After successfully completing the Vic-Maui 2014 race, the yacht Kinetic left Kauai on August 4th for Vancouver Island – a delivery of some 2700 nautical miles by Vern Burkhardt, Rob Tape, Mike Cowley and Brian Dearden. Their daily update of the voyage is shared here; many will find this fascinating, humourous and gripping.
Follow them on the Vic-Maui return race tracker.
Kinetic Final Update August 20th (Day 16)
Vern: As we approach Race Passage we will raise our spinnaker and hope to have sufficient winds to sail past Ogden Point and thence on to clear customs and finally arrive at the Wharf Street dock. ETA is 1130 but this is subject to the winds and Canada Border Services.
It has been an epic trip. Four guys confined to a 48 foot sailboat, a sailboat that is a fast one. There is a sign taped on the bulkhead given to the owner before we left on the race: ‘Sail it like you stole it’. We did not. We tried to take care of her like we owned it. But of course on a trip of this length there are some surprises, damage that could have been avoided with foresight (perhaps we can blame sleep deprivation) and others that is normal wear and tear. But Kinetic is so well prepared and maintained that problems are few and relatively minor.
One note to file in case of a future voyage of this nature: ensure we remove all mirrors from the boat. Looking at the other three crew is a scary sight. And I frighten them. To top it off we frighten ourselves when we look in the mirror. Unshaven, hair not combed, red eyes, blotched skin from the sun, but all good. Leave mirrors at home and you will feel much better enroute.
It has been a great pleasure sailing with three super crew: Rob Tape, Brian Dearden, and Mike Cowley. It is a great thing when you can spend all this time confined with three people on a small boat (gets smaller the further you are from land) and arrive as better friends than when you left. All good.
Brian: The epic voyage and I do mean epic, not being dramatic at all here, in fact I think that understates it, is about to end. We just passed Race Rocks and have Victoria in sight. No more 3 in the morning wake ups to deal with and soon the ground will be beneath our feet. It is with very mixed emotions and thoughts that accompany the end as life will resume normal references. Already we are busy reorganizing the boat and our personal stuff, cell phones have been busy trying to get hold of loved ones and make arrangements for meetings. It isn’t often at our stages in life that you get such a feeling of anticipation, much like the first day of school way back then. Will be putting the sails back up as we make our way to the customs dock at fisherman’s wharf. Will spend time there cleaning and organizing the boat and then go our separate ways. It has been an honour and a pleasure to have spent the last three weeks with these guys, they have been inspiring mentors and terrific comrades through both the bright sunny days and the deep dark Mordor nights. I hope I held up my part in the adventure. Thank you Kinetic, the war horse, for getting us through, you are a wonderful boat and you deserve the rest and repairs that are sure to occur in the next little while. I will remember the moments we spent together late at night surging through the swells as the gusts of wind came upon us.
Kinetic Update August 20th at 2 AM
What to say, what to think. Racing to Maui and returning back to Victoria is a long way not only in distance sailed but also in the wide range of experiences. There are the friendships made, the lasting connections that result. There are the continual improvements in sailing abilities–one is never finished learning this complex sport. There is the wide range of weather and sea conditions ranging from becalmed to gale force winds. There are the things that went perfectly, those that went okay, and those that were not satisfactory. Things break, some are avoidable and others are not. Those that are unavoidable cause one to shake one’s head and think or exclaim with a few swear words, “What was I thinking!” Or “What were they thinking.” It is amazing how fatigue compared to merely being tired can creep up on some people, and misjudgment seems to be directly related. And unsafe actions can be part of the occurrence.
Things have changed drastically. At the entrance to Juan de Fuca the wind eased dramatically, fog filled in, it became cool, and the crew’s resolve to sail to the finish cooled. Accordingly we are under engine energy and hopefully the wind will fill in by morning and we will have our final sail. How I dislike running the engine in these adventures, other than for charging batteries. But run it we must or there will be unhappiness all around. We go through the waters in the Strait of Juan de Fuca in total darkness, hoping that we will not hit a deadhead or other damaging object. We keep a constant lookout in the cockpit plus have the radar on, the AIS signals on both our chart plotter and radar, and emphasize having ‘big eyes’ to watch for other vessels.
Shifts continue with Rob and Mike asleep. I guess they are recharging for their arrival in Victoria.
So why do we do these types of adventures? Good question. I am sure the answer is different for each person. Some common themes likely would be:
1. There are few places where you can experience a vast frontier uninterrupted by the human touch, other than freighters which traverse through it.
2. It is a physical and mental challenge exacerbated by extremes.
3. You must rely on the contributions of others–no team play means unhappiness and discomfort.
4. Crew sign a waiver of liability acknowledging that it is dangerous. Not as dangerous as flying into space or extreme rock climbing, for example, but sufficiently dangerous to keep your attention. What could go wrong besides the need to abandon ship? You could lose or crush fingers in the bite of winch. You could be killed with an accidental gybe in which the boom might hit you on your head. We like to live in dangerous situations and environments. When you are over 1,000 nautical miles from any land form you must be self-reliant and self-confident. No calling for the machinist, fast food chain, mechanic, or rigger. You are what you have and the bits and pieces of parts and spares you thought of bringing are all you have. You have to be creative to solve situations that arise.
5. The social norms are what your group creates. On a boat it is fascinating to watch this happen.
6. It is not a dream. You are actually living it.
Will we do it again. No one says not on Kinetic. Yes, I would. One has to prove one’s worth.
August 19th (Day 15)
10 AM: Kinetic is 112.3 NM from Victoria, sailing at 7.4 kts in gale force NNE winds. ETA within the next 24 hours. (Ed.)
5 AM, Vern: For the last 12 hours we have been hurtling towards home for what will probably be our last day out here. Right now we are about 100 miles give or take a few from Duntze rock, the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The winds are in our favour although leaning towards gale force, they are at least in the right direction. We have three reefs in the main and have the head sail reduced as much as possible, a lot easier than putting up the storm jib. With this configuration, we can still sail our course and at a little over 8 knots we should see the entrance about 4-5 pm. Travel up the strait for the last 60 miles or so and be in Victoria by about midnight or early morning. Saw our first piece of kelp yesterday evening and the commercial traffic has picked up, need to keep an eye on the horizon. This is a dramatic finish to the voyage as we still have a long day ahead of us but the worst of the weather will at least be during daylight hours. This makes it easier to drive the boat, at least you can see the waves before they bite you in the ass. Quite thrilling actually once you get over the terror. The boat sails along in balance until the gusts pick up and then everything shakes rattles and roars as you get thrown forwards. Great for washing the residual fish guts and smell off the boat. Splash in the face helps to wake you up also, considering it is 5 in the morning and it has been a long night. With the day breaking, though, it usually gets a lot easier all the way around as we still take turns sleeping but somehow during the day it doesn’t seem as critical. This should calm down when we enter the strait but the challenge with that is we don’t want it to calm out completely.
Kinetic Update August 18th
Vern: 9:30 PM on August 18; First sighting of kelp, a small piece was at 47 -32.3 N, 128 – 19.4.
Strong winds and are at second reef and headsail furled to 110%. The boat is very manageable but lively especially when a large cross swell rolls under her. A wave washes over her deck from time to time when a cross swell rolls under Kinetic. Gale forecast for offshore off Cape Flattery(=10 to 250 nm). Are able to hear the marine weather forecasts on VHF W1 for the last while albeit it does fade out from time to time.
Rob and Mike asleep; Brian and I are on watch until 11 pm and then we are on again at 3 am. It is overcast and dark outside.
We have seen lots of commercial traffic on AIS but none within visual sight. Keeping a watchful scan with ‘big eyes’ on the horizon and watching for AIS targets on the two chartplotters (one at nav station and second one at helm but not readily seen by helmsman.
Vern: What a glorious sail since last evening. Winds are currently 17 knots with gusts, as we know, up to 40% higher. There are some good sized waves and when combined with the swell can create a great opportunity for ‘surfing’ down a wave. Not that we would contemplate making the boat go faster!
The delivery mainsail repairs we did over the last two days are holding well and enable us to go at hull speed. What a marathon job that was, and there were some of the crew who thought it could not be done. But we proved them wrong and this again demonstrated that you have to be self sufficient on the high seas. Just like there are no grocery stores there are no sail makers readily available unless you have the materials and some know how to effect repairs. Most times not an easy task as the boat continues to move even when wind conditions are relatively light. Even typing this note is a challenge as I must sit somewhat sidewise with one foot bracing to not fall out of the navigator’s chair and a navigator’s safety belt around my waist–just like in a car except the seat is truly moving in an unpredictable manner as Kinetic surges through the water. I usually can copy type quite well but the conditions cause many mistakes which must be corrected.
The action of the boat below decks is unpredictable and you must ensure you don’t leave yourself in a vulnerable position. Such would include leaning downhill and if the boat pitches further you could be hurled across the boat. Another would be to be in the nav station without the navigator’s belt around your hips despite the likelihood of a tender hip. More risky is working in the galley without the cook’s belt in place to keep you from being pitched away or, worse yet, towards the stove. Often you do not wear a cooks belt–such as in lower wind conditions–but even then you are vulnerable to an unpredictable wave. You develop sore spots where you frequently lean against strategic spots as you move, in some cases stagger, from place to place below decks. Had to laugh just now to see Rob’s physical antics as he poured soup into his bowl only to have some of it swirl into the sink. And then he did the sailor’s dance as he hopped from place to place until he landed on my pillow. Content to have found temporary refuge he shrugged his shoulders, looked at me, and proceeded to consume his nourishment. There is a whole discussion about the type of dishes you should have on a galloping broncho. Kinetic has rounded bowls which don’t stay stacked when on a significant heel. We found the solution on Pointe de Fuite when we did the race in 2004–dog bowls. Yes, authentic stainless steel dog dishes. They stack readily, don’t tip over when laid out to be filled for the crew, and are a good source of entertainment. For example, the crew became dawgs and on the other watch they would howl at the moon or when sailing was especially fabulous. As a postcript note Rob has gone up to relieve Mike on the helm, and Mike came down to have soup. The inevitable happened. He had filled his bowl and it was sitting on the galley counter when Rob took a side wave, the boat pitched complete with water washing across the decks. And Mike’s soup took a similar spill and covered the counter with soup–including the soft noodles. I commented it was inevitable that the soup would spill to which Mike replied, “I was watching it like a hawk.” Not sure what good it does to watch your soup spill but then I chose not to ask. It would only add insult to an already irritating clean up task. Such are trade offs. Higher winds create discomfort for crew and difficulty in accomplishing even the smallest task, but when you are above decks on the helm or in the cockpit it is all worthwhile. BTW, we are beam reaching. Another must is to eat below decks in heavy winds lest some or all of your food blow away. Many hazards.
It has been mentioned in yesterday’s update that we did a transfer of two 5 gallon jerry cans of diesel to Bedlam II, which was also a Vic Maui competitor. We were sailing in virtual blackness when we saw a stern light, and AIS told us it was Bedlam II. We exchanged pleasantries and went back to our respective tasks. At 5:55 am as we were sailing in light fog and distancing ourselves out in front of Bedlam, the skipper called me on VHF 16 and gave me a rather humorous message, at least for my sense of humour. He indicated that as they saw our running light disappear in front of them they became very lonely and a bit desperate. They were in super light winds, under power, and had only 5 hours of fuel left. This meant they could be unable to get to Neah Bay to refuel if the winds remained light. I had previously advised the skipper that we had six 5-gallon jerry cans of diesel plus two ship’s tanks, one full and the second half full (need to charge batteries thrice daily.) I offered to rendezvous with them and give them two of our jerry cans, full of diesel of course. Shortly after our VHF traffic the wind filled in a wee bit and we were sailing, and Bedlam II turned off engine and sailed with winds increasing ever so slowly. Al, the skipper, subsequently indicated that they would be okay if the winds held, but I indicated we would rendezvous and give them fuel as once we were out of sight again we would not want to turn back. We sailed a bit of a back and forth course until Bedlam caught up and by 7:42 am, of course by daylight, we had transferred the two jerry cans. Some may think this an easy task, merely come along side each other and hand them between boats. No, that would be super dangerous for craft and crew. One unfortunate wave and the two boats would collide, and perhaps even lock masts with result of no masts. We tied one jerry can to a sacrificial line and that line to a floating line. Bedlam held station at 3 knots and we deployed the jerry can in the water, and being in front moved the rope beside Bedlam at which point they used a boat hook to retrieve the floating line, pull up the jerry can, and cut the sacrificial line. It worked perfectly. The second jerry can was then set up for deployment. All was fine but one of the crew, the son of the owner, dropped the jerry can after it was cut loose – they had a floating jerry can to retrieve (diesel floats on water). While all was well, next time, or if asked for advice, I would tie a floating line onto the handles and merely deploy them into the water and have the recipients capture the line with a boat hook. Simple and safe.
As an aside, the owner of Kinetic is an incredible mariner and knows exactly the consumption of Kinetic. His advice was: “Fuel consumption at 2000 RPM is about 3.5 liters per hour, at a boat speed of about 6.5 knots in flat water. This implies about 1.8 nm per liter. Each tank holds 230 liters. Implied range is about 400 nm per tank. There is no safety factor in these calculations.”
