In the South Atlantic, the trade winds blow pretty consistently from the South-east from the tip of Africa to the equator, southern edge of the Caribbean. So this whole trip has been running pretty far, nearly straight downwind. In sailing jargon this is termed a ‘broad reach’. (I don’t know why. This makes for pleasant, relaxed sailing as the apparent wind is quite light, but also not terribly fast sailing.
Once we crossed the equator and moved above 5 degrees, squarely into the Northern Atlantic Trade Winds, our angle to the wind changed. In the northern Atlantic, the wind blows roughly from the north-east, moving around a bit to the north or east at times. Although we stayed pretty much on the same course, this means that now we are sailing more across the wind, closer to a beam reach. This is a faster tack, it’s Vingilótë’s favorite point of sail.
The wind also got stronger. Quite a lot stronger. With two reefs in, we got up to traveling 23.7 kts, surfing down a 15’ wave. That’s fast, for a sailboat.
As the wind continues to increase, true wind up over 30 kts, we put in a third reef. This operation involves me carefully lowering the mainsail, Dunbar handling the reefing lines and calling the shots, and poor Rory going up to the mast to secure the third reef point. With the 10-15’ waves hitting the boat and the wind gusting hard, going forward to the mast is not the safest thing to do, so he wisely donned his life vest and safety line and clipped himself onto the boat.
With three reefs in, we still got up over 17 kts boat speed on our way into Barbados. It was an exciting couple of days. We made over 230 miles each day.
The fantastic thing about well-Balanced cats, is that even in moderately rough seas like that, it’s stable enough for me to cook dinner. Didn’t even spill the coffee.