Over the weekend Rover made her first ocean passage with us when we brought her home to Annapolis from Charleston, South Carolina! If this passage is any indication, we are going to get along incredibly well with this boat, because she exceeded our expectations in every way. Despite significantly throttling the boat down at various points (including an entire overnight flying only the main and staysail) we covered the 525 mile passage in 69 hours, for an average of 182 miles per day.
During the passage conditions varied from zero wind to nearly 30 knots of breeze and big ocean swells. On Saturday we had a great spinnaker run for much of the day, culminating in an exciting hour and a half sailing tighter angles in 20 knots of breeze to stay clear of Cape Lookout Shoal. The Hylas 54 has a generously sized rudder that got us out of trouble at least three times when just the wrong combination of a quartering swell and a gust would hit.
Her spinnaker is small and flat, but as a result it’s very well suited to open ocean use. Likewise, the small, flat in-mast furling main proved to be much less of a handicap than I (personally) feared it might be. We found that we were mostly reaching or running during a passage like this and were frequently reducing sail to keep the passage more comfortable anyway. Plus the little main turned out to have some unexpected benefits when flying the spinnaker: on deep angles, its conservative (which is to say non existent!) roach improves air flow to the spinnaker, which reduces its tendency to collapse. And on tighter angles in big breeze the last thing we wanted was more power from the main, so the boat was better balanced. I’m probably the only one aboard who will moan about this sail, and then only when we are sailing close hauled (which we have yet to do on Rover).
We found we loved the fixed staysail on a conventional roller furler. When the breeze is up, it provides a terrific way to slow the boat down to around 7 to 7.5 knots at night by deploying it instead of the jib. Then when the sun comes up the genoa can be rolled back out to power back up. This setup proved to be a terrific sail plan on a beam reach and even significantly tighter points of sail.
Rover did not come equipped with a whisker pole and we definitely want to add one! On deeper angles in breezes too fresh for the spinnaker, we went with the main and only a scrap of jib out to keep it from collapsing and slamming back full again. In 20-30 knots of wind we found we had to sail higher angles than we wanted to in order to keep the jib pulling, and the lack of sail area meant we couldn’t surf quite as well as we wanted to. Still we were just fast enough to catch some reasonably decent surfs from the larger swells:
Despite the extensive fuel polishing we did before leaving Charleston, the rolly ocean conditions proved sufficient to stir up deposits still hiding in the tanks, with the result that we thoroughly clogged the generator Racor water separator and stalled the generator. As a precaution, we changed out the main engine’s filter soon after and left the generator off for the balance of the trip pending a thorough flushing of its Racor. That got us through without any further problems. The good news is that we burned all of the old fuel off and three of the four tanks are now totally empty and ready to be cleaned manually. It’s never a good sign when a spare Racor filter is left staged on the galley counter as a precaution! Fortunately we didn’t need it.
Now Rover is home here in Annapolis so the summer’s work can begin! First up: a haul out for new bottom paint, a keel fairing and an upgrade to a MaxProp.