Velocity Made Good = Justification for sailing when you can’t actually head in the correct direction

One of the first syllabus items in the american sailing association intro class is about how wind moves your boat.  Specifically, how it can push you along from behind, create lift like an airplane from the side, and stop your boat in its tracks when its coming straight towards you. 

The phenomenon of going nowhere while the wind howls is aptly named being in irons and the handful of degrees in front of the boat where you get locked up is the no-go zone.  It’s a lesson quickly demonstrated and constantly reinforced by the boat. 

Beginner sailors often forget, and many an intro class (including ours) has spent a significant amount of time sitting in the middle of nowhere going nowhere because they forgot about the no-go zone and the boat didn’t. 

When you’re just out for a fun day sail this inability to sail directly into the wind is no biggie.  You just pick a route that doesn’t put you too far into the wind and enjoy the day.  However, when you’re a cruising boat like us trying to get somewhere it gets more complicated.

Like many cruisers, we rarely go sailing without a destination.  Likewise, the wind is rarely coming from the right direction to point the boat directly towards said destination.  To compensate, we sail as close the general direction as possible, making forward progress while covering many extra miles.

Enter the concept of Velocity Made Good, AKA VMG.  VMG is a critical measurement for sailors because it calculates how quickly you are actually heading towards your destination whilst you are sailing side to side looking for all the world like a confused crew that can’t pick a direction.  It’s a complicated formula involving lots of math wizardry that is beyond my ability or interest to calculate.  Fortunately our chart plotter has a whiz bang computer inside that computes the VMG in real time and shows us exactly how slowly we are going. Sweet.

So, stay with me here folks, there is a point to all this.  And the point is; explaining the crazy looking track in the photo below.  The purple line is the route Pura Vida took leaving Banderas Bay en route back to the ocean.

Screen Shot 2017-04-19 at 11.26.36 AM

The wind was blowing directly from the ocean into the bay, hence directly on our nose the entire 25 mile trip out.  We had to sail baaack and forth, baaack and forth for a long time go get out.  Out boat speed was in the 4-6 knot range, while our VMG was just shy of 2 knots.  Sure, we could have fired up the motor and made a beeline out, but didn’t.  Why, you ask?  Because sailing, even when slow, is FUN!


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