29th December 2016
Position: 44°05.4N 008°47.4W
Wind: ENE 4/5
Swell: NE 3-6ft (increasing rapidly as the depth is shelving off Finisterre).
Weather: Good, nothing of note.
This time yesterday evening I thought I was going to have to come up with some ‘filler’ content, to make up for lack of exciting sailing detail. How wonderfully wrong I was.
Our motoring continued through the night, a reefed main just to give the boat a bit of stability so she didn’t roll on the swells quite so heavily. Early into the morning watch we thought it would be more of the same. And then it came… A ghost of breeze, enough to think you were being tricked into believing it was there. Then again, and again, more consistently every time. I looked back down the deck to see Connor with a big smile, nodding his head, indicating that the wind had indeed arrived. Never have you seen a mainsail, staysail, and yankee 1 go up so quickly.
The rest of the morning was had with the wonderful silence of sailing, and sailing alone – the engine firmly confined to quarters. We doing an OK 4-5 kts with slightly variable breeze, but it was far better than motoring, and we’d rather go slower with sails than fast without. It then became time to address the elephant on the boat.
We were lucky enough to acquire one spinnaker with the boat, which I had never even taken out of the bag or looked at. I figured with a mixed set of amateur crew, including almost 50% who had never sailed before, on a big boat it wouldn’t even become a consideration until we’d gotten to the mid-Atlantic. Wrong again. Enthusiasm can be hard to squash, so once we all agreed that it was in fact the perfect angle for a kite, and that the yankee was too heavy for the amount of breeze, I agreed that we could put the pole out as practice, for a day long in the future when we’d actually use a spinnaker. Well they only went and put the pole up really smoothly, and then it just looked sad there by itself… Can’t squash enthusiasm (and I was by the far the most enthusiastic, just trying to keep it contained), so up came the spinnaker bag, all the bits of string attached, a robust briefing as to all the ways it would probably go wrong had, and then suddenly it was in the air. So much for waiting for the mid-Atlantic.
Perfect hoist, and at midday on the 29th December we flew our first spinnaker on Discoverer. I’ve never flown a symmetrical kite before, lots of asymmetrics, but nothing with a pole. None of the guys have ever flown a symmetrical kite before, save on a dinghy. We literally had to lay all the different bits of ‘spinnaker related line’ out on the deck and decide what went were. Turns out we’re pretty good at winging it.
What followed was an afternoon watch of terrific spinnaker sailing, playing with all the different trim and pole angles, at a consistent 8/9+kts. Best decision yet to get it out of the bag early, and the team were completely on the ball running it. We chucked the staysail up for another 0.5kt, ran a long preventer to get the main right out for another 0.5kt, and used our last winch to send Paul up to the end of the pole to get some good footage. Every one of our 13 winches in use, lines and diverter blocks run everywhere, and not a single misplaced trim or ease. It’s safe to say: we’re feeling like a pretty slick operation this evening.
As it got dark came the tricky decision whether to run with it at night, in a building breeze. Flying a spinnaker is easy; taking it down can be the hard bit. I had an awesome hour on the helm doing 10 kts in the building breeze at night, and agreed with Henry that if it started consistently building past 20 kts or gusting 25 kts of true wind we’d have it down. Just before watch change we made the call, got all hands on deck, and did another briefing about all the ways the drop was probably going to go wrong, as none of us had ever done that before either. Paul was sent up to the pole end in the harness and did a great job of spiking the guy/sheet, while the rest of the crew got it all stuffed down the main hatch quick time making it look easy.
The white sails were then back up double time, with Ty doing a single-handed staysail hoist just because he could. Pole down, watch change, and a lamb curry from Joe to match the quality of days sailing. Our freezer has got pretty much a whole lamb in it that Joe brought with him. The lamb was called Ivor, and was hand-reared by Joe in the wonderful Devon air. Ivor tastes amazing, and provides a great addition to the already rich and varied menu provided by Seb.
We’re still trucking along in a building swell, and should reach the Finisterre TSS in the middle of the night. We will then follow a route down the coast as, in partnership with Weather Routing International, we’ve decided that gives us the best options in terms of refueling if required, and sets us up for the best angle when the next predicted consistent wind fills in further down the coastline.
Here’s hoping for another day as good as this again soon.
Oh, and we saw dolphins, 3 large whales, and a seagull. Joe isn’t sure what to do now as he’s ticked all his boxes in one day, so we’re just going to try and tick them all again.
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