Day 1 of spinnaker usage went off without a hitch. The spinnaker was raised, we sailed, the spinnaker was lowered--everyone was happy.
Day 2 of spinnaker usage was not as successful. It started off much like the day before: the wind was extremely light and the water was calm. It was the perfect day for a spinnaker. Eric's parent made their way to the foredeck to raise the sail, while Eric steered the ship:
With the spinnaker raised, we picked up speed and settled in for a relaxing day on the water. Averaging over 5 knots, we were scheduled to arrive in Miami mid-afternoon, just as we had planned. Hours later, as we approached Miami, it was time to take the spinnaker down. Eric's parents again made their way to the foredeck to tackle the task at hand. We decided that, unlike the day before, we'd point into the wind when taking down the spinnaker in order to "deflate" the enormous sail, so that it would be easier to control.
As we turned into the wind to lower the sail, there were a number of factors at play that ultimately resulted in total chaos: the spinnaker's sheet (rope) was too tight, the wind picked up, the water became choppy, and something was tied that shouldn't have been. The moment we turned into the wind, the spinnaker began whipping around in a violent frenzy. The sheet attached to the sail began beating the cockpit at a speed fast enough to cause irreparable bodily harm to anyone in its path. As the line continued to whip the boat, its force cracked our nameplate into pieces and unhinged one of our life preservers from its metal frame. Seeing that the life preserver was about to fall into the sea, Eric instructed me to save it. I, of course, refused, as I did not believe the loss of a mildew-covered life preserver was greater than the loss of one of my limbs. He later concurred.
Once things calmed down, I was able to fish our life preserver out from the sea with the use of our huge fishing net and boat hook. And, once we were back at dock, Eric was able to replace our nameplate with a shiny new one: