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Sept 28
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 18

Noon HST position: 40.26.66N vy 128.12.57W
Miles since last noon: 169
Total miles of passage: 2578
Avg. Miles per Day: 143
Miles to San Francisco: 330
Course: SE
Sail: Triple reef in jib and main. Wind angle: 120 degrees
Speed: 7
Wind: N25-30
Sky: Clear, some scattered high cumulus
Bar: 1017
Air Temperature: 67 degrees
Sea Temperature: 62 degrees

Wind has veered into the N, allowing me to relax Mo’s wind angle without a change of course. This has quieted things down considerably. I no longer feel like a war correspondent on the front lines.

Seas are still up, however. Steep and confused and occasionally combining  into a Big Bertha whose break is a mushroom-shaped collapse that then foams-out for a 100 yards. Beautiful to watch if you are a sailor; not the least bit surfable.

At around 10 this morning and before the winds went N, one of these Berthas (I presume, as I never saw it) delivered an interesting imitation of a knock down. Sound like thunder, then heavy water at the pilot house windows and suddenly Mo was on her right ear.

When gravity returned to something like normal, I jumped up to check Monte, who was so unperturbed he’d not bothered to put down his espresso, but the cockpit was half full of water (upside: I got to see how fast it drains) and the line in the port side cubbies was afloat.

In the galley, the only notable casualty was my coffee grounds container, which had launched into the head and exploded. This provided nearly an hour’s entertainment with broom and pan, though I noted an improvement in the smell.

Over the last two days we’ve taken so much spray over the boat that a rime of salt crystals has built on the the cockpit teak. And I’ve been able to ascertain with certainty which hatches leak in weather and which don’t. In short, all leak. Or leaked, until I tightened up their knobs with a screwdriver.

My only disappointment: whenever I bring my camera on deck, the entire seascape suddenly goes all shy. Not a whitecap can I find nor a wave with as much heft as a bedroom pillow.

I’ve not been cooking much since the weather went north. Not for lack of appetite, mind you, but I’ve yet to master the galley in boisterous seas. For example, I need to rethink the cupboards, which tend to happily pour their contents, en masse, onto the counter top unless I time the roll perfectly. Then there’s the gimbled stove, an island of calm in this shake-n-bake world. The only problem is that, boat motion being what it is, I’m either clawing my way up hill to reach it or fighting to keep from being thrown bodily onto it.

On a related note, it’s getting noticeably cooler. Temperature in the cabin as I type is 64 degrees. What this means is that I can eat cheese again, which was untouchable when the cabin was 80.

Two days to San Francisco at this pace, but you’d never know it by looking out the window.

SOLACE update. Steve and crew appear to be doing well. To reports, the repair to the quadrant steering, replacing the parted cable with Dyneema line, has continued to function. They are currently jogging NW and SE at around 40N and 140W while they wait for winds to become favorable for a return to an easterly heading. This should happen by week’s end.

mmm

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Sept 27
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 17

Noon HST position: 41.45.90N by 131.15.47W
Miles since last noon: 154
Total miles of passage: 2409
Avg. Miles per Day: 142
Course: SE
Sail: Triple reef in jib and main. Wind angle: 70 – 80 degrees
Speed: 6
Wind: NE, ENE 25+
Sky: Clear, some scattered high cumulus
Bar: 1020
Air Temperature: 79 degrees
Sea Temperature: 62 degrees

Comfort cannot be expected by those who go apleasuring.
H. W. Tillman

All yesterday and today we have been just shy of a beat in 25 knot northeasterlies.

Seas are not large–some are to 10 feet–but they are steep and we are taking them beam on. They break over Mo with the least provocation, least provocation being that curling wave is here and boat is here. Smash. The decks are streaming.

From below the canon fire produced when Mo drops bodily off a wave onto her side or, when on her side, the next wave slams into her bilge, is startling, partly for the sound and partly for the whole-boat, things-coming-unglued vibration it produces.

One cannot be sure the watery collision wasn’t with a solid object that has torn a hole in the hull. Several times today I’ve checked under the engine to make sure the slimy inch of water gathered there is still but an inch (it is).

I open a galley cupboard for a can of soup and the entire contents empty onto the counter. I aim at the head, but gravity decides it is tired of such strict confines–today left is much more interesting than down. I reach out to steady myself but before my hand contacts the bulkhead, the bulkhead has thwapped me in the forehead.

