Posts tagged singlehanding

Video – Singlehanded Transpac Tour of the Boat

I’m finally getting around to cutting some of the footage from the 2012 Big Pacific Adventure, and I thought this little clip might help some of the people preparing for this year’s Singlehanded Transpac and Pacific Cup races, so it’s the first to go up. I threw in a few gratuitous sailing scenes just for fun!

Idefix 2012 – Tour of the boat from Adrian Johnson on Vimeo.

Made it!

Idefix is in Hanalei, rafted up to Green Buffalo (thanks Jim!). Got in shortly after midnight last night. The last day was an incredible white-knuckle ride. During the night I’d taken down the spinnaker in a squall, just left main up and gone to sleep for 5 or 6 hours. I woke up on Friday and the wind had finally arrived. The waves had picked up quite a bit too. The boat was moving at 6 or 7 knots with just the main. I did some quick time-distance-speed calculations and was faced with a conundrum. I was 150 miles away, and I could slow down some and get there early Saturday morning, as planned, but I would’ve felt stupid trying to slow the boat further. I didn’t want to arrive in the pre-dawn hours, because I’ve been falling asleep at 3am like clockwork. But I see that if I average 8 knots, I can get there at midnight. So I decide I’m going to put the pedal to the metal and try to get there as early as possible. The catch is that there’s no way the autopilot is going to handle the boat with a chute up in 20-knot winds and messy 10-foot seas. So I finish breakfast, toss an armful of snacks and drinks into the cockpit, crank up the music, hoist the chute and am off on a wild ride that’ll last 16 hours. I was doing mental math the whole way and calculated an average 10 knots for the first hour, and 9-9.5 for the rest of the day. I got drenched by waves breaking into the cockpit within the first 10 minutes, so needless to say it was not a comfortable ride. I managed to leave the tiller 5 or 6 times to fuel up on food, water or caffeine, but that often ended in a broach or accidental jibe. At some point I went past the research ship Kilo Moana, which was hoding station 85 miles from Hanalei, and chatted them up on the VHF. They mentioned they’d seen another sailboat go by five days ago, by the name of Truth, and he was hauling like me. I was pretty flattered that they thought I was anywhere near Truth in speed! Eventually the sun went down, and the Kilauea lighthouse came into view. Then it was down to the last few miles, and soon I was trying to pick out the lights of the condo, and trying to reach the race committee on the VHF, and getting run over by squalls. Last time I had cleaned up and shaved before the finish. This time I took one last big gulp of coffee and managed to spill it all over myself. Oh well. Finally just pulled out my cellphone and called the race deck. Last couple miles the wind shifts a ton. I’d been expecting it, but then forgot. Fighting to keep the chute up, eyes riveted to the GPS to make sure I cross the line without hitting the reef. Finally I’m there.
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Sent at 2012-07-13 15:50 UTC from 23°11.21’N 156°57.58’W

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Free Book!

Andy Evans, who sailed the Olson 30 Foolish Muse in the 2006 SHTP, has written a neat online book on singlehanded sailing. It’s full of good insights, and I wish I’d had it when I was preparing for the race. Andy has clearly put a lot more thought and effort into preparing himself and his boat for singlehanding than I have, and you can read all about it in this book!

A sliver of gray in the mist: Kaua'i.

SHTP Part Eight – 3rd July 2010

Read Part Seven.

