Tres Hombres Blog: The art of sailing terribly

My heart dropped when Remi told us, due to swell at the Duoro river mouth, we would spend at least another 48 hours tacking around outside of Porto. I thought we would be extremely bored and things might start to get funky amongst the crew but boy was I wrong! The journey so far had been pretty rough through the Bay of Biscay with high winds and swell for almost a week, but we were out the other side and had a beautiful day becalmed followed by some nice chilled sailing the rest of the way to Porto. It was too easy, a perfect time to reach port for a nice glass of Porto and a hot shower but then I had almost forgotten perfect timing and easy are not often in Tres Hombres vocabulary (dubbed Tres Hombrish). I was crazy to think it could be dull on board that magical beast. In reality the two following days turned out to be some of the most exciting and educational sailing I have done so far. 

We were tacking regularly, usually one or two per watch. Its perfect to keep warm and keeps the crew from falling asleep during night watch. On any other day the goal is to harness the elements to propel the boat to our destination at the maximum speed possible without breaking anything. But this is thrown out the porthole when you don’t want to go anywhere. Sometimes autopilot took over the brain and yells we’re heard from Duarte in the chart house, “Laura! You’re going too fast!”. It was a new way of thinking. No one teaches you how to sail terribly at sailing school! 

After tacking away from the coast we hove to and drifted back. This manoeuvre has plenty of applications but is usually for heavy weather when you need to get some rest. We braced around the topsail so it was working in reverse, kept the rest in the normal direction and threw the helm hard into the wind so the boat is working against itself and drifts. The trick is to get the right amount of sails to counter balance each other.

Then we were treated to one of the best sleeps on board so far. The boat pauses itself and moves gently with the waves. Luckily too since we were in for a pretty hectic watch next.

Within the first hour after change of watch we were treated to a hail storm with pellets of ice hurled at the deck the size of marbles then once that had calmed down the beginnings of a wet willy (water spout or tiny tornado over water which starts to suck the water up) was spotted off the starboard beam. Our cool calm collected captain could be seen by the cook sipping his cuppa coffee regarding the scene and decided it was the right time to quit drifting and get back to sailing. For the rest of the watch we were sailing from squall to squall constantly keeping a keen eye on the clouds because when they approached it often meant a sharp wind change, sometimes 40 or 50 degrees in an instant. We had a couple of intentional tacks and one accidental but we got through it all with no incident. 

After these days of intensive sail training we were ready for anything. I was so proud of what came next. In normal Tres Hombres style plans changed again and we were going back where we came from under a northerly heading, aiming for the small town of Baiona, Galicia. We sailed into the anchorage in a small bay, it was delightful to have the full crew on deck for once and it ran like a well oiled machine. I will never forget the feeling, every person on board in position ready for commands sharp as anything and completely silent as we passed the mountains and rocky islands, the lights of town looking like warm little safe havens. What a buzz to get to shore and have a beer with such a wonderful crew. So proud of these crazy cats. Everyday brings us many magic moments and this roller coaster has only just begun!

Till the next time 

Laura, Deckhand

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