We have two pieces of info today. One good, and one bad one. The good one is that we are consistently managing to sail the windspeed. The bad one is that the wind speed is 3-4 knots ;), We’re playing giant chess game with a calm that keeps shifting in this area. We had great idea on how to get through it, but that required starting on Thursday and not on Friday. Unfortunately we were lured by promises from the FedEx system that the package that was originally supposed to be delivered on Wednesday would finally make it by Thursday night. As it turns out the package is now somewhere in Memphis and we are chasing the wind that keeps moving away to the North away from us. The good news is that we keep an eye on the situation in the 30s (latitude between 30 and 40 degrees North, where we’ll spend most of the time once we turn directly towards Europe) and there is ono rush to get there at any precise time, because of some particular situation with a front or a low for the time being. For
now, we get there when we get there and once we catch consistent fresh westerly breeze we’ll make the turn towards Europe.
For now we use the easy conditions to fine tune some equipment and procedural solutions aboard. We also use it to have loads of fun. Yesterday we dropped the sails in 2 knots of wind and went swimming in over 3 km of beautiful, crystal clear water. Jacek did not miss the opportunity to get around my opposition to alcohol consumption aboard and jumped overboard with some wine as not to drink on the boat. I think he deserved the drink just for the inginuity.
Today is the first time we ran the watermaker from the begining as I set a arbitrary floor of 300 litters in the main tank. Even with the watermaker on the batteries did not drop below 55%. We have so much electricity we could give some to the grid. The batterries are at 100% usually around 11 AM. That’s after producing about 7 kilowatthours and the panels are capable of producing as much as 3 kWh per day if the electrical power has somewhere to go. And it’ll only get better. As we move North and we are approaching the Summer solstice days get get longer for as faster than for anyone else. Every hour of sunlight a day more is one more hour of charging, but more importantly one less hour of discharging. Needless to say despite the opposition of the two salty dogs I have onboard I happily used a hairdryer to dry the phone’s USB port to connect the drone. No luck by the way. Samsung is still screaming that the USB plug is wet. I also used the hairdryer to set one of the salty dog’s white hair to the Sean Connery’s style from the “Hunting for Red October”. It went so well that we started throwing commands and Russian last names at him with a Scottish accent.
This morning crazy strategy to head Northeast instead of straight North is panning out as I write this. The wind is turning behind us to the point where we should be able to use our nuclear option – the main and the spinnaker together. That is by far the most sail we can ever hang out on this boat. Together just short of 400 square meters of 4000 square feet for those of you who don’s speak metric Few dry facts before we go for today:
log: 49055 (starting 48470) wind: 4 SE, speed 4 knots, course 045 or NE.
Thank you for following our progress across the Atlantic. We’re just short of 1000 miles , which would put us approximately at 20% complete. Given the finicky and light nature of the winds we were dealing with in the last week as we were negotiating exit from the trade winds and getting around the Bermuda high it is still a decent progress we think. In the last two days we managed decidedly to exit the calm that forced us to use the engine on day 4 as the wind dropped below 2 knots and even our boat could not make any meaningful progress. Now we are dealing with about 10 knot wind from the SW, which is perfect for our spinnaker alone. It translates into 5-6 knots dead downwind, as we try to make more North before we turn decidedly East. Though when you look at the screenshot of the chart you realize that the arc that marks the great circle route to the mouth of the English Channel is not much to the right from our current course. At this point though our course strategy is largely dependent on the behavior of the lows travelling West to East at latitudes North of here. So the key in positioning is to go enough North to catch nice fresh breeze, but not too far as not to get run over by one of those furious lows. On the other hand remaining to far South for the crossing means high risk of light winds or even calms as we would get closer to the prevailing highs. So it’s a bit of a g-slalom to stay in optimum conditions that guarantee fast yet no too stressing passage. As usual the shortest route is definitely not the best choice. It is nevertheless a useful reference.
Yesterday we had a leak in the workshop. Quick tongue lab analysis determined salt water. Further investigation uncovered check valve on the bilge pump line that stopped being a one way valve and started acting as rather a piece of pipe. End result was that whenever a higher wave would slap against the outlet it would allow some water backwards-through the pump into the bilge. Again the king of spare parts I pulled out a new valve with a triumphant expression on my face and replaced it just to find out the somehow even the new valve does not completely close and drips a bit. So I found an extra piece of hose and made an extension, which I then tied with a bunjee cord high above water line so as to create a siphon. The bilge this morning is perfectly dry.Things are getting colder. The sea water temperature has dropped decidedly from the starting 29 C to current 24 C. Each morning we have quite a bit of dew on the deck. I asked Ania to air out and prepare for everyone warm comforters for the colder days to come. I am not looking forward to 10 C in the forecast 2 weeks from now, but that’s what you get for going North.For going East on the other hand we keep shifting in local time. Soon we gonna have to calculate a meaningful way of adjusting our ship’s time consistently with longitude, so as to arrive in Poland fully adjusted. I’ll talk about it next time though.Thank you for being with us.
