to draw on to the opposite tack, the slightly fresher breeze had us speeding away from Sylph’s large playmate and, in this instance, I was a little relieved to be doing so.

At 01.45 we were closing the coast and pretty much going the wrong way, so I tacked again. By this time the winds had returned to being very light and I was disappointed though not surprised to find that once we had tacked that we were going in the opposite direction and not making any ground to the west, our desired heading, at all.

At 08.00 the wind freshened a little and also headed us, so I have once more tacked and we are at last making a little ground in roughly the right direction. Checking the chart, our 08.00 position was passing over where we had been fourteen hours before.

Slow going indeed, but …

All is well.