Only lying down seems safe, and though my new berth on starboard is comfortable, I slept last night as if in a war zone.

That’s just what it’s like to beat into fresh northeasterlies.

ALL THAT SAID, our course is excellent and warms my heart. If this is as E as the NE winds get, then I called my northing perfectly, because as I write, Mo is on a rhumb line course for the Golden Gate Bridge. Distance: 441 miles.

Let’s hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

By way of follow up to the story on WAVE SWEEPER, the abandoned sailboat Mo and I discovered a day and a half ago, the below release from the Coast Guard was sent to me courtesy of Joe Cline, editor at the Pacific Northwest sailing magazine 48*North…

CREW OF 1,000-FOOT CONTAINTER SHIP RESCUE SAILOR IN DISTRESS 990 MILES WEST OF THE COLUMBIA RIVER.

WARRENTON, Ore., — The Coast Guard coordinated the rescue of  a sailor in distress more than 990 miles west of the Columbia River by utilizing the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue system, Tuesday.

Responding to the AMVER request, the crew of the 1,098-foot container ship Oocl Utah altered their course to retrieve the distressed sailor, safely took him aboard the ship and is currently transporting him to their next port of call in Busan, South Korea.

Watchstanders at the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center received the notification of distress from the operator of the 37-foot sailing vessel Sea Sweeper stating that weather had torn his sails on the vessel’s lower mast, was having issues with its engine and batteries and was running low on potable water. During his transit the operator was also battling 30 mph winds and 8-foot seas.

Due to the great distance of the sailing vessel, the Command Center personnel issued the AMVER broadcast asking any mariners in the immediate area to assist the operator of the Sea Sweeper.

The crew Hong Kong flagged Oocl Utah responded to the request for assistance and proceeded with the rescue of the sailing vessel operator.

“The AMVER system was created for events just like this one,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Brown, an operation specialist at the Coast Guard 13th District Command Center. “Thanks to the merchant mariners who volunteer for this program, help can be provided to those in need even when they are hundreds of miles away from traditional assistance.”

The operator of the sailing vessel was reportedly found without proper safety equipment including a life raft and emergency beacon onboard his vessel. The lack of essential equipment was a factor which prompted the AMVER assist. Boaters are reminded to always have proper safety equipment such as an Electronic Position Indicating Beacon, life raft, lifejackets or mustang suits, signaling and communication devices onboard their vessel before getting underway.

A message has been issued to all mariners operating in the area notifying them of the adrift vessel.

The AMVER system is aa assistance and rescue program with vessels from all over the world to participating in the program. AMVER helps provide assistance in areas beyond the reach of Coast Guard assets. Vessels participating in the AMVER program agree to have their general positions tracked by the AMVER system and volunteer to assist vessels in distress that may be in their area.

For more information about the AMVER program, click here: http://www.amver.com/default.asp

 

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Flying the storm jib in tame conditions.

 

gl-vhb

Routine maintenance on the Monitor tiller lines. Here “sewing” a new and old line together so as to ease running the new through the Monitor block assembly.

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Sept 26
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 16

Noon HST position: 42.48.56N by 134.14.24W
Miles since last noon: 157
Total miles of passage: 2255
Avg. Miles per Day: 141
Course: ENE, then E
Sail: Twins poled overnight. Close hauled, triple reefed next day
Speed: 6
Wind: SW15 to N20 -28
Sky: Overcast, some rain (Pacific Northwest sky)
Bar: 1019
Air Temperature: 70 degrees
Sea Temperature: 64 degrees

Up at five to find Mo heading SE. The wind had shifted into the N overnight, as per forecast. I let us run until first light and then slowly wound up sails, took in the poles and got Mo ready for several days of reaching.

Winds should be 20 – 25 from the N, then NE, then ENE and finally back to N-ish over the next two to three days. Not ideal for a boat that wants to go E and SE.

It appears our cruise will end with a bash.

While this high settles in, my goal is to 1) carry true wind on the beam and keep apparent wind below 60 degrees off port. 2) to somehow keep from getting pushed below 40N until the wind comes back into the N. Those may be tall orders.

Currently am triple reefed in both main and jib in winds that have increased to 28 just as the sun set. (Of course!)

I’ve also taken the opportunity of some wind and a very wet foredeck to practice-set the storm jib. Good thing as I’d stowed it in a way that made it extremely awkward to get at the tack and hanks. I flew it in 20 knots, and now that we’re touching 30, I wish I’d left it up.

