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Thread: SHTP 2010 Reflections & Comments

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Sausalito CA

    Default SHTP 2010 Reflections & Comments

    A very very special thanks to everyone involved in the 2010 SHTP! It was truly a wonderful experience! I recently posted a general recap of my experiences aboard Blue Moon on my blog and it would be great to hear other's perspectives as well. It would be great to hear from not only other skipper's, but family, friends, SSS'ers, SHTP hopefuls, SHTP Vets. Here is my posting in its entirety...

    Confessions Of A Bad Blogger Part Deux

    August 12th, 2010
    With the 2010 Delta Doo Dah officially over…sitting here in Pittsburg Marina aboard my new boat BOZO…I thought it a perfect time to reflect a bit more on my 2010 SHTP experience. I mentioned in an earlier post that I would use the term “well rounded” to describe the Singlehanded Transpac in a nutshell; and I still find that description fitting. You are never more present than when you are at sea; nature’s indifferent beauty and harshness beckons you to be so. At sea, it seems the challenges and rewards are immense–and the ever present consequence of “the unknown” & “the uncontrollable” equally immense. Living in that black/white dynamic really forced me to prioritize what I could and could not control–and simply proceed. A few days before the start of the race I was reading a book written by Lin & Larry Pardey entitled Seraffyn’s European Adventure; I became gripped by the section in the book where Larry is talking with another gentleman about single-handed sailing. After some lengthy discussion about the pros and cons of solo sailing, Larry points out that all the Singlehanders he has ever come across have been very much optimists. Why? Because they have to be! There was something about this idea of the optimistic solo sailor that stuck with me and provided a good deal of humor along the way. So enough with this banter and on with the count down:

    Pushing Off The Dock
    Most veterans of the SHTP say the hardest part of the race is getting to the starting line and I would have to agree. The night before the race I didn’t sleep! Not because I was tossing and turning in the forepeak of Blue Moon–I didn’t sleep because I was rushing to get my food and gear stowed, Sat Phone working, water secured, etc. This being my first Singlehanded Transpac and first ocean crossing– I really didn’t want to be sailing under the Golden Gate bound for Kauai and have that “Oops I forgot something” feeling. The morning came very quickly and my start time was rapidly approaching . There was a distinct buzz down on the dock– packed with well wishers, family members, old friends, future SHTP hopefuls, and the ever present SHTP vets…it was quite the scene. Once I felt Blue Moon was officially ready and having about an hour before my start time, I decided to walk the docks with Kathe and try to absorb these last few fleeting moments of company. That walk on the dock really brought home the reality, I had reached that point…the point of having nothing left to do but sail to Hawaii! Returning to Blue Moon with about 20 minutes until my start, I began the process of saying goodbye to my friends and getting ready for the conditions that were waiting for the fleet outside the Golden Gate. (The report was windy windy windy–and it was.) As I hugged Kathe one last time until we would meet again on the shores of Hanalei Bay…I heard someone yell, “Alright Adam…Enough with the hugging…it is time to GO!” As I turned I saw my good friend and current SSS Commodore Bill Merrick approaching in a towing dingy, ready to tow Blue Moon out to the starting line. (Each skipper of the SHTP has a choice of getting towed out to the line or sailing out to the line.) Seeing that there was plenty of breeze to sail off the dock I retorted “Bill, I’m going to sail out!” of which he replied “Very well then…Resume hugging!” Kathe and my good friend Ladonna helped push me off the dock…I hoisted the jib…and Blue Moon and I slowly slipped our way out to the starting line.

    The Beat Out The Gate
    As I mentioned in a previous posting…the sail from the starting line out the Golden Gate was surreal. It was not only surreal in the sense of leaving the Gate bound for a destination over 2000 mile away; it was also surreal in the sense that the wind had picked up to a solid 25-35 knots and the sea state was very very mixed up. And when you are beating into 35 knots with confused seas in an International Folkboat–YOU GET WET! IN FACT, EVERYTHING GETS WET! Leading up to the race I was preparing myself for a damp ride; but if you had told me beforehand exactly how damp and that it would last for 5 days…I probably would not have believed you! That first day was really a blur. After short tacking our way out of the Main shipping channel and eventually passing 5 miles south of the Farralones by nightfall; little Blue Moon was actually doing quite well. As the sun was setting we were in the company of three boats: an Islander 36, Cascade 36, and a 300 foot long tanker bound for China. I made contact with the freighter via VHF…informed them of my position and when they asked me where I was headed in such a small boat; they were very very surprised when I said “Hawaii”. They retorted with, “Really? Well…be safe and good luck.” By morning, the other boats in the fleet had spread out and WE (meaning Blue Moon + I) were alone.