After the transfer I challenged Bedlam to a race to the finish with Bedlam being able to run their engine if winds were less than 3 knots, motoring no faster than 5 knots (Skipper Al’s idea), but we didn’t talk about a wager. I later called him on VHF 16 to make contact as we were about to do a horizon job on them, and the skipper’s reply was to ask whether we were already declaring victory. In a way, I was.
So if the winds had built albeit they were light, why go to the effort of giving them fuel? Two reasons. The wind may ease and they could be stuck in a bad way, even if or perhaps especialy if at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca where there is a lot of commercial vessels heading into and out of the strait. The other reason, from our point of view, was to alleviate their worry about insufficient fuel which could dampen their enjoyment and experience of the adventure. I hope it has done so as there are still a lot of miles of water to flow under the keel.
Never a dull moment on the ocean.
Brian: When I was a kid, I used to marvel at the deeds of Hercules and the like wondering where this stuff came from, the imagination required surely had to be drug induced. Not so says I today, we ventured out on this Odyssey with modern technology and knowledge well knowing that the trip is finite, we will eventually bump into familiar territory. The sea creatures we encounter, as wonderful and unique to us as they are, are not new discoveries. For instance, late this afternoon the sea was calm and visibility was endless. I happened to look up and in the distance was an enormous whale of some variety, a wonderful sight. Set the clock back a few thousand years ago, you are out here in some sort of ancient craft and you see one of these creatures for the first time. You are surrounded by millions of small jellyfish (Velella – ed.) each one having its own sail to move it along, adding to the surreal setting . Upon slowly creeping up to the “monster” it exhales exposing the full extent of its length. You have just come through months of fascination and terror, sleep deprivation has long ago become the norm. You really don’t have any idea where you are or if you will ever see land again, the only constancy in your solitary life are the stars at night which you have given names to different clusters as they guide your rudder to some bearing as you try to go in one direction which may bring land instead of going round in circles. You have survived enormous seas and maddening weeks of becalmed waters, high pressure areas that we know of today but who knew then. This is the environment that created these stories, not only the adventure of actually doing the trips but the unknowns that went with it. I can’t begin to imagine what this would be like not having a clue what lies ahead. This journey represents events that shaped and created these tales as your imagination runs wild out here, especially at night. Clouds take on shapes of humans and animals, combine this with the fact that the most dramatic are troublesome squalls and you have the makings of God-like figures. So far we haven’t experienced any of the extreme conditions that are legendary, just a few blows that give a taste of what it could be like. To be caught up in a tropical storm and survive in crafts that barely stay afloat with no idea what the outcome will be would truly be a mind bending experience.
Last time I wrote we hadn’t caught any tuna yet. Well things have changed drastically. Our freezer is full now and in fact we have some in the fridge. Lost count of how many we have caught, probably about a couple dozen or so. A couple of days ago I had never even seen one in the water before, now they fill the boat. One of the challenges with catching so many is keeping up with the cleaning of them, often I would just finish processing one or two including the extensive cleanup of the boat and the lines would sink and in would come a couple more. We have had triple headers and one quadruple which we got all four on board. We basically just haul them in off the stern of the boat, fling them into the cockpit, let them flop around a considerable amount and then do the job with the knife. Tuna are warm blooded which means lots of blood in the cockpit. Yesterday it was quite common to get a hit halfway through cleaning, pull the line in and flop the fish on the floor of the cockpit, fish flops around madly beating it’s tail in the spilled blood and before long we have one hell of a mess. Process the fish, clean the mess and start all over again. Late in the afternoon I had just started on one of them when two more hit. I hauled them in and threw them over in the blood and gore and they both went into crazy spasms. On my knees in this mess I decided that we had enough tuna for the day and let the boys know with a roar that this was the case, at this stage, I was not amused. The result though is that the freezer is bulging. Good thing too as we are probably getting out of tuna country now as we close in on the coast and, besides, it is a little rough out there and the fishing/cleaning regime would not be a lot of fun today. One more note on the tuna catching; Vern brought in one that must have been over 40 pounds. It took both him and Mike to bring it in. The fillets were the size of beef tenderloins and we must have got about 30 lbs off of that one fish.
Why wasn’t Vern involved in dealing with the tuna yesterday, you ask. He, Mike, and sometimes Rob spent virtually the whole day working on some repairs to the mainsail so we could use it below the third reef. Good job too as shortly after they finished late yesterday the winds filled in and we have been romping ever since.
Never a dull moment, and certainly this is not Groundhog Day.
Rob: The ancient mariners of the Med plotted courses headland to headland along what became familiar routes, favoured by wind and current. Should they get caught in a dreaded storm they would run off before the wind for dear life, with the crudest of dead reckoning techniques. After a few days when the tempest blew itself out and they were still alive, the coast of N. Africa presented a formidable lee shore. Then out came the oars and they would “feel their way ” north in a race with diminishing provisions. From such experience, the Greeks and Phoenicians colonized the classical world.
We are hurtling homeward, bang on course with the best of modern navigation and weather technology to guide us. Fresh supplies are getting short, but there is food for a month (ignoring the 100 lb of fresh fish in the freezer, courtesy of the keen fishers on the other watch). The water maker has the tanks full. Kinetic is eating up the miles, mainsail flying full again after two work days of tedious sewing and sail repair. Fortune again favoured us as we skirted the edge of the converged meta high pressure in light air and drying sunshine to aid the sticky tape adherence. The forecasted winds look solid. There’s enough fuel to motor halfway to Alaska. Power is ample and constantly topped. As for the crew we are a happy bunch that sniff the barn (may smell like we belong in one too!). Our personal energy is topped up with sleep on the off watch. Typically, we wake in a fog, progress through a perky stage and slide to somnolence. A bit like batteries taking a quick charge, but in need of a long stint on AC shore power to get back to the complete stage. That will happen after we are ashore a few days, but in the meantime we enjoy sailing and the experience.
There are no oars aboard and we expect to be in ETA sometime Wed. Anticipating the land ho! cry.
Kinetic Update August 17th – brief update
1800 hrs: Repaired the mainsail from about 0930 to 1700 almost without a break.The main is up. Brian fished while Rob was at the helm, also helping with the main sail repairs.
Yesterday was a hugely successful fishing ‘haul’ of nine tuna, the biggest being over 40 lbs. The freezer is about full with Mahi Mahi and tuna so remaining meals will be combined with fresh fish. At one point yesterday, Brian landed four tuna at once into the cockpit. Today’s breakfast was a full New York Strip Loin steak and egg breakfast! after last night’s meal of lightly seared absolutely fresh tuna.
Kinetic Update August 16th, 7:52 PM
Vern: Bad news is we have little to no wind so are using diesel for energy. This may last a while according to the GRIB file. Will get the next iteration after 7 pm in the same Iridium transmission as sending this quick note.
Tuna for dinner as indicated previously, but we also have some in the freezer including a 40 pound tuna (estimate) which was 36 inches in length. It required both Mike and me to pull it into the boat. Problem is I had made the monofilament leader too long so was lifting the heavy fish by that line rather than the 1/8th inch line to which we attach the leader–the “fishing line”.
Chef Brian is again at work in the galley. This time being creative with tuna. The miles click off but more slowly today. Slow sail all am. 459 miles to Duntze Rock at Tatoosh, which is at the US side of the entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. All good.
As many sailors know, those with the most bruises do foredeck duties. I seem to have a few!
Kinetic Update August 16th, 3:25 PM
Vern: How the conditions can change. Mike and Rob lie down for a nap after we have launched the spinnaker in about 8 knots of wind, and within an hour we are in fog. Not thick but fog for sure. Brian describes it as a ‘white out’. Quite bright from the sun but restricted vision all around. We are watching for AIS targets on the chartplotter and equally, or perhaps more importantly, keeping ‘big eyes’ look out all around.
Still pristine with no garbage. This is a great route for returning to Victoria for this among other reasons indicated in my response to an earlier question.
A bit of fatigue had set in as Rob and Mike missed their sleep during their off day watch (6 hours), and then had about 3 hours off to sleep before coming on watch at 3 am. So it is great that both are sleeping hopefully deeply and will address part of the phenomenon of fatigue. Brian and I seem to be fine or perhaps we just won’t admit fatigue. Interesting how fatigue is so different than merely being tired out here on the ocean.
Finally, tuna. Lost the first but two are aboard. One or rather half of one will be dinner. The lads have been itching for a fish dinner and were threatening to thaw out one or two packages of our frozen mahi mahi. No need for such drastic action. One wonders whether the tuna could be more fresh. Caught, filleted, in the fridge for two hours, and then on the dinner plates. Not at all like the ones you buy at the fish mongers.
More stitching of the mainsail today. Won’t finish the total repair but will make another dent in the project.
It is now 3:15 PDT and we have just had lunch. Any time is fine for a meal aboard Kinetic. At 430 pm Kinetic is the radio boat for the Vic Maui returning fleet albeit most have arrived back in Victoria, Vancouver, or Seattle. Last night after roll call Bedlam II called us on VHF 16 because we were close together but not within visual contact. Seldom see vessels out here and that is one of the reasons we have to keep reminding ourselves to not become complacent and to keep a look out.
Brian: All Canadians are familiar with the infamous white outs we have, especially the Prairie folks. We entered the Maritime equivalent about an hour ago, at first light and thin, now thick and grey, visibility about 200 meters. The water surface can be made out because of the ripples but the horizon is just a blending of sea and sky. The bright colours of our lines contrast dramatically and combined with the big yellow beast that we have flying again, our presence is evident. This is just another mood of the Pacific that we have come across. What is amazing is that while here we have fog and calm, elsewhere there is a storm brewing or back home there are the countless picnic spots that we all go to with our boats that are basking in the sun at the same time we are in this pea soup.
As we run down the final miles, it is getting harder to come up with interesting meals to make for supper. We are down to one frozen Lasagna, a couple of steaks that I will cut up and make some sort of stir fry with, some hamburger patties that we grind up as burger for wraps, and of course, lots of fish. If I was to do this again, I would bring more sauces and spices to perk things up a bit. Almost caught the first tuna this morning which would have been on the menu for tonight but he got off. Lines are in and keeping a watchful eye. Never caught a tuna before but if we don’t get any it won’t be for lack of trying. Good food and lots of it are crucial to keeping up morale which I should say is quite good despite the setbacks with variable repairs and equipment failure. Fatigue is what we have to deal with on a constant basis as our sleep patterns are a bit messed up, whoops, sorry about that, just dozed off for a minute with my fingers still on the key board, no shit! It always seems the wind comes up or we have an equipment problem right around the evening meal/shift change.
We had some repairs to do to the main sail yesterday. Kinetic is like a returning warrior from battle, some wounds need nurturing but she will fully recover and prepare herself for the next battle/race. The forces that she has to contend with are formidable and there is always constant maintenance. The steering issues that they had coming down seem to have been rectified and the screaming eliminated with Vern’s tightening of the steering cable a few days ago. The boom vang looks like it will need some work also. Chafing is a major concern and we are always on the look out for lines rubbing and taping off fittings and sharp bits of wire. As mentioned before, we had a broken bolt that held the alternator in place. The repair would have made MacGyver fans proud. It consists of a plastic spoon from the galley, a length of thin spectra line, a couple of dish towels and some lets call it hay wire for effect. Bottom line, it works and on we go. Speaking of old warriors returning home, this is Vern’s tenth time doing this. Like Kinetic, he needs some minor repairs and nurturing time and he will be as good as new. Don’t know where the energy comes from but he prances around on the foredeck like someone half his age. Even he, though, will need to recharge when we park the boat.
Kinetic Update August 16th, 3:50 AM
Vern: Good morning. Last night we changed the ship’s clock from HST to PDT, so now we are fully ready to be in tune with family and friends when we arrive in Victoria. This was only part of the motivation for changing our clock today. We want to have sunrise and sunset, if we ever see such again, be closer to the times we are accustomed to experiencing back in BC.
We had a marathon 5 hour repair job on the mainsail–it had several stress tears. Actually it had a good number, too many. We patched all above the second reef so are using that reef as we sail overnight even though we would like a full main given the sparse winds. We think it was torn by being reefed and the aft reef point must have put too much stress on the sail cloth. We have changed that arrangement but the horse got out of the barn before doing so. This is terribly unfortunate as it will be a patch work when we arrive in Victoria. We still have many hours of sail repair to bring it to rights. But then it will have to go to the sail makers for some new panels. Even though it is a delivery main with a good number of miles of use I do not look forward to delivering Kinetic to its owners with the mainsail looking like a patch work quilt. Good news, bad news. Bad news is the sail has tears. Good news is we are able to repair it albeit with many hours of toil which means sleep lost. Whole shifts of sleep were lost all day and into the evening and that is bad for potential fatigue of crew. Hopefully all can catch up with additional sleep during the day watches tomorrow. But then tomorrow is when we should repair the remaining tears.
On a more positive note, it is a beautiful night and we are sailing along at a leisurely pace and the good news is we have enough wind so the boat keeps moving. By comparison, Turicum was going to motor all night as they are caught in the high pressure system. And they are a tad short of fuel besides. We have ample and will continue to conserve it in case we truly do get becalmed for a prolonged period of time. Unlikely I hope. A few days ago Kinetic accepted the role of radio boat for the daily roll call of the Vic Maui returning fleet. One of the boats, Bedlam II reported tonight (we are using SSB) and after roll call we spoke on VHF 16 because we were that close. Close but we can not see them. The contact is top of mast to top of mast as that is where our VHF antennae are located. Andrew, the son of the owner of Bedlam II, is a chef so they have been eating well. And Kinetic has chef Brian supported by sous chef Rob.
The sea is super gentle tonight/this morning. Rather peaceful.
Kinetic Update August 15th, 11:30 AM
Vern: Good morning. Boat time is still Hawaii Standard Time but today during the two day watches we will change to PDT being the same as boat time. Each watch will share the benefit of the ‘loss’ of 3 hours by having their 7-hour watch reduced to 5.5 hours–a one-time benefit of sailing easterly. Good on a drizzly day. More about that later.
We have gone for many days without seeing any debris or what I euphemistically call “civilization”. It is pristine out here. No plastic or other flotsam.
After the great winds, we sailed into a bit of a lull with the only light breeze being on our stern. The inevitable happened, the crew rebelled and we started the engine to charge our batteries whilst in gear (an excuse), to advance beyond the light air area, and to keep our sails from flogging. Flogging sails are hard on the nerves of the crew but more significantly very hard on the sails and the rig. But then, like the ongoing magic of sailing offshore, last night at dinner hour the wind began to fill in and build. We were then able to romp along with a full #1 headsail and third reef in the main. The third reef was needed because as we were raising the main it was discovered that a 3 foot ‘tear’ had developed in the sail just above the second reefing point, which had been our destination. So as soon as the drizzle stops and the other watch wakes up for their day shift we will take the mainsail off the mast and perform surgery. Well, more like first aid by applying repair tape to both sides. Of course the tape won’t stick to a wet sail. In the past I used to bring a container of rubbing alcohol to displace the moisture. On Kinetic we use acetone albeit I prefer rubbing alcohol as it will not soften the fibreglass deck which cannot be said of acetone. But we will be careful despite being on a galloping gurney.
I didn’t mention that it is all grey–sky and the water a darker grey. And it has been drizzling non-stop for a good number of hours. The look on Brian’s face when he stepped into the cockpit moments ago to take over the helm, having rallied to the challenge of doing last night’s dinner dishes, described in vivid detail what he thought about the weather. But we have wind, about 16 knots at present so all is spectac. We observe from time to time how much water there is in the Pacific Ocean. We are seeing only a small portion and it is vast.
A question not asked is what is Kinetic like below decks. It is a large boat (48 feet long) with a wide beam so it is relatively spacious. But not quite as that word sounds. The dining table has been removed and a home made table has been dismantled and stored in the berth forward of the mast. This makes lots of room not for crew but for storage of the racing sails, which are stored about 4 deep. So getting to the storage bins on the starboard side is a challenge of climbing over sails and moving some to gain access. The galley is well set up albeit when on starboard tack, which thankfully now we are not, when you open the fridge door you have to be careful you do not dump its contents all over the floor (it faces sideways; not fore or aft). The galley has a cook’s belt to hold you from flying across the boat when on starboard tack (the galley is on the starboard side). However, when on port tack, as now, it is a challenge to not fall into the stove or against the counter above the fridge. The freezer is politely located behind an entrance into the starboard quarter berth so that is good. The sink is a double sink and the water pressure system works well although we use a hand pump rather than the pressure system. Imagine the disappointment if the tap in the forward head, for example, accidentally got turned on while one watch was above decks and the other asleep, and all of our water in one of our two tanks was pumped overboard to dilute the salinity of the ocean. Moving around the main cabin one finds on the port side a berth 6′ 2″ in length, slightly curved, which is my berth. It is a bit tight when you consider I am 6′ 3″ + in height, but it is sufficient as one does not sleep in a prone position. If you tried you would rock all the while keeping yourself awake. You wedge yourself in including pulling up your knees if the boat is rocking.
Aft of my “bed” in the settee berth is the navigation station, the nerve of the operations of the boat. Here we have a chart plotter — there is an identical one at the helm but it relies on the electronic charts in the chart plotter in the nav station — which has many purposes. It shows any AIS ‘targets’ meaning commercial boats which are broadcasting Class A AIS and pleasure craft broadcasting Class B AIS. In addition it shows the course Kinetic is actually making (COG) and a rhumb line to a waypoint we have entered into the chart plotter. In the current circumstances it is an imaginary spot offshore of Carmanah Point as all things permitting, specifically the wind, we would like to enter the Strait of Juan de Fuca on the Canadian side of the outbound shipping lanes. The single side band radio is mounted in the nav station and unlike older versions is easy to operate. Also here is a VHF radio which we have turned on around the clock to monitor channels 16 and 9. Even out here we could have a need to speak with the officer in charge on the bridge of a freighter to ensure they are aware of our presence and to ensure a safe distance encounter (called ‘CPA’ – Closest Point of Approach). The control for the watermaker is in the nav station as is a sophisticated Xantrex system for monitoring and managing battery power. Also here is an inverter which permits us to generate 110 volt electricity to all the electrical outlets in the boat. We only run this when we need to recharge our spot lights, hand held VHF’s, and crew need to recharge the batteries in their cameras. Oh, yes, the satellite phone is located in a docking station which provides it with access to an antenna mounted at the top of the mast. Of course the VHF antenna is at the top of the mast, in accordance with the Offshore Special Regulations governing racing, and the AIS SmarterTrack system uses this same aerial. All the circuit breakers for all the electrical systems are located here, as is the Panasonic Toughbook which is tied to the nav table. Of course tied or it would inevitably fly across the boat rendering it useless even for a pillow for crew. A neat feature is the integration of the Single Side Band and satellite phone into the airmail system on the computer. When we want to send emails or obtain weather data the computer has magic to select the SSB channel you feel has the best propagation, and if using the satellite phone to control the process of sending. I think I said in an earlier update that with the satellite phone there is a separate charge for the Iridium satellite access and also a different charge for use of SnailMail. Like Telus and Shaw. The neat thing about how owner David has set up the system is using SSB to download and send emails you go to the propagation chart to find out which station has the best propagation at the time you are accessing SnailMail (e.g., Friday Harbour, San Diego, Honolulu). With this information you go to the SnailMail system on the desktop and indicate what station and frequency you want to try to use, and provided the SSB is turned on, magically the correct station and frequency is auto dialed in the SSB. You then press a globe icon, and then a green send light and wait for the SSB to dial. I said attempt because it often doesn’t work on the first, second, and even third or more attempts. And since SSB is prior WWI technology the transmission of packets of information is slow and has caused the problem of overusing SnailMail allowable 90 minutes of time per week–rolling average. We can also send emails and draw down offshore weather forecasts and GRIB files using the satellite phone. And this is all controlled by the computer. Magic.
Also at the nav station is the log book in which we enter our latitude and longitude position hourly and any other relevant information such as engine on, engine off, freighters encountered, barometric pressure, direction and velocity of the wind, and course over ground and speed of the boat. Not surprisingly at the nav station are two electronic barometers. Backups for most systems. Also, there is the AIS unit which generates the AIS signal we send through our VHF system, and it also enables us to receive information about other boats broadcasting an AIS signal on the machine itself plus inputting this to the chart plotter.
Aft of the nav station is one of the two heads. This one we use for its intended purpose. The one at the bow is used to store our wet weather gear. It is well laid out but is a challenge when used under way. I need say no more.
Aft of the head is the aft port double berth, which is Mike’s abode. We have it divided into two by a lee cloth so Mike can sleep on one side and his bags and my bag can be stored on the other side. On the starboard side, behind the galley, is the starboard double berth which are hot bunked by Brian and Rob. Hot bunking is not quite correct in that the berth is also separated by a lee cloth and they each have a side, but they have the berth themselves when they sleep as they are on opposite watches.
At the expense of being pedantic forward of the main cabin is the forward cabin, which has double and single berths. These are not used for crew sleeping as they store safety gear and also the delivery sails and other things that Anduril had shipped to Maui, but did not need as it had to abort its mission and go to San Francisco due to steering problems. And in the very front below decks is the forward head.
How does it look below decks right now? Relatively well organized, as everyone generally follows the guideline of don’t leave your stuff lying around the boat. Keep it in your quarters meaning your bunk, drawer(s), sailing bag and, if foul weather gear, hanging in the forward head. And your PFD near you in case of an all hands on deck call for an “emergency response”.
Charlotte Gann asked “why Kauai was chosen as the start point to jump off for the return leg, rather than Oahu as others chose?”
Answer: The main reason is so we would be further west as we left Hawaii and the experience of prior returns via Kauai was that it helps get around the west side of the traditional high pressure system. This means a lot less time of little or no winds, and therefore many fewer hours of motoring through the high pressure system. This was corroborated when, in 2012, Kinetic headed straight for Vancouver Island from Maui, and the result was too many (editorial comment) days of motoring through little or no winds. From the daily roll call of the other returning Vic Maui boats it appears they motored much more than we have. For us it is a sad time to run the motor to escape light winds and we have only done it twice. But not for long periods of time such as overnight or more, as some reported. Yes, going via Kauai does make for a bit of a longer passage as we cover more distance (over 110 nautical miles northwesterly which then has to be sailed easterly in higher latitudes. It also entails two days–overnight sail, day at Hanalei Bay, and overnight and morning at the bay) but it gives us more days for sailing on the high seas in the beautiful tropics and Trade Winds. Sailing overnight in a T shirt and shorts is a thing of beauty. Longer distance to sail and arrive perhaps a day later is the penalty for being able to sail more, but sailing is what it is all about albeit the mission is delivery of Kinetic to the owners David and Gaylean Sutcliffe.
Most of the crew (Rob and Brian) met the boat in Maui and sailed Kinetic to Honolulu. This was a day sail of about 10 hours arriving at Koko Head and sailing along Diamond Head and Waikiki to the Hawaii Yacht Club in the Ala Wai Marina. Mike met the boat in Honolulu so would have no prior experience with the boat if we had left for North America directly from Honolulu.
Crew for the return of Kinetic have paid for their own airfare and are sharing the cost of food for the return. It seems only fair that they get an opportunity to experience a bit of sailing in the Hawaiian Islands before heading offshore.
An overnight sail in the Trade Winds from Honolulu to Hanalei Bay on the north shore of Kauai provides crew, who have not been offshore, with an opportunity to experience sailing in relatively high seas and solid winds, and to test whether they will have any seasickness issues. This overnight sail also gives the crew a taste of doing watches and starts the process of the crew becoming a working team–getting to know each other is key to harmonious relationships in the confined space of the boat. This leg of the trip enables a rather extensive safety briefing as a follow up to the skipper’s briefing at the dock before leaving Honolulu. This includes the location and use of safety equipment, the MOB Quick Stop procedure (including turning the boat quickly whether under white sails or spinnaker to quickly get back to the MOB, pressing the MOB button to record the latitude and longitude of the MOB, deploying the MOM, deploying the life ring c/w flashing light and whistle, use of the lifesling, location and deployment of block and tackle specifically designated for pulling a MOB out of the water), abandon ship procedures such as location and responsibilities for taking the grab bag, extra bags of food and water, EPIRB, SART, and satellite phone (think of it as a roster list), and deployment of the life raft including emphasizing that only the person in charge decides whether and when to deploy the life raft or to call a mayday alert. It also reinforces the need for a culture of safety (don’t do anything to put yourself in peril and stay on the boat meaning wear your PFD at all times and be tethered to the boat and for sure always at night). Crew see first hand that the chances of being rescued if you fall overboard are less than 100% due to high waves, winds, and reduced visibility. It also enables reinforcement of the need to keep a watch for other boats including looking outside the boat (!) and monitoring the AIS data on the chart plotter (we inevitably encounter large vessels on this inter-island sail). And so much more.
There is a lot of equipment on board a sailboat that is as well prepared as Kinetic is, and it is beneficial for crew other than the skipper to know their locations.
Departing from Kauai also gives the crew a bit of a perk in that they are able to swim to shore, eat in a restaurant, and enjoy a drink at a neat spot, and see the north side of Kauai from the water. The boat is anchored in the bay and crew swim about 1/4 mile to shore. In the beginning of the Jurassic Park movie the plane flies over the spectacular mountains along this shore.
Kinetic Update August 14th
Brian again- later on the 14th: How hard does it rain in the middle of the Pacific? One hell of a lot! During this blow, the skies have opened up enough to flatten the wave tops. It is relatively warm but affects visability. Not only that, it makes you feel like a drowned rat. Washing all the salt away on the boat and equipment is an added bonus. Had some lightning show up so we isolated the satellite phone and the hand held vhf radios, not much danger to us other than losing all the electronics if we are hit. At the end of the 7am-1pm now and it looks like the weather will remain wet but the winds look like they will subside. From here on in I suppose we will be juggling wet clothes in a confined space. Must have been a mess with 9 guys in here during the race.
