Saturday 16 May, passage to USA day 2: At midnight we are 65nm WNW of Cayman, running in 8-10 kts breeze with just the Parasailor spinnaker up, doing a maximum of 5.5kts.
At 01:30 I go down for my sleep, leaving Cloudy and Oana to watch over each other 🙂 An hour later, Oana wakes me as there are odd nav-lights coming towards us, and nothing on the AIS or radar. It has a green light close to the water and a single white high up. Looks like a yacht motoring eastwards. But as it passes we realise the white up the mast is an all-round white (like an anchor light, not a motoring light, which should only face forward). The result being that once passed us its nav-lights, with the masthead white over the stern white, resembling a ship >50m length. I’m always amazed just how many pleasure craft sail around, often out of sight of land, with the wrong nav-light configuration. And no AIS! We can only image the type of sailor on board. Numpties, degrading the reputation of pleasure craft at sea. Well, at least it has lights I suppose!
When Oana goes down to bed at 04:30 the wind has come back on the port aft quarter (from being dead astern) so I unfurl the mainsail again. Or as least, I try to. The boom is pinned out with the gybe retainer and when like this it’s always tricky to persuade the sail, with its full battens, to come out the mast smoothly. Eventually with lots of little in-out movements on the furler and outhaul hydraulics I manage to persuade it all to come out, without a jam. But not before there is a frustrated little shout from the aft cabin: “what the hell are you doing up there!?”. So I quickly re-trim the sails for the new angle and vow not to make any more noise for the next 3 hours :). And, apart from my inevitable snoring as I power-nap in the cockpit, I do manage to keep my hands and fingers off the furling controls and winches for the rest of my watch. Which is quite something for me!
At 6am, a cargo ship passes, going in the opposite direction, with destination Grand Cayman. I call on the VHF for a radio check and to ask if he can see our AIS signal and AIS data. He confirms he can. It’s always nice to be reassured the AIS is working as it should do. Cloudy’s AIS is a full class-B unit. The same Furuno system that you might find on any commercial ship. It has really good range with the antenna mounted on the top spreader. We do so often come across pleasure boats who only appear on AIS when they are less than one mile away. I don’t want to be one of those. To me, AIS is the best invention ever, with regards to mitigation of being run down by a ship. So I like to know ours working correctly, and the only sure way to do that is check with another vessel if they can see you.
As the sun rises the heat returns after our pleasantly cool night… and with NO bugs to bother us! In fact, it was so deliciously cool that Oana needed clothes on and a towel wrapped around her to keep warm in the cockpit!
With the sunlight back, I go to check the solar. Annoyingly, both units have again frozen in a low output mode. After I do a reset it’s all good again, giving a positive charge to the batteries, even in this early morning sunlight. By 10am it’s pumping in a 20amp charge. And that’s in addition to running all the nav instruments, radios and autohelm. During the night the batteries fell from 98% to 65%. It will be interesting to see if the solar gets them back up to full charge before sundown.
The morning sailing continues to be gentle and for the first time we have had the spinnaker up for a full 24 hours. By midday the apparent wind is on the beam again and we are slipping along at 7kts in 6.5kt of apparent wind. This is blue water sailing as it should be! Just a little less heat would be nice, but we cannot complain. When I’ve sailed long passages in the past, before owning Cloudy Bay, I’ve often found myself wishing it would be over and I looked forward to being back in shelter again. This is how Oana feels most of the time, but not me. The way Cloudy sails, I sometimes don’t want a passage to end. Very rarely I have that old desire for it to be over and done with. I guess it must be a mixture of the boat performance and the great sailing conditions we generally have… or maybe I should not speak too soon!
At 12:30pm, our 24hr run is 141nm. One of our slowest ever while on passage. But pretty good considering wind was only 6-11kts from astern. Without the spinnaker we would certainly have motored for the last 24hrs. That’s quite a saving on fuel, and noise. This spinnaker might just pay for itself one of these days… maybe by about 2075!
During the afternoon it’s again excessively hot. Like yesterday, we move the piece of canvas as the sun clocks around, to keep total shade in the cockpit. Also like yesterday, the gentle wind backs mid afternoon putting us very close to dead downwind. So we furl away the mainsail again. It interferes with the airflow on the spinnaker on this point of sailing. Even with the pole pulled far aft, like you would with a conventional symmetric spinnaker, this one seems to flutter around and never quite get out of the dirty air from the mainsail. With the main gone and clean airflow restored, we actually go a point or two faster.
With the wind direction shift, we also start seeing dark clouds forming and visible on the radar. We get ready for a fast spinnaker drop, in case of a squall, but none of these passing clouds deviate the wind in any way, thankfully.
By sunset, the wind is only 6-8kts and we are very gently, and silently, moving at 4.5kts. I say silently because silence defines this Parasailor. In extremely light winds, the wing lifts it and it stays full without even any rustling noise. Lovely. With the sun gone, we are thankful for more cooler air. We’ll probably be complaining of the cold in about a week, once up around the Carolinas!
By 9pm we find out the minimum wind the Parasailor will fly in. The wind drops below 5kts with just 2.5kt filling the spinnaker, and it finally gives up and collapses. We wait a while to see if the wind will return, but it doesn’t. So that’s the end of what has been a marvelous spinnaker run of 33 hours. We take it down and stuff it down the fore hatch, making certain no lines are in the water before turning on the Volvo. And that’s it, our peace has gone, we are now a motor boat. But we needed to make water anyway using the inverter via our large alternator on the Volvo.
And that takes us into Sunday, motoring though to, and passed, midnight. It was another peaceful day sailing.