Vanuatu to Solomons, Day 1

Sophie is rolling along on a straight downwind run on our first day of this passage. Current position is 12.51.229 South, 165.08.442 East. We’ve covered 149 miles in the last 24 hours. We tacked downwind in the middle of the night, so we’ve actually sailed a longer distance than the 149 miles since we left. We have 567 miles between us and Gizo. Right now we are sailing close to the rhumb line and are hopeful we will make our arrival by the end of the week.

The wind has been blowing between 20 and 30 knots since we left, and it is a little frustrating for us to be sailing at a speed between 6 and 7 knots. But straight downwind sailing can be a problem for catamarans like Sophie, because our mainsail becomes ineffective at this wind angle. If we were heading in a direction 40 degrees more to the south or to the north, we’d be cruising along at 9-10 knots with our full mainsail up. Right now the mainsail is down and we’ve been sailing with just our jib for the last 20 hours. There is too much wind for our spinnaker or code zero, which are large, light air sails that do well at this wind angle. And we are making just enough speed heading directly toward our destination that we don’t feel like putting up the main and tacking downwind.

We’ve never had a good solution for sailing straight downwind in winds over 20 knots, but we think we may have finally found one. We’ve re-rigged our jib, running the sheet to a block on the midship cleat on the inside of the lifeline, then back to the spinnaker block and then up to the winch. This wider sheeting angle prevents the sail from collapsing when sailing straight downwind. There is also no chafe on the shrouds or the lifelines. I now think we want to buy an identically-sized jib and sail it from our little bowsprit with the same sheeting angle on the other size of the boat for these downwind scenarios. I think the width of the sheeting angles will keep both sails filled on a downwind run and would likely increase our boat speed up to 8-9 knots at this wind direction, adding an additional 50 miles a day on our downwind passages. The second sail could also serve as a backup to our primary jib. I wouldn’t bother using a furler and simply fly it from the sprit using the spinnaker halyard.

The only other excitement on our trip so far? We hooked another billfish yesterday. It was either a sailfish or a smallish marlin. It hit the Riebling lure trolling off the pole and jumped 4 times within 100 meters of the boat. It had a dark top and yellow belly and initially started swimming towards Sophie after getting hooked. We were all pretty tired and Sophie is full of food, so we quickly decided to cut the line and let Miss Marlin go. Maybe sportfishing for marlin is simply not as exciting for us as it used to be. We are all interested in getting some yellowfin tuna, though. THAT would be exciting.

Overall the boat is working well. Nothing is broken. Jenna has the kids in Sophie school. Before we left, Lauren made pumpkin curry, pork/pumpkin/alfredo lasagne, and pasta with an eggplant red sauce. She also cut up half of our fruit and put it into containers for the fridge. We are not going hungry.

So far, so good. 4 lines are in the water and it’s getting sunnier. Sure beats work.

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