At morning check-in I am 81 miles from Hanalei. Dave is 352 miles behind me, and making a very respectable speed for a boat with a broken boom, but I am pleased with my advance. My impatience is growing. All morning I keep interrupting my reading of “Mutiny on the Bounty” to scan the horizon for land, to no avail. To make matters worse, the trades are lighter today and my boat seems to be wallowing helplessly in the swells instead of screaming down waves. I’d hate to have to cross the finish in the dark and consider hoisting the spinnaker on the jib halyard for a while. But I feel I’ve had enough problems already and can’t risk the halyard chafing through the forestay, or splitting the luff foil, or whatever else might happen. I think about it most of the day, though. I have visions of bikini-clad girls  on the beach interrupting their game of volleyball to watch Idefix surfing gloriously across the finish and into Hanalei Bay under a billowing chute. These visions are punctuated with others of the boat dismasting in sight of the finish line and running aground on the reef. It’s hard for me to adopt a fatalistic attitude after all the hard work and tough decisions that got me here, but I eventually convince myself to let things happen at their own pace, and rule out any thought of flying the chute. Instead I decide to make myself presentable for the welcoming committee and pull out my trusty bucket for a quick bath and shave, then put on a clean WYC shirt. I return to my berth and finish the book, and land is still not in sight. Clouds stretch across the horizon, and I guess the visibility to be no better than 15-20 miles. I have the feeling the clouds to the southwest are a little denser and higher, but perhaps it’s wishful thinking, helped along by my GPS-induced conviction that the island is there. The last time I checked my position with anything other than a GPS was 6 days ago, when I took a sun sight and came out 20 miles off (after three rounds of correcting my algebra). I certainly hope the little magic boxes know their stuff.

Having nothing better to do, I take a long afternoon nap. When I finally emerge from my berth, I scan the clouds to the southwest and spot a thin gray coastline emerging from the mist. There it is, something I’d promised myself a long time ago: my first sight of a Hawaiian Island, off the bow of my sailboat.

A sliver of gray in the mist: Kaua

I expected a wave of relief, a huge sense of accomplishment at the sight of land. Maybe it’s because the island is barely creeping out of the mists instead of towering out of the ocean, but all I’m feeling is how far away from home I am, what a long trip is still ahead of me, and a recollection of the stress of being on land, getting a boat ready for an ocean voyage. My apprehension about the trip home has grown substantially in the last couple days. This race has been physically and mentally draining, and the voyage home will be 50% longer, the winds and waves that have been pushing me to Hawai’i will be against us, I’ll have to share my small living space with someone else, and we’ll be heading into a cold, stormy, and empty part of the Pacific. Will my sanity survive? Can the boat make it?

I tune my VHF radio to the race frequency and make a call, but the radio makes a strange clicking sound when I key the mic, and I get only static in return. The island seems much closer now, and I can make out a ridge of mountains, and shades of green on the shore.

Green mountains take shape.

I wonder now about the arrival. Is my radio working? Will they be expecting me? Will I run my boat onto the reef? I check the radio antenna connection and make another call.

Nothing.

Then some static. Finally a crackly voice says the name of my boat and something unintelligible. I respond that I’ll try again when I get closer, as we obviously can’t make out what the other is saying.

The Na

I clean up the boat a bit and adjust the sails. The wind has been slowly clocking, and I’m finally beginning to understand the advice in Stan Honey’s weather brief – I should’ve been aimed 10 or 15 miles upwind of Hanalei to anticipate the wind shift around the island. It would’ve made a big difference if I’d had a spinnaker up, but with the #4, it’s no big deal to take the pole down and trim in the sails.

The Kilauea lighthouse.

I’m now 10 miles from the finish, and I can see the Kilauea lighthouse on shore. The race committee has me in sight and is expecting me. The long race feels like a little daysail now that I’m close to land. I pull out my cellphone, call some friends, and send some text messages. I feel like I’ve broken some sort of pious vow of silence. I relish the last moments of being a solo ocean racer.

So close you can smell the mountains.

I can see buildings on the island. The mountains are covered in more shades of green than I knew existed. After two weeks of nothing but featureless ocean, they’re the most beautiful mountains I’ve ever seen. I’m still several miles upwind of the island, but I can smell it. Vegetation, dirt, rocks. Things I haven’t smelled in weeks.

Almost there.

I’m paying close attention to my GPS now, trying to avoid the reef at the mouth of the bay. Soon the voice on the radio calls out in a Canadian accent, which sounds completely out of place in the tropics: “Idefix, you have just completed the Singlehanded Transpac. Congratulations!”, then Bob comes on the radio: “Adrian, this is Bob, I want to congratulate you on sailing a fantastic race!”. I can barely reply. It was really a fantastic race to sail.

Read about the return trip here.

Traveler car, lashed in place.

SHTP Part Seven – 1st July 2010

The beginning of my troubles: broken traveler.

