NAUTICAL SKILLS/ Sailing downwind
Delivering Misto from La Rochelle to the Azores
Our journey was fortunate to encounter reasonable winds, varying from 10-35kn blowing predominantly from the North East, resulting in downwind sailing, interspersed with motoring and motor/sailing when the wind dropped too low to make at least 5 knots. The sails that were available to us were a main, jib and gennaker and we learned a number of useful downwind sailing techniques.
The Main: The swells tended to be disorganized and come from at least two directions at once. Although they were several seconds apart, this resulted in the sort of boom flapping and banging that is only too common when sailing on the Neuse River and Pamlico Sound. We did not have a gibe preventer fitted on the boom and learned the value of taking a dock line, attaching it around the outermost end of the boom and lashing it to the aft cleat. On really bad days a second dock-line attached in a similar place but led forward to the mid-ships cleat, almost completely stopped the boom and sail from flogging in the wave troughs. At night this rig brought the security of knowing there would not be an unexpected gibe, unseen in the darkness. If you do not have a boom brake or gibe preventer fitted on your rig we can recommend this cheap and easy solution.
The Gennaker: According to some, on a Cat, the Gennaker is a Screecher! If anyone can enlighten us about the difference we’d be delighted to know as we have not been able to work that out yet. We flew the gennaker on only a couple of occasions as this was essentially a delivery situation. However, one day, with a moderate wind dead astern we furled the main and flew the gennaker and jib wing on wing. It certainly balanced the boat and made for a pretty sight! On a boat without a backstay, as is the case on a Cat, be sure to use the topping lift and main sheet winched down tight to create support for the mast before flying your fore-sails in this type of configuration.
Finally, a few words about chafe. Chafe is the enemy of cruisers and worst when downwind sailing. Everything seems to touch – sails on spreaders (don’t let your main out too far when sailing downwind); sails and lines on lifelines, deck fittings and coach-roof. Inspect your rig multiple times a day for potential chafe; don’t ignore anything that is touching – as it will chafe! The most useful items that we had on board to counteract chafe were about 6 feet of chafe guard purchased from the Provision Store in Oriental before we left, and cable ties! The Provision Store sells chafe guard by the foot in a couple of widths and it was the best investment we made. Although intended for dock lines it can be used on lifelines, side stays, lines and even the edge of sails (split open). For any type of line it can attached with cable ties!
Misto will be living in Annapolis for the next two years, but we intend to bring her to North Carolina for Memorial Day and the week-long cruise in 2014. She’ll also be on show at the Annapolis and Miami boat shows; we are looking forward to welcoming members of the NSA aboard.
About the Author