27th July 08
I'm writing this as I fly to Kauai from Ealing for the finish of the SHTP08 Race - a mix of sad & happy feelings - sad not to have been racing myself in "Nereida", as I was meant to be, and happy at the thought that I'll soon be meeting up with the racers, most of whom are now coming to the end of their ocean passage from SF - a mix for them of light winds near the start and overnight strong squalls nearing Hawaii, with lovely constant Trades over the last week's run towards Hawaii. I'm really looking forward to seeing them all - especially under the 'tree' in the evenings of the coming week - somehow it will be more meaningful from this perspective, having followed the race via the website but knowing just how it will have been for them after my own race experience two years ago.
I've been so busy over my short time in the U.K., what with the usual 'catching up' on paperwork, trying to see or speak to friends, answering the many emails I've had when the news of Nereida's end reached both friends and strangers via my website or mutual friends .. and looking for the new 'Nereida II' .... The more I think about
that, the more I appreciate how it took eleven years to get her into good 'cruising mode' ... and now I have to start all over.. and try to do it all within a few months or so.... a lot to think about! At present, I'm looking at the Najad 380 and the Hallberg Rassy 37 - very similar in size and performance, although the Najad, with the new design, would probably 'pip' the HR37 on speed and definitely has a lot of improved design & detail features over the N361 - which I'm happy to see.
I went for a sail a week ago on a N380 and it felt fine - very similar to 'Nereida' but clearly a touch larger and also a touch more lively - the rig is definitely bigger although the displacement is in proportion. I'm not inclined to go for in-mast furling, so that cuts the second-hand options down tremendously since it seems most boats these days come with that option - it's almost a standard. I've got quite used to slab reefing downwind, with lines back to the cockpit & taking my time as the wind builds... very occasionally, it gets a bit fraught, but mostly I just take my time, knowing that we might be heeling a touch initially but that's OK ... we'll be fine after reefing. I keep being told that in-mast furling is now so much more reliable than it used to be - but I have this vision of a HR36 at the dock in Hamble Point Marina some years back, with three guys (one up the mast!) cursing and struggling for several hours to free a creased, semi-furled mains'l...!!! Not something I relish mid-ocean!!
Some of my priorities for the new boat are: tinned, labelled wires throughout (tinned wire still NOT standard practice in Europe!) and good engine access (especially for regular routine maintenance such as oil & filter changes) sensible, organized stowage of spares and tools - preferably in a dedicated area (I'm fed up with having spares scattered all over the boat!), over-sized wiring to prevent (hopefully!) voltage-drop problems,... But I also want a boat that will happily give 150+ mile days in good wind and sea conditions - yes, I love being out on the ocean on long passages, but why prolong the passage when I could be enjoying my landfall sooner, after a really good sail, exploring a new place while getting ready for the
next passage? One of the racers wrote last week something to the effect that 'any two boats within sight of each other instantly make a race' - how true!! I vividly remember the passage from Bali to Christmas Island in the S. Indian Ocean last year when 'Trudel' had left the day before me ... There was something very satisfying about slowly overhauling, and then overtaking, them well before making landfall!! Brings out the competitive streak in me, I suppose! But it's also nice to see my boat performing well in reasonable wind conditions, despite building seas.
I got no sleep last night with all I was trying to do as I was packing... My new laptop was misbehaving so badly that I ended up spending over one-and-a-half hours on the phone to Sony support - but having re-formatted the hard drive, all seems to be OK now - but, of course, that meant I've had to update and re-load so many items... Also, the 'beta' version of Airmail within Vista really 'hangs up' the laptop - I've had to abandon it and go for the previous version - a pity, since the beta version has some excellent features.
I'm hoping for some sleep before landing at L.A. where I change on to a direct flight to Lihue airport on Kauai, arriving Sunday evening - it will have been a very long day & night for me since local time there is 11 hours behind London time... think I'll sleep in tomorrow!
Mon 28th July
Last night I slept really well after arriving in Hanalei with Gayle & Ilana Kirschbaum, wife and daughter of Tom who's racing on 'Feral', who had so very kindly met me at Lihue airport and taken me out for dinner before the drive to the north of Kauai Island.
I just missed seeing the finish of Skip on 'Wildflower' (very likely overall winner this year after a superb sail) but did manage to see Don cross the line on 'Warrior's Wish' from the viewpoint on the 'Bluff' above Hanalei Bay. Then I was taken out in a dinghy to congratulate both racers and help with some re-anchoring ... so many boats in the bay, some on very long rodes which ended up under other boats, hence the need to move. Later I met up with everyone under the 'Tree' by the lovely beach, to catch up on news and listen in on the remaining racers' evening rollcall and chat session - they seem to be having a good final sail in, although not all without problems. We all feel for Ruben on tiny 'Sparky' who had been doing so well - dismasted 600 miles out but making fair progress under jury rig. (See www.sfbaysss.org for the racers own logs and position reports during the Single-Handed Trans Pac race).
The weather has been typically full of heavy showers, with warm sunshine in between. It's a lovely place and I'm enjoying the sociable atmosphere and the chance to get back out on the water from time to time!