Schooner Ruth Saga – Part 3 (Final)

Posted on March 9, 2018 · Posted in SV Ruth Updates
Peace All,
Schooner RUTH is an excellent sailing vessel when trimmed well, she will self-steer for several minutes without touching the helm and going windward in rough swell she cuts a clean track with little leeway for so much windage on the high freeboard at her bow that’s characteristic of knockabout type schooners.
When you are below you have no recognition of any heavy conditions outside and sleeping is like being in a sweet metronomic hammock.
Her pedigree is to sail fast where her schooner rig could catch any square-rigged vessel is her place in history, i.e. the classic pirate ship. The real pirates sailed Schooners; fast, nimble, great to windward, not the square riggers like the ‘Black Pearl, Pirates of the Caribbean’.
So, when the opportunity arose as we were heading past the southern tip of Saint Kitts with the 5 mast’d square rigger ‘Royal Clipper’ heading out for her guest sunset cruise a few miles ahead, I naturally started sailing a collision course.
There was a fresh breeze coming across the bay and we were on a Close Reach with one reef in the main, foresail, 3 jibs plus the Fisherman, easily brushing 8.5 knots.
After half an hour of this staring down, we had them cleanly on the bow, but the Captain was having none of it and kicked in their engine and they were gone, fun over.
We got to the point as it got dark, a gust hit on the other side after the typical headland lull and we took down the Fisherman for the night. Luke and Nazz were now very skilled in deploying and scandalizing this sail in no time at all.
With less canvass up, the beam to broad reach across Nevis down to Marie Galant below southern Guadeloupe was vintage RUTH night sailing averaging nearly 7 knots.
The tradition is 4-hour watches on tall ships (eight bells), but in my experience, especially instructing young Yachtmaster candidates is that 3-hour watches are more sensible and helming constantly for three hours on RUTH demands a high level of concentration and focused wind awareness.
Let me put this into context.
For the first 3+ months of sail training Luke, Nazz and Kaya have helmed by using the feel of wind over both ears, a torchlight to check a flag or cloth telltale on the shrouds and a star and compass for heading, i.e. we had zero electronic wind instruments for wind angle or speed, not to mention, depth sounder, fixed VHF (hand-held only at first), AIS, Radar and so on.
Now, with well over a 100 night hours helming in this manner, they have very keen wind awareness.
Anyway, thanks to some key investments and installations at the main topmast, we now have working ‘B and G’ V50 VHF & AIS (class B), plus wind vane for apparent wind speed and angle on a Triton2 digital display.
I must confess that we do sail better with such accurate measurements, particularly close hauling.
You see, unlike a typical production monohull which would have to reef the jib, RUTH will sail closer and closer to the wind as the true wind speed increases. Her limit is about 42° apparent wind with F5/6.
This knowledge was key the next morning when we came around the southern tip of Guadeloupe and had to make the beat to windward to get through the Iles over to Marie Galant almost dead East.
The Iles des Saintes, a cluster of 4/5 small islands are spectacular and sailing between them to start our first starboard tack up to Guadeloupe was simply beautiful sailing.
I called the tack when I could ‘smell’ the sand on the beach, the wind was building nicely and our pointing thanks to instruments was flawless … needless to say, we made Saint Louis Bay as the sun was setting on that single port tack.
Schooner Avontuur was waiting on anchor in the bay and they had previously agreed to allow us to raft up alongside them. I called up the Captain on the VHF and we went Starboard side-to without incident.
We were immediately invited to dinner and there was lots to chat about and curiosity on all sides. Its’ pretty cool stuff, two Schooners rafted up outside a small village, not an everyday maritime experience.
This was a saga with a safe ending and well worth the small bits of slog along the way, what’s’ left is just great stories to tell.