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Three nights ago now we lay hove to on starboard tack by streaming a  Fiorentino Shark slowing drogue off the bow. The drogue stops the boats tendency to drift downwind too quickly and therefore out of the protective slick created by the boat’s underbody. This slick needs to stream directly to windward as it will dampen and suppress breaking and cresting waves.

I took this picture the morning after just before I winched the drogue and rode back in. You can see the slick and in the upper left you can just make out the rode streaming off to the right. Winds were less than 25 knots and seas 3-5 meters.

All the above begs the question what were you doing hove to and stopped to begin with. A good question which deserves a good answer.

All that day we had been sailing in Northeasterly gales of 34-38 knots gusting 46. We were, in fact, close reaching in those conditions. Northeast meant I could just about go North. North we need. Lots of North. East we need even more but East was impossible. To the South was the low and worse conditions yet. West was possible but made no sense.

As long as I was putting some North in the bank, I was willing to push Seaburban as hard and as long as my nerve held out.

The wind slowly backed into the North and built to the point that I was forced due West. I had eeked out the last bit of North I possibly could. It was time to stop and wait for any change that would allow me to continue either East or North. Not at all happy about having to earn back all the miles given up to East, at least we had made some North. And we were no longer being brutalized by the wind and the waves.

I had never pressed the boat so hard. We suffered the second knock-down of the trip when a particularly severe gust and  cresting wave had me standing upright on the cockpit coamings looking at the spreaders tips close to kissing the wave-tops. Shortly thereafter I had the excuse I needed to call it quits. In my books, it was nome too soon.

The North we earned came at a severe price as not only had we gone West to get it, but we gave a chunk of it back drifting downwind while hove to. The plotting sheet looked like a drunk had been at work and our track no better.

There those times when insult is added to injury. This was one of those times. Shortly after getting underway, the Northerly gales the weather models had forecast to move off to the East were back with a vengenance. Once again we were close reaching in gales and gusts bent on blowing the sails off the boat. Once more we were slamming, pounding, lurching, and crawling East and being forced South. North in the bank the day before went for pennies on the dollar. Now, however, we had rain. Drenching rain. The kind of rain you see in the movies whipped up by firehoses and giant fans.

When you are at your limit, I have often found something comes along to distract you just long enough to put a smile back on your lips. I felt beyond mine as the wind screeched at me, the rain stung and blinded me, Seaburban taking another awful beating, and the waves mocking any progress we hoped to make. And to what end I wondered as we crossed our track from days before and consequently gaining  nothing for all the abuse heaped upon us.

Right about then a coconut floated by,  bobbing along bound for some distant paradise. And then another. I was instantly distracted. A smile came slowly to the corners of my mouth as I mulled two things over. Firstly, about the only thing that had not yet thwarted our plans to make tracks Northeast was hitting an uncharted reef fringed by a coconut spewing palm and secondly, the passing coconuts were proof positive that the we were smack dab in the middle of the best, most fabled, and most dreamt about cruising grounds in the whole wide world. The Polynesian Isles of the tropical South Pacific.

I was smiling because the brochures had most assuredly left a few bits out.

Follow my tracks in real-time: