July 13, 2017
We are 542 miles away from Honolulu and trying to make some southerly. Our routing software keeps telling us to go west. It is very hard to keep going in the wrong direction with the anticipation of favorable winds, but alas we are pushing west. We have second guessed our software 3 times now, and each time we were spanked.
At 4:00 am I went over the optimal route with Ted at the beginning of his shift. The software was telling us to gibe around this area in front of us, but we could not understand why, so we just decided to keep going straight. Ted woke me up at 4:00 am, with a concerned look on his face - we gotta go! That means gibe in sailing lingo. I came up on deck and looked forward to see a big black cloud as far and you can see with bolts of lightning hitting all around the center. “I don't think we should go in there” Ted says. Gibe! Jim drove and Ted and I pulled off one of the fasted two pole jibes on record. We were thankfully paralleling the back of the cloud when the sun came up. Then we saw the most spectacular double rainbow for the entire 180 degrees of the cloud - amazing. At first we thought it was a squall that should travel at about 10 knots but this cloud was not moving. We just skirted the monster and all is good, I kept thinking of the joke Jim would tell about the clown who died in his second rodeo.
Now we are cruising to our last gibe point about 100 miles ahead of us, then we are “all in” for our final approach. If all works out we should have a strong finish. We are getting pretty low on food and beverages but should be in Hawaii on the 17th. I keep looking at that small bag of ice and wonder is there may have been a misscalculation - we will see.
Sail faster damnit!
July 12, 2017
We are 685 miles away from Honolulu and unfortunately we are not making much progress toward out destination. The disturbed area that was predicated between us and Honolulu showed her face today. As soon as the sun came up all we could see and hear was lightning, rain and thunder to the south of us. Our navigational software was telling us to sail around it. but we were so tempted to just sail directly for the islands, it was so irresistible, so we did. We were racing toward the finish slapping our backs saying, this is not so bad. Then slowly there was a little rain, then a lot of rain, then the wind died. Sailing in the rain is bad enough, but sitting in a major down pour with no wind flopping back and forth was the worst. We all think it may of have been pay back for the last day of the Pac Cup in 2014 where we made RJ drive in pouring rain while we all stayed dry inside. Anyway, Tony made the best of it, stripping down to his farmer tan and scrubbing down with baby wipes… I have a picture.
Last night was the first night where the clouds parted and the stars came out I have always been as amazed at the stars in the middle of the ocean. Ted got our his stargazer app on his ipad and starting naming all the constellations and Jim was figuring out which stars would likely host life.
Now that we are back on our original track we need to make a big loop around the tropical disturbance. We are sailing much farther than the rest of the boats in our class. But we are hoping that by sailing faster we can still come out ahead. Our new motto is ” Sail faster damn it”.
July 11, 2017
We are about 800 miles away from Honolulu and all is well on board. We are still in first place for our division so far. Today the sun finally came out and Tony saw his favorite albatross to start the day. Our next challenge will be to determine our gibe mark to head for Hawaii. You do not want to wait too early or too late, so we are doing a bunch of calculations to determine the correct time.
We received a distress call from the Santa Cruise 52 Medusa at about 11:30am this morning. They reported their fuel was contaminated with water, they were out of power, and were requesting assistance. We measured the fuel we had and offered 5 gallons, and we converged for the transfer at about 4:30 pm - I am sure the YB Tracler must show us stopped for some time. Transferring fuel in the middle of the Pacific in 18 knots of wind with big swells is not easy. Then we had to figure out how to get the fuel out of our tank. Luckily Medusa had and electric transfer pump and some empty containers. They put everything in a big drybag with a fender attached and sailed by to toss in on Azure. We successfully transferred at least 5 gallons of diesel, in milk containers, OJ containers, and spent motor oil containers. We were able to set everything afloat and they were able to swing by and pick it up. Medusa radioed us later to say every thing was ok, the engine was running and batteries were charging.
The clouds out here in the middle of the ocean are really nice. You can see under them forever, so they make for great sunsets and create some unusual shapes. Jim cracked me up this morning looking at one strange cloud - “Angry Birds” he yelled.
July 10 2017
We are 978 miles away from Honolulu and looking forward to seeing land soon. Azure is holding on to first place, but we are heading into a zone of light air, so things will start to get interesting over the next few days. We have been seeing more and more debris from Japan as we get closer to the center of the ocean. RJ was able to get a really nice glass fishing ball during our last crossing. We see lots of fishing balls, but we are sailing by them at 8 knots, so no time to grab anything.
