Sunday, August 6, 2017

Passage: Banda to South Buru

Just finished the passage from the Banda Islands to South Buru, Indonesia. It was a two day downwind trip in light air that left me both annoyed and frustrated. A few observations:

1. Even gentle seas (less than three feet) with waves abaft the beam can set up a rolling motion that "snaps" the sails. The motion creates a wind that collapses the sail on each roll. This results in a "snap" as the sail fills on the reverse roll. Not only does this beat up the sail but it slows the boat down. The closer to dead down the worse the effect.
2. Solo sailing places constraints that can be very frustrating. When "Harmonic" blew past me with their asymmetric spinnaker I rued my lack of crew. I have a beautiful asymmetric in a sail bag on my bunk. It is difficult but not impossible to rig with two, easy with three, suicidal solo!
3. Some sail configurations are more stable than others. Going "dead down" (wind at 150° to 180° relative) gives me a choice. I can sail on just the main or just the jib as the main blankets the jib. The advantage of the main is it "snaps" less in light wind. The disadvantage is that it introduces more weather helm. Since this requires more rudder angle to counter it slows the already slow boat down. Also as the wind puffs the heading shifts to windward faster than the autopilot can react. This can result in a continuous veer that needs to be countered. Downwind on jib alone Reboot is very stable on both electronic autopilot and Monitor™ vane steering. The downside as noted above is sail snap in light wind.
4. Overcoming bad experiences is sometimes necessary. With my roller furling jib it is easy to adjust for wind speed changes. With my traditional main raising, lowering, and reefing are not only more difficult but more time consuming. I have been caught out more than once with too much main in a squall or sudden wind change. The same thing has happened using the whisker pole solo. But that does not mean that one can ignore using the correct sail configurations.
5. Everything is a sail. That includes the sail bag on the boom. Particularly with very heavy cruising sails it is pretty big. I call it my 4th reef and actually use it as part of the sail configuration.

The trip:
Left Banda motoring to get out of the channel. Raised the main and made good progress until I got tired of managing the veer. Dropped the main for the jib. Made decent progress until the wind died. Motored for a while in light wind and occasional rain. I hate motoring! Back to the jib. Falling behind as other Wonderful Sail 2 Indonesia boats catch up and pass me. Feel stupid and frustrated. Making about 2.5 knots in 9 knots relative wind from 150 relative. Say to myself: "She can go much faster in this wind. We never were this bad when we raced her." Bite the bullet. Raise the main. Start to veer but doing a little better. Start easing out the jib. At about 50% of "J" it all comes together. She stands up and takes off at 5.5 to 6 knots. Weather helm drops. Roll reduces. Wow! I wish I had remembered this configuration 24 hours ago!

P.S. Of course this means we will arrive in the middle of the night to a new harbor. And we do at 3 a.m. Fortunately with a full moon and radar. As the Aussies say: "no drama." I have of course been very sleepy so I made coffee about an hour before arriving . Drop the hook. Wired. Can't sleep. The joys of cruising.

Fair winds and following seas :)

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