    The Windy Windy Reach
    The next few days were rough going. The crashing waves hitting my little submarine disguised as a sailboat made my living accommodations rather uncomfortable. We were taking on so much water that we could have easily sold the stuff. Whether it was the side slapping wave that sloshed water into my cockpit, or the aft quarter slapper that snuck spray down through the companionway hatch; things were rough, things were bumpy, and things were cold. However, to the credit of the International Folkboat designer Tord Sunden, my little Blue Moon kept chugging along like a little rubber ducky in a very bouncy bathtub. On this particular part of the trip, we saw some pretty big seas (10-15ft) and a solid 22-30 knots of breeze. The problem with the sea state wasn’t the size but the short interval between waves which set up the occasional breaker. Needless to say…I stayed down below for the majority of those first few days and let my trusty Pacific Light Windpilot “Ms. Emmie” do the work.

    Out There Alone
    Once past the windy reach section, things began to calm and I was able to develop a nice rhythm at sea. A question that I am frequently asked since completing the race is, “What was it like being out there all alone? ” And my response is pretty simple, I never really felt alone. A fellow solo sailor named Luca Zoccoli summed up the solo experience quite well when he said, “out there in the ocean…there is us, there is me, there is everything you have inside.” Out there, you have the company of your boat, the company of yourself, and the company of your own thoughts and memories. I particularly enjoyed the chance encounters I had with dolphins, whales, and the ever present albatross. We also were checking in via SSB in the morning and evening; so it was really allot of fun getting to know the other skippers in the race. During this middle section of the race we saw allot of light wind and even the occasional windless calm night. On these calm nights, it gave me a chance to sit out in the cockpit and take in the mind boggling expanse of not only the SEA but the STARS!

    The Tradewinds Or Lack There Of
    One of the rewards for sailors leaving California bound for Hawaii are the infamous “trade-winds”. In fact…the idea of the infamous “trade-winds” were what kept me motivated during the highs and lows of the first week and half of the trip. I kept saying to myself, “This may be really uncomfortable or frustrating right now…but it will be worth it when we get to the Trades.” In theory, my positive mental mind games were a noble approach, but the reality was a year where the “trade-winds” were far from typical. I remember staring down at my position on my paper chart three quarters of the way into the race, knowing that in a typical year I would be experiencing a consistent 15-20 knots of breeze; but the reality was quite different. In fact, one of the consistent themes of this part of my trip was light winds, slating sails, sloppy seas and my occasional yell of frustration out to the watery expanse that surrounded me. (Just a side note: Once reaching the shores of Hanalei and talking with other veterans of the SHTP; the frustrated solo sailor scream at the top of your lungs into absolute nothingness is quite normal.) Being in the middle of the fickle Trades and knowing the race deadline quickly approaching; I was very focused on keeping Blue Moon moving and hand steering as much as I could. We tried a variety of sail combinations: whether it was the twins & Main, Drifter & Main, Drifter alone, Twins alone, or my secret sail setup of twins&Main& wrapping myself in a Spinnaker for good luck; things were slow going but we were getting there.

    Continue to next posting...

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Sausalito CA

    Default Blue Moon excerpt continued...

    Land Ho
    One of my goals for the trip, was to time my arrival during daylight hours; so I could actually see the beautiful island of Kauai after however many days at sea. And about 32 miles from the island; this amazing rock appeared with the sun slowly setting on my 21st day at sea. It was quite the moment! LAND HO! These last few miles until I reached land, reminded me of when I walked the docks prior to the start of the race 21 days earlier; only this time my mind became flooded with not only thoughts of accomplishing my goal but all the wonderful people who supported and enriched my experience along the way. It struck me that although the SHTP is technically a singular pursuit, it is very much a communal experience. So after 21 days 18 hours at sea in the wee early hours of the morning, being the last boat to cross the finish line, I was greeted by sparklers, cheers, Hawaiian leis, bubble tea, hugs, kisses, friends and family. Needless to say, the moment was quite touching and very much in keeping with the spirit of this wonderful race: WE all had prepared, WE all had endured, WE all had finished the RACE.

    More to come….

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