It started out innocently enough. Maybe we were lulled into the classic impression the sea tends to give, that the way it is now is the way it’s going to be. Even though you know that the sea is constantly shifting, stretching and snapping back, if it’s nice you start to do the maths to destination as if nothing might intercede to gum-up the works. The first monkey wrench started around four in the morning when the breeze began to pick up and seemed to be steady and maybe even filling in. I turned off the engine. We’d been using far too much fuel during the lulls to try to outdistance the reach of the nasty Papagayo winds that we tangled with on the way up to El Salvador and the Tehuanapec out of the north. The nasty confused sea state was evidence of high winds somewhere but we were becalmed for twenty four hours straight.
So as I was saying, I eased the jib sheet and switched off the Volvo, experiencing my favorite moment in sailing… no motor. It must be said that my second favorite moment is when the engine starts because if I’m starting it I really need it. I noted that we could use some main sail but that can wait until Marce gets up. We’re already making 4 kts under jib alone in a steadily building sea but only six knots of wind. We raise the main with two reefs in and settle down to a fine day of sailing. I admit that the building breeze kind of sneaked up on us and with the lumpy cross seas we turned Escape Velocity once more up into the freshening wind and rolled up some more main, what we call triple reefed. Forcing her bow back down wind we were rewarded with a calmer more controlled path over, through and around the huge Pacific swells. We even went wing and wing with the jib out to windward and the main to leeward which we know EV likes.
By afternoon those swells matriculated into steep white caps from several charming directions at once so another sail change was called for. With the wind still mostly 16-18 but occasionally gusting to 24 it was time for a serious reduction in yardage aloft. We often run with just the blade-like jib up and no main but with this sea state and breeze, we turned EV up into the wind again, dropped the jib altogether, and rolled up even more mainsail right down to the Manta logo, leaving not much more than a hankie aloft. We settled down for a evening of lurching, pounding, and scary noises, not from the rig but from the seas banging below.
Marce had to stand watch inside and after a few hours she needed to go below with mal-de-mar rearing its ugly head again. I could hear all the dishes and pots and pans rattling around and a pencil rolling back and forth on the navigation desk. It would take too much energy to go in and stop it. The steep waves slapped and banged against the bridge deck. I could hear that pencil reach the end of its roll. We’d done all we could, now it’s just a matter of grin and bear with the roller coaster ride. At about 0200 M. poked her head out of the saloon and said, “Is everything alright? From down below it sounds like a bar fight is going on.”
Meanwhile, EV was just cooking along at 6 kts, steady as you please.