08/07/2012, N29 31 W153 46
Day 7th - August 5th: Part II THE BEACH THAT WAS NOT
We wake up to a beautiful, sunny sky. Herr Kapitan (Jim) hears the engine making some unusual noise, nothing big, just a subtle change in the rhythmic humming of Red Sheilla's reliable Yanmar power machine. It is a calm day, the sea flat and we stop the boat. Herr Leutnant Best (Bill) volunteers to check the prop, dons the diving mask and flippers and over he goes, diving into the crystal clear, blue water. Sure enough there is something on the prop shaft. Herr Leutnant reports "it looks like eel grass". "There is NO eel grass a thousand miles from land!", shouts back Herr Kapitan. Down goes the Leutnant again, a knife between his teeth, clears the prop shaft and comes up with a big grin on his face. What looked like eel grass is indeed eel plastic strapping, nasty stuff.
On we go. I have another cup of coffee and look at the big Pacific Ocean in disbelieve as it presents itself flat as a pancake. "It must have looked like that when it was christened the "Pacific" Ocean" I mumble to myself.
Time for a swim. We jump off the transom of the boat, Herr Leutnant Best keeps "shark watch" while the rest of us swim around the boat. The water temperature close to 30 degrees celsius. Quite amazing, hard to describe the feelings when swimming more than a thousand miles from the nearest beach.
Later that day we hit the halfway mark. We celebrate this with a G&T, homemade mac an cheese and later pint of beer. Salut!
1,250 mile from anywhere. This is almost as far away from land as Point Nemo, the point on our planet furthest away from land. It is located in the South Pacific, approximately 1,660 miles from Pitcairn Island (where the mutineers of the Bounty started their new life) and Antarctica.
Day 8th - August 6th ROUTINE AT SEA Not much to report today. For a few days we have been seeing Turicum's sails during the day and her tri-light at the top of the mast at night. But now we are pulling away from them as they had to deal with some technical issues earlier on. They report all is ok again and we keep assisting them in relaying messages as their sat phone connection is marginal.
As big a deal as it was on the way to Hawaii to determine the point for the "Big Gybe" towards Maui, Jim was doing all sorts of fancy calculations and navigational acrobatics to determine the point where Red Sheilla would tack towards North America. The big day has finally arrived and we are now on a long port tack home. Just over 1,100 miles to go.
As Turicum's light disappeared over the horizon behind us, Red Heather's stern light starts to dance ahead of us. "Be aware, Red Heather, Red Sheilla is coming and we want your Spam!" Slowly but surely we reel them in, true to the old saying "There is a race, whenever there are two sails on the horizon". Although a faster boat, she is no match for Red Sheilla and and at about 3 am we pass them within a hundred yards to leeward. Onward we sail into the next squall, accelerating quickly, leaving Red Heather far behind as they missed the squall.
We had a friendly chat with them just prior to passing. We exchanged a few pleasantries, talked about the best tactics to get home, wished each other fair winds and the radio went quiet again. The only sound coming from the endless water rustling by the hull and the creaking noises of the rigging and hull.
Squalls keep lining our way and the "squall-shotting" continues. Leutnant Best takes the helm. Good night.
Day 9th - August 7th DOLPHINS
I woke up to the call "Dolphins, dolphins". Struggling out of my berth, on deck I go and there they are: Dozens of dolphins play around Red Sheilla. Jumping joyfully above the waves, darting through the water along the hull and putting a smile on our face.
What a way to start the day. Hot chocolate and porridge is a welcome breakfast after yesterday's quesadilla festival.
Please allow me a small digression as I like to send a Happy Birthday note to my dad who turns 70 today: "Alles Gute zum Geburi aus dem Pacific!"
The sun shines bright above the horizon, the breeze is steady at about 15 knots, slightly forward of our port beam, pleasant sailing. The breeze is supposed to lighten later today and we enjoy the sail as long as it lasts. We only had to motor for about a day so far and there might be some more "sailing under the iron spinnaker" during the following days to line up Red Sheilla for her final approach to the Juan the Fuca Strait (currently still some 1,100 miles away).
