Miscellaneous

Reading break

Since there’s not much going on right now, and I was thinking of Normandy, I will share the single longest sentence I’ve ever read (click the little french flag for the original):

Granite to the south, sand to the north; here sheer rock faces, there dunes. An inclined plane of meadowland with rolling hills and ridges of rock; as a fringe to this green carpet, wrinkled into folds, the foam of the ocean; along the coast, low-built fortifications; at intervals, towers pierced by loopholes; lining the low beaches, a massive breastwork intersected by battlements and staircases, invaded by sand and attacked by the waves, the only besiegers to be feared; windmills dismasted by storms, some of them-at the Vale, Ville-au-Roi, St. Peter Port, Torteval-still turning; in the cliffs, anchorages; in the dunes, sheep and cattle; the shepherds’ and cattle herds’ dogs questing and working; the little carts of the tradesmen of the town galloping along the hollow ways; often black houses, tarred on the west side for protection from the rain; cocks and hens, dung heaps; everywhere cyclopean walls; the walls of the old harbor, now unfortunately destroyed, were a fine sight, with their shapeless blocks of stone, their massive posts, and their heavy chains; farmhouses set amid trees; fields enclosed by waist-high drystone walls, forming a bizarre checkerboard pattern on the low-lying land; here and there a rampart built around a thistle, granite cottages, huts looking like casemates, little houses capable of withstanding a cannonball; occasionally, in the wildest parts of the country, a small new building topped by a bell-a school; two or three streams flowing through the meadows; elms and oaks; a lily found only here, the Guernsey lily; in the main plowing season, plows drawn by eight horses; in front of the houses, large haystacks on circular stone bases; expanses of prickly furze; here and there gardens in the old French style with clipped yew trees, carefully shaped box hedges and stone vases, mingled with orchards and kitchen gardens; carefully cultivated flowers in countryfolk’s gardens; rhododendrons among potatoes; everywhere seaweed laid out on the grass, primrose-colored; in the church yards no crosses, but slabs of stone standing erect, seeming in the moonlight like white ladies; ten Gothic bell towers on the horizon; old churches, new dogmas; Protestant worship housed in Catholic architecture; scattered about in the sand and on the promontories, the somber Celtic enigma in its various forms-menhirs, peulvens, long stones, fairy stones, rocking stones, sounding stones, galleries, cromlechs, dolmens, fairies’ houses; remains of the past of all kinds; after the druids the priests; after the priests the rectors; memories of falls from heaven; on one point Lucifer, at the castle of the Archangel Michael; on another, Icart Point, Icarus; almost as many flowers in winter as in summer. This is Guernsey.

Victor Hugo, The Archipelago of the Channel

Lessons Learned

Shirley has left to visit friends and family in various parts of the world, so I’m now left in Sydney to sell the boat. The last few days have been very rainy, so I’ve had a chance to reflect a bit on the past six months, and I’ve put together a litle collection of lessons learned from crossing the Pacific on a sailboat:

  • Have local cash before you leave, as a number of islands don’t have ATMs, and you often have to pay a clearance fee immediately upon arrival.
  • Don’t expect lights and navigational aids marked on your charts to actually exist, or lights and navigational aids that exist to be marked on your charts. Fiji was especially bad for this.
  • Don’t expect your charts or their datum to always be accurate. Use your eyeballs, and stay away from unlit obstacles at night.

    Two miles? At least they're honest...

    Two miles? At least they’re honest…

  • Be prepared to deal with your anchor not wanting to come back up from the bottom.
  • Noonsite and other sources of information regarding clearance procedures & fees are often inaccurate. That’s not a reason not to check them, of course.
  • People have very different opinions of how interesting, boring, pretty or unpleasant anchorages, cities, islands, countries and other places are; one person’s paradise is another’s hell. Take advice with a grain of salt.
  • It’s really easy to spend your whole time somewhere catching up on email, weather, news, facebook, blogging, planning your next stop, etc. Get out of the boat and explore!
  • Island time starts at 05:00, sometimes earlier. Lots of things are over by 10:00. The market in Niue is empty by 08:00.
  • Many islands have very limited resources, and their people often live in fairly precarious conditions. For the most part, there’s no bargaining or tipping in the South Pacific. But there is plenty of trading.

The closest call we had was in Fiji. We were just leaving an anchorage. We threaded our way past some reefs, and when I thought we were clear I put the autopilot on to help Shirley get the sails ready to hoist. I was keeping an occasional eye on the water up ahead, and I got a bad feeling, and thought I could see a tinge of brown in the cobalt-blue water about thirty feet in front of the boat. I ran back to the tiller and gave it a big pull, then watched us sail over rocks and coral as we passed by a big bommie. If we’d been three feet to the right, we’d probably have hit. We also spent a sleepless night at anchor in Fanning. A gale hit the atoll in the middle of the night, and we found ourselves about 200 feet off a lee shore in 30+ kt winds and heavy rain, with the anchor lying on flat stones and broken coral in an area with notoriously poor holding. Luckily the chain wrapped itself around a coral head and the boat didn’t budge. I was too sleepy to be really worried at the time, but in retrospect this was a very delicate situation to be in, and in a very remote place.

