Mistakes were made, but the upshot is that we are getting quite salty. 64.7 nautical miles under the keel yesterday in 10 hours 38 minutes, in big, wet, salty seas.
The boring explanation is below, but here’s the quick version of what happened- we screwed up. We made a snap decision to change our course without bothering to check if it made sense and it didn’t.
We spent the day in amazing sailing conditions, gales again (surprise!), and the biggest seas we’ve seen yet. The winds were West, the gale warnings issued for 15 m/s. The seas were humungous with a lot of rolling/breaking tops, and as the approach to Anholt harbor is from the west, they made for a stomach churning, nail biting entrance.
As the bottom rises towards Anholt, depths are going from 30+ meter to 7 to 4 fairly quickly. As expected, this means those big waves rolling in have to dissipate all that energy, and they do it by breaking. In our case they did it by nearly broaching us a couple of times, and lastly by breaking over our stern, flooding the cockpit. It wasn’t completely unexpected, but when you’re all the sudden sitting in the water rather than above it, just outside a harbor no less, it’s a lot unnerving.
It seems sailing is a lot like flying in the sense that once you’re “airborne” things go pretty much as expected. It’s when you get near the land that things get complicated. They get more complicated when you have 3600 kilos of boat, 13.5 m/s winds, and 9 horses of power. Some fellow sailors just stared at us upon arrival (perhaps not realizing what it was like outside the wall), some smiled, and some sensibly waved us to a free berth. We really don’t have the power to back our way up into that kind of wind, so berthing in those conditions is pretty much a one-shot deal. Don’t make the turn unless you’re certain you can make it, or unless you like the sound of crushing fiberglass and screaming people.
I’ve read a lot of books about the sea, and one of the things always mentioned is the fear of land. I’m beginning to be of the same mind. Out on the water, even though you’re exposed to the elements, the boat is doing what it’s supposed to do. Clan takes the waves (well, at least the 4+ meter waves we’ve seen) easily and gracefully. The wind in the sails keeps the boat in balance, and even heeling too much feels natural and safe. In the harbor though, the boat is slow, cumbersome, wobbly, and even a little dangerous. It’s much more relaxing to float over and down the backside of another wave, with nothing at all on the horizon, than it is to surf your way between the red and green markers on a immovable rock breakwater.
So, the mistake: Laesø is surrounded by shallow water, most to the north and south. The course I plotted from Vesterø Havn to Anholt was 49 nm but involved going WNW into westerlies blowing at 9 m/s (not easy), then down the west coast of the island. We worked a while south towards the shoals at about 210, then tacked up to 310/320 for the second leg. Our waypoint was bearing 280, so the easy thing to do is just sail on until the bearing to your waypoint is below 210, even though you’re heading the wrong direction, then tack again and be done. Not us. The waves were annoying, we had a late start, we got frustrated and on a whim decided to fall off, run east with the wind past the island, then turn south on a beam reach to Anholt. It couldn’t possibly be any further, could it? Yes, in fact, it is much further. Before we made the turn downwind, the bearing to our waypoint had gone from 280 to 265 in something like 20 minutes. One hour probably would have done the trick. Instead, we added 16 nautical miles to our journey- on an average day that’s about 3 hours of sailing. 3 hours vs. 40 minutes is an awful trade.
Here we are, only 82 nautical miles from home!