08/07/2012, N29 31 W153 46
Day 7th - August 5th NIGHT WATCH II
We, the 4 delivery swabbies, overlap each other by 2 hours in our individual 4 hour watch periods. When Christof leaves, Jay comes up for my last 2 hours, and then Ross relives me and on through the night. 2 nights ago Jay, who by the way is a psycho-therapist and not what I wrote above, and I were literally watching, on our Watch, a seemingly endless line of squalls pass us to starboard as we sailed on northwards
Consider the face of a big old kitchen clock (with numbers) and you are sitting mentally in the center of the clock face with 12:00 straight ahead of you with 03:00, 06:00, and 09:00 at your right hand, directly behind you, and at your left hand respectively. These small squalls would pass slowly by us from the 01:00 through to 05:00 (actually they stayed still and we passed them but it seems the other way around in the boat). As we/they approached each other we would get a rapidly increasing wind radiating outwards in all directions from the center of the squall or cell. They are like embryonic thunderstorms that have not yet grown up into thunder and blitzen mayhem producing nasties like those seen during a real storm. These are cute little clouds gently dropping rain when viewed from afar. The winds are gusty, generally increasing from 5-6 knots to 15 gusting to 20 knots and take about 20 to 30 minutes to pass. This does not sound like a big deal but the force on our sails is directly proportional to the square of the wind velocity. That means the force of a 5 knot wind produces a force per unit area of 25 square thing units while a 20 knot wind produces a force per unit area of 400 thing units. You can call them metric thingys or foot/pound thingys as you are comfortable with but it is the same amount of push on the boat system that you must oppose with the force from your rudder. This why a sailboat leans or heals while sailing in anything stronger than light winds but you can take a sailing course to learn all that neat stuff. This can come on in about 15 to 30 seconds from an almost calm and really gets one’s attention if the sails are trimmed to power up as much as possible in a light wind. Do nothing soon enough and the boat can be blown onto its side (knocked down).
Before leaving this bit and horrify wives and children, friends and relatives of the racers and deliverers, that is why we are there at the helm and alert and on watch. Besides, the world needs more lerts. As the wind speed increases we ease the helm (turn the steering wheel) to counter the rounding up tendency with opposite rudder. As the gust decreases we ease the helm off towards neutral or whatever was required before the gust. Easy once you have done it a couple or many times. It actually can become a sort of bouncing ballet with the helmsman a sort of conductor of the intricate and random movements of the boat through the night waters. I am reminded of the scene in the movie Das Boot where the submarine was passing through the ocean at night and plunging smoothly and elegantly through the Atlantic swells on its way to a patrol area. Red Sheilla has a somewhat similar bounding ahead motion as she powers through the conflicting waves and swells like an eager greyhound straining to catch the uncatchable rabbit at the race track.
Jay and I were taking turns handling these squall cells as they passed in the night, going from massive amounts of weather helm to neutral and back in order to keep tracking straight on our desired northward course. In one of the lulls between cells I commented that this is somewhat similar to NASA slingshotting satellites beside the planets outbound to Pluto, picking up energy as they approach the next planet and diving in and out of the gravity well and being slung outward to the next. Pretty deep but there wasn’t much going on between cells and we had lots of time to talk. Cool! Time for an advert here. “Next time you are beset with unwanted squalls, who you gonna call? Squall Busters!!!” We also train delivery crews in Squall Shotting. Call 1- 800-SQUALL. Hurry.