May update

If I haven’t been keeping this site updated, it’s because I’ve been very busy getting the boat (and myself) in shape for a 9500-mile trip! Here are some of the latest developments:

1. I’ve left my job. It’s hard to leave a well-paying, interesting job, but I felt it was the right time for adventure.

2. Matt and I raced in Sloop Tavern’s Race to the Straits. This is in my top three most favorite races in the Northwest. Doublehanded to Port Townsend on Saturday, and back on Sunday. Winds were light, but it was an interesting race nevertheless. We had good moments and bad ones, and placed in the middle of the pack. I really need to stop putting off scrubbing the bottom of the boat!

A pretty sea of spinnakers chasing us.

Lunch Box passing us at the finish.

3. Boat prep – I’ve been working on a variety of projects: extending the companionway hatch, putting new ends on the backup spin pole, cutting a jib top, making a lazy bag/rain collector, fixing interference in the HF radio, installing the pactor modem, and a variety of odds and ends. We managed to break the foredeck hatch during RTTS, so now I have to fix that too…

At the same time, I am moving out of the place I’ve lived in for the last four years, and trying to get rid of most my possessions, so I’ve been pretty busy!

For now, the departure date is set to Friday, May 25th.

Finally, I’ve finished uploading the chronicles from the 2010 trip, and published them under their respective dates. So if you want to read the last posts from the return trip, go to July 2010. If you want to read about the 2010 SHTP, go here.

Bravo Nico!

My high school buddy Nicolas Boidevézi just won the Mini Fastnet (usually Douarnenez – Fastnet and return, this year Douarnenez – Cordouan – Douarnenez, about 500 NM) on proto 719 “Défi GDE”.

I was looking at his course on the way back and noticed he seemed to be doing about 10-11 kts in about 15-18 kts TWS, on a close reach. In 10-13 kts TWS the speed was down to 7 or 8. Average speed was 8.55 knots. I’m kind of blown away by how fast this is for a 21-ft boat. The minis are rockets downwind, but pretty limited by their waterline upwind. I didn’t realize they could maintain double-digit speeds on a close reach (at least for the protos).

Downwind they were doing mid-teens the whole way, but that’s old news. GDE is a new-ish proto (all carbon, hard chines, canting keel), but is considered pretty “simple” because it has a fixed mast and no water ballast.

I really need to sail a mini sometime. And I’ll be betting on Nico in the Transat 6.50

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!

Winter Update

Not much has happened in the last 4 months, which is why I haven’t bothered to update the site. Final writeup of the Transpac is still coming, I promise. Really, I’ve been messing around with motorcycles, which is almost as much fun as writing on this site.

New toy. Way faster than a boat.

We raced in the Puget Sound Sailing Championships with Matt N., Ken, Brandon, Paul and Erin. We had a couple screwups that put us in embarrassing positions, but we had a good time, some occasional brilliant sailing, the boat performed really well, and we even won the last race, which put us in the middle of the pack overall. The last race showed that when I don’t make stupid decisions and the crew makes clean maneuvers, good results are quite within reach. It also felt really good to finish in front of our nemesis (and the overall winner), Lunch Box. It’s going to take some practice to pull that one off again…

I also found a very nice secondhand #2, barely used, for next to nothing. Took it for a practice sail on the lake with Ben, Peter, Aaron, and Vlad. The wind was pretty blustery, and we ended up blowing out an old half-ounce spinnaker. Oh well, at least it wasn’t the new sail. Common wisdom is #2s aren’t very useful for racing on Puget Sound, but it just might come in handy, and if not it’ll make a fine Duck Dodge sail.

Another new toy.

Food. Lots of it.

This has been a pretty typical conversation for me lately:

“I’m sailing to Hawaii alone this summer.”

“What are you going to eat?”

It’s funny that that’s the first thing most people think of. Or maybe I just hang around people who are primarily concerned with food.

I experimented with various flavors of canned chili on my qualifying cruise, but I really need to hammer down quantities, volumes, storage, etc… if I want to be prepared when it’s time to leave Seattle. I’ve tried a couple freeze-dried packaged meals, but most of them are way too salty, and you have to put water in them, which doesn’t save much on weight.

Some of the entrants in the last race were raving about MREs and “Heater Meals”, but the excessive packaging seems like a lot of waste to me, and I’ll have a pretty efficient propane stove on the boat. But I imagine there’ll be times when I don’t want to cook and need to get some hot food in me.

Keep on reading for my 21-day menu… (more…)

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