This post is for the non-sailing folks.
Why is it such a pain for us to get somewhere when the wind is in the wrong direction? What is the wrong direction?
When the wind is blowing from the place you want to go it is more difficult to get there because you can’t sail directly into the wind. Most cruising boats, I understand – but correct me if I’m wrong, get somewhere around 45 degrees to either side of the true wind (their wind indicators will show them closer to 30 degrees).
For example, today the yellow zig zag was our course:
The harbor we wanted to go to was NW of us and the wind was coming from the NW. The harbor was just over 10 miles away Isee the ruler) but we sailed just under 20 miles through the water to get there. That zig zag was as close to the wind, as close to a straight line, as we could travel
Now, consider the fact that we averaged just under 5 mph. This means that if the wind had been behind us, say from the SE, it would have taken about 2 hours and instead it took just over 4 hours. Effectively, the distance we can cover in daylight is doubled when the wind is behind us (or at least 45 degrees off of our nose) as opposed to directly on our nose.
Further, when we are sailing with the wind in front of us, we tilt over to one side…sometimes a lot. And when the sea state is not calm, we are tilted to one side while surging up and down. It’s like taking a gerbil ball , tilting it and rolling it from side to side while bouncing it slightly, and we are the gerbils.
I have to say that one of the most dangerous maneuvers I do regularly while sailing, with the highest possibility of breaking my femur, is to go to the bathroom while sailing upwind with waves. CLASS EXERCISE: Go to a wall. Lean your hip on the wall and put one hand on the wall. Now try to take off your pants with one hand while maintaining some contact, both hand and body, with the wall. Now try to put them back on. Now imagine the floor is moving. Not easy. I am a climber and recovering swing dance addict and it requires almost more balance than I’ve got.
Still, it is probably the most exciting point of sail. You feel like you are going really fast. You are tilted over which is a thrill. The waves are coming from in front of you (most of the time when the wind is this direction) and they are crashing over the deck. I’m usually grinning ear to ear because it is exhilarating…just don’t try to pee or make lunch.