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Tropic Thunder Racing Blog

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Tropic Thunder Approaching the Finish

July 17, 1730

This will be the last entry by me of this adventure until we are on Oahu.

July 16: More of the same-nice breeze, nice ocean swells, beautiful starry night, vibrant Milky Way, shooting stars.

The mechanical water maker was pulled out of the ditch bag. We got 2.5 gallons of fresh water with two hours of manual pumping. That was used for cooking and coffee making, leaving the emergency water for drinking.

July 17: We broke the 100 NM mark at 1:30 a.m. Pacific time. We broke the 50 NM mark at 9:50 a.m. We had our first glimpse of Hawaii today at 10:15. It likely would have been earlier but for all the clouds on the horizon.

We had a pretty nice knock down a bit later in the morning. Vang blown. Traveler down. Spin sheet eased. Main sheet out. The clew shackle gave way again during the douse, eliminating the letter box option. Tack on, halyard dropped for a controlled takedown on the bow. We stood back up and unfurled the genoa, trimmed in the main sail and got back to racing.

We can almost taste the Mai Tai's.


Tropic Thunder July 17th Update

July 17, 2017, 0730

This has been an exceptional journey and an experience that will be difficult to adequately describe in words. Over the next few days/weeks, the crew and others will be posting hundreds of pics showing stunning sunsets, moon rises, and daily life onboard Tropic Thunder. I will let those tell the true story.

It has been my privilege and honor to have worked with a crew that has a combined 200+ years of experience sailing and racing on the water. I have learned something from each.

As for a quick overview, best stated by Admiral Deb Miller (Fleet Commander) "you expect stuff to break after being banged around for a couple of weeks ... nothing that can't be fixed."  With that said, I could not have been able to complete this journey without the help and support of my wife of 40 years. I am eternally grateful for her love and devotion to our family and allowing me to live my dream, thank you.

For family and friends of the crew you should take pride in knowing that each and every member stepped up in some challenging times and performed admirably.  Take time to share their experience and congratulate them on a job well done.

Regarding Tropic Thunder, many lessons learned from proper food prep and storage to rigging to daily maintenance of equipment.

  1. No, the freezer did not crap out. It was overwhelmed by the 17 days of food prepared for 9 people. It to performed well considering that it was designed for a crew of 6.
  2. Marine heads are poorly designed and everyone who has ever owned a boat, has had the pleasure of dealing with crap in new and different ways.
  3. Additional sheets, lines and rope was brought as a backup to a backup.
  4. If there was a product that failed catastrophically, it was the symmetrical spinnaker. The manufacturer has agreed to repair or replace; the latter is more likely.
  5. As for the water maker, I now understand that you need a minimum of 30 gallons of fresh water in the tanks at all times. Once back at dock, flush and fill tanks, purge water maker with fresh water, and it will be good to go. We did pull the manual water maker which was stored in the ditch bag and produced 2.5 gallons of potable water in about 2 hours to add to our emergency stores required by TransPac.

At no time was the safety or health of the crew in danger. More than 2 years of planning and prep went into this trip.  Were mistakes made, yes. Did we pull together and address the challenges, absolutely.

At this time I would like to personally thank each crew member for their contributions, advice and counsel, and willingness to take on this task that has allowed me to live my dream.  Here is wishing you fair weather and following seas.

Warm regards and I remain in you debt ...

Capt. John


Tropic Thunder Race Update

July 16, 2017, 0030

The 14th was fairly uneventful. The abysmal winds picked up to tolerable and progressed to decent. And then the sun set.

A-Team came on watch at midnight. Gusty winds to the upper-mid 20's and unfavorable seas perpetuated an epic wipe out. Quote of the night, "Blow the vang! Blow the traveler! Blow everything!" At the end of the shift, things had settled and the kite went up for the next shift.

During that early morning shift things got a bit sporty as Tropic Thunder experienced her first squalls of the race. The wind was in the mid- to upper 20's, not too bad until you add in the pitch black night and torrential downpour. Throughout the morning there were two more significant squalls. The last one brought winds in the low 30's. The planned and prepped letter box douse quickly became a kite retrieval as the guy shackle sheared off, causing the clew shackle to pop off. Due to great teamwork with Mat at helm, Lalo and Aaron on bow, and Inez and me in pit the kite was back on deck with zero damage. The remainder of the crew during all of this were below deck taking care of a few other issues such as the not properly functioning engine, head, and water maker.

Things broken over the past 24 hours:

  • Guy Shackle-down to one guy. McGyvered a spare spin sheet as dousing line and tweeker
  • Boom Vang Sheet-replaced it using the broken guy sheet
  • Aft Head-cleaned, cleared, functioning
  • Engine Gasket Leak-not critical. Keep sailing
  • Water Maker-Dead. We are using emergency rations for the last two days of racing

Add to this list the freezer that gave up the ghost the day before, defrosting all remaining frozen dinners. No worries, plenty to eat.

As the day wound down, the entire crew was on deck for pasta and social hour. Skipper broke out two bottles of beer, the only alcoholic beverages on the boat, and everyone shared a little in celebration.

Brenda the Boat Blogger


Tropic Thunder Race Update

July 13, 2017, 2200

Light winds and ocean swells conspire against us as Tropic Thunder twerks her way across the Pacific toward Hawaii. She can't help it, she's a fat bottom girl and she makes the sailing world go 'round.

The plan for now is to stay on this board until Friday morning then gybe to Hawaii. That was the plan. How quickly plans change. Three small storm cells developed this afternoon. After the storms passed, the moderate breeze we had dropped to abysmal with an unfavorable point of sail. This was a bit tough and a little demoralizing for everyone but then the thinking caps came out. The A2 was dropped as all it was doing was flogging in the swells and the genoa was hoisted. The main was sheeted on and then the sails were gybed to the other board. This was effective as we started making way with a much better course of sail. Everyone was much happier with this outcome. And then shenanigans ensued.