Handel is still with us.

Several days ago he moved his quarters from inside a cockpit cubby to the vang clutch on the starboard clutch assembly.

This was an unfortunate choice as it is outboard of the cockpit, quite windy, and thus cold, and was often washed by waves. I’d not seen him for several days and thought him overboard.

Still, I tried to leave the vang clutch unused as long as I could on the off chance … but today it had to come into action.

Luckily Handel was out and inspecting his estate when I needed to begin work there, and I was able to move him to a protected spot underneath the dodger.

In typical fashion, Handel was unhappy with my safe-as-houses location, and has since wandered into the hatch slide pocket. So, again, I have to live in fear that moving the hatch will crush him.

So it goes with Handel.

kjhipn

Handel is still with us and now living in the hatch slide pocket.

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Sept 25
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 15

Noon HST position: 41.50.33N by 137.12.05W
Miles since last noon: 171
Total miles of passage: 2098
Avg. Miles per Day: 140
Course: ENE
Sail: Running under large genoa
Speed: 7+
Wind: SW to SSW 20 – 25
Sky: Mostly clear
Bar: 1017
Air Temperature: 76 degrees
Sea Temperature: 65 degrees

10am.

I’m in the cockpit. I don’t know why. I look up and off MOLI’s port quarter and to the west, mast and sails. Maybe four miles distant. Hull down. A sailboat.

My first thought: SOLACE! Steve and crew have, in fact, repaired their pedestal steering and are underway these past 24 hours. She’s faster than MO, but that’s too fast. Last report put her over 200 miles to our stern.

Second thought: something’s wrong. Even without binoculars I can see that the sail set isn’t working. With binoculars and from the top of the larger waves, it’s clear the genoa is luffing terribly.

What are the odds I’d encounter a sailboat here that was making due east for the coast and that I’d see it just the moment its crew lost control of the headsail?

Seeing another sailboat has sufficiently small odds. But there’s nothing due east except Crescent City, California, a fishing town, and due east is the wrong heading given coming weather.

I wait five minutes. No need to bother them if they’re on the foredeck, I think.

Five minutes later the sail is still beating. I call on channel 16. I call repeatedly. No answer.

A sinking feeling in my gut. I have to go.

MO is running fast. Winds have been 20 – 25 SW and SSW for several days. The wave train is large and long period; seas 10 and 12 feet and breaking happily. Really beautiful stuff. But it makes for slow action on deck. The starboard genoa pole is still out from yesterday, a vain hope, and to port and out free, the large genoa. It takes fifteen minutes to pull the pole, rig for the number #2 jib and tack about.

It takes another twenty minutes to work up to the vessel’s position.

Here’s what I wrote to Joanna and my friend, Kelton, immediately after the sighting…

Subject: URGENT. POSSIBLY ABANDONED SAILBOAT. PLEASE FORWARD TO COASTGUARD

Date: September 25, 2016 at 4:18:49 AM PDT

JO, KELTON, which ever of you can get to this first. URGENT.

I have discovered a *possibly* abandoned vessel, a sailboat, adrift, sails out and torn.

Urgent because vessel does not appear to have been adrift/abandoned for very long.

PLEASE CONTACT LOCAL COAST GUARD AND FORWARD INFO. ASK THEM TO ROUTE ACCORDINGLY. I don’t know who to contact or would do myself.

Abandoned Vessel Position: 41.49.463N. 137.20.131W.
Sighting Time: 1100 Hawaii Standard Time.
Sighting Date: Sept 25, 2016.

Vessel Approximate Course ESE.
Vessel Approximate Drift Rate: 2-3 knots.

Vessel Name: Wave Sweeper.
Vessel Port: Vancouver, BC.

Description: Sloop. 30 – 35 feet on deck. Yellow hull. Fiberglass. Home-built dodger of wood. Jib out and torn to ribbons. Main out and boom down and in water, sail also torn. Main hatch open. Boat appears to be dragging a drogue from quarter lines; drogue not seen. No dinghy seen, though a kayak on coach roof. No life raft seen, nor place for canister observed on boat deck or rail.

Action: Multiple hails on VHF, channel 16, upon approach and departure and via air horn upon passing by. No response.

Scan of area found no other debris or sign of raft.

I made two close passes and have departed the scene assuming boat is abandoned.

