Sitting here on night watch on our sail from Martinique to Guadeloupe watching lightingbolts light up the night sky above Dominica, even a dolphin peeking its head out of nowhere to get a breath of air I ask myself how many cruisers out there motor sail or just purely sail? So as we "motor sail" our way north through the night I will explain why this is our preferred way to get around.
First of all I want make sure it is all clear that I love just sailing, nothing can beat listening to the sound of the water crashing off the hull as the boat ploughs its way threw the sea. Knowing that you are just using Mother Nature to take you from a to b is just totally amazing. There are times when we have just purely sailed and that is usually due to problems with the mechanical propulsion devise (don't want to say the word as our baby is hard at work right now), or such great wind coming from the perfect direction.
On one occasion we found ourselves in Bequia with a mechanical problem which needed a part to be shipped from states ( in our array of spare parts we did not have) so we had to sail back to Grenada purely under sail. We waited for a weather window NE winds 15-20knots and we were leaving. We lifted anchor with main sail up in busy Admiralty bay anchorage in Nov, and it caused allot of nervous boat owners around us to get out and watch, they where probably thinking "What the hell are they doing!? They're not even French". But under all that pressure of a crowd eye balling our every move we got out of there safe and sound, we had a perfect sail all the way down doing no less then 6knots until we headed to the dreaded lee of the island. Usually we love the lee of the islands, nice, calm and scenic, but not this time. When we got to Guave the wind just died, we tried to stay a few miles off in hope of wind but nothing. We bobbed and drifted for 5 hours until we reached St. George. If the engine was working it would of been switched on right away but to be honest we had fun in those 5 hours, we bathed off the back of the boat, played games, and just enjoyed the ride. At least it was calm. Usually when the wind is a nice 15-20knots means that the swell is also 5feet and up, making for great sailing but also a rough ride, especially in the channels between the islands, where it always seems to be stronger winds and bigger waves then ever forecasted.
As you all know we sail with two kids, and so we have to think what is the easiest way to get from place to place. When I say easy way I mean stress free, safe and enjoyable. So our rule one is to do all long passages at night(5 hours or more). This is the greatest as the kids and Darcy go to sleep and I sail the boat with my trusty friend, the auto helm, and lots of coffee. This for one is usually stress free as the kids are asleep and so don't lose interest before we even put the sails up and then drive mom and dad crazy. Stormer asking us this evening when we slowed down to put the main sail up if we have arrived, as he believed us slowing down meant arrival, we haven't even left the bay yet!!!!!! Only down side is obviously sailing at night visibility is impaired and so fish pots and even fishing boats can be very hard to see. You have to pay attention and we stay a good distance from land in deep water. Squalls at night too can be a little stressful, if you get caught in one. The key to sailing at night is being prepared, having coffee ready, sail with a reef in all night, harness on with PLB (personal life beacon) and get a good night sleep the night before (easier said then done with a baby onboard). Sailing at night is safe for our little ones as they are all cozy in the aft cabin with mommy, a little slumber party. It is also enjoyable, peace and quiet for daddy which does not happen to often.
Our rule two is to make the passage in favorable conditions. this makes the trip enjoyable and easy on everyone, from daddy behind the wheel to mommy and the kiddos tucked in bed. This would not be possible if you had to be somewhere on a certain date, and so we always try and leave super early so we can always wait for a good weather windows. Usually when you find your self rushing and you head out in conditions you normally would not go out in you could get yourself in a pickle. Everyone's favorable conditions can be a little different, for us it's 10knots or under, smallest waves possible and wind direction giving us a beam to broad reach. We don't ask for much!!! Those conditions don't happen very often and especially not from Nov-Feb, that's why we love sailing in the low season, when the winds usually are very calm.
Our final rule is to get there as fast as possible. Which means in light winds the engine will give us extra speed, so we turn it on and motor sail!!!!! If it was just me and Darcy sailing around I wouldn't care if this sail from St. pierre to the Saints took 30hours as we would just sit back and enjoy the ride, but for this sail to take that long with our two boys I would arrive in the Saints with no hair and Darcy and I would probably give the boat away.
So right now the wind is a measly 5knots off our beam and engine is purring and we are making a nice 5.8 knots in very calm seas, we should arrive at around 7am when the kids wake up. It's about enjoying what we do, so we have to make it that way, we have an engine and we will use it to make our sailing experience as a whole enjoyable. We got our boat to travel with our kids and so use it as our home and transport. We love to purely sail and I always look forward to the heading west, sails between Guadalupe and St. Maarten as I put the whisker pole in and preventers on and engine off, but when it comes to it, it's about comfort and getting places. If it was about purely sailing we would do it once the kids are older.
by: Captain Daddy Luuck ...continue reading To motor sail…or not??