Read Part Six.

July 1st will turn into a very unpleasant day for me. In the early afternoon the shackle on my spinnaker sheet pops open, and I douse the spinnaker. Since the wind has veered to the East, I decide to re-hoist on starboard tack. I’m now less than 50 miles north of the Tropic of Cancer, it’s positively hot, and I’m drenched in sweat. The wind is not quite as strong as yesterday, but the swells are strong and the boat is still surfing. In one particularly good surf, the main gets backwinded, and as the boat slows on the backside of the wave, fills to the wrong side in an accidental jibe. I grab the sheet and fling it back, but the traveler catches on the lip of the track mount, cracks, and begins to spill its bearings all over the cockpit. I grab the box of Fig Newtons I’d been eating out of and use it to collect the bearings. Eventually the traveler has spilled enough of them to lift off the track, and I have to lash it down with a piece of line. Thankfully I’m going downwind, the loads on the mainsheet are low, and I will probably only have to jibe once or twice more before the finish. I’m upset at breaking something so close to Hawaii, though, and worry about the annoyance of trying to find replacement parts once I get there.

A couple hours later I’ll be faced with a much more serious problem, which will make me completely forget the traveler. As the chute fills after a beautiful surf, the mast shudders and I hear something tumble out of the rigging and onto the deck, then overboard. I half expect the mast to come down, or perhaps one of the sails, but nothing happens. I’m kind of perplexed. I’m pretty sure my mind did not make up the distinct sound I just heard, but then again I’ve been having auditory hallucinations for the last week… so I confer with the voices on the boat and we all agree something is not right. The instruments at the masthead seem to all be in place, and I can’t see any missing rigging. The shrouds and stays are still holding tight, and I can’t figure out what broke. I decide to continue for a while, as the boat is moving nicely, but eventually the wind picks up, anxiety gets the better of me, and I take the spinnaker down to get a better look at the rigging and check for chafe. The spinnaker comes down with more difficulty than usual, but I can’t see anything wrong with the rigging, and there are no signs of chafe, so I hoist it back up, which is also difficult. After a couple hours, the wind has picked up into the low twenties, large squalls are starting to roll in, and the autopilot is having a hard time keeping the boat from rounding up in the large cross swells, so I make up my mind to douse the chute early and put up the jib. Before doing so, I decide to take the spinnaker net down. I start pulling and realize there is a lot of tension in the halyard. I get the net about halfway down when I look up and see the chafe guard that protects the halyards at the masthead is coming down with it! Suddenly I realize that the piece of rigging that fell out of the mast is the pin that holds my two spinnaker halyard sheaves in. The sheaves have likely dropped inside the mast, and I can no longer fly my spinnakers! I fly into a rage, screaming as many obscenities as I can think of at the top of my lungs until I’m hoarse. I’ve come so far, and been in the lead for so long, and suddenly my race looks toast. Without a spinnaker, Warrior’s Wish will make short work of me, and Saraband will easily correct ahead of me. All because of my stupid laziness. I had seen that the threads holding in the sheave pins were stripped when I had the mast down long before the race. I had riveted in the one for the jib halyard, but gave up on fixing the upper one, because it was a little more work, and I wanted to get the mast back up. My friends John and Goran had advised me to do something about it, and I’d ignored them, and here it is bringing an end to my race. I’m such an idiot. I will never hear the end of it.

This stuff should all be at the masthead. See here for comparison.