RR
S/V MOLI

I was still panting when I wrote this. Reading every sentence aloud. Typing as fast as could. Hurry, hit send. Good.

Because you just don’t know. It all looked so fresh. No weed on the hull. No bird shit on deck. The kayak at the ready. The BBQ on the rail. Hatches open. I half expected someone to come popping from below. He’d offer me a beer. “Hamburgers up in a jiffy, mate. Sorry about the mess.”

Except for those awful sails. The banners of ghosts. They could only mean disaster. Loss of control. Loss of self. The kind of panic that unhinges a person in a second.

Something terrible had gone down here, and it looked like it had gone down yesterday.

Joanna immediately contacted our local Coast Guard station, and they routed my email and photos to the Offshore Rescue Unit.

Here was the response…

From: RCCAlameda1
Sent: Sunday, September 25, 2016 2:44 PM
To: JOANNA BLOOR; RCCAlameda1
Subject: RE: [Non-DoD Source] Fwd: URGENT. POSSIBLY ABANDONED SAILBOAT. PLEASE FORWARD TO COASTGUARD

Ms. Bloor,

The Sailing Vessel WAVE SWEEPER was the subject of a Search and Rescue case from July 19th of this year. The master of the vessel was rescued and brought safely to shore.

Thank you very much for your report.

Respectfully,
United States Coast Guard
Rescue Coordination Center Alameda

I had been trending slowly NE under deeply reefed jib. Waiting for word. Waiting for orders or release. Release from responsibility and that horrible dread.

When the note came, relief. I had misread the signs. That’s OK. The story had ended well, at least for the man.

I opened the big genoa and we flew free again. Hull down, that dead boat astern. Sails still beating their warning. Then she was gone. I breathed in. Shake it off, man, shake it off…

Because a sailboat is a rocket ship traversing vast, open space. This is its chief attraction and its chief danger. Because after a time one becomes as comfortable with the space as with the rocket ship. One feels a familiarity, a kinship…with both. Or worse, one feels a certain invincibility. One forgets that the thin fuselage of the ship is the only thing keeping doom at bay. That the space is alien and uninhabitable. That it does not wish harm; it does not wish, but that it is prone to random violence. That it eats your mistakes for breakfast.

That in a moment it can be over.

Such sightings tear at the web of security we weave about ourselves. Like seeing a messy crash on the side of the freeway. Suddenly you realize that going 80 in traffic isn’t, in fact, as safe as being home in front of the tele. It’s a jarring moment because it’s so obvious and because you’d forgotten.

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Sept 24
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 14

Noon HST position: 40.46.44N by 140.22.61W
Miles since last noon: 177
Total miles of passage: 1927
Avg. Miles per Day: 137
Course: ENE
Sail: Twins poled out until the wind veered a little more into the south. Now genoa only.
Speed: 7+
Wind: SW to SSW 20 – 25, most 25 today
Sky: Mostly clear
Bar: 1016
Air Temperature: 76 degrees
Sea Temperature: 68 degrees

1am again. Sail changes. No big deal. Wind is up so simply roll in a bit of the twin headsails.

But while in the cockpit I hear a barking. By now I know where to look. I see that starboard tiller line block is frozen, the one I installed new two days ago. I can see the sheave is cracked. No, wait… And then as I brighten the beam of the headlamp and get nearer, the sheave simply falls apart. I dash below and flip on the autopilot.

Part of me can’t believe it. Part of me is not surprised. It is 1am, when MOLI mayhem appears to be scheduled.

All the steering issues on this trip seem to come back to my making poor choices. I don’t say this to be self-critical. It’s all a part of learning what this boat needs and can tolerate.

For example, when the first block froze on the way to Kauai, the larger block I used as replacement (all I then had) appears to have changed the line angle and caused, at least in part, the extraordinary chafe that broke the tiller line earlier in the week.

The new block added two days ago, delivered to Kauai with a great number of other spares, fixed this issue, BUT the block did not have a swivel shackle as had its predecessor; it merely had a saddle. I had manually applied some twist to the strapping that holds this assembly to the rail, but it wasn’t enough. The block was out of alignment with the line; the twist put severe pressure on the sheave, grinding it against the cheek until it failed. In two days!

And here’s the basic learning: The tiller line assembly cannot tolerate alignment issues because the weight of the tiller in a seaway is extreme. Often when making fine adjustments to the chain I must fight hard to get chain and tiller to match up…and our weather/wave action has been far from heavy on any of the three legs.

