Passage to the Tropics - Day 2: Requiem for a sail, lots of wind
14 June 2019 | In the ocean, NE of New Zealand
The day began with light wind, mostly from behind us. We took down the mainsail and put up two of our headsails - our big Code 0 sail and our jib - wing on wing, to catch the wind. This works really well, is much quieter than having the mainsail up in these conditions, and we don't have to worry about accidentally gybing it if the wind switches from one side of the boom to the other. Later, when the wind came more forward, we took down the jib and put up our staysail, on the same tack as the Code 0.
We like our Code 0. It has worked hard for us over the past 6 years, and has some scars to show for it: Back in 2014, as we were sailing down the Pacific Coast of Mexico, our spinnaker pole broke. In the ensuing melee, the guy (one of the ropes holding the ends of the spinnaker) got loose and went zinging past the forestay, where the Code 0 was furled up quietly, minding its own business. As the guy went zinging past, it burned a hole through the Code 0, all the way down to the metal furling rod, leaving a series of holes in the sail that, when the sail was opened, looked as if it had been on the wrong end of a machine gun. We patched all the holes, and put the Code 0 back in action.
Then, in 2016, as we were crossing the Pacific, flying the Code 0, it swept across in front of the mast, getting caught on our foredeck light, which protruded forward from the mast about twenty feet up. The sail tore almost completely across, as it tried to free itself from the light. As Eric and I stood on the deck, looking up at the carnage, trying to figure out how to get the sail off the light, and then down off the furler, the sail gave one more herculean effort, ripping the foredeck light off the mast, and flinging it into the sea, freeing itself in the process. We were then able to pull the sail down, whereupon it spent the remainder of the trip across the Pacific in its sailbag.
When we got to New Zealand several months later, we took the Code 0 to a sailmaker in Opua, to see if it could be salvaged. To our delight and surprise, the sailmaker said that he could fix the sail, but that there were probably only a couple more years of life in it. He made a really nice repair, and our Code 0 was back in action, helping to move SCOOTS along to more destinations.
Today, two years later, our Code 0 was doing just that: catching the wind and moving SCOOTS north toward Fiji. The wind was still light - well below the tolerance of our Code 0. I was standing in the cockpit, looking up at the sail, when BAM!, the sail exploded. A gust must have caught it, and in an instant, a portion of the clew (the corner of the sail where the sheets - ropes - are tied) separated from the rest of the sail, still tied to the sheet. The rest of the sail - still attached to the furler - began flapping in the breeze, as pieces of sail detached and fluttered down to the ocean.
It was a very sad scene.
But we didn't have time to ponder it. Immediately, Eric and I jumped into action, furling what remained of the Code 0, and pulling in the sheet, still attached to the clew of the sail. We put on our PFDs and harnesses, clipped in, and then, as I hoisted the Code 0's cover up over the messy furling job, Eric climbed up onto the pulpit and, holding onto our jib forestay with one hand, and a boathook in the other, proceeded to stuff and prod the wad of sail into the bag as I raised it. All of this operation made more interesting by the 2 meter waves that rocked the boat. Yes, this is our life sometimes.
We eventually got the sail tucked into its cover, where it now rests, permanently retired from duty. It had a good life, our Code 0. It got to see a lot of the world, as it moved SCOOTS along over many sea miles. I guess that's all a sail would really want.
We put up the jib alongside the staysail, which, with the forecast of more wind to come, was what we would have done anyway. As it got dark, the wind began to rise. During the night, it was consistently 20-25 knots, with some periods that were 25-30 knots. Fortunately, the waves didn't rise with the wind, staying at about 2 meters. The two headsails worked great, moving SCOOTS along at 7-9 knots, with one burst of 11 knots (a record for us). All in all, it was a loud, rollicking night.
This morning was sunny, and still windy, but the direction had changed from SW to W, so we took down the staysail and put up the main (with one reef), and continued on our merry way. An albatross did a flyby. I get excited every time I see one of them. They're SO BIG!
The Numbers at Noon: June 15 Position: 31 27.12'S, 176 44.36'E Speed: 8.8 kn Course: 019 T Wind: 16kn Sea: 2m swell SW, with 1m wind waves Clouds: 40% (which means 60% sunshine!) Sea temp: 68F Air temp: 67F Barometer: 1014 Miles gone last 24 hours: 159 Miles total: 297.5