Eventually a wave coming over the foredeck and dousing me in warm, clear water pulls me out of my recriminations, and I get to work putting the #4 up and poling it out. I bring the useless spinnaker halyards back to the mast base and tie them off. For a second I consider climbing the rig to lash a block at the top of the mast for an external halyard, but with the climbing gear I’ve put together I’m barely capable of climbing to the spreaders at the dock, and I can’t fathom getting to the masthead with the boat rolling in waves. I think of flying the spinnaker from the jib halyard, but it would certainly chafe against the fiber forestay, which could bring the mast down. I pause for a while and feel the motion of the boat. She is still hitting speeds in the double digits, surfing down the swells, albeit less frequently than before. With no spinnaker to roll the boat around, the autopilot is having a much easier time keeping Idefix headed straight, and I can leave her to her own devices. I’m also running deeper downwind with the jib than with the spinnaker. Perhaps all is not lost? After all, I had 80 miles made good the previous night with the same sail configuration. I go down below to note the incident in my logbook, and calculate ETAs based on average speeds of 6.5 and 6.75 knots, which is what I seem to be doing with my current sail configuration. The faster speed will put me there at 21:00 on July 3rd (18:00 local), or a little more than 48 hours from now. I can count my ETE in hours, and arrive in daylight, what else could I possibly want? I’m still hoarse from freaking out earlier, but it felt good to let some emotion out, and I’m now more at peace than I have been in a very long time.

My wimpy new sail configuration.

At the evening check-in, I realize I was foolish to get upset about my situation. I have a 145-mile lead on Warrior’s Wish, and Ronnie would have to average almost 10 knots to catch up to me, which is all but impossible, even for a Mount Gay 30. I’m finally getting a grip on the magnitude of the lead I have. I’m in a good position to take home a trophy, even with a crippled boat. I’m 323 miles ahead of Saraband, still short of my target 365, and our speeds are almost similar. I picture the Westsail 32, a stately platform overlooking the blue, rolling in the swells, plowing inexorably towards Kaua’i under full canvas, while Idefix, a fifth the weight and less than half the sail area, does her best imitation of a cross between a surfboard and a submarine. How different the ride must feel for Dave! I think of relating my tales of woe to the other skippers, but I’m having a hard time getting a word in edgewise, between talk of microwave dinners and on-board refrigeration and I realize that if they know I’ve slowed down much, they might push harder to catch up, so I turn off the SSB for the night.

A blue-footed booby attacks my wind vane.

So long, bird!

With the loss of my spinnaker halyards, my journey has become much more serene. The jib and main require virtually no trimming, and the autopilot is making a fine job of steering the boat, so I find myself with very little to do. There is no point in worrying about my position, as I have no way of making the boat go faster. Save a major disaster, I’ll be in Hawaii in less than two days. I sleep well that night, having to get up only to put in the second reef during a squall, then pull it out at dawn, which is much easier than I’d anticipated, even with the sail loaded up and in the shrouds. I make a mental note to reef again the following night.

On July 2nd my hope of correcting ahead of Saraband is perversely rekindled when Dave announces he has broken his boom. It’s a bit ironic, since I was warned before the start that Olson 30s usually either win the race or break their boom, and I had prepared for such an event by packing a bunch of aluminum angle and steel bands to splint the boom, which was reinforced. Unfortunately Dave had no such luck and had to jury rig a repair. Aside from this, it’s a boring day for me. I’d never have thought I’d ever get bored on a sailboat, let alone racing, but here I am, bored out of my wits. I’m anxious to make landfall, worried about fixing my broken hardware in Kaua’i, and dreading the long trip home. I shuffle through my navigation table and pull out “Mutiny on the Bounty”, which Peter had given me to read before my departure. I hadn’t planned on reading it until the trip home, but the book is a welcome relief from the monotony of sailing, so I get completely engrossed in it, and barely leave my berth, where I can read and nap in the shade. I don’t even pay attention to the fact that for the first time I am sailing South of the Tropic of Cancer.

Last sunset of the race. For the first time, the sun emerged from the clouds before diving into the ocean.

