Disappearing Stars and Heart Break Hill
14 February 2011 | Beating South 85 Miles North of Antigua
Stats for today: noon to noon run was 128 miles - our best yet. Late yesterday it appeared that we had made enough easting so we eased the sheets which made the ride better and faster. Today the prediction was for easterly winds that would have allowed us to keep the sheets eased the rest of the way to Antigua. But, the wind gods were not with us. Instead of backing to the east the wind veered to the SE. This caused us to have to sail close hauled again so that we could maintain a course for Antigua. So, all day we have been trying to sail as close to the 12 to 15 knot wind as possible to gain easting again. I know this has been a familiar theme for this passage that continues much beyond its welcome. The wind speeds aren't too bad but the seas that are 6 to 8 feet are uncomfortable when you are sailing into them. The winds that we are getting don't generally support seas of this size but I believe they are from the long fetch across the Atlantic from which they come. In any case we have done all we can to keep the boat moving and going in the right direction, now we hope for the favorable wind shift that was predicted.
On night watches when the stars disappear it brings out the fear here in the tropics. Reason being when the stars disappear it usually portends a squall's arrival. I had no problem staying awake on my night watches last night because I spent most of my time dealing with squalls. It was a memorable night to say the least. The good thing was that contrary to the squalls of the previous night these didn't change the wind direction. They maintained the direction so when the wind and rain came we sprinted off on the correct course. All I had to determine is if the sails had to be reduced or if we could ride the squall out without changing anything. Needless to say it was exciting, scary and exhausting. When pam is on watch I try to set the boat up to hand the expected 20 knot gusts in the squalls and sacrifice boat speed. This allows her to ride them out and I don't have to come on deck to help with the reefing. I get a more consistent sleep that way. When i am on watch i try to make up on the performance end by setting more sail to gain speed and reduce sail as needed. During my watches I remember thinking that this is the price of admission to the Caribbean.
On the route of the Boston Marathon there is a location called "Heartbreak Hill". So called because of all the hearts that it has broken over the marathon's history. You see it is located near the end of the course when the runner can smell the finish and then they hit the hill. Well I thought that last night's squalls were our "Heartbreak Hill" trying to sap our energy so close to the end of this journey. But I was wrong the real "Heartbreak Hill" has been the unexpected beating that we have had to do today. Just when we thought we were going to beam reach to the finish line we were slammed with beating again. Slammed is a good word here because it literally describes the waves that woke me several times this morning from a sound sleep. Waves that hit with such a concussive force that i was sure that we had hit an immovable object. So, with a wind shift we should be able to make Antigua sometime tomorrow. Without the wind shift, we shall see. Will we get it or not??? I'll let you know in the next post.