I’ve decided that the format of Blogger fits my content and blog style a little better than tumblr. I’ve also written a few posts since the switch, so check it… http://thewinchelsea.blogspot.com
It took me awhile to get around to making this into a panoramic, but I took these series of pictures of a rainbow that appeared in Beaufort, NC the day after I decided to sell Winchelsea. Kind of symbolic, I like to think.
As promised, and to supplement my “boring and dry” (in the words of Maria) post previously, here is a link to the pictures from the Hawaii - Alaska trip:
I also have some huge panoramic pictures that I’m working on stitching together, I’ll upload those when I’m finished.
In addition, I’ve decided to share a few specific stories about the trip, heres the first one:
We were 4 or 5 days out from Hawaii and I was trying to sleep in my bunk, which was on the port side just forward of the mast. We were on a starboard tack and I could feel the waves and wind (by the heel of the boat) increasing. I knew John was on watch and he had the least ammount of sailing experience between the three of us. The wind was on our starboard quarter and we were surfing down some large waves.
As we reached the bottom though, I could feel her port rail dip and really dig into the trough as we rounded up. The autopilot would kick on and steer us back on course. However, without even getting up from my bunk I could tell that we were surfing down the waves way too fast and the heel when the rail dug in at the trough was too much. I went up topsides and saw John reading, not paying a whole lot of attention to the conditions that had deteriorated. I asked him how fast we were going and he said pretty quick, the GPS had flashed 10.2 knots as he answered and we surfed down a wave. Surfing at 10.2 knots in a 49’ boat is too fast, not to mention the rail was almost always underwater and it took the autopilot a bit to recover. The wind had also risen to gusts of 30 knots. This was all with full sail up. John and I took in a reef and a half (roller reefing headsail and main) and she calmed down.
We weighed anchor a few hours before sunset on Monday, May 30th. The trade winds, those wonderful, steady and moderate breezes that blow in predictable patterns the world over, were a consistent 20 or so knots. The seas were rough, being blown by the trades unabated from the southern part of Mexico, and were strong blue rolling mounds that rose to nearly twice the height of the deck, peppered with smaller whitecaps that crashed against the hull of Terrapin Flyer. After the ceremonious shot of rum was poured out to Neptune below (as well as to members of the crew), the sun had set and the first round of night watches began. Alex, the owner of the boat, set up an alternating 3 and 4 hour watch regime so we would not be stuck with the same watch times each day.
The first few days were the roughest of the trip. We were sailing on a close reach against the east to northeast trades with the swell moving the boat quite a bit. Admittedly, we did not fall into our groove and get used to the motion of the boat until about 48 hours had past. The second night however the wind piped up to a gusty force 7 to 8 (Beaufort scale) and John and I put in a third reef on the main and jib. The long waterline and heavy hull of the Hylas 49 took it like a champ though, and it was actually sailing pretty comfortably.
After we passed through 30 degrees latitude, the winds calmed to a steady force 5 and the seas diminished. By our 5th day we were out of the trades and riding between a relatively weak high and corresponding low pressure systems that followed us on our now more northeasterly route. We fished, ate very well and read books like it was our job. The autopilot was on and steering the entire time, and none of us had to touch the helm on the entire trip to Alaska.
Around the 8th day we were advised to change our heading to a more easterly route to avoid a strong localized low pressure area that was moving towards our path. We took the advice and changed course for a few days, and then started north again after it had passed. The most I learned on the trip was modern communications on a sailboat and using a satellite phone to download weather information. Not difficult by any means, but just something I had not been exposed to on my experience coastal cruising the eastern seaboard.
However, the most valuable thing I took away from the whole trip was the experience of being at sea for 15 days and getting over the anxiety of whats over (way, way over) the horizon when you’re 1000 miles from any sort of landfall. And, to be flat honest, it was no worse, and in some ways much less anxious than coastal cruising for more or less one reason: there isn’t anything to run into when you’re 1000 miles from land. As long as you keep the ocean on the outside of the boat and the bow pointed in a very general direction towards your destination, you’re all set. Avoiding storms helps out a lot too, and I’m sure I’ll run into one someday, but with modern weather routing and updates via satellite phone, those can be readily avoided as well.
The sun disappeared for almost the entire second week at sea, making my attempts at celestial navigation impossible. I did get some practice in the first week, although I realized quickly that I didn’t bring all the required tables and books for a complete calculation of our coordinates. As we approached Alaska, the wind died completely as the north Pacific high, a pressure systems that hangs over the Gulf of Alaska for the summer, took over our weather. We actually ended up motoring the last three days into Sitka over a glassy, lake-like sea. Land was sighed on the morning of the 14th and we were tied up by 10 am, Alaska time.
