After I speak with Nathan I am in a very very good mood - even though I still hate all the Black Clouds of the world. Since I drove pretty much the whole of last night, I am starting to feel really tired.
The sunrise is beautiful though. I am also stressed about power. I am worried that I won't have enough fuel to last me to the finish and will have to drive even more than I have been. Then if I do drive less, I worry that my AP will fail...In other words, I am just tired, starting to worry about just about anything, and nothing.
As I walk forward, I scoop up a handful of dead fish of all sizes, mostly of the flying variety. Unfortunately, this will be true every day from now on. I get a fix, take a look at the barometer, remember that it is broken and calculate my ETA - probably 14th of July. Bastille Day. That'd be arriving in style.
The boat is still under blast reacher and main and it is doing over 6 knots so just fine. It looks like it is going to be a wonderful day so there really isn't anything to worry about. Perhaps it is just fine to douse the spinnaker in either uncertain or heavier breeze to get some sleep as the boat still goes. Maybe I am trying too hard. Is it the fastest way?
I need some food before I do anything as tired + hungry makes me absolutely ineffective and I know from experience that just a little food and sugar in my blood makes a world of difference. There is still some of these nutella on the go and I enjoy those spread on a bagel. Hmmm....delicious. With a glass of 'warm' milk (powder milk mixed up with water that is) - a fresh orange. A bit of Pellegrino water and canned pineapple. I will also eat the last egg that will be healthy to eat. From now on, every egg I take smells funny and I don't want to risk it.
After this breakfast of champions, I am ready for the day but definitely in need of a night's sleep. I just can't go back to my bunk though. I just need to hoist the kite and keep racing. It is a beautiful, beautiful day.
The only squall like thing I see on the horizon gifts me with a beautiful rainbow. I take a picture as I walk forward to drop the blast reacher, put it away, rig the twin sails and set up the spinnaker net
Wow - how do I feel about arriving soon? The first week, when it was light air and calm all around me, cozy under a cover of friendly clouds, I had wanted to spend the rest of the month out there. It was so soothing, so peaceful, so immensely beautiful. It was a place where no one could find me, a little cocoon of boat. Then I started racing and I wanted to arrive as soon as possible because a timely arrival meant doing well in the race. Now I am still racing but as the boat starts surfing and doing what she excels and is so fun, I have mixed feelings about arriving. I will not slow down, and I am definitely still a hard race mode - however, I will miss the fun.
Strange. I will not be getting bruises all over my legs, I will not be subjected to constant noises (the autopilot, water alongside the hull, wind in my ears, winches grinding up a line), I will not be alone wondering where the rest of mankind disappeared to, I will not be constantly afraid of my autopilot failing and leaving me last in fleet, I will not be on the lookout for whales anymore, I will not be smelling socks that smell like I have been wearing them since the day I was born.
I will be able to drink coffee again, I will remember what chilled drinks taste like - or how a shower feels like. More importantly, I will be able to just lie down and sleep without being worried about an accidental gybe or the boat broaching.
Just sleep. Collapse and sleep.
I am so tired that the entire operation lasts the best part of half an hour...If I was racing around the buoys, it would be time to set the boat back for upwind sailing again as I'd be at the leeward mark.
But up goes the chute...and my national flag bids me a good morning. Crap, I didn't mean to hoist that one...I grabbed the one in the launch bag...but it is the only launch bag I have left...It's too light for France. I can't face dousing and setting up another kite right now so France will have to be up. There is a decent breeze and boat speed has increased.
The wind is up in the afternoon and I might get a couple of squalls in the evening too. I know that I am only trying to make myself feel good about my 'choice' of sail. I also know that I am tired as there is no reason to just pick the kite in the launch bag...
It'll have the do - and frankly, it is a happy day nevertheless.
I am now so distressed about power that I spend most of my day hand steering. It is a tad light in the morning but there is a decent surf and that boat accelerates nicely.
It is a super pleasant day, the boat is easy to trim, spinnaker a bit finnicky to trim because of the light air but the autopilot works great in these conditions so I spend a bit of time cleaning up below deck and I decide to make a bunch of videos to try to convey the experience.
Oh and I forgot to say...one night but I can't remember which one. Maybe the 8th of July, the night right before the squalls? - I came in contact with a ship. The AIS had gone off and I see HORIZON SP displayed on the screen. I hail the ship by its name as I can see its light on starboard.
'This is HORIZON SPIRIT, come in sailing vessel Elsie'
'It's Elise actually. How are you sir?'
'I am very well thank you.'
'May I inquire about your destination?'
'This is Horizon Spirit and we are headed toward Los Angeles.'
