Friday, September 07, 2007

Briongloid's First Cruise: Encounter with a Giant

From "Briongloid"'s log for Thursday, August 25th

Raised anchor in Baltimore Harbour at 10:00 and slid gently out past "Lot's Wife" with full main and genoa set. Once outside the lee of Cape Clear, good westerly helped me to progress eastward, running almost dead down-wind with sails goose-winged, easy sailing under a clear blue sky, the sun bright enough to make me cover my hands for fear of their burning. The wicked-looking Stag Rocks (nemesis of the "Kowloon Bridge") drifted past very satisfactorily to port, and I allowed my course to take Briongloid well clear of the land.

By late afternoon, however, the easy progress of the morning was forgotten. Speed fell away, until an uncanny calm came over the water, and the sails hung slackly by the mast; after a week of light northerly airs, even the swell was undetectable. Four miles out, the land looked low and distant; the water was very, very clear and blue, and, just then, glassy and inviting. It was immensely quiet.

At 18:00, I had just decided to abandon all pretense of steering a motionless boat and break for dinner when I heard a deep "whoosh" to the south; a glance revealed the source to be a very large whale indeed. By the time I had my camera at the ready, I was too late: the giant's black back arched gently above the surface just once - then the weirdly small fin slid back under the surface, and beast dove deep.

Briongloid at Midnight, Broadstrand Bay

Just 5 minutes later, the long-promised strong north-westerlies arrived, and Briongloid was making 9 to 10 kph towards Seven Heads. The wind built quickly, and within the hour, I realised that I was over-canvassed. Foolishly, I decided against leaving the helm to drop the genoa, instead managing the steeply-heeling boat by luffing the mainsail. After two hours of fast sailing, I entered Courtmacsherry Bay just as the sun sank below the hills. Time to stop for the night; my charts showed a perfect spot close by - Broadstrand Bay, the perfect depth, and well-sheltered - though not so sheltered as to disable a boat totally reliant on sail power.

It was about this time that I discovered the damage two hours of luffing could do - the vibration had shaken loose the body of a bottleneck screw which attached a lee-ward stay to the deck. The genoa was doused in record time, and a temporary repair effected; then, reading my chart by torchlight and steering my moonlight and GPS, I tacked gingerly past the Horse rock in the gloom of early night, and dropped anchor right in the middle of Broadstrand Bay. The falling chain blazed eerily as it sank through the water: phospherence, very strong. The run for the day was 68 kilometres, made over 12 hours of single-handed sailing.

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