Day 36: another rant

I’m afraid this is becoming a bit of a theme as I’m going to harp on about the wind again. As I said yesterday, I hate sailing to windward and the last 24 hours has done nothing to change this view. Forgive me if I go into a little detail about it but I feel like having a good old moan today and it’s my blog so I’ll rant if I want to!

My tactic for sailing towards a specific destination is to draw a line from it to my starting position, which in this case is where I was about three days ago as I felt I was close enough to La Rochelle to start taking the navigation a bit more seriously. I then draw two more lines radiating from my destination at 5 degrees either side of the direct route. This gives me a 10 degree arc within which I stay while approaching the target, rather like an airliner coming in to land and homing in on a beacon which keeps it on the right glidepath.

By 9pm last night I was right on the southern edge of my arc and was heading more or less south-east, so put in a tack which put me back onto my earlier course of just east of north. I stayed on this all night and by midday today was pretty much on the northern line which should make it time to tack again. To put it into context for you, in the last 24 hours I’ve sailed around 100 miles but am only about 30 miles closer to La Rochelle.

However the wind has gradually been veering through the morning (which means it’s blowing more from the east than the north) and I’m now heading north-east instead of north. If I were to tack now I’d end up heading pretty much south, or exactly back the way I came in the night. See what I mean about sailing close to the wind? It’s a wretched and largely fruitless exercise in my experience and I’ve half a mind to simply stop the boat where I am and wait for a more favourable wind. The old square-riggers used to do that due to their inability to get even as close to the wind as I can, so it’s quite a reasonable thing to do.

Stopping would also ease the motion which is horrid to say the least as we’re slamming into short steep seas, causing the boat to pitch up and down violently while all the time heeling sideways at an angle of around 25-30 degrees. I tried to carry on patching up the mizzen sail but it was pointless as every time I tried to put in a stitch the boat would lurch, causing the needle to go in some random direction, usually ending up in my thumb. I soon gave up on that and sat back in a huff listening to music instead.

I then thought I should at least try to do something productive so tuned the radio into the frequency for the Fleet weather centre in the UK in the vain hope of picking up a signal. I tried a couple of days ago and it was too distorted to be useful, but to my delight I found today that it was crystal clear. This means I can now receive weather faxes directly into my Mac so I can see exactly what’s going on. Fleet have an excellent schedule of different forecasts throughout the day so I can now arm myself with useful information for planning ahead. Of course this depends on my being able to interpret the charts to predict what the weather is going to do but I’m slowly getting used to it.

Another useful function of my short-wave radio is that it can receive so-called Navtex broadcasts which is text-based weather and navigation information in English. I managed to tune in to the French station in Brittany and received this forecast for my area:


It’s a little garbled but the good news seems to be that the wind is forecast to come round to the south later, which is absolutely perfect for laying in a direct course to La Rochelle. I have therefore decided to stay on this tack for a bit longer to see if it materialises.

Actually I’m almost tempted to stay on this tack a lot longer as I’m in a similar situation to the start of my journey as I approached Bermuda and was headed by the wind, facing me with the prospect of four days of beating to windward. As you may recall I gave up in a huff and bore away to the north to sail directly to France, and I could now do the same and head straight for England.

However I don’t think Reg would be too happy about that as he’s on his way to Bordeaux for the weekend before meeting me in La Rochelle next week. I already forced him to cancel his plans to meet me in the Azores and I don’t think I can do it to him again or I’d never get that new car when I get home (hint hint).

So, onward and upward, and I’m just going to have to put up with this miserable windward sailing farce for a bit longer. Oh for that lovely week of westerly trade-winds!

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