Thursday, February 27, 2014


Elise still in the shop which makes sailing difficult
Weather looking wet (but wind and wave looking ok)

Serge making sure I don't go hungry during the qualifier

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Storm Management

The mainsail I am taking with me has three reefing points (I have only two reefing lines which means that I need to pull the second reefing line through the top hole if I need a third reef - so far I have never had to use a third reef. I have sailed once with the main double reefed and a number four - pretty comfortably - in heavy wind but that's about it.

Other than that some other 'special storm' assets.

  • Storm Jib rigged with sheets
  • Trysail (the area of the trysail might be 'slightly' smaller than the triple reefed main but it is a pain to drop the main completely and set up the trysail - the advantage of a trysail is that it is not rigged to the boom, which you obviously have to lash down seriously - probably not something I am likely to use during the race, but good to have)
  • Storm jib (Elise has also a #4, but the storm jib is also great for its self steering capabilities, all the way down to a reach, basically rigged 'backwinded' with a turning block on the windward side and connected to the tiller - while your regular jib still acts as your power sail. I tried it on Elise and it worked GREAT! It is also the easiest thing to rig in the world. Not ideal as the shape of your regular jib ain't real nice but not bad if your autopilot dies on you...This is only good if you are going to be on the same tack for like...hours or days! Otherwise, it is in the way of your jib when you tack, so you need to drop it, tack and then rig it up on the other side)
  • Large yellow drogue + 60 feet of line - this is the real heavy weather drogue
  • Jordan series drogue + bridle and control/retrieval line - I am going to cut this in half as I have WAY too many of these little cones right now but there is only one size. This is also something I wanted to get because of its steering abilities downwind (even though it is slow as hell), it might double up as an emergency rudder. Just in case...I know I am paranoid but I want to keep sailing/racing as fast as I can even as things start breaking down...
But then the most effective weapon against storm is weather information. The key to storm management is to not sail into a storm...A squall is different. It is a very very localized storm and if you take them downwind they are actually a ton of fun. They also typically last an hour or so...(and I will now remember...if you are caught in one, just gybe to port...) - but a real storm, just try to avoid.

Not always possible, the storm may travel faster than you do - then try to get the edge and not the eye of the storm. And clearly always be prepared.

And remember - heaving-to (and Elise DOES heave-to, we have tried it even in 30 knot winds and heavy swell on a Coastal Cup to retrieve a spinnaker gone haywire) is probably the most boring way to be terrified. If all else fails, it is one way to ride a storm. I have never had to do it.

The highest wind I have sailed in (and that was on Elise) was 50 knots and that was on the Bay and it was a heavy weather practice. Just a winter storm. Low visibility. Nasty little needly rain. That's when I had the double reefed main and a #4 (now I would put out the storm jib probably). Elise was struggling with no real weight on the rail but quite courageously powered through the short nasty chop, thinking 'I am a heavy air boat, I am a heavy air boat'. Steering was quite ok. Tacking was the most difficult thing, you couldn't do a 'close haul' to 'close haul' tack. The minute you'd point the boat into the wind, it'd stop and you'd be left with no momemtum to complete the task. Too much power against it. So you had to press down, get even more speed then do the fastest possible tack to a 'press down' mode to gain more speed, and then point again. Offshore, you might be able to get the swell to help you tack over. However, in 50 knot winds, you might also just kind of 'sail in one direction and wait for the storm to pass'...maneuvers might not be on the top of your todo list for the day. In this case, I was sailing in the Bay and not tacking meant ramming into some dock or steel buoy.

This takes me to my last point - if you ever do encounter a storm (and God forbid if I do), a place where you have a lot of sea room is the safest place to be. It is very counter-intuitive because our natural instincts take us back closer to land where there are other people.

However, a rescue operations in the middle of a storm carries probably more risk than you staying on the boat and waiting around for things to pass. And if you are close to land, you might be close to a lee shore and if anything happens, you may end up on the rocks which typically isn't a place where you have a lot of control, particularly if there is a heavy surf due to a storm.

It can be scary to be out there thinking you are all alone but the truth is your boat can withstand quite a bit more weather than you can sail through. So even if you are uncomfortable and you want to take all your sails down, throw a drogue overboard and wait around, it might still be safer than being close to shore. If this is the kind of storm that can kill you on land (like a branch flies out and hits you), then you are safer inside your boat...and if you are inside your boat, you don't want to have to worry about your surroundings...

In the event or a real storm and your drogue has broken and all your spinnaker and sails bag have been used up as spare drogues, and you are exhausted, and there might be water damage, etc... you may want to seek evacuation. But even then, best to give people a heads up and see if a ship can be rerouted your way. And it is easier for them to come rescue you if you are in the middle of nowhere...Typically, the rule of thumb is that you need to be able to survive in most places for about 48 hours. (that's how the emergency medical training is set up for instance...stabilize the patient for that amount of time) as it might be the time it takes for a commercial vessel to get to you.

