Well, our pacific crossing appears to be swiftly coming to a timely end. Family and friends have gathered in Maui and are having to save Mai Tais for our greeting as a few boats have managed to beat us to the finish. We're currently (finally!) on a bee-line under white sails (I know, don't ask...) towards the islands. Hawaii is becoming ever larger on our chartplotters. We know we're close to the finish because the skipper has slowed his Nav Station to Foredeck dashes and is now spending more time on the wheel.
It's been an eye opening trip. Like most other boats, we have a couple different crew watches and it builds both comraderie and perhaps even a little competition but in the end we're all the same crew of only little boat using sails to get from one side of the Pacific to the other. I presume the other boats are similarly powered by their onboard cuisine. Tori even whipped out her secret recipe last night so those coming on watch at 2am could enjoy hot chocolate chip cookies.
Aboard Red Sheilla there are many ways I might describe our two different watch teams. For instance...we have the Pilots and the Non-Pilots (we have air charts on the salon table..great for offshore charting but airplanes aren't worried about rocks) We have "Old Age and Treachery" vs. "Youth and Beauty"...(OK, that one's a stretch) We have Racers and we have Cruisers. Watermakers and water savers. Generators and power misers. We have Opera versus Pop (that everyone sings along with on the night watches. When was the last time you heard "The Archies?) We've managed to avoid political conversations completely. We could micro-slice our little crew as we so often do in the rest of our lives but there is little point, really.
We are one of the more International crews (Candian, US, Australian) but more importantly we're about to become members of another very small society of Vic-Maui Race veterans. This year there are some 14 boats sailing (7 Beneteaus!) with an average crew of 6-8 so it's a small group of people who enjoyed and endured similar experiences as we pushed our plastic toys across the Pacific through fog and squall, rain and blazing sun, out of the darkness and into the light. We all experienced things that "weren't in the brochure". After 14 days of damp, wet, cold and 2 days of tropical sailing we've been calling this race the Vic-Vic-Vic-Vic-Vic-Vic-Vic-Maui. Our own track shows we'll have covered closer to 3000 miles than the 2308 advertised. (no comments from the peanut gallery, please...) We're excited to congratulate those who beat us to the finish and to share war stories with the other crews at "the bar". We've almost 'done that and got the hat'. Close...we're so close. We've even readied our matching outfits!
For me, personally, I learned to sail as a child in Kaneohe Bay (Oahu)...I've gone on to sail extensively in our Pacific Northwest, Caribbean, Atlantic and Mediterranean but this is the first time I get to "connect the dots" never having sailed from one magical place to another. I'm excited to 'close the loop' even though it took many years to do it. I know each of us aboard Red Sheilla has their own story as well. (Jim Innes, our esteemed skipper for example is following in the footsteps of his father who was a founder of this race many years ago)
Ahh..reflection. Now we are preparing for our re-entry into reality and into society. I suppose soon we'll be taking showers every day and once again be chatting on our cell phones. Rumor has it we might have vertigo when we get into small spaces for the next few days...but we'll have a fresh perspective. A new outlook...and we're already thinking about Vic-Maui 2014. God only knows why! ...God and our fellow Vic Maui Vets.
That a boat shrinks one foot per person per day. I'd argue that might apply to a 'normal' boat but perhaps not to our own Red Sheilla. Given the extraordinary nature of our crew and the endless antics of our skipper, I've recalculated that this boat is only shrinking at the rate of HALF a foot/per person/per day. Unfortunately even that modified formula does not bode well for this sailing adventure as we are desperately running out of time. 49 feet/6 people...you can do the math.
There are also other important indicators coming into play such as the rotating cleaning schedule posted to the aft head door ran out yesterday...that's NOT good. It now takes mental gymnastics to not only figure out your name, what day and date it is but now you must bring the rotation forward in your mind to see if it's your turn! Other important indicators include the depletion of the Kalamata Olive and Roasted Red Pepper happy hour supplies. (there does seem to be an endless supply of Heineken hidden somewhere onboard but we remain on strict rations) Last nights rib dinner was one of the best ever (thank you Gail!) but the bottom of the freezer is now beginning to show itself.
It must be amusing to those ashore who follow our "race" tracker. Last night they would have seen multiple 360's as we were firehosed by a huge squall and once again the the pitch black. I vote that next race they include onboard race-cams so onlooker can live vicariously through the endless fog, blazing sun and rain squalls that are truly phenomenal. On second thought, perhaps not. Those are mere punctuation marks surrounding amazing sunsets, great conversations and the big blue seas on which we can see no other boat from horizon to horizon.
