Thursday, February 16, 2012

The South Island

Yesterday (Thursday) afternoon I set foot on the South Island of New Zealand for the first time.  Sailing in New Zealand is a lot more work than tradewinds sailing. This passage was typical--the wind went from calm to gale and back to calm (ie no wind) and from almost every direction on the compass. Nelson is beautiful. Twister is sitting on a mooring (looks well maintained) which the owner was generous enough to let me use.

The passage from Raglan to Nelson was tough. I had a bit of a cold and my back hurt. Coming out of Raglan Harbor (no problems crossing the sandbar going in or out), I motored for a couple of hours to get away from land and be able to sail southward on the port tack. Again I observed (as I did after rounding Cape Reinga and heading south to Raglan) that it's difficult to make  headway when beating into light winds. This time a light bulb went off in my head and I understood why (and this illustrates how little I know about sailing). I have, as most sailors probably, noticed that when the wind gusts, the boat can point closer to the wind. Now I understood why--when close-hauled in light winds, the speed of the boat contributes significantly to the apparent wind (that is, the wind experienced by the boat), while in strong winds, it contributes less. So when sailing at a particular angle to the true wind, the apparent wind is farther forward in light winds than strong winds. The catch-22 is that stronger winds build bigger seas to bash into, slowing down the boat.
I had a couple of visits from what looked like Black Browed Albatrosses. They tend to follow ships, but apparently Twister does not fit their definition of a ship, so after circling a couple of times, they flew on. Only noticed a couple of salps this time.
I endured the first gale of the trip after rounding Cape Egmont. It was frustrating sitting becalmed waiting for the forecast gale. The wind went from calm to gale amazingly fast. I had up a small patch of jib, and the triple-reefed mail was still a bit much (a trysail might have been the right sail for the job). But Twister handled it like a champ, I think. 24 hours later, I was becalmed again, ca 20 miles from Nelson. I motored the last bit. Once ashore, I felt content and pleased with myself for having sailed to the South Island.

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