Later on in the evening of the same day as above, about 1015 pm. Went through a mood change again with the Pacific Princess, she is sure a finicky bitch. The winds subsided to nothingness accompanied by fog and dampened all our spirits. Despite the challenge of working with the storm, it was chewing up the miles between us and you folks at home and we, perhaps, got a little optimistic about carving off large chunks of distance. We resorted to motoring for a while which gets us out of the doldrums but it always feels like a cop out by doing so, after all, we are sailors! Well it worked and we found some wind. We are currently cruising along again under sail in what started out to be a pitch black night. When it gets like that, you are totally dependent on the compass, wind on the face and your faith that there is nothing ahead of you to hit. It actually is quite pleasant once you get over the fear of the darkness. The sky is opening up and the wind has a fresh feel to it, way better then the fog. Having cursed the fog and lack of wind, it did give us an opportunity to cook a good meal and have a nip of scotch. The us for scotch was actually Rob, Mike, and me–Vern having decided to not consume any alcohol as he is the skipper in charge. I found a can of jalapeno peppers, combined it with ground beef, rice, fried cabbage, hot sauce and soya, chopped up orange pepper and onion/garlic, stuffed it in a wrap and presto, burritos for supper. Speaking of cabbage, great veggie to take on a boat trip. It keeps better than lettuce and is more versatile, note to myself. Back up to the helm to relieve Vern and finish this shift, my sleeping bag awaits.
Vern: Early daylight and all is well. A good overnight sail was had by all-at least those aboard Kinetic. We averaged 8 knots through the night amidst some high rollers and gusts to over 25 knots, but the average wind speed as measured by our instruments was 21.75 knots. Overcast all night but the moon did provide some welcome glimpses of the waves.
Mike has found a new way to rest when not steering on his watch–which is with Rob. He lies in the cockpit and presumably does not have to have his core muscles moving and compensating for the pitching and rolling of the boat. And for creature comforts he puts two cushions, which we purchased in Honolulu for those with tender or lean meat butts, under his head for a pillow. Once in a while he has to be pried out of this restful position to take the helm, but when he does there are smiles and the odd yelp of pleasure. He doesn’t crow, however, as this is reserved to wake up the oncoming crew. That is if they are sleeping. And it must be said that Brian has delicately honed the art of getting into his bunk immediately after going off watch.
All is well. We are 784 nautical miles from Duntze Rock, which is at the southern entrance to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. I want to approach the mouth of the strait by targeting Carmanah Point and therefore entering the Canadian side to avoid crossing both the outgoing and incoming shipping lanes.
Our Spanish windlass for the #1 alternator is still working fine. The two alternators each generate 110 amps of power so they keep our batteries charged with running the engine in neutral for 3 bouts of 30 to 40 minutes per day.
As this 0645 update is written Brian is sleeping, Mike is driving, and Rob is making coffee. Everyone has a job to do at all times aboard the boat–even if it is sleeping to ensure fatigue does not incapacitate crew.
Good Morning from Rob! Aha! The seat is vacant and opportunity beckons. Vern is in a quiescent state and horizontal. Had to chuckle, from VB’s last note re. the duty to sleep and avoid fatigue. I think we will bold that one , print it and paste it over Vern’s bunk.
Now as for Mike lying down on the job, this account needs to be rectified for the record. As watches go, you must deal with what you get as you stick your head out. Last night for the Port watch (RJT & MC )it was a dose of ocean passage reality on this favoured voyage we are having. The sea rocking with wind driven wave and rolling with cross swell. The wind swooshed at 25 kn in the inky blackness. The instrument panel glows back at you as it seemingly swirls, dips and undulates as the only visible object . This is a recipe for vertigo. There is only one task at the helm- keep the boat on it’s feet. Of course it has a mind of its own in the circumstances. There is your course and 20000 lbs of Kinetic heading for the exit.
To reassure, we clocked some record hourly speeds and distance before handing Kinetic back 4 hrs later to starboard watch in a moon glow haze, something to steer to again.
Best choice sailing conditions, not this last night. The beauty of offshore is that every condition is special as it is rare to be out here. You wouldn’t choose some of the sailing you encounter but it is all part of the thrill of it. The light air finesse I associate with inshore racing. It is common. Each race is unique, however, and seeking out an extra tenth of a knot can make a difference so one persists even when ghosting along for hours. Too slow for the vast distances out here. The fact the motor is at our disposal is a positive attribute of the delivery experience.
Brian: We have been in the middle of a bit of a blow since mid afternoon yesterday, it is now about 09:45 someday this week. This wind is running 20-25 knots with gusts up to 33, we are running with an apparent wind angle of 115-120 when the waves allow. In a nut shell we are screaming along to our destination like a horse galloping back to the barn. Time really has taken on a whole new meaning, watches blending into one another, none really any better than the next, day and night have less meaning. We basically are sailing by the compass, apparent wind angle instrument, wind on our faces and necks, and feel for the waves as there really aren’t any reference points available to use and if there was, the wave action would render them redundant. All is grey as it is overcast with low cloud and intermittent drizzle or downpour. Obviously someone has to be driving the boat at all times regardless of the rain, wind and noise. Yes, it is intimidating, but we are all doing our part to make the best of it. Sleep is the key yet it is difficult to get anything other then a cat nap as the boat rolls and pitches you about in your berth. It is unfortunate that we need to recharge our batteries with sleep but on the positive side, it passes the time efficiently when times are awkward. During a blow, walking about the boat is really tough and somewhat dangerous, you may as well be in a berth despite the rolling.
Not sure how long this will last but we have trimmed the sails accordingly and are riding it out. Nice thing about it is that yesterday we clocked about 194 miles and today I would think we will break the 200 mark assuming this keeps up. It’s not so bad once you get used to it as the boat handles this quite nicely. This distance traveled makes it worthwhile. It will be good though ,when she calms down, to catch up on sleep and shared camaraderie in the cockpit. Out here on our little floating island, you can’t call in sick or sleep in, it just wouldn’t work. We try to have both watchmates in the cockpit to assist the helmsman if necessary but for now the camaraderie of the four of us lazily having a conversation during the mid afternoon is probably not going to happen. A strategically placed saltwater wave over the side can really ruin a cup of coffee!
Kinetic Update August 13th
Vern: The only reason we know it is August 13 is it is the day after our last update, we need to know for navigation, and our watches say so. Other than these reasons there is no reason to care what day it is or, for that matter, what time of day or night it is. One day blends into the next and although a considerable number of days have elapsed since leaving Maui it would be hard to know how many unless one looked at our log. Speaking of which, we make an entry in the ship’s log at the end of every hour, yes, every hour around the clock. Routinely we enter the latitude and longitude, barometric pressure, True wind direction, True wind speed, our course over ground, and boat speed. The barometric pressure is key data to help identify major winds or weather systems. It is the speed of the gradient of change that determines how aggressive/severe the weather will be, meaning the wind, and wave and swell height. Another key input to planning our route is regular downloads of the GRIB files which contain a model of the wind and systems forecast over a predictable period of time. This trip has had its challenges in obtaining current GRIB files, and this challenge continues. First it was SnailMail putting a rolling 90 minute average limit on access to its server for downloading email and GRIB files. And some of the GRIB data files would exceed our allowance, and thence the ‘hate’ message referred to in an earlier update that we were using too much time and should reduce it. We learned via owner David Sutcliffe of this limitation after he kindly researched it. Now our Iridium Satellite is back up and running but Rob still can not get the server somewhere in the cloud to recognize our address. One solution may be to reboot our computer and satellite phone but Rob is reluctant to do this as he would lose some settings–magic to the rest of us. Our onboard computer is a Toughbook running on XP with no virus protection; thus our using a shore-based contact to receive and forward incoming and outgoing emails. And we never connect to the Internet directly with this computer. These Panasonic Toughbooks are built like army tanks, indeed used in battle, so the technology underlying them is a bit dated as it must go through R&D rigour before new models are issued. Did we mention duplicate systems aboard Kinetic? We even have a back up Toughbook configured to give us basic services should the one being used fail. How to fail. Well, it is a computer. Plus we could get a hit by lightning in a storm if we have not depowered and removed it from connection to antennae on our mast. Of course, every time there is lightning we can’t power the Toughbook down. During the large wind, related to a tropical low formed in the Gulf of Mexico, on the race down we experienced an impressive display of bright flashes of lightning so did power down the computer and isolate some other electronics as was possible. BTW, we were in total blackness except for when the lightning flashed–and then it showed some of the first time offshore racers aboard how large the waves and swells were. One crew member commented, at the time, he preferred not seeing the waves when the lightning flashes subsided. But we digress from the Maui Vic adventure.
We were asked, “Which is more challenging, sailing with very light wind or sailing with strong winds? I think I know which you enjoy the most….”. That is a good question. Strong winds, up to about 25 knots, are welcome as they help us to ‘eat up the miles’. Winds above that level, say up to 30 or 35, grab your attention and require focused concentration by the helmsman and anyone else in the cockpit. Winds above that level result inn a change of priorities for the boat. We think of it as crew, craft, and mission. The first priority is to always look after the safety of the crew. The second priority is to look after the integrity of the craft as if the boat flounders or otherwise becomes unreliable it can have an adverse affect on the crew. The third priority is the mission, in the Vic Maui it is racing hard in competition. In the current passage it is arriving back in Victoria in a timely manner. If the winds become gale, storm, or lord help us hurricane force necessitate changes in priorities. This is the most challenging as survival may be at stake; indeed full fledged hurricane force winds significantly reduce the probability of survival. Some may debate this but the risks are many, including crew fatigue and mistakes, and the boat being rolled or pitch polled by an excessively large wave. In cases of super high winds we are no longer focused on our mission unless it will protect crew and craft. If it means changing direction, even to the extent of reversing course we would do so in order to be as safe as can be. The risk of very high winds is gear failure or a round up which could damage/break important things like booms and masts–but lots of less dramatic gear as well. Examples include turning blocks, sheets, halyards, and virtually any other gear aboard. More specific to the question – the ideal winds are 10 to 20 knots for Kinetic but she also loves up to 25. These are not challenging; they are ideal and even old men get smiles on faces and utter the odd positive comment with an excited voice. This especially if one can surf down a wave and have the boat reach ever higher speeds and hold those speeds for a good long time–sometimes even being picked up by a second and third wave if running or up to aft of abeam. Light winds require concentration and focus to gain the optimum speed of the boat. This requires close attention to sail trim, careful helming, walking on the boat like a kitten so as to not spill wind out of the sails, and careful sail selection–to name only a few factors. The other aspect is building apparent wind in order to keep the boat sliding through the water. Kinetic is a ‘light air machine’ despite being over 22,000 pounds plus gear and crew weight. The neat thing about light air is one can hone one’s sailing skills. In some respects with higher winds such as 10 to 20 it is easy to sail a boat provided the sails are properly adjusted. With super light winds the challenge is to stay focused and to be mentally convinced one can keep rolling along rather than giving up and thinking one can’t sail in these conditions. Light air sailing is super challenging and therefore fun provided the breeze is not so light that the mainsail slaps back and forth across the boat,and the headsail won’t pull. But, and this is an important but, one adapts by putting up smaller sails made of lighter cloth to sail in light air. Sails with heavy cloth will collapse due to the light breeze, but drifters or spinnaker staysails will often allow you to ghost along. And the mainsail often needs to be reduced in size or even removed. Slapping sails spill the wind and make it impossible to get up to speed and hold it. So, all winds have their challenges. The higher winds in the range of 10 to 20 knots are ideal for sailing out here as well as back home. Another thought – the winds have more punch when the temperature is colder; thus the same velocity winds as we get closer to the Strait of Juan de Fuca have more driving force than the Trade Winds from whence we came. Can not look up my notes but it may be Boyles law.
We are having a great day of sailing. The winds are 16 to 21 knots and the last hour (just off the wheel at 3 pm) we averaged 8.7 knots. It may not seem very fast compared to driving your vehicle but they are not comparable. A vehicle is rolling along on top of the terrain held back only by the friction on the tires and of the air it is moving through. Kinetic’s sails are pushing a 22 ton vessel, with content of about 2 tons, through the water on a surface bereft with waves and swells. Plus most vehicles are designed to reduce noise for the passengers while we are in the cockpit with the noise of wind to add to the sense of power. And all this is exacerbated by the acuteness of the senses during the night, especially when it is dark. It is like driving into oblivion, trusting the sense of wind on your neck, face and ears, compass (albeit it was not lit for a few nights until I positioned my back up headlamp on it, and the instruments providing wind apparent wind angle, apparent wind direction, course made good, and course steered in True. And of course, the speed we are traveling. After a while steering becomes intuitive and second nature but you can not let your mind wander for long lest you wander off course. Off course means being too close to the wind and creating too much apparent wind and having flopping sails, or losing control and heading up until the wind spills out of the sails–a noisy event as the sails rag and the other crew rag on the driver. Heading too low means you are not creating enough apparent wind, unless the wind is sufficiently high to not need such, and therefore slowing the boat. All is different when flying a spinnaker albeit some of the same principles apply–keep the boat under control.
At the time of writing we are 881 nautical miles from the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is still a long way but much closer. I believe it is about like sailing from Victoria to Calgary. We have already sailed from Calgary to Toronto. Please don’t hold me to these comparisons exactly as we don’t have a map of Canada aboard Kinetic.
Having been away from Victoria since the Vic Maui race started July 5th it is interesting how one does not need to know what current events are happening. I don’t know who is at war with whom, where the last multiple shooting occurred, or any other news sensations. It is a good thing, and puts life in perspective. Life is good aboard Kinetic.
