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Elise Qualifies For SSS Pac Cup

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  • Elise Qualifies For SSS Pac Cup

    Natalie Criou just arrive in Santa Cruz Harbor after qualifying for the Single Handed Transpac aboard her Express 27' Elise PLans were originally to sail west then back east into the Golden Gate, but a late season weather system foiled those plans with stiff WNW wind and matching swell made the ride back to the gate less and less
    reasonable. We'll shall have here report shortly!

    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery

  • #2
    Qualifying For The SSS Transpac

    Natalie Criou just completed her qualifier for this years SSS Single Handed Transpac which departs June 28th. Her Express 27 "Elise" is one of 20 boats signed up for the 2,120 nm marathon, with boats ranging from an Open 6.50, a Pacific Seacraft Dana 24' and 2 Capri 25's up to a Palmer Johnson 49'.

    Here is Natalie's write up on the qaulifier!

    Overall, very physical, and tough physically but great preparation. A lot of variety of conditions and sail angles and it gives a very good idea of what it is like to be out there alone, and just have to deal with things. I can see why it is a requirement for SHTP, can certainly solidify or invalidate decision to do the bigger race. 80% of the qualifier in 20 to 30 knot winds with the last evening a storm around 35-40 knots, with rain. I took pictures and videos mostly when it was lighter. So great set of conditions to test the boat and myself as it also ranged down to zero knots of wind off Half Moon Bay where I drifted for hours which had me super I started calling people on the satellite phone and read users manuals (yes it was that bad...). Autopilots worked fine and I learned to trust them so much that I was fine going to sleep and let them drive the boat. I hesitated but then just reasoned 'well, this is going to be lasting for a few days so I will have to sleep, might as well trust you now...'. In a lot of instances, they did a better job at driving than I did because I got tired and they didn't. Lighter conditions on two occasions, once on the beat out and once around Monterey Bay and on my way back up north until the wind died completely, the calm before the storm...

    No big science to sleeping. I had read about a million studies...but I did not know what would work so I decided to sleep when I was tired and when my eyes would close. Couldn't sleep the first night as I was so pumped up to be out there and not tired at all after a good week of prep...but slept after that about 5-6 hours a day. I tried 30 min, 45 min and 60 min naps and preferred 60 min, although could do 45 quite easily as after a while I would fall asleep in about 5 seconds. I did what Jim Quanci taught me. When the sleep timer would go off, I would just wake up (I slept in my full foulies given the conditions which made the boat very wet below deck as well) check wind direction and speed to see if any sail configuration or trimming change was required, looked around the rig and deck to see if anything needed fixing or adjusted and looked around to see if there was any ship or obstacle in sight, and then would just go back to bed. I came to actually really like that timer because it didn't mean I would have to get up and relieve someone's on watch...just that I popped my head out and would continue with my happy sleepy journey afterwards.

    I thoroughly enjoy night sailing and I got some wonderful stars and moonlights - a real treat. The 'Doomsday device', Brian's autopilot has a bunch of diods that gave enough light for the cockpit without killing my night vision and I had a nice little light for down below. At night, the water is dark and you have no visual cue, so I sailed mostly through knotmeter (I am a bit obsessed by boat speed, I will grant you that) and the mast head fly which is illuminated by the tricolor navigation light. Compass was also super useful and I spent a ton of time looking at that thing...Trusted navigation help.

    Kept a full power log (charging and discharging currents based on AP and what I had on or off) and basically one day had a cloud cover and could not recharge fully both sets of batteries just with solar before night came and because it was upwind in 20-25 knots, AP worked pretty hard and consumed a lot of power. Between the two batteries, I could still have AP drive pretty much 80% of the night if I had wanted to (and I like that because I slept mostly at night, despite the not ideal power conditions just because that's when my body wanted to sleep...) - I had the fuel cell set on automatic to basically protect whatever battery I was running off of from discharging too much and it was only that night that it came on. I forced a charge one day to see how long it would take it to recharge one of the battery and compared that with solar.

    Just a couple of repairs. A block and a shackle and at some point one of my reefing lines got stuck between the sheave and the boom end so I couldn't shake the reef off easily. Other than that mostly uneventful.