Next, we were becalmed, zero boat speed but with a currant drift rate of 1 knot exactly in our desired direction. With this small energy state we drifted with no helm control between 2 cells which were approximately a mile apart. We were expecting to do some 360 turn arounds or some such exiting uncontrolled exercise but instead we silently ghosted through with no wind at all. I guess the squalls cancelled out each other’s winds. Also, I experimented with full right rudder and we very very slowly came to starboard and with full left rudder again the helm answered with zero indicated or observable weigh upon. Magic moments at night are us! Daytime as well. The whole package is magical when I think about it. My old grade 12 physics teacher who didn’t think I would amount to much, would be amazed to see me now, in the middle of some part of the Pacific Ocean, not having amounted to much but having another incredible time of my life. Apparently I didn’t need the physics. All for now from Leutnant Best.
08/04/2012, N29 31 W153 46
Bill Best: Hi all. I thought I would like to offer some comments to those of you reading Christof’s Blog who might not be front line offshore sailors or even sailors at all. Why do we do this stuff? My understanding is that we all have an elemental connection with the sea both physiologically and psychologically. Our sweat and tears have the same salt content as sea water and we have been tied to the sea for our sustenance for thousands of years. We came from it, rely on it, and both fear and wonder and write about it. It is part of our very being. Sailing was the first way we moved about for commercial military purposes. Perhaps two admirals want to know who had the best slave rowers and staged the first Carthage to Rome and the game was afoot. Two sailboats in sight of each other are instantly racing each other if going the same way. Who knows why?
Christof and I were on watch last night Aug 1/2 midnight to 08:00, overlapped so as to have two people looking ahead. We chatted about things like what were seeing over head, what we were doing, and other topics as they came up interspersed with long periods of silence while we each considered many things and feelings. We were hand steering and I mentioned that I was using the constellation Cassiopeia as a steering reference. It makes it easier to hold a heading if there is some reference ahead of you to tell if you are turning or not in the dark. We use the binnacle compass as the primary reference but it is harder to tell if you are turning until the turn has started. Think about driving at night on a highway without looking out the window and relying on a compass in the dash board. We are analogue creatures in an increasingly digital world but I digress. This brought up the panoply of stars overhead and we talked about the full moon which had risen an hour ago, some of the stars that we recognized and how Venus would look when she rose in the early pre-dawn. The sea state was much quieter than when we departed Maui early Monday morning, winds about 10 knots (nautical miles, 6080 feet per hour) gusting to 15 knots very rhythmically as we coursed northwards through the night.
Lets talk about the boat. Red Sheilla is about 50 feet long and weighs about 34000 pounds, lots of momentum to consider. She has been sailing about 7 knots on average since we left and has averaged about 180 nautical miles (nm) a day. She is perhaps the very best equipped sailboat in the Vic Maui race and delivery home process. Sailboats have a directional stability designed into them much like other boats and if left alone by other forces will continue on in straight line. When sailing, the wind is very seldom constant in either velocity or direction. If you let go of the steering wheel the boat will round up or in other words weather cock into the eye of the wind. Wind vanes sit on a roof and do the same thing. Sailors must over come this rounding up tendency by countering the force with opposite rudder input which is called weather helm which means turning the wheel in opposition to the boats nose turning when you don’t want it to. Why it rounds up and it’s determination to do so while we trying to go straight depends on the force of the wind gusts. This means we are always correcting our heading.
We are 5 crew members, 2 ex-pilots, Jim, a still active pilot, Jay, a physiology therapist and Christof who is a sailing instructor. We are from different backgrounds but bound together by the need to guide Red Sheilla safely home. I was struck last night by how great an opportunity this was for me to experience true off shore sailing at its best. More later if they will let me. BB
08/02/2012, N29 31 W153 46
Day 3 - part 2
Today, besides being a fine day for sailing, it is also Swiss National Day and being the only Swiss aboard I get a double ration of pancakes :) My request to shoot off a couple of flares in celebration of the day was politely, but firmly turned down.
On we sail to the tunes of Il Divo. We all enjoyed some time on the foredeck looking at the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, feeling its beat as Red Sheilla gently glides along its surface. Bill even had a “Titanic Moment” on the bow. We all cheered!
