Making Use of a Day Becalmed

23 Feb

February 21, 2019/Day 140

Noon Position: 47 13S  161 15W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 3

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 6 – 7

Miles since departure: 19,245

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Wind slowly withdrew in the night. It was enough to sail on when the moon came up full, yellow at first and then milk white, but by early morning, I could hear the main’s rhythmic slatting on the minimal sea, a sure sign. On deck, not a breath. I dropped the complainer and rolled in the forbearing but equally useless genoa at 4am and slept in utter stillness until sunrise.

Becalmed. There is something delicious about it. The world is not rushing by but stopped, there for your unhurried observation. You can look down into the water if you choose and see new detail. Or to the horizon, where, today, I saw flashes of white, specs of breaking water–a far off school of dolphins on the hunt. And the quiet–a palpable relief. It is delicious being becalmed, unless you have some place to be.

In our case, we have an appointment with Cape Horn and a very serious bit of strong weather, due here in two days, to outrun. A wafting variable came up with the sun, so I unrolled the poled-out number one genoa and let us “drift sail” at two knots while I worked.

The work was important and began before breakfast. This would be our only chance for the foreseeable future to loft the repaired genoa. Honestly, I wasn’t quite ready; there was one last seam to stitch, and I’d broken my last drilling needle. (At the suggestion of a friend, I was using needles to prep holes in the sail rather than a drill bit, which kept the sail fabric intact). A replacement had to be fashioned from a filed-down hand-stitch needle. It was too frail for the job and only lasted five passes before it broke. But five passes were enough.

Then the spare genoa had to be dropped and folded, that latter reference being the tricky bit on a rolling deck, and stowed in the anchor locker. Then the repaired sail had to be hauled on deck. Here we ran into serious problems: the sail jammed in the companionway hatch and refused to budge. Only after repeated block and tackle runs did it finally give, falling into the cockpit and jamming the tiller. I lugged it to the foredeck; hauled it up. And that was that.

While I’d rather the sail had not needed repair, the job was an interesting one, and it gave me a deeper appreciation of my primary working genoa . The attention to detail is remarkable, and the major reinforcements at the clew, tack and “reef” points are still so stiff, the sail practically refuses to fold.

A light wind has filled in this afternoon. My new course is ENE; the goal, something around 46S by late Saturday, when the big low begins to drop in. That should give us better purchase.


This article was syndicated from The Figure 8 Voyage


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