I’m also beginning to suspect that using covered line in such a high pressure, high repetitions installation is a mistake. The cover simply gets ground up.

New, well aligned block in place. New line run. Last? We’ll see.

*And I had no more 90 degree turn shackles, proving again that one cannot have too many spares.

I can smell home.

Though I’m positive we’ll get at least one more weather surprise, I feel Mo and I are on the last lap, the last 1000 miles, in any case. I’ve been away most of this year and constantly since May. I’m ready to sail under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Knox-Johnson missed a beer in the pub. Schrader missed his dog. I miss my wife, Joanna. I’m a man of few friends, but she is the best of them, and I want again the simple luxury afforded couples that make a habit of staying within three states of each other–the ability to touch base at will, to check-in, to have a chat.

How she handles running her own business, the house, and our lives while I’m away, how she tolerates the doubled responsibility without resentment I don’t know. But I am grateful, and I look forward (in truth) to being the one to take out the trash … at least for the next year.

On that note, a special shout-out to Sarah, Joanna’s mom, whose birthday was this week. Sarah, you done good work. If I had champagne aboard, I’d toast you with it, but your toast will have to settle for beer.

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The block simply fell apart as I watched. Of course, it’s 1am, when all mayhem happens.

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onky experiment. Trying to take a wind even higher on the beam with just headsails. Starboard poled out; port hanked in without pole. Kinda worked. But don’t tell anyone at the club.

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Sept 23
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 13

Noon HST position: 39.33.77N by 143.17.84W
Miles since last noon: 158
Total miles of passage: 1750
Avg. Miles per Day: 134
Course: ENE
Sail: #2 jib full all night; then twins poled out, wind 100 to 120 degrees on starboard
Speed: 7+
Wind: SW 10 – 25
Sky: Mostly clear. Thin cirrus and then SF style high fog, burned off
Waves: SW to 7
Bar: 1013
Air Temperature: 77 degrees
Sea Temperature: 66 degrees

For a few hours last night wind eased as a ridge passed quickly over. I decided to sleep instead of make more sail and press more miles into the day. The two previous nights had been largely devoid of that luxury and my attempts at napping, mostly exercises in staring at the ceiling. We’ve paid for my log-sawing in our daily totals. A fair deal.

Not so today, however.

With this morning’s forecast, I’ve decided it’s time to work some northing into our passage. Our current heading is 60 degrees true and our current target is an imaginary Gastro Pub at 43N and 133W. Here, I am told, the brew is rich and cold and the steaks are hot.

The reason: by Monday a large high may settle north of us and bring brisk NE winds to what will be our then location. I want to be positioned to take those winds on the beam.

The forecast is sure to change and I likely won’t need 43N (who cares about cold beer anyway). But that’s today’s plan.

I rose at 6. Had a cup of coffee. Lofted the port pole and the #1 genoa. Had a second cup of coffee. Lofted the starboard pole for the #2 jib, and we’ve been flying since.

We’re taking the winds, now just over 20 knots, deeply on the starboard quarter. Jib #2 is canted way forward, #1 hauled in taught. Both soon carried a second reef. We’ve covered 31 miles in the 4 hours since noon. And they’ve been easy miles. Monte Cristo is finding this so untaxing that he’s reading the paper and smoking a ciggy, and we’re still on course.

Things are not so rosy for SOLACE and her crew. The attempts to braid the broken steering cable together have failed as has the dyneema line used to replace the cable. This latter solution has stretched and slipped off the quadrant. No word on its being tightened or replaced. Steve has rigged a block and tackle from the emergency tiller to the center cockpit, and the crew are using this to steer (much as did Shackleton in the southern ocean), which he reports is at least an easier arrangement in light winds. High winds are still a struggle. Currently they are some 170 miles back of MOLI but are making consistent, if difficult, progress, and generally in the right direction.

Standing in the cockpit staring north and west. The cobalt waves tumbling like liquid glass, exploding in white cascades. The kind of day made for staring at.

Then an oddity in that wave. An olive colored shape moving below, surfing down the inside of the curl. Then another. Then two more. Not large–say the size of small dolphins. But not dolphins. They never break the surface to breath. So, fish, then. But what?

After a time, I think I see sharp pectoral and dorsal fins and perceive a compact and bullet shape to the body. Silver flashes from the water when they suddenly change course. Tuna? They hung out off port quarter all afternoon, waiting, I fancy, for Mo to scare up some flying fish.

