To Shower or Not to Shower, That is the Question (Oh, and Here Comes the Gulf Stream)

June 19, 2016

Stuart Streuli continues his reports from Cruiser Division entry Defiance with reflections on ocean racing comfort, the next generation of sailors, and the frustrations of pressing hard through calms until the breeze finally picks up and the boat nears the Stream.    Sunday, June 19.  Happy Father's Day!  One of the privileges of this trip is the opportunity to race with a father and son team, Drew and Nick Kellogg. Nick is 14 or so and I believe this is his first ocean race. I can't imagine what he was thinking beforehand, when everyone was discussing the rather ominous forecasts.  But so far, it's hard to imagine a better first ocean race:  relatively benign wind conditions, warm weather, a well-balanced yacht, and great shipmates. Nick has handled himself well, making his watches without any fuss and doing whatever is asked. It's great to see the ocean racing tradition passed down to the next generation.
Defiance is a comfortable Swan 56 orned by Peter Noonan. Like many boats in the race, racers and cruisers alike, she is crewed by sailors from many areas, including members of the same family. (Talbot Wilsonl/PPL)
A Swan 56 owned by Peter Noonan, Defiance, like a lot of boats in the race, has crew from many areas -- California to Brooklyn -- and also a family element. (Talbot Wilson/PPL)
  On to my report.  Showering has never been an option on my previous three distance races, so I wasn't sure whether crew boss Carsten Peterson was joking when he asked me if I'd yet secured my towel. Was he already planning ahead for the finish? No. With a strong watermaker and Swan-level amenities, showering is part of the distance racing SOP on board Defiance. So far I have resisted. I sort like the idea of going a few days without a shower. As we've finally gotten to the easterly breezes, I may have missed my opportunity. No marine shower is made to handle a 30-degree heel, which we are nearing. From triple zeros to the Code Zero to a genoa The second night (Saturday) was a challenge. As light as it was for the first 24 hours, the succeeding 12 were worse. I spent my entire 8 to 11 watch starting at sub 1-knot boat speeds and a lot of triple zeros. The sails slatted to and fro and it was a challenge just to keep the boat pointing in the right direction.I went off watch hoping the wind would pick up before I came on deck again. While that wasn't really the case—I could hear the sails slatting during much of my overnight nap—the on watch team did a bang up job of making the most out of barely nothing. They turned a few knots of breeze into some boat speed and motored past a number of boats, including one that was stuck in a vortex and doing 360-degree spins while we sailed past. Dawn didn't bring much improvement. With a Code Zero we struggle to get downwind in light air and our choice was often whether to go on starboard tack at 70 degrees off the rhumb line or port tack at 60 degrees off the rhumb line. Finally around 7 am the wind settled into an easterly direction and jumped quickly to 7, 8, and 9 knots. With the Code 0 we were able to harden up and sail over some of the boats that have passed us during the night by sailing lower with more suitable sails. Then the breeze hit 12 knots and we quickly switched back to the genoa. Now, on Sunday morning, we're motoring at 9.3 knots with the Stream less than an hour away, and there's even some talk on deck of putting in the first reef. Life down below is a little more challenging, but no one is complaining. We're pointed in the right direction and moving well. I'm back into my bunk to get a little sleep, as the bulk of this race is still in front of us.

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