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Fuel, Food and Fiber - Flying Fiche Day 9

July 13, 2017, 1200

Yesterday we jibed the boat for our final approach to Hawaii. Today we have less than 500 miles to complete the race.

On a boat, as in life, all systems are not just related but also interdependent. Our vessel’s diesel engine is not just to power the boat – in fact we are prohibited by race rules from using it for that purpose. We run it 2 hours daily to generate electricity for our large capacity refrigerator/freezer to preserve our frozen food. It is very efficient, but it does require a lot of electrical power. For our Engineer readers, it draws about 20 amps/hours on a 12 volt circuit. In fact, our first night out we weren’t aware of its massive power requirements and actually drained our 5 batteries to the point that at first try we were unable to start the engine.

It was only through an examination of the wiring and the canceling of all other electrical circuits, and good fortune that we were able to start the motor again. (Personally, I think we’re excessively frugal with electrical power, but as we are relatively new to this boat I prefer to err on the side of caution.

The motor is also used to desalinate salt water for drinking. This is critically important. It creates about 10 gallons per hour. In my opinion, it doesn’t compare to bottled water, I find it just barely potable, but it does quench the thirst and provides refreshing showers. Also creating water at sea, relieves us of the great weight of having to carry an extra hundreds of pounds of drinking water.

For planning purposes, each person represents 650 lbs: approximately 200 lbs for his body and the balance in clothing and consumables. So when taking on more crew it is not just a matter of the space he would occupy – the more weight, the slower the boat travels.

It is also essential that every one remain hydrated at all times. In fact, on some boats crew become so seasick that they refuse not only food but also water. I’ve heard of one instance in which the Captain had to threaten the seasick crew member with an enema before he would accept water.

Finally to keep all bodily functions regular, we keep a laundry basket of fruit and vegetables latched to the stern rail. When we started it was full of apples, oranges, cabbage and a few avocados. Today it is down to a quarter capacity. We have eaten well on this trip.

More to come…


All Hands On Deck! Flying Fiche Day 8

July 12, 2017, 1330

Over the last 24 hours we continued our astounding progress, racking up another 250 miles. About noon yesterday, we executed a “jibe” which is a down wind sail position change. On a boat this size, such an action can be hazardous so we called an “all hands on deck” to ensure its graceful transition. With this crew it was poetry in motion – a well executed choreography. We will continue on that “board” for another 10 hrs averaging 11 knots or 12.5 mph.

Last night we had an excellent dinner of steak, baked potatoes and spinach. It was prepared by Brian McKeever while sailing through rolling swells of 5 – 6 feet.

Then the first watch came on at 8pm until and remained until 12 midnight. When they went below and the second watch came on, we were hit by a squall. I was not on deck, but I heard great noise of waves pounding the hull and anxious shouts from above. My brother Tim – a seasoned sailor from the East Coast – actually questioned the wisdom of embarking upon this adventure from time to time. If I had been on deck, I would have suggested that we reduce sail area and maybe take down the spinnaker – a large parachute sail attached to the front of the boat. But instead we just accepted the challenge and continued the course. I think we made fantastic time during the brief 20 minutes the storm lasted.

A few minutes after I came up I got hit in the chest by one of our namesake – a flying fish. Perhaps it was searching for its mother ship.

In several hours we will jibe again to a course of a down wind run which will take us the last 600 miles to Hawaii.

More to come...


A Cause for Celebration: Flying Fiche Update

July 11, 2017, 1100

Yesterday we crossed the halfway point of the race. We are well ahead of where many boats has been at this many days into the race. It was cause for a traditional celebration. We opened a bottle of wine and shared it among nine. Everyone was in high spirits. The boat is close to level and traveling fast.

We have a good crew of nine. Although we did not know each other well, we are all here for a highly competitive sailing adventure. Each of us is courteous and respectful of each other and each has a specialization that contributes toward the goal of winning and an exciting journey along the way. I’ve been on boats where there was a screamer and when he gets excited and starts yelling others respond in kind. Soon things go wrong people get angry and the fun and spirit of cooperation are gone. Not on our boat.

I finally managed to reduce the size of some of the images and am able to send them across.

