It’s been a month since I arrived in Kauai’s Hanalei Bay. And having, with Joanna at last, enjoyed the island’s green mountains and sweet aroma, it’s time to depart in the morning for home.
Getting back to sea is essentially getting back to work, as these crossings are practice, if you will, for next year’s Figure 8 Voyage; so, before weighing anchor, I thought I’d list a few learnings from the passages to date.
1. THIS BOAT CAN MAKE MILES (PHEW!).
One requirement of the Figure 8 is speed. In order to position boat and self for the route’s high latitude weather windows requires an average of about 130 miles a day.
Predicting a potential Figure 8 boat’s abilities in this area was an early challenge I’d solved (partially) by analyzing the average daily miles of boats like Morgan’s AMERICAN PROMISE, Schrader’s RESOURCEFUL, JOSHUA, SUHAILI, GYPSY MOTH, even Rutherford’s ST BRENDAN. The result suggested that about 65% of theoretical hull speed was a reasonable expectation for a heavy displacement cruiser in the 40 foot range when well sailed over a very long, all-weathers course.
This exercise applied to GJOA suggested her 38 foot waterline and theoretical hull speed of 198 miles a day would just make the 130 mile a day requirement.
But with GJOA I had the additional advantage of her history as TAONUI and her non-stop, solo voyage round the world. In 2002, then owner, Tony Gooch, departed Victoria, BC, and completed a 24,249 southern ocean circuit, returning to Victoria after 177 days. Average: 137 miles a day.
This was my expectation upon departing Kodiak.
However, to my great glee, GJOA has handily beaten this expectation on each of her first two (admittedly short) passages. The second, in particular was just flat-out fast. Slowest day: 153 miles. Fastest Day: 177 miles. Average for the 2600 mile course: 159 miles a day.
To be fair, it was a “really fast year” for passages from the mainland to Hawaii, this according the Transpac guys I’ve met. No doubt! We picked up winds of plus 20 knots our second day out of Cape Flattery and held those velocity ranges right on through the whole run.
Moreover, I was really pushing the boat, especially in the first week, and as my friend Gerd Marggraff has said, such high speeds, i.e. near a hull’s maximum, put a lot of strain on boat and crew. Over a longer course, I’ll need to be more conservative in order to avoid injury to either.
So, while I don’t expect to charge through the Figure 8 at 160 miles a day, knowing that I can make or make up such time relieves some of the mileage pressure.
How GJOA performs in lighter winds is unknown to me, but the passage over the North Pacific High to San Francisco will likely shed light here.
2. THE BOAT IS EASY TO HANDLE.
Next to the 30 foot ketch on which I’ve done most of my soloing, GJOA’s 44 foot deck, 62 foot mast and three large working sails were initially daunting, not to mention those two 25 foot genoa poles.
But the rig has turned out to be well-balanced and easy to maintain, with the gear sized to match its power and special thought given to singlehanding by men who are not brutes.
An example: for reefing the main, Tony Gooch removed the standard hook for the reef tack and replaced it with a spring-loaded clip. Through the tack is rove six inches of two-inch webbing with a ring on each end. The webbing is long enough to be grabbed easily and solidly by the hand that’s not managing the main halyard, and the clip locks the ring in place. No more fighting to get the tack on the hook only to have it slip off before the reefed sail can be raised!
Another example is the boat’s double headsail configuration. Though raising and lowering the genoa poles does take some planning (see previous post), and getting them aligned correctly, some practice, their permanent connection to a long mast track, their light weight and three simple, pre-rigged control lines make them easy to tame (the one exception being that moment between getting the pole over the rail and clipping the sheet into its slot). This allows exceptional control of two very powerful sails, all from the cockpit, control which allows the sails to be flown longer in increasing winds and over a large range of wind direction.
Many other examples we can save for later.
All in all, I’ve found GJOA easier to handle than I had anticipated.
3. SYSTEMS SIMPLICITY IS A REAL BENEFIT.
Thoughtfulness like the above is as evident in what the boat does not have as in what she does. No refrigerator, no freezer, no water maker, no electrical galley pumps, no electrical bilge pumps all have significantly reduce maintenance work and worry, not to mention eliminating the complication of having to power them while under sail.
(GJOA has solved the water problem for the singlehander by carrying nearly 200 gallons in two integral keel tanks.)
On a related note, I’ve been pleased by the ease with which the 300 watts of solar power added in Homer has been able to keep up with the boat’s admittedly minimal electrical requirements. Weather between Cape Flattery and Kauai, being either totally socked in or squally, was not ideal for solar power generation, but I found that one good afternoon of sun every day or two was enough to top off the tanks, and for the most part, that’s what we got.
Granted, GJOAs current requirements are low. A chartplotter (screen turned down), VHF radio, AIS transmitter, and the Iridium GO! are on 24/7; the iPad is typically charged once a day, LED running lights are lit after dark, and one LED cabin light gets some use. That’s about it. So, not surprisingly, the largest deficit the panels had to make up on the whole passage was 54 amps in a 450 amp system. Not a tall order for 300 watts on a day with any sun.
4. I’M STILL LEARNING TO ADAPT TO LIFE BELOW DECKS.
Comfort, where such is meant to indicate convenience and ease, “should not be expected” from a small boat upon a big ocean, and any complaint speaks more to my failure to adapt than a failing of the boat.
Still, my now common joke regarding GJOA’s below decks is that, for a German luxury yacht, “she’s a bit Martin Luther.” Her seat-backs in the main salon are straight up and down, disallowing any posture but the most pious. Add that there’s no obvious place to sit in the pilot house except atop the two long, teak cabinets that run down either side. Back rests that once fit the aft-most sections of these cabinets have long since been removed, as have their cushions, making them, as instruments of repose, about as relaxing as an oaken pew.
(I’ve provisionally replaced the seat-backs and cushions before the trip home.)
The galley sink, being well off to port, tends to take on water if the boat is on starboard tack or it fills and empties as one rolls when running in a seaway. Initially I thought this a disadvantage and even for a time, when on such tacks, I took to shutting off the sink drain valve and moving my dishwashing to a bucket in the cockpit. But further experimentation has shown that breakfast dishes left in the sink on a morning of heavy downwind sailing (emphasis on downwind) will be thoroughly cleaned by lunch time from the continual rinsing. Score one for adaptation.
5. THE RIGHT STUFF IS BREAKING.
Of all the issues encountered to date, I’m most happy that the steering problems arose before the Figure 8. Issues here include malfunctions in the autopilot and the windvane, both induced through generous applications of owner absent-mindedness.
On the approach to Cape Flattery, the autopilot failed. The symptoms were complicated, but the cause was quite simple: I allowed the hydraulic fluid reservoir to run dry. Learning: check the damned thing!
And the massive chafe on the Monitor during the run to Kauai was caused by a frozen block right off the tiller line (replaced while underway). As it turns out, the strain this generated also wore the lower block on the Monitor, so all have been checked and two replaced as have been the tiller lines (again). At this point the only original item on the Monitor is the stainless tubing.
Other failures have included a genoa pole car that split, spilling its bearings, when put under too much load by the captain, one genoa wrapped nearly to death (sheet cut) in a yachtsman’s gale off Port Angeles, one dead starter switch (both replaced), a burned up engine bilge pump impeller (also replaced).
All in all, I’m learning quite a bit about managing Gjoa while underway.