Mid-ocean sail strategy

Greetings from Consulting Time II: It is 1655 CDDT (UTC-3 or 1:55 PM in Houston), Sunday, 21 January 2007. Our position is N13-54’/W048-58′ or about 623.6 nm East of the north end of Barbados. We have been motoring for the past 1.5 hours, having sailed thru the night and most of today in 9-14 kn out of the ESE. The wind is now E6-7, air temp is a warm 86F, Sea temp is 80F and it has been a cloudless day. It hasn’t rained on this trip and we could use some to wash the Sahara dust of the running rigging.

The weather forecast is for 10-15 kn ESE through Thursday. That means a slow finish to our trip. I thought we had a good shot at arriving Barbados Thursday night but now it looks more like Friday.

Last night and this morning we ran an interesting test. When the wind came up to 9 kn yesterday evening we poled out the reacher and ran dead down wind (more or less) thru the night. Because of the 3′ rollers coming in from the SE, it was a noisy night with both sails slatting alternately. In the light air we thought the larger sail area of the main plus reacher would give us more boat speed than our double headsail rig. The sails took a beating and the noise made it a little tough on the off watch. By day break, the wind had picked up to 11-12 kn and our SOG/VMG was about 4.7 kn. Being disgusted with the sail setting, I took the reacher across to the stbd side and came up 40 degrees. Our SOG increased to 5.8 kn, just like the book says. However, because we were 40 degrees off the “rum” line, our VMG dropped to 4.5. It was a quieter point of sail, but the reacher still collapsed periodically as the boat topped the swells. When Bill got up, we switched to the double headsail rig. Hands down its the better rig in these seas and this point of sail. With 11-12 kn, our SOG/VMG is 5.0-5.2 kn and although there is some slatting, it is the quietest of the three combos and sails are the toughest and can take the flopping. When the wind picks up to 14 kn, our SOG/VMG is 5.9 kn. For trade wind conditions, I am sold on this double headsail combo.

1900: Well we talked to Herb and fixed dinner. Bill is doing the dishes. Beau is on watch. We haven’t seen another vessel in 4 or more days now. For dinner we had pork chops stuffed with sausage from Poche’s in Beau Bridge, LA, curtesy of Beau. We also had baked potato along with peas and mushrooms from cans. It was all washed down with some of that Peljesic red wine from Croatia. (It comes in a 1 liter bottle with a bottle cap like an old Coke bottle).

Amsala is about 40 nm SSE of us. She motored most of the night and we are not racing.

Anyhow, all is well here. We are trading books as we finish the ones we brought.

Best regards, Doug

Don MacNe on 02/11/2007 23:10


My wife and I have been researching boats to sail when we retire. That may not be anytime soon as we have three teenage daughters. The Morris 486 appears to be the perfect boat for coastal and offshore sailing. We would love to hear more about your selection process and your observations of the 486 now that you have put the boat through everything the sea has to offer.

Incidentally, we live in Houston. Would love to see the boat when you return.

Don MacNeil

Don MacNeil on 02/11/2007 23:15


My wife and I are searching for the best boat to buy for sailing, both coastal and offshore. Recently, we discovered the Morris 486 and then your sailing log. With three teenage daughters our dream is off a ways but we are facinated by the 486. Would you mind sending your thoughts on boat selection – in other words, how did you pick the 486? And, now that the boat has been tested, what are your observations?

We live in Houston. When you return, we would love to come see the boat,

Thank you,
Don MacNeil

By Ocean Navigator