Leander is at 19 00 N, 42 30 W, sailing at 7 knots on a course of 267 magnetic. The wind has picked up again, and is gusty, cycling in 15-24 surges. Our dream conditions, alas, have wafted away on these stronger winds and boisterous seas.
It’s amazing the difference between just below 15 knots 15 and just above 20. At 15 and less, one can sail and think and enjoy. At 20 plus it feels like you’re in a washing machine that has been thrown down the stairs, and walking about must be done thoughtfully. That is some exaggeration, but it paints the picture. At 20+ knots now, the roll of the boat has increased considerably. It is harder to keep the sails filled. Every hour or so the swell will combine and cross at the location of the boat such that the main will get caught behind the wind, and then bang back into place with a report. That’ll keep you paying attention. We can still get things done aboard, and the kids are running about in full play, but it’s just not as pleasant. The disturbed sleep probably makes us more prone to be aggravated by such inconveniences as well.
The watch through last night was difficult. We are sailing wing-and-wing, to try to take full advantage of the following wind and seas. But its a tricky business. The wind shifts slightly every once in a while, and the cross swell built up over the course of the night as well. In the dark, it can be a real challenge to find the sweet spot where the boat sails well, doesn’t roll to much, and catches neither of the opposing sails on the wrong side of the wind. I was on watch, fighting this battle, and at one point dosed off without locking myself into my seat. A swell came, picked me off of the seat, and through me to the other side, such that I landed on my side and back on the other side of the cockpit. Ouch!
We had a bigger fright yesterday afternoon. We were motor-sailing, when there was a simultaneous bang to the boat and the engine whined, growling and gnashing its gears. It was the same sound as when we lost our damper plate in the Pacific. Loud and grinding, and then seeming to try to find its place. Sima was on watch and immediately put the engine into neutral. We looked back, and, sure enough, saw debris disappearing over the waves behind the boat. I could make out a thick rope, and perhaps it was attached to something. I couldn’t tell. We attempted to shift the boat back into forward gear, and but nothing happened. But when we clicked it down into reverse, and then back into forward, it engaged just fine. We’ve inspected the engine, transmission, shaft, and stuffing box, and everything looks OK. That could have been worse. I imagine that the prop caught the thick rope, but let it go just as quickly.
We’ve started to see seaweed floating by, which means we’ve entered the start of the Sargasso (sp?) Sea. That’s progress.
We sailed 159 nautical miles during the last 24 hours (our best one-day run in the trip), for a total of 1,794 miles done, and 1,113 to go.