    Noticed that you can get lazy if conditions don't change for the longest time and you're just on this one heading so forced myself to walk around the deck, look at things, inspect lines, rig, least once a day instead of spending it all int he cockpit. Played around with waves, by having AP drive and sit behind the dodger literally 'dodging' waves. Very liberating to use the AP, you can do other things, just sit there, look around, take pictures. Couldn't use nav laptop because everything was too wet below so need to figure out a better set up.

    I had taken two full sets of foulies and both got completely wet.

    Left Friday afternoon around 330 to go out with the tide. Was blowing 25+ knots. Had a reefed main and a #4 jib. Boat doing fine. Deck and Skipper got drenched within 10 minutes of exiting the harbor because of spray...Tacked up the San Francisco channel as usual, went north where I found even heavier wind and huge potato patch waves, so I tacked back South crossing the channel at the third set of cans. Saw pilot boats and several ships. Then headed South West about 240 degrees for long tack offshore.

    First night was a bit rough so I avoided going below to make sure that there would be no seasickness problems but after that, no issue with that at all. I take the scopalamine patch and it seems to work just fine. Elise is a very very wet ride (but fun). I was on a loose beats for days, until I went past the 100 nm limit (I went about 125 miles out), and then I got sick of 'upwind' and the west shift that I had been waiting for never seem to materialize so I headed south to have a bit of downwind fun which the boat is so cool for and since it wasn't really a race and I could go whereer I wanted...I had initially wanted to follow a routing based on Expedition but I totally messed that up so I had nothing to go on for that...

    Weather calmed down and I had a nice beat up and a quiet dinner. Changed sail to #3 and shook the reef off. Wind picked up again a few minutes afterwards (of is called Murphy's law) offshore despite forecast that it would stay around 10 knots. so I had to change back to the #4.

    Was blowing 25 knots so I hoisted 'France', Elise's heavy weather spinnaker and enjoyed 60 miles of downwind which meant a southern heading. Clocked about 15 knots of boat speed and averaged around 10 knots, pretty disappointing given Nathan's record of 19 knots during Pac Cup and since I had some really nice surfing conditions but super super fun. That took me well into the night so I dropped the kite and tried that set of twin sails. I fiddled with cold and wet fingers with dinghy hanks in the dark on a wet deck with a bow wave surfing down a couple of mountain-like waves, got so frustrated that I only put every other hank and went to bed. I still had the main up for power but the ride was definitely much more stable. Wind picked up during the night and into the morning into a full blown gale. I started slowly heading back east, on a reach with a heading around Carmel.

    Seas around 10 feet (although I am a metric system don't take my word on that) and winds betwen 25 and 30 knots all following day, on a tight reach. Had to take two reefs in the main. AP using up to 12 amp peak power. Crazy! Very unfriendly seas, attacking the boat from all angle. Basically living in a washing machine, full of wet fabric. Still pretty fun as boat was just flying along, screaming down the few waves I could surf on and just slice through water like soft butter. Exhilarating fun. Had to close off cabin entirely and discovered small dripping leaks I never knew existed... Talked to Brian on VHF. Fantastic reception. By then I was eating well, sleeping well, had done several sail changes and was feeling pretty good about life despite a very wet butt. It was a bit rough but it was fast and I take rough and fast over slow and comfy any day. So basically all my nights were in 25 to 30 knot winds so far. At some point, some kind of flying fish hit me on the left cheek and two small fish landed on deck after a wave crashed into the cockpit (with a cold shower down my spine). I managed to rescue the two fish. Good karma.

    Did this the entire night too, so nearly 24 hours of the stuff. Wind lightened up near Monterey Bay. I reached the latitude of Carmel after a little over 100 miles of reaching and tacked back out to sea when the wind dropped below 10 I'd go offshore it would move back up to low teens. Changed sail again to #3 after waiting for a little while to see if it would hold (I never just rushed a sail change based on changing calming wind conditions...after my experience of the first day...). I'd first shake a reef as that's a much easier/low effort thing to do. At that time, I was about 95 miles south of the golden gate bridge but as I was tacking my way up, I'd be sailing a little bit more distance...I also changed into my last set of dry clothes. They didn't stay dry for very long although rain was less salty than spray...

