Monday, December 15, 2014

40=?ISO-8859-1?Q?=B0?= S(pinnaker)

We crossed over the 40° line two days ago. Roaring Forties and all that jazz.

I would never be dismissive about the potential for bad weather in these latitudes. But so far, our biggest concern has been finding enough wind to keep the spinnaker drawing.

That cheery red and white sail has been our deliverance over the last two days, keeping Galactic moving in super-light winds and saving us from resorting to the engine and our low fuel tanks for forward progress. It's dawn as I'm writing this, and we've just flown the chute all night. As a result Alisa and I took the novel step, on this passage at least, of standing watch and watch through the night. The radar alarm and AIS might be good at keeping a lookout for other vessels, but they can't watch the spinnaker for us.

Through the years we've heard reports from other sailors about the delights of dumping the spinnaker into the ocean. We've always been a little curious, so two days ago we decided to see for ourselves what all the buzz was about.

I had left the spinnaker halyard wrapped around the self-tailing winch but neglected to make it fast to the cleat, and a shock load on the sail when Galactic rolled in the swell was enough to pop the halyard free.

The halyard is the line that holds the sail up to the top of the mast.

So the entire sail of super-light nylon dumped into the ocean. The sail that, by the way, cost more than twice as much as the truck that I drove in college.

One bit of luck was that the stopper knot on the end of the halyard got stuck beneath the lower spreaders, so after Alisa and I had wrestled the sail aboard I could just scramble up the mast steps to the spreader to retrieve the end of the halyard, instead of having to go all the way to the masthead for it.

No lasting damage, but there is little enthusiasm on board for a repeat.

Meanwhile, the vastness of this ocean is our constant companion - day after day, the endless expanse of sky and water continue to impress. We have had visits from albatross lately, all of them either tentatively or definitely identified as wandering albatross. The sight of a bird with a 3 meter wingspan, silently soaring around our boat on a sunny day while we glide along under spinnaker - it underscores the solitude of this place, and, after all the albatross that we've seen in recent years, it's still a thrill that is worth the price of admission.

The boys continue doing pretty well on passage. Alisa comments on how completely new South America will be to us after the six years or so that we've spent in Polynesia and the southwest Pacific. And today we'll have pancakes for breakfast, both our Sunday routine and the celebration of our second complete week at sea.

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