Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cruising Chute

In the spring of 2011 I collected a new spinnaker and a code 0 cruising chute (drifter) from North Sails. They proved to be a good investment in 2011 (not) because Little Grace did not make it to the water when refurbishment had to stop due to the projects of converting our barn, so the horses could live at home, and starting our own veterinary clinic from scratch.

You can imagine I was keen to try the new sails this year and in a previous post I wrote about a test of the running rigging (see A - Z of Refurbishment and Ongoing Improvements in the panel on the left). However, don’t imagine a scenario where this keen sailor now goes out with the single minded intention of sailing an appropriate course in the right conditions to test the new sails, oh no.

Little Grace is berthed about an hour and a half from where we live and since she has been back in the water we have used her for weekend cruises. This has meant that any test of the sails has to fit in with the passage plans. The passage plans themselves have to fit into parameters such as getting the boat Friday night, getting to our destination so we have time to relax, enjoy it and giving the dogs a chance to stretch their legs on Saturday. Then getting home on Sunday with enough time to sleep before work the next day. 

The criteria for testing the sails within the passage plans was light winds in the right direction and enough sea room to get out of trouble if it all goes pear-shaped; it never happened. There have been light winds in the wrong direction aplenty. On the rare occasions it was on the beam or aft there was not enough sea room or the leg was too short.  Instead of returning to harbour at the end of our trips on the light wind sail friendly dying sea breeze, as had been my expectation from the normal conditions, we have had a reef the main or sailed at near hull speed under headsail alone. Except, of course, when the wind has been against us and we have had maintain a long tack to windward in the last leg. Even on one of those occasions we did it under headsail alone, just to prove the boat could and she can, very well.

The last weekend was just the same. I prayed for the light winds that had been forecast to be where we needed to reach at the beginning of our shorter than usual passage plan. The wind should have come from the west but the main island caused it to back to the south and it was a case of pinching to keep our southerly compass course down the east side of the main island and then going west, with the wind on the nose, when we got to the corner.   

In theory there was a short section of the route where there was just enough water to leeward after we had to bear away into a channel to go north again. It was there and the video below shows the result. On the return journey it was back to a reef in the main and the number 2 genoa being ample to maintain near hull speed.

I set the cruising chute from the foredeck, raising and lowering it at the mast. At the beginning of the video you can hear the engine running in neutral. It was on standby, just in case; after all we did not know if the sail would fit because it says Hurley 20 rather than Alacrity on the bag, yet alone if I would get it to go up cleanly. There was not that much room to leeward and what there was got narrower. As it turned out the sail is perfect, as you would expect, and all went well, which is a surprise.

Code 0s are favoured for cruising boats because they are made of stronger material and have a luff and cut that gives greater windward potential than other spinnakers. Given the changes in wind direction due to the islands this last point is an asset; the video shows it. The apparent wind meant we were just on the edge but we only had to bear away a little to both stay very close to our compass course and allow the sail to fill and show the potential of things to come. 

An old photo I used to explain the pulpit dimensions to North Sails when ordering the cruising chute. You can see the hole use to secure the strop above the bow roller in front of the forestay fixing.
For the technically minded the tack is fixed to the deck, a strop attached in front of the forestay in our case because of the pulpit. The strop is attached where there is a hole that seems to have been intended for a pin to secure the anchor above the bow roller. The luff on our chute is loose and tape, as opposed to wire.

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