On a technical note, we were thankfully still dressed for Swiftsure last night when the weather hit but today is truly tropical. We dropped a fishing lure in the water this afternoon and everyone guessed how long it would take to land a fish. That poor Mahi hit our lure after only 6 minutes trailing (under big spinnaker)...so he beat our lowest estimate by over five minutes. Impressive.
We ARE running out of time. My math suggests that even with our new and improved Boat Shrink Ratio that our time is about up on the 16th day. That's only two days away. Fortunately it seems to be concurrent with our most recent estimates of sunrise near the islands. Our friends await and we are getting more antsy as we come closer and closer. We hope that there are still enough Mai Tais left for our arrival celebration (on Sunday?)
Robbie, Tori, Keith, Doug, Patrick & Jim
07/19/2012, N28 49W149 07
It's our tradition aboard the good ship 'Red Sheilla' to have a happy hour each day during which we toast "God Save the Queen..." ...and, well, I can't repeat the rest. Happy Hour has been adjusted back slightly so as not to interfere with our skippers duties as the communications vessel for the evening roll call, whereby each vessel in the fleet reports their position (now verified electronically unlike in the 'good old days'), a sketchy weather report and any other important information such as who has wrapped fishing gear around their rudder or the location of unmanned previously singlehanded transpac racing boats as they speed through the middle of our fleet towards the islands...I kid you not!) We also get to hear the various sizes of 'docks' that boats have spotted amongst the debris field. It's made those assigned to the forward stateroom favour sleeping in the main saloon on more than one occasion as we speed through the darkness at speeds slightly less than our competitors. We have seen a tremendous amount of plastic afloat...buoys, fishing gear and laundry baskets of various sizes and colours.
It was not 'happy hour' for the poor Mahi Mahi that found our lure day before yesterday. He was brought aboard, handed to me on the brand new gaff and promptly dispatched with the fish bat. I, for one, was thankful that the fish blood managed to pull the excess olive oil out of the teak cockpit sole from the spot where our 'heart healthy Mac & Cheese' stained it the day before. We scrubbed that teak but the olive oil remained fast until the fish blood came along. Saved our turkey bacon. This fish was promptly filleted and prepared in garlic and butter for happy hour as a compliment to our single beers for those going off watch or our half ciders for those about to go on. I know this is hard for some to believe that we're practically sailing Red Sheilla as a dry boat.
We split our evening watches into four hour shifts from 6-10, 10-2 and 2-6am...and it rotates each daytime with two 6 hour watches. When we get the dreaded wake up call just moments after we seem to have fallen asleep we have to check with the previous watch to know exactly how to dress. Most of us prepared for this race by packing a three season wardrobe, starting with Winter in Victoria and off WA/Oregon coasts. WE then envisioned Spring sailing for the middle third of the trip with Summer Tropical filling in on the final third. As you can imagine it has not quite worked out that way. EVERY night has essentially been dressing in 'Swiftsure Light' so as to survive the torrential downpours as the squalls pass us by. The nice weather finally hit yesterday with full sun, sunscreen and wishing for shade. Last nights squalls caught many of us unaware as we left ports open to let our cabins breathe before they take on lives of their own. Thus far..there has been no 'Spring'. The sea temp is now up to 27 degrees C.
Yesterday we got news of the first boats in the fleet to cross the finish line. We promptly consoled ourselves noting that they had no dodgers, no shelter from the squalls and were probably eating freeze dried something or other while we wallowed along the southern edge of the newly formed Pacific High eating like kings. Ice Cream Pie, Roast Beef, Lasagne of the highest order, beautiful salads and fresh scones, eggs and spam and fresh ground coffee with real cream. There have been serious efforts by the off watch at extracting the secret scone recipe but so far all they know for sure is that flour and the oven are both involved. I threw them a real twist with the Lemon Prune scones yesterday. They're now suspecting the lemon acid is part of the secret...and perhaps they're right!
On yesterdays night watch we prepared 'normal brownies' (i.e. without coffee grounds and extra chocolate chunks. My previous batch of brownies kept all takers completely wired and wide awake for two days so we had to tone it down given so the off- watchmen could get some sleep) Well...it was a lumpy night on the mid watch. One minute the brownie mix was all safely in the pan atop the stove and the next minute it was completely and perfectly upside down on the galley floor mat. We're still trying to figure out how that happened! (although Tori did have two cups of tea and was coming up the companionway at the time). Once the event was properly documented for our upcoming slide presentation Tori wrapped both edges of the carpet around the pan and flipped it 180 degrees in a flash. We figured that the half inch of brownie mix that was still stuck to the carpet was enough to keep carpet fiber out of the rest of the batch and we baked them away. Our skipper noticed the carpet hanging from the stern rail on his morning rounds but he let everyone else give their accolades before we came clean with the story. Let anyone think we're suffering out here, this morning was greeted with the a sunny sky, the bluest sea and the stereo blasting Irish pub songs and dirty Christmas limericks. If it weren't for family and friends now waiting for us in Maui...we could go on for many, many more days but things are now getting serious. We have less than 600 miles to go and we're right on the layline to our secret waypoint. The big spinnaker is flying and Red Sheilla is 'fairly creaming along'. All we know for sure is that there will be many more laughs between now and our arrival.
