Sailing Through Un-Fair Winds
Our first offshore passage was from Washington to San Francisco. My husband and I were sailors, but the thought of sailing non-stop, over several days and nights in open ocean was thrilling and frightening at the same time. This is the adventure we planned on doing for over 3 years, to sail the world, and our first big hurdle was offshore passages.
Onboard Moorea - a 35' Dufour Sloop - we had a 30 gallons of fuel. The limited supply would only take us about 350 miles so we needed to sail most of the 900 miles. Mother Nature would be our close companion.
She was kind in the beginning with a decent breeze. But as the days progressed her wind calmed and we sat drifting. The remaining waves made the rigging slap against the mast. The mainsail would snap with each roll. The noise and jerky motion of the boat made us tense and irritated. Our tempers were short and so were our words. It seemed to last for days but was only one day and night of the tedious doldrums.
Then Mother Nature started increasing her wind. Over a few days it went from 4 to 35+ knots. This was the true test of our sailing ability. Handling our boat as it raced straight down the 8-10 foot waves was fine but then in the mixed sea-state, brought another wave. It had an intermittent pattern, it would beak off our port stern, slapping and pushing the aft of Moorea down the crest at a slight angle.
The boat was going too fast. Even with one reef, we had too much sail up. I was afraid to go forward to help my husband reef the mainsail. Each time we turned into the wind Moorea, our 35’ Dufour would take on green water at the bow. This caused her to stop and shudder under the force while cold sea water belted through our foul weather gear. Holding on to the mast as our boat regained composure, we would work together reducing her sail.
Once finished reefing, we’d crawl to the cockpit and steer Moorea back on course. Reducing sail slowed her down, but she handled the waves easier. This still didn’t make the noise from the cabin stop. Going below wasn’t a reprieve. Moorea moaned and creaked like she would break under the pressure. Sleep was impossible.
Fortunately, we survived and made landfall in San Francisco. My body ached, like when I ran my first marathon. No one told me the physical tole of an offshore passage especially when sailing through near gale conditions.
Yet the experience gave us confidence in our abilities and ready to take on the challenges Mother Nature will throw at us. Sailing through un-fair winds was just the start.
Fair Winds, Kelly Girl