Monday, July 21, 2008

First longhaul passage

14 July
The original plan was to stay in Newtown Creek for a couple of days to rest after all the hectic activity of getting ready to leave, but after several discussions, we decided that if we got a good night’s sleep and the weather forecast was favourable, we would attempt a 20+ hour passage to Brixham. There were several points at which we could drop out so it didn’t seem too risky, hence at 9:30 on Monday, we raised the anchor and headed out.
We needed to recharge the batteries so we motored out past the Needles with only the mainsail up. Since we were likely to be head to wind the whole way, we put up the staysail too before letting out the genoa. It was a long painful beat and we’re very glad that prevailing winds will be behind us on the way back because neither of us fancies doing a passage like that again in a hurry. As the crow flies, it was an 88 mile trip – we logged over 140 miles and it took nearly 30 hours. It seemed to take forever to get past the Portland Bill lighthouse as the SW winds meant we had to go south for a long time before we could go west in order to avoid the Race around Portland Head.
After looking at various options for watches, we decided to play it by ear rather than try to stick to a fixed plan. In the end, I went to bed from 8pm – midnight, getting up at intervals to help tack or plot a position, then I went on watch from midnight – 2am while Mark got some rest and tried to sleep. He was only dozing when I got him up at 2am to help reef the genoa because the autohelm was no longer coping due to increased winds. I had tried to hand steer but I reached nearly 8 knots several times and it was increasingly difficult to keep Talia from rounding up into the wind. After sailing around in a circle twice, it was fairly obvious we had too much canvas up so I called Mark and we pulled in the genoa to the second reef point. Talia was much more manageable after that and the autohelm was coping easily so Mark stayed up and I went to bed for a couple of hours.
By 4am Mark was struggling to stay awake so I took over again – he roused briefly at 6am and was very grateful when I told him to stay put for another hour. I was planning to try and stay on watch until at least 8am but by 7:30 Mark was up and pottering about. We were still nearly 30 miles from Brixham so we put the engine on, furled the genoa and motor-sailed the remaining 5 hours to our destination.