Monday, April 25, 2011

Second shakedown cruise... boy did it suck

Ok... so the title may be a bit strong, but the worst thing about a perfect first shakedown cruise is that the second one is almost guaranteed to be worse.

So the scene is set... weather forecast 10 to 15kts, we're all ready and planning on a lovely run to St. Barths, even though it's an upwind run.

The first thing we noticed was the biggest mega yacht in the world anchored right behind us. It's rumored to have a laser detection and deterrent system to stop people from taking pictures... so we went and videoed it.

After that little diversion we check the many lines on Odessa's rig, loosen up stuff that has to run out and unclip everything that we're going to need. Instead of raising the main sail on anchor and then motoring out, we tried raising it on the way out of the bay because we were heading dead into the wind (note to aspiring sailors, only change one thing at a time).

Well, all goes well as we head out in the lee of the island, and we don't notice that with one reef in the sail for safety, we had neglected to let the boom tilt fully up (a line that was supposed to be loose... wasn't) and the back reef line was 6 feet longer than it should be. This is no big deal normally, but as soon as we got out of the wind shadow of St. Maarten and discovered the issue, the wind stiffened to 20 to 25kts and we were making good speed.... but in the wrong direction.

To make it a nice one "tack" run to St. Barths you need to run close hauled, that is 15 degrees off and into the wind, and we couldn't reach more than 35 degrees without the main sail flogging... it was simply too loose with a massive luff (due to the reef line not "outhauling" the back of the sail to the boom). A quick look round and we identified the problem, but fixing it proved to be another matter.

After an hour working on the jammed reef line with now over 25kts loading up the sail... I'd had enough. We came about and ran downwind heading back to St. Maarten. Downwind is awesome sailing with no concept of speed, no wind across the deck and no sounds apart from the bow slicing through the swells.

We messed around trying to fix the problem and despite crash jibing a couple of times (destroying our main sheet track lines), getting swung out on the boom without my harness clipped on and generally having fun, I could see the looks of horror coming from my crew. I have to remember that my family has never sailed before, they're not familiar with the sounds, the creaking as line under heavy load on big winches creeps and groans, the sheer power of the wind is felt through out the boat and your senses.

Sensing the "no fun faces" I decided to forget St. Barths and head into Simpson Bay to fix the rig and set it up properly. It was a difficult night as we assessed a growing list of things that we now realized needed to be fixed, the ground swell was rolling heavily from the south east and the north east wind kept the swell on our beam... very rolley.

The next morning we decided on a nice downwind sail to the Angulia Channel using just the Genoa foresail and left the main sail tucked away in its bag. We definitely needed to rerun our reefing lines and make them come back to the cockpit where we would be able to manage them in safety. Down wind was lovely but as we got into the Anguila Channel the wind swung north east and ripping at 20+ kts again, we weren't caught out, but not in the mood to wrestle with the sails again or go crashing across the channel tacking back and forth just to get a couple of miles.

We rolled up the Genoa and motored dead into wind up to Grand Case and found a lovely spot to drop anchor and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Izzy happy to be sailing... she likes it when we're reaching and the sailing is more dramatic.

Simon doesn't care too much about sailing, he just want's to get there and go swimming.

Before you get too comfortable "go and dive the anchor" says Doreen.

The water is amazingly clear and full of turtles.

The nicest thing about having a deep draft is that you tend to anchor further off the beach and enjoy the serenity of the anchorage.

We still can't get over how beautiful the sunsets are... but, in stark contrast the second shake down cruise made it clear that we need a third, and a lot of work before we get out again. Four weeks and then we'll be ready to run to the BVI's (80 miles), but this time we're also going with other boats and de-powering the rig right out of the bay.