If I said I wasn’t anxious or nervous, you should probably be worried. Our plan is to set sail at 1700 Hawaii time later today. I have a weird kind of giddy anticipation with a touch of the nerves thats putting a knot in my stomach knowing for the next three to four weeks, I will not be within sight of land. We’ll actually be over 1000 miles from any shore at some points and you can track my position on my Facebook wall. I will be emailing, using a satellite telephone, my position to Alaina ever day or two who will then post a link to a Google map on Facebook. You can then check the weather I’m having (and will have) at passageweaher.com.
We have all our safety gear in order, including a life raft and survival “Gumby” suits. All in all, this boat is extremely well outfitted for the trip, not to mention the boat itself is a hulking, heavy cruising yacht that was made for these kind of passages. I’ve been dreaming of doing a trip like this since my first days sailing on the lake in college and the Charles in Boston.
A 32’ boat did this same trip last year in about 21 days. We, having a larger boat, should do it in less given good conditions. Our first intended landfall will be in Sitka, Alaska.
I’ve been posting my resume to various internet sites, as well as trying to network around here, and they have finally paid off. Two days ago I got an email asking me to crew on a trip from Hawaii to Alaska on a 49’ Hylas. Yesterday my flights were booked for me through the owner’s travel agency and I leave on Saturday All expenses paid, of course, on top of a modest salary, looks like the captains license investment is starting to pay off a bit.
We will depart somewhere around the 28th after some maintenance work and provisioning. This is his fourth long voyage with Terrapin Flyer, which started in southern California and has taken him to Cabo in Mexico, Tahiti and to where it sits presently in Hawaii. The trip should take about 20 days. Thats twenty days of infinite horizon with just the three crew, including myself, and hopefully some dorado and tuna to eat, dolphins before the bow and albatross flying overhead.
I’m packing now, taking all of my personal sailing and foul weather gear as well as all the tables and charts necessary to practice some celestial navigation on the open ocean. More to come soon!
And so far, so good. This place is insanely different than the east coast, though, but I love it so far. Its like a Florida without the “heavens waiting room” feel to it. Its like a larger eastern city, like New York or Boston, with a tropical climate and a matching attitude. Overall the people are less pretentious, with exceptions of course, but there is a laid back atmosphere that just isn’t present back east.
The sailing community seems vibrant. I’m trying to tap into it with some connections I’ve made at my new job. I’m working as a lowly dockhand at a boat rental place with more power than sail boats. Not my dream job, but I’m not behind a desk and the people are nice. I’ve been sailing a few times on Jazz, and the ocean here is as different as the people you sit next to at a bar. Mainly calm, with a constant swell and every once in awhile the wind “really picks up” to 20 knots or so. That’s what they consider a storm here. Its kinda cute.
Its kind of a great feeling, looking out over the horizon and pointing my finger due west and knowing about 14 days of sailing away and I’d be in Hawaii. And then all I have to do is turn about 40 degrees to my left, keeping the same finger outstretched, and Tahiti is 28 days out.
I’m hoping I can get a boat in the next few years that can take me to those places…Jazz will do for now, maybe a trip to Catalina Island and some offshore fishing with some friends.
A good friend suggested I start reading books by Bernard Moitessier. This was almost a year ago and since then I have read all of his books, in chronological order. The way he writes is amazing, and of course I’m a fan of the subject matter as well. He comes up with truly ingenious things with deep roots in simplicity. One shining example is his sea anchor. A sea anchor is a device that you string either off your bow or astern in heavy seas to control the speed of your boat. The modern design is a series of progressively smaller nylon parachutes. His sea anchor was a simple wooden log that floats, a parallel piece of steel pipe that sinks and a stretch of canvas between the two. Cheap, simple and still very effective. I really recommend his books to any sailor, armchair or otherwise.
He competed in the Sunday Times Golden Globe race in 1968 to be the first single-handed sailor to complete a circumnavigation. He ultimately “lost” that race, but read his book The Long Way for a full account. This was aboard his 39’ ketch Joshua, which now rests comfortably at a marina in France. I posted links to a 360 degree tour a few blog posts ago. His last boat, however, I cannot find any current information on. It is a smaller, 32’ sloop/cutter named Tamata and was designed and built just up the coast from here in San Fransisco. He sailed it from 1983 until his death in 1994…but after that it seems to have disappeared. I have heard it is in Tahiti, a favorite cruising place of the late Moitessier. I know it sounds silly to pursue a small boat half a world away, but it was his last vessel. A lifetimes worth of knowledge and seamanship went into that steel hull and I want (need, actually) to find it and learn all I can. I’ve decided to take his advice and build a boat (or modify an existing hull) as close to Tamata as I can.
Here she is, Jazz. My new 26’ home with a waterfront view. There are seals and/or sea lions (don’t really know the difference yet) all over the place here, in and around the marina. I’ll put some pictures up as soon as I can get close enough!
I have all of my stuff packed into two boxes, a duffel bag and a backpack…ready for California! It should take us about 6 days to get out there, stopping to see friends along the way, I’ll post some pictures as I take them…