    Sailed around hundreds of dolphins for at least half an hour, was absolutely magical.

    Sun rose, wind died and for the first time since beginning of my trip I had a t shirt on. Became very bored. Tested satellite phone. Talked to Brian on VHF. Not happy about prospect of drifting all night in the middle of nowhere so close to home!! Was alone with a sea lion that was swimming around the boat maybe hoping for some of that tuna salad I had for dinner. Talked to the guy but didn't hear back. Maybe a deaf sea lion. Went to sleep as there wasn't much sailing to do. Fell asleep but set timer to keep a regular watch schedule. I either slept through the timer or storm came up while I was asleep but I woke up to a boat on its side lying a hull (ie hove to but with so much power in the main that it is pinned to the water). I look around and see winds of 25 knots, rain, black cloud over black sea, really dark seas full of white foam. Quite a sight! Totally surreal. Took me a couple of seconds to adust to reality. Priority 1: regain control of the boat and have her on a sustainable safe path. Vertical deck does not qualify. I freed up the main and set the boat downwind in an upright position. I had full sails up as I was coming from a no wind time..Next time I look at the instruments, the wind was up to 40 knots and the rain had increased in intensity. Whatever last set of dry clothes I had was now very wet, including my butt. Definitely too much sail up for the conditions so I double reefed the main which stabilized things immediately and then went forward to put the #4 back up. I had left it on deck and all hooked up. What a brilliant idea that was! I never hoisted a head sail that fast. A heck of a wake up call.

    After that, things were pretty much under control again and it took less than 10 minutes to get all this done (less than 2 for the reefing. I got situated and noticed that th ewind was coming form the north, straight from where I wanted to go. So I looked at my options. I could a) beat back up to the gate for about 40 miles. Unpleasant. I probably was a little tired after this time at sea, and it would be pushing the boat and rig much more so that a lower apparent wind speed downwind. I could b) heave to and wait the storm out here. Not fun. Boring. Plus I didn't know how long this would last. The west shift I had so anticipated I never saw. So 'short storms' could last for 48 hr for all I knew. I could c) have fun surfing downwind which the boat was naturally doing already. I am sure that there were other options like pointing the boat to hawaii and just go but I ran out of attention span. So I kept going downwind and decided to pull into Santa Cruz, some 50 miles south of where I was. I remember from reading Skip Alan's storm story that it was good practice to give the Coast Guard a heads up of my situation so they would be more efficient if a search and rescue operations had to be underway so I called them to let them know of my situation. They asked some questions about my safety equipment (and my weight and height) and I confirmed that I was not requiring assistance just wanted to communicate the situation, my position and my plan to head into Santa Cruz. (I called them when I got there so they could close the case).

    I also called Nathan Bossett to see if he could contact SC harbor or Monterey for a spot and to notify him of the change of plan (well I left a was the middle of the night...) but he called me back and we spoke. That was helpful because I didn't have that info on sat phone. The rest of the night was actually fun. I had well slept and the boat was now just surfing nicely in very nicely formed and regular swell. The rain wasn't fun but the sail didn't feel like a stormy sail at all, more like a fun ride downwind, typical of a lightship race or something like that. Boat in its element. If boat can handle situation and likes it, skipper can handle boat and like it. Closer to Santa Cruz, the wind abated to 20+ knots and I emerged from the dark cloud and rain to find a beautiful starry night. Irony of irony I had trouble making it to the harbor as the wind got very light deep in Monterey Bay. Took me forever to cover the last mile...

    Pulled into the harbor around 830 in the morning. All good and qualifier completed with a few more miles due to unforeseen weather conditions.

    Welcome by Serge and Brian with banana bread and Nutella. Awesome!

    And I had three showers that day. Just because I could.

    My main concern had been working autopilot and I had someone to drive the boat the entire time I did a fair bit of hand steering too, but that was because I enjoy it.
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery