Captain's Log, Stardate:

3/20/01

Arrived Bizerette, Tunisia!

%&^(*&,#@% or however you say "Hi" in Arabic!

Mary and I arrived at the Catana boat works in the south of France on March 8. The boat was supposed to be done (by latest count) March 1. Although it wasn't, it was 99% done and we were very happy with the way it turned out.

We took sailing lessons every day or two and got kicked out of the nest on Saturday, March 17. As I came into the saloon that morning, I was thinking about why it was the electronics didn't talk together properly over the NMEA bus and how I was going to get workmen scheduled to work on the problem some more on a Saturday. Donald was already up and said, "why don't we go today?" Noting that the wind was blowing 20-25 kts out of the NW, I could not come up with a really good answer. There were, of course, some bad ones: our poles hadn't arrived yet for mounting the wind generator, I had only docked the boat twice under supervision, have never on this boat or any other ever raised a spinnaker sail, and our boat documentation papers had not yet arrived. On the plus side, we had already provisioned including 10 cases of beer and 20 cases of good French!

In any event, an hour later, we were motoring out the inlet for our 460 NM passage to Tunisia. The winds were strong but they were behind us. In fact, too much so. We turned the boat so that, although we would be going somewhat the wrong direction, we would be going enough faster to more than compensate for our little detour. How much faster? FAST! We were hitting 9-10 kts regularly. But that was not to last. By evening, the wind had backed to WNW so we jibed the boat and came closer to our intended course of 136. It also decreased to 10-15 true so we "shook out a reef" to come under full main and jib. Our Catana Skipper, Charlotte, will not like this but we did it without bringing the boat into the wind first. Instead, we got everything set, started the diesels to bring the apparent wind even lower, and then bore away (headed straight downwind) while wereleased the reefing line and hoisted the main all the way. So we were still doing 8 kts or so. The next day, the wind continued to back (come from a more CCW direction) and we soon found ourselves closely hauled in only 15-20 kts true.

There is a saying, "Gentlemen never sail to windward." With a lessor boat, this is true. I used to dread going into the wind with my former boat. The bow goes up and crashes into an oncoming wave making the whole boat shudder and sometimes slowing you down to just a couple knots of boat speed, not that you were very fast to begin with because pointing into the wind in a monohull is not the fastest point of sail. A beam reach is. So you long for a course that puts you abeam of the wind. But on a beam reach, the waves are hitting you broadside with each one, in many situations, adding to the heel from the former. Pretty soon, the boat is rolling from 10 or 20 degrees on one side to 35 on the other and you find yourself cursing beam reaches too. In any event, you are heeled over at least 15 degrees on the average. Things you thought were secure are not and items are falling to the sole/floor with a crash. Forget trying to sleep in those conditions!

But Escape Cay, our Catana 471, does not heel noticeably at all. Maybe 5-10 degrees tops. Best of all, you are making a solid 8 kts in these conditions, or at least we were. All day Sunday and Sunday night, we had a reliable 15-20 kts about 70-80 degrees true, off our starboard bow. Waves were an unnoticeable 3-5 feet. If you set a full glass of water on the saloon table, it would not spill. The same for beer and wine.

We continued our "commissioning" by learning how the watermaker works. Flip on a switch at the galley and water begins flowing out of the special tap on the sink. For the first five minutes, it's a little brackish but after the membrane has cleaned itself out, pure water emerges at the rate of about 12 gallons per hour (16 per the marketing manager of Spectra). This is exactly the same water you find on grocery stores shelves marked "RO" or "reverse osmosis." After tasting it, Mary grabbed all the empty Perrier bottles she had been saving and 15 minutes later, our refrigerator was awash in pure water. I don't know how it does it but it filters NaCl molecules out of the sea water. I know of no microbes smaller than a molecule! After the fridge is full, Donald throws a valve and it starts running into one of our two 100 gallon tanks. We continue to make water for the rest of the high point of the day, when the sun is highest and producing the most "free" power from our solar collectors. Four hours later, we've topped off both of our tanks.

The wind clocked back somewhat and we slowed down. Although the fastest point of sail for a cat is with the true wind aft of abeam, I cannot figure out how to get it to go even as fast as when it's forward of abeam. I tried to round up to bring the wind abeam so we would pick up speed. Then, with the apparent wind "bent" forward, I bore away hoping it would stay there but it didn't. The boat just slowed down again. I had the full main let out until it was just short of touching the aft shroud and spreader but that didn't do it. We finally furled in some jib because it was being "shaded" by the main and that seemed to help a little. I thought about reefing the main so that more air could get to the jib but couldn't bring myself to reduce sail when we were already going too slow! We should have stayed in France for some more sailing lessons I guess. Or should we have! During the 65 hour passage, the wind was never on our nose! Nor was it ever too strong. Even with only 10 kts of wind, this boat will do 65% of that or 6.5 kts. I always considered it a challenge to get our former boat up to 50% the speed of the true wind. Our only problem was when it was directly behind (I can't raise a spinnaker yet) or when it was on one quarter or the other because I can't get it to go as fast as it should. Taking a step back, I realized these are not terribly bad problems to have for a sailboat.

Knowing that we would arrive in total darkness, and that the wind was out of the west, we searched the chart for place we could anchor before going to do battle with customs in the morning. We approached what appeared on the chart to be a sandy beach under gps and radar. When we hit 3 meters of depth, we let go our new Spade anchor (I never heard of one either until just a short time ago). We could not find a Q flag nor even a pair of bright yellow swimming trunks like we used one year in a pinch so we raised a yellowish-orangish kitchen spongy rag sort of thing and went to sleep.

I am writing this the next morning and what a sight! The first clear water I've seen in too long a time, palm trees along the beach, and a bright sunny blue sky charging our batteries so we can make more RO ice cubes with our icemaker!

Mary insisted we all thank Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for the good weather we had on this passage but I simply thanked God.

Inch Allah!

Lee and Mary