And the Spinnaker Is Down!

Mel has another Sea Story to tell. Initially, this blog post was not going to have anything interesting in it. Things had been going well with the Parasailor up. Mel was in fact straining to be clever by composing her post with the following tidbits when the Event happened:

We saw some Atlantic spotted dolphins last night! We wore them out quickly, as we were going ten knots.

What is “salt air” anyway? Is it really salt suspended in the air? How does that work?

When the spinnaker is up and the autopilot is on, you can steer the boat with your mind. At least that’s what Mel must think, as she spent her night shifts staring at the chartplotter and mentally directing the boat back on course when a wave made it turn 30 degrees the wrong way. (Ten percent of the wind is composed of Mel’s worrying.) Eventually the autopilot does what she commands. This is how Mel sails.

Greg has called the odd swings through 60 degrees that the autopilot does with certain wave combinations, “Crazy Ivans.” It’s a reference to an historical tidbit involving Russian submarines. You know, calling the autopilot a Russian name somehow just feels right.

Mel was thinking such deep thoughts this morning when a monster wave came up right behind the boat. It had a steep dropoff, and for a moment Mel was looking straight down, thinking the boat was pitched forward 45 degrees. But the wave rolled on through (they tend to do that, waves) and, as Marvin started leveling off, she checked the autopilot to make sure there would be no Crazy Ivans and the boat wasn’t heading up into the wind, which might put too much stress on the spinnaker.

Just as she started to relax, as the boat was right on course, she saw the apparent wind bump up to 24 kts. Before she could process this, THE SPINNAKER EXPLODED.

Oh fine, it tore. But when something makes that sound, Mel calls it an explosion. To get a sense of what that was like to experience, imagine that the United States started printing 50-ft high $15000 bills that you could sail with. And then imagine the damn thing ripping in half in front of your eyes. Loudly.

So we are back to downwind sailing with a single-reefed main and jib. If we keep the wind angle at 120 degrees, we can make 8.5 kts this way in our 17 kts of apparent and 22 kts of true wind. Mel has realized that she counted the wrong things earlier. Instead of fingers, she should have been keeping track of “means of locomotion.” The denominator here is 5, counting spinnaker, main, jib, and engines. We were briefly down to a numerator of 4 when the mainsheet buckle broke, got back up to five when Greg fixed that, and we are now back down to 4. Oh wait, the denominator is bigger than that. Forgot about the sat phone and SSB to call the Coast Guard. And the oars. Hey, 8 out of 9 ain’t bad!

Mel likes to do math to distract her from the giant waves.

We have a buddy boat crossing with us, ZigZag, that left Dania Beach just before us and skipped Bermuda. We have been exchanging Sea Stories over email. It is comforting to know that we are not the only boat experiencing…setbacks. We are sure now that boat repair must be the main industry in the Azores. We should arrange a meetup with champagne in the chandlery! I bet they have a special room for that. Glad we are getting there ahead of the ARC! (That is 240 boats crossing the Atlantic and blowing out their spinnakers together. Egad!)

Boat stuff: 212 nm in 24 hrs. The spinnaker costs $71 per nm this hoist. For those who like to budget. Waves 6-9 ft.

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