Our third crew member is a racer at heart. Everything he does is for the sake of speed and performance, and he believes there is always something more that could be done!
We got to see his true colors when we were sailing from Bimini to Florida. The winds were picking up and squalls were raging all around us. I decided that this would be a good time to see how he handles the situation, since when he is on watch and I'm sleeping, he will be making these same choices.
We were full sail and doing around 6 knots before the winds picked up. The air temperature dropped and I wanted to reduce sail, but I also wanted to see what he would do. He began trimming the sails more and more, raising our speed to 7 knots, then 7.5 knots. The wind got stronger and we started heeling.
His response was to sheet the sails in harder and get our speed up to 8.6 knots. I figured this was fast enough and as the squalls were approaching, he would want to reef. Instead he said "I'm sure there is more in the sails" and he continued trimming.
He managed to get our speed up to 9.7 knots with winds so intense we were heeling over well past 25 degrees. As we were zipping though the water and the squalls continued to gain on us, I waited to hear him say the magic words: "Lets reef" but they never came.
More wind means more speed to a racer, and reefing is the act of slowing down. So I stepped in as captain and declared that we would now reef. The jib came down and two reefs went into the mainsail to balance out the staysail. I was hanging onto the mast and boom as we were violently being tossed in the seas as I cranked on the clew line to tuck in the second reef and create a nice flat sail, all the while thinking "I wish we did this when the weather was still calm."
When I got back to the cockpit, the racer declared: "You reefed just in time, our speed is still 8 knots!"
Maybe this is when a racer reefs, but as a cruiser, I reef the moment I think I might need to reef. This experience taught me that I will have to declare when we reef all the time as he will wait until it's no longer safe to reef before considering the option.
His helming skills are wonderful and he can trim for maximum performance at any moment, making him a wonderful crew member. But as a racer, he always wants more speed!
We are a cutter with a small electric motor, so when it comes to ocean crossing, we consider ourselves to be engineless. Since we rely so heavily on sails for propulsion, we carry an extensive wardrobe for Wisdom. We have a Full-Batten Mainsai, Battenless Mainsail, Trysail, Light-Air Mainsail, Staysail, Jib, and Drifter. I have specially ordered each sail with painstaking detail, so I know which sail plan is best for what point of sail. This means that I also know what speeds we will get out of each sail combination; he doesn't though, and this is just endless trimming potential!
In the beginning of our voyage, we would have sails set that I knew would work best for the conditions we were in and the conditions that were coming. Ocean crossing is an endurance sport, so it is best not to wear yourself out in the beginning! He would come out of the cabin with the navigation software on his phone and declare that we are not going fast enough and demand a sail change.
I would explain that the sails we have up are moving us along at 3 knots, and a sail change would require a lot of work and give us the same speed. This answer was not to his satisfaction and he would argue and argue until sails were changed. I like cruising because I like to listen to the wind and the waves. When someone begins yelling at me, I can't hear the wind and waves anymore.
Since he had so much energy, I showed him our speed on the navigation equipment and told him how to switch the sails over. I let him change the sails over and over and show him that all his efforts in the heat of the day under the blazing sun yielded no change in our speed.
I figured that this was a one time thing, and that now he would listen to me when I said that the correct sails are set for the conditions, but it wasn't. This guy is like the Energizer Bunny, he keeps going and going and going! Everyday, he would poke his head out of the cabin and begin yelling at me that we weren't going fast enough. I would tell him that it's the winds fault (we had very light airs) and he would insist on the same song and dance of sail changes. I quickly learned that the moment he forcefully put his hand on the companionway slats to lift himself up and begin yelling was the perfect time to tell him to go to the bow and hank on a different sail!
This went on for quite some time and I figured that this is just how he is. Every morning, he would complain about the slow speed of the sailboat in light airs. If wind came and we began sailing quickly, he was certain that more speed was available. I even explained to him about hull speed and calculated our maximum speed to show him that we could not possibly move any faster than we are at the moment, but still, he would insist on a sail change for "more speed."
I grew tired of this, and then on the 10th day, he broke! He came out of the cabin with a cup of coffee in his hand and a book. He sat quietly and read and didn't mention a thing! At this time, we actually did need to change sails, but he argued against it. I was shocked!
We were trying to beam reach with the wind just ahead of the beam flying only the Drifter. I said that we should lower the drifter and raise all the sails: Mainsail, Staysail, and Jib. He then told me we are on a broad reach. We both looked at the Monitor Windvane which was set at a close reach as it struggled to fight the lee helm of the drifter with no mainsail.
I looked at the situation and realized: he's tired and doesn't want to change the sails. I just woke up so I didn't want to start working just yet either. So we both just sat back and relaxed. We listened to the wind and the waves and enjoyed ocean cruising. It only took 10 days to reach this point of nirvana.