Monday, April 30, 2007

Great Bahama Bank to Northwest Channel, Bahamas

47.8 nm
Wind: ENE 10-15 knots
Seas: 2-3 feet
Latitude: 25°26.38’N
Longitude: 078°11.22’W
Maximum speed: 5.8 knots
Maximum speed under sail: 5.4 knots
Average speed: 4.3 knots

We motor-sailed today, again. If you recall my diatribe from way back when, in January, when we were motor-sailing off the coast of South Carolina, I’m not a big fan. The Gentleman’s Guide, however, is a huge fan of the motor-sailing. We are going 700 miles to windward, I know, and tacking in fifteen knots of wind is not that fun, especially for 700 miles. I still wish we could sail for real, though, especially because we go so much faster under sail. Leaving our main up adds about a knot to a knot-and-a-half to our motoring alone speed, and it does feel good to have canvas up instead of being a strict powerboat as we were in the ICW, but I still wonder how much different this trip would be if our diesel weren’t an ever-so-easy option. We would be world-class sailors by now, instead of piddly little fossil-fuel users.

I’m trying not to complain, though. My captain likes his engine. And neither of us are that good at sailing, having little experience, so that hum of the diesel is comforting and safe and consistently fast. We did try to sail this morning, even sailing off our anchor for the first time in forever (it’s not hard when there’s no land in sight), and messed around trying to get a good angle on the wind. We couldn’t seem to sail closer to the wind than 50°, for whatever reason. It may have to do with our baggy old sails, or that we still have our 130 genoa up, or that our rig’s a little saggy after all this time. Karl’s going to try to tune it at our next stop, and maybe put our 110 lapper up.

I really feel, though, that it’s more that were just missing some crucial elements in the art of sailing. We’re completely self-taught--I sailed Hobie cats a couple of times with my dad under the age of ten, and then Karl and I went out on his friend’s forty-foot ketch, but aside from that, all of our experience is from books and what we’ve taught ourselves. That’s our dirty little secret. (Secret? Our boat? She can be dirty and little, too, but that’s our own fault, at least the dirty part) I don’t admit that very often to anyone we meet, but I guess I finally feel like I can come clean about it here because we have gotten a fair ways. But we don’t know how to stow line. We don’t know how to heave to, something I keep nagging Karl about to practice. We don’t know how to tie a bowline--every time I need to, I get out our Coast Guard Boating Skills and Seamanship. When we sail, we guess at the wind speed and our angle to it, and ruling by consensus, we give it our best shot.

But I still have all these questions. Why is that sometimes it seems like we can sail 30° off the wind, and other times we can barely hit 50°? How do we rig our staysail? Can we use our spinnaker pole as a whisker pole so we can run more efficiently? Today our ordeal seemed to be link to our dependence on our electronic autopilot. Sometimes the Master doesn’t steer that efficiently. But yesterday, the Master beat beautifully, and the wind was barely stronger today, at least in the morning, so what changed? It had to be something we were doing wrong.

We both have phobias, too--Karl doesn’t always like the jib, and I don’t always like the main. The boat’s just so fast and she can heel so much that we both feel a little out of control when we sail. Sometimes that out of control feeling is good, and other times it scares the bejeezus out of me.

We’re anchored again in the middle of nowhere tonight, just west of a place called the Northwest Channel, where we’ll cut back through into the deep ocean and hopefully catch some fish. In all my whining about sailing I forgot to mention the biggest news of the day: we caught a fish!! Just a barracuda, but a giant one. We let it go because of ciguatera, the food-poisoning disease you can get from barracudas who eat other little fish who eat off poisonous reefs. We’ve read that you can eat barracudas that are smaller than four pounds, but I’m not sure I’d risk it even then. They’re not supposed to be very yummy. So our fishing luck is changing, but not so much yet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sail trim. 30 degrees seems almost impossible for your boat, but 45 degrees is, and 50 is normal if you are getting set with current or you are not properly trimed.

Love the post.
glad you all are doing well

SV gaelic Air