We crossed the halfway point of the race so we celebrated by having our halfway party with guest of honor Jim Vickers. We searched high and low for that island with the bar, but settled on having it on the boat. Tony was the master of ceremonies and we toasted the crossing with a nice magnum of champagne. Jim was a sport wearing only a coconut bra and grass skirt as he demonstrated his finest hula while surfing down waves. He is looking forward to sharing his new outfit with Jen.
Just before dinner we noticed a small tear in our Teddy Womper (spinnaker), so we quickly did a peal to get it down and make some repairs. It is our fastest spinnaker, so we need to get it back up as soon as possible. We are constantly looking for chafe or signs of wear. Two weeks of sailing takes its toll on everything.
I really like our night watches in the middle of the ocean. I will start with Jim at midnight, where we ponder everything from black holes to atomic clocks. Did you know there are two types of atomic clocks?. Then I have my shift with Tony where we talk about the finer arts of chemistry and glue. Tony really knows his glue.
So there were four guys who sailed across the ocean blue, an Engineer, Physicist, Chemist, and retired guy…I need a good punch line.
July 9, 2017
We are 1200 miles from Honolulu and holding on to first place by a slim margin. Sequoia has started to come up to our heading and had a big night. We are hoping to stay ahead and the crew is driving as hard as we can. According to our weather downloads the winds will be light by the time we get to Hawaii so that has a big impact on our routing. We recalculate our course twice a day, and try to anticipate our best course given the location of our competition. We download digital weather files called grib files created by saildocs. Our weather routing software then calculates the best route… in theory.
Tomorrow we will be halfway to Hawaii so we are looking forward to our party. We are especially looking forward to initiating Jim into the club. It should be fun! We are all sleeping really hard at this point. I shook Ted for his watch this morning - he thinks its a dream and yells “groundhog day!”. Jim tried to wake up Tony at 4am while I was driving, and came back and said he is not moving. He tried again and shakes his leg pretty hard, and comes back to confirm that he is not dead - relief!.
Jim handed me a butterfly cut out of a Svendsen's tide chart today. I said thank you but my birthday is not until next week. Jim said this is our secret to winning - ok he had me. He explained this is a two dimensional representation of our polar diagram we need to win. The vertical axis is the wind speed and the shapes of the wings vary with the optimum boat speed and true wind angle. Thanks - now I have to figure out how to get it into expedition. We had chicken curry over fresh rice with rum and orange juice for dinner.
July 8, 2017
We are 1362 miles away from Honolulu and sailing along at 8 knots. The wind and waves are starting to build so we are getting some good surfs. The position report showed use still holding on to a narrow first in our division. There will probably be more position changes as we get closer to the islands. The winds are suppose to moderate in a few days.
I woke up to the great smell of breakfast burritos this morning (thanks Michelle) as we usually do, then I make coffee, like I usually do, and relive Jim who is on shift right before me. I ask him how's everything, he said it's like Groundhog Day, Drive 240 degrees. He was right, we have been doing the exact same thing, with the exact same sails, and exact same routine for four days… weird. But today we are going to shake things up, cause it's Shower Day!. So after six days of aggressive sailing we took showers. I fill the solar shower and hang it from the mast, then we get a bucket of salt water. First you soap up and rinse with salt water and take a freshwater rinse. It is very exhilarating while surfing down waves at 8 knots.
July 7, 2017
We were able to pop the 0.6 oz kite at 6:00 am and have been flying it all day. We are 1542 miles from HI and blasting along at 9 knots. This morning we reported our position and found out we are still First in Class, but have dropped to 15th overall. We are taking more of the great circle route to Honolulu, while our competition is driving south looking for stronger winds. Nine days from now we will see who's strategy paid off.
I do the 12 am to 4 am shift which is rather challenging once we get into squall latitudes - more on that later. I was off shift at 5 am when Ted tells me the head is clogged. Now, there are certain emergencies on a boat, torn sails, pod of whales, bilge filling with water, but the clogged head is one of the worst. Both Ted and Tony tried to get the clog out to no avail. Seems like Jim was the last one to use it when the blockage occurred?? Lots of finger pointing. So Tony is driving and commented how he could really use the head right now. Well, in a pinch we have pulled out the bucket in the past, but out of compassion for our ship mate Ted and I got out the tools. So its 5:30 am and dark, Ted has the flashlight as we strategizing on how we are going open the hose to the thorough hull and put a hole in a perfectly good boat. Currently we are in 2200 feel of water, so it is a long way to the bottom. Tony finally yells from the cockpit “bring me a bucket”. Hold on we say. So I grab the plunger and open the through hull as a fountain of water sprays up in the head. I reach down the pipe and pull out a baby wipe. Now, there are only two authorized items that can use the head - baby wipes are not on the approved list. After a quick reassembly, I grab the helm as Tony sprints through the boat, follies thrown about. The captain has now invoked marshal law that now only one item is authorized in the head. The other is in a bucket under the sink.