Cheers,Crew of Poly.
Day 7 & 8
Hi guys! We decidedly made a turn to the right almost directly toward the mouth of the English Chanel. This marks the end of negotiations with the Bermuda high and its calms and the beginning of the g-slalom between the highs in the South and the lows more to the North. In general drifting left or North means more wind and conversely drifting South towards the highs means less wind as we speed ENE in general. Now instead of looking forward and avoiding areas with no winds we are looking at the rear view mirror to see how is the latest low approaching us from the West. The whole strategy is about constant positioning of the boat on the line that gives us 20 something knots of wind somewhere from behind. That unfortunately has abruptly changed this morning though as our spinnaker ripped along its entire width.
Fortunately it ripped close to the bottom, so we are going to try to do the same fix we did nearly 6 years ago during a crossing from the Canaries to the Caribbean – the opposite way. And
that means rolling the damaged section of the sail effectively shortening the sail and sewing along the entire new bottom. Right now the wind is in the mid 20s so it would be too much for the spinnaker and we are doing very well on the full main and the genoa. We anticipate though numerous areas where we may have to sail downwind in light winds, which is when the spinnaker proves to be invaluable. For those of you who are used to spinnaker on a monohull it is a completely different world. The whole danger and complicated setup on a mono is nearly reduced to nonexistent on a wide multihull. We do not have a spinnaker boom. We do not have to do anything at all to gybe. The sail does it by itself simply shifting slightly from one side to the other following the wind. Done. If you’re familiar with the nearly aerobatic skills necessary to gybe safely a monohull with a spinnaker boom this is definitely a nice change, especially most welcome on a family boat.
The idea of creating this giant 270 square meter (or nearly 3000 square feet) monster came over me on the way from New York to France – the very first Atlantic crossing on this boat in 2014. In the first week we covered two thirds of the route covering upwards of 250 miles a day every single day. The conditions where indeed perfect. Quartering tailwind or broad reach n the sailing jargon between 15 and 20 knots. So all we did is change sometimes between the genoa and the gennaker. After one week abeam Azores or Iceland the wind slightly turned behind and that was enough to make the boat slow to about 50% of its previous speed. Neel was never meant to go downwind. The idea was probably to always go fast enough to create apparent wind from the front. The shrouds are so far back that mainsail can only be let out as far as 20-30 degrees from the longitudinal axis. The net effect is that it becomes not only useless, but actually course destabilising when you go downwind. So you are left with two choices. Either drop the main altogether and keep going downwind with just a genoa. In light winds that’s not a very powerful setup. Or you can keep tacking downwind. The problem with that is when you load up the boat and it sinks significantly, because if very narrow hulls it also slows it down significantly. In our case with all the family goodies on board we can no longer effectively tack downwind. We cannot accelerate the boa in light winds with a quartering tailwind to pull the apparent wind far enough forward to create meaningful airflow over the mainsail. So in layman’s terms we are handicapped on this wind angle. In order to patch up this significant performance hole I began thinking up a giant symmetrical spinnaker that would carry us through light down winds. It was never done on this boat before and for that matter I don’t know of any other trimaran with his kind of setup. So I took the risk and ran the experiment. I had custom spinnaker made, we fitted the ama bows with the blocs for the guys and
ran the sheets back in addition. When we finally got to test the sail in the Summer 2015 in the Baltic Sea and it turned out the boat did 10 knots in 12 knots of wind dead downwind, I was so happy. Bingo! We have patched up our downwind handicap. The symmetrical monster has become the downwind workhorse for Atlantic crossing each way and few other downwind passages.
Needless to say I had a bit of sinking feeling this morning when it ripped all the way across. But again, please keep your fingers crossed as we have a fix in mind that may take few days, but hopefully we’ll have a spinnaker at 80% of its original capability for the remaining 4000 miles.
Just if that was not enough excitement we met another Neel, a Neel 51 sailed from Miami to Gibraltar by an Austrian family. It was super exciting to pass right by them. We changed course a bit to pass about 30 m behind them.
We waived, took pictures, exchanged introductions and comments on weather and our routes via the radio and wished each other a happy voyage. What are the chances?
Crew of Poly
log 49672 (just about exactly 1200 mil from the start 48470) that means we are baout 1/4 of the way done, 20-23 knots of wind from the SW, boatspeed 8-13 knots between surfing down the waves or climbing up one, course 050 (for now we are aiming at a wind bridge between two lows and two highs coming up in about 3-4 days)
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