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S/V Nereida sails around the world

SHTP Day13

Last night I sat in the cockpit watching the dancing diamonds of light along the hull - I'd forgotten how lovely the sea can be at night.
In the English Channel, the phosphorescence lights up the water and it's not easy to see the individual points of light whereas out here, each point of light is relatively large - very bright and distinct. Tonight the moon is out and I can see a dark mass of cloud off to the south of us - looks like a squall building and I hope it stays well away! Elsewhere the clouds are thin and the stars are shining through the gaps. (Having just switched on the radar, I'm pleased to see no evidence of squalls around - not for 24mls, anyway!)
Today the wind has not been as strong, so the sea is calmer with just the occasional larger swell coming through. I made the decision to gybe onto port tack after looking at the weather forecast. Not at all sure it was the right thing to do, but I don't want to get caught in light winds again and it looks as though the high pressure system to the north is expected to move south and so that much closer - hence my decision. Took a very long time to change everything over, not helped by my forgetting to move the spinnaker halyard over to the other side of the genoa pole before I raised it - curses galore! Having gone to all that trouble, I'll stick with my decision at least until late tomorrow and see how tomorrow's weather faxes look.
I'm not moving along my rhumbline now, so the effect on my Distance To Finish will be noticeable - pity, because today I was no longer in last position at both rollcalls! But I'd rather be tending to move south rather than north (because of the high) and often the rhumbline course was dead downwind - difficult to maintain, especially in swell conditions (although I must say, I've been impressed by the Windpilot's ability to keep a downwind course).
My electrical problems continue - I'm not worrying about the lack of autopilot or GPS (which still beeps at me but not always as often) since my alternatives are working well. The SSB radio's microphone switch is a nuisance though - I took the back off the mic and the transmit switch worked perfectly, but when I screwed the cover back on, it played up again. I have to keep an eye on the radio display to see whether or not I am transmitting when I speak. I'm keeping a screwdriver handy by the mic now! I suspect it's the soft rubber cover to the switch which is causing the problem - I could always take that away. I also need to try wiring up an alternative NMEA/Seatalk interface box again to see what the problem is there - but, again, I no longer have a sense of urgency about it, now that my handheld GPS is feeding info into the computer for charting - thank you, Jeff, for helping there! Little did I realise how vital it would turn out to be, sorting that link out just before I left- something I'd been wanting to do for a time. And I'm so pleased I checked that the Windpilot fine adjustment was working OK before I left also....
It's nice to hear from friends keeping an eye on my path - my daily distances run have surprised me, not just them, and it was pleasing to see myself catching up with the fleet, having been left so far behind after the start. (I'm running the spinnaker again tonight since it seems fairly calm...)
Two people were getting set to celebrate their half-way stage tonight/early tomorrow (Synthia on 'Eyrie' and Ken on 'Harrier') - I look forward to doing the same in day or so (165 mls away!). Synthia said she would stay up tonight until it happened, to celebrate the moment!
I finally got too warm in my long trousers this afternoon - the sun was out for a bit and I was busy organising lots of 'bits of string' for my gybe - to & fro between the foredeck and cockpit both for the poled out genoa and then the 'chute.

Distance run over 24hrs (by the log) to this morning: 153 n.mls (5th day I've done ~150n.ml or more)
At 9pm PDT tonight, DTF: 1240n.ml to Hanalei Bay, Kauai. Posn: 25 54N, 137 13W

Jeanne, "Nereida" #93

SHTP Day 12 - First flying fish!

