We went sailing today, earlier than usual so we were ready to launch at 11.45am. The club hadn't announced the afternoon course, and our VHF radio is no longer operable, so we set off for a practice sail intending to contact a race committee boat to find out the course near start time. However, after sailing to Diamond Harbour and back, we were so annoyed with the conditions that we decided not to race.
The problem was that the wind was a northerly, swirling over the hills above Lyttelton and hitting the harbour as a series of eddies and rolling bubbles of air. We were subject to strong gusts 30 or 40 degrees off the prevailing direction, and wind strengths from 2 knots to 25 knots. In other words, not easy! Those gust bubbles with directions 40 degrees either way could be a header (instant flapping sails in irons, roll to windward, crash tack), or a lift (45 degree heel, vicious rounding up, sudden stop as it ends). It was like sailing on Wanaka or Wakatipu in a northerly, when the terrain can play similar tricks with the wind.
Although we get a bit tired of the usual Lyttelton summer easterly, it is a very reliable breeze. We have decided that to cope with the standard 20 knot easterly blast, we should reef the main, and today we used our playing-hooky time to practice this. It was a great success, and the boat is nearly as fast but with a lot less fuss. Reefing the main and shaking out the reef went very well, so we are a lot happier about battling the easterly.
We were back at the wharf at 2:30, and home by 3:30, much to Heather's surprise. She went for a swim, then I prepared dinner and sloped off to the pub for a pint and a chat while it cooked.