Friday, November 7, 2014

St. Augustine to Ft. Pierce (170 miles, a ripped spinnaker and 8ft breaking waves)

Weighed anchor at sunrise in St. Augustine and motored out of the channel against a strong current. Fortunately in Florida the inlets are short with access to deep water only a mile from shore, so we didn't have to deal with the current for long. The day started with a reefed main and solid northeast breeze, later that afternoon the wind died down and the spinnaker went up. We were cruising along at 6kts and we decided to see if we could switch over to Fair Dinkum (our trusty self-steering windvane). As I was tying the control lines Sarah turned downwind and then upwind the spinnaker filled quickly, luffed and the bottom panel ripped. This was followed by an expletive or two and scrambling to get the spinnaker down before the whole thing came apart. 

Granted, the spinnaker was probably 15+ years old and I got good use of it for my 4 years of ownership. It was a bit disappointing, but not an unexpected loss. So, the search has begun for a used cruising spinnaker. 

That night the wind was really variable, gusting to 10kts, dropping to nothing and then back up to 10kts again. The highlight of the night was dolphins swimming underneath the boat through bioluminescence leaving a glowing trail of light. It took awhile to figure out what I was seeing, you tend to start seeing things while sailing at night with little sleep.

When we first started the trip (Provincetown to Nantucket) I could not sleep while I was off watch. After getting more comfortable with night sailing and trying out different watch schedules and sleeping arrangements I think we found the best combination; 

Three hour watches - Allyson and I decided that 3 hour shifts work the best. The first three hours I will probably just lay awake, then by the end of my 3 hour watch I will get a second chance to get some sleep while it's still dark out.  

Leeward Settee - basically whatever way the boat is heeling we sleep on the benches in the main cabin. There is less movement than the v-berth. I just needed to get use to the sloshing going on in the water tanks right underneath me.

The next morning the wind picked up and we had 10 hours of 15-20kts flying down the Florida coast. The waves picked up and a small craft advisory was announced, but Sarah bobbed like a cork right over the waves and we got to the inlet 2 hours ahead of schedule… It was nice to be moving ahead of schedule but we got to the inlet while the current was still rushing out. As every mariner knows, opposing wind and current = bad. It was only a mile to get to the jetties. So with full sail, engine on, we barreled down the channel at 6+ kts. I was at the helm, Allyson at the mainsheet. Sarah handled the waves as I wrestled wheel. It was a wild ride, but with the wide channel and 30ft depths it was relatively safe. The one trick throughout the ordeal was not looking back. The worst conditions lasted about 1 minute where we had a set of 8ft breaking waves, Allyson looked back (not recommended) and decided to close her eyes as the set passed. The first one rolled harmlessly underneath us, the second one broke below the stern splashing some water up on deck, and we surfed the third one at 7.6 knots into the channel protected by the jetties. We must have given the spectators on the jetty quite the show. We will definitely be more diligent with our current tables, and maybe next time we will heave-to for a couple hours to wait for the current to change.

 Almost to gruesome to look at. 
Dan working on Luff, foot, I and J measurements in place of his usual pros and cons list. 
Update: We decided to buy a new *used* spinnaker from Bacon Sails in Annapolis instead of getting this one fixed. The sail we bought is listed as "Excellent/Like New" for $525. It doesn't have a bag or sock, but we can reuse the old ones. It would be $300+ to get this one repaired with no guarantee that a different seam wouldn't rip. So excited to try our new *used* sail!

1 comment:

  1. At least you were using your spinnaker! Ours got a free roundtrip to the Bahamas and barely saw the light of day...*sigh*.
    Fun meeting you guys the other week, hope our wakes cross again soon!


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