Welcome to a windless Pacific Ocean. The telltale signs of the light airs we saw in the early part of yesterday evening were indeed an indication of what was to come, and by midnight the wind had died off completely, leaving us with a mercifully slight sea state, but still enough to gently roll the boat and create the horrible situation of having all the sails crash from one side of the boat to the other.
The mainsail suffers the worst from this scenario, as without enough wind providing adequate pressure to keep it full, the heavy canvas hangs at the mercy of the boat heeling either way in the swell. The horizontal fibreglass battens that provide it with its shape pop violently as it backs and fills in alternate directions, the entire mast and rigging shaking on each occasion, sending tremors through the entire boat. We don’t like this.
After attempting to hove-to a few times in order to keep the sails in a stable position and finding there wasn’t even enough pressure to prevent them from crashing around like this, we put two reefs in the mainsail, the reduced canvas being much less susceptible to the motion. Like this, even when it does back from side to side, only the smaller battens are still in play, which means the effects is a lot less dramatic.
Finally hove-to and sails stabilised, we tied off the wheel and dropped out of the watch system, there being no point sitting on deck getting cold, helpless to make any contribution to sailing to California without the necessary wind. I stayed awake catching up on some paperwork and ‘skipper stuff’, awaiting the return of usable breeze, while the team got some well deserved longer sleeps in than usual. Just after dawn we got a tease of what felt like wind, so I went to see if we could get moving again. Soon enough, we were sailing, and shaking the main back out to full started cutting a trail through the water ahead. Once the watches restarted Henry and Stars very kindly shared my mid-morning watch allowing me to sleep through it, which I happily did.
The rest of the day saw us make gentle progress SE, cautious of the other tack lest going further north put us back in lighter airs still. Our overnight drift was a mere 6nm back west, so nothing to be too annoyed about, and we matched that insignificant number with an equally tame 60nm progress during the day, about a 3kt average, the result of some very stop-start sailing throughout.
Early evening began to show all the signs again, with a lightening and then complete stoppage of wind. Fast becoming experts in this game, we set the deck up for a night of windless conditions, so to cause as little wear to the sails as possible, while still retaining the dampening effect they have on the boat, as the slightest swell with no sails up at all will make the boat a very unpleasant place to be indeed.
Renaud cooked us up a big vegan dinner, his first in the new cooking and cleaning rota the team have implemented completely independently of me. It’s great that they now pretty much run the boat without my input, and all I have to do is be grumpy and demand coffee from time to time in order to keep up pretence of authority. After dinner we got stuck into some serious Disco team bonding.
Uno has been our card game of choice on Disco since Antigua, and is now the initiation for all new crew and the official ‘team activity’. The games are swift and unforgiving, focus intense and relentless. The rules are widely varied and enforced with enthusiasm, but not necessarily consistency, by all, with the potential for great animation. In short, it’s aggressive, loud, and probably not very fair all of the time. It is also a lot of fun, and either brings the team closer together or makes us all fall out remarkably quickly. I genuinely think the Uno is taken more seriously than the sailing some of the time.
So with the boat pretty much put to bed, the RADAR guard set up, AIS alarm on, and the rule that anytime anyone went to the toilet they checked the boat and deck (so between five of us used to a watch system quite frequently) implemented, we set about 4 hours of fast and furious Uno, Antigua style. For those that were there in Antigua, you know exactly how that will have gone down.
After this came close to getting suitably out of hand, we called it a night while everyone was still vaguely talking to each other, not wanting to derail the rest of the trip over a game of cards (although if there was ever anything to get animated about, it would of course be Uno). We all went to bed with the agreement that whoever went to check the deck and discovered there was enough wind to sail, would start doing exactly that and the watch system would restart from. Here’s hoping for some dawn breeze again.
Date: 4th July 2017
Position: 27°24.8N 131°02.3W
COG: Hove-to, drifting 270°T
SOG: Drifting at ≤1kt.
Wind: Variable 0-1
Swell: E 2-3ft
Weather: Fair, occasional showers.
With the support of our partner Weather Routing Inc.
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