Today marks the last of the 26 posts for the A to Z Blogging Challenge. Since every other cruiser in the challenge will be writing about their “Zodiac” inflatable dinghy, I decided to write about light-air sailing!
Sailboats are neat. They make their way from port to port with clean and quiet pride, using no resource but the wind, making no waste, no pollution, no noise…
As long as the wind blows, of course. And there’s the rub.
What do you do when the wind drops to a breeze, and the breeze tapers to a breath, and the breath eases to a zephyr…? Well, that depends. If you have light-air sails, you keep adding sail area to squeeze every yard out of whatever breeze there is. If you don’t, you either wait, or you start the motor.
In reality, light wind and no wind days are pretty rare, even here in Maine. But there is a period at the end of summer – say mid-August to Mid September – when being on a sailboat AND being someone who will only use the engine if there’s a medical emergency on board (or there’s a rum-based beverage waiting) means a certain amount of frustration. That picture above is one I took in Blue Hill Bay, Maine, of the schooner Heritage ghosting north in less than a 3 knot puff that kept coming and going like a campaign promise. We were motoring because we couldn’t spread enough sail area to make use of what little air movement there was, but the Heritage was moving, if only a knot or less.
And that put me in mind of getting better light air sails for Sionna when we purchased her. You see, I really like to sail. Not motor – SAIL. And to do that when the wind gets fickle, you need to be able to put a whole lot of sail up, particularly on a boat like Sionna, which is somewhat under-rigged (designed to have less sail area than optimal for her displacement (weight). I won’t go into the details of WHY our boat is under-rigged, so just take my word for it – she is.
And so one of my winter projects this year was to find a used (because they’re cheaper) large headsail called a “Drifter”.
We could have gone for the ultimate light-air sail, known as an Asymmetrical Spinnaker,but they’re much more expensive, require specialized equipment to deploy and stow, and can be a bit of a challenge for two people to handle in some conditions.
The Drifter has some limitations, but as the first light-air sail in our inventory, it seemed like a good place to start. We can upgrade later if we need to. Meanwhile we’ll have a sail with an area of 300 square feet to fly when the winds drop below 6 or 7 knots, and more options for sailing downwind. Can it keep Sionna moving when the wind drops to a zephyr? Stay tuned to “‘Til the butter melts” to find out!
And thanks for joining us for the A to Z challenge!