Brian: Interesting question about preferred speed. This Gulf Island Gunkholer probably has a different perspective to the ideal wind situation than the three A type sailing gurus that I share the boat with. It also evolves as the trip goes on and my experience in different conditions expands. We have been in many different conditions from becalmed to steady 28 knots and higher gusts. Becalmed drives you nuts except it is great weather for cooking dinner and walking aboard ship. The other end of the spectrum I have to admit is scary, not because the boat or crew can’t handle it but it is the “what ifs” that pose the problem. What if it keeps increasing in intensity? What if we blow a sail or have to change a sail at night? As a novice, we could have had a storm jib and a trisail up and I would have been happy although knowing what I know now, that would have been silly (but what if it got worse!). Changing sails in stormy seas is a real challenge especially if it is at night. I suspect with time and experience the higher winds will be less of a challenge. Right now we are sailing on a starboard tack and have been doing so for about 24 hours now with a wind speed of between 14-20 knots. Very comfortable, steady and gives us a consistent speed of about 7-8 knots in the right direction. It is very manageable and is putting us on the right track for Juan de Fuca Stait. It also has enough punch to give the sailors their fix of speed. If I had my choice, this would be the ideal one.
It feels like we have turned the corner and have entered into the second half of the voyage. Hawaii seems like a long way away now and the tropics are becoming a distant memory. We should be above 43 degrees latitude this evening and with the winds today and predicted in the near future, we are making tremendous progress to our goal. It looks like the last half of the distance will be covered in shorter time but I am not making any predictions. At this stage of the game, the individual watches have developed personalities of their own. The two in the daytime are generally quite relaxed and we spend a lot of time talking and spelling each other off. It is a social time that usually involves a lot of conversation, projects and laughter. The night watches are time for lots of introspection and me time. We chat with our respective watch mates, in my case Vern but there is a lot of time staring into the darkness when the other is below doing whatever. Despite having to get up at 3 in the morning, my favorite night shift is the 3-7 am. Two hours in the dark, two hours in the light with a sunrise of some sort in between. This morning the sun was welcomed with dolphins off the bow just coming to say hello. The nights are an experiment with sleep patterns that is manageable, you just have to have the opportunity to get some sleep in the off times. Takes a bit of getting used to but by the time we get home, I should be used to it!
Rob: You cannot believe how difficult it is to elbow your way to the notebook at the nav station. I have had my PC time quota, but it has been largely Comm troubleshooting, weather interpretation and passage routing activity. Then there is always the possibility that the boys have edited me out of the notes for not making the editorial deadline!
The dropped thread, seems days ago, was the tale of the great spinnaker wrestle, back of the boat perspective. With the headsail down and the full mainsail flying the yacht is unbalanced. The main wants to cock the boat to windward and it is not opposed by an equal and opposite force from the jib. That leaves the high aspect rudder and the poor sod on the wheel attempting to assert control between a massive round up to wind or the course. A 20,000 lb gorilla makes for an intimidating opponent, especially when playing tag team with big waves. We were all glad to wrestle the demon to the ground.
Days meld one to the next. We have had a spectacular last couple skirting the high in beautiful sunshine and wind. Today Kinetic did a 197 mile 24-hour run! Big progress and as I write, the wind continues to blow southerly and we are flying along in the direction of home. The perigee moon (it looks like a pilates ball on a table at moon rise)and Perseid meteor showers will be obscured tonight but were a spectacular sight a few nights ago.
In the interest of getting a word in edgewise I’ll send this along and grab a bowl of chili which is dinner tonight. Not gourmet, I opened cans and attempted to redeem the whole mess with condiments. A downgrade from our accustomed standards, but fuel for the upcoming watch.
Kinetic Update August 12th
Brian: We had an incident yesterday about supper time (beef stroganoff and cabbage/raisin salad) that illustrates how fast things can change out here. A few times a day we have to run the engine to charge the batteries as there are many systems on board that draw power. The engine was started and right away there was a squeal coming from the motor. Upon inspection, after immediately shutting the motor down, we found a broken bolt that holds a bracket in place for the alternator. We now have a challenge, the batteries are low which means we shut down as much as possible until we can get this fixed. All the marine stores and mechanic shops are shut down for the day. My first thought; we have a freezer full of fish, secondly, if it gets too low we can’t start the engine and thirdly, how full are the water tanks as the freshwater maker runs off the batteries and oh yeah did I happen to mention all our communication and navigation systems? Right away we rallied, Rob took the helm while Vern, Mike and I rigged up the bandaid solution that saved the day and quite frankly looks like it will work for the duration of the trip, challenge met within an hour, batteries charged and on we go. The point is, what really makes this an adventure is that when these things happen it is up to us to rectify the situation. We have a great team here that can really come together and do just that. As with the wrapped up genicker the other day, we assess the situation, develop a plan, briefly discuss the solution and act on it.
Before I forget, while preparing supper last night a school of what I believe are white sided dolphins charged the boat and played with us for about 15 minutes. There were about 30 or so of them swimming about the boat. It was an amazing sight as you could see them coming towards us from quite a distance off. There seemed to be some sort of purpose to their efforts and once they did their thing, they were gone in a heartbeat. On one of our watches, Vern and I saw a small turtle on the surface of the water lazily swimming along, where to who knows. As a land based being, I am in awe with these creatures that live out here, as comfortable in their water environment as I am in mine. Flying fish are another mystery. They literally fly out of the water like big bugs of the ocean with some purpose, sometimes one at a time or in groups. Are they playing or escaping predators, your guess is as good as mine. We haven’t caught any more fish since leaving the more tropical waters although the lines are in and we expect to be getting into tuna any time now. Something did go for one of the lines this morning but did not hit, looked like a tuna. Vern says we can’t have any more fish to eat until we catch fresh ones as all the dorado is frozen now. Six lines out, should not be long.
Kinetic Update August 11th
Brian: The glory and I do mean glory of the 3-7 am watch is watching the transition from dark and foreboding night time to the optimism of the lightening day. You feel a surge of relief and comfort as the clouds lighten up and the birds suddenly appear. Got to mention the birds. Keep in mind that we are 1000 miles in any direction from any type of land form. This morning I looked up and there were two little white terns, at least that is what I will call them for now. They were beating their little wings trying to catch up to the boat, perhaps curious as to what is this strange thing that has invaded their sovereign space. Where do they go all day and night? Were they once a flying fish that escaped the water or a bird that will someday return? As the sun came up this morning, there was a Jonathon Livingston Seagull moment. An Albatross came swooping over the bow of the boat, seemingly oblivious to our presence. The sun was streaming through the clouds in the background and the bird sailed away 2 feet above the water towards it until it was out of sight. Quite fitting as we now have to consider do we head east or more northeast? The albatross went more to the north, maybe trying to show us the way. If we go east too soon we will bump into North America too far south, somewhere down around Astoria, Oregon. Don’t want to do that as there are strong winds beating us back all the way up the coast from there to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Too far north and we may end up going many more miles than necessary but perhaps more efficient as we would miss the big high pressure system that becalms you for days. What to do; I say throw out the electronics and follow the albatross. Head north east on a heading of about 45 degrees true. Give it a shot, if we’re right, it is a neat story to tell how the bird showed us the way, if we are wrong, we just grin and bear it and make up another story. For the mean time, it was great to use the sun as our guiding point of reference this morning, it promises warmth and daylight, for now that will do.
How do we prepare meals and such on a perpetually pitching and heaving platform you ask? We call it the desperate act of eating. Like being in a Batman movie, we are always tilted, usually about 15-20 degrees or so, the difference being we are also moving in every direction. The stove is gimballed which means it stays level while the rest of the boat heals over. When the wind is healing the boat over to port (starboard tack) you are leaning in towards it, wind coming in from the starboard, you lean away from it with a belt holding you in. Put anything on what ordinarily would be a level surface and it is gone usually with the associated mess. Multiple dish meals are a challenge as there is not enough secure space to put anything. You get inventive and believe it or not, used to cooking this way, within reason. We have had some great meals though, regardless. It takes time, planning and compromise. Vern’s bowl of chili and rice ended up in the sink at one point but we scooped it up and put it back in the bowl, no one knew the difference. It happened again at lunch today when Rob’s fresh fruit salad (pineapple, mango, and cracker and cheese) took a slider and the bowl ended upside down in the sink. I guess the sink is hygienic as they didn’t seem to succumb to any illness. Eating the grub is also a bit of a challenge, the best place when the weather is good it is in the cockpit, three of us eat while the helmsman steers and drools. All in all we get-er-done and and there is no threat of starvation. Washing dishes in these conditions is another story that you can imagine is a lot of fun.
Kinetic Update August 10th
Vern: An eventful day yesterday. The GRIB files indicated we sailed through the remnants of Julio, the tropical storm which developed into a hurricane and subsequently retreated to a tropical low. These lows can still produce big winds, like the one we encountered on the race down with gusts of over 50 knots. We experienced big seas with a full main and spinnaker. Combined wave and swell height was about 15 feet. Mike described the highest waves as pyramids–all in the blackness of night as the clouds hid the moonlight and blanked out any stars for directional reference. Plus the LED red light on our compass had failed a few days prior and attempts to fix had been wanting. The waves were 10 to 15 foot from the south east, which overwhelmed the 8 foot westerly swells. The march of the the pyramids. Sailing for too long with our 1.5 ounce spinnaker we then changed to genoa and white sails. Let us leave it at we were overpowered with sail area up, and could go just as fast and more safely with reduced sail. Subsequently, even with the genoa and mainsail we were surfing at great speeds. At one time Vern surfed at 15.7 knots for a good long time down a large wave. Another time over 10 knots for a prolonged period of time with the heavy wind. Then overnight the wind lightened, but we were still having a great sail. As Brian says, nothing stays the same for very long out here. At about 4 am we crossed a weather front. We went from T-shirt and shorts to cold and wet. And wet it was. Brian went below (by mutual consent) and it poured rain for what seemed too long. The result was a driver soaked to the skin but needing to stay on the helm while his watch mate extended the task of washing dishes and doing other ablutions in order to stay dry. Being nearly hypothermic, but still lucid, while driving is a rare experience. Then the wind went light and ti was time for a watch change at 3 am. Rob and Mike endured/enjoyed confused, light winds which continued for about 3 hours. They claim it was terrible for 1 of the 3 hours. They cursed, they motored in gear to charge the batteries, they increased sail area by taking the two reefs out of the mainsail which we had put in after taking the spinnaker down during the remnants of Julio, and then they reached bliss when it was again time for watch change at 7 am. All is well, we have found more wind and we are proceeding with confidence. Rob is below preparing eggs and pancakes, Mike is doing cabin chores and waiting for the clean up of dishes, pots and pans etc. Cabin and dish clean up routine have a volunteer; uncertain about the head cleaning duties. Time will tell. The other two–the on watch crew–are taking turns driving and keeping Kinetic on its mission. But not dressed in shorts and T shirt. Full foul weather gear as if we were sailing in Victoria in the late fall. We have the correct safety at sea priorities: crew, craft, and mission in that order. Wet clothes don’t dry, so what to do? Two options: wear them until dry or put in a bag hoping they have not molded by the time of arrival in Victoria. Wearing to dry doesn’t exactly work when wearing foul weather gear so perhaps there is only one option.
At 9:56 am it was warm and we donned our wet clothing to ‘dry on’ while sailing in a wonderful sea and gentle but punchy wind. Ah, but just when Mike had gone to bed we discovered three tears in the mainsail, not major problems as they were in the low pressure part of the sail–the luff. However, out here you do not let any imperfection go without being repaired as you know that the forces are great, and there is a long way to go to the destination. Time does not repair but only exacerbates problems–at home but especially out here. With Brian on the helm Vern and Mike lowered the sail to the second reef point where one of the tears was, and a repair was make. Ditto several other places as the sail was raised. Repairs were accomplished and it was back to full power.
Speaking of distances it is a long way. Presently at 145 HST on Aug 10 we are 1028 nautical miles from Kauai and 1374 nautical miles from Swiftsure Bank at the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. And then add 58 nautical miles onward to Victoria. San Francisco, which is due east True of us is about the same distance away. Well actually it is 1429 nautical miles away. So we can say we are over 1,000 nautical miles from the nearest land except just under 3 miles straight down–and that is not our destination. The Pacific Ocean is vast and we are only covering a miniscule portion of it. You can fly from Vancouver/Seattle to Hawaii and it takes about 5 hours. You look out and see blue water or perhaps not if there is an overcast sky. Not everyone recognizes from the comfort of their airplane seat just how far away it is. We do. Ten races and this, the tenth return still leaves me in amazement of the power of the wind, the energy in a roiled sea, and how far it is in a small craft. But that is the charm and attraction. Never the same experience.
All is good. Winds are over 12 knots. The four crew get along well, and have a good sense of humour even when there is unanticipated adversity. On a long voyage like this there will be challenges, but mostly memorable experiences. As Brian observed, “Nothing ever stays the same for 2 minutes.”
Brian: Remember the line about midday yesterday when the big yellow monster, the asymetrical genicker, got wrapped up in the forestay during some particular developing nasty weather. Tough sailing with it in a building sea but man can you move. It was sort of my baptism in the pulpit (the front end of the boat up by the anchor, really, that is what it is called.) Vern and I had to go up and wrestle with the lines and what ever we could get a hold of to get it down. It is hard to describe the confusion, noise and holy shit moment when you go forward and look up at this angry beast with no idea how or if we are going to get this thing down. Start at the beginning, try some things, work as a team and try not to shrivel up and cry. Water is generally part of the equation and I could not help but think what this would be like in cold climates and at night. With help by all, it was finally freed up and in one piece I may add. The yellow beast is in it’s cage and stored below.
