1630 EDT Sunday July 20, 2014 (68o 00’N, 51o 44’W): Surfing
Lillian is currently running hard before the wind, at times surfing down the faces of the following waves. Her speed over the bottom (COG) has hit as high as 10 knots. Even allowing for a knot of current in our favor, that’s fast for a boat of her length. Since leaving Nuuk late Friday we’ve had moderate winds and predominantly clear skies, providing a magnificent view of the rugged mountains that guard the coast as we following it northward. Adding to the beauty has been the sighting of numerous whales. They appear to stand on their heads as they proudly display their flukes in the air. The plume from their breath can be easily seen at a distance, and several have obliged us by leaping out of the water. So far, these shows have all been far from the boat, but spectacular none-the-less. Meanwhile we move steadily northward, having crossed the Arctic Circle (66o 33’N) earlier today.
Earlier today we also got the warning that the winds and seas would grow in intensity. Good friend Dick Hiatt, who sailed with us the first week and then jumped ship in Nova Scotia to head back home to Alabama, has since been supporting us with weather information via Satellite e-mail. This morning he sent the following Canadian Marine Forecast for the southern half of East Baffin Bay:
Wind: GALE WARNING IN EFFECT Issued 05:30 PM EDT 7/19/14. Wind south 15 knots increasing to southeast 25 early this evening and to southeast 35 early Sunday afternoon.
Waves: Issued 05:30 PM EDT 7/19/14. Over open water seas 1 metre building to 2 late this evening and to 3 early Sunday afternoon.
When we received Dick’s e-mail the winds were light and from the west. But, given the warning, we cleaned up the deck (e.g. stowed the spinnaker), lowered our center of gravity a bit by siphoning fuel from the on-deck jerry cans into the main tanks, and reduced the sail area by putting a point of reef in the mainsail. Not soon after, the winds and sea began to pick up, building to over 30 knots and 9 feet, as advertised. Gale force wind and waves would be significant for a small craft, but as a Baba 40 design, Lillian was built for these conditions. It does require a helmsman constantly at the wheel, since the autopilot can’t cope with the following seas. And, the rolling associated with the waves creates havoc for any loose items in the cabin, including unbraced humans. But, as far the Lillian is concerned, running downwind in a strong breeze is what she does best. At this rate, we may reach our next harbor before midnight, in time to raise a toast to today’s crossing of the Arctic Circle.