I will repeat it - the smartest wisest thing to do for any sailor is to not go out into a storm. No matter how much bragging rights you think you need to earn for your next visit to the bar. A storm, on land or at sea, is not a friendly place for humans.

General Safety Checklist

  • 2 buckets with lanyard
  • horse shoe with whistle (clearly for the situation where you encounter someone in the middle of the ocean that has just fallen overboard)
  • strobe (the mast also has a strobe) - because the 'I have fallen overboard and I will reach out to the boat to throw myself a strobe so I can see better' is an unlikely scenario
  • oil absorber for bilge (we had once a major spill on a Drakes Bay race and it took us the longest time to 'sponge' out the oil and then you have to carry this smelly mess with you until you touch land and even if you just hang it outside on deck, it does stink!)
  • manual portable bilge pump
  • Tested cockpit bilge pump
  • Tested cabin bilge pump
  • MOB pole and a tether so it doesn't go overboard (would be quite ironical). Technically this is not a requirement for SHTP if I remember correctly - or for most single handed races. It isn't like you would throw this at yourself once you are in the water. The rule single handed is to NOT leave the boat. Ever. Tether. Tether. Tether.
  • mirror
  • boat hook
  • 2 fire extinguishers
  • liferaft
  • Drysuit in grab bag
  • Survival blankets
  • 2 foghorn (or one and spare canister)
  • Boat whistle
  • cockpit knife and Mast knife
  • jacklines
  • Add a jackline across cockpit to provide fast access to pole if emergency gybe required
  • spare emergency navlights (battery powered) in grab bag
  • Distress flag
  • Radar reflector (rigged)
  • Parachute flares x4
  • Red hand flares x4
  • smoke flares x4
  • MOB drogue
  • Tow line
  • Lifesling
  • Plexiglas hatches w/ lanyard attached to boat
  • 1 spot light
  • 3 waterproof flashlights on boat
  • 1 waterproof flashlight in grab bag
  • Bolt cutter
  • Metal saw
  • Emergency Rudder + associated line and 2 turning blocks (under construction right now, I want to try it during my qualifier)
  • Emergency Tiller

Monday, February 24, 2014

Getting there...slowly but surely...

Still todos for my qualifier which I was hoping to get in this probably looking like following weekend though...

  • Need to tension up those lifelines and add strings at the bow to keep the sails on the foredeck actually ON the foredeck
  • Register the trip in my EPIRB online record
  • Need to update medical supplies (prescription only)
  • My satellite phone is coming up with a 'SIM Error' even though it is a prepaid SIM investigating the problem
  • Band-IT tool
 Working with others...
  • Fix attach points for the liferaft so that it is compatible with the fine tuning set up (this week's work at KKMI)
  • Secure/connect fuel cells (this week's work at KKMI)
  • Wire up/ test the second battery bank at 55Ah and wire up solar panel with waterproof connectors
  • Large solar panel install  (being built right now)
  • New emergency rudder (already well under construction) and mount
Once all of this is done, I am off...

Restocking medical supplies for the qualifier

I had already taken care of the supplies that stay on the boat also for day sailing.
This is the non prescription medication that I take with me for longer trips.
Then, I add prescription medication, usually with the above doesn't work after a while as they are typically a stronger version of the above. Pain meds such as Tylenol are in my 'daysail' pack

A bit of a race to make this weekend as the qualifier - which may or may not be such a bad thing given the weather conditions. But if I wait one more week, I will start encroaching on my regular race schedule...

Oh well...In any case, the race is on! no matter what...

Thank you Serge for the shopping.

Better video of autopilot test 'Doomsday Device' - 17 knot winds. Close reaching.

Delivering Elise to Sausalito

She is having some last 'bigger' projects done in preparation for Single-Handed Transpac and her qualifier. Racing a bit against the clock.

Elise is as docile as a dog...Brian is keeping her on a short leash.

The South Bay dweller visiting the city

The San Franciscan happy that the fog rolled in only after 5pm.

The whole point of the outing was really to test the autopilot - the Doomsday Device performed admirably as illustrated in the above video...

Elise should get her fuel cell installed this week.

Elise's Crew Dinner - Take 2 - Sausalito

Andrea, so full of life as usual

The team!

The engineers looking puzzled

Looking silly...

How lucky I feel about knowing all these people!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Boat Work

Changing Elise's trailer lights

Trying a new brand of beer

Peter King installed a way to gauge charging levels of batteries. I wanted something I could check by just sneaking my head down from the cockpit.

I think that this qualifies :)

Cleaned up instrument panel

The big battery

And then a 2-battery bank of smaller battery for Single-handed transpac

Nice work Peter!!!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Opa! new pole :)

Nice attention Serge :)

Varnishing bottom part of the door frame

All Serge....