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Sept 22
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 12

Noon HST position: 39.13.10N by 146.35.73W
Miles since last noon: 179
Total miles of passage: 1592
Avg. Miles per Day: 133
Course: E
Sail: main double reefed; #2 jib triple reefed; then #2 jib only, double then single reefed, wind moving between abeam and quartering.
Speed: 7+
Wind: SW 15 – 30
Sky: Mixed cloud cover
Waves: SW to 12
Bar: 1011
Air Temperature: 78 degrees
Sea Temperature: 66 degrees

Why does it always happen at night?

1am. Sleeping lightly in my bunk on portside. The press of my body into the portside settee cushions is comfortable. Such a relief from the constant twist and roll. But too comfortable. Not right. Mo is on her side and staying there.

In the pilot house I see the indicator shows wind 90 degrees to starboard and pegged at 30 knots. I have up a double reefed main and triple reefed jib. We’ve been on the edge all day, frothing along. Now we’ve tripped over it.

Blap Blap Blap. The AIS alarm. On the chartplotter, the signature gray triangle of a ship and our course, which has been E, is now SE. It appears on the screen that we’re set to T-bone the larger vessel.

I look into the cockpit. Monte Cristo’s (wind vane) steering chain has fallen off the tiller. Odd. That only happens in light winds. I used to lash it to the tiller (the lanyard is sitting right there), but in any wind at all it stays perfectly secure in its chock.

“Moli Moli, M/V Regent Star.” I do a quick measure. Four miles out. He’ll have to wait.

I dash into the cockpit and grab the tiller. Here I see the ship half hull down, lights along its deck are dipping in the distant swell and the vessel’s already abeam. “Couldn’t hit you if I tried,” I yell. Blap Blap Blap. “Moli Moli, M/V Regent Star,” says the radio. Jesus but these ship guys are sensitive.

The wind is up for sure. Its force in the rigging is an impressive roar, and I can feel it warm but hard on my chest. I give the tiller a heave. With wind back on the quarter, I slap the chain in place, but something is mushy. The cover on the starboard tiller line is sliding around.

I follow it back and see that where the line passes the dorade vent, the cover has broken revealing the bright blue dyneema core.

“You everlasting bitch!”

This is a known chafe point, so I check it regularly. I had, in fact, checked that afternoon and seen only the slightest frizzing on the cover. Shouldn’t have seen any! I changed that whole line out two days ago due to heavy frizzing of the cover at the first turing block. I did note then some broken strands at the dorade. But the whole run is new!

Mo takes a dive; slams on her side. First order: get the main down.

I strap in and crawl forward. Anything beyond my headlamp beam is black. Ship is long gone. No stars; no moon. Not even white caps, though the ripping white noise says they’re there. Spray in my face. Every surface on Mo covered in a slippery, salty film.

I rig the lazy jacks and begin to lower sail. The angle of the lazy jack line looks wrong. It’s pressed against the mast and has snagged a sail car. Yank yank yank. Ten minutes to get unstuck. Why do lazy jacks make things more difficult?

Sail wrapped loosely. It’ll do till morning. Mo’s motion much better.

Back in the cockpit. Thinking. What next?

The wife has asked why I call the wind vane Monte Cristo. “Because I *Count* on him,” I say. He’s a singlehander’s most essential piece of kit.

Nothing for it but to change the tiller line now. Too much pressure on Monte. And I can see the dyneema core is looking worn already. Can’t risk it breaking.

But what is going on?

Maybe my replacement block is too large (this is the one that froze on the trip down). Maybe it’s changed the angle of the line and into the dorade. I dig out a smaller block and begin the process of reeving new line down and through Monte’s cascade of blocks. It’s quick enough work, but involves hanging my ass over the stern and reaching down into the water for the line’s bitter end.

It makes no sense, I think. To chafe so fast. Almost like it was cut. One more time I trace where the line touches the dorade and the ring moves. What? The dorade ring is loose. I tighten it all the way down and note that in doing so I close off a line-sized gap that allowed access to the threads.

I also note Handel the gecko sitting in his usual spot, a witness to the accident. “You were watching! Was that what happened?” I ask. “That the line got trapped under the dorade ring and the threads cut the line?” Handel said nothing, so we’ll just have to see.

4am. I roll back into my bunk. Problem fixed for now but not solved.

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Donning foul weather gear in topsyturvyville can be a real trick.

