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Thread: Sailing Back - Report from Jacqueline

  1. #1
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    Default Sailing Back - Report from Jacqueline

    Sailing Back


    Part 1 - touchy feely

    No, I don’t want to look at that chart. I don't want to look right and see home...almost 1700 miles away. Good God, that is equal to the better part of the distance across the United States. And here I am singlehanding a 30 foot sailboat 900 miles North of Kauai in a remote stretch of the Pacific ocean which, at the moment, is not so damn pacific. Part of me is terrified, part of me is proud, part of me is lonely and part of me is, obviously, crazy.

    My boat, “Jacqueline” is not thinking at all. But of she were thinking I’ll bet it would be something along the lines: “Man up dude, quit being a wuss, we’re going to get home in due time and then I’ll be stuck in the slip ho humming for two months while you’re drinking beer or whatever it is you get up to when you’re not on board” and if she thought that, she would be right.

    I am an odd singlehander and that is saying a lot because most singlehanders are odd by definition. When I am offshore my day consists of being scared and stressed most of the time and sleeping a couple hours a day. When I occasionally forget where I am for a short time, I am happy. I am NOT one of those sailors you see in the You Tube videos who seem to be euphoric 24/7 365.

    My reward comes to me after the passage is over and I can ponder what I have done “I pulled that shit off man, not many people can do this...have done this. The bell is rung, no one can take it away. I own this fully and completely. I am proud of myself. I often wonder if other singlehanders share this feeling. It is with me all the time.

    Part 2 - The actual trip

    If you do the SHTP in a heavy boat you basically have four ways to deal with your trusty steed which is now located 2200 miles from home as the crow flies, and the Crow don’t fly back to the mainland in a straight line unless you happen to be sailing in the Matsonia, so make that about 2600 to 2800 miles. The four ways are:

    Sell the boat in Hawaii - Nope (maybe yes if you own a lightweight gofast)
    Hire a delivery crew - you bought Facebook at $20 a share, right? You’ll need to sell a stake
    Seek out a crew to join you - viable option
    Singlehand the boat - what I did

    I had a crew member lined up but he dropped out at the last minute. This is something anyone planning on crew should bear in mind. Shit happens and you wind up looking in the mirror for crew. This is why you should always have a mirror somewhere on the boat. That way there are at least two of you. We singlehanders tend to anthropomorphize our boats so that makes a great crew of three, one of which is a hard ass and never sleeps. Doesn’t talk much either and takes orders mostly. Note, I did not say never talks. That’s another singlehander thing, talking boats.

    So there I am in Nawiliwili Small Boat Harbor loading my boat with 700 pounds of fuel, 50% good food and 50% bad food (the bad part I discovered later), too few paperback books, and some pareos which were gifts for the four women in my life and were purchased from a guy in downtown Lihue who is supposedly going to close his shop and retire. I don't think I got the discount. He didn't mention sailing.

    I had planned to leave in early August but after my crew bailed, there was no reason to hang around. I decided to leave at the same time as Dolphin Bill being as he knows what the hell he’s doing and I figured if he was going, I ought to go too. That was my highly sophisticated departure planning in a nutshell.

    So Thursday July 19 at 0830 was the big adios. I motored out right into the incoming cruise ship American Pride. I had some rigging tangles to sort out so it was fine. I just puttered around the anchorage outside the SBH until he was docked. But I tell you, when that damn ship turns around in the basin so her bow is pointed seaward at the pier, she takes up the entire, and I mean the entire basin, making that turn. If you conflict with a cruise ship arriving or leaving Nawiliwili, do not assume you can squeeze by. The place looks big when there's no cruise ship turning but when there is, there is NO room. Period.

    Not bad, first big adventure 15 minutes after leaving the slip. Wisely, Dolphin Bill excited about an hour later.

    The other “feature” associated with Nawiliwili is the seaway out for about three or four miles. The harbor is surrounded by capes and steep cliffs to the water. This causes a wild seaway as the swells strike the hard stuff and ricochet. You got seas coming at you every which way and you are thinking “how many miles of this!!??”. Turns out it is relatively short lived and quickly resolves into a swell and wind waves consistent with the Easterly trades. The trades were blowing a reasonable 15 to 18 knots when I left and it was quite comfortable with a decent 6 knots of boat speed on a tight beam reach. I was patting myself on the back for my departure planning brilliance which was really Dolphin Bill’s brilliance, but, hell, I was smart enough to go with the smart guy so that makes me smart too...right?...right.

    So now I am nicely offshore making good progress and I whip out my plotter and gribs to start the first of many , many, many plans for a route home. I think I had gotten to plan m. or n. by the time I reached the gate. When you do this trip this will be a daily routine. You will make a plan which you will follow for exactly 24 hours at which time you will revise the plan. Sometimes you will do this twice a day and two times I did it twice in three hours. You will develop excellent plan breaking skills. For younger sailors I think this will stand you in good stead in your professional career. You will become well known for your exceptional ability to dump a plan in record time.

