I recently had a short jaunt across the Gulf St Vincent in South Australia
with three of us on board a Swanson 42. The trip over was great, did the 35 nautical miles in 6 hours pointing the whole way, nothing to complain of except one of the crew got quite seasick. The next morning we set out home, a trip due East for 35 miles, but had to turn back when the crew member
became quite sick again. For various complicated reasons this meant I left both crew members on the Westerns side of the gulf (to be collected by car) and sailed home alone, into a pretty grotty Easterly. I didn't get to leave till midday so I was looking at a very late arrival, but the boat has good lighting
, good auto pilot and a radar
so I was not too worried, and once you are half way across the gulf you can keep all shipping
traffic to the south of your path so solo navigation
was not a big problem. The weather forecast
was for a number of days of similar or worse conditions, so waiting around on the Western side was not a great option either.
The unexpected problem I ran into was that the wind
was gusting between 18 knots and 28 knots. To reduce strain on the boat and rigging
during the 28 knot
blows, I reefed the main down to about half size and rolled the jib
back in to give a balanced helm
. This stopped me worrying about the strong gusts, but I found that between the Swanson's rather "rotund" hull
form, the suprising large seas coming from directly on the bow and the fact that with the sails
reefed down that much there was barely any power when the wind
abated to 18 knots, I made absolutely no headway all evening, and to cut a long story short, did not get home till 5:30 in the following morning.
Looking back, I feel there must have been a better tactical approach to this one. On the face of it, it was simply a matter of beating 35 miles into strong winds in fairly undemanding expanse of water
(though it can get a bit scary if there has been a Southwesterly blowing for a bit of time.). I had plenty of sea room to the North and South of my course, though the area to the South does have some shipping
traffic so I was keen to avoid it. The boat was certainly up to the task, but taking nearly 18 hours to do 35 miles is horrible and left me with the unavoidable need to take short sleeps between tacks, reinforcing my desire to keep the sail area to a minimum, and slowing me down even more. Vicious circle.
What should I have done?
Thoughts and suggestions welcomed, I'd really like to avoid another night like that one.