One of the tricky things about sailing a passage is arriving at the right time. It’s not as easy as you would think. Especially when you are traveling under sail, powered by the wind, which may or not be a constant thing. In fact, most of the time it is not. You could end up having 25 knots of wind the whole way or you could end up with 2 and everything in between. The wind can be all over the place! Predicting your speed is always a guesstimate at best. We like to factor an average of 5 knots of boat speed per hour when we’re making our calculations, just to have SOME number to work with, but it’s definitely guesswork.
Also, everybody is always trying to go as fast as the wind will carry you. Everything you’ve been taught has been about tweaking and fine tuning the sails so that even in light winds you’ll go as fast as you are able to. But what happens if someone says, no, I don’t want to go as fast as possible. I want to arrive at a specific time. What do you do then? You might have to slow down, put away a sail, reduce a sail, re-configure a sail so that it isn’t fast, etc. It honestly goes against my nature to do so which I guess is why I’m writing about it.
Today we are arriving at Bazaruto, Mozambique, a safe spot for us to anchor and take a look at the weather and determine how soon we should move on to the next spot. It seems that most of the safe spots along this coast are 2-3 days of sailing/motoring away and if the weather looks good for that time period, you go. If the weather looks bad during those next 2-3 days, you sit and wait. We don’t want to be out there when nasty weather comes through if we can avoid it. However, we want to arrive at Bazaruto at noon today because the tide is best at that time for our arrival.
I’m on the midnight to 4am shift. When I came on we had about 50 nautical miles to go and we were motoring, doing about 3 knots per hour. I settled in and within 15 minutes I noticed we had plenty of wind to sail. In fact the whole shift we’ve had ample wind that was constantly changing. There’s a dance you have to do when you’re trying to arrive at a specific time and the wind is constantly changing. It’s called the watching-your-speed-and-adjusting-the-sails dance. It’s a big hit amongst sailors.
However, I’ve been trying to do the dance as quietly as possible since Brian and Carol are both trying to sleep. The problem is when you adjust the jib or front sail you either use the winch over Carol’s room to loosen it or pull it taut or you use the winch over Brian’s room to furl it in or out.
The alternative is to adjust the mainsail by manually (no winch involved) pulling or releasing the mainsheet which is definitely a lot quieter and possible to do in these “lighter” winds and slower speeds. It’s just about finding the right combination of sails to balance all of that. It’s 2 AM now and I think I’ve finally got it down. The jib is small enough and yet big enough to give us some speed and I just pull in or release the mainsheet when too much or too little wind shows up. So far it’s working well. The mainsheet adjustment makes very little noise. Whew.
Of course it’s now 3:30 and the wind died completely, so we’re back on motor for a noonish arrival. Honestly it would have been easier to just leave the motor running the entire time but I like a good challenge and I learned a lot about how to best use the sails in changing winds. It also saves us money to sail rather than motor, at least until someone figures out a way to measure and tax the wind. Keep an eye out for KeeptheWindFree.org, my new website, coming to the Internet soon! 🙂 Or perhaps even more entertaining, KeepMyWindFree.org.
Thanks for listening to the musings of a sailor on the midnight watch who has nobody else to talk to in the middle of the Mozambique Channel. The sky is beautiful tonight with lots of clouds, lit up by a full moon, just like a street lamp. I can see the horizon clearly all around me and the sea is quiet and calm, despite the off and on again winds that are blowing and propelling us forward to Bazaruto. One of my favorite kinds of nights at sea.
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A final postscript. It’s now 4:10 AM and I was informed by my relieving shipmate that I failed miserably at being quiet. Next time I’ll just run the damn motor and read from my Kindle. I did enjoy my shift, though.