Northbound to Deltaville

Started Hospital Point 36°50.61′N 076°17.93′W

Docked Deltaville Marina C Dock 37°32.95′N 076°19.78′W

Log about 42 nm. Time 9 hrs. Engine 6 hrs.


We had a sail that was simply amazing.  I credit two things.

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We started at 05:30 — just before sunup — to make coffee, start weighing anchor, and generally getting under way. The wind was S 10-15 with 1-2′ seas. This was one of the reasons why the sail was so perfect. 

There are three kinds of wind: too little, too much and wrong direction. We had none of those winds. We had a reasonable amount in a direction that wasn’t useless. That makes for an amazing sail on the Chesapeake. 

Amazing because it’s so rare.

We started the day motor-sailing under mizzen and yankee. We’ve seen folks sailing on the Elizabeth River. There are tugs and navy ships. We think power is more prudent. Once out in the Bay, the winds were light and the current was fair. We “made hay while the sun shone” hustling along at a gentle 1800 RPM making 7 kt (almost as fast as Red Ranger can go.)

At about 11:30, we realized that we were about two hours from Deltaville. So we cut the engine. Speed fell to about 3 kts. That pushed our arrival time back. Temporarily.

Chaos

Winds of 10-15 kts on the quarter have baffled us in the past. The waves tend to come at an angle to the wind, so the boat rolls from side to side.

Coupled with the unplesant rolling is the presence of the dead-downwind “situation”. When the wind is on the quarter, the main can be eased well out. 

If the wind shifts or we have to make a course change, this can lead to wind dead astern. First, wind astern is ineffecient. Second — and more important — a small error in steering, a small course change, or a small shift in the wind and it’s now blowing on the wrong side of sail

That means the sail can be lifted across to the other side of the boat. The sail might swing through 120° of arc from well out on the starboard side to well out on the port side.  This can be sudden. Consequently, it can be dangerous.

It seems odd that a small wind shift can raise such havoc. It’s a question of chaos and strange attractors. 

Wind can be chaotic. Wind flowing past a sail — on a beam reach, for example, is laminar. It sticks to the sail and flows smoothly. (If you’ve trimmed the sail properly.)

Wind blowing straight onto a sail turns all puffy and swirly as it blows around the edges of the sail. Puffs and swirls on the forward edge (the side toward the mast) are just inefficiency. Puffs and swirls on the leech of the sail move the sail around. Pushing the leech further away the wind is just a loss of power.  The boom rises and falls as the sail flutters. A device called a Boom Vang prevents this.

But. When a puff gets behind the leech of the sail and lifts it toward the wind instead of away from the wind, we’re into the realm of chaos. Now the wind “sees” the edge of the sail instead of the flat face of the sail. Wind puffs and swirls can find it easier to push the lee side toward the weather. 

Once the leech of the sail starts moving toward the wind, the odds of another puff getting behind the leech change for the worse.

As the sail changes shape, the boom lifts. The sail develops a big backwards wrinkle. We call it sailing “by the lee”.  The lee edge of the sail is starting to do some work when only the weather edge should be seeing the wind.

One possible outcome is an accidental gybe. This is prevented by rigging a preventer line to hold the boom out.

When hand steering, the helmsman can head up — turn the boat toward the wind to try and optimize the course. 

Schooling

In Miami, wiser heads on Janus gave us some schooling in ketch-rig sailing. I credit these lessons as the second reason why the sail from Norfolk to Deltaville was so amazing.

Today, we were applying that advice. We had only the mizzen and yankee. The main was still laying on its boom doing nothing. 

Part of the schooling was to change our perception of the main. It should be looked at as a light-air booster sail. The real work is done by the headsails. The main is suitable for winds under 20 kts. In 10 kts it should be reefed once. At 15 reefed again. At 20 it should be down on the boom.

When we killed the motor, our speed dropped from 7 to 3 knots. We discussed the main. And decided it was too much work to put it up. Our ETA was still well before the 2-bell signal to break out the beer (17:00).

Then the wind started to build.

By 14:00 we were making 6 knots in winds that were gusting to 20. And the relative safety and comfort were acceptable. We didn’t have to mess with the main at all. It was already down. 

The sailing was a bit on the sporty side. If we had further to go that day, we might have reduced sail from yankee to stays’l. 

C Dock

We’re (temporarily) on C Dock. There’s a narrow fairway and a well-executed 90° turn required to get in there. It’s very secure, but we’re not happy with narrow fairways and well-executed turns. Red Ranger is just too big for this. We really want to be back on D Dock where it’s more forgiving.

  © Steven Lott 2016