    By day three or four you will be several hundred miles north of Kauai and your thoughts will turn to just how long is this going to take? If your experience is like mine you will be doing this while every gallon of water in the Pacific Ocean is sluicing over your deck. If your boat cleaning skills are lacking, you are in luck, that son of a gun is going to be clean as a whistle when you get your Northing in. You will also come to the realization that this is day three or four of twenty. TWENTY!!?? Yes...about that, give or take one or two. If you are Dolphin Bill give about 5… he got stuck in the high with low fuel. Dolphin Bill is a mellow guy. If you are not mellow, sitting around in the high will drive you stark raving mad and I mean crazy looney nuts. It would certainly drive me that way. Hell, I was half way there at day 4 and I was in some decent wind. I think he is still out there as i write this.

    I just kept thinking I brought a lot of fuel, a lot, hopefully enough, hopefully the wind keeps blowing, Hopefully my rig stays up, hopefully my engine keeps working, hopefully I don’t snag a net and damage my prop or shaft, hopefully I don't hit anything. You will come to find out there are a lot of hopefullys and don’ts involved in this trip and you will be discovering new ones until you are physically under the gate.

    Although I was making good time North I was also making bad time East. I was not particularly interested in sailing to Japan so I got a little obsessive about the Easting I wasn't making. Not a little obsessive, a lot obsessive. There are cryptic remarks in my log in an almost indecipherable handwriting on many pages: E A S T I N G - GO EAST - EAST - PLEASE EAST - OMG EAST - FOR THE LOVE OF GOD EAST. And so forth. At the end of the 8th day I was at about 160 degrees West and 37 North. Really not too bad for a beginner. But some of the hotshots like Greg Ashby on Nightmare. Carliane on Kynntana and Cliff on Rainbow and Rob on Tiger Beetle did a lot better. Come to think of it, everybody did a lot better. What the hell??


    This is where my “go for mass” fuel planning began to pay off. At about 37N the wind died and I began motoring. Take one guess which direction … correct …. EAST!!! Well, actually a lot East and a little North. I had not lost all discipline and realized I needed to tuck in some more Northing while I was burning through my diesel trove. I motored for two days and made about a degree north and three or four beautiful, delightful, glorious degrees EAST. Ironically, another concern I had was carrying excessive fuel into gale alley. I was actually anxious to burn off some of the weight so this interlude of motoring was welcome in that sense. While motoring I also tried to maintain discipline regarding engine maintenance. I stopped about every 24 hours to check oil levels and clean things up. If you have a diesel and run for long periods like this I think it is good to keep things clean. This makes it easier to detect some kind of issue should one arise. Was that pool of oil there yesterday? There you go… an actual helpful piece of advice. Here’s another - You will burn some motor oil so check it routinely.

    The other odd thing I noticed was that the engine noise would, eventually disappear. Weird. I would take a nap and wake up and think, isn’t the engine on? The minute I thought about it the noise would resume but it was almost as if my brain got used to it and it and ignored it. I read the Navy had similar results during experiments to find out what would happen if submarine sailors were exposed to loud sonar pings for days at a time. The result was they simply tuned it out and eventually didn’t even hear the noise unless someone reminded them it was there.

    Wind came back up at about 37.5 by 155 and I was on my way again. The high was weird this year as it is, apparently, every year and was kinda split in two. I was aimed for the middle where there was a southerly blowing us North and and bit EAST. My idea was to sail up this tendril of wind and bail out EAST when I reached 39 or 40 North. This is where I made plan changes in rapid succession. I pulled out my mirror and consulted with my human crew. Should we continue north or bail out early at 38 and head EAST? Gribs look like the high is moving East and North and we will have to sail all the way to the North Pole if we don't bail now and try to stay on the Eastern edge of the high. Consulted with David H and decided to bail.

    BTW get David H’s email address before you leave Hawaii. Force him to be your routing consultant. He’s good and he’s cheap. Actually, he’s free. Sorry David H.

    So I bailed out of the southerly tendril at about 38.5 and started motoring ENE to catch up with the Eastern edge of the high which was forecast to move further East in coming days. David’s advice was if I could maintain 5.5 Kts boat speed I ought to be able to reach and keep up with the Eastern edge of the high and stay in some wind for the foreseeable future. The great race was now on. For the next five or six days I sailed, I motored and I motorsailed to stay on the edge. I always had 6 to 10 Kts of wind on the port quarter but often not enough to give me the 5.5 Kts I needed. The solution was to motor at as low an RPM as possible to get the boat to the required speed and no more. I did not want to over consume fuel so I limited RPM to make just the required boat speed.. This worked for about 15 degrees of Longitude but the high finally overtook me at about 140. I was not willing to bob around for who knows how long so I began a slow motor at 4 Kts to continue pushing East as efficiently as I could. I was running at about 1600 RPM consuming gal of diesel per hour. Not bad if you can put up with the noise.

