The Vilisar Times

The life and times of Ronald and Kathleen and our voyages aboard S/V Vilisar, a 34.5-foot wooden Wm-Atkin-designed sailing cutter launched in Victoria, BC, Canada, in 1974. Since we moved aboard in 2001 Vilisar has been to Alaska, British Columbia, California, Mexico, The Galapagos and mainland Ecuador, Panama and Costa Rica.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Day 19. Costa Rica to The Marquesas via The Galapagos
At Sea. Saturday, 10 April 2010,
Our position as at 1500 GMT/UTC (1100 NYC; 1700 Ffm):
S 05 degrees 17.32 minutes; W 101 degrees 76.29 minutes;
2304 Nm to Nuku Hiva

Our life on board has really settled into a routine. The only thing that
disturbs it is adjusting sail or steering. With occasional bouts of
sunshine we seem to be passing through a period of rain squalls that has
been going on for days now and looks set to continue. Maybe this is normal
for these latitudes. When I look in the logbook the word 'squall' comes up
rather too frequently. With the squalls come shifts in wind direction and
speed, and the watchkeeper has to be alert the sounds of the jib flogging,
the main boom slatting or even just altogether too little sound, which
might signal that the wind is now about to get behind the mainsail and we
are to experience an unintended jibe. And of course he/she has always to
be ready to head out to the cockpit fast. After a while you know when you
have to hustle out into the cockpit.

We had run for several days just under a headsail. Slow and very trying.
Very rolly, too. But once we get the mainsail back up we start making
great speed. Whereas a week ago we were thankful if we could clock, say,
70 Nm per day, once we got the mainsail up again we have been putting in
successive days at 130 or more Nm. Vilisar is tremendously seaworthy and
quite seakindly as well. With the mainsail up we have stopped rolling,
with the extra power behind that sail we are knocking off the miles, life
below becomes more civilised and we are beginning to enjoy the trip more.
We have reached below S 5 degrees of latitude, which is rather farther S
than we should wish so as to have a good angle to sail to Nuku Hiva. But
this morning's sail adjustments have us right on course to the Waypoint
there and the SE wind is still on our port quarter (which we like, and not
directly behind us, which we don't).

I think about reefing in the mainsail last night before dark, but put it
off because we are making such good speed and because the abscess on my
right knee I know will suffer in the foredeck work. But, they say that if
you once think you should reef, should already have done it. Well, I don't
and I didn't. On the other hand, we are charging through the water at
sometimes well over 7 kts. In the dark this will produce anxiety in us. We
are also having trouble keeping Vilisar from rounding up from a broad
reach to close-hauled and picking up even more speed, i.e., the windvane
is being over-powered by the big mainsail. The apparent wind increases and
so does the tumult.

Kathleen wants to do it now while it's still light, because she can't hold
the tiller with the strong weather helm. An hour before dark, we get to
work. Reefing is a hardy project on Vilisar, and if I say it myself, the
reefing system is not constructed for simplicity. There is spray
everywhere forward, the deck is pitching and to get the mainsail to come
down we shall have to bring the bow up into the wind and keep it there
long enough for me to adjust the topping lift to support the outer end of
the boom, drop the mainsail partway so that I can get a metal hook into
the appropriate cringle (hole), heave on the reefing pennants to shorten
the sail at the outer end of the mast and then sweat the now 'smaller'
sail back up.

We decide to use the engine to give us more control. This is nearly the
first time we have used it since an hour out of San Cristobal in The
Galapagos. With Kathleen as usual at the tiller, I go forward to the mast.
I intend to drop the self-tending staysail first so that the wildly-
swinging wooden boomlet won't smack me when we round up into the wind;
it's not called the 'widowmaker' for nothing. I take the mainsail and
staysail halyards off the mast cleats and shake the lines out on the deck
so there are no kinks. I am wearing a miner's headlamp to give me some
local light. Everything readied, I shout back to Kathleen to bring Vilisar
up into the wind.

Immediately, the wind seems to increase, the foredeck is pitching like mad
into the waves, and I am being soaked by spray. Swallowing deeply, I get
to work to get the staysail down and smothered on top of the dinghy, the
topping lift set to take the weight of the mainboom, to shout a warning to
Kathleen to keep her head down, to let go the main halyard that drops the
boom near the centre of the boat just above Kathleen's head and to let the
mainsail slide down the mast track. Meanwhile Kathleen has to keep Vilisar
'just so' into the wind so I can do my remaining work: get the hook into
the cringle and sheet in the reefing pennants. It seems like hours, but
the engine has been running for only twenty minutes including the time
waiting for me to ready things on the foredeck. I decide to leave the
jibsail up to see how things go. Taking that thing down is a b.

Under reefed-in main and the jib, our speed does not seem to have
deteriorated whatsoever. But Vilisar is not heeling and there is no water
rushing down the side deck towards the cockpit. Belowdecks, things are
actually now quite comfortable again. From now on, we agree, we shall
shorten sail at sundown by dousing the jib and running at night only under
staysail and reefed-down mainsail. We might sacrifice some speed, but
these crises always seem to happen after midnight in a rain squall. Who
needs it?

We are nearly out of fresh fruit and veggies. We still have a few apples,
but the last banana was eaten with this morning's muesli. We still have
tomatoes, watermelons and an interesting, potato-like vegetable from Costa
Rica, whose name we do not recall. It is pear-shaped, green and the size
of a cantaloupe. Tastes great in a soup along with the squashes we also
still have. Still lots of onions and spuds. The last two loaves of whole-
wheat bread we bought in The Galapagos went blue and grey, so we shall
soon be confronted with baking bread again. We should have had them
double-baked for better storage, but didn't think of it at the time.

The cabin is beginning to become very clammy. We have endured squall after
squall with rain blowing in through the companionway before we can get
things closed up. Now we run with all ports and the skylight shut tight
(mainly because of salt spray or even a bit of slop down the hatch, so to
speak). When it rains into the companionway we put in the washboards.
Inside the cabin we run the electric fans to keep the air moving. It is
warmer and more humid here than 750 Nm back in The Galapagos. We are now
about one-quarter of the way to The Marquesas. If we make 100 Nm daily for
the rest of the trip we have approximately 23 days to go. But even doing 5
knots of speed on average it will only take us another 19 days.

Both Kathleen and I have been fantasising about steaks.


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