This was just the beginning of the excitement yesterday. I mentioned that the seas were developing when all this was happening and man did they. The waves became small moving mountains that roll beneath you as you try not to think about what makes up the ingredients for the perfect storm. To the experienced offshore sailor, this may sound silly but I am not the case, especially with all the talk about the two storms south of us in Hawaii. I knew we were in trouble when the scattered squalls became one big mass of clouds and there was no end in sight. By the time I went to bed, (and you do go to bed when your watch finishes, we call it putting money in the bank, extremely important as some of these events can last for days) the waves were about 15 feet and blowing about 25 knots, again not huge but to the novice a new experience. Sleep I did not as visions of disaster filed by one at a time. Have I mentioned noise and constant motion yet? Big part of this experience that gets a lot bigger during a blow. At one point, the boat accelerated to about 15 knots that sounded like turbines that had just been turned on. We average about 6-8 knots to put it in perspective. There is always the noise of the boat and water but combined with this there is a constant squeak in the steering that gets louder with force applied, well yesterday it was screaming like a tortured child. On a side note, went down to check it out this morning and it is all fine. To counter the motion, you wedge yourself in the berth with your bags to keep you from rolling. Generally works quite well when on a constant tack but in a chaotic sea, you get tossed all over. Our little mishap with the yellow monster meant that we had a more reliable jib sheet on the roller furler which we could easily control by simply making it smaller. We ended up with two reefs in the main sail also meaning that it was much smaller and less likely to heel over uncontrollably. Make a long story short, by the time I got up for my watch, the seas were calming and the perfect storm ended up being a minor blow that only served to remind us that it is serious out here when nature decides to take the upper hand.
Something else happened yesterday that deserves discussion. It got cold. Not Alberta freezing the nostrils type but a subtle change in the air that causes a shiver and a rummaging in the sacks to find the first layer of what will become the new dress code. In my case, it is my black stuff as all my cold weather gear is one form of black polar guard or another. We are still wearing shorts though which caught up to us at the end of our late night watch when the rain came down in buckets. No matter what the weather, some poor sack has to be out there in it to steer the boat and it is a sad site to look out the companion way to see the drenched figure at the wheel only to realize that you are up next.
To counter all this gloom and doom, there is the other side of the story. To watch the big yellow kite pop open as it fills with air and literally lift the boat forward is living art. It is a challenge to sail it well and deserves mastering as it can do things that others can’t. The other side of the storm is the morning after. Now properly dressed, I find myself steering the boat in the early morning surrounded by fifty shades of grey, like the albatross playing with the apparent winds to move us forward. There is a true feeling of accomplishment as the miles tick off. Since leaving Hawaii, we have covered 1019 miles and are at Lat 38.21’08” Long 153.22’09”. It is really interesting out here, the lat and long coordinates are not just a curious concept in a long ago geography class, they are truly our address at a point in time that much like the stars give us a reference point to hang our hat on. They let us know where we are and that soon we will be in the tuna territory, the freezer will fill up, we will see land and then we will be home.
Rob: Reading Brian’s account of the day reminds me how interesting it is to have the fresh outlook of Brian’s experience experience aboard in a crew mate. We have fallen in to roles as a team both as doubles on watch and as a complete unit. Versatility iis demanded short crewed as we are on a large thoroughbred sailing yacht The contributions of each person in pursuit of a common objective, be it the immediate issue at hand (i.e yesterdays spinnaker wrestle) or the progress of the voyage at large are a huge measure of the satisfaction of these trips and provide the defining character that lodges in memory for the future recounting in the Chartroom.
I tend to expend much mental energy on the navigation constantly ruminating on the weather outlook (especially wind and wave patterns). The weather data models at our disposal, even with relatively infrequent availability- more on comm systems in a minute). The GRIB (stands for Gridded Binary files) model has been playing out with remarkable accuracy. These files are a compilation of weather data massaged to produce a predictive model. Order out of chaos really. In any event they inform our decisions for the path home. additionally Kinetic runs a program called Expedition which correlates the GRIB data with boat capabilities to produce the best predicted route. Within the rich context of a 2500 mile ocean passage, analysis and interpretation are endlessly fascinating (surprise for those who know the weather channel is one of my top programs from that empty TV world).
For the tactile, action oriented real environment experience- I love the challenge of a good session at the helm. What might that be? The sublime moments in the groove with perfect conditions , of course, but also my end of the spinnaker take downyesterday. To be continued.
Kinetic update August 9th
Rob: Hi to all . Going on watch so just a short comment. Boisterous westerlies ‘ fun driving, need to go. Later.
Brian: Hi all. We have just spent the last 18 hours or so on the verge of collapse. That’s what they tell me it is like sailing with a chute, spinnaker, kite, asymmetrical, genicker, whatever. Wow, they are right. We get great speed, head in the right direction and it supplies plenty of adrenaline/terror. I was on the 3-7 am shift with Vern this morning and it started with a series of one squall after another. Vern was amazing on the helm, he can read the conditions even in the dark. Hell of an experience for me, an analogy would be a blue run skier (me) going on a three week extreme ski trip to Nepal with three triple black diamond skiers (Vern, Mike and Rob). Staring into the towering black clouds of the squalls is like Bilbo Baggins staring at Mordor just before another epic battle scene. Four hours of that at that time of day and you are ready for sleep at the end of the shift. It is said that you don’t remember days, you remember moments, last night was a pretty long moment that I will remember for a long time to come.
Fishing update. We have now filled the freezer to such a level with dorado fillets that we will stop fishing for now until we are in tuna territory otherwise we won’t have room. We had another triple header yesterday that I had the pleasure of watching as they came in and struck. We had out six lines and I was facing the stern of the boat when out of nowhere at least half a dozen blue finned dorado came hurtling in like a squadron of jet fighters. Three lines went taught and all hell broke loose. We had just caught one that was already in the cockpit and added two more in short order, one of them being what I think is the biggest so far. Had my work cut out for me with the knife, good thing I don’t get queezy. Needless to say, it got a little messy, will make sure everything is cleaned up before Race Rocks, David, promise. Squalls at night really help out with the task. Came up with a suggestion for a unique sailing/fishing charter extreme experience that could be marketed to the guys that think they have done everything, heck, maybe we could offer night fishing in the squalls as a new extreme sport.
Other than these dozen or so moments to remember, life was quite pleasant. We were becalmed for a while wallowing in calm seas. Showers on the swim grid, Eric Clapton unplugged on the stereo, warm breezes and sunshine, great conversation and pleasant thoughts of home. Starting to see a lot of garbage in the water now. Interesting, most of it is from fishing boats; netting, floats, lines, etc. So far, I haven’t seen a single log or piece of wood. At night there is no way of seeing anything ahead and I try not to let my mind go there. This ocean is so vast yet we have not seen a single substantial sign of humans other than this garbage.
The guys just called me up from down below here to see an Albatross. An amazing bird when you consider that we are almost a thousand miles away from any land at all. They just glide over the surface with their six foot wing span and never land except to mate I suppose. For the few minutes we watched this one, the wings never moved once, just spent the time riding the waves. Another moment to remember. It’s the first I have seen.
I must end writing my comments since my next job on the boat awaits urgent response — sleep, and it is 745 am!
A few reflections (Vern): Brian has been a quick and willing learner. Some of his comments reflect his thinking at the time, but more likely lasting memories. “On the edge of collapse” was uttered after steering the spinnaker last night albeit with wonderful full moonlight. Of course he couldn’t help but feel he was alone in his thinking while watching his crew mate steering, and knowing that Mike and Rob were blissfully asleep below decks. It may have also been motivated by his level of fatigue, and knowing something would happen sometime soon which put us on the edge necessitating a rushed response to some unanticipated happening. “I was looking for the bible and I’m not even religious” refers to the hope that while on the helm with the spinnaker flying last night the large squall coming our way would not bring with it pelting rain and an excessive increase in the velocity of the wind, which invariably clocks and forces you to re-adjust your headings quickly and constantly. All the while there is a surprising amount of noise of the wind and the boat rushing through the water–at least it seems to be rushing. It may also have been motivated by being drenched by a large amount of water which had accumulated in the lower part of the mainsail, and then all fell on top of him as we were rolled by a side wave. It was coming at him from every direction. “I’ve been humbled” was an immediate comment after finishing a 30 minute turn on the wheel–after studying how it is done by watching for about 2 hours, and still realizing that watching is different than doing for the first time. “The monster” was his reference to the yellow 1.5 ounce when looking at the large spinnaker for the first time. And Brian has concluded “if he gets back” he will start a blog titled, “Death, Destruction, and Collapse.” Go figger.
A great night of sailing with the spinnaker albeit perhaps a bit unfair as Brian had only had about 1/2 hour on the helm before darkness set in. And you can’t see the waves, and the odd wave comes from the side and rolls under the boat. Nerves of steel are required to simply hold the wheel and let the large wave roll under you, meaning the boat rolls rapidly to port or starboard, and then starboard or port, as the case may be.
Kinetic update Friday, August 8th
Brian: The freezer is filling up. We’ve got Dorado fever. Had a couple of triple headers but have yet to land all three. Did have three in the boat though waiting to be cleaned. When they hit it is quite the production. The are swung into the boat, trying hard not to snare a human with the hooks as they thrash about. They are gracefully dispatched with a blow or two to the head and then I get to work with the knife. Quick fillet, trash overboard, fillets in the bag, boat gets a wash and on to the next one. Vern has been doing a great job of a more complete cleaning down below and packaging them in smaller sizes for freezing. Great entertainment and we all get a kick out of it. The challenge is that they usually hit while in the middle of preparing supper or just in the early beginnings of the REM cycle of a deep sleep. All is put on hold while they are dealt with. I suspect though that we will soon be into tuna as the air is noticeably getting cooler but it will be a nice complement to the other side of the freezer.
Speaking of grub, we have been eating pretty well, one of the benefits of calm seas. Tonight we had honey curried chicken on rice with the ever present Caeser salad. Will be running out of Romaine lettuce probably tomorrow and then on to cabbage. In hindsight, I would have said goodbye to the lettuce and hello to more cabbage. for a long trip, cabbage lasts a lot longer and does not have to be refrigerated, note to thyself for the next time. Another thing that would have been good to bring would have been more rice, peanut sauce, canned coconut milk and cashews for Thai food. Nice to make meals that can be easily eaten out of a bowl.
Found out what life in the doldrums is all about today. Wind has died right down and squalls were everywhere which complicated any attempt at headway. When the water flattens out, you really notice the amount of garbage out there as you can see it much better. We are on the lookout for glass floats from the Japanese fishing nets. Vern says that they are out there but I think it is a ploy to get us to look out for other things like freighters and containers.
Yes, we are relatively early in our journey. Sailing to Victoria is comparable to driving from Vancouver to Toronto, but we are not doing it on the Trans Canada highway nor at road speed.
Vern: Brian has really taken to the sailing and fishing experience and thinks there is a business to be had offering offshore sailing adventures combined with the fishing experience. Always the entrepreneur thinking about the next business model for another business. We know the inputs required but not sure about the financial viability of such an offering to customers. Perhaps but it seems to be the case that offshore sail training courses are offered but not marketed with the added feature of ocean fishing.
Kinetic update Thursday, August 7th
Brian: Just finishing up my last shift on the 7-11 pm watch, dog tired and looking forward to closing my eyes for four hours before getting up for the 3-7 watch, that is the tough one to get up for, somehow putting on the pfd to go outside and sail for four more hours in the dark seems just not right. The past watch was terrific though. Started just after a supper of stir fried pork with egg noodles and a modified Caesar salad. I was getting ready to drive the first shift when we got a hit on one of the lines, went to grab it and damned if we didn’t get another, double header, Dorado style. I grabbed one and Vern the other. Minute or so later, mine got away but Vern got his in and the flopping in the cockpit began. Great way to start off the watch, got everything sorted out as it got dark and settled into the watch. The moon was up and the stars were out, we were surrounded by popcorn clouds that take on shapes of all sorts, depending on where your imagination takes you. With the half moon at our back illuminating the whole scene, it is like being a player in a Salvador Dali painting. The sky and sea are so big out here, we have traveled for a number of days and nights now and haven’t seen evidence of anyone else except the odd piece of garbage, six so far, mostly fishing debris.
Often these clouds mentioned above form squalls which is what we are in the middle of right now, nasty things with unpredictable winds and usually lots of rain. They bash the boat about and are generally quite rude. Vern is out there in what Mike says is the equivalent to being in a car wash, the rain just pours out all at once. Right now, the winds have died and the sails and rigging are bouncing about making all kinds of disturbing noises. Other than the squall, the evening was magic. For a good part of the time, Polaris was the guiding light, fitting right between the first spreader and the shrouds. We are generally heading in the right direction and continue to make progress. Looking forward to tomorrow and what new adventures await. Does anyone know what day it is?