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To add insult to last night’s injury, this morning my coffee making process, which has worked … forever … failed. We rolled on a larger swell; the cup slipped, and a filter full of hot water and coffee spilled generously into the galley. I’ll be cleaning up grounds for weeks

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Sept 21
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 11

Noon HST position: 39.00.45N by 150.11.80W
Miles since last noon: 170
Total miles of passage: 1413
Avg. Miles per Day: 128
Course: E
Sail: Twin headsails poled out; change to double reefed main and #2 jib; wind abeam and on starboard quarter.
Speed: 7+
Wind: SW to 30
Sky: Mixed cloud cover
Waves: SW to 10
Bar: 1013
Air Temperature: 79 degrees
Sea Temperature: 69 degrees

Wind, glorious wind. And for once I made sail changes before all hell broke loose.

The breeze backed into the SW after dark and our course began a gentle loop to the north. Knowing stronger winds were due in the wee hours and not wanting to surrender easting, I got the poles down after dinner and hoisted the main and #2 jib. A ship passed above us and then the moon rose inky red into a mess of cloud.

By midnight I’d reefed the main. By morning winds had increased to over 20 knots. I reefed the #2 jib after coffee. By nine o’clock the main had two reefs and the jib, three. Winds were steady 25, gusting 30. Lots of gusting. Mo boiled steadily along.

It’s like space travel. I am using an approaching weather system to slingshot my tiny ship out of the gravitational trap of another weather system. But instead of accelerating in toward a planet, as a spacecraft would do, ship and I must wait for the weather system to arrive. Then we don’t miss it!

Our slingshot has arrived.

If we are fast enough, Mo and I will be able to ride this wave nearly to the coast. My intention is to stay down here around 39N, angling only slowly up to 40N, in order to avoid the light airs at the top of this stream.

But I’d best hike it up to 40N by next week, because after this low moves through, a high drops back in that can give us a final push to San Francisco or, if my approach is too shallow, drive us down to Morro Bay. I like Morro Bay just fine. I’m just not going there.

Standing at the main mast. Admiring how Mo settles into stronger winds with a will. The waves haven’t much too them yet, I think. Perky but without much heft. (Did I not see the decks were streaming with water?) Then came a smasher rolling into Mo’s flanks. I thought I’d avoid the splash by hoisting myself up into the rigging. Like that wide receiver who jumps over his tackler. I heaved, one big pull-up, legs tucked in, way up. And the wave, seeing my maneuver, threw its entirety into my chest. I have never been so suddenly and entirely wet without jumping into the water. We both had a good laugh over that one.

Note that it’s getting cooler. Today is the first day of sea temperatures below 70 degrees and a cabin below 80 degrees. I’ve put on long pants and wear a long sleeve shirt to bed.

Handel the gecko is still with us. During sail changes last night I noted him sitting in his usual spot near a starboard cockpit winch. Thinking he had crawled from hiding to expire, I reached for him and he moved, slightly. His vital force remains, though it must be much diminished by his meager diet, at this point no more than a dream, and the cold. Handel never looked plump; now he’s positively gaunt.

With the wind up, the giant birds, the black footed albatross, that Lancaster Bomber of the sky, is really in form. Never have I seen them reach so high when banking. But on this wind the top of their curve rivals the top of Mo’s mast. And they approach. This morning two sailed in and out of the disturbed air that passed around Mo’s sails. Playing, I presume, though they look too serious for that.

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My best friend and ever the more so when the wind gets going. I can’t imagine steering 20 minutes in weather like this, but Senior Monte Cristo just keeps cranking away.

 

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Sept 20
Hanalei Bay to San Francisco
Day 10

Noon HST position: 38.57.05N by 153.31.40W
Miles since last noon: 143
Total miles of passage: 1243
Avg. Miles per Day: 124
Course: Tacking up to SOLACE, E after
Sail: Full main and #2 jib; Twin headsails poled all night and next day
Speed: 5-6
Wind: WSW10 -15
Sky: Mixed cloud cover
Waves: Small opposing swell; NE and SW
Bar: 1015
Air Temperature: 80 degrees
Sea Temperature: 72 degrees

Stats from Sept 19
Noon HST position: 38.36.38N by 155.42.44W
Miles since last noon: 132
Total miles of passage: 1100
Avg. Miles per Day: 122

All day MOLI climbed to SOLACE’s position (39.03.87N 155.27.59W), first close hauled NW in warm sloshy seas, and then NE, doing 7 knots under main alone.