I jibe before sundown, and my last night at sea as a solo ocean racer is clear and beautiful. Hecla has just finished, and as I watch the sun set to the West I strain to see Hawai’i and think of my own arrival less than 24 hours from now. As the sky darkens I watch the Southern Cross rise out of the ocean, and spot Alpha Centauri, the closest star system to the Sun. To the North-Northwest Venus is wildly bright, and its reflection illuminates the waves. I crawl back into my berth and read for awhile, until a racket on deck pulls me from my book. A fish is flopping in the cockpit, and I chase it around a bit before getting my hands on the slippery little guy and throwing him back to the sea. He was big enough that if he had landed in the boat a couple hours earlier I would’ve had fresh fish for dinner, which would’ve been a welcome change. I’ve been dreaming of BBQ steak for a couple days now. I still have some dried sausage and cured ham, which is better than a lot of the other boats (especially George on Taz!!, who had packed mostly frozen food and saw it all thaw a couple days into the race). Since running out of bread I’ve been eating tortillas with nutella or peanut butter and jelly, or beans and sardines. I also have a couple cans of pears I get out on special occasions. Around midnight I see a light to the South, and figure it might be the glow of O’ahu, but eventually I conclude the distance is still much too great for that, and it must be a fishing boat. I stay up late to jibe back, which seems more complicated with the small jib than with the spinnaker. Of course, my clear night is interrupted by a single squall that hits me right in the middle of the jibe. For a little while I’m pelted with rain and wind, dancing with a flogging jib in the dark on a heaving foredeck while carrying a 12-foot pole and getting tangled up in lines. After this circus, the calm returns, and I go to bed for a solid night of sleep. Tomorrow is arrival day.

Read Part Eight.

My living space.

SHTP Part Six – 30th June 2010

The view out the cabin.

Read Part Five.

I awake in my berth at 08:00. I realize I’ve slept through my timer, and am slightly panicked that I might have lost a lot of miles to my competition in the last four hours. As I climb on deck though, I see that the boat is still moving about 5.5 knots under main alone. Perhaps the other Olson 30 drivers I talked to, who doused their chute at the first squall and went to bed, had it right. I’ve been exhausting myself trying to get ahead, and it seems to have worked, but I am in dire need of a good night’s sleep. It’s morning now, and there is not a squall in sight, so I hoist the chute, then make breakfast before checking in with the rest of the fleet. I’ve made good distance on the fleet, but Ronnie is not on the air this morning, which frustrates me, since I have been half expecting his faster boat to suddenly hit good winds and pull a fast one on me. I wonder if he slept in, or is dealing with a rigging problem, or perhaps something worse… For the first time I dare to calculate my ETA: July 4th, 05:00 PDT (02:00 Local). I’m not really looking forward to the possibility of coming in at night, especially given how exhausted I’ve been, but that’s still a long ways off. Four more days of solitary non-stop ocean. Four more days of being confined to this glorified surfboard, rolling on the waves, banging my head and limbs every time I turn around. Four more days of constant rushing water, screeching autopilots, and creaking rigging. Four more days without walking, without smelling anything other than the sea or my own sweat, without hearing a voice that hasn’t been stripped of its humanity by oscillators and filters, without seeing a human face. Four more nights without solid sleep.

I settle into my berth for a nap, but am awakened several times by the boat rounding up and broaching. The wind has picked up to about 20 knots, and speed is keeping between 8 and 10 knots, often more, but the swells have grown and keep knocking the boat off course. There are two swells, one from the East-North-East, which the boat surfs on easily, and the other from the South-East, which rolls the boat onto its beam, throwing it off course. The autopilot is slow to react to the rolls of the boat, occasionally allowing the boat to round up enough to broach. I was hoping for a restful day after my exhausting night, but spend most of it hand steering, or going about my chores while keeping an eye on the autopilot, ready to jump to the tiller and keep the boat from rounding up. I rinse some of my cushions and lay them out to dry in the cockpit, but they get doused with seawater when a couple waves break on the back of the boat. Thankfully the waves are helping the boat gain speed, and I see the speedo hit 14.3 in a surf.

Taking a break in the middle of my living space.

