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Feel the force to Falmouth…

Friday morning dawns, I’m up at 0600 all excited. I check the forecast – its got significantly worse – the forecast is now F8 – a gale warning in several areas including sea area Plymouth – a typical British summer. I was going to fill up at the fuel pontoon which doesn’t open till 0830 in any case – so I have time to re-plan. There is no way I am going to sail into a F8 – the plan was for a minimum 20hr possibly 24hr crossing – I would have to sleep – but with that sort of weather it would be impossible.

Oh well, nothing for it but the relatively benign 41 nm route to Falmouth. Strong winds but I should be in Falmouth before it deteriorates and I should have a fair tide all the way. As it turns out it was another tremendous sail. E winds F7/8 and a moderate sea and the tide – but all going my way! The only fly in the ointment was me making two gybing mistakes. A gybe – especially unintentional – is a rig breaking or head breaking opportunity as any sailor will tell you. But mine weren’t unintentional they were just screw ups. You see you don’t normally sail dead down wind as much as you don’t sail directly into the wind. Even with the wind behind you, you sail slightly offset – in my case with the wind at 120 degrees (as opposed to 180 degrees) This means you have to switch sides, zig-zagging down wind – that is a gybe. Perfectly normal.

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What I did the first time was trust the autopilot to switch to the other tack (120 degrees on the other side) and hold the boat while I moved the main and the genoa to the other side of the boat – not an easy task with F7/8 winds up your chuff. What the autopilot decided to do however was to sound the alarm in the middle of the gybe (this means the wind is too strong “I cant hold it”) and go into “standby”. the result was a perfect arc taking the boat right into the wind and me with 1 reef in the main and a full genoa. The noise as the sails tried to smash the mast to bits was impressive. One genoa sheet (the ropes that hold the sail) wrapped itself around the dinghy on the foredeck, and the other was wrenched from my hand and the stopper knot went right past the block where it should have stopped and flew up the deck. I had to get the main in first; then go up on deck to get the sheets; then reef the genoa;  then turn the boat down wind and finally set the sails on the other side. A lesson was learned. The second screw up was similar but this time caused entirely by me not having 3 pairs of hands or being able to steer the boat with my feet. Another lesson learned. Damage sustained ? – a tear along the foot of the genoa and one of the baton pockets torn on the main. Just as well I was heading for Falmouth and not l’Aber Wrach.

I will have to get these relatively small tears repaired – small tears become big ones – probably at the most inopportune moment.

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A poor neighbour

6 comments to Feel the force to Falmouth…

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