By 5pm I had a visual, a tiny fleck of white on the horizon two points off starboard that did not melt like whitecaps, but instead held and grew slowly, so slowly. Relief. Nothing teaches the size of the ocean so much as trying to find something in it as small as oneself.

I slid under SOLACE stern just as the sun went down.

SOLACE is a San Diego boat, a fiberglass, double-cockpit, flush-deck sloop with a sweet, tear-drop hull; she’s 40 feet overall, built in South Africa in 1989. Owner Steve Harris and crew, daughter Kelsey and friend Kim, have made a cruise to and of the Hawaiian Islands this summer and are now headed home.

As reported earlier, MOLI and SOLACE departed Hanalei Bay together. Two days out the autopilot motor on SOLACE failed. Steve has attempted repairs to no avail. In the interim he and crew have been hand steering in watches of 2-on and 4-off. All was well until a couple days ago when steering failed. The quadrant cable parted. Steve rigged the emergency tiller and has been working on a permanent fix since then.

Over the last five days, our respective positions have been within 60 to 100 miles apart, and we’ve been communicating multiple times daily via the DELORME InReach.

“Special Delivery–please hold still,” yelled Steve as I maneuvered MOLI as close as I dared. Steve lobbed a small plastic bag that bullseyed Mo’s foredeck…and stuck. Amazing. I retrieved a bag of Kim’s fresh-baked peanut butter cookies. Double amazing!

“But you’re the yacht in distress,” I yelled back. “What can I lob in return?”

“Who said anything about distress? You made the trip to see us. A little conversation is all we ask.”

I doused the sails and drifted, and we talked on the radio for the next hour and a half.

While a fix to the parted cable is in the works, Steve and company have found steering SOLACE with the emergency tiller rough going, possible, but not for extended periods in even moderate seas. That said, Steve’s learned that balancing the boat under sail with emergency tiller lashed is doable, and he can now make way on most points of sail with a triple reefed main and a scratch of a jib.

A fix for the quadrant has been more of a long term project. The first attempt, braiding the wire rope back together, failed under load, and last Steve reported he and crew were disassembling the pedestal so as to reeve Dyneema line in place of the failed cable, a job similar in simplicity to performing arthroscopic surgery while riding a mechanical bull.

“Heck, we might not go back to hand steering even when the wheel’s repaired,” said Steve. “Otto Jr. (lashed tiller) is doing just fine, and I’m finding sail balancing to be fun.”

We reviewed what spares I had that might be useful.

“Thanks, but we’ll be fine. This is an exercise in self-sufficiency. We’ve got plenty of water, food and fuel. We can make way in nearly any direction, although slowly. We’re in good spirits. I’m very confident we’ll reach our goal, and we may rival your time yet. All we miss out here in this big place is someone to talk to other than ourselves.”

At 8pm Steve said, “Well, it’s been nice to hear your voice, but we best be getting on with our respective journeys.” And so I rigged MO’s genoa poles and made my way east toward moonrise while Steve balanced SOLACE on a course northeast. By4am his masthead light was bobbing green. By morning we were alone.

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Steve, Kim and Kelsey…just before the cookie lob.

 

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Date: Sept 19
Time 1330
POS 38.48.86N by 155.35.88W
Course/Speed: NW 6 – 7 knots
Wind: WSW15-20

I’ve just come about and am on a beat to meet SOLACE, whose noon position was about 10 miles N of me on a slow NW heading. I’m trying to get upwind.

SOLACE is the yacht that departed Hanalei nine days ago and at the same time as MOLI.

Two days out their autopilot stopped functioning, reports owner, Steve, and so he and crew of two others have been doing 2-on 4-off hand-steering watches.

All was well until a couple days ago his steering failed. Steve says the quadrant cable parted. He’s rigged the emergency tiller and has been working on a permanent fix since then.

We’ve been communicating multiple times a day via the DELORME InReach.

Steve and I quickly parted company out of Hanalei. I suspect his boat is a tad faster in the light airs that have been ours for the taking. Also, we chose different routes, he getting a head start with his easting.

Mo and I have quickly made up ground, however.

It doesn’t appear that Steve or crew need assistance. He has the materials to effect repair. I’m just stopping by to lend moral support. I am in the neighborhood, after all.

Now to see if two specs on the ocean can actual find each other…