Making a tack or a gybe in Drakan is hard work for the crew involved, especially when we’re beating our way up a narrow fjord and changing direction every 10 minutes or so. The ship can’t run as close to the wind as a modern sailing ship, so we have to make tighter zigzags, taking much longer to cover the forward distance.
However, heading out into open water we often have long spells of doing nothing, punctuated by periods of intense physical activity. It’s a chance to relax, read, sunbathe and catch up on sleep, or if the weather isn’t so clement, to huddle down inside your rain gear with a mug of hot coffee.
When the wind picks up, it can be necessary to reduce the area of sail by making a søft (reef). On Drakan’s large square sail this is done by flaking or folding up a layer of the sail, either from the top or from the bottom, and trying it tight. The old sailor’s saying is “The first time you think about reducing sail, do it”, and a søft at the top of the sail is tied up to the rå before even setting sail, in anticipation of strong winds.
Out in open sea, the søft is made at the foot of the sail. The rå is lowered by a metre or so, and all the foreship and midship team, both watches, battle to knock the wind out of the sail. With the penta and bolina hauled in tight, pulling down on the sail, someone climbs up the rail, stepping into the corner of the sail, feeding the hook on the end of a pulley through a loop in the liek, the line running down the edge of the sail. With considerable effort on the pulley, and the rest of the team pulling the line of søftbands to the foot of the sail and making fast with a reef knot, the sail is reefed.