While it seems that there might not be a lot to do on a small boat at sea, I manage to always be incredibly busy. My paramount task of course is to keep the boat sailing fast, trimming and changing sails. I start the day with some hand steering to get a feel for how the boat is sailing, then put the autopilot on to make breakfast, copy the fleet’s morning positions, chat for a while with the other skippers, and make an entry in my log. I go back to steering after check in, then clean the dishes and make lunch. In the afternoon, I tune the radio to the weatherfax frequencies, and hand steer the boat while the faxes come in. The autopilot interferes with the HF radio, so I have to turn it off for several hours at a time to get clear weather pictures. After this is done I analyze the weather, plot positions, and update my strategy. If conditions allow I’ll take an afternoon nap. Then I have to make dinner, check in with the other boats for the evening, compare positions again, make an entry in the log, and decide a strategy for the night. On top of all this there is boat maintenance, fixing chafed rigging, cleaning, refilling my water bottles from the tanks, shooting pictures and video, and many of the other small tasks that keep the boat going in an orderly fashion. All this work, and the sense of solitude, isolation and humility caused by the presence of the ocean, help to clear my mind completely from the mundane thoughts one has ashore. It’s impossible not to live in the present of my situation, to be completely focused on the task at hand. Clarity of thought is something I have always loved about sailing, and now I feel that my mind is almost rid of the non-sailing world. There are times when I can reflect on the past, or think about my future, but with a detachment that is not possible when one is not surrounded by a thousand miles of ocean.

By evening check-in I’m very tired again, and Ronnie mentions that he’s going to douse his spinnaker and go under main alone for some sleep. This sounds like an appealing idea. I decide to hoist my #4 jib and pole it out. The boat barely slows down, averaging 6.5 or 7 knots, and still surfing frequently up to 10 or 11 knots. Down below, the sound of rushing water, waves slapping the hull, and the groaning autopilot are almost deafening, but they reassure me that the boat is running like it should, and I feel I can finally spend a quiet night. By morning I’ve made 85 miles towards Hanalei, only having to get up once when the boat was knocked beam-to by a large wave, and couldn’t get back down with the jib backwinded. I switch back to the spinnaker at dawn, and the boat is again barreling down the swells on the edge of control. My ETA in Hanalei is now July 4th, 0:00 (21:00 Local).

Read Part Seven.

A beautiful day in the trades.

SHTP Part Five – 28th June 2010

A beautiful day in the trades.

Read Part Four.

Over the next couple days, I make big gains on Warrior’s Wish, adding 25 or 30 miles to my lead for each 12-hour period. Ronnie is two degrees of latitude to the North and having a difficult time with little wind. I empathize with him, as a couple days ago I was the one stuck in light air while everyone else was moving, but the wind filled quickly for me. Part of me wishes Warrior’s Wish and Idefix were sailing in the same conditions so we could have a boat-for-boat race. Ronnie and I formed a friendship in the week preceding the race, and although we have different backgrounds, we share a bond in our love for competitive sailing. We have both put the last year of our lives completely into this race. We are both twenty-somethings racing 30-foot ultralights, and we’re both keen on having some good competition. I have more sailing experience, but Ronnie has sailed this ocean before, and I know he’s been spending a lot of time practicing on Warrior’s Wish and other race boats, whereas Idefix has hardly left the dock in recent months. Ronnie suffered horrific injuries as a soldier in Iraq, but has the incredible confidence, strength and stamina of a 25-year old Marine who has just rode a bicycle most of the way around the world. I am somewhat exhausted from months of hard work, but have managed to keep up a decent exercise regimen for the last few months, so I am by no means in poor shape. Ronnie’s Mount Gay 30 is a modern and powerful boat with lots of sail area, but my Olson 30 is significantly lighter, and easy for one person to handle. It would be a good battle, but for the moment I’m thankful that I’m in the lead with good wind.

With my growing lead on the rest of the fleet, it dawns on me I could be in the running for first on corrected time, not only in my divison, but for the entire race! Before the start, we were each handed a binder with the division breaks, handicaps, and tables in which to enter each boat’s position at every check-in. I’m looking at my binder now, doing some calculations, and identify Saraband as my closest competition. Dave has been pushing the Westsail 32 very fast, and he has the second-highest handicap in the fleet. I’m about 200 miles ahead, but owe him 58 hours. I make a guess at our average speeds, and figure that if I want to finish comfortably ahead of him, I need to have a 365-mile lead. At the rate that my lead has been increasing, it seems like I could barely achieve this by Hanalei, but I’m going to have to keep the boat moving fast.

Running with the squalls.

