We have just seen the 24 and 48 hour surface and wind/wave weather faxes which were of particular importance to us. They confirmed that the storms will hit the coast just north of San Francisco - at about latitude 41N - then continue their northerly swing and head up the Northwest coast. Central and Northern California will be hit hard. And even for further south in the Channel Islands area there are repeated warnings of mountainous swells. For us this was relatively good news because it dispelled our fears that through some freak of nature the gales would pass this far south right over the top of us. Some sections of the second storm showed 55 kt winds, but the grib files for our patch of water predicts wind speeds below 40 kt.
Yesterday afternoon to our surprise we started to get decent, though adverse, winds. We decided to unzip the mainsail and raise it with a double reef. We sailed reasonably well the rest of the day, rolling in the jib as the wind got stronger. The wind was still adverse but Pachuca sails well to weather in strong wind and we could see on the chart plotter that the red line indicating our heading more or less coincided with the green line that indicates actual course over the ground. In light airs these two vectors diverge which I attribute to excessive lee drift.
Arnold and I took advantage of the cloudy but pleasant weather to have a go at setting up the staysail, which is hanked on the inner forestay. We set up the sheets and the new downhaul then hoisted the sail to see how it would all work. Several problems became evident: (1) The downhaul doesn't work very well because when you try to pull the sail down from by the peak the hanks jam up part way down (2) In a high wind the sail would tend to drop into the water (3) I'm not sure if the idea of leaving the sail on the deck held down by the downhaul and sheets would work very well (4) I'm still not happy with passing the sheets between the spreaders. No matter where you pass the sheets the spreaders will get in the way in one of the positions of close hauled, reaching, or hove to. Unless somebody can show be a better way, I would still have to go to the foredeck to haul the sail down and stow the sail. Arnold and I agreed that the staysail would be more trouble than it's worth so we stowed it back in the forecastle. This meant that I could put back up the fence rope that passes from the spreaders to the inner forestay which I find extremely useful when visiting the foredeck.
Then there were the noises. As we suspected the spinnaker pole was securely lashed against the starboard rail, but the ropes had slackened up and there was movement. A lashing of shock cord solved this problem. But there was another noise. It was the anchor. It was on the roller securely lashed, but the problem was that when the bow plowed through a wave the loose head of the plow anchor would rattle around. We hove to and I moved the anchor from the roller to the foredeck behind the inner forestay where I lashed it to the two samson posts. This has the added benefit of shifting weight aft of the bow.
Later in my watch I had another look at the 24 hour surface chart and realized that our SW track was doing nothing to get us away from the storm because we were traveling tangent to its expected position, so I tacked to the ESE with only a tiny amount of headsail. Soon that became impractical because of the building wind and seas so we hove to. This took quite an effort because I wanted to make sure that everything was set up correctly, e.g. Jeff's airvane stowed and paddle out of the water, running backstay not rubbing on the mainsail, wheel lashed with shock in the correct position. I went to the bow and did not like what I saw with the backwinded jib. The clew of the sail was rubbing against the inner forestay and to roll in any more would have made the backwinded jib ineffective. Worse, I could see that because of the narrow foredeck and the position of the end of the car track I would not be able to get a good enough angle on the backwinded jib to make it fully effective. I concluded that the classical method of heaving to with a backwinded jib would not work with this boat. I told Arnold that I was going to fully roll in the jib and we would try out heaving to with just the mainsail. After fiddling around with the wheel to get a good angle on the wind (about 60 degrees) I stuck my head through the companionway and asked about the result of my efforts. He replied that rolling in the jib had reduced our forward speed from 3.5 kt to 1.5 kt. This meant that the backwinded sliver of jib had been providing drive rather than break.
So in one day I had come to decisions on the staysail (too much trouble) and the jib (Don't use it to heave to.) based on good observation and evidence. The question is, why did it take 20 months into this cruise for me to figure this out? It is largely, I think, because the hard lessons that I have learned about chafed and strained gear have forced me to look at these matters much more closely,.
It was a rough night - rougher than we had expected. Arnold saw gusts of 40 kt here and there. But the boat rode remarkably well considering the circumstances and I for one got good sleep.
We were up at 9 AM to find the wind still howling and the boat battered by big waves. I heard clattering on the deck and dressed up for a check of the topsides. Visiting the topsides after a stormy night is an interesting experience because you don't know what you'll find. Fortunately things were in good order. The anchor and spinnaker pole were still in position and firmly lashed. The mainsail had survived without apparent damage. In the cockpit I added another shock cord restraint to the wheel because it was jumping from block to block. The boom was clattering because the wind had abated somewhat. I brought in the mainsail and while attending to other things I realized that Pachuca had tacked and was now making more or less to San Diego at 2 kt. Smart boat, eh? Feeling good about the situation I bellowed to the weather "IS THAT ALL YOU'VE GOT?" This brought and instant reaction from Arnold to tone it down and besides, he said, Brenda wouldn't like it either. So it looks like Arnold is taking on the healthy superstitions of a seasoned sailor. (I'm superstitious too, but I am pretty sure that King Neptune knows that I don't really mean it and am just trying to get a reaction from the crew.)
As we approached noon Pachuca was ambling SE at 2 kt. We were on the same latitude as Long Beach, 185 miles of the coast because south of Pt Conception the land mass falls away sharply to the east. The wind was abating noticeably and the sun was out. Arnold commented once more how dry the boat was and congratulated me on my progress. We had a few drips from the main hatch. We knew in New Zealand that the main hatch did not have a perfect seal but had decided that the problem was not big enough to warrant a replacement. We also got a few drips through the starboard air vent. Those were all of the leaks as far as we could tell. The bilge took on water as usual when the boat hobby horses but we controlled that with regular pumping. (I am beginning to suspect a leaky cockpit drain hose for this water-in-the-bilge problem because when the boat hobby horses some sea water comes up the drain pipe into the cockpit, which means that the drain hoses are filling up. I plan to investigate this in the future.)
By noon we had brilliant sunshine with a crystal clear sky. It looked like we had gotten through the first gale OK.
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