Vern: Dawn of a new day. My oh my the daybreak is beautiful this morning, and we notice the distinct difference in the time of twilight this morning compared to when we untied from our mooring buoy in Maui so many days ago–or was it many days ago? We are not sure. Maui was barely twilight at 5 am when we were stumbling around in rather high swells to turn on the navigation lights, trilight, and generally get ready to depart having slept overnight aboard in the heat. This morning it was about 435 for comparable light–clouds were not a comparative factor. Venus appears bright and early to greet us, not to be mistaken for the steaming lights of a large freighter albeit two crew in a previous crossing awoke me concerned that such was the case and it appeared to be coming straight at us. Better for the skipper to be awakened to a false alarm than not and it not be false. The clouds in the east look like a tropical paradise with palm trees, exotic shapes, and even a dog complete with eyes, nose and a flower arrangement aloft his/her head. The mind creates unusual images to make sense of its surroundings.
The sea continues to be incredibly calm and the ride gentle. We can steer with ease and not turn the wheel very much or very often. We don’t have to drive it like a dump truck which might be the analogy if there were high seas and strong winds. But that will come no doubt before this journey ends. But for now we are dealing with super light winds which are interrupted by squalls which disrupt the winds rather than providing more punch.
We have had to charge our batteries a bit more frequently as the compressor for the freezer is working hard to freeze the fish we have been catching. Plus someone accidently turned off the circuit breaker for the compressor so some of our food warmed. Fortunately only the pork chops thawed and were eaten last night but all of the provisions did warm up a considerable amount. I suspect it was off for over 24 hours before being noticed — our macadamia nut ice cream was melting!
What do we do with all our free time? Why didn’t Mike bring his book, Under the Dome by Stephen King? How do we land the fish we catch? What does Mike think of this return to Victoria compared to racing down on Pyreneene in 2010? Does Rob plan to do the 50th anniversary of the Vic Maui race in 2016? How do we deal with sleep deprivation and why would we do this? What safety gear is on Kinetic, and how does she sail in both light and heavy winds. These are some topics to be covered in the next updates.
Two watches later on August 7: Within one hour of Brian and Vern coming on watch we had a triple header hit (three mahi mahi). We were going quite slowly so one shook the hook out but two are in the freezer. A good start to a wonderful day. Mike, Brian, and Rob are in the cockpit with great energy–not sure why. They are sailors so I won’t say the mahi mahi being landed in the cockpit banging on the deck near Mike’s and Rob’s heads as an alarm clock surely is not the cause. But it is great and although the winds are relatively light the sailing is good. Light air helps us hone our skills, or at least think we are doing so.
North America still seems a long way away. We are now out of range of helicopter rescue! All good.
Rob: ..Another voice to join the chorus. For those following, you may be developing an inkling as to why 4 guys get together and head out to sea on such an adventure. The beautiful environment(take note the natural world is under some specific stress) however do not be despondent. It is healthier than you might expect, subject though we may be to the media bombardment to the contrary. It is reaffirming when you drag the most simplistic line and hook arrangement, with no further thought, only to find a fish on, emergent from the teeming life which lurks just below the great azure surface. Delicious to consume and the epitome of “eating locally”. Did I mention the blob of nylon netting we snared which was supposed to be the biggest catch to date. Mercifully minimal so far, but litter is a pin prick reminder of the other world ashore.
The sailing has been some of the finest I have experienced. In a reverie last night on the helm : flat sea state, languorous long, gentle swell 7- 12 kn on a close reach heading. A three quarter moon bathes the scene. The tinkling and lapping of water on the gliding hull contributing to the bliss. Did I mention the endless depth of the night skies? I am vividly revisiting experiential memory from a voyage 10 years ago to these climes. Perhaps it is all the sweeter to date as expectations on this leg were a stiff bash to weather in big seas.
Kinetic is a special yacht and I feel privileged to be out here on the broad expanse of ocean on such a thoughtfully equipped and suitable vessel. There is a turn of speed, a lithe motion and a steady feel in handling her. We have as well the creature comforts aboard. The ability to make potable water at the turn of a switch belies the complexity and the effort in achieving such a state, as an example.
Where are we, where are we going and what awaits? Technology is at hand to puzzle through the complexity of a maze without boundaries. I’m reminded of the larger civilized world with every little IT hitch. Oh, the joy of learning the software and operating the electronics. Puzzle solving and troubleshooting is part of the game. Weather and route predicting get a big boost from the Expediton S/W package. It all takes on a new dimension when “reality” has you positioned between a hurricane to the south and east and a blocking high pressure dome in the path to the north and home. I am a little surprised this is a consolation substitute for the missing racing edge. Also, the fleet is returning and there is a sense of a friendly long distance race. The position updates and email tales from the others puts a larger context to the camaraderie we are experiencing aboard Kinetic in pursuit of the objective: get back quickly (a relative thing), efficiently (deploying well the tools at our disposal) and safely (a state of constant awareness). The sea demands respect.
In spite of the joys of the passage, thoughts wander to home and life for family and friends on land. Hope all is as well there as here… ‘Til the next chapter…
Kinetic – later on August 6th
Brian: Reflections of a sailor/fisherman based on experiences since leaving Maui on July 29 destined for Honolulu, thence Kauai, and on to Victoria BC (Brian): For a number of months leading up to this trip my mind was preoccupied with what will this be all about. As a gunkholer from the Gulf Islands and recreational fisherman/boater I had no idea what it would be like to do an open ocean voyage with three racing fanatics on a racing machine for three or so weeks. Sailing in the blue warm waters of Hawaii added a whole new meaning to what sailing has to offer but that was only the start. Our first days saw stiff winds, dolphins, magnificent cliffs and a ten foot shark. “Fueling up” in Honolulu involved a lot of running around combined with some excellent eating and drinking opportunities that we felt obliged to take advantage of. Leaving there, we headed off to really top off the tanks an hour away at one of those Hawaiian Bays that starts with a K but nobody can pronounce anyway. Truly fueled up this time and headed off to Kauai at about mid afternoon. Keep in mind now that this is about a 100 mile journey, we planned to be there the next morning; welcome to sailing at night. When the wind picks up, the clouds move in and Vern hands you the wheel and says take it from here for an hour or so, panic sets in. Back home we would be safely tucked in some safe little haven somewhere within the Islands enjoying steaks and Merlot. Here we are sailing into the abyss with the winds rising and a very long way to go. This was the night that I truly learned to appreciate the stars that I have been staring at all my life. The comforting outline of the big dipper was ahead on the starboard bow and combined with the occasional glance at the compass in front of me I made it through the first watch. By morning, I was having fun at the wheel having also realized that way out here we don’t have the reefs, logs, narrow channels and BC Ferries to watch out for; a whole new set of parameters.
We over-nighted in Hanalei and headed out the next day with the news that a hurricane was on it’s way and was scheduled to hit Hawaii later that week. Great, maybe my chat with my insurance agent before heading out was not a waste of time. With luck and speed we would be far enough ahead to only have to deal with the remnants of the storm so up went the tri-sail and off we went. To my experienced crewmates, this was just another day. Great sailing and smiles all over, off we go with only 2700 miles ahead of us and a developing storm at our back, with luck, we will out race the monster and possibly pick up some good winds from the leftovers (really??). To make a long story short, the hurricane turned south of Hawaii and is now only a distant memory. We have been out here now for a few days and nights, time has become an amorphous blob of alternating watches that have quickly made the names of the days meaningless. The fishing lines have been in the water the whole time and the freezer is filling up with Mahi Mahi, Dorado or dolphin fish; fish is the same just different names. Excellent eating and lots of fun to catch. Vern and I have a system down that has the fish in the boat, fillets in the freezer and boat washed down in under ten minutes. The challenge though is that half of them are caught usually ten minutes into our off watch time when you are generally in a deep sleep. Almost had a serious incident today though. Mike was sleeping in the port berth with the narrow hatch (about 14 X 6 inches in size) open leading to the cockpit. We had a big one on and managed to flip it into the cockpit where it proceeded to flop about precariously close to flipping in like a letter through a mail slot on top of Mike. After a little bit of protesting by Mike, the fish was dealt the death blow and the knife but not before the bunch of us splitting a gut with laughter that continues whenever it is mentioned. It would have been a really small boat if Mike had of ended up with it as a bedmate!
This week has been a collection of firsts for myself. I have learned more about the craft of sailing a boat and gained an appreciation for the people who are truly skilled at it. Running at night by the stars alone, gaining speed by combining apparent and true wind speed, trimming the sails just so to squeak out another tenth of a knot are just a few of the everyday and night things we do to move forward towards home. The language of sailing is rich and colourful. I have learned new meanings for a “hitch”, “a**hole”(nasty knot in a line), and quite a large number of them that need not be repeated. Combine this with the dozens of systems on board, about 2200 miles to go and three terrific teachers, this Gunkholer will be much more of a sailor when I get back!
Vern: We currently at 836 PDT are moving very slowly in less than 5 knots of wind. It would be easy to turn on the engine but more fun to keep the boat sailing–plus it is a long way and we don’t have enough diesel to motor all the way. Nor do we want to. The GRIB weather prediction model indicates we will have light winds for a considerable number of days. No heavy weather in the foreseeable future but we have a long way to go and it is more rewarding to do it under sailpower. We are essentially on the same general course Vern took in 8 previous returns so perhaps Expedition software, which we are using, gives us the optimum course back to Victoria (given the GRIB weather model and Kinetic’s polars–optimum speed for various sail combinations which has been input into Expedition). So we are optimistic. In any event we have fish to eat, water to drink, and a beautiful boat to sail. So we proceed onward.
We just experienced the positive and negative affects of a squall. If you are on the front leeward side of the squall you will have good winds, but if it moves over you the result will be super light winds and being headed until the winds return to ‘normal’. The one we just experienced had us go from 7 knots to 1.2 knots and then back up to normal speed of about 5.5 knots. It took over an hour of patience in light wind to get back to the normal speed. It has been a learning experience aboard Kinetic. Hopefully this lesson does not have to be repeated as often as we experienced for about 3 days in the race to Maui.
Brian is cooking up a ‘storm’ of beautiful food. Something like rice with pork flavoured with chili sauce and other creative things, meaning whatever is on the boat. Brian says if the winds are light he is okay with us eating fish and noodles the last week. One thing for sure is we have lots of soup. Our focus is not on food only despite we seem to write about it a lot in our updates.
Kinetic update, 0109 HST August 6
Vern: Tonight Brian is learning the next level of helming. When departing from Maui via compass combined with looking off into the distance for a mark to steer to such as a star, cloud, or other object. Then apparent wind angle combined with a general compass direction to steer. Now steering via apparent wind, meaning the heel of the boat and feel of the wind on his ears and neck. When the boat starts to flatten he heads up to build up apparent wind. When it heels too much, he bears off a bit. All the while he is trying to optimize the speed of the boat and once in a while glances at the course made good. After a while it becomes intuitive but that is after a while. Brian is an incredibly quick study and good on the helm, and is picking up this next level of helming well.
It is always a pleasure to have new to offshore sailing people aboard as it gives them a rather intensive around the clock sailing skill level improvement opportunity. Plus, they are stuck on the boat so can focus on ever improvement in sail trim, tactics, helming, crew management/cooperation, and much more. After a journey like this you will be a better sailor if you focus and want to experience and learn. After all, why would you spend almost 3 weeks of your life if it wasn’t going to be fun and a great learning opportunity? All good.
August 5, Kinetic is slowly going to Victoria
Vern: Well, there are lots of systems on Kinetic. Vern was making water using the watermaker but the level of the port tank, which we were using, was still dropping and surprisingly fast to the point of about 1/8th full. We have a starboard tank of the same size–about 55 gallons. During the dawg watch change it was decided to go to water rations until/if we resolved the reason for the emerging situation. No manual for the watermaker could be found. This morning Vern remembered there was a ball valve for the watermaker with the valves for port and starboard tanks, under one of the berths midships. Reflection and analysis by Vern and Brian concluded we had been making water and trying to put it into the already full starboard tank; thus the reason the watermaker would not work. Further inspection found a slow leak in the hose going into the water pump so this was likely the reason for having used more water than expected–way more than expected for the 5 days we have been away. That is, unless someone had been secretly having showers or baths! Ball valve was turned, watermaker started, and after running it for 6 hours we now have 3/4 full port tank. Plus the full starboard. We had even taken stock of how much water was in the abandon ship bags should we reach crisis measures with the loss of water. All is well, and we can drink liberally. And drink water we must to keep hydrated to avoid headaches and stress to our kidneys among other organs. We are now in water heaven. Brian concludes there is always a challenge. Of course there is, that is why we do this trip.
Sailing overnight was spectacular with moonlight, stars, benign squalls, and steady winds. 327 nautical miles at 165 true from Hanalei Bay in Kauai and 1978 nautical miles from the mouth of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is a good place to be on this fine day. The seas today remain gentle and we are sailing along with great comfort both above decks and below. Full mainsail and balanced headsail means little weather helm and easy steering. Out here taking care of the steering and other systems on the boat are even more important than around home waters.
We have yet to see another vessel since leaving Kauai. We have AIS class 1 broadcasting continuously so commercial vessels will know where and what we are, but it is still our responsibility to keep clear of them. AIS gives us the CPA when we pick up another vessel (look up CPA on the internet!), so we know the best computer analysis of how close we will come to each other if each continues at their current speed and course.
Another mahi mahi in the freezer but the day is not over.
No evidence of the debris from the Japanese tsunami as in 2012 but then we are much further west on our return compared to 2012.
