Valdivia to Coquimbo-March 8 till March 13 2010

Pacific Blue on a not so pacific Pacific!
We had an interesting day, yesterday March 9 2010, with 40 kts wind and higher gusts from the back (the south). The waves became quickly 5 to 6 m high and were very steep. Until now we have never seen waves like that.
We must admit it was a "bit" intimidating to see all those towering water-mountains around us. They seemed to rise out of nothing. The seas were very confused because there were two wave-trains that intersected from WSW and SSE to form even bigger cross seas regularly when they jumped on each others back. But Pacific Blue handled it pretty well.

Often the waves towered close above our stern. But to our surprise and luck Pacific Blue rose to the occasion all the time and the wave would pass under us. We got a bit wet only once from one wave that tumbled just after the stern and threw a few buckets of foaming water in the cockpit. Paula had to put on dry clothes because it exactly jumped in the neck of her foul-weather-jacket. I got only my boat shoes and socks wet. Later we found out that there was also water in the exhaust of the Webasto. So we must put a cork in it next time.

But it was amazing that those big rollers didn't swallow us. Even in this wind there were not so many greybeards as we had expected. The sea was breaking everywhere but most breakers did not break over a very wide front. Most of them did not seem too threatening for Pacific Blue. It also helped that the sun was shining all day. In rain or in the dark, everything looks more threatening.

It seems that dynamic stability is better in bigger and heavier boats. A small boat with much form stability (and not much weight in the keel) apparently will be rolled earlier then a bigger, heavy, weight-stabile boat.
And also it is much more difficult to slow such a light boat down. I think that you would have to steer such a boat by hand in these circumstances.
I also think that the manoeuvrability of a boat with a long keel would be less agile because it is difficult to bring such a boat back on course very quickly and in time.

Pacific Blue has a not-to-extreem fin keel of 2.10 m and a spade rudder. We are very much impressed by her manoeuvrability. In fact, the longer the wind lasted, the more we were going to trust her.

The problem in a breaking wave crest is, that the foam gives much less "hold" to the keel and hull then solid water. Flotation also gets less. Also the rudder has less power in the foam. It is very difficult to steer in the breaking crest of a wave. Therefore you have to make sure that you bring the stern square before the next wave crest in time.
The self-learning Raymarine computer coupled to the Jefa steer-engine was doing that very well and very powerfully. We have the S2G computer and we are very impressed by it. It anticipates to the waves like a good helmsman. So when the boat starts broaching on the top of the wave the autopilot already starts to steer back in a very early stage. I think that is because of the gyro stabilizer in the computer. That is much faster then only a fluxgate compass. And the Jefa motor is very much up to the task. Probably also because of the balanced rudder.

We have been in the cockpit all afternoon with all the hatches closed, floating jackets on and clipped on to the boat so that we could take over quickly from "Dirty Harry" (the autopilot) when necessary. But it was necessary only three times to bring PB on course again after a heavy broach. Those three times I wanted to bring the boat quickly on course for the next huge wave.
"Harry" probably could have done it but I didn't want to wait for it.
Every half hour or so you have a couple of waves that are 50% bigger then the rest. Those are the dangerous ones.
We were inside the boat when the first big-one hit us and Pacific Blue started surfing with an incredible noise. We ran outside and stayed outside. By the way; it is surprising how quiet it is inside under these circumstances. While outside the wind is howling irritably and waves make big foaming noises, you are tempted to leave the boat to itself and lay inside with all the hatches closed. Peace and quiet! I think it is a mistake to do that unless you are so tired and cold that you can't go on anymore.

To keep the speed down we eventually reefed down to three reefs (we have big reefs) and a hanky-size foresail. This was the only way to keep the speed below ten knots and out of a surf. 16 tons of boat and then surfing!!! We didn't like that. We already went over more then 90 degrees once in Pacific Blue no-1 and that was enough for us. Although she came up very quickly.

We kept Pacific Blue on a course of about 30 degrees from the SW wave direction. Thus the slope of the wave is much less then when you go down straight. Then you could burry the bow in the wave ahead when you start surfing. That's when you can get pitch poled.
We concluded that it is not good to slow down too much because then your manoeuvrability is too slow and you have less time before the next wave arrives.

It felt very good with this sail-plan and speed. We got more and more confidence during the day.
The famous Eric Tabarly also concluded that streaming warps behind the boat was slowing her down too much and he cut the ropes. We think it would be scary to take those waves with 3 or 4 knots of speed or without some sail on. You can't get out of the way.
We sheeted the small piece of genoa hard in the middle to stabilize the bow when broaching. For that reason we did not use the jib because the genoa is further forward and has therefore more effect. When sailing the correct course, it was behind the reefed mainsail. And when broaching it came in the wind and helped pushing the bow back.

In the evening the wind went down to around 30 kts and the seas moderated a bit. The venom was out of it.
That gave me time to take a nap to prepare for the night-watch while Paula was keeping an eye on "Harry". We were happy that we wouldn't have to go through the night this way.
We came a bit east towards the coast to get out of the heavy winds in the compression zone around the cape of Conception. You can compare the situation with Cape Finisterre.

On the coast was a Low of 1008 mb and close to the west side of it the winds looked like 20 kts from the south on the gribfiles.
Unfortunately we probably ended up on the east side of the Low so that we now have very light north wind. So we are now (March 10) motoring until the west wind comes back.

In the mean time I have just finished repairing the Webasto. We had the problem before, so I thought there would be water in the exhaust again because of the big rollers from yesterday.
But therefore I have to wrestle "my agile body" in the starboard aft cabin between all the spare parts and supplies. Anyway it works again. I just got a bit sick while doing it.

Greetings from Peter and Paula