Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Day 6-7 Simpatica: Windward Passage & Oassis

Yesterday the wind increased to 20 from the East which gave us some exhilerating downwind sailing in this light weight boat. Richard learned the lesson that it’s always prudent to reef the sails at the same wind speed downwind as you do upwind. For those of you who don’t sail let me explain. When you are sailing to windward (into the wind) the forward motion of the boat creates apparent wind that increases the force of the overall wind, you are also feeling hit on your face, the waves are crashing over the bow and the boat is often burying into the oncoming waves. In those cercumstances it is very easy to tell that life is becoming unbearable and you want to reef. When you are sailing downwind the sails are out to the side and the boat is surfing with the following waves and you cannot really tell that the boat is becoming overpowered. It becomes harder to steer as it surfs and slides down waves but that actually is more fun than worrysome (at least at 20 knots or less) so it is harder to convince yourself as the wind increases that you need to reef. The problem is that the speed of the overpowered boat and the pressures put on those downwind sails are intense and can very easily break something. As the boat slides down the waves it often turns to one side or the other which can very quickly cause an accidental gibe. We managed to get our sails reefed with no damage but it required rolling in the jib and motoring into big swells while we lowered the now centered main, setting the reef and falling off again pulling out the jib. In Richard’s words, “That was exciting!”

The swells in the Windward Passage were impressive, the current and wind increase in that large passage between the islands of Hispanola and Cuba, make for some large and often confused seas. This is a very popular route for large vessels as well and we had to call a couple of them to let them know that we were there. One of the vessels that passed us at only 1 mile off our port side was the “Oasis of The Seas” the largest cruise ship in the world. We have seen her this season every Tuesday as she passed our little anchorage at Honeymoon Bay in St Thomas, let me just say, she is way more impressive offshore at only 1 mile from your little sailboat.

We continue to sail, although the wind has fallen to a more manageable 10 to 12 knots still out of the east. We only have to run the engine to keep the batteries topped off now so our fuel should be good for the rest of the trip. Thanks for the weather updates on the Iridium Herman and Blake. Jill the XM weather is on now so thank you guys as well… Jimmy is also enjoying his watch more now that he can listen to the comedy station.

Time to make some lunch,

Captain Tofer, Richard and Jimmy

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