Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Spinning South with the Elephant

A week ago, we picked up our sails in Port Townsend. Our jib, main, and storm jib had been repaired and reinforced, and we added storm trys'l. But the most spectacular addition is a colorful cruising spinnaker, also called a spindrifter.
We spent a morning hoisting and furling our "white sails", then turned to the Spinnaker, sitting on the dock in its bag. This is a big sail - 1284 square feet of purple and blue ripstop cloth. We stared at bulky thing, and determined that it should be called the Elephant, since it was the largest thing we had ever had to stow on the boat. With some creative rearranging, we were able to free up the deck locker on the bow, giving the beast a place to live.

The following morning, we motored out into the Admiralty Inlet in brilliant sunlight to try out the spinnaker. In six or seven knots of wind, we pulled the Elephant, packed in a tube of light cloth called the snuffer, from its locker. The Captain hoisted the long tube, then pulled back the snuffer. The wind filled the big, big pachyderm of a sail, and the boat picked up and ran downwind at nearly five knots. We practiced snuffing and releasing the sail happily for hours.
Since then, we have transited the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and made the trip down the coast of Washington state. We had light winds as we began the offshore passage, and sailed with the spinnaker for several hours. The wind increased suddenly, and we learned that snuffing the Elephant offshore in an eight foot swell and fifteen knots of wind is a little more difficult, but still possible. We had a windy and foggy twenty-seven hour trip to Astoria, sailing most of those hours and sad only because we couldn't see the full moon.

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