'Thank you sir. I was wondering if you could see me'
' I can't see you on my radar, where are you in relation to me?'
'I am about on your starboard beam right now'
'Ah, let me check. Oh yes, I can see your lights through the window.'
-- I am looking at my radar reflector up in the rig --
'Sailing vessel Elise, is there anything else that you'd like to say'
'No, I just wanted to make sure you were aware of my presence'
'Very well, good night then'
'Good night sir'
Once the kite is up I call Nathan - and while I am on the phone, a fish ends up on my lap! I precipitously catch it and manage to put it back out into the ocean. Phew...One life I will have manage to save.
I wrapped the spinnaker a couple of times (but not again the forestay) but the net saved my ass. Through steering low and then pulling the sheet, I could unwrap it. Each time I had my victory shout!
From time to time, more fish jump into the cockpit. I estimate that I have managed to save maybe 40% of the fish that hit the deck of Elise that day. That too was exhausting.
Before I left, I had a lot of questions about what squalls were. Since I had squalls pretty much every single night, when I wasn't fighting with Black Cloud, I figured I would try to capture a picture of them. Here is a typical tropical squall!
The night is getting very squally. The squalls appear in the evening and continue throughout the night. I decide to use them as a competitive advantage. A lot of people would take the kite down, put a headsail or just sail under main only but I figured that in heavy wind, I can sail really deep and surf FAST with the kite up. It is also a competitive advantage of the boat since the kite is small for the boat due to the fractional rig, the boat isn't really at the edge of control at all if you are hand steering. Different story with the autopilot. And a competitive advantage for me as I drive well under these conditions, and I enjoy it thoroughly.
I gybe the kite to take the squall on port pole. Surprinsingly enough, this seems a lot easier than when I gybe the boat fully crewed.
The only problem is that I really should be sleeping. I drive most of the night as there are squalls most of the night. At around 3am or so (PST as I am on California time), I am so tired that I decide to take the kite down. The wind is still up as I am still in a middle of a squall but my eyes are closing and I realize that I can't really steer anymore. I need a break. I can't ignore my body any longer. I feel pretty satisfied with the progress and the couple of squalls I have already driven through.
I am wet as there has been some drizzle but not much.
I run the lines as I usually do but I am so tired that I must have missed something, or allow both the guy and the halyard to get twisted. To my horror, I see a real parachute, flying fully loaded a few feet AHEAD of the boat, in mid air. The halyard has a knot in it and the guy has a knot in it. I usually keep a knot on the sheet as the guy is my 'relief' valve and that way, I know that I have an easy way to bring the kite in, even if all of the guy ends up overboard. Unfortunately, there is no way that I can bring the kite in right now, not even winching it. I try and then grab the sheet. Bad idea, I get serious rope burn on my left fingers doing this. The kite is still floating out there.
My mind is racing and I am starting to think about which line I should be cutting with the cockpit knife. Before I do this, I steer the boat a little too downwind and fortunately, the main for a short time depowers the kite. I rush to the low side and grab the sheet and pull on it as fast as I can. I can finally grab the foot. I voluntarily dump the kite in the water to make it heavy and prevent it from filling up again as the halyard is only half way down. I get a couple of sail ties and tie the kite in a little sausage. Meanwhile, because there is now no load on the kite, I have plenty of time to undo the knot on the halyard and the knot on the guy. After 10 minutes of wrestling with ropes, I finally get the kite in. It is completely soaked with salt water.
I clean up the lines, and I walk forward to douse the spinnaker net. I can't face putting up the twin sails as I am too tired. So instead, I rig on top of the twin sails the blast reacher and I hoist that. I use the spinnaker pole which was up already to pole it out.
I then have to rest for at least fifteen minutes in the cockpit panting. I am absolutely exhausted. If it has been more windy, would the rig have held up? Clearly, not being able to douse the spinnaker properly was not a skill issue. I even douse it in worst conditions in this very race. Fatigue is getting the better of me and I am letting it.
I leave the autopilot on, don't even think about reducing the gain - the boat is still in the middle of a fairly gentle squall but there is no rain at all.
I crawl down below. I am wet because I handled the spinnaker. I think 'any evening where I will actually go to bed with a dry butt?'. I push the spinnaker in the forepeak. I can't face packing it back up. I will have to deal with this the following morning. I collapse in my bunk, set up the timer for 60 minutes and sink into an agitated sleep.
I get up for a short while as my feet are getting rained on a few moments later. I close the companionway hatch and put a jacket over my feet and go back to sleep. I wake up two hours later, having slept through the timer, at sunrise.