Ah, you're all confused! ;-) A whisker pole is not a spinnaker pole. You don't need to rig and unrig a whisker pole as you can furl the jib with the pole attached.
Also, the whisker pole is not just for light winds
. It is for creating stability for the jib, allowing you with a much wider angle without collapsing/gybing the jib. It also increases the life span of the jib: it's easier on rig and sails
. It is also only for 140-180 deg. wind angles so not for reaching between the islands in the East Caribbean.
Sheeting in the main so that the flow off the main fills the jib isn't really a smart plan either, as the main will not generate much, if any, drive that way. Better lower it completely and use jib and whisker pole only. Remember, we are doing downwind sailing here so the sails must be completely stalled for optimal drive.
Also, remember that reefing is just as possible downwind as it is on other angles. The main rigged with preventer to leeward and the jib with pole to windward is pretty much fool proof and nothing will slam around. If wind gets to high, start with reefing the main, which allows more air to reach the jib. If your boat tends to roll or even start to oscillate (rolling gets worse and worse) you need to experiment
with different ways of reefing, regardless of necessity for the current
This is also the time to check if you can reef the main while sailing downwind. You might need lines from the luff reef points to pull/winch it down etc. If you have aft-swept spreaders, you will have more difficulty.
Boats that removed the boom vang
(it was "in the way") should also re-think that decision and re-rig a vang during these down wind sails, or move the main sheet to the toe-rail.
I agree that setting sail like I describe isn't very useful for the Marin to Rodney Bay trip. But I'll list some Caribbean trips where I have seen boats getting in trouble because they sailed them like if they were still doing these East Carieb trips:
-> Los Testigos. Most boats end up motoring because of the light conditions. Preventers and poles make this a nice relaxed sail and even faster for light, easily driven hulls. The mistake made: you motor
out of prickly bay, down wind. You host the main or unfurl the jib and it collapses. You decide there's not enough wind. Remedie: put engine
on dead slow, hoist/unfurl working sails, set pole and preventers, kill engine, feather prop, tune sails and give it 30 minutes before deciding that there's not enough wind.
Isla Margerita to Rogues, Aves and ABC islands. Here you will get the full trades, count on 25-30 kts winds and 8' waves. Lovely sailing conditions with the wind stable in both direction and strength (as soon as you get away from land). When we are lazy, we use the main with preventer only (= balanced on a ketch) and do 10 kts that way. Friends of us have a 42' Bavaria sloop
and use the jib + whisker pole setup instead. The pole is like permanently rigged, even in the anchorages
with the jib furled. The furling
line is like the accelerator pedal and they sail in complete comfort.
ABC islands to Colombia
. This is where most trouble occurs. Ripped off deck fittings, broken booms, vangs, stays, spreaders etc. You must expect 30-40 kts wind and must not be surprised to see 45 kts. Waves can go up to 20' in spots. Sail defensively, always
using preventers. Rig that small jib (100% or less), not the 140% genoa (you do have a smaller jib, right?) and use the whisker pole adjusted so that you can furl the jib without unrigging the pole. If you have a cutter
stay, use that for a jib and hope your pole can be adjusted short enough to be put to use there. Put up just enough sail area to make hull speed
, only exceeding that a little when surfing down a wave. Do not reduce sail too much as the trip will be rougher that way (higher apparent wind, more waves coming to you at a faster speed etc.)
You will probably have a overnight leg from Cabo de la Vela to the 5-bays area. About halfway (off the oil
platforms you find on the charts) you can expect sudden changes in wind direction, resulting in unplanned gybes. You have reached the area where winds are influenced by some of the highest mountains in the America's! I remember subtle warning signs but even though a heard about a boat breaking the vang there a week earlier, the signs were not clear enough for me to connect them to the story and we had some unexpected fun there too and only quick reactions prevented damage. I would advise to change to jib only well before getting abeam of the platforms.
Many cruisers in the East Caribbean fear heading west and stay east. But if you took good care of the boat and know how to sail, there should be no reason for fear and the San Blas is really much nicer than the Tobego Keys (real Indians instead of boat boys!)!