The Long and Windy Road: Leander Atlantic Crossing Day 14

Leander is at 19 30 N, 48 30 W, sailing at 7.2 knots on a course of 274 magnetic in 28 knots of wind, gusting 30. We’ve double-reefed the main and the headsail, still set up wing-and-wing, and Leander behaving well in in the strong winds and building seas.

The forecast for last night had been 17-23 knots, but we were ready for more if it came, and it did. The wind had been a steady 18ish, but built to 30, quickly, at 4 a.m. It felt like a front coming through, although the wind direction changed only very slightly, and we saw no squalls. (We had seen a line of them about six hours earlier, though.)

Because the boat struggled in the new wind, we hand steered, and worked rolled up a few more wraps (a second reef) the head sail. This quieted Leander down a little bit. We already had a single reef in the main. It could have used a second reef. Running dead down wind, the risk to the sail is less of a concern than the lack of balance on the boat. In those winds, it would have been good to have two reefs in both sails. We continued to hand-steer in the dark, and after about an hour, the winds calmed down to 20ish, and so we left the sails that way until day break. Since then, the winds have been oscillating between lows of 15 and highs of, again, 30. So we have now put a second reef in the main. The result is that the boat is perfectly balanced when the wind is up at 30, but we leave a good amount of speed on the table when it lessens to 15. And the boat rolls a little bit more as it slows down as well. Over the course of the last three hours, however, the wind has been a steady 28 or so, and so the sail set-up is just right.

Flying fish can jump. Or, I suppose, fly. We wrote about the one that hit the bimini the other day. Today, when reefing, I noticed a splotch of fish scales about two feet up the main sail, which is 10 feet above deck, and 13 feet above the water. Could it have been a flying fish that got that high? I inspected, and sure enough found the fellow in the folds of reefed sail. Think about that. If it were a tree, the flying fish could have flown up and gotten himself a perch. Or, said another way, a ten-inch fish with a total of about 1 pound of muscle, using the water as a spring board, jumps higher than Michael Jordan, who of course uses a solid floor as a springboard. Well, I guess the difference is that Michael Jordan didn’t have wings. Or, at least, I’ve never seen them.

We had a visit from some whales this morning! We saw them from a long distance away, at first, and identified them as Long-Finned Pilot Whales, which we could tell by the bulbous foreheads and pale wisp behind their eyes. They were surfacing about 100 yards from the boat, in very big waves, rolling slowly in and out of the water. Then they must have noticed us, because they approached closer and closer, and began to surf on the waves right next to the boat. Unbelievable! They then began to dive under the boat, and some would go under from one direction, and, at the same time, others would come under from the other side, weaving in and out in a sort of pattern. Incredible! And then they were joined by a handful of different looking whales, with creamy-white heads and small, pointed beaks – Cuvier’s Beaked Whales, our book tells us! Different types of whales interact!? This new pod joined in the play. It was then that we saw an enormous dark shadow moving about 10 feet below the boat. All the other whales parted, watching from off to the side, and up he came — a Killer Whale! He was enormous. We threw some cans of tuna fish into the sea, and they swam about gobbling them up. Then, before we could stop her, Aylin threw one of Alexander’s soccer balls in. They started to play with it! They bounced it back and forth across the seas, before, after about ten minutes of this, one of them scooped it of the water and tossed it back up on deck (it actually took two tries). We have never seen a display like this in all our years of sailing, and it was especially good that the kids got to see it. Unfortunately, we got so wrapped up in watching the display that we forgot to take pictures. 😦

All are well. Alexander and Aylin are coloring, with Alexander humming along as they do it. Both are “starkers,” a turn of phrase coined by our Australian bare-boat captain all those years ago in the Caribbean. The temperature is climbing, and it is less comfortable below. Sima is on deck, continuing her work on Aylin’s scarf.

We again sailed 166 nautical miles during the last 24 hours, another one-day best, for a total of 2,119 miles done, and 790 to go. Closing in.

p.s. – About the whales — what’s today’s date?

5 responses to “The Long and Windy Road: Leander Atlantic Crossing Day 14

  1. Was very close to believing the whale story….but have had too much fun with the day myself to be caught off guard. Very well written though, you had just enough of a tone of incredulity to make such a tale believable.


  2. Why cast any doubt on such a beautiful day! Strange and wonderful things do happen, and we must enjoy them when they come. Jack and Joan


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