25 November 2013

Well, that’s been a very mixed 24hrs. Last night just as I cleared the south end of Palma as the darkness fell the wind fell away completely as well. In the motion the sails were slapping, whacking and rattling and there was no point in keeping them set. Crucially for me it wears them out and loosens and breaks stitching when they are whacking around.

I had the sails up and down again three times on the night. Each time it seemed like a breeze was coming in and each time it had died away again within half an hour. At 0530 I heard a breeze starting to lift and ignored it for half an hour to see if it would hang around. It did and I set sails again; Main and Genoa. There wasn’t much of a breeze and there was a very awkward motion, which hindered our progress a lot. It was like a wind against tide motion without the wind. The sea was all over the place. I wondered if it was the meeting of two tides at the bottom corner of the island. Whatever it was it rolled us pitched us and corkscrewed us and on occasions seemed to do it all at one time. I shook my head at how chaotic it was.

The wind was from the NW and only about F3.Just enough to keep sailing even though we kept getting the wind knocked from our sails. As we got farther away from the land I could see there were two definite swells. One was rolling in from the NW and another coming in from the NE. With the two at 90 degrees to one another it made for a very confused sea. Astern I could see clouds darkening and a sheet of rain misting across the water coming our way. When it hit us it was heavy but the wind didn’t match the ferocity of the rain. It was short lived and passed us by as quick as it had come on.

But there was another squall behind it coming in from the NE and this one did have wind in it. I could see a rush of dark water getting ever nearer and white horses building as it came towards us. By the time it reached us it was a full F6 and we were seriously over-canvased. I nipped forward to drop the Genoa then hurriedly got 2 reefs in the main, then went back to lash down the Genoa on the foredeck. By the time I’d done that the wind had fallen away to a F3 again. But that didn’t last long. Soon another squall this time about F7 swept over us. We were better prepared this time and I kept Elsi pointed downwind and we surfed forward on the strength of it. The half bucketful of rainwater I had collected yesterday and left in the cockpit to have a wash with today had been knocked over. I glanced at my watch. It was still only quarter past ten. It had been a full morning!

At least there was no slap, whack and rattle any more. The main, with two reefs in, was more than enough sail set and it was pressed firmly onto the shrouds.
I have a gybe preventer rigged from the end of the boom to the bow to keep the boom from moving when we are running downwind. I use it a lot and it is earning its keep today. In the biggest waves the boom dips into and gets dragged through the water. The same waves usually give us a few gallons of water as a present to wash out the cockpit as well.

There will be a pile of yachts ready to leave the Canaries now to head for the Caribbean. Any who leave today and expect to find blue skies and a warm NE Trade wind will be sorely disappointed. It would be interesting to know what the wind was like over Palma today. The west side always seemed clear, even sunny when I looked astern, but to the east it was a mass of light and dark grey cloud.

Now at 1330 the wind is still F6 but at least we are moving and heading in the right direction. The Cape Verdes are about 850nm to the SSW and they will be our next turning point. But hopefully we will have some good Trade wind sailing between now and then.

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