Aaron, Mat, and I were off watch below deck relaxing and watching the movie "Tropic Thunder". Inez, Lalo, and Morgan set up a little prank during this quiet time. Idle hands are the devil's play thing. Morgan and Lalo went out on the swim step and sat low, Inez helmed while sitting on the deck behind the wheel's pedestal. And then they waited...

Matt took a break from the movie and went up on deck to discover a completely unmanned boat. Imagine the puzzlement and concern until the giggles started.

We had a spectacular sunset. Several of the crew claim they saw the green flash. Just before sunset, there was a pod of dolphin feeding off our bow. We were given quite a show with a couple spectacular full breeches.

We are looking forward to our first glimpse of Hawaii and still having a lot of fun.

Brenda the Boat Blogger


Tropic Thunder Wednesday Update

July 12, 2017, 0830

Today we saw our first sunrise since the start of the race. In celebration of our first full day of blue skies and sunshine, Inez and I took turns doing a transom shampoo. It was wonderful!

A small pod of whales swam by about 10 meters to our port and gave a little fin wave to congratulate us. Even the clouds were trying to give us a message.

Aaron took another bumpy trip up the mast as the lower spreader had worn through the patch to the plastic reinforcement. This time, the lower spreaders were padded and spreader patches placed on the other side of the main.

Still having fun and getting closer to Hawaii. If you are in the area, we sure would appreciate some fresh fruit. Asian pears, preferably.

Brenda the Boat Blogger


Tropic Thunder Monday Update

July 10, 2017, 2030

We have been sailing 7 straight days as of 1 pm today. Yet another day of grey skies and grey water. So far we have seen One. Single. Star. We've had some glimpses of the moon but only briefly. The Fantastic Four watch say they saw the full moon but we on the A-Team watch are skeptical. During the day we have all caught sight of this strange glowing orb through the clouds in the sky. We have not yet identified it. At least there has been no rain and no squalls.

July 9: During morning shift change we saw and passed a sailboat on the horizon. That was a pleasant little surprise. In the afternoon, Aaron went up the mast again. For some reason, Beneteau thought square ends on swept back spreaders was a good thing. We started getting a pretty significant dimple in the main. Aaron went up again and applied a patch with a jury rigged hard plastic center as well as duct tape and chafe guard to the spreader end. The winds for the day built up and there were a couple sail changes to try and optimize boat speed. Trimming and driving was active and challenging. A symmetric kite sure would have been useful.

Overnight we flew the genoa. Wind and wave angles were odd and challenging. The crew was pretty wiped out from the all the effort throughout the past day. The slight down time was much needed.

July 10: At morning watch change the A2 went back up for better speed and boat angles. We are sailing a little higher now due to the wind but still making way. 183 nm 9 am to 9 am.

Today we had our Half Way Celebration. Dinner was pork loin and pineapple with young potatoes and carrots. Dessert consisted of warm lava cake and bad Hawaiian music. It was absolutely delicious. Mother Nature decided to bless us with an actual visible sunset to cap of the day.

Having a blast out here somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Brenda the Boat Blogger


Tropic Thunder Sunday Update

July 9, 2017, 0900

The night watches were uneventful until the A-Team came back in the early morning. Things were quiet, too quiet. All was well until a large roller lifted the transom and the boat started to round up. the vang, traveler, and spinnaker sheet were all blown but to no avail. The symmetric kite split about 1/3 the distance from the head, splitting the tape as well. I guess Mother Nature wanted us to make a sail change. Again we had Morgan, Lalo, and Inez on deck to help. The kite was smoothly retrieved and the A2 spinnaker hoisted.

Daylight brought another grey day. There were concerns with the spreaders chaffing the main as we anticipated sailing down wind most of the remainder of our trek to Hawaii so today I got to go up the mast and apply spreader patches. Yay!

We had a lovely lunch treat concocted by Inez, a potato salad made with some cooked potatoes and boiled eggs we had on hand with various seasonings pulled from the cupboard, three packets of mayonnaise and a packet of mustard she found in the galley. It was quite tasty.

Building breeze and ocean state as the day progressed brought the decision to douse the A2 and fly the genoa. A good call for the time being. The A2 went back up a few hours later and has since been the sail of choice.

Well, it was inevitable. We are no longer ahead of Comanche but we covered 180 nautical miles in the past 24 hours and have covered roughly 1100 nautical miles so far. We anticipate reaching the half way mark within the next 24-30 hours.

Brenda the Boat Blogger


Tropic Thunder Update

July 6, 2017

The past couple days have been pretty uneventful, although Aaron went up the mast once again to do a minor fix of the jib halyard.

Last night the cloud cover broke for a bit and we were graced by the 3/4 moon reflecting off the waves, glowing bright enough to cast shadows. By the time the full moon arrives, we should have clear skies. It will be spectacular.

I had mentioned to the crew to watch for flying fish and jumping squid. I think there was some skepticism until a small squid flew out of the ocean to give Inez a kiss on the cheek.

Mat has done a fabulous job with provisioning and we have some innovative thinkers on this boat. Chef Lalo (Gonzalo) came up with a pretty good concoction for an afternoon snack: Nutella and chopped almond wraps. It is amazing how good it tastes after three days of sailing. Heck, it's amazing how good last nights' leftovers taste in a wrap after a few days of sailing.

The race continues. We are having fun, sharing stories and laughter. And we are still ahead of Comanche.

Brenda the Boat Blogger