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It has taken me quite a bit longer than it probably should have, but let me say: message received. No more spinnaker use.
I tried to put a positive spin on all the previous rips in order to take them as learning experiences and searched far and wide for the text that became known to me as “The Chute Gospel”. Armed with these holy words, I had new confidence in my ability to use our spinnaker to sail upon your fine seas.
Perhaps, the small tear (no idea where it came from) we discovered when deploying the spinnaker yesterday should have been a hint, but instead we were undaunted and worked hard to repair the sail, yet again, while we were underway. Night was soon at hand so in an abundance of caution, we dropped the spinnaker and continued sailing under genoa.
This morning, the conditions were perfect. You had sent us a beautiful sunrise that burned through the morning haze, revealing blue skies with not a cloud to be seen. Your seas were exceedingly calm, befitting the 10 knots of true wind that we’d seen throughout the night. Once my Admiral had awoken and the weather for the day had been checked, we decided that it was time to use the spinnaker once again.
The swapping out of our screecher for the spinnaker went flawlessly and I moved the furler over to the windward hull to ensure the sail would have access to clean air once set. I bubbled in excitement as I double checked our set up and envisioned the big blue sail flying in front of Starry Horizons as she whisked us down towards the Galapagos. With Amy ready at the aft winch, I took one more look at the wind. True wind speed of about 12 knots and an apparent angle right at 130 degrees. Perfect.
My hands and arms went into a flurry of motion as I pulled on our continuous furling line to unwrap the sail. I could hear the winch singing to me as Amy worked on keeping tension on the sheet. It’s hard to imagine a more perfect start to a morning while on passage.
Unfortunately, when the sail was just about finished unfurling, you sent your final and greatest message. Rather than filling with air, the spinnaker suddenly folded in on itself. Amy cranked furiously at the winch while I checked the helm and had to blink hard to confirm what my eyes were seeing (in all fairness, this was at the end of my first night watch and I was probably closer to Zombie than Human).
True wind speed above 20 knots and an apparent angle at 90 and getting higher!
The forecast had indicated this would happen gradually starting 6 hours from now! I guess you had gotten fed up with our continued persistence and decided to send the increase in wind and shift in wind angle all at once to really hammer your lesson home.
I immediately tried to get us back downwind in the hopes that the spinnaker would fill or get blanketed by the main, but it was not to be. The luff had already caught on the spreader and was in the process of ripping the sail completely in half. I watched in stunned silence as half of the sail fell down to the deck and rippled in the wind out over the bow of the boat.
Now, I grant you that we may go down as the worst spinnaker sailors in the history of the oceans, but other than that, Starry Horizons has a damn fine crew. We quickly worked to gather the torn sail and managed to do so without it falling under the boat and getting caught up in our rudders or props. After stuffing its remains in the forepeak locker, I went up the mast to free the other half of the sail and get it stowed away.
I’ve been accused of being stubborn more than once in my life, but to you Neptune/Poseidon/Zeus/Whomever, I finally admit defeat. Hopefully, the sacrifice of our big, beautiful sail will calm your rage and you will permit us to soon transition from pollywogs to shellbacks without further incident. But rest assured, we will perform a proper ceremony to the best of our ability.
Your (humbled) sailor,
(PS: the dolphin shows and whale sightings have been awesome! Please keep those coming!)