Friday, July 06, 2007


With a small-craft advisory and a gale warning out, I did the only sensible thing – drove as quickly as possible to the cove where we keep Briongloid. The row out was brutal – a squall hit, and actually kicked my dinghy sideways over the water; a vicious chop even managed to slap a little water over the bows.

My row out told me all I needed to know about sail choice; I cast off with a single-reefed main and a hurriedly-hoisted storm jib. One very conservatively managed jibe took me to the entrance of the cove, becalmed for a few minutes in the narrows, and sorely tempted to shake that reef back out.

Glad I didn’t do that! Speed over ground ticked up, up, up on the GPS, and suddenly I was far too busy to be looking at numbers. The burble-burble of our wake built to a hiss; a faint vibration developed in the tiller. Briongloid rose into a swell of some substance; the next was bigger, and the third was bigger again. A wave broke awkwardly on the bow just as we plunged down the back the swell, and spray burst into the cabin around three sides of the fore-hatch. That did get my attention: must get that seal replaced, and take a second look at those latches.

The open sea was a lively place; force 6, gusting to 8, a south-westerly swell combining with a healthy westerly chop – I clipped my harness to a strong-point on the cockpit floor after one well-timed wave nearly lifted me from my seat. A pretty considerable heel developed in the gusts, but Briongloid handled well – steering remained responsive, and I had no fear of a broach. Behind me, the backs of passing swells were already high enough to conceal the entrance to the cove.

Being an evening sail, it wasn’t long before I had to tack for home; bore off on to a real screamer of a reach; GPS says we topped off at 8.3 knots - presumably sliding down a swell with the gale driving us - and staying in the vicinity of hull speed the rest of the way home.

Back on the mooring, I slid back the main hatch to be confronted by utter chaos: a landlubber might have assumed that the boat had been picked up and shaken by a giant (which would be within hailing distance of the truth, I suppose) - tools, sail bags and yet-to-be-installed parts had made an obstacle course of the cabin floor, while a small puddle remained beneath the fore-hatch. An inspection of the rigging also proved educational – the flapping of an imperfectly reefed main and slackly hoisted jib had shaken one bottle neck screw apart, leaving the attached stay to hang slackly by the mast. A job for some tightly-wrapped electrical tape, I think.

Conclusions: a Pandora will handle well in heavier weather, but check your rigging - and your fore-hatch.

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