The clouds left us last evening. After nothing but gray skies since the voyage began, the clouds disappeared in a matter of minutes leaving only blue skies. When the night watch came on deck, there was nothing but wonder in their eyes as millions of stars shone with delicate blue-white light. It was very dark and clear and one could also see the milky way. To our starboard side was the Ursa Maior or Big Dipper; low on the horizon and so big and close that some crewmembers did not recall ever seeing it so near. It was easy to find Polaris, the North Star and just a bit to its left there was a remarkably brilliant celestial body, which Bill said was probably Jupiter; Ulli thought it could be Venus. We spent much of the night, with our heads up looking at the night. Once in awhile we looked down and admired the sea and the 360 degree horizon as well as our very white and luminescent wake. The air was cool and fresh.
At one moment it got much too cool, the wind picked up to over 20 knots with a few gusts higher. The boat was moving fast, at over 8.5 knots, and increasing its angle of heel (leaning over). At around 0400 the decision was made to reduce sail and a great operation ensued. Bill of course led the effort; as usual he clearly planned what was to be done and carefully instructed those in the cockpit what each of their roles would be. Bill and Mark would climb on deck but not before hooking themselves to the boat to ensure they would not fall overboard. Ulli would operate the lines in the cockpit and Rick would steer the boat, trying to slow it down by keeping it close to the wind but not so close that it would stall or tack.
The first thing done was to reduce the size of the headsail, this cut some of our speed and made the boat stand up straighter in the water. Nevertheless we kept on moving forward quickly and crashing through the waves. Bill and Mark moved forward, holding on for balance, and moving through the dark. We were intentionally avoiding the use of artificial light so as to make use of the ambient light and not damage our night vision. It was amazing how much you could see by starlight.
Bill and Mark reached the mast and began to work the various lines to reduce the size of the main sail. They held on as the boat bounced around quite lively in the surf. The crewmembers off duty and who were trying to sleep below decks were having a tough time. As the boat speed through the waves and bounced around, the people in their bunks were being tossed around and around. One crewmember below said that if she had been in a bathtub with shampoo she would have had a wonderful churning bubble bath.
Back on deck Mark called out to Rick to steer the boat into the wind thus slowing it down, reducing heeling, the crashing through the waves and the wind in the sail and their faces. Rick steered into the northeastern wind, careful to come up far enough to slow down but not so close to the wind that the boat would stop. Given the darkness and the significant wave action this required concentration. Ulli worked the various lines in the cockpit in response to what the crewdeck was doing and while Rick may have wanted to help Ulli, there waa no taking the eyes off the wind instruments and compass.
Instructions were yelled out back and forth through the noise of the wind and the waves. Eventually, Bill and Mark on deck and Ulli in the cockpit reduced the size of the mainsail and the boat slowed down to just over 7 knots; it also sailed more on an even keel. Bill and Mark came back to the cockpit and sat down, a bit out of breath. Bill looked out in the dark at the crew and, in his understated way, gave them the best of all compliments: "That went without a hitch."
The sun soon started to appear and with the clear skies it was a beautiful sunrise, the wind started to die down and Ulli saw that our boat speed started to go down below his level of comfort for this race. Bravely he asked Bill, who was just getting out of his gear from having reduced sail, to come back and undo all that was done. Bill just said "There's some people who can never be pleased." A while later everything was done in reverse and the sail was raised to full size.
Its now about 0900 and there is sun everywhere and the cabin is alive with movement getting ready for the day ahead. In reality, the activity never stops, the boat activity goes on 24 hours.
putting a reef in the sail was really a bad idea. more than 2 hours at a speed in the low 7 kn. Now back up to high 7 kn and even some low 8kn! Wind at maximum of 20 kn, typically 15kn apparent, right on the beam. Whitecaps now everywhere, waves are building
time: 0930PDT, lat/lon 36N29 / 131W15, clear blue sky, sunny
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