Eleanor Across the Atlantic: Luck

Sometimes when you're passage making, it's better to be lucky than good.

The crew aboard *Eleanor*. Dave Logan (left) shares his strong opinions. Sailmaker Carol Hasse (middle) is always a wealth of knowledge. Skipper Billy Gammon (right) brought us together.
The crew aboard Eleanor. Dave Logan (left) shares his strong opinions. Sailmaker Carol Hasse (middle) is always a wealth of knowledge. Skipper Billy Gammon (right) brought us together.Cruising World

Report #2: July 14, 2015

Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good. That's sort of what Carol Hasse and I discovered this morning, pondering a sail change aboard our Valiant 42, Eleanor. Life is often about timing, and ours was perfect.

It had been another eventful day at sea, at least upon reflection. Time takes on an odd quality when you’re on passage; it seems like nothing happens for endless hours and then you look back and realize all sorts of things have been going on.

My favorite moments, and there were two of them within hours of each other, were sighting a couple of velellas – Hasse insists that’s the right spelling – those remarkable jellyfish sporting a fin, or sail, or something, that pops out of the sea. I’ve sailed tens of thousands of miles and had only ever seen one before, and now, on this trip, I spotted a pair on the same day. We’ve seen lots of whales, porpoises and sharks so far, but nothing better than the white sails of those velellas. “He’s going to weather pretty good,” said skipper Dave Logan, and he was absolutely right.

On the other end of the spectrum, the least favorite episode was looking over the stern and seeing a long line of polypropylene streaming aft, obviously caught on the rudder. That’s, um, not fast, so we decided not to ponder how long it had been there. Billy Gammon came up with the great idea of trying to snag it with the dinghy anchor, and Logan was actually able to grapple a piece of it aboard, and together we hauled the whole mess up and stashed it in a trash bag so it would not afflict future mariners. All in all: Lucky. I’m usually the one who ends up in the drink in such episodes, and I was in no mood for a swim. Thank you, Billy and Dave.

After more than two days of fine sailing conditions, the winds finally went squirrelly yesterday, and by mid-afternoon we were struggling to make 4 knots on a broad reach. Hasse and Logan were solving the world’s problems in the cockpit when I came on deck and suggested trying our big asymmetrical kite, and the look Logan shot me was unkind. But Hasse, bless her sailmaking soul, is always up for hoisting fresh laundry, so I dragged the thing on deck and we got to it.

We hadn’t flown the sail since our shakedown last fall, so of course it took a while to get everything sorted. We set it off an ATN tacker, but Hasse was upset with herself that she’d forgotten to bring the larger one she had back home, but eventually the sail was set and flying, and relatively speaking, so were we, making a solid 6-plus knots. “I hate it when you’re right,” said Logan, which I appreciated, because I so rarely am.

We’ve encountered a weak warm front that has brought the light air, about 10 knots, but surprisingly it held up and we were able to carry the kite throughout the night. I was alone on deck when the sun rose at an ungodly early hour (probably time to move the clocks accordingly today as we continue eastward) but it was so pleasant I didn’t bother waking Hasse, who had the next watch, so she could get another hour of sleep.

When I did, at 0500, the breeze had shifted radically and our Monitor wind vane, of course, followed it faithfully, which meant we were heading more north than east. She and I debated the merits of dousing the spinnaker and hardening up on the breeze with the jib, but decided first to see if we could really sheet the kite home and avoid the exercise. Because we’re lazy.

Short story: we tried and it didn’t work. So we discussed all the evolutions of getting it down without scrambling the team, and pulled it off more or less gracefully, if I do say so myself. And no sooner than it was stashed, than the breeze popped up to 15 or 16 knots, we unrolled the genoa, got on precisely the course we wished for and started trucking along at 6.5 knots.

With luck on our side.

You can follow along with their trip using the tracking system Yellowbrick or via www.predictwind.com.

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