Well, over the last few days, I've very slowly been discarding layers - and today I finally got down to almost the last one. (Next is bare skin - with a covering of high-factor sunblock, I hasten to add!)
It's 2pm and the NW quadrant of sky is blue, with cloud overhead but the sun is trying to get out. The sea is a beautiful deep shade of blue, rather than the grey-green it was further north. It actually feels warm and I've bare feet at last. Sea temperature is up to 21.6C (71.9F) - not quite up to Bonaire standards (28C) but getting there. Definitely a lot better than the 10-12C of the Pacific NW area I've been in for the last year!
Lunch was quesadilla using tortillas I bought for the trip - still some left. Still a few tomatoes left that haven't gone rotten, plenty of onions, potatoes and white cabbage (that always lasts well), bananas over-ripening, apples fine, grapefruit & lemons fine.
Just before midday, as I was adjusting (the Windpilot) Hermann, I spotted a good-sized flying fish skimming the waves for quite a distance - always an amazing sight. So far my tally on baby squid found on deck after the night is just three.
The wind is beginning to die as it did around this time yesterday. We were doing very well until a short while ago - regularly up to 7.5 kn in winds of 16-18kn from the NE, with asymmetric spinnaker and full main & genoa, but now we're doing 6.5. I took the spinnaker down overnight, although very tempted to leave it up because the wind was not so strong. Good decision because the wind got up again later and over the night.
I thought my fridge was giving up because I kept hearing the motor try, and fail, to start up. But then I realised that was not so - if my battery voltage has dropped down to below a certain value, the compressor motor recognises that and refuses to run when switched on via the thermostat. My Link 10 allows me to monitor the battery state & I tend to run my generator twice daily, normally coinciding with SSB usage for racefleet roll-call/emails/weather downloads.
This morning's 6Mhz rollcall was again very frustrating - I could, as always, hear everyone fairly clearly - but they could not hear me. On 4Mhz I made contact with Lou on 'Seabird' so could give my posn details to be relayed to Rob on 'Tiger Beetle'. Lou doesn't dare transmit on 6Mhz because it 'kills' his autopilot - and being on almost a dead run, heading south still, he could end up in trouble.
Heard a very useful discussion on hoisting the spinnaker after the rollcall. General plan for a safe, controlled hoist is to raise it fully in its sock, then raise the sock about one-third, amble aft to adjust the guy lengths with lower third of spinnaker flying (not too strongly) in the wind, so making it possible to see exactly what lengths are needed, then finish raising it fully and make fine adjustments to guy lengths if needed. It works well! I presume to drop it safely, I do everything in reverse - I've already discovered that the wind is pretty good at trying to make me do some para-sailing - which thought doesn't exactly enthrall me! I have to anchor the sock leads pretty firmly while I'm trying to lower the sock - it definitely has a mind of its own! Prior to this passage, I think I've had the spinnaker up about three or four times only in total over the years!! Another learning curve.... But it looks beautiful up there.
Just tried to chat on SSB (6Mhz) to people near-ish me. Managed to speak to Paul on 'Hesperus' but Bill on 'Ergo' and Chris on 'Carroll E' clearly couldn't hear me. Maybe we should try 4Mhz. I think I need to check that I am pressing firmly on the transmitter switch on the microphone - I noticed at one point that I wasn't transmitting while I was speaking - good reason for people to have trouble hearing me! Hope it's me and not the switch going. Talking of electrics, I've discovered that my PC mains charger only switches itself off when I turn on or off the generator - maybe there's a 'spike' in power that it doesn't like? If I unplug it, leave it for several minutes and then plug it back in - it works fine. Obviously it's too smart for my good!

Think I'll go and lie in the cockpit and have a snooze, leaving good old Hermann in charge....

SHTP Day 11

Nereida's Birthday - 9 yrs old today! (Happy 4th July to my US friends!)

Made good mileage overnight & yesterday: 155miles in 24hrs .
Conditions getting more variable - wind often dropped overnight last night and again (even more so) tonight - boatspeed keeps dropping down to 5.5 kn. or less. During daytime, I lashed the pulpit to support the port side where it was damaged over Sat night, ready to hoist spinnaker. But wind got up sufficiently during morning not to need it, finally hoisting it around 1.30pm. We're definitely in the trades now - wind is consistently NE4 (around 15-18kn). Windpilot Hermann is coping well - I just need to adjust slightly from time to time as the wind moves around in gusts. As the evening wore on, the wind dropped - so by midnight, I was surprised to find us doing well over 6kn.
Thought I'd resolved my SSB problem - but had great difficulty being heard at 9am rollcall - finally, Paul on 'Hesperus' heard me calling so was able to relay my details. The radio didn't seem to have the volume it used to have - and I couldn't get through last night or this morning to a Winlink shore-station. I finally wriggled back under the radio to investigate the rear panel connections - sure enough, I must have moved one which was very loose - I pushed it back and that seems to have done the trick - Winlink stations responded and I was finally able to download my emails and up-to-date weather info as well as chat to several people within range - that was very nice. Spoke to Rob on 'Tiger Beetle' at roll call - but he found it very difficult still to hear me - others closer by relayed.
Found 2 baby squid on foredeck from last night - two today & one yesterday... Be able to have calamari rings soon at this rate! No more fresh milk though - what we had has gone off.
Notice that the fridge seems to be struggling - making funny noises - seems the compressor isn't able to do its job easily.
Seems very hot - so I opened the front cover to where the motor is to let air circulate better. Add that to the list of boat projects!
I hear England were beaten and are out of the Football World Cup in Germany.
Decided to cook a good meal before rollcall: eggs, gammon, tomato, potatoes and lots of onions.
Nearly saw a sunset tonight - but gap that appeared in clouds wasn't quite large enough! It's been quite cool up to now, although the air and sea temps have gradually risen - air to 21C and sea to 21C also - amazing!! At this rate, I'll be able to have a swim in the sea soon!! (2 people at least dipped into the sea from their becalmed boats a day or so back - one tied to the boat, the other not....)
AIS is showing not a single ship in the area, must get some rest.

