To sail close hauled is to sail as close into the wind as is possible for the boat. There is always an angle between the wind direction and the boat direction. We can’t sail directly into the wind. On racy boats that angle is less, on cruising boats it is more. In all cases, when sailing close hauled, the wind is in your face and the boat is sailing into the waves created by that wind. And, of course, the boat is heeled over as the wind presses on the sails, which are sheeted in tight. On Velic, sailing closed hauled works best without the staysail. The yankee jib and a deep reefed main are driving the boat at between 5 and 6 knots in Force 4 and 5 winds. A simple rig, and good speed for Velic.
Well, Velic has been close hauled for three days now on a starboard tack towards Tonga. The first day, two days ago, was fairly comfortable as the SW swell had not caught up to the ENE wind. We were sailing upwind and down swell. Sweet. Yesterday the wind strengthened from the NE and so built up the waves. The sea was a combination of a very long 2-meter swell from the SW that we rode up and over like long, low hills, plus the wind waves from the NE that caused a fair amount of ‘booshing.’ That is, a bouncy motion, pitching and rolling, and banging into waves, all at around a 15° heel angle. We have been enjoying fine weather as this high pressure passes over. Mostly sun with puffy cumulus clouds. And it’s getting warmer, now 24° C in the cabin. There are fewer layers of fleece during the still-cool nights and bare feet at mid-day. Days are spent sailing & navigating, trying to analyze weather, reading, sleeping, and eating, with a very few housekeeping chores sprinkled in.
This morning a large cloud bank developed to the northwest. A harbinger of the low trough to come in the next day or so. By now that cloud bank has resolved in to distinct squalls, bringing rain and their own wind patterns. When the low trough passes over we expect rain and more wind. The wind will back to the north, and then quickly to the southwest just after the trough moves by. Velic is now due south of Tongatapu Island, our destination. We discuss various tactics to deal with the anticipated north winds and the southwest winds to follow. Once the north winds pass, we should be back to downwind sailing for the last 350 nautical miles to Tongatapu.