Sail in a gale with John and Cathy

Jon and Cathy came to visit us for a brief stay and had an even briefer experience of sailing the boat. What can we say? We gave them an introduction to the Princess in her “not yet ready” mode, and unfortunately their stay coincided with the installation of the new inverter which should have taken half a day but ended up taking two whole days. They demonstrated the greatest skill any crew member could demonstrate; patience and good humour with the skipper, first mate and boat!
We did treat them to a sail in zero wind followed by a sail in a full gale the following day. Having picked up my friend Chris who is not a keen sailor but enjoys sailing in light winds, we left Corfu bay in the early afternoon in 30 knot winds. Everybody had warned us that there would be lots of wind and difficult conditions to get back into the harbour. So we went for it.

This was a great opportunity for us to test out the boat in more challenging conditions. We certainly had the Ionian to ourselves; there was nobody around but the Princess. Simon’s friend Steve Kerridge saw us leave the anchorage and later reported that he had guessed “that’s Simon testing out his boat”. It was indeed a great test for boat and crew alike and both passed with flying colours.
The learning point for this outing was that the boat needs a fair amount of main sail out to steady her. We started with the mere hint of stay sail, “a handkerchief” as Jon put it. In these conditions, the boat doesn’t really sail fast enough to give the helmsman steerageway. There is a constant fight against weather helm and the boat crabs sideways. With a little main up things went much better and we let progressively more out until we found ourselves with full main out. In 35 to 40 knot winds with gusts of over 40 knots, we never would have guessed that the Princess needed full main sail out! This improved the control of the boat and the balance.

She’s a wet boat, and we took wave after wave over the bow. However, with five people in the cockpit for the whole afternoon, we felt secure and (mostly) dry. It was only when we switched on the engine for the final approach to Gouvia after three hours of beating to wind wards in these conditions that the waves on the beam splashed us occasionally in the cockpit.
Once Jon had showed us some photos of his white water kayaking holiday in the Grand Canyon from the year before we realised that, due to the solid nature of the boat, this windy but stately sail was never going to rank as an adrenalin fuelled, white knuckle experience for him! We sailed steadily but slowly in these conditions averaging about 3 knots. The motion wasn’t always the easiest for tummies and all three women on board felt queasy to some degree. It was a fantastic opportunity for us to learn how the boat behaves in such conditions with a cheerful and competent crew who don’t frighten easily!
We concluded that we will be a great team for crossing the Atlantic and can’t wait to have them on board!