Sail Choices Friday, December 19, 2014 1335 UTC

Friday, December 19, 2014 1335 UTC
About 120 NM East of the Bahamas Bank, 280 NM North of Long Island, Bahamas
N 26 47.725 W 07455.014 Course 180 Speed 0.9

Bobbing around again in very light air. I am in a convergence zone and until it shifts or I drift out of it winds are going to be very light. I could not hold course last night so I motored for about 8 hours. This has taken the fuel gauge off the “full” peg. I still have quite a bit of fuel in the main tank and 15 gallons on deck but prudence in the use of fuel is always wise. At least this time I am bobbing in the right direction (South.)

I was reminded this morning of the problem of choosing the right sail configuration. When the sun came up I stopped motoring and put up the jib. With the wind this light I should have also put up the main or even better dropped the jib and put up the asymmetric. The problem was that the sky was overcast and black. It takes about 15 minutes to put up the main, maybe 25 minutes to put up the asymmetric. Taking down the main takes about 10 minutes before the sail is stowed enough that it is not providing power. The question: do I put up more sail and risk that the wind will rise suddenly? Or do I bob smartly on the sail I have? I chose to bob smartly (reef early, reef often) and was rewarded (?) by the winds rising to 20 knots and a rainstorm. I had to furl the jib a bit in the rain. The storm passed and then - you guessed it - no wind at all. I am no longer bobbing smartly, I am just bobbing. Once the weather burns off and the wind reestablishes itself I will be able to put up a sail that can catch the wind rather than just flapping around killing itself.

With crew it would not be quite so difficult. With a second person to help with the sail changes the time goes down. Also, with someone actively steering they can help get the sails down quickly by stalling the boat in the “no go zone,” or as we traditionalists like to call it “in irons.” It gives one a real appreciation for the people who do the around the world alone race. Their boats are about 20 feet longer so every sail change takes far more energy. Plus they are racing so they are always trying to keep the maximum amount of sail up for every condition.

Fair winds and following seas J

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