Stay tuned for more from Flyingfiche II!


Brush, Shave & Shower! Flying Fiche Day 6

July 10, 2017, 1100

We’ve lubricated the tube that the rudder shaft sits in and it is making much less noise. Yesterday with renewed confidence that it will take us to Hawaii, we raised more sails and were able to log 221 miles.

The wind is almost from behind allowing me and others to engage in personal hygiene. None of us had shaved since we left Long Beach nor I dare say several of us had even brushed our teeth. There is an expression on a vessel: one hand for the boat, one hand for yourself.  It is just not possible to shave, brush teeth or wash with one hand especially when racing on the high seas.

Yesterday, however things began to level out and we could finally pay some attention to these matters. Bob Zellmer hooked up a body harness to the back of the boat which allowed several of us to take turns hanging off the back and with a pail of fresh water, successfully bath. The boat was traveling very fast, yet each of us were able to wash, felt very refreshed. Since we are all men, there was no reason to exercise modesty. Today or tomorrow we may hook up a shower in the head (the bathroom) for those of us who prefer privacy.

Throughout the day we saw several birds in flight checking us out, which I find incredible considering the nearest land is 1000 miles away.

By early evening tonight we will cross the halfway distance mark. We will have a small celebration with perhaps a glass of wine. Then a day or two after that we will hit the westerly trade winds which will take us to Hawaii. We’ve been heading southwest since the start and each day is increasingly warm. Very soon we will permanently pack our heavy foul weather gear as we will have no further use for it on this trip.

More to come!


Squids On Board!

July 9, 2017, 1100

Yesterday afternoon the wind began gusting to over 25 knots. Following rolling waves swelled to 6 to 7 feet allowing us to frequently go cascading down them for several seconds each. It was great fun to go surfing in a 50 foot sailboat! We established a record speed for the boat of 17.47 knots. We haven’t calculated the distance covered yet but believe it is approx 250 miles.

In early evening we detected an issue with the rudder which caused us to take down a sail, drive the boat less aggressively and reduce our speed by 2 knots as a precaution. We intend to use a GoPro camera to get a look at it sometime today to see if there is something on it or if it is a bearing issue. In any case we are continuing to race. Although when it was discovered there were some tense moments, we discussed the idea of aborting the race and heading back to California or to Cabo San Lucas. It was a tough decision as we are one day from the half way point. No cause for concern however, we have an emergency rudder in case we experience a catastrophic failure with this one.

The wind has shifted to almost behind the boat, causing it to sail much flatter. I no longer feel we are living in the leaning tower of Pisa during an earthquake!

The skies cleared last night for several hours, illuminating the boat top side and causing the seas to shimmer. It was spectacular!

During the night a live squid landed on board next to our driver Mark. He says there may be more on board among the sail bags. Perhaps we will have calamari for lunch.

More to come!


Good Start for Flying Fiche

July 7, 2017

DAY 1

A good start. Good winds to Catalina. Had to tack several times to get past north end of the island. Once past, the winds dropped to 4 or 5 knots. Picked up again soon to 18 knots and we began to make good time. First 24 hours, we did about 150 miles. Earlier in 2015 TransPac a similar team completed only 40 miles on first day.

We have 2 teams of 4 and 1 spare person. Each team works for 4 hrs, rotating one hr on each post: driving, main trim, head sail or jib trim. After 4 hrs, they go below to rest and the next team takes over.

DAY 2

Strong winds gusting to 20 knots! Boat speed: 8 to 12 knots. Again on a tight starboard tack. Ran all day and night at 15 degrees heel. Waves up to 6 feet and frequency 5 to 10 seconds. Uncomfortable ride below. Floor slippery and at acute angle. End of day we completed 350 miles. At night we put a reef in the main to reduce the sail area.

DAY 3

Beginning to head more southerly direction. Wind increasing speed and starting to come from the starboard end of the boat. We’ve been on a starboard tack since we left Catalina Island. Now sailing with a Spinnaker and averaging 10 to 14 knots. Traveling fast. At 1400hrs we completed 450 miles. The boat is also sailing flatter.

Everything is going well! I’ll send an update to the blog soon.