A reef tale

Rich Carey
Fri 24 Aug 2018 20:01
15 54.360S, 162 39.060W

In the army I learned the value of night vision, but on a boat things are not as clear cut. When there's no moon, it's so dark out here, that you can't see the difference between the sky and the ocean. It's like you're embedded in a block of coal - literally nothing existing beyond the railings of the vessel. Some nights you can see stars, but the sea is wet and warm, water goes up - clouds no stars, a lot of the time. So night vision is worthless - what are you trying to see in the middle of an ocean anyway? In this circumstance, when I go outside, I turn on the full white deck lights (I have red also), and I can see everything - well not the world outside, but I couldn't see that anyway. On the flip - when it's a full moon, and not dense cloud, it's remarkable for just how much you can sea, especially with your night visions intact. The lack of light pollution, gives the moon surreal power of illumination. But there's another side to the light no light aspect of night sailing - scarey noises. Waves are big out here, and on the trade run, they're coming at you from behind, and they're breaking, and they crash and bash the hulls both outside and between. Non sailors can imagine going into wind and waves, and the crash and bash ('slamming' on a catamaran, as they hit the underside between the hulls) - but down wind is harder to describe. The waves are similarly rushing/crashing through the hulls (back to front), but they also lift the back end and give powerful kicks that jink the entire boat left and right. On dark visionless nights, the lack of sight, makes your hearing become acute - natural defense stuff. Get the picture? No vision; two meter breaking waves coming fast at you from behind: crashing between the hulls; the entire boat rearing up then doing sideways jumps; two sails independently stressing, flapping and flogging. Big wind nights can be fun ...
Night before last night, the forecast was 20 knots, gusting 25. That's first reef territory, but I'm solo, so I'd already shortened to the second reef at dusk. Just as well - by midnight it was gusting 32 knots and x86 was doing 12, which is pretty darn quick (average cruising speed 6). I had to do what you don't want to do, at night, on your own, in a wide ass catamaran - reef again. To reef you have to: start both engines; turn into the wind; adjust the topping lift; pull in the main sheet; let the mainsail down; pull in the second reef sheets; pull in the third reef sheets; raise the mainsail to pull the third reef sheets tight; bear away to the correct course; adjust the topping lift; let out the main sheet. Not nothing (!) and there's more yet. When you're all set to begin on your mini epic (deep breathing, Hail Mary's, buttocks clenched, etc), there's 32 knots and your doing 12 - so you're only feeling 20 knots on your butt. When you turn into the wind, your forward motion stops and you're suddenly getting 32 knots full in the fizzog. And, the foresail is flogging like a bedsheet in the garden of a house on Scarfell Pike. And, all those ropes to adjust - well they're on both sides of a 6 meter wide boat, so start running. And, you're driving forward all the time with both engines, to maintain head to wind - or things go real bad real fast! Oh, and did I mention what it's like in the pitch black with two meter breaking waves (?) now they're on the front, boosting you upwards, and slamming you down.

I wish I could say I was 'elaborating' … but then again, if you don't have a heart attack, or trip and break something on the numerous ropes snaking the cockpit, or fall off the wind and start to broach with a baggy mainsail, or fall overboard - you do have a sense of satisfaction and good story!

I've seen noone in 5 days, it's rather empty out here. The other big runs I've done single handed, were on main routes, so while you seldom see others, they're around. Hereabouts, things have changed as the routes have opened up. All world cruisers end up at Froggy Polly, with most jumping off again from BoraBora. But then they split, some going via American Samoa, some the Cook Islands, some maybe stopping in Tonga, then some to Fiji or some dropping down to New Zealand. Lots of some's, means dispersal. Furthermore, I'm taking neither the Samoa nor Cook Islands line, but a direct hop to Fiji which is unusual - and unusual route, means unusually alone. Did see a bird day before yesterday - hope it got somewhere before it got 32 knots on the fizzog!

On the subject of course taken. Those readers of this blog, and folks like my great Norwegian friends, will recall that Cats don't go directly downwind very well. I could be flying my special downwind gull wing sail, but have chosen to stick with the little 22m Gib for handling safety reasons. So, with the wind unsympathetically smack on my tail, for my preferred route, I'm needing to be a bit ziggy zaggy. There's a general trend however, and that's to stay north, to avoid as much of a major lull that's arrived this morning. It's why I may appear at times to be headed for Samoa, but I will be ducking under the Pacific Island Yanks in a couple of days' time. When the lull passes through, things should get quite a bit more lively, and I may drop the main entirely, and still be doing 6+ knots on just the tiny gib. After abreast of Samoa, things also start to get more interesting, and sleep starts to get more less. Hard bits are no fun, I prefer the open water thousand fathoms stuff. I even dodge land masses, where a brief skirting would give me a few hours fix of 'Project fi'. It's always tempting, but after a few days out, I've beaten the withdrawal and need to stay clean.

I re-watched all of Altered Carbon, and recommend it a second time, if you're a scifi fan. I also watched a BBC series called 'The City and The City', not bad except for that stupid title. I don't like the British lead actor, who has been remarkably miss cast in everything I've ever seen him in. He even snagged a major role for a season of 'The walking dead', making me cringe as he tried to play a psychopath - his BAFTA will elude him until he snags a proper nincompoop over acting role. Maybe I'm missing something about him? Nope, don't think so. Also watched 'Brooklyn nine nine' (I have a lot of time and no Internet to blow it on, right!), and that was a breath of fresh air. Top class humor, of the type that 'The Office' kicked off, only much better (I wasn't a great fan of the Brit or Yank versions). You know the type - mickey taking of stereotypes via awkward real life scenarios, only dumber, and more irreverent. Try 'Brooklyn Nine Nine' - once you're past the character learning phase, it'll get you. It's also good for aspiring comedy actors with big snorkels - no need for that painful surgery folks, you can get there.

Just got a note to say K&C are back in BonnyS, air mile battered, tattered, and in flight splattered. They diverted via Hong Kong, but not sure why - the only fun therein, used to be if you'd survive a landing at Kai Tak airport in a cross wind, but they closed 'Challenge Accepted', a long time ago. Now you can only do it on Microsoft Flight Simulator - so no white knuckles, screaming, or poopy smells.

Back to eating cold, out of cans again. Wonderful - you finish and lob the empty can that took you no seconds to prepare, over the side - my kind of 'fine dining'. That still leaves you with a spoon or knife to wash up, darn it - but I have a plan. I figure the new owners will want their own cutlery, so when I leave Fiji, I'm going to start lobbing that over the side as well - awesome!

All's well on x86, but now wearing waaay too much hair for these windy night reefing shenanigans!

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