Saturday, 1 November 2008

1 November 2008 - unexpected night sail

3o nautical miles

The day started out with light-to-no-wind-at-all and then a safety hiccup that lost us half an hour. The safety issue was that one of the two hand-held radios had not been charged and was low on battery. Galini was doing a long trip and Blue just pottering around for the morning, so it was important that the fully charged radio was on Galini, but it wasn't... so we had to double back and swap radios.

Since the wind was almost non-existent and I was keen for a longish sea trip we motor-sailed for the first 30 minutes then got enough wind for a gentle sail.

Our first waypoint was Cape Pila. This little Garmin etrex is a wonder. You can interface with Google Earth to put in waypoints [probably frowned upon in navigating circles, but I find it pretty accurate]. And then do ETA, ETE calculations on the fly.

I love it... and all $80 or something like that.

The only thing to remember is that sailing to bearings means using the compass not the GPS as the GPS will steer you round not allowing for sailing leeway, tides, currents etc. But on short hops and keeping in mind the potential problems it's a great tool.

The Volvo Ocean has all those sexy mast-top pictures... using no doubt expensive remote controlled cameras.

So... when the winds are light and the sailing fun but not taxing inventiveness comes into play. I took the camera out of its waterproof case, attached a lanyard, removed the topping lift from the boom and used it as a halyard for the camera. No remote control, just a 10 second timer. Quite a few attempts to get one good picture.

Mentioning the Volvo Ocean cannot go without being amazed by the boat/team I'm following on this race - Ericsson 4 - who this week broke the world record for the greatest number of miles sailed by a monohull in 24 hours. The distances was just over 600 miles, which makes an average speed of 25 knots. I'm doing well if I can keep up 5 knots, so they are sailing 5 times the speed of my Galini. Their boat length is 70 feet which means on a displacement hull their maximum speed would be just over 11 knots... so they must have been planing the hull to get that speed.

As we pass Cape Pila the winds get up. This is the sailing Raed loves, bouncing through the waves with him hiking out holding on by his toes. The waves are steep and choppy and reduce as we get away from the cape. Actually it's not as windy as all that, maybe Bft 3 only. But fun fast sailing at last.

The most dangerous thing is all the fishing stuff... many of the fishermen don't do their buoys very well so you are bound to nearly hit a bamboo cane sticking up form some invisible [black] buoy. Occasionally they might also have a [nearly invisible] black flag on the end of the bamboo cane.

Eventually we reach our destination... well, the backup destination. Had it been Bft 3 all the way we wanted to try to get to Agia Napa, but with light winds we made it to Potamos.

Potamos is a lovely little fishing harbour. We moored in a bay overlooked by a restaurant, which was closed since its out of season.

Yes, I know I should have flaked and lashed the main sail to make it 'Bristol fashion' but we only had time for a very short break to eat half of our lunch as we were running late already. We'd eaten the first half just before the cape.

The entrance to the harbour is very shallow - a MacGregor started to come in then thought better of it and reversed out. He obviously had a depth guage - we don't! We scraped an underwater rock with the end of our centreboard on the way out. Yes, its very shallow!

I set a course that was as close to the cliffs as was safe. Sailing close to the cliffs would mean we had less miles to sail... the shortest possible route. It was interesting to see how the waves had eroded the cliffs so there were caves and overhangs all the way up to the cape.

The wind was dropping as we sailed back to Cape Pila so I had to motor sail the last mile. I hoped as we turned the point I could sail the rest of the way as it should be a direct run and have more speed.

As we turned the point we set the waypoint for the club and the bearing was such that a direct goose-wing run would be ideal. But sadly the wind dropped so we motor sailed. Eventually the wind dropped totally and so we furled the sail, hoisted the boom to the mast to and then lashed it there to get it out of the way an motored back.

What this all meant was that I had misjudged timing and we had the most beautiful sunset over the sea with Larnaca in the background. Yes God does make some really beautiful sights. I'm sure He must enjoy them as much as we do.

What threw me was the hour change from summer to winter time so sunset was an hour earlier than it was the previous week. That having been said, it was still later than I had planned.

But... after sunset... night. So we topped up the engine with fuel while it was still light and got everything ready for a night motor back to the club.

Navigating by night with the etrex is not too difficult. It has a 20 second illumination setting so holding it in your hand you can check your course. And just to make it easier you can set it up to tell you where to steer for the waypoint... Right 7 degrees... Left 4 degrees and so on.

Just in case you are thinking about the stupidity of using flash photography to ruin the helms night vision let me explain the photo. It was taken with flash before it was actually dark. The flash makes the foreground comparatively lighter and the background simulated night. So... no I would not be stupid enough to ruin my night sight for 15 minutes just to get a photo.

You can actually see which lights on the shore are roughly on the correct bearing and then sail for that, just checking with the GPS. In the case of Larnaca Nautical Club there are a number of oil storage tanks about half a mile south and these are very well illuminated so sailing to the club from about 5 miles out is pretty easy.

Night motoring was really fun. It would do it again, but would prepare the boat for it... have torches ready and preferably navigation lights on the mast. But... it was very enjoyable and something I would like to do again.

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