SHTP Day 10 SSB back!! (Or is it?)

Mon 3rd July

Had a good night, despite GPS all of a sudden deciding it was NOT OK from 7pm on...grrr!.... why??? For several hours it had been happily silent and I thought I'd resolved that problem. I suspect that Mark (Alchera) is right - maybe one instrument is sending 'silly' msgs to all the others, resulting in lots of different problems
We're making excellent speed, even without spinnaker. Conditions are quite gusty - generally making boatspeed of 6.6-7.3, up to 7.9 & 8 in strong gusts. Occasional gentle surfing at 8.6 or so! If the gusts weren't coming, I would try the spinnaker again - but will now wait for calmer conditions, being happy with our general speed. Can't risk more damage from a snatching 'chute. Barometer is reading 1023 and has been for over a day now, except a short time this morning when it went up to 1024 - I promptly turned us a little back S, having just previously turned more W!! 1020 is usually the 'golden figure' to keep at/under, so I'm already pushing my luck. Wish I had up-to-date weather info.
Spent quite a time writing up log, listening to music.
Tried phoning all the fleet with Iridium phones this morning - not a single call was successful! So emailed Lucie again with position - was very happy later in day to get a text msg to my phone to confirm receipt of email - nice to have contact of some sort..!!
5pm: ALL OK with power supply to switch for SSB supply - had to re-make a spade connection which had come apart - didn't take too long - wish all present problems were resolved so easily!! Then caught up on weather/emails/logs/position reports!!
Took a time trying to see which way I should head - almost directly to Kauai from now on looks OK for wind direction and strength. (Later) Seems odd to me that I haven't been able to get through to anyone since my first download early this evening - wonder if something is amiss with my transmission? No way to find out just now.
10pm: How frustrating! I could hear the rest of the fleet clearly on 4 (also on 6 & 8) Mhz on the SSB at 9pm rollcall - but not one of them seemed to be able to hear me, so having to send position etc by email again. I heard their positions clearly so could see how their wind compared with their position relative to the H. Interesting & instructive - think I'm crossing a slight 'ridge' now - wind is really up and down a lot and varying in direction somewhat as it varies in strength. But generally still making good speed.

Daily (24hr) runs of late have been excellent: (Thurs to Mon morning) - 134, 128, 163, 153 n.mls!

SHTP Day 9

Sun 2nd July (Late in - finally got SSB working Mon afternoon!)

