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The Solo March To Hanalei Has Commenced

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  • #16
    The Drum Beat of Ku

    Day 13, July 1, “The drum beat of Ku”

    Mars is usually the first object in the night sky to greet me, even before it gets dark. Last night, a bird came out of nowhere in the dark and circled around my mast. I wasn’t sure what kind of bird it was but it was not small but not as big as an albatross. I was worried about the mast hitting it because it was flying so close. After a few minutes, it flew away as quickly as it appeared. We are about a thousand miles from any land, I’m not sure where it came from or where it wanted to go. But another bird wished me bon voyage by pooping in my cockpit later in the day. I also saw a thumb size flying fish landed on my foredeck. It was dried and crispy by the time I discovered it. I did not think I would add it to my nori ginger soup in the morning.

    There has been this new song that I hear the boat chanting to me, this song is more like a battle march with drum beats. Like people going to battle. My STHP race division is “Ku”, in Hawaiian means “God of War”. The way the wave hits the boat and caused the poled out jib to fill with a soft snap, that is the marching drum beat. The wind hitting the rig and from the ocean are the chants. It also reminds me of the music from “Game of Thrones” (Spoiler Alert) when Arya Stark killed the Night King in slow motion, while the rest of the mankind went into this epic battle with the White Walkers. The second half of this passage is more like a march, the condition is similar everyday, a deep broad reach with 15-20 knots of wind surfing down steep 6 foot waves (please see today’s photo). Sea Wisdom and I have a mission to march across the finish line of the race. Even though I’m in the last place of this race, I’m still marching on this personal battle to cross a major ocean passage solo.

    In the meantime, there are a lot of things to do on the boat to keep our mission successful. Complacency brews unforced errors. I take care of Sea Wisdom’s every need. Twice a day, I go on deck and inspect every single shackle, line, pin, bolt, screw, block and every rigging under load and without load. Trying to see if there is anything out of ordinary and adjust accordingly. I put the lower companionway door up and shut the hatch when I go to sleep at night, just in case a wave comes into the cockpit snd inside the boat. Keeping Sea Wisdom clean and in tune is my top priority. I cleaned the head today, trying to keep it spotless. Keeping the boat in top shape keeps the morale up. Happy boat, happy crew.

    Part of the good morale is to have decent food aboard. Today I started with my go-to comfort food, Chicken and Rice with lots of air dried tomatoes and sesame oil, and finished the day with a pouch of Indian Madras Lentils. My hands are hardened, chafed and worn like sandpaper. I’m losing sensitivity of my palm skin. I have to wear gloves when I go on deck. When I finally gave them some rest at night, I can feel a burning sensation. However, I loved it, it means I’m maximizing the effort to maximize this once a lifetime experience.

    1) You can follow along via the satellite trackers for each boat. I’m Sail #42, SEA WISDOM.

    2) Live tracking with weather information:

    Signing off

    Singlehanded Sailing Society’s 2021 Singlehanded Transpacific Yacht Race update from Green Buffalo:

    “Wind still picking up... zigging and zagging a bit to avoid the proto squalls (more dark cloud then squall but still with an uncomfortable amount of wind to nap thru... saw 24k this morning). Debating if I should go to the shy kite tonight.

    Yesterday afternoon was the first real "blue skies". Glorious sailing with a bit of surfing. Chance to see how much power the solar can put out (a single 140W panel). In prior years, with a 50 year old engine, no solar, and a bit less battery storage, I would end up running the engine 4 hours per day... this trip its been closer to 1 to 1.5 hrs per day.

    Had the quesadillas but I can tell the guac and sour cream are "one time use" (they only made it this far because they were sealed... no refrigeration on the Buffalo).
    Still running down the rhumb line... jibing twice per day...”

    “Day 13 Update From SV Aloha

    Today is the first report I never hoped to have to type, at least not from a moving boat anyway. Generally, most predictions for a Hawaii race onboard a Hobie 33 have you finishing on day 12, not still being a couple hundred miles away (just under 350 as I type). But that’s not the case with this crossing, thanks to two adverse weather patterns that slowed the initial push away from the west coast with the "southerly surge" and then the very pronounced and unavoidable hole in the middle of the course.

    Thankfully after all the trials and tribulations of the beginning parts of the course, Hawaii has finally delivered on the champagne trade wind sailing which we all sign up for these races eager to do.
    Last night after MH spaghetti and meat sauce, I turned in early with an eye towards building winds throughout the night likely pulling me from my rack to hand steer when the auto would get overwhelmed by the winds and the waves. This did indeed happen not too long after midnight when the autopilot had finally rounded up after threatening to do so a number of times throughout the earlier hours of the evening.