Hawaii is more than 500 miles in our wake and we have not seen another boat since that lonely sail, probably a straggler in the Pac-Cup heading for Oahu, briefly appeared over the horizon on day one.
Snap! Our 40 lb trolling line breaks and as I look astern I see a yellowfin tuna jumping three feet high out of the water, grinning at us as we sail away without him on the line. This time you win, we will get you another time, we were looking for Mahi Mahi (Dorado) anyway. Jim, not happy to see another of his hoochies gone pays out the 400 lb line.
Time for happy hour! A beer each, chips, wasabi peas and beef jerky. As we are waiting for the chicken pies to get ready, the generator impeller decides to pack it in. Overheating. Jim’s goes down into the lazarette, takes the raw water pump apart and replaces the impeller. Well, done! He is not only a great skipper and a good chef, but also an expert mechanic.
Jay, Ross and Bill assist Jim with the repair work while I am on the helm, trying to keep the boat flat but mainly enjoying a beautiful sunset while the others were sweating (feeling a bit guilty, but not too much).
As the sun goes down the sky changes from azure to golden and fire red. The cumulus clouds rise like dark castles in the West. The moon climbs over horizon in the East, curtains of rain shower trying to cover its appearance. Cassiopeia leading the way again as Red Sheilla sails into the darkness of the night.
Day 4 - August 2nd
RIDING THE SQUALLS
The wind is variable this morning. The moon shines bright astern, our wake looking like a silver stream. Venus and Jupiter shine brightly over the eastern sky. As the moon gradually ascends, Venus and Jupiter politely make way and edge higher on the sky and the moon sinks in the west, every now and then glancing between the towers of the castles still lining our way.
A squall, still sucking in air, approaches Red Sheilla’s leeward side, filling her sails with a strong breeze and she accelerates quickly and soon we cruise along at 10 knots again. There is almost no swell and the boat slices through the water as if on tracks, steadily making miles as we are heading north.
The sky still a beautiful spectacle of castles in the west, fire and rain curtains in the east while Venus and the Moon compete for our attention, we ride squalls like a horse on a race track. Sailing as good as it gets.
A white sail becomes visible on our port side. After days of not seeing any boat we are all exited to see a fellow sailor close by. We think it’s Double Take, one of our competitors during the Vic-Maui race. There are a few other boats nearby: Red Heather is just north and slightly west of us, Turicum sails in the same latitude maybe 20 or 30 miles east of us and we believe Terramoto is not far astern, but they have issues with their single side band radio so they don’t check in during our informal daily roll call. Turicum reported fine sailing, but they do have problems in getting their sat phone to work so can’t send or receive emails. We are assisting them as much as we can from Red Sheilla. Ballymack reported earlier that they are underway as well.
As I am writing this, I hear somebody from the cockpit yelling: “Fish on”. Up we all go - and there he is, green and blue, glittering in the sun, fighting his fate. But the 400 lb line holds strong. Jim gets on the line, hand bombs her in, foot by foot while the Mahi Mahi is trying to wrestle free, but he is no match for Jim. In the cockpit he lands, no chance to avoid his fate.
An hour later the smell of garlic fills the cabin and soon fresh fish filets sizzle in the frying pan. A little cayenne and pepper some salsa and ready is our Mahi Mahi wrap. Delicious!
After lunch we are having a little shooting contest. Bill’s undies hang from the lifeline and someone had the brilliant idea to roll up the paper towels from our lunch into balls and throw them at the hanging garment. The skipper hits the bulls eye and gets three points. We are all having a good laugh at sight of a flying short filled with a paper ball of paper towel. “Bill, we thought you just washed them?” OK, I just hear someone saying what happens aboard, stays aboard!
Onward we sail.
08/01/2012, N26 48 W155 07
Vic - Maui 2012 - Red Sheilla Delivery
Day 1 - July 30th
A BUMPY RIDE
6:45 am the dock lines come off. Friends and family stand on the dock in Lahaina waiving us goodbye as Red Sheilla quietly backs out of her slip. A new adventure begins, more than 2,300 miles across the Pacific from Maui back to Vancouver.