I've managed to stay in good winds so far by being this far west & have been trying to zoom S as fast as I could while most of the rest of the race fleet are caught in light winds!! As a result, I had a bit of a nightmare last night & early this morning in 25-30kn winds with full canvas + spinnaker...oops! But I was regularly making 8 knots or more!!
Problem arose when I badly mishandled the adjustment to the Windpilot as we slewed around in a big gust - I had to take over the helm at around 3 o'clock in the morning - and was then trapped there, rushing along in the darkness and big seas/winds, thinking I couldn't use Hermann, waiting for the morning light (and hopefully for an easing of the conditions) with the instrument lights regularly turning themselves off. I seemed to be forever switching them on again so I could see the wind direction relative to the boat - being on almost a dead run, I didn't want to back the main by steering too far to port but wanted to stay on a course that took us as far south as possible (to keep good wind speed away from the centre of the high over the next few days). The GPS also kept 'beeping' at me frequently, screaming 'no data'... !
I could see that the spinnaker badly needed to be taken down since it kept jerking about and snatching in the big, gusty winds. I'd already spotted that part of the problem was that the aft guy block was no longer held down on the aft quarter, the shackle holding the block down having disappeared - obviously the pin had come loose ("why hadn't I moused it?") so the line was now effectively several feet longer than it had been and leading directly to a winch, catching on a lifeline as it did so. I could also see that the spinnaker forward guy (downhaul) was catching on the pulpit and moving it about violently - I was very worried about major damage occurring there - already some damage had possibly already taken place because the upper lifeline had become very loose. The problem was how to get the spinnaker down when I had to stay at the wheel.. seemed to me that I couldn't heave to from a run with the genoa poled out! (And where would the spinnaker have wrapped itself then, anyway..?)
Eventually, as light came, I was able to furl in the genoa, bit by bit, and then discovered that 'Nereida' seemed to be staying on course with no problem - Hermann was back in business again (& could probably have taken charge a lot earlier!).
Getting the spinnaker down in the strong, gusty conditions was another nightmare - on going forward, I started pulling down the sock, nearly losing the lines completely in the process - and then, to my horror, watched as the spinnaker flapped about & wrapped itself thoroughly around the forestay/genoa - how ever was I going to get it unravelled...? It had also been jerking madly at the pulpit - damage there was clearly extensive already - I just had to get it down. Somehow, I managed to catch hold of & pull on the after guy without being parachuted into mid-air (close call there!!) and found that, by persevering, slowly the spinnaker unravelled from the genoa - then it flapped madly and wrapped itself again!! No...! The after guy was clearly also too short for me to get the sock down fully - back aft to release what I hoped was just enough line. I finally unravelled the spinnaker again and hauled the sock down to tame it, eventually lowering it to the deck with a feeling of relief. By now, it was nearly 9am - race fleet rollcall time. I let out the genoa on its pole again and we were sailing nicely with Hermann in charge. I could relax.....
My intended job of the day had been to investigate the mis-behaving GPS and autopilot by getting to under the aft bunk (no mean job!) - that I did, and found a slightly loose connection on the GPS input to the course computer. Sorting this out meant lying almost upside down, no mean feat... Nothing else seemed amiss, but I checked all wires were well pushed in to their connectors, fuses, also power & data input/ output while I was there - I'm getting quite good at using a multi-meter these days! Finding that the GPS was no longer regularly 'beeping' at me,I congratulated myself on a job well done - especially when I spotted that the 'auto' was, for no really obvious reason, now coming on - the autopilot was OK?? (Having Hermann in charge, with the wheel locked off, I didn't want to check that out any further, but that seems to be the case- time will tell.)
Having put everything back, I decided it was time to write up my log and check weather & emails - went to switch on the SSB - nada!! Unbelievable... what else was going to go wrong...?? I decided it had to be a power supply issue... cleared space and wriggled myself in to under the radio (in the aft cabin) to check the rear fuses, having found my spares first. They were both fine but I changed them anyway. So now to the switch... I took off the cover... to discover a bare & corroded positive lead hidden away beneath .... cause of the problem?? Some worker hadn't made a decent connection & obviously reckoned it wouldn't be noticed, being out of sight.... thanks!...
It was getting late so I left dealing with that job for the morning and sent an email of my position and the SSB loss to Lucie (race cttee) using my Inmarsat C terminal- at least that (for now!!) is working and satellites are usually (not always!) in good view. I also put my Iridium phone on charge (expensive, but occasionally irreplaceable). I hope L. communicates to the fleet so they know why I couldn't check in. I definitely felt a bit down/isolated with the SSB loss - I use it so much for keeping in contact with friends & really look forward to getting their news, quite apart from the fact that I now have no way of getting proper weather info - so I can't be sure where that high pressure system centre is and where to aim for, or avoid, to make the best course to Kauai. All I have is the 4-day forecast from this morning to work with & hope things don't change too much.
I was thankful for my ready-made meal from yesterday and got down to sleep early - I was tired, not having got much sleep last night.

SHTP Day 8

What a lovely day this has been!

At 7am, I decided it was time to hoist the spinnaker - all went well until I realised the spinnaker halyard was on the wrong side of the genoa halyard & pole uphaul. Grrr! Had to furl in genoa and take down pole before I could sort it all out - by roll-call at 9am, we were moving along nicely, goose-winged with poled-out genoa (or 'wing-on-wing, as they say in the US!) and flying 'chute - looks good! Boatspeed has been excellent - up to 8kn at times, but regularly 6-7 kn. And Hermann is continuing to steer beautifully - what a relief! Means I have been able to relax and thoroughly enjoy my day.

I'm trying hard to keep heading due S, to avoid light winds to the west of us, until I get to 130N when I can begin to 'turn the corner' - hopefully.

I've just downloaded updated wx faxes - I'll keep checking where that H is to keep an eye on wind direction and change course as soon as it looks safe to do so.

If I keep up a speed of 6kn SOG, that's 144ml/day.

Having looked at wx charts & plotted a course to stay in wind - that gives a distance of 2181ml, giving ETA of 15 days from now = 16th July.


Thought the calculation was interesting!! (Of course, should average drop to 5.5kn, that brings us to midnight on 17th July! And if I should manage an average of 6.5kn, that would bring me in on 15th July .... dream on!)

I've been playing around taking photos of Hermann and the sailplan - I'll try to attach some of them to this Winlink email.

Time to cook - I'll be making a 'ratatouille stew' - my aubergine, bell peppers and tomatoes are going off fast (result of being chilled and water-sprayed in the supermarket - annoying but unavoidable in the US!) so I'll combine them with courgettes, potatoes, meat & lots of garlic to make my favourite 'on-passage, pre-cooked' meal - should be able to store several portions in the 'fridge.

The GPS has decided it's working for most of the day (that loose wire must be connecting from time to time) so I've not had so much of the irritating constant beeping it gives when it loses the data signal. I've no sense of urgency to fix it now that I've got my alternatives working well (I'm getting good at ignoring the beeping when it happens!).... maybe tomorrow I'll have a look under that aft bunk... not looking forward to the moving of items in the way, as can be gathered! Hasta manana.

The sun has poked its head out from the cloud cover from time to time - it definitely feels a bit warmer, although it's still not warm enough for shorts!

Time for a cup of tea while I cook.....!!

(At 6pm PDT: 32 26.3N, 126 52.5W; course:170M; boatspeed: 7.0, SOG: 6.7kn)

Day 7

Day 7
Overnight last night, as I was trying to handsteer a lot in strong winds, I found that the instrument lights kept going off erratically - when I pressed the button the lights always came on instantly, but then odd ones would turn off again after a short time - including my wind and speed display - not very helpful when you're trying to tack (after finding yourself 'hove-to') or reef down under a very dark, overcast, night sky!
"Nereida" kept a reasonable course over much of the night but I decided it was about time I got the wind-steering gear (the German Windpilot) into action since I was going to be on this starboard tack for quite a time - and I could do with a bit of a rest from constantly jumping up into the cockpit & worrying about the course we were making.
So I brought 'Hermann' into action - actually a very simple thing to do but since I'd done it so very little over the last few years, I had a bit of a 'hang up' about it (should have done it yesterday but generator oil change took precedence).
I got us going nicely on course, locked off the wheel and set Hermann into action - with a few easily-made, minor adjustments we were trundling along nicely on course. The good news is that we are now able to make less westing (into that threatening, developing, High pressure area) since I can control our direction, unlike yesterday when I was forced to maintain a close reach. The wind has veered more so it was important for me to be able to keep us going no higher than SW. Steering by the wind means I need to keep an eye on the wind direction, but also means no battery power usage!
Looking at the weather info downloaded this morning, it seems I need to keep going SSW-SW for several more days before, hopefully, the wind goes gradually into the NE & then E to take me on a run to Hawaii. A N gale is forecast for the coast region & might reach out to affect me a bit tonight or tomorrow - good news if it brings good wind!!

Well, the sun got out again, Hermann is keeping us on course beautifully and the seas have calmed down from last night - although the occasional big swell comes along, as you'd expect. I spent some time writing up my logs and emailing and had a good nap instead of looking at the autopilot wiring - tomorrow! When the latest weatherfaxes were downloaded, they made it clear that I must try to keep going due S, if possible, rather than get any further west, if I'm to avoid the 'no-wind' zone of high pressure - already today the pressure on my path rose to 1023, although it's now down to 1021. The wind is N, so it's difficult to go dead downwind - I may have to gybe onto port tack at some point if I see the wind dropping or the pressure rising again.
After our roll call, I had a good meal and then relaxed - the sky had cleared a lot and the stars were out - I saw all the familiar ones: Cassiopeia, the Plough, etc and was pleased to spot my favourite little constellation, Delphinus (the dolphin), close to Cygnus. The sea and air temperatures have risen to 17C and 18C, so it is definitely getting warmer gradually. I'm just south of Pt Conception (well over 300 mls off), so entering S. California in latitude.

SHTP Day 6

Day 6 - A little belated - things got a bit fraught yesterday!!

Discovered around dawn that the autopilot wasn't working, nor the GPS (I'd recently wired a new GPS antenna into the autopilot course computer). Seems to me like a loose wire since sometimes GPS comes on (but autopilot never does)- will need to empty aft bunk area to get under & have a look - major job!.
Fortunately, the wind direction (SSW-WSW) was such that I could keep going close-hauled and "Nereida" normally steers herself beautifully upwind. Unusually, I had to help her by constantly hand-steering & then locking off the steering wheel because the biggish seas kept knocking her off otherwise. I had to dive up to the cockpit on a regular basis to check on things - found us 'hove to' several times! Our course wasn't quite what I had wanted (was going SE earlier when wind was SSW) - but by 2pm we were doing fine on a close reach - actually going S! Our speed was excellent - I even had to reef down twice as the night progressed because the winds (and seas) got up - to around 25kn apparent. I'm trying to keep in the good wind near-ish the coast (shown on weatherfaxes I download on Winlink), while remembering I'm trying to get to Hawaii, but also trying to avoid the high pressure wind 'hole' now forming W of me & beginning to affect the middle-back of the rest of the fleet. A balancing act!