    However fuel was starting to become a concern. I had used about 70% of my diesel to get to 134 degrees and I still had some risk ahead of me. The NW wind began to fill in fitfully. I had to continue motoring on and off for several more days to get into the 120s. By this time I had used about 85% of my fuel and gale alley was still ahead. I resolved to maintain a 15 gallon reserve until I had solid forecasts for the last 400 miles of the passage.

    I was in luck, the NW finally filled in and I was able to sail the remainder of the trip. Of course gale alley could not be passed without some tribute being paid, so I spent eight hours sailing through 25 to 30 Kts of wind as I approached the coast. The wind eased off Point Reyes and I entered the inbound lane of the northern separation zone at about 2100 on the 7th of August. The wind had pretty much died so I motorsailed much of the way into the Gate. There was a surprising amount of traffic the night I came in and I spent a lot of time on the radio coordinating passage. I reached the Gate at 0335 8 Aug and was met by Rainbow with Cliff and Jackie aboard. That was a sweet sweet sight to be sure but, as usual, the full magnitude of reaching the Bay safely did not sink in until the next day. We anchored in Horseshoe Cove for a little shut eye, went over to Rainbow for a fantastic scrambled egg breakfast and then back to Jacqueline to complete the final leg to my home in Discovery Bay.

    That last little trip was interesting You can’t behave in the delta like you do in the open ocean. There are a lot of hard things close aboard. I was catching up on e-mail and not paying attention. I heard a yelp and a splash and looked up. A seal had jumped off a big green steel buoy which I safely cleared by about six inches. Seriously, it was that close, might have been four inches. It was CLOSE, so keep your wits about you when you re-enter the real world.

    I reached my home at about 2300 that night with about 5 gals of diesel fuel left on the boat. Tied the boat up and we were done. Now, that’s when the feeling of accomplishment begins to set in, just before your Wife tells you she needs milk for her morning tea and could you go down to the shop and buy a quart. I strutted in there and when I was buying the milk I say “Dude, I just sailed singlehanded round trip to Hawaii!!!” he looks up and says “that’ll be $5.65, find everything you needed?”
    Last edited by mike cunningham; 08-15-2018 at 05:07 PM.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by mike cunningham View Post
    Sailing Back


    I say “Dude, I just sailed singlehanded round trip to Hawaii!!!” he looks up and says “that’ll be $5.65, find everything you needed?”
    Hilarious!

  3. #3
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    OMG. I was laughing my arse off and reliving my own trip through this. You really brought it home, Mike. This should be required reading for anyone coming back for the first time! Thanks for calling me out as one of the hotshots. I only wish this were true. I just happened to time our departure so that I was within Cliff's and Rob's orbit. I am so in awe of you and the others that did it solo on the return, too. You totally should milk that feeling of accomplishment for all it's worth. Most won't get it, but it still feels good

  4. #4
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    Great report Mike!
    P___/)___J
    Solo RTW

  5. #5
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    Mike, You are just too funny - and a very good sailor. And the only logic to me leaving the same day you did was that was the day Patty flied home.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by dolfinbill View Post
    Mike, You are just too funny - and a very good sailor. And the only logic to me leaving the same day you did was that was the day Patty flied home.
    Well then, tell Patty she's a genius because it worked out great for both of us. I am still thinking of that picture you took in Two Harbors. I have to get down there one of these days, it looks like a wonderful place.

    SSS ought to do a race down there on the off years! We could meet up with our SoCal brethern and sistren and have a blast.

  7. #7
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    Dura Mater and I would join you.

  8. #8
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    [QUOTE=mike cunningham;21421SSS ought to do a race down there on the off years! We could meet up with our SoCal brethern and sistren and have a blast.[/QUOTE]

    Or even just a group of SSSers sailing to Catalina for a week or so. Kynntana would definitely join in! When she's put back together again...

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamayun View Post
    Or even just a group of SSSers sailing to Catalina for a week or so. Kynntana would definitely join in! When she's put back together again...
    Great idea!

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gamayun View Post
    Or even just a group of SSSers sailing to Catalina for a week or so. Kynntana would definitely join in! When she's put back together again...
    That would be great! Morning Star would be there. I would definitely recommend the Isthmus over Avalon -- plenty of moorings, easy anchorages for those preferring that, plenty of stuff of historic significance, great hiking trails, excellent dive/snorkeling sites.
    Lee
    s/v Morning Star
    Valiant 32

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