Wind is predicted to be light for the next considerably long while, and we are now experiencing it. But 6 knots boat speed with an 8 knot wind is not too bad for a 22,000 pound sailboat. Brian has learned how to head up to create more apparent wind in the sails and the resulting increase in boat speed. If the boat feels slugglish it is, and one needs to pay attention to heading, sail trim, and helmsman’s focus, not that Brian is/was not focused. A lazy day sail. It is unfortunate our fair weather friends are not able to materialize on Kinetic to see how gentle the seas can be and how pleasant it can be to sail along with no land in sight. Only some clouds and the boat. We are happily alone in our little world–a rare treat for urban dwellers.
Mahi mahi tonight again but prepared differently. The crew have been discussing how to dress up the meal for a special treat with fresh caught fish. Food has not been a sacrifice. Fresh pineapple and papaya for lunch. All is good.
Kinetic Update later on August 5
Vern: Relatively light winds today but a bit breezier this evening. It is still incredibly gentle for being on the ocean.
Fantastic meal of fresh mahi mahi, rice, and cole slaw. Finished with macadamia nut ice cream. Focus is not on food but it does add to the experience.
There is a scheduled single side band call every evening among the Vic Maui Race returning fleet. It helps with safety knowing where the boats are located plus a chance for a wee chit chat, with emphasis on ‘wee’ as the SSB uses a lot of power when transmitting compared to receiving.
Kinetic update August 4, just after midnight – the voyage to Victoria begins
Vern: It is 1209 am, Brian is driving and this is the beginning of our update. For watches we have Brian and Vern, Mike and Rob. 5 watches per day; same as when racing: 7 am to 1 pm, 1 pm to 7 pm, 7 pm to 11 pm, 11 pm to 3 am, 3 am to 7 am. We are just getting into the pattern. Rob and Mike are sleeping soundly.
Had a bit of a chore dealing with a minor incident. The furling line for the headsail, a full 150% genoa, broke while we were sailing with the sail furled to about a 100% sail. Given the winds of about 19 knots and possibility of squalls handing out more wind, we took down the sail and put up a #4. Boy we could have used a 5th crew member as the sail was large and Vern and Brian had their hands full bringing it down on the foredeck and avoiding it going into the water. Lots of wind pressure, and a heavy, large sail. Mike on the helm and Rob on the halyard to lower the sail meant we only had two on the foredeck. Afterward, Brian remarked he was glad it wasn’t windier as he was at the maximum of his strength during the takedown. With Kinetic’s dinghy tied on the foredeck (was shipped to Maui for 3 races ago), it is hard to handle sails and do foredeck work. Changing sails is a challenge albeit the initial thought was the furling genoa would work for most winds by simply furling in to make the sail smaller. Not so. For those interested, we lashed our mainsail to the boom with the cover off and set a trisail right from our departure from Kauai. It is a small sail with a sheet led to a turning block and thence to a winch on each side of the aft end of the boat. Few ever use a trisail even if they have one. They are really for gales or storm force winds but heading northerly on Kinetic with this sail keeps us from being heeled over excessively and keeps the boat under good control, with minimal stress on the rig and the steering system. Combined with the #4 headsail we are definitely not over “canvassed”.
(Ed – video showing a trisail rigged: main is lashed to the boom and storm tri hoisted in its place. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IV5llWEEfAw)
Correction, in the last update we reported that Brian was learning a third language. This was incorrect; it is his fourth as he also speaks Spanish. He has lots of good stories to tell. For those who don’t know he and Colleen live on Mayne Island owning the Home Hardware complete with lumberyard and nursery. Sunday he reflected that it is a good day on Mayne Island. And a good day on the sea.
The news: caught our first mahi mahi. It was on Brian’s lure and he lamented he had not done a bet with Vern for first fish. Of course it was actually Vern’s lure on the second line we are trailing that attracted the fish that accidently struck Brian’s expensive lure. Given what he paid for it he needs to catch lots more in order to make the cost $1 per pound. For lunch or dinner the lads will be treated to a mahi mahi burger. We had forethought and bought buns for such occasion.
Despite the winds it is really quite pleasant below but duty of driving calls. More later.
It is now later. Mike and Rob are still sleeping. Hopefully complete with dreams of the paradise we have left and the paradise we are going to. Tis a star filled night with the odd squall passing by. Brian remarked that it seems we are flying at night. With no visual reference other than stars or if cloudy, no reference at all, and the noise of the wind and boat going through the waves it does seem faster than during daylight. And then there is the odd wave that washes over the boat, well just a bit, and there is cause to think we are in motion. Just had a side wave hit the hull, and it shakes the boat to the core. Below decks we hear groans, creaks, the odd gear or pots moving, and the hull ‘hitting’ the water as it comes off a wave. Plus the sound of the water as we pass through it. We are loco to be in this motion.
Kinetic update August 3 @ 2337 HST Eventful day. All good.
Vern: Caught three mahi mahi and had mahi mahi burgers for dinner. Not until after putting in a second reef in the mainsail. We are sailing quite conservatively at night but still trying to make good time. We currently are 228 nautical miles north of Kauai. Before pulling anchor Jessica who writes for Yachtworld came by Kinetic in her kayak. Very brief but enjoyable conversation as the winds were blowing her craft away. In any event she indicated that some boats were planning to seek safe haven due to the tropical storm which may make landfall by about Thursday. We may get some of the effects of this high wind and rain but the GRIB files we have been downloading daily do not show such high winds in our path–albeit two days ago the GRIB download did suggest we could get some high winds. Seems the forecasting model has revised the track of the tropical storm.
Correction to a prior update: Brian is learning a fourth language as we sail. He also speaks Spanish as well as English and French. It is a treat to see the learning curve and enthusiasm of someone who has not previously been offshore. Systems on Kinetic are much more complicated than on his and Colleen’s craft back at Mayne Island.
Currently we are sailing in a moonlit night, steering by Cassiopia and of course by the optimum speed within the parameters of the general direction we want to head. The seas are gentle and it is unusually quiet and calm below decks. And the steering is so well balanced you barely need to turn the wheel.
Sail changes are a bit difficult with only a crew of 4 and the large, heavy sails of Kinetic. Plus we have the dinghy tied on the deck forward of the mast. One solution suggested for the dinghy was to tow it with a painter with a low resistance fuse so it would break loose and we would be done with it. But reason or sanity prevailed, and we stumble about around and over it. This would not have been much of an issue but for the fact our furling line exploded after only a few hours of sailing with the furling delivery sail–a new genoa just for this purpose–furled to about 2/3rds of its full size. Now we have no way of reducing sail on this large sail so it is happily stowed below decks where there is no wind or sea spray. A happy place for a sail. Hope to figure out how to sort out this issue; seems the furling line overheats at the first deck turning block and it exploded. The new furling line is no longer beautifully new and in one piece.
Returning to mahi mahi, Brian had gone to sleep in the afternoon off watch, after participating in lots of sail changes, when Mike called down, “You have a double header.” Vern called Brian who muttered inaudible things, and then said, “Well, let’s go get ’em.” Vern, who had not yet gone to bed nor asleep, and Brian each pulled in a mahi mahi. How? We don’t have a gaff so we have to get them to the boat and with one careful, fast pull get them into the cockpit. And then the fun begins. Blood, flopping, great excitement, filleting, bagging fish meat, and the dreaded clean up. Brian is quick and adept at filleting the fish, which is a treat because in Vern’s prior 9 returns from Hawaii only he was the ‘filleter’ and ‘clean upper’. All good. There is no food better than fresh caught mahi mahi–well almost no other. Readers may know that mahi mahi and tuna bite at high speeds. They will strike even when we are sailing over 8 knots. The fishing rod is not a rod. It is our fingers bringing them in carefully after having bitten a luring lure drug as a ‘meat hook’. Just tied to the boat’s stern. Today Vern had 4 lines out.
Today Rob said, “I am really enjoying this return trip.” Mike didn’t say, “Are we there yet.” Brian said, “A big boat is a complicated thing and there is a lot to know.” And “being out here is not like being in the Gulf Islands; you need to know what you are doing.” And Vern just nodded knowing how true that is.
Kinetic update August 3 – late, ready to pull anchor and set sail for Victoria
Vern: Everyone slept well albeit Rob was trying to sleep on the sails. In the middle of the night in total dark the sails did a sailslide (not a landslide) and he was unceremoniously dumped on the floor. He picked himself up, found a flashlight and moved his slide, which was his mattress, to the floor in the forward cabin. Before trying out his new digs he thought he would use the head before lying down on the floor, the head being over the side of the cockpit. In total darkness and remembering the speed of the current with the Trade Winds–discovered when we swam to shore–he decided to use Kinetic’s real head. It is hard to fall overboard while sitting on a toilet seat. This morning proved that his new bed arrangement was satisfactory as he was the last to awaken. And he awakened to Mike’s rather sketchy rendition of a rooster crowing. Great breakfast with Rob’s creative rendition of scrambled eggs. Tasty and nutritious.
Brian is learning a new language so he will soon be trilingual-French, English, and racing/race sailboat. Colleen, ask Brian what it means to ‘throw in a hitch’, ‘have an a**hole’, ‘ease’, ‘dump’, and ‘stop that headsail from fluttering’.
We had a bit of a job getting the anchor up when we left. Owner David Sutclffe correctly thought we should have good ground tackle so he had a 70 pound CQR and lots of chain shipped to Maui for the return. Problem was that when connected to the existing chain and rode windless could not be used. Mike and Brian did a stellar job of getting the jig saw puzzle sorted out so we could raise the heavy tackle when we left amid 22 knot winds. All is now stored in the rightful place for the crossing so we are ship shape.
Kinetic update August 3 – late day as Kinetic prepares to pull anchor at Hanalei Bay, Kauai
Vern: Last Aloha from Kauai, Hawaii. We are at Hanalei Bay on the northern side of Kauai. We had a great overnight sail from Honolulu. Left in 90 degree sun and heat and arrived at Kauai in the early morning to cloud and slight drizzle. Kinetic leaves sometime tomorrow when the lads decide they have had sufficient fun in Hawaii. Kinetic may never leave.
Mike, Rob, and Vern swam to shore after we anchored this am at 0835 –well after a good long nap–and then we swam over 250 meters to shore. The anchoring was a real procedure as owner David Sutcliffe thought we should have adequate ground tackle. So shipped to Maui was a 70 pound CQR anchor and more chain than can be measured. Kinetic is safely anchored.
True to past experience, Vern did not catch any fish while sailing to Kauai. Better luck/skill north of the Hawaiian Islands.
Brian had a voyage of discovery last night. He is a quick study on how to drive a boat at night. Steer to a star when it is evident; utter an expletive deleted when the guiding star becomes covered by a cloud. Steering at night is a combination of keeping a glance at the compass, a roving glance at the apparent wind angle but realizing it is delayed by 2 to 3 seconds, feeling the wind on your neck, and driving to ensure the boat is alive. Alive means having some heel and having good speed. When the boat starts to flatten you know you have to head up and create a bit more apparent wind to keep speed. It is a thing that requires experience and super focus. We generally don’t talk when helming as that is distracting, especially at night.
Kinetic is well prepared with lots of safety equipment. We have gone over all the safety issues so we will be safe. One mantra is stay on the boat; don’t fall over. And be careful as the boat will pitch when a wave rolls the boat quite aggressively, so always one hand on the grab rails or other safety lines so you are not thrown across the boat. Injury could be a consequence. We are well prepared so we are safe. But to live is risk.
Right now sitting below decks as it is raining outside, glass of red wine in hand. Once we leave the skipper is not going to have judgment hampered by alcohol.
Brian: The apprenticeship of Brian has begun and man do I have some good mentors! As above, I got my Readers Digest version of sailing at night. When you are staring at stars all night long, you see them in a whole new light and it is no wonder that clusters ended up with weird names vaguely to do with something or other. Called a few of them myself last night especially when they disappeared behind the clouds. Another whole field of study is nautical terms. These guys have numerous ways of calling everything. What the heck is a “hitch”? Something to do with a tack or something. And don’t get me going on about the IT stuff, give me a compass and a clear night and move aside, besides, I don’t have my glasses and can’t see the numbers anyways! By the way, we’re going to another island tomorrow, the big one called Vancouver.
Rob: Well as the boys have covered the events of the past 24 hr the “holiday” in the Islands draws to a close. We have an exceptionally well outfitted and provisioned yacht for the journey ahead. First taste was last night and a flood of memories returned as we steered into the inky blackness, accompanied by the swish and roll of the passing seas. Offshore again. Weather looks good for the jump off . The rudiments of operating the extensive electronics and navigation equipment are settling in . Time to go and we are ready.
August 1 – Kinetic prepares to go to Victoria
Aloha from Kinetic,
Last breakfast on land was had overlooking Waikiki Beach. Eggs all around. Finished last minute preparations including Rob needing to rush out to buy black tea–and some macadamia nut ice cream for our freezer. Then on to Kolini Harbour to buy diesel–lots of diesel. We have 6 jerry cans plus two fuel tanks each holding about 55 gallons. But we don’t want to run the engine other than charging the batteries 3 times per day.
Leisurely sailing in 15 knots true, in the Trade Winds. What could be better? An overnight to Kauai, overnight there and then on to North America.
Crew is settling in super well. Getting to know the boat which has lots of systems. It is a safe boat with lots of safety gear. Will do a MOB before leaving Kauai, but the crew don’t know yet.