The first in a three-month blog series about Pixie, a Sadler 32, being sailed by Yachting Monthlys photographer, Graham Snook, with his partner Kirsty, a director of a London PR agency.
You can keep up with Graham and Kirsty’s adventure here on the
Yachting Monthly blogs or at http://yachtpixie.blogspot.com
Location: Kilmore Quay, Southern Ireland.
What a crossing that was! Everything started off well. We had a good motor-sail away from Newlyn along past Lamorna and the Minack theatre. Even past Land’s End, where things can get rough, was placid for us, and things were going really well. After leaving at 12:45 by 20:00 we were well up on our track. We had a light breeze from astern, full main and a preventer to stop the boom swinging around. There was still warm sunshine about and we picked up a couple of bumble bees who stopped with us on their way from the Scillies. I nicknamed them Bill and Ben and their pre sleep washing and preening was amusing to watch.
At 20:00 we had about 12 knots of true wind so it was all pretty relaxed. The forecast looked good, south veering southwest 4 or 5 occasionally 6. I wasn’t too concerned about the 6, we’ve been out in worse. It looked as if it was going to track through well ahead of us. So as the sun’s light started to go, I went down below for a few hours sleep. During Kirsty’s watch she saw dolphins and when I came up for my watch she had a magical smile on her face as she told me about them. On her watch the wind had gradually increased until it was blowing around 20 knots from astern, we still has full main, and had the engine running to charge the batteries. By now it was dark and had started to rain quite heavily.
As my two hour watch went on I saw the wind starting to increase until it was gusting 26 knots, it was all getting a bit rocky so when Kirsty came back on deck after having little to no sleep I suggested that we should put a reef in. The wind was now blowing a steady 27-30 knots from behind us, the rain was heavy, and the seas were fairly big as we kept surfing down them. I thought of a line from Robin Knox Johnston’s book, “It’s no good lying in your bunk praying to god. God won’t put a reef in for you, you have to do it yourself” so in a near gale, lashing rain, and on Pixie who was having the sleighride of her life, I went up to the mast to put two reefs in. I was more apprehensive than scared, but I was well aware that if I lost my footing or grip in that weather, Kirsty would have a hell of a job getting me back on board, even with a safety harness. Every thing went as planned the only difficult bit for me was trying to get part of the sail over a hook, that needed both hands, and all the time, Pixie was galloping along.
Even with two reefs in the mainsail Pixies was keeping up a minimum of 6 knots and surfing along down the swell at well over 8 knots, all in control, just. Because Kirsty hadn’t managed to get any sleep I did her watch, but when she came back to take over up she found the sea very disorientating, so after a while in the cockpit I sent her down again. From the cockpit I could just see waves, hear them breaking, I couldn’t see a horizon, just the White foam around us. Eventually it started to clam down, back to 20 knots.