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.
Sent at 2012-07-13 15:50 UTC from 23°11.21’N 156°57.58’W
Last night was clear and beautiful. I think this is the first night of the trip that I could really do any stargazing. The milky way is as bright as ever, and after the sun goes down you can see a bit of light from the primordial dust left in the solar system. We’re now south enough that the scorpion is high in the sky, and I spotted Alpha Centauri low on the horizon. The southern cross is too close to the sun to see for now, and the horizon is pretty cloudy.
Today started with a beautiful sunrise, then got pretty hot, again. For most of the day it looked like typical tradewind weather, with puffy little clouds and deep blue water. Flying fish are everywhere (but I’m managing to keep them out of the berths today), and tropic birds keep showing up to check on my progress. I stripped off too many clothes and got a sunburn. Then a massive wall of squalls came and I took down the chute for a while, and clouds and rain have taken over the landscape.
Up until I took down the chute, I had been making very good speed, and I’m now less than 250 miles out. Probably completely jinxing myself, but I expect to come in sometime on Saturday morning, around 8am PDT (5am local). If the wind picks up as expected, it may be earlier than that. I’m torn as to whether I should consider slowing down a bit to ensure I come in with a bit of daylight.
I managed to reconfigure the solar charge controller and got a halfway decent charge, so I have enough power to send a couple emails for the rest of the trip, unless tomorrow is completely cloudy. I also managed to throw out a fork and spoon with my dishwater. I’d sworn that wouldn’t happen again…
I was wondering why the inside of the boat smelled fishy this morning, when I found a flying fish had sailed through the companionway and found its way into one of the quarterberths overnight. Thankfully not the one I was sleeping in. I’ve heard they can get to be up to two feet long, and are quite delicious to eat. This one was the biggest I’d seen at about 8 inches, but I had just finished breakfast when I found it.
Today was finally the clear day I was hoping for to charge my batteries. They’ve been starting to get really low, and I figured the overcast was keeping them from topping up. To my great dismay, I found the solar panels weren’t putting in the 10-12 Amps of power I was expecting, even at high noon. More like 6 Amps. A little bit of investigating later, I found the wires for the cabintop panel had corroded away, so I jumpered them and managed to get 8 Amps for a little while, but it quickly tapered off to 6 again. What’s happening is the solar charge controller thinks the batteries are already topped off, and is giving them only the float voltage of 13.6V instead of the absorption voltage of 14.4V. It’s been doing this the whole trip, but I’ve been attributing it to the cloud cover… I’m going to try rebooting it tonight when the batteries are at their lowest, to see if it’ll cooperate. I can probably survive until Hanalei at this rate, but I’m having to cut down on power use.
Only 439 miles to go, but we are moving excruciatingly slowly. The wind is supposed to build tonight, so hopefully that’ll change.
Sent at 2012-07-12 00:45 UTC from 24°03.02’N 151°46.67’W
Ça y est, c’est officiel: je suis inscrit pour la Transpacifique en Solitaire 2012 à bord d’Idéfix. La mémoire de l’édition 2010 est encore fraîche, et l’appel du large se fait irresistible… et puis j’ai trois trophées à défendre!
Cette édition s’accompagnera de nouveaux défis, notamment la descente de la côte du « cimetière du Pacifique » vers San Francisco, puis un périple à travers le Pacifique Sud vers l’Australie après la course. Une sacrée aventure pour un petit ULDB!
Et puis, pour rendre les choses plus interessantes pour mes chers lecteurs, je suis en train de réviser la radio HF pour me permettre d’envoyer et recevoir des mails en mer. Ça va envoyer du gros!