Elusive made it safely into Kane’ohe on Sunday morning, making the crossing from San Francisco in just under ten days. It wasn’t quite the arrival we expected, since it coincided precisely with that of Tropical Storm Darby. We opted out of flying a spinnaker through the finish line, but managed some impressive surfs as the leading edge of the storm hit us just before the finish. The coral reef is only a mile past the finish, so we immediately heated the boat up and started working on getting sails down. This is when things started getting hairy, as our jib had been lashed on to the broken head stay foil, and as we turned into the wind and the sail started to flog, one of the lashings dug into the foil like a cheese slicer and blocked the whole operation. Here we were in a gale with a coral reef to our lee, unable to pull down our sail. We quickly reefed the main and decided to follow the escort boat into the channel and send Ronnie up the rig once we were in the flat waters of the lagoon. After this, we found out that we would sadly have to anchor the boat in the lagoon until the storm passed, which meant that someone would have to stand anchor watch through the night. Adam and Pat took up this duty, and Jim brought them bourbon and pizza for their trouble. Fourteen hours later, Elusive arrived at the dock with three somewhat worse-for-wear sailors and some tales of middle-of-the-night shenanigans.
All in all it was a difficult crossing, but Elusive faired comparatively well, since the rest of the fleet saw quite a few dismastings, a plethora of exploded spinnakers, destroyed engines, broken rigging, and medical emergencies. Now the boat and sailors are clean and dry, and will soon be ready for their trip home.
After our last misadventure with a spinnaker, and the discovery of a small hole in our mainsail, we’ve put Elusive in damage control mode and throttled back a fair bit, running with a #4 jib poled out. Since the seas don’t seem to be flattening out any time soon, we’ll probably keep this configuration most of the way to Hawaii. It’s actually almost as fast as a spinnaker in terms of miles made good. Spirits are high as we get close to the finish. Last night saw only a couple squalls, and for most of the night Elusive glided on top of beautiful moonlit swells, with a couple stars peeking through the clouds here and there. ETA is tentatively set for the morning of the 24th, about 48 hours from now, although the winds might lighten up and slow us down a little as we get closer.
Last night started with a good bit of moonlight and ended with some tough reaching in pitch black conditions and confused swells, the boat blasting through swells at a solid ten knots, occasionally getting tossed way off course by a big wave. We saw our first ship shortly before sunrise, a bulk freighter headed across our route to Panama; it crossed about a mile behind us. The wind veered enough in the morning to think about hoisting a spinnaker several times, but always piped up enough to douse that idea. After a couple hours of this, things seemed to settle, and we took in the second reef and put up the fractional A5. It took us about an hour to get the boat back under control, with a couple serious round-ups. The boat’s rudder is a little undersized, and every ten minutes or so a train of waves will come by that knocks the bow up and the stern down, and we go for a broach with the helm unable to respond. After 8 hours of this it seems like we’ve become a pretty well-trained team, easing the spinnaker sheets and steering down in anticipation to keep the boat from wiping out. Hopefully we can keep this up in the dark too!
The Santa Cruz 50s have all taken off and we’re doing our best to keep up with them. We’ve made 225 miles made good in the last 24 hours. Things are finally drier and warmer today although the boat is still quite damp down below (there are reports of rain in Tom’s berth). Sailing with a spinnaker up 43 hours into the race is a very nice treat!
Elusive at N33 34 W130 25
We’ve spent the day reaching in 25kts, with gusts as high as 30, and 10-12 ft seas on the beam. It’s pretty rough conditions, but those of us who’ve done this on small boats with low freeboard are quite happy to have a dry bunk to go to at the end of our watch (our thoughts are with our friends on Rufless). Pat and I bailed what must’ve been two dozen buckets of water out from under the floorboards throughout the day, but with a tube of sealant, a ziploc bag and massive amounts of various types of tape he seems to have stopped the leaking coming from the retractable sprit. Jim continues to impress the crew with all sorts of excellent food. Yesterday was a home-made lasagna with pork sausage from his own farm (best lasagna I’ve ever had), today was a caesar salad with grilled chicken. I went on a foray through the fridge looking for pickles and came back with the knowledge that more delicacies lie ahead.
Skies were clear throughout the day and the moon has been showing up for most of the night. The winds have been progressively clocking to the North throughout the evening, and we are now reaching at about 125 degrees TWA. This could mark an early beginning of the end for the most unpleasant part of this journey.
Elusive at N35 15; W127 29
After a very hectic morning getting things stowed on the boat and finishing the last couple items of preparation, we made it off the dock at Sausalito and headed for the starting area. With 8 boats in our start, things got a little crowded at the pin and we had to do a last minute 360, but still managed to get a good start. We had about 20 knots of breeze to the gate before it lightened up and we quickly shook out the reef and changed to a bigger headsail as we sailed into the foggy Gulf of the Farallones. As we made our way to the synoptic breeze during the night, winds have continually built up and veered so that we are now sailing in 25 knots from the NNW, under two reefs and a #4. The boat is doing well this morning, making about 8.5 kts and people are trying to get rest in the 15ft swells. Pat bailed out about 5 buckets of water from the cabin; after first thinking it might’ve come down the companionway hatch, it seems to actually be coming from the back end of the retractable bowsprit. Pat is enterprising to fix it with a giant roll of tape. We were greeted by a small pod of dolphins shortly before sunrise.
After a quick sail today to check out our modified main and set up reef points and genoa staysail, Elusive is ready to go. A few last minute items still have us all running errands. But we are ship shape for our start tomorrow at 1pm. Once underway you’ll be able to check this space for updates.
It’s summer again, which means I’m gearing up for another Pacific crossing. This time it’s Pacific Cup, for which I’ll be sailing on Tom Furlong’s Club Swan 42 Elusive. We set sail on July 14th from San Francisco, headed for Kane’ohe, Hawai’i. As navigator I get to figure out how to get us there as quickly as possible! I’m looking forward to a fun race with my SHTP buddies Ronnie and Adam, and a few other talented sailors, on a beautiful and well-prepared boat.