Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Acklins to Crooked Islands, Bahamas

34.1 nm
Wind: E 15 knots
Seas: 3-4 foot following swell, bigger in the morning
Latitude: 22°49.20’N
Longitude: 074°20.77’W
Maximum speed (under sail, with current): 5.2 knots
Average speed: 3.4 knots

If Sunday was our worst day sailing ever, today must have been one of our best. At one point, Karl said, “All Secret needed was to stop beating for a little while!” and he couldn’t have been more right. We’ve been beating ever since we left Massachusetts, beating southwest in November when the southwest wind was blowing up the coast, beating northwest up Delaware Bay, and beating back down the Chesapeake Bay when the wind shifted to the southeast as soon as we rounded the corner. Now, the slog to the Caribbean is one endless passage into the wind--that’s why they call it the thorny passage. Today was the first way we turned off, heading blessedly west, the wind and the seas hitting Secret squarely on the stern, and pushing her effortlessly forward.

The thing is that we’ve always had problems going downwind, too, because we’ve never figured out how to pole out a foresail. As any sailor knows, you simply have to pole out a foresail to make any progress downwind at all. We’ve even tacked downwind, rather than have to deal with our sails set wing-and-wing. So today, after our success with the staysail the other day, we were adventurous. Plus, we looked at the staysail (which is now our working jib) flapping around uselessly, and foresaw a miserable day of trying to avoid accidental gybes, and knew we had no other choice.

Karl rose to the challenge, and the whole thing went off without a hitch, even though we’ve never used a pole before in our lives. Karl was able to hook the pole to the ring at the edge of the staysail, I hoisted the spinnaker halyard, and Karl hooked the other end to the mast. The pole is light and easy to handle. I think I could set the spinnaker myself. In fact, we were so enthused we almost set the spinnaker. As it was, though, using the staysail is a blessing in disguise, because we were less intimidated to pole it out than we would have been with a bigger sail. Even though we really needed more sail out to make good time today, it was such a blessing to ride under our beautifully spread sails, watch the Master steer, and feel the waves heave us forward instead of pushing us back. We both could feel Secret breathe a big sigh of relief.

It’s a great feeling. We pulled into harbor just at dark, just in time to sit peacefully in the cockpit and watch the sunset. We can go downwind as much as we want now, wherever we want, now that we’re off the useless battlefield of the thorny path. As a benefit, we’ve had 45 whole degrees to our comfortable points of sail! If we can just figure out the ordeal with our roller furler, we’ll be all set.

We left today, even though we had promised the lovely people of Chester’s that we’d visit again, so that we could get to a phone and call our families. It’s been far too long, and we need to explain to them that we’re not pushing anymore. I’m also hopeful that we’ll be able to get internet access here, although the city, Landrail Point, does not appear to be the major metropolis that we had been promised. Still, things are looking up. At least we can get some things done here, and try to decide on our next step.

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