Having to mess about with PCs didn't help matters over the day - trying to get backup Garmin handheld GPS's connected and talking to each of them (one PC normally lives in my aft cabin by the SSB for emails/wx , the other normally lives on the chart-table for charting (via Nobeltec) and AIS - but this one has been giving problems with the new mains charger suddenly deciding to stop charging so PC closes down unexpectedly & the new 12V charger no good either. So having to move comms PC from aft cabin to saloon on regular basis to do Nobeltec/AIS - a pain reconnecting all the leads each time, and had to load AIS software and charts onto 2nd PC via memory stick (CD drive not working!) - PCs are fine when all is going well but what a pain when they start misbehaving!
AIS has been so useful that I didn't want to be without it - and it needs GPS info as much as Nobeltec does. I could cope with paper charts OK but when the autopilot and GPS both went down simultaneously, and then the wind (I'm delighted to say!!!) got up so strongly over the evening and night - with no autopilot - I had my hands full trying to cope. (Not much by way of a meal yesterday!).
Just to add to everything else, when Lou on 'Seabird' mentioned generator problems, it occurred to me to check on the date of my last oil change as I went to check the oil level. (I'm relying on my little generator for charging my batteries, rather than the main engine.) To my horror, it was way overdue (and the oil level was low anyway) - so I had to change the oil immediately - the afternoon's job. So I was unable to get my usual afternoon catnap yesterday - hopefully I will manage it today - I feel quite tired.
Good news of the day (apart from a happy generator!) - actually saw blue skies and sun for about 2-3 hrs mid-afternoon - first time this trip!

SHTP Day 5

Evening, Wed 28th June

Last night, just before 11pm, in pitch black darkness, I had a very worrying experience while drifting about in little wind, 113ml W of SF's Golden Gate. I spotted a ship, "SCF Ural", on the AIS window of my PC which was clearly heading south almost directly for me.
Thinking I'd better call him up immediately, in case he needed lots of time to turn (as tankers do, for instance), I tried to do just that. Took a time for him to respond on VHF16, with no response on VHF13. Then it took even longer to make it clear what the problem was - I must have given my coordinates six times at least (language was clearly a problem for the Russians on board) so that they could try to find me on their radar (I know I give a good signal on big ship radars at around 30mls and the sea was not rough). I ended up speaking to the Captain, who finally got the message - but only after I told him firmly he MUST TURN TO PORT IMMEDIATELY to avoid hitting me - a small sailboat nearly stationary in his path, drifting (for the moment) at under 1 kn to the west. By now, I was getting very concerned - even put the engine key in the ignition ready for the worst - but he eventually said he would change course to port - and I was able to see, shortly after that, that he had turned by 11 degrees (the AIS info one gets includes course steered, rotation, etc) which would put him several miles off my position. By then, a slightwind had got up, so I was able to sail, initially on starboard tack, at just 1.4 kn, until I realised that was taking me into his path so I then changed to port tack. Worryingly, he did not show up on my radar until he was 6-9 mls away - usually big ships show up at 24mls - and although he passed within 4 mls of me, I did not see any lights despite knowing precisely where he was from my AIS window...

The wind continued around F1-2 overnight, so not much progress was made - at the 9am rollcall, I'd made just 1 ml towards Hawaii since the previous evening!

Later this morning, I heard a noise and a big humpback surfaced several times close to 'Nereida' on his way north.

Often, the wind has picked up and we've made over 4 kn but then it would drop again. After carefully looking at the weatherfaxes I'd downloaded, I decided to turn south at 1pm today - saw barometric pressure was up to 1018, from 1014 at 0400, so concluded low pressure over SF may have dissipated earlier than expected, meaning I could safely head S now rather than waiting longer (no wind close offshore had been predicted while the low was present over SF). The wind then veered from SSW to WSW making for a better course. It's still not strong, but at least I'm having a very pleasant sail - in roughly the right direction!

Actually saw over 6kn of boatspeed later today and we're regularly seeing over 5kn - not too bad for being close-hauled and with variable light winds. The other good thing is that most of this afternoon, and on into the night, I've been on a constant starboard tack (no frequent tacking around) which is a lot more relaxing and meant I could catch up on some sleep in the cockpit. Also the sun came out for a few moments just to remind me it exists - but it's still cold enough for me to need to change into warmer trousers.

According to Don Anderson this evening, we're all in for a slow race because of the highly unusual weather pattern - the usual Pacific high is finally about to be re-established in its usual place - right in the path of a lot of the fleet - so they have to try to avoid ending up becalmed by heading SSW now as fast as they can - but they could well end up with a major problem. Equally, I can expect several more days of light winds but by going south from here for 5-6 days I should eventually find the wind increasing and 'clocking' - then I can head more & more west with the Trades to Kauai. We'll soon see over the next few days whether people have made the right choices of route & timing - it's a difficult call!


SHTP Day 4

5pm Tuesday 27th June

Oh well - another day of regular 0.0 kn Boatspeed and Wind displays & rocking & rolling going nowhere. And just to tease me, 2-10 minutes of nice wind three times over the day - just enough to get me all excited and trim the sails frantically thinking that at last I was getting out of my 'hole'!
Just had another mug of hot soup as I gazed out on the big swells coming across a smooth grey sea, surrounded and topped by white fog & cloud. The sails are flapping around again - every time I change things the whisper of wind swings around to the opposite direction & backs the sails - change again. Or take the genoa in and leave things alone for a bit, waiting for better wind - don't like to do that - feels too much like giving up! The swell increases the problem - I have the preventer on the main to stop it swinging & banging around in the swell - so that's another thing to change on each change of tack. My finger tips are quite smooth & shiny from all the rope handling! Not much chance to relax in these conditions - unlike when the winds are constant (at least in direction).
Have played a lot of music - especially Bob Marley: "Don't Worry About a Thing" (- 'cause every little thing's going to be all right) & "Don't Give Up the Fight" !!! Thought of singing first one to the fleet at rollcall (even got out my guitar to try out accompaniment) - but may pass on that! Good for dancing to (I've got a tiny dance floor on 'Nereida' between the galley & chart table!)
I'm still managing to keep to my WSW rhumbline course - weatherfaxes show winds offshore west of SF but nothing inshore tomorrow so getting west is vital just now. Then need to get south if possible as the expected high develops in its 'usual' place from late Wed to Thurs on. Maybe being here may turn into a good thing if it puts me just on the edge of the new High ie with a good gradient to give reasonable winds down to Hawaii. Have to stay optimistic!!
No more chats to the rest of the 'back pack' - they're too far ahead to be within VHF range.
The fog has closed in now to within 5-10 boatlengths. I try not to look at the COG when we're drifting like this - it usually shows me going NE at anything up to 1.3knots! AIS has been so useful - shows me boats nearby but also means I can use the radar much less, meaning a big saving in power consumption.
The good news today is that I finally figured out why my charger for the main PC has been so erratic - sometimes OK, frequently off - turns out the plug adapter was faulty (and rated at too few amps) - changed it for another and - hey presto! - 'nada mas problema' .
Just saw 4 knots of wind - must go & see if I can coax us into the right direction! Then it's time for a good meal before rollcall at 9pm.


In the floppy Pacific, too close to SF & shore

SHTP Day 3

There's a big 'hole' in the wind at present, close offshore all the way down from SF to Pt Conception, expected to last for 2-3 days more. High is right up near Vancouver & expected to be replaced by Low there with new High forming right on my rhumbline course from San Francisco to Kauai, Hawaii (where it should have been now!)
Seems to me I'm trapped in light airs for some time - can't move west fast enough to get to the good wind west of 127W now, and will then get caught out by being near centre of new High pressure because I won't be able to move S fast enough in 2-3 days time to avoid that.... And all because I was trapped in light airs inshore from day 1 of race.. Talk about frustrating...!! Anyone who went directly S has had an even worse time than my back half of the fleet have had, if that's possible! The one guy who did that has abandoned the race & returned to SF. Don Anderson ('Summer Passage', N6HG) spoke to the fleet tonight on SSB with update on wx info & consequent routeing - although what he said was pretty well what I had already deduced from my Winlink weatherfaxes.
I actually put up the spinnaker this morning (the sailmaker had had it out for measuring for my race rating & put it back slightly twisted) - but by the time I'd got all the lines lead correctly the wind had died away completely so it just flapped about - predictable!! The good thought of the day is that at least it's ready for next time. And it actually got a bit warmer for a good hour or so, although the sun never really got through the grey overcast - took off shoes & socks and fleece jackets (plural!) & sweatshirt (it's been cold & damp!!) and had a cold beer in hopeful expectation of some good sailing in warm weather...
I'm sitting here with a nice mug of hot soup in my hands... can't wait to get to the warmth of Hawaii. Glad I stocked up with Cup-a-Soups in London in January (although that was with Alaska in mind).
I'm getting sleep in fits and starts, over the day as well - trouble is that each time I get back up on deck, conditions have changed and heading/sails need adjusting - so inclination is to try to keep sails trimmed properly (trying to get out of this 'no-wind' zone) rather than get enough sleep! When conditions are more constant, sleep is easier to get. I'm hoping for NW winds very soon - wind has gone round to the north tonight and things look more hopeful. I'm presently making just 2.2 knots.
I talk often on the VHF to the others but saw no other boats or ships at all today. Just the sea - the NW swell seems to have increased but still only 4-5 ft (1.5m).


What a frustrating time!!
Have spent all my time overnight and today tacking around as close-hauled as I can, trying to get west - no chance - options have been close to due S or to due N in the light wind - or NO wind, as it's been, a lot of the time. Impossible to keep the autopilot working with 0.0 boatspeed! Moved 2.1 mls through the water in the 5 hrs up to 6am, but tide carried me in towards shore (heard the breaking surf!) and towards Drakes Bay. Got 'embayed' and had a lot of trouble getting out past Pt Reyes - the long peninsula that sticks out south with an east-west upside down 'T' at its end - which effectively forms Drakes Bay to its east. Finally managed it around noon - but then I was forced to head even further north, rather than retrace my path south. The wind has swung around Pt Reyes and never reached more than 4-5 kn, except for a very short time, until near dusk. Then I suddenly felt breeze on my face - and it increased to give good boatspeed - what a nice change. Lasted for quite a time but eventually died away around 11pm. In the meantime, a strong tide continually took me northwest of Pt Reyes - seemed to me I was never going to escape that Point! A curious seal kept me company for quite a time as I drifted this afternoon.
There have been quite a few ships around. The new AIS program has been worth its weight in gold - seeing the boats and their names on the screen together with info such as size, speed, direction, destination, etc, has been really useful and an excellent safety feature. The skippers/crew are always courteous and keep a good lookout for me after I've called them to warn them if our paths look like crossing.
Soon after dawn this morning, as I was drifting in a flat, glassy sea, I saw humpback whales near the boat for a good half hour. They were just cruising around, coming to the surface regularly - three in all. There had already been porpoises and lots of penguin guillemots to attract my interest as I drifted with the current at zero boatspeed under the gloomy overcast. With constant efforts to keep the boat moving overnight, involving constant changing of tack as the genoa backed in the flukey wind, I got almost no sleep and what I had was disturbed by the VHF coming alive now & then to deal with the big ships heading in & out of San Francisco.
As usual, at 9 o'clock tonight, as this morning, we had a roll call of the race fleet on the SSB radio and then we chatted to each other. During the day, we keep watch on VHF69 and often call to each other to discuss problems or big ships/tugs passing close by or simply to vent our frustrated feelings at the lack of good wind. We'll see what tonight brings - but at least I'm moving - and in roughly the right direction!


Day 1 of SHTP

6pm Sat24Jun06

Lovely sunny start - but very little wind! I managed to drift over start line at back of fleet and then proceeded to tack slowly towards fogbound Golden Gate - wind came in fits and starts, but more close in to Peninsula Pt, off Belvedere.
Didn't want to get too far out into Bay because of foul strong flood tide - so took a long time getting no distance at all.
Several boats with photographers/wellwishers came by - lots of good wishes and friendly faces.
Slowly the breeze filled in again, and made excellent speed on approach to, and transit through, Golden Gate (6.5-7.3 kn) despite having had to reef right down (2 reefs in main and genoa).
Fog kindly decided to lift as got close to GG Bridge and stayed that way - so no problem there. Just as well, because my PC chargers aren't working, so it's back to paper charts and pencil+Breton plotter.
Has been difficult to decide what course to steer for best - SW wind now & light SW winds are forecast for next few days. High pressure area is way north of usual position (off Vancouver Island) - so having to try to get west over next few days, in hope of making southing later in passage.
Wind died right down as passed across the 'Potato Patch' (ebb tide + little wind + HW made that a safe option) so I'm now ambling along, headed NW at all of 3-4 kn max! Murky sky, long low swell, lots of penguin guillemots and the occasional group of dolphins.
Just offered a cup of tea to another racer as we got close! Two others in sight further out. All feels very relaxed, not like a race at all, quite unlike the excitement of the approach to the Golden Gate.

Just downloaded some weatherfaxes, so must go & do some 'HW' and then sort out food well before it gets dark - didn't get the chance to cook anything as I usually try to do before a long passage like this.