    For the rest of the night I was either standing by in the cockpit to take over at a moment’s notice and eventually just steering myself.
    With winds slowly building into the low 20s, boat speed was good and the headers that I had hoped for and expected were beginning to roll down with them each puff of wind and squall pushing me lower and lower towards Kauai. Not too long after day break I saw the highest winds of the day coupled with the highest boat speeds with a velocity made good towards Hanalei bay of 15.5 knots in short bursts while riding down the face of some good Hawaiian waves. The size of the waves unfortunately is not quite large enough to really sustain extended surfing nor connecting of multiple waves to keep speeds up in the mid teens for extended periods of time, but it is always nice when the boat gets powered up and comes screaming down the face of a wave.

    A couple waves caused me some issues as I plowed the bow into the backside of one while surfing the one behind it sending water all the way back to the cockpit and with the hatch wide open, quite a bit made it inside Aloha. Fortunately I had taken the time to move all the family heirlooms up to dryer areas of the boat as the companionway has been ground zero for water splashing in from any and every conceivable angle.

    Around 9 or 10, winds eased up and i was able to do my morning breakfast routine of eating and downloading the latest weather files as well as getting the position information of the rest of the fleet. Not long thereafter the sun broke through and with the decreased wind speeds i felt it might be a good time to try to get some rest. Try of course being the opportune word as i lay in my bunk for seemingly forever without a wink of proper rest. That being said, any time horizontal when not consumed by worries of sail trim and heading are still considered quite restful in my book. Even as I write this email I am able to take my mind off of sailing, enjoy a snack of beef jerky and rest my mind if not my body. Again tonight I suspect an early dinner and more rack time to follow as winds will surely build through the night and keep pushing me ever faster towards a cold drink, warm shower and soft bed in Hanalei.
    With that I bid thee farewell. Alooohaaa!”
    You can follow the race here:
    " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella" Photo Gallery


    • #17
      Paradise Found

      Aloha Final Report
      From Kyle Vanderspek

      As I write this, I am sitting comfortably on a couch at the Hilton with a mai tai in hand having had a great lunch, a dip in the pool, a coffee from Starbucks and a lengthy warm shower. Last night not long after I wrote my report indicating that there was not much left that could go wrong, I had neglected to remember that the spinnaker halyard had been slowly chaffing away for the last thousand or so miles and with one minute it was flying nicely and the next it was dragging in the water. Thankfully this was long before it had gotten dark and I was able to collect the spinnaker and sock un damaged from the water. Without having any other options for large headsails, I was left to resort to the Genoa staysail for my only headsail and was able to point the boat dead downwind sailing mostly wing on wing right towards the finish line.

      Having pushed so hard for so long, it came as nearly a relief to be stuck in this unfortunate sail setup as I was able to get a decent nights rest in what were some of the windiest conditions of the whole race. At times I looked up from my bunk at the chart plotter and noted the boat under full control of the auto and with a fairly undersized sail setup surfing down the face on a Hawaiian roller coaster ride to 15 knots, not bad at all.
      Morning came pretty early for me as nerves and excitement for arrival were nipping me in the heel. So around 1 Hawaii time I was mostly up laying in bed chatting with some friends on the east coast before adding a cousin in Texas as the day slowly began for folks across the country.

      With so many of you all tracking progress, it was an easy distraction from watching the miles inch by to keep people informed on where I was and when I thought I might be arriving in Hanalei. Some time after sunrise although much later than I had expected, I was finally able to make out the outline of some land for the first time since the farallones. Having never made the approach to Hanalei I spent the next two or so hours trying to decide which corner was the right one to turn into. Eventually after cross referencing the chart plotter about a hundred times, and having communicated with the race committee briefly about my arrival ETA, I turned in to a finish line and not long after heard the announcement over the VHF that I had successfully finished the 2021 Singlehanded Transpac.

      Very quickly after finishing and turning up a little towards the bay, a small rib with a welcoming committee that included my Dad and Bill Sweeney came out to greet me and guide me to safe harbor. I quickly got the sails down and secured and made a beeline for the anchorage. With the boat settled into a spot, we put the sails away and made our way ashore having finished with the best elapsed time this year, about three hours later I could say for sure that I had secured first in my division and will be patiently awaiting the arrival of the rest of the fleet to see how I placed among my competitors.

      With that, I’d like to sincerely thank everyone who followed along and sent their warm wishes, it has been an epic adventure which, one that I will surely be reminiscing about for years to come. Until next time....ALOOOHHAA!

