Posts tagged delivery

Varuna and the Ocean Cleanup MegaExpedition

I’ve been pretty absent from this space lately, but since I’m off on another sailing adventure I thought I’d post an update. 2014 was a little rough with the NASA UAS Airspace Operations Challenge being cancelled after many hours of hard work put into it, then my motorcycle accident in October almost costing me my leg, and putting a big hole where my knee used to be. After getting reassembled from spare body parts, I’ve spent the first half of 2015 getting back to walking, kneeling, squatting, cycling and sailing, and am pretty much 85% operational again. Naturally it’s time to get back on the ocean, and what better way to do that than deliver a 46-foot carbon sportboat from Honolulu to San Francisco. My friend and occasional SHTP nemesis Ronnie Simpson is skippering. SHTP reigning champ Steve Hodges and boat guru/all around badass Walt Kotecki round out the crew, for what promises to be a fun trip.

As a bonus, we’ll be taking part in The Ocean Cleanup’s first-ever MegaExpedition, a survey involving 40 other boats, and aimed at studying the distribution and composition of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. For much of our crossing we’ll be trawling a contraption with a net, taking samples from the first foot of water, cataloging them and storing them so they can be shipped to Delft Technical University in the Netherlands for analysis when we arrive in San Francisco. The samples have to stay wet and cool, so we’ve been provided with a little fridge, which I suspect will also keep some of our food and drink cool, since all-out race machines generally don’t have refrigeration. In addition, we’ll be doing periodic visual surveys of the water around the boat for bigger pieces of junk that don’t make it in the net. I think as a whole we’re all pretty excited about this, despite the extra workload involved, and the fact that slowing down to trawl six hours a day will probably extend our trip by a day and a half at least. As sailors we get to see how mankind has been polluting our oceans, and it’s great to be part of one of the first efforts to remove trash from the ocean. You can help too by avoiding plastic bags, bottles, wrappers, and packaging!

You can track Varuna here.

A sporty delivery

Idefix is chilling in the sun after a rough and tumble trip down the coast. I felt like I was just along for the ride pretty much the whole way. Actually, I’ve been feeling that way for the past three or four weeks, prepping the boat, emptying my house, homeless, jobless, a Sal Paradise of the 21st century. I was far enough behind on prepping the boat that I had no idea when we would leave up to the last minute, and as soon as she looked fit enough to hit the ocean, we slipped the docklines and motored out.

Unfortunately, I figured out a couple hours before leaving that the post-by-email feature of this site isn’t working, so I wasn’t able to post updates from the boat (beyond the comments on the tracking page), but here’s a summary:

A submarine flies past us on Puget Sound.

The delivery started smoothly enough, beating up the sound in a constant 12 knots or so. A coast guard RIB engaged in a very short low-speed chase with us – they were just trying to get us out of the way of a submarine. This is the first time I’ve ever seen a sub on Puget Sound itself; usually they go down Hood Canal, but this one seemed to be coming from Bremerton.

The wind abated a bit as we entered the Strait, and I had a little tacking duel with the Pt. Wilson buoy. The buoy was winning for about half an hour, but I eventually prevailed. It took a bit of motoring to get out the Strait, so we decided to head into Neah Bay and top off the gas tanks. This would turn out to be completely unnecessary, but I enjoyed the opportunity to stop someplace new, stretch my legs, and use real plumbing for the last time in a while.

The light house on Tatoosh Island, Cape Flattery

We hit the Big Ocean about 24 hours after leaving the WAC. It’s kind of weird to start off on a big voyage and still be within sight of familiar land after a day and a half. To get offshore quickly, we started out on a close reach. The thing with the Olson 30 is anything from a beam reach to close hauled is pretty darn wet. We had spent a lot of time and energy trying to make the inside of the boat a little drier, but our puny efforts were quickly defeated by the Pacific Ocean. Day three saw the winds turn from the West to the South, so we had to tack and head offshore even more into the wind, which added to our misery pretty significantly. Most boats going upwind on the ocean crash through the waves, shaking the occupants, rolling things around the cabin, and spilling cocktail glasses. ULDBs do not do this. They slam into every wave with a nerve-rattling boom that echoes inside the hull like a bass drum, knocking out fillings and propelling water tanks, almanacs, sails, sleeping crew, batteries and cans of ravioli across the boat and into bulkheads and bilges. After each impact, the mast wobbles like a diving board, kicking up the skipper’s insanity a notch. It’s best to escape the carnage by staying on deck, where rain, seawater and breathing air are pretty much in similar proportions.

My home for the next four months.

After a couple days we got to ease the sheets a bit and dry things out. We tried out the new jib top (a #2 genoa Matt and I re-cut with the nautical equivalent of super glue), which may just be my new favorite sail. We had a very relaxed day reading, tanning and sleeping while the autopilot steered us into “gale alley”, where we found -surprise!- a gale. The wind quickly picked up into the twenties, we reefed the main, and the boat started surfing like mad. At one point I turned the tiller over to Peter and crawled into the quarterberth for some rest, and I couldn’t hear the usual trickle of water against the hull – all I could hear was a constant hiss – water doesn’t trickle when the boat is planing, and we were not coming off the plane. A couple hours later, about 150 miles from the Golden Gate, we had an accidental jibe and the boom collapsed completely – almost snapping in two. We kept going with a 75% jib poled-out, and spent the next day surrounded by a frighteningly tormented ocean, waves breaking all around us, water white with froth, like some rabid animal. Matt spent most of the day expertly weaving us though the waves, avoiding the worst breakers. I took over for a while and recklessly pointed the boat straight down the waves, racking up some impressive surfs, and struggling to keep the pole from hitting the water.

Flying a trysail over the broken boom.

Eventually we made it around Point Reyes, and the wind started dying. A little more sail area seemed like a good idea so we tried out the trysail, and just as we were entering the Bonita Channel the wind died to just a couple knots, and the swell quickly abated, so I unlashed the engine, and amazingly enough it started right up. We tied up at Alameda at 02:30 on Sunday the 10th, 6 days and 12 hours after leaving the WAC. Casualties of the trip: the windex, a water tank, and of course the boom, which is going to end up being a pretty significant hit to my budget. But I’m still happy we sailed the boat down.

A pretty sight after 980 miles.

In fact, trailering it would have cost about the same as a new boom, and I got to learn a whole lot of things on the way down, the first one being that this boat is capable of some pretty gnarly passages. My only concern now is to get a boom on the boat in time for the start of the race on June 30th.

Go to Top