Sailing is a sport

Some days we sail over a hundred miles and enjoy a relaxing day as Artemis carries us to our destination. Some days we sail seven miles and feel like we have done an intensive workout. Today was the second type of day.

We were anchored in a bay off the island of Moorea. We had brushed all the “gunge” off the hull of the boat the last few days so were already making “old people noises” about shoulders, elbows and wrists. Friends were anchored in the next bay, five miles up wind and we had agreed to sail round to visit them but when we woke up – to rain and flat calm – it appeared we were going to be motoring. Neill asked his weather witch to organize some wind and by the time we were ready to leave we had a healthy fifteen knots of wind straight against us.

Lifting the anchor in fifteen knots of wind is a real team sport. One stands at the front and signals the direction of the anchor chain while the second person steers the boat. The third person is below stacking the chain nicely. Unless of course there are only two of you then some one (Heidi) ends up running between tiller and anchor locker to get warmed up.

We headed away from the reef and in to the bay to set the sails. We briefly thought about a first reef (less sail) but decided on the second (much less sail). We didn’t even consider the large front sail but chose the jib. A bit more team work with lots of heaving on lines and the sails were set so we turned out through the pass and in to the Pacific.

Around mountainous islands there is a phenomena known as an acceleration zone. This leads to a band of much faster wind just offshore and today the wind was blowing at 25-30 knots. The wind was against us, the swell was against us and Artemis was in her element jumping the waves and making five knots. We were SO happy that we had tidied everything up and tied everything down as the boat heeled 20 degrees. After two miles Heidi calculated it was time to do a tack so we headed back towards the island leaning the other way, just to check what was loose on the other side of the boat.

The swell was beating us down wind so navigator Heidi ordered two quick tacks in succession to reach the pass back through the reef and check the arm muscles were still working. It was at this point that the wind decided to “pick up a little” so we let the sails out a touch and screamed through the pass at eight knots. In the bay we managed to roll the jib away – more muscle work – and get the main stowed just before the anchorage and drop anchor on a sandy part of the reef.

A boat who followed us through the pass was caught with too much sail out and entered with his genoa (large front sail) ripped from top to bottom and flapping crazily in the storm.

Shirt off, goggles on and then in to the water to swim upwind against the current to check the anchor and surrounding coral. Back on board I was met by a jug of warm water to wash the salt off and then we enjoyed a coffee and agreed that we had done enough sport for one day.

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