      Aloha day 14 Update
      Today has been a very rough and tiring day aboard Aloha, and though we will make it out the other side alive, today has proven that at times we have done so by nothing more than endless will power and at times a heavy dose of sheer luck. This will be a brief update as the weather is not exactly conducive to typing out extended articles, but i will gladly fill in the details tomorrow from what i hope to be the shores of a calm harbor or pool.
      After an early chicken and dumpling dinner (think home made chicken pot pie), it was an early night in fairly moderate winds. i proceeded to fall asleep a little too soundly and woke short of midnight to the unsettling sound of silence coming from the spinnaker., once again it had gotten wrapped around the forestay and the staysail, this time i was lucky and was able to get it freed without too much effort, however about 45 minutes later it decided to happen again. The second time was a bad one which required lots of effort and the lowering and eventual re rigging of both sails before they could be re set about a half an hour later. In that time after about midnight west coast time, the wind had begun to pick up and the autopilot could no longer keep up with the building wind and wave. This meant it would be me who would be driving for the remainder of the night and morning.

      A large number of squalls brought building winds into the mid 20 knot range and some light rain which was just enough to make it a bit chilly on deck as i was very much underprepared to be on deck driving all night. Not too long after day break, i was steering along and noted that i was at 217 miles to go when much to my surprise the forestay came tumbling down from the top the mast, this left the only think keeping the mast from falling back into my lap being the continued wind pressure on the main and spinnaker. To help with this situation, i threw it on auto for a sec and ran forward to attach a spare jib halyard t the deck and act as a stand in for the now gone forestay. At the time the staysail was on that halyard and it was hastily dropped on deck to be dealt with later as and prolonged absence from the helm would lead to catastrophe as the boat would surely round up and the sails would no longer be keeping the mast held forward. Then 17 miles later at exactly 200 from home the spinnaker that i had up exploded leaving me no choice but to once again surrender the boat to the auto pilot and collect the bits of spinnaker and shove them down the companionway.

      Not had much sleep in the last few days and being up solidly attentive to the needs of the boat since before midnight (it was around 8 or 9 by now) i needed a rest. So i turned the boat straight downwind under the auto, rigged up the second standby jib halyard to again act in place of the forestay along with the other one and i went inside to collect my thoughts and clean up the mess of spinnaker and staysail that was littered throughout the cabin. After getting myself sorted and pointing straight at the finish line, i laid down for a few minutes and weighed my options.

      First and foremost is of course to get there in one piece, preferably with the mast still pointed in the vertical direction. With that in mind and having taken some time to recuperate, i decided that setting the smallest A5 spinnaker would both help speed up the process of getting home as well as stabilize that ride and perhaps keep me in contention while not adding any stresses or strains to the jury rigged forestay situation. So i set the A5 which is hoisted in a handy sock to facilitate setting and dousing in al conditions and have been following it towards the finish line for the past few hours.
      An added bonus of this spinnaker and these conditions at present is that the autopilot seems up to the task of keeping a straight course in the heavy sea state and decent winds. With everything back to running well for the time being, i took the time to handle my first pre arrival task which was to shave my face, and without a proper mirror onboard, it will be interesting to find out how i did tomorrow when i get in. Not too long ago I ticked past

      150 miles to go and expect to be safely into Hanalei bay sometime during the daylight hours of tomorrow barring another serious catastrophe.

      So with that, i ask everyone please hold their breath and cross all their fingers in hopes of a uneventful night and morning aboard Aloha. And for those wondering, i have pre decided dinner tonight will be beef stroganoff and breakfast tomorrow will be biscuits and gravy, two of my personal favorites for last meals onboard. I love you all and let’s hope for a safe last few hours onboard this rocket ship. ALOHHHAAAA!


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


      • #18
        Then There Were 3

        Day 17, July 5, “A challenge at the end”
        Sometimes in life, however much we prepare and learn from our past experience, the same problem could happen again. Two years ago today, towards the finish line of the 2019 LongPac race, my rudder came lose because somehow the upper bearing housing was ripped apart (we thought the boat hit something underwater) and at that same moment, my backup autopilot (Hydrovane) was also knocked out of place.

        Without both rudders, I had to call for rescue from the Farallon Islands. We spent the last two years improving the steering systems on the boat, so something like this would not happen again.

        Today with only 200 miles from the finish line, I heard the cracking sound of metal rubbing against metal in the rudder compartment. After analyzing the situation with KKMI, my delivery captain Steve, and the race committee, we realized the main rudder has come loose and dropped a couple of inches, making it useless. To reduce stress on the boat, I’m now sailing with a triple reefed main, and storm size poled out jib, and using the jury rigged Hydrovane to steer.

        My land based team of professional mariners and friends are advising me at the moment. My big gratitude to all of your help so far. The goal is to get to Hanalei Bay tomorrow night safely.

        Over the weekend, 7 additional boats sailed into Hanalei Bay, finishing their 2 week voyage. Now just 3 more vessels are working their way, Hula is 11 miles out making 6.6 knots, Northern Light is 80nm away doing 6.3 knots away and Sea Wisdom is 91 nm away doing 5.8 knots...
        " I just found out my nest egg has salmonella"

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