It's time for our weekly sailing outing. Questions were raised. Answers, however, are not forthcoming.
The winds from about 120° (something like ESE or maybe SE by E) at 10 to 11 kt here in the mooring field. Once out in the bay, the winds were actually 15 kts gusting higher. Great conditions for Red Ranger. Or were they?
We were able to race S (about 210°, SW by S) at well over 6 kts. We were flying mizzen, main and yankee and roaring along sweetly.
Or were we?
Was it really that sweet?
We passed two boats who were beating to weather under reefed main.
Reefed? In 15 kts of wind? What's their problem? Don't want spill the olives out of their martinis? What a bunch of babies! The real salts on Red Ranger don't reef at 15 kts.
But should we?
Around lunch time, we tried something we've only done once before. We hove to. Different boats have different ways of handling this. On a sloop, it's kind of complicated. On a ketch it's easy.
We furl the headsail, ease off the main so it's not working, and trim in the mizzen amidships. Once the mizzen's all the way in, we settle about 45° off the wind and drift very slowly. We have some forward way, but so little that we essentially hold our position.
Heaving to is a great way to straighten up the boat, eat a civilized lunch, and decide what to do next without handling the wheel, food and the chart plotter all at the same time.
We decided to head in and make an early day of it. Yesterday, I climbed the mast to repair the range light. Today I was very sore.
As we started heading in, CA reached a speed of 7.1 kt. Let's call it a 10% increase in speed over her previous best of 6.5 today.
Partly, that's due to her skills at the helm. Partly it's due to running a bit further off the wind. We had a relative wind angle of 100° instead of 60°. Clearly that wider angle of sail is something Red Ranger prefers.
What's weird is that Red Ranger was sailing flatter — less heeling — than she was earlier today. More speed. Flatter. Flatter. More speed.
This requires some thinking.
It appears that we really should be reefing at 15 kts. With a single-reefed main, she'd be flatter. And maybe faster, too. Perhaps a single reefed mizzen, also? Recently, (Another Day Sail) we had an outing in sporty conditions that caused us to start to rethink our reefing strategy.
I had allowed both our main and mizzen sails to sag so far off that the top two or three battens were doing nothing. Only the lowest sections of each sail were working. If I'm letting the sail twist at away the top — spilling wind — losing power — then perhaps I should have reefed. There would be less sail and less twist; this might mean more effective use of the wind.
Important things to experiment with next week.
Today we put in about 15 miles in almost exactly 4 hours with only 1 hr or so of engine time.