Going Downwind - 25:32.1N 22:51.7W

Fri 4 Feb 2011 20:35
Yesteday and today have been fantastic,  The wind has calmed a lot and the sea has settled.  It is sunny and warm and even at night you know you are a long way from Ireland. 
Yesterday was spent trying out different sail combinations and running lines to try and get the boat to sail deeper downwind.  Up until now I have not had to sail any significant dead downwind passages.  At the moment the best I can achieve is about 30deg off the wind. This is pretty bad, but the best that can be managed with unbalanced sails, vane steering and a hull shape that does not like quartering waves.  The most likely solution is to balance the sail area and there are two methods to try.  One is to gull-wing, main an genny opposite sides and the other is twin headsails.  I spent the whole day trying to get the boat to go straight downwind like this with pretty much no success. Whether I used the autopilot or the vane steering neither could react quickly enough to compensate for the over taking waves.  At dusk I decided to pack away everything and get the boat shipshape before dark.   I have made a decision that after dark nothing should be done other than watch keeping.  The wind always comes up 5 or 10 knots after dark and you cannot see squalls or waves when on deck.  I even have a tendency to reef a little extra too, new to me since most of my night sailing was racing.
Eating is like a game onboard.  First of all you have to find what ever is going-off and then you have to invent a meal that comprises of these ingredients.  This morning was easy with 3 day old UHT milk, so cereal was the answer.  Then for lunch was fruit cocktail, but you would more likely call it a lot of old fruit.  I have taken out a new bunch of bananas to ripen for next week and I need to find a lot of meals for onions, as some that I got in Las Palmas were already dodgy.
As the day wore on and the wind died I decided to try and get the second headsail up.  I polled one sail out and raised the other up the second groove in the foil.  With both of them up I set the second spinny pole and away she went.  For the fist time I am able to sail any angle downwind and donât need to touch the sails when gybing.  I can now sail about 30 deg either side of the wind, the angles that I could not achieve before and dont even have to lift a rope.  I have the two poles attached to the base of the mast and the clew of each sail.  I donât have any up-haul or down-haul on the poles and they just bob about and do their own thing.  Today with the swell on the port quarter the poles like a scouser waving, âcalm-down, calm-down, calm-downâ jumped, first left then right then left again, each time opening the leech of the sail and steading the boat.  Usually one or two rolls and the she is back on an even keel.  Life below decks took a giant leap forward for a while.  Taking down everything i will set about making some repairs to the second jib tonight, and tomorrow if the weather permits it will get both jibs up on the one halyard so that i will be able to furl them both at the same time.
While I am at sea I should be able to download weather information and use basic e-mail facilities to keep this blog up to date.  I am planning to update my position information every two days.  The biggest barrier to doing this will be the cost of the Iridium service.  Although not exorbitant, I have about $180 of credit and using this for weather downloads will be my priority.
Talk soon,