The Gutsy Morning Sail
Yesterday we weighed anchor just after 5.00 am and had used our entire sail wardrobe before our morning coffee at 7.00, such were the conditions and the indecisiveness of the wind. The captain always refers to high winds with the potential for drama as ‘exciting sailing’. “Exciting” means it is a sail that any Action Man would be proud of, with gutsy gusts up to 32 knots, which drop back to 3 knots in the amount of time it takes you to say ”Heave to”.
It wasn’t a pleasant sail like the one we had the day before. It was challenging which is fine, but it was also scary on occasion. You see, we were struck by a very aggressive squall just before turning around the bottom of the island. At the time we had full sail up and were just over the limit of when we should have reefed. Our huge asymmetric sail was furled on the front of the boat and as the squall hit, things got completely out of control; we turned up into wind and began rapidly trying to dump as much sail as possible.
After seeing a mono-hull approaching from the opposite direction with one of the biggest leaning heels on we’ve ever seen, we had read the signs which the weather app’s hadn’t predicted, and were prepared for this. Our lines were flaked and our plan was in place. As we dumped the mainsail into its bag the wind forced it’s way into the asymmetric sail, blowing it open, flying huge amounts of sail in front of the boat with the thwack thwack thwack sound of the light material blowing out and beating itself to near death. We’ve seen this result in asymmetric’s torn to smithereens on other boats before. It is heart-pumpingly scary.
Our bow was forced off the wind before we could secure the main or furl the Genoa and we simply had to play it out, turning around in a rapid circle and coming back into wind to try to furl the Genoa, which was hopefully not ripped from grinding and so much force against the rigging. We got that furled as quickly as possible and then set about trying to drop the Asymmetric onto the deck.
By now the amount of escaping sail cloth was getting much worse and it was literally trying to pick up the captain and throw him off the deck, his feet off the ground on a number of occasions as I struggled to drop the halyard as fast as possible. Falling down onto the cabin roof and out the back of the boat onto the solar panels, the asymmetric sail lost its fight as the captain gained control and gathered it up into a tight bunch on the foredeck, tying it down before we managed to turn back on course.
We were so lucky. Within minutes we had turned the corner and all was calm and peaceful. We re-hoisted the sails and re-furled them, checking for damage. No tears. No damage. An audible exhale of relief.
In the end the captain and I were reminded again how we make a great team, and were able to sail most of our journey to lovely Loviste,. It is a nice safe anchorage within a bay that we know quite well. The town has charming cafes, fish centric restaurants, a supermarket and a town quay. And it is well known on Navily as a safe haven offering protection in most winds.
Our First Mahi Mahi
The biggest highlight of the morning sail was seeing an iridescent electric blue and acid yellow Mahi Mahi (also known as a dolphin fish but no relation) swim down Sailing Waiata’s starboard hull. She was easily the length of our galley bench and it is a rare sight for this pelagic fish to be just under the ocean surface. After sailing more than four and a half thousand nautical miles, we’ve never seen one before. We could tell she was a female Mahi Mahi as her face was pointed, not ‘bullish’ like the male of the species, and it was a joy to see her flex and wave her brilliantly hued body down our hull. It was a jaw dropping and surreally special sight. “Mahi” means ‘strong” in Hawaiian and in Māori the same word means ‘work’, and in some respects sighting the fish reflected the amount of strong wind and work and excitement that went into the morning’s sail to Loviste.
Carnage in the Anchorage
Since arriving into our anchorage there have been boats moving around like crash bang dodgems at a fairground attraction. It’s been a slow motion form of carnage that it’s hard to tear your eyes away from; an afternoon spectator sport where people stand eagle eyed with their hands on hips watching as boats with skippers ranging from virtual novice on a charter boat to a salty old live-aboard pro try to edge their way into a safe space in a crowded cove. There is the perpetual noise of anchors being lifted and the metallic sound of windlasses winding up and dropping chain accompanying the whine of the wind whirring through the rigging.
After dark clues to any potential accident is demonstrated by the dance of torchlight around multiiple decks as people move about checking their anchors and distances between boats, checking the overlap for the coming change in wind direction, and their weather app forecasts.
The mighty winds have come and boats have been moving and dragging anchor all over the place. A large gust comes and the torch dance begins again; the wind being the conductor of this weather orchestra as we monitor boats manoeuvring around in the dark.
A Snapshot of Last Night’s Action on the Water
- A group of ‘cowboy’ catamaran cruisers that screamed at high speed into the cove in the afternoon and virtually anchored on top of us literally had no clue …. we helped them to know that if they attached their anchor bridle to their chain when they set the anchor they’d stop hunting around on a massive axis, sending their boat sideways on the wind, and prevent the chain that was thrashing their hull from doing any more damage.
- A launch moving anchor around midnight nearly mowed over the mono-hull next to us. If the captain hadn’t shone his spotlight on the anchored yacht the launch would have motored right over it. They had no radar. No red night lights. No clue. And as we illuminated the yacht there was loud shouting in German and black clouds of smoke as they threw their engine into reverse. Crash averted.
- Shouting and pride driven altercations behind us where a cruiser plonked themselves in the middle of a group of nicely spaced well anchored boats. Bad manners and lots of staring as we watched people mill around and pace their foredeck! But it is challenging when everyone is looking for respite and safety from the conditions. Note: it’s best to anchor behind other boats and consider swing radius.
- A lovely sleek French mono-hull named after a rock supergroup clearly knew their “sails-manship” but after a near miss collision with a little trimaran by nothing more than a mere fender width, they hunted around the anchorage for an hour, squeezing between boats looking for a gap to anchor in the dark. We really felt for them. There was no spare safe place and they ended up on the other side, but safely so.
- And at 2.00 am a German couple re-anchored near us … after they nearly reversed into us trying to manoeuver around the tight spot they did an admirable job working as a team in tricky and unforgiving conditions.
The Result was plenty of anxious cruisers overnight with the dance of torchlight showing where the pressure points and tension were. Meanwhile, others slept blissfully through the process unaware that their vigilant neighbours were taking care of their interests.
It was a very long 23 hour day and anchor watch night, so a little OMD feels appropriate. “Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” are regarded as the pioneers of electronic music, with experimental, minimalist new wave and pop sensibilities. Interestingly they only ever intended to play one gig! “If you leave” was commissioned by John Hughes to be used in the final scene of his 1986 film Pretty in Pink.
“I’ll touch you once, I’ll touch you twice
I won’t let go at any price
I need you now like I need you then
You always said we’d meet again”
Your episode with the sails in high winds was similar to an incident we had a couple of days ago but ours didn’t involve quite as many sails. Frightening though it was at the time it’s yet another great learning process for us.
Be motto … Keep away from dodgy sailors in the dark 😎
Awesome post Connie.Loved the read,especially as we are anchored 50m from you