AP test under sail (Brian and Steve)

Note from Brian on the AP test under sail

"The AP worked very well. My buddy Steve, who is super experienced and has done the SHTP,  was aboard and was quite impressed as we reached off at a variety of angles across the Bay in 17 kt breeze with the AP steering. We then did a spin run down to Alcatraz, and followed that with a beat up the city front.   Nice winds for a test, about 12 to 18.  The changes I have made over the last two months have really smoothed out the rudder motion which translates to less power consumption."

Guessing that Serge took the picture!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Installing Ocean lifelines for the qualifier

Looking stylish...

Mixing and matching

The toolset.

Photos by Serge

Removing the Bay lifeline

Starboard side nearly done

So long, until back from the ocean

Looking neat

Photos courtesy of Serge

Elise's bottom checked

That's kind of fun - courtesy of Serge.

Autopilot - Doomsday Device

Brian and Serge worked on installing the latest version of the Doomsday device.
According to Brian, it is now connected, it works great and it has a brand new set of lights to give me something to look at at night when I am bored.

I actually do like it when there is a visual feedback that things are working ok...

Enginer tes

Autopilot was engine tested


and seemed to work!

Heading back to port


Serge stealing Elise. You see the autopilot in the background.

Brian sleeping on the job

 The controller

All photos and work by Serge and Brian

Shopping done for qualifier

Now it will be food, closer to the time...

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Boat Work Day

Brian and Serge

the beautiful beautiful girl

Good. Replenished.

What a difference a day makes!

(remember what it was like yesterday:

Taking the boat back to the Club

The whole idea was to sail downwind as long as possible; then turn around where we are about to hit land and come back.
Which we did.
 So we faced a long upwind. The wind instruments were not connected so I don't know how much wind we got but I would guess no more than 15 knots tops and mostly less.

Ebb Gods were with us so it was a fast upwind. Alcatraz.

You know what they teach you about sails? Either have it up (so you can trim it, control it, power or depower it) or have it down (so it is out of your way, you can stow it away, lash it down, whatever, anything so you don't have to worry about that sail anymore). 

There is a reason for it.

When I wanted to take down the Twins as they are now called and because I hadn't figured out how to put the hanks, the sails would go down ungracefully but it was still powered up so tough to disconnect the poles, even with the sheet eased up because of the fact that it flies so beautifully symmetrically, with or without poles... - I lowered the halyard a foot to reduce some of the power, then proceeded to heat up the boat to depower one side of the twins and disconnect that pole - except the other side loaded up because I forgot to uncleat the sheet when doing that (you know the thing I would do when dropping a spinnaker??) and caught onto something which broke the pole.

I am now officially an idiot. Anyway, only had to uncleat that sheet just a bent pole that will be replaced in the next few days and a good lesson for me to no do it again and I think that I now total up to 4 or 5 poles bent in action while trying clearly clever things. Other than the one time when the pole broke apparently of its own accord, all the other times it was something stupid I did, like allowing the boat to round down or things like that.

This is just one more of these days!!

There is also a reason why poles are designed to break before masts do. It is for the sake of idiots like me!

Trimming Elise's jib for her upcoming long upwind leg. You'll note the color coordinated gear. This is not a coincidence.
 Trimming Elise's main for her upcoming long upwind leg

Then realizing that since the sails are trimmed for upwind, I might as well sail the boat upwind.

 Checking that the autopilot is on :)

Coiling the jib halyard after giving it a bit more tension as the breeze cooled down and got a little stronger. Looking at the jib luff line to assess whether things look right (next I will be looking at boat speed indicator and I am also 'feeling' the boat. It's incredible but you can tell when your boat is 'slow' for a given set of conditions after you get to know it well)

Taking the helm back from the autopilot with a big smile on my face as the boat starts to take off, like she usually does. A bit more fun than the sedate 'Twins' sailing style.

I only took a #3 with me since downwind sailing was my goal and I am glad that the breeze picked up to at least 'medium' as the air cooled down toward the latter part of the afternoon. Would have been way underpowered otherwise and it would have been yet another sedate leg!

OK, time for a drink now. Wait, what am I drinking? What is the snacktician doing???

Elise proudly sailing back to port

Some artistic shot by Serge - note how the lifeline is the horizon line...Or maybe it was an accident while putting the camera away. We will never know...

The Golden Gate Bridge on the horizon

Time for a jacket! Ooo, sailing is so cool...

I told Serge that he would be better off with foul weather gear but since I was single handed that he had to stay below so that I could practice 'moving around the boat' when I am on my I guess he survived.

Can someone explain to me while the snacktician is holding a beer and I am drinking water?

Making sure we are not heading to Berkeley

Back to the city again

And again

Snacktician drunk?

Alcatraz. Again.

The artistic shot trying to combine the two artistic shots from above.