19/03/2009 | by Alex Dick-Read
Imagine someone coming into your room in the middle of the night with a giant gong, sneaking up nice and close to you and smacking it as hard as they can every 5-10 sec. Now allow your room to rotate and twist. Suddenly you have rolled to one side of your bed, and then the other, and then back again, all the while the gong keeps going. It is hot and you are sweating profusely despite having thrown your only sheet to the other side of the bed. Lying almost naked in the dampness of your own sweat, listening to the gong going constantly, getting rolled from one side your bed to the other, knowing you should get all the sleep you can because you have to be awake at 3am.
Welcome to sailing in the tropics when the wind dies. When wind doesn’t have the sufficient strength to keep the main sail and genoa full of air, every time the boat rolls with the swell, the wind spills out of the sails and everything goes quiet. Everyone awake waits…. a second or two passes….. WHACK, FLAP, WHACK and the wind fills the sails again and they slam back into place. Repeat all night. Turn the air temperature in the boat to about 32ºC and remove all good ventilation sources. Flogging is the technical term for this sort of sailing. I think I almost would rather be flogged …
Imagine how positive one is when you’re awakened at 3am to this situation. It is tough to suppress all the joy your feel.
Normally in this situation, we would have rolled in all the sails, turned on the iron wind (aka motor) and started chugging along our course at a decent speed. However, we’re currently about 850nm from land and only have enough gas for about 250nm. So we’re forced to conserve.
The other joyful side effect of this noise is the fact that we’re hardly moving anywhere. If we continued to move at the fantastic boat speeds we achieved last night, our crossing from St Helena to Fernando de Noronha would take us only 38 days. Then you really have to start wondering about water and food.
The saving grace of this situation is the spinnaker. As soon as day dawned enough for us to see our sails and rigging, we hoisted our symmetrical spinnaker and started hand steering the boat as best we could. Much better, until the day draws to a close, because we can’t use this sail at night since it requires two people to be awake at all times.
Most cruisers have a cruising spinnaker, DRS, asymmetrical spinnaker, or gennaker (all the same thing – just different names) which you can use night and day in these sorts of conditions without fear of getting yourself in all sorts of trouble if the wind picks up. We don’t have one of these sails, but are on the lookout/search for one.
If you are reading this blog and just wondering what you are going to do with that old gennaker/DRS on the boat, in the shed, under the work desk, in the loft, please wait no longer! Contact us and maybe you will let us borrow it for a while?
Praying for the wind to build, but not too much (Murphy hears these things!).