Hello all, Here's notes to let everyone know what's been happening with Red Sheilla. We've been hanging north of the rhumb line from Neah Bay to Maui as there has been better wind angles for our boat. The high seems to have settled in a huge way behind us. We were sailing along the other night under the small kite (spinnaker) and just after a very big long surfing session at 12+ knots of boat speed (in the dark of course) suddenly the spinnaker dropped down in front of the navigation lights and we ran over it with the boat. It was a eerie sight as Tori, Patrick and I were the only ones on deck. The spinnaker left it's head at the top of the mast but the rest of it was suddenly in the water behind us. It took about an hour to retrieve it and get our small headsail hanked on and going once again. With that small headsail we were very slow moving until daylight. It became clear that it was too rough for us to sail with the very small jib and too lumpy sea conditions to sail with the big spinnaker (plus we'd blown out it's snuffer in a previous takedown).
Out went the call for our very own Betsy Ross and Tori stepped forward and started sewing. She spent literally ALL day restitching the genoa leech that we had blown out just after Race Rocks (back near the start) We needed the big sail in these conditions. She hand stitched about 30 feet of the back edge of the sail using a leather palm and doing her best sailmaker imitation belowdecks in the rolling seas. It was 8-10 hours of concentrated effort on her part.
After spending all afternoon sorting out the spinnaker snuffer socks (removing the good snuffer from the bad spinnaker and vice versa) we suddenly were in business once again with a big light air chute (spinnaker) ready to use PLUS Tori completed the genoa hand stitch repair just in time for happy hour. It made for another slow night with the small headsail but we were able to launch the big genoa again this morning. Been making nice progress directly towards Maui with some 880 miles to go BUT we're sailing back into the light air south of us once again. We'll spend the rest of today hitching to the west for a while and then south again zig zagging towards Mai Tais.
We have a GREAT crew...really enjoying everyone and our watches pass by quickly. Many many times we've had all hands on deck to sort out our various mishaps with nary a complaint. Our third day of morning scones and todays fresh bread are also contributing towards good moods all around. Some of us are even warming to the thought of spam sandwiches! We still have fresh veggies and good salads. Spinach was the only casualty so far in the veggie bin. Rumor has it there is ice cream cake in the freezer that was supposed to be at our half-way party. (It got a little rough that night to continue celebrating). That might show up at lunch time here in another hour or so.
We are eating well...perhaps too well. Doug's thai curry was awesome last night. We're not on our original schedule but we are having an AMAZING time out here. Looking very forward to seeing everyone in Maui when we can get ourselves there. Think of us on the westerly hitches as they're tough on our spirits...but our moods are high as kites on the southerly legs.
Gotta go put more sunscreen on...rumor is there's sunshine ahead (it's been 10 days of cloud cover so far...we're looking forward to a starry sky here soon as well)
Best to you all..we miss you. Thanks for your encouragement for us to get out here and have this experience. For some it's no doubt hard to understand but it is a fantastic experience for us. We look forward to sharing lots of photos, some video of our new dance (the "Egyptian Helmsman"). We might get it choreographed in time for the awards banquet!
Robbie, Tori, Jim, Patrick, Doug and one wayward Australian (Keith)
Funny things happen at sea...including sea monsters! Moderate breeze 18-20kts the head of our reaching kite blew out...It wasn't my fault this time Nigel! Luckily we were able to recover th sail without getting it fouled under the boat. Scott has his job when we get home. I'm doubtful it can be repaired. Tori and Patrick are busy repairing the genoa that ripped 4 hours after the start. Now we have to position ourselves so we can use the genoa for the final jibe to Maui... a slightly more westerly track than originally planned for the reaching spin. Our ETA has now been delayed by approx 15 hours because of our maneuvers last night... oh well.
Aloha, Before leaving Juan de Fuca we destroyed our primary headsail (genoa). That cost us over 180 nm in speed difference and angles. Since making the turn to to present course we've been closing the gap on our class and the fleet. Today we are approx 180 behind Kinetic and have closed to within striking distance of Turicum and Anne Bonny. Over the next five days we hope to further close on Kinetic and pass Turicum, Anne Bonny and Family Affair. Stay tuned!