It’s a beautiful morning, the sun shines over the ocean while low hanging clouds empty themselves in the valleys high above Lahaina. The rain showers cover the green valleys like grey curtains contrasting the dark blue sky above.
The wind, funneled by Maui and Molokai, picks up as we enter the channel between the two islands. Hawea Point hides behind the dark clouds of the first squall. We are seeing 20+ knots of wind as we beat towards the open ocean.
To our surprise, the wind does not abate as we leave the channel. Instead it is now blowing steadily 20 - 25 knots, seas are six to eight feet tall with the odd roller more than ten feet. Red Sheilla powers through the waves at 10+ knots occasionally launching off a big wave, coming down into the trough the hull shuddering from the impact. Jim’s face cringes.
Maui disappears quickly behind a thick layer of clouds as we head for the open Pacific. Squall after squall goes by. The water spray flies off the bow like a butterfly. One nasty wave, big enough to roll over the foredeck and above the dodger soaked everybody in the cockpit.
We continue with a reefed main sail and the number three jib hanked on the inner forestay. 6 pm - is happy hour. Despite the bumpy ride we have a beer. Jim says: “ A beer day, keeps the doctor away”. Cheers!
The sun sets in the west the moon rises in the east - a beautiful sunset and off we sail into the night. The spray on the bow now gets illuminated by the navigation lights. The butterfly now has a red wing on it’s left side and a green wing on the right side.
We are all covered in a thin layer of salt from the continues spray that flies over the deck. When I took my shirt off, I could almost stand it up in the cabin. Time for some sleep.
Day 2 - July 31st
The wind settled down for the day and we are having a wonderful day of sailing. At about 12 knots of breeze, with the wind almost on her beam Red Sheilla is effortlessly skimming over the water. Time for showers. Yes, a fresh water shower on day 2 while sitting on the transom of the boat. All thanks to the Village Marine water maker that produces 16/USG/hr of fresh water.
The wind continues at around 12 knots from the east, we shake out the reef and get the boat speed up to 10 knots. Wonderful.
The sun starts to go down - time for happy hour. Out comes the cold beer and we toast to a fun ride home. We are sailing along to the tunes of some blues. Ross, recognizes some Van Morrison and BB King. Life is really good.
For dinner we enjoy home made Mac & Cheese, courtesy of Jay’s daughter Odessa. Delicious! Thank you from the crew of Red Sheilla!!
The moon appears in the East. Every now and then it tries to hide behind a puff of cumulus clouds, almost like it wants to dim its bright light for us to see the stars better. Bill is steering towards the stars of Cassiopeia while the rest of the crew enjoys the sounds of some Spanish classical guitar music. Magical.
Time for me to get off watch and get some sleep. As I am dozing off I hear the water whispering by the hull while the music on deck changes to a symphony.
Day 3 - August 1st
ENJOY THE RIDE
After I woke up this morning I realized that I am two hours late for my watch. It turns out that Jay was so fascinated by the passing squalls and the resulting wind changes that he forgot to wake me up in time.
Depending on what trajectory the squalls take around the boat, the wind can change quickly by 15 knots or more. Red Sheilla got run over by one squall and she came to a screeching halt, doing a complete donut while the wind was trying to decide what it wanted to do before settling in at 15 knots. Once again we are tracking north.
My turn on the helm. The sun rises, glowing red between two black clouds, rolling out a glittering carpet over the ocean. At the same time the smell of fresh pancakes and bacon comes from the galley. What a way to start the day. Thank you Jim.
07/31/2012, N24 W156 18
On our way home... estimates range from 13 days to 16... we'll see who wins the car! Ross and Bill took most of the day off... working in their sea legs. Ross is at the helm this morning... doing much better having had a cafe mocha and english muffin with raspberry jam. The sea's are typical trade winds, close reaching a little bashing once and an while but nice sailing! Aloha