The wind died down the night of the 17th (day 14), and we spent the pre-dawn hours under-powered. When light first appeared we rallied the crew for an “all hands on deck” spinnaker raise. We went to our stations, and like a well-oiled machine, got the spin on deck, sheets led, pole up and spin launched without any drama. (For non-sailors reading this blog the spinnaker is the big, poofy colorful sail you often see in photos of sailboats. It can easily dance around in the wind in a most chaotic manner, causing the boat to round up out of control, heel over to fantastic degrees, and generally cause chaos aboard. With proper procedures in place, and by knowing the limits of your own boat, chaos can be avoided and the wind harnessed for sailing when other sails just won’t take you where you need to go.) Anthea went from a boat lolling in the light breeze to a racing machine, matching wind speed with boat speed. That is all sweet and comfortable when the wind speed is 5, 6, or even 7 knots. But when the wind started gusting to 12 knots, we could feel the strain on our ¾ ounce spinnaker. As we surfed down the waves into the troughs, momentarily dipping out of the wind, the spin collapsed and then snapped full of wind as we surged up the next wave. Such a thin sail, no longer crisp and new, can only snap so many times before the dreaded rip of a seam. After a quick conference we decided to change out our light weight symmetrical spinnaker for the old 1.5 ounce asymmetrical (cut narrower and smaller for heavier wind). We were bearing 150 degrees off the wind, giving us the angle we needed to fly this heavier sail, cut for a broad reach. Again, the full crew launched into action: sock down to snuff the ¾ ounce giant, halyard down, sheets switched, halyard up and sock up to lock the heavy spin in place. Anthea took off like the ocean racer she was designed to be. Soon the true wind speed was between 15 and 18 knots, but the helm was smooth and light, with no strain on the rudder, no force of rounding up from unwieldy sail to counter act, only the dance of bringing the bow down and back up in the process of surfing down the two meter waves. Anthea was sailing in the 8 knot range and surfing to 9 knots, over and over. The power and speed of the sail was in perfect harmony with the design of the hull. No stress, no drama, only the glory of speed. Anson was in ecstasy driving the boat for hours on end, at the helm of a racing beast.
We fired up the waterproof speaker and played our theme song for the crossing: CSNY’s “Southern Cross (thank you Rodney for the album)! As Anson drove the boat we sang and danced on the foredeck, reveling in the moment and feeling release from the days of hard sailing through the NE trades. We had entered trade wind sailing at its best: organized waves, steady wind, blue skies with puffy clouds. By late afternoon, with squall clouds on the horizon, we snuffed the spinnaker and raised main and jib, savoring the most blissful spinnaker run of our lives.
Currently the same spin is up – once again launched at dawn in light air conditions. Today, day 19, was the day we thought we might be motoring, as the trades lightened. And we did for one hour before dawn. But this spin launched us into the 5 knot territory, this time on a beam reach. Thus far the wind has held and strengthened, and we’re slipping along at 6 knots. May it last! If not, there is always Mr. Perkins to help us power through the calm before the trades re-build for our final days of sailing. That’s right – we’re only 317 nautical miles from the anchorage at Atuona on Hiva Oa. We’re feeling the crossing come to an end, as we flow through the rhythms of life in our sea pod. Kim
Latitude 05 degrees 06 minutes South; Longitude 136 degrees 52 minutes West