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Starblazer - 11 &12/05/2017 – Whether the weather, whatever the weather

Whether we like it or not! This was a speech therapy rhyme remembered from
my first few months in infant school, but it adequately describes the last
few days! The highlight of Wednesday was possibly the beef carbonnade,
however the wind finally picked up a bit and we managed to turn the engine
off at 2200. That marked the end of a 29 hour motoring stint, with a brief
pause when the fresh water cooling reservoir needed topping up. That few
minutes confirmed why we were motoring, the mainsail was hanging limply and
the boat drifted backwards with a bit of sideways!

The wind stayed with us for 24 hours, at times we were averaging 8 knots for
2 consecutive 3 hour periods. This stunning progress encouraged us to start
thinking about an early Friday morning entry. The day’s run to noon was a
very respectable 147 nM and we had just 120 miles to go. At this point the
predicted weather became quite an issue. Both the forecast from WRI and the
GRIB files we downloaded showed the very real possibility of very little
wind followed by 25 -30 knots with gusts up to 35 as a low passed over
Bermuda. John thought about slowing down to let the low pass but that would
have made it much harder to reach Bermuda because the wind was expected to
swing around to the north, staying at 25-30 knots. The course we were
steering was 016, so a north wind was the last thing we wanted. During
Thursday afternoon we readied the boat for strong winds. We installed the
inner forestay and the port side running backstay because the wind was
expected to come from that direction, then John hanked on the staysail and
tied it down to keep it under control. Late afternoon the wind piped up so I
went to the mast to drop in two reefs, while I was there I hauled up the
staysail. We had already rolled away half the genoa. We continued to make
good progress.

Just before 2200 the engine went on again because we had hit the nearly
windless zone shown on the GRIB files! We motored for 6 hours but,
frustratingly, could only make just over 5 knots so the very early morning
arrival became an early morning arrival. The Bermuda Radio weather forecast
suggested light winds overnight, strengthening steadily in the morning; but
what constitutes ‘morning’? We were sailing at 6 knots until about 5 miles
from the finish when the wind started to build. We quickly rolled the genoa
away and sped to the finish, crossing the line at 0634 BVI time, 0734
Bermuda time. I dropped the staysail and the mainsail as we were entering
the cut, a narrow channel into St George’s Harbour. We anchored in winds of
25-30 knots, gusting 35. A while later it became obvious that we were
dragging, we believe a large ketch snagged our chain as he drove through the
anchorage with his anchor down because the position of our anchor was a) not
where we set it and b) at 90 degrees to the line of our drag. Suspicious?
We think so. We motored around trying to find enough swinging room to put
out 50 metres of chain, that would represent about 4 times depth. John
prefers to use 5 times depth but didn’t think I’d be too happy trying to get
that much chain back up and stowed without having to kneel down several
times to push over the heap of chain which often blocks the hawse pipe!
Finally, at the third attempt, John was happy with our position and we haven’t
dragged even though we have had a full gale here for periods of up to 20
minutes and gusts to 42 knots (about 50 mph).

Thursday morning’s breakfast, the last morning at sea, was scrambled egg and
grilled bacon. Dinner was supposed to be Thai red chicken curry but the
conditions were a bit challenging (and the cook was feeling lazy) so we had
a can of Cassoulet Toulousan, tasty and filling.


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