Monday, March 4, 2019

Approaching Bahias de Huatulco

Yesterday was another great day of sailing, a near copy of the day before but with stronger winds. I could write again about the wind, water, sky and dolphins, but I would be repetitive. I must mention the flying fish, though. We went through a patch of them and their aerobatic skills were amazing. They would glide sometimes for hundreds of yards less than a foot above the water, carving their flight at high speed between and over the waves, their baby-blue wings outstretched, small blue-silver bodies glistening in the sun. I like to imagine that flying for them is like surfing is to us, a fleeting joyous thrill in a foreign medium, air for them, water for us.

We had some unique excitement yesterday afternoon, though. At 1630, the winds were blowing steadily a notch over 20 knots true, my limit for flying the Code 0. Furling this big sail in such strong winds is sometimes a challenge. It took me a couple of long passages in varying conditions to get the knack of it. Apparently yesterday I was a little rusty.

The sail rolls up by twisting a very stiff "torsion rope" along its luff (front edge of the sail) by pulling on a line that rotates a furler at the tack (bottom corner of the sail). In strong winds, if you don't get the sail in just the right position, with just the right tension on the sheet (the line that controls the sail), the torsion rope twists itself like a rubber band as it tries to roll up the sail. At some point, the rubber band wanting to untwist prevails over the sailor trying to furl and the sail suddenly unrolls itself with urgency. Compounding the fiddlynature of this process is that the boat slows down as the sail rolls up, which increases the apparent wind speed and thus the force on the sail.

Well, after several failed attempts, I finally got my touch back and the sail rolled up. Only I forgot to instruct Roy to make fast the furling line and sheets, which caused the last bit of the sail to unroll itself backwards. We tried to make things right, but it just wasn't going to happen in 20+ knot winds, hanging out on a bowsprit in pitching seas. A small mess but one that couldn't be cleaned up while the sail was hoisted, so we dropped the 99% furled Code 0 and lashed it to the deck. We'll hoist it up again and sort things out at anchor in calm conditions later.

Last night we sailed along in mostly Force 3 winds (10-15 knots TWS) under just the jib, making a steady 5 knots progress in gentle following seas. Another beautiful, peaceful night.

We're heading now to Bahía Jicarol, a tiny secluded bay for which we have little information: a chart with little detail, a "community edit" description of the anchorage on the Navionics electronic chart and a blurry aerial image from Google Maps. We'll check it out and if it looks good, drop anchor and wait out the Tehuantepec blow there. Or maybe move on after a couple of days to check out one of the other bays in the interim. The Bahías de Huatulco consist of nine pretty little bays with sandy beaches fronting a jungle landscape. We passed them by on the last two trips up and down the coast in 2016 and 2017. They looked so beautiful as we sailed by, I remember feeling some regret at not taking the time to stop. I'm glad to have a chance to explore them now. That's one good thing about a "Tehuantepecker" blowing for a few days.