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Monday, January 19, 2004

January 20, 2004-Death of Old North

wingssail image-judy jensen
Shredded

We said goodbye to an old friend today, we blew up Old North, our last cruising spinnaker. This 3/4 sail has been with us since we bought WINGS in 1986, and it was old then, too old, it was deemed, to be of any further use as a racing sail, even back then. So by now it was an ancient sail, one we have used as a cruising sail off and on, all these years. It has given us many happy downwind days.

Today, whether out of restlessness or boredom, and justified by the need for a little more speed on our way to Palau, (to get there before dark on Monday, you see), we hoisted our old friend, on a broad reach in 14 knots of breeze. Not too much, even for an old guy, I reasoned. I rigged the pole and sheets and guys and we hoisted. It set well and when it filled our speed jumped from 5.5 knots to over 7 knots.

There is little I love better than the wonderful feel of power on a brisk reach under spinnaker in the open ocean. It is glorious. The bow wave roars, the wake streams out behind you in a froth of white, and the boat sings a song to you. And when the wind hits 20 and a big wave lifts the stern, you bear off down the face of the wave and feel joy as the speedo winds upward. The feeling is electric. It's you and the boat and the sail and the ocean and the wind and the roar of the bow wave, and the strain of the afterguy… Ecstasy! Gorgeous! Energy flows through my veins.

It feels so good. It even feels good to the off watch. Judy poked her head up and asked if I was having fun. I was.

I put a chair on the afterdeck and put on long pants and a long sleeved shirt for sun protection. And a hat. Got my water bottle. I was ready for a whole day of this.

I saw some speeds of over eight on the speedometer and I was aiming for nine.

Then, after just two hours, with no warning or any problem (no we hadn't collapsed and refilled this sail) it just burst, with a soft "pop", and then it was just tatters streaming out ahead. We put the autopilot on and got the sail down, all the parts of it, and cleaned up.

No major harm done, we're still sailing, and we have been expecting this to happen to this old sail every time we have used it for the last 2-3 years. Maybe I was rash to set it in 14 knots, or to leave it up when the wind built. But the sail died, I am sure, having as much fun as I was. It had a good life.

By the way, this is the last of our old "cruising" spinnakers. We started this cruise in 1996 with three of them, and they have all come down the same way in the end, death with their boots on, so to speak. So I guess we have to buy a new cruising spinnaker. It will be another one just like this one, red and white and blue, son of Old North.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Western Pacific Ocean, on passage
(06 deg 26 min N, 140 deg 04 min E)

PS: I fixed the sail the next day and we used it again.
Click here to see our sail repair set-up.

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Sailing Again-January 14, 2004

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Departing Papua New Guinea

The first day out of Kavieng is pretty nice; it is good to be at sea and sailing again.

Today we're heading north towards the Equator, close reaching under genoa and full main, in light wind, a gentle swell, and blue skies. It’s nice going, and good to be underweigh after a slightly too long stay in Kavieng, Papua New Guinea. Yesterday we finally got our alternator back from the repair shop, installed it, finished our provisioning, got our clearance, and made our final preparations for getting underway. We left this morning at 10:00am, a pretty civilized departure time if you ask me.

So where to now, you might ask? Us too. We don't know for sure, but it will either be Ninigo Atoll or Palau.

Ninigo Atoll is a collection of islands and coral reefs 390 miles west of here, part of Papua New Guinea, but isolated from it. It is reported to be a friendly and beautiful place where the south sea life is lived in a traditional fashion, mostly because they don't have any choice. Since it is so far from anywhere few, if any, trade ships go there; there are no stores and nothing to purchase. They don't run outboard motors because they can't buy gas. What they do have on Ninigo, we've heard, is terrific sailing canoes, big ones, and plenty of sailing skills to make them go. We've hear stories of 30 to 40 ft canoes which can really fly, and the Ninigo people love to make them do it. We'd like to see and photograph these canoes.

The problem with sailing to Ninigo, and why we might not get there, is that this is the season of the Northwest Monsoon, with typically strong NW winds. In those winds Ninigo is upwind from Kavieng, and it would be a rough beat. Right now the wind is a light South-westerly, and it's easy sailing, but if those Northwester lies fill in, and we get tired of slogging to weather, we'll bail out for the alternate destination, and our true objective, Palau.

Palau is 1140 miles northwest, in the North Pacific. It too is reported to be a beautiful place, with great dive sites and good shopping (and it used to be part of USA). We know we can get there, or at least we know we'll have favourable winds for that passage. We just have to keep going north until we hit the NE trade winds, and then surf off to the West to Palau.

Meanwhile, we're settling in to our passage, watching for squalls, and enjoying the sail.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, The Bismark Sea
(02 degrees 05 minutes South, 150 degrees, 46.7 minutes East)


January 20, 2004-Great Sailing Day

Today has been a great sailing day. An idyllic sailing day. The kind of sailing day that non-sailors think all sailing days are like. The kind, I guess I have to confess, we hardly ever get: a nice warm summer day in the middle of the ocean, blue sky, blue sea, gentle wind, making good time towards a new Tropical paradise. Its quiet, it's calm. We are relaxed and living the good life.

Yesterday was pretty nice too.

It sounds like I am being sarcastic, but I'm not. This is a really nice day.

Today I sat in my arm chair in the cockpit, cool under the shade awning, and read a good novel, listening to some very, very, good old music on the stereo: Clapton, old stuff, very nice.

The wind vane was steering.

How good is that?

Judy baked some biscuits, because our bread from Kavieng, finally after 6 days, started to go moldy. We cut off the mould and ate the last piece for breakfast. That's good timing, when you finish the last piece of bread just as it starts to go bad.

But...you say?

No buts. The passage so far has been a relatively soft passage, (as opposed to a hard passage, and we've had some of them in the past too) after a bit of a rough beginning.

After sailing out of Kavieng in light but steady winds we had two and a half days of lumpy seas combined with light and variable winds, interrupted by squalls and rain. That was tough sailing, not dangerous, just hard work, and stressful, because the squalls threatened to be intense, but we survived it OK. We went slow, got sail off when the squalls came, or when we couldn't see if they were coming or not, like at night, stayed dry, took it easy.

wingssail image-fredrick roswold
Black Squall Approaching

The evening of the fourth day we sailed into a huge black cloud bank that came right down to the water. It looked ominous, like nothing I've ever seen before. It went from one horizon to the other. Again we shortened sail. Behind this bank of clouds the weather changed. The variables and lumpy seas left. We got steady northerly winds. The air was cooler.

We were on port tack, as we had been since leaving Kavieng, and we sailed into the knock for a while. Then we tacked onto starboard and into a nice, long, lift.

The stars came out

Since then...well, like I said, it's been idyllic sailing. You should try it.

We still have 600 miles to go to Palau. Maybe this weather won't hold. But maybe it will.

We'll let you know.

Fred & Judy, SV WINGS, Western Pacific Ocean, on passage.


Click here for more photos and stories from this passage.

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