Wow what a difference a direction change can make. In fact it makes all the difference. I weighed anchor at first light today from Jolly Harbor Antigua with light northeasterlies. I shut down the engine after clearing the last set of buoys and have been sailing ever since. The winds were about 10 knots for the first few hours. Christa was having trouble keeping air in the sails with all the rolling around in the swell. I solved that by flying the cruising spinnaker. Man what a difference that sail made. It can be a handful for just one person and can really over power the boat if the wind gusts up. Once I set the green monster were were trucking along at 5.5 to 6 knots with the wind vane keeping Christa tracking. The wind gradually built throughout the morning and I had to strike the spinnaker and reset the Jib. The wind has been a steady 15 to 20 knots out of the NE with some surprisingly large swells.
It is so beautiful. The boat is sailing on its strongest point of sail, off the wind on a broad reach. Westsails are very seakindly, meaning she rolls a bit but it is obvious that the hull design is meant specifically for these types of trade wind conditions. The Monitor Wind Vane takes practice and is part art and part science. Since I have done little downwind sailing my knowledge of setting the vane gear correctly on this point of sail is limited. So I have been playing with the sail balance, sail trim and actual setting of the vane gear. A combination of tweaks to the gear, sail trim and course result in finding the sweet spot. Once you find the sweet spot, the self steering does its job incredibly well. It is possible to stare at the thing for hours on end. Most people have a name for their vane gear. Mine is Big Daddy. So other than the poetry of the boat in motion I have the deep blue sea to stare at and the peaks of Guadeloupe appearing over the horizon.
The plan is to continue on sailing past Guadeloupe and make landfall in Prince Rupert Sound on the NW coast of Dominica. Right now I'm struggling to keep about five off of Guadeloupe as the island is so big that is casts a huge wind shadow. So If I'm in to close I lose all my wind. But at current pace I should be off Dominica around 2 or 3 am. I will be sailing under a full moon which is beautiful in its own right, but provides some nice illumination for a night time landing in The Dom.
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