The winds have been progressively lightening up and shifting from north-easterly to easterly.  In the early morning hours of the 29th, my nights become interesting. I am overrun by a squall, and the wind picks up to 20 knots. The boat is moving nicely, but as the wind shifts I am slowly getting lifted up towards my self-imposed heading limit of 280 degrees. I really need to jibe, which would put me on a more direct course to the finish and get me away from the zone of light winds behind the squall. But the night is very dark, the boat is rolling on the swells, the wind is shifting frequently, and I’m terrified at the idea of jibing my big spinnaker in these conditions. I could douse the spinnaker and re-hoist on the other jibe, but that’s double the workload, and would slow the boat down enough that I’d inevitably end up stuck behind the squall. So I sit tight, watching the conditions, and trying to build up my courage for the maneuver. I’m now getting close to the edge of the squall, and the wind is starting to lighten up. Eventually it drops to 15, and I leap up to the foredeck and start the jibe. This is my first jibe with the spinnaker net up, and I’m a little unsure of how to handle it, but I eventually figure out a method that works without tangling anything up. The jibe goes smoothly, and I head back into the squall, but I’ve wasted too much time hesitating before the jibe and end up sailing into the forbidden zone behind the squall. The wind immediately dies, and I am stuck chasing zephyrs for hours. I eventually oversheet the spinnaker a bit to keep it from hanging limp and go to bed. I’m woken from my dreams around 04:00 with the boat broached, pots and pans crashing across the cabin, spinnaker flogging. I jump into the cockpit to straighten things out, then put on my rain gear and hand-steer the boat across the squall before getting stuck in light air again until morning. The alternation of squalls and holes is exhausting, and I end up making only 61 miles towards Hanalei through the night.

The 29th turns into a hot day, and the trades are still weak. There is no refuge from the sun, and I haven’t been using the sunscreen diligently enough to avoid a few burns. I used up the last of my loaves of bread this morning for breakfast–still good after 10 days at sea! The trades pick up during the day and I get some good video of the boat surfing in the trades. This is what I’ve been waiting for: steady breeze, hot air, sun, warm, clear, blue water, and beautifully long swells. Like giant dragonflies, flying fish come out of the water ahead of the boat and draw long, graceful curves high over the tops of the waves before plunging back into the water. They seem to often come in pairs, flying in close formation like fighter jets chasing each other over mountains. By evening check-in I’ve managed to make a respectable 80 miles towards Hanalei in 12 hours. I’m now an impressive 121 miles ahead of Warrior’s Wish, still in weaker winds on its more northerly track. To the South, Solar Wind is sailing in good wind, but 230 miles behind, and I’m confident my lighter boat can stay ahead. Saraband is now 265 miles behind me, so I need to gain another 100 miles on her. With Hawaii 675 miles ahead, it’s not an impossible task, but it will be close.

My navigation display.

After my experience with the squalls and broaching the previous night, I decide I need to stop sleeping down below at night with the spinnaker up. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to break my circadian rythm and sleep during the day, so my remaining option, besides striking the spinnaker, is to sleep in the cockpit, hoping a squall will wake me before the boat broaches. The Olson 30 cockpit is not a particularly comfortable place to lay, and I want to be able to see the squalls coming from astern, so I eventually settle on a spinnaker bag in the front of the cockpit, with my legs hanging over the traveler and my head on the companionway step.

A lone squall, silently plotting my demise.

From my new “berth”, the squalls can be seen for dozens of miles in the light of the full moon, bright, towering clouds trailing a dark shadow of rain below them, appearing out of thin air, ballooning into monsters, wreaking havoc on an otherwise benign  sea, dissipating, then reforming again, moving alone or in single file, in columns, encircling me, trying to cut me off, plotting my demise. I open my eyes every once in a while to keep an eye on them, often having to extricate myself from my uncomfortable hole in the cockpit and adjust course to keep from being run over. By 04:00 I’ve realized I can’t keep this up all night. I’m groggy and sore, can’t get comfortable enough to sleep, and my brain is no match for the squalls and the unsettled winds they leave in their wake. I’m ready to admit defeat, douse the spinnaker, leave the boat beam reaching in a Southeasterly wind under mainsail alone, crawl into my berth and set the timer.

Read Part Six.

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