We knew the winds were going to be up in the 20-25 knot range according to our forecast. But, we would be traveling downwind, so we expected our apparent wind would be much less. We left Lizard Island at the crack of dawn yesterday just a few minutes after another Aussie catamaran called s/v Calimero. I expected we would soon catch up to this cat, like most others – since Tahina is a fast boat.
As predicted, we had winds about 18-20 with gusts up the 25. It was a bit cloudy in the morning, but cleared up in the afternoon. With the winds nearly dead astern, we had very comfortable conditions. We were easily averaging over 8 knots all day. Surprisingly, we only caught up with Calimero because he couldn’t quite manage straight downwind and had to jibe his way down some stretches of the channel we were following inside the Great Barrier Reef. We were even making 9-10 knots with surfs on waves up to 14.5 knots at times! Very fun sailing, but we could only manage to keep up with Calimero.
Around 1 PM, we crossed a junction where two ship channels and exits through the reef met. Here we had some trouble with the shifting currents and wind and our jib first started accidentally jibing. Then, even our mainsail accidentally jibed twice! This is not a good thing, since the winds had moved up the 25-30 knots and the sails banged with tremendous forces. We tried to manage it as best we could and I checked the sails and they were fine. I told Karen we would double-reef the main before sundown.
Around 6pm, after a quick dinner, we put away the jib, and turned upwind. We started to put down the mainsail when Karen looked up and saw we had a 1 m square hole in the mainsail! We dropped the sail quickly and realized we would only be able to manage a triple reef now (in other words, a very small part of the top section of the sail – about the size of a small sailboat. We put the reefing lines in place and started back on course.
We had averaged 8.5 knots for the first 12 hours of our trip. Our plan was to continue to Margaret Bay another 120 miles or so to go. But, now, our speed was down from 8+ knots to 6-7 knots average. Fortunately, we should still make our destination by mid-day. We’ll have to see if we can repair the sail at anchor. We need this sail to help us get to Darwin in a reasonable time. Karen has the skills and the gear we need to make the repairs. It’s just a matter of managing the big canvas of the main sail and weather conditions that will effect the repair.
Lessons learned – I thought about reefing when we had the accidental jibes. I should have done it then. But, I correctly assumed it was the currents and winds at the junction. Unfortunately, I suspect the damage occurred during those jibes, and when we did some controlled jibes later, or the turn to reef the sail, the canvas finally let loose. In fact, I should have stayed reefed like we started out earlier in the day. But, I was trying to keep up with Calimero. Don’t let those racing urges put your equipment at risk.