Jane always reminded me that cruising is like fixing a boat in exotic places. Well racing to Hawaii is very similar. Other than the head we have repaired the voltage regulator, upper rudder bearing and lots of other odds and ends. Tonight we feasted on Rodney's award winning chili with freshly graded cheese and sour cream. Jim graced us with spiced rum and orange juice with four ice cubes - life is good!
July 6, 2017
We are 1714 miles away from Honolulu after four great days of racing. It was nice to see that we were first in class and first overall this morning during the position report. We know this short lived as the big boats started today. There are foiling trimarans doing the race this year. If you watched any of the Americas Cup races, imagine doing that day and night all the way to Hawaii. Some records will be broken, or rescues at sea.
We have had a great race with Sequoia, the other Cal 40. They restored the boat over the last few years and it is very fast. Hopefully we can do some tactful maneuvers to stay ahead. The weather out here continues to surprise us. Only 3' seas and a steady 10 to 15 knots of wind. This is my fourth time sailing to Hawaii, and definitely the best so far. A Navy destroyer passed us at noon today - they never showed up on our AIS, and came out of nowhere to do a fly-by. Luckily there were no container ships in the area.
Since we are on a 24/7 watch schedule we only have a few opportunities to see everyone at the same time - happy hour and dinner. Dr. Vickers has assumed the responsibly of administering the daily rations. We have frozen concentrate of cranberry, orange and pineapple juice, with rum or vodka. Luckily you can mix and match everything to make a unique drink. The only challenge is rationing the ice. We only have one bag of ice to last us 2 weeks at sea. I made the brash assumption that we can only have 2 ice cubes each per night. Luckily Jim took up the challenge to calculate the area of the bag, approximate the size of each cube and determine that we can actually use 4 cubes per night - the crew was overjoyed. We enjoyed Thai Beef over fresh rice for dinner.
July 5, 2017
We are 1966 miles away from Hawaii. We put up the spinnaker this morning once the wind started to move aft. We are pushing along at a very nice 7.5 knots in calm seas. The weather has been great so far. Everyone has been settling into their watch schedules. We do a four hour shift, where you drive for 2 hours, crew for 2 hours, then sleep for 4 hours - you get pretty punchy after a while. Ted and I are normally on opposite watches and up with Tony and Jim. Jim has PHD in physics which makes for some really good jokes. This is also his first crossing of the Pacific, so as history goes, there will be a halfway party in his honor. Tony has been planing the festivities that may involve whip cream.
July 5, 2017
Day 1 was fun! We had a great race with our class and all rounded the end of Catalina about the same time. Luckily the wind is holding out tonight. The last time we did the Transpac in 2005 we had to wait all night for the wind to come up next to Catalina. Right now it is 3:30 am and Tony and I are on watch. We had a great meal tonight, home made lasagna - it was delicious. We pre-cook all our our dinners ahead of time and freeze them, so they are fantastic. We can see the lights of Sequoia, the other Cal 40 and Alicante, a Saber 38. We are hoping to put up a spinnaker tomorrow morning - that will give us an advantage.
Day 2 Oceans blue! We are 2080 miles away from Honolulu. The winds are starting to build from the north so we are hoping to start flying a spinnaker soon. We tried to fly one for a short time yesterday morning, but the winds did not cooperate. There is normally a strong high pressure system that is located in the middle of the Pacific that we sail around, but this year there are two small ones, so navigating is difficult. Looks like it will take us 13 more days of sailing, so we should arrive in the 18th. We started our day with Michelle's famous breakfast burritos, and ended with Jim's Tajin.
Unfortunately we lost Lisa #3 our hula girl figurine yesterday. She was firmly mounted to the pulpit but must of been knocked off by a sail :(. Oh well out of the four times we have sailed to Hawaii, she has made it twice. We saw dolphins and a sunfish today. All the other boats we started with have now spread out so far we can no longer see each other.