July 21, 2014

Ocean Rendezvous

Last night VALIS received a request for assistance from Pac Cup boat Sweet Okole. We were about 30 miles away we were both sailing towards Kaneohe Bay, so we plotted an intercept course and reached their location in the early morning. We were unable to establish radio contact until 9:30AM. At that point they confirmed their need for assistance (they had a broken rudder, and were using an emergency rudder, and were low on fuel) and we then sailed to their location.
Neither of us had any jerry cans, but VALIS did have two one-gallon water jugs which we filled, very slowly, with diesel fuel using the engine’s fuel return line. I had a mesh bag with 150 ft of floating poly line so we put the jugs in the bag, attached a fender to it, and streamed it back so that the other boat could snag it and remove the contents. Careful boat-handling at both ends was required. Once the bag was empty, we retrieved it and repeated the process. This way we delivered four gallons of fuel, and our own emergency rudder which they thought could be a back-up.
Although the wind and waves were significant, the transfers went surprisingly smoothly.
At 12:45 PM PDT the boats parted ways and are continuing to Kaneohe. We had been looking at Monday afternoon arrival, but now Tuesday looks more likely. We have 85 miles to go and the crew is happy!
Best, Paul / VALIS

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July 20, 2014

Sunday, July 20 – Whales!

3:30 PM PDT, Sunday, July 20 Lat 24d 05m N, 155d 05m W Speed 7.7kts, Course 220d mag. 215 miles to go!
Today we heard a whale! We saw it too, a small dark one pacing the boat as we raced along, 8 kts towards the finish line. But the first indication was a strange squeak we could hear below in the galley. We searched in vain for the source of this new sound, but it wasn’t until the crew on deck shouted “A Whale!” that the mystery was solved. There may have been two whales, but we saw fifteen-foot all-black creature swim from port to starboard and back several times. It had a short but high-aspect dorsal fin, fairly far forward, much like a killer whale’s but shorter. We couldn’t match the appearance to any of the whales in our abbreviated identification guide.
It’s been a bouncy night and day as we race south to Kaneohe Bay, running almost parallel to the tradewinds swells. The wind has been brisk, up to 27 kts, and we are sailing fast with reefed main and genoa. We saw lightning off in the distance last night, and have been told that there was quite a thunder storm in Kaneohe, but out here all we could see was the distant glow.
It’s warm and humid belowdecks. We have the ports and hatches sealed to keep the splashes out, but the dorade vents do provide some airflow. And it just started raining.
Last night we had coleslaw and beef stew over rice, and tonight will be chili. It’s rolling too much for anything complicated
We are now hoping for a Monday evening arrival at the finish line. Once we cross it will take about an hour and a half before we are tied up at the Kaneohe Yacht Club.
Regards, Paul / VALIS

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July 19, 2014

Saturday, July 19, 11:30 AM PDT

Saturday, July 19, 11:30 AM PDT Lat 26d 26m N, Lon 152d39m W Speed 7 kts, Course 215 deg mag (straight towards Kaneohe, 408 miles to go)
We had a nice night. It wasn’t fast, but we kept up a decent speed and general course. There were a few small squalls, with rain, wind shifts, and times of lighter air, but we plugged along and made 155 miles for the 8:00AM 24-hour run. The half-moon didn’t rise until around 4:00AM or so (boat time = PDT), and the dark shy was perfect for stargazing through the gaps in the clouds. We are currently fourth in our division, with the top three boats safely out of reach for the rest of the division unless chance and circumstance intervene. We are maintaining our “don’t break it” philosophy. but during the morning radio roll-call the crew put up the spinnaker, rigged as an asymmetrical kite, attached to the bow with no pole. This has been drawing nicely on our desired course (although it is a more sensitive to wind angle then a regular asym would be) and does help our speed. Besides, it looks good.
Crew Profile: Rich

Rich 1.jpg

I met Rich on the internet when a memorial for a mutual friend was being organized. Rich first sailed on VALIS during the 2008 Pac Cup, and every Cup since then. He has also helped VALIS return after all but one race, and did our recent Friday Harbor to San Francisco delivery. Rich certainly has more miles aboard VALIS than anyone else but me.
Regards, Paul / VALIS

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July 18, 2014

Friday, July 18

3:00PM PDT, July 18 Lat 28d 04m N, Lon 151d 01m W Speed 7 kts, Course 210 deg mag. Wind 19 kts
540 miles to Kaneohe!
It’s a pretty lazy day here on the ocean. Last night we had a bright half-moon and occasional cloud cover, but were able to see many stars, as well as the bio-luminescent sea creatures below us. We stuck with the wing-and-wing configuration, as the sea and wind combination was a bit too much for comfortable spinnaker sailing (especially with the occasional small squalls).
Just before sunrise we jibed the main and poled-out genoa, trying to make our course to Kaneohe. However, we were still heading too far west, so we dropped the pole and are now sailing with main and genoa to starboard. This points us a bit east of our goal, but the wind is supposed to shift over the next few days and that will put us on course. Or, we will jibe again — however we do it we will get there!
Shortly after sunrise we had a close encounter with a fishing boat. It was heading straight for us until I hailed it on the VHF to make sure they saw us (close range, perfect visibility). They returned the call and promised not to hit us, but we passed within a hundred yards or so. They were going fast and did not appear to have any lines or other gear in the water. Did they not see us, or were they playing chicken?
I’ll be honest, we aren’t racing as hard as we could. The wind is supposed to lighten up and if it does we will probably hoist the spinnaker, but until then we are all happy to sail reasonably fast, comfortable, and safe. We are enjoying the experience.
During this morning’s radio roll-call, Pac Cup doublehanded boat “Ragtime” announced that they were retiring from the race. A combination of light air and personal schedules means that they are now motoring in search of better wind as they continue on to Hawaii.
Yesterday during the evening “Children’s Hour” radio net, doublehanders “Li’l Angel” reported that their boom had disconnected from the mast (gooseneck failure?). They are now flying twin headsails and a trysail and are still racing.
Crew Profile: Paul C.

Paul C 1.jpg

Paul C. first joined VALIS in 2008, when he helped us sail back to San Francisco after the Pacific Cup. Paul filmed the “Close Encounter With a Whale” video on our website, and you can hear his infectious accent when he says “Oh Sh*t” right after the incident. Since then, Paul has raced on VALIS in the 2012, and now 2014 Pac Cups. Paul learned his prodigious sail-trimming skills racing on the lakes of Arkansas and vicinity, and they come in very handy here.
Regards, Paul / VALIS

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July 17, 2014

Thursday 2:00PM PDT, July 17

July 17, 2:00PM Lat 29d 11m N, Lon 148d 10m W Speed 7.5 kts, Course 240 deg mag
It’s a sunny day out here in the Pacific. The crew is in a great mood, or asleep (even better!). It’s been a busy 24 hours, with two different spinnaker “events”, caused by a slipping guy — the last time it happened, Paul C saw it slip while fully on the winch. Slippery line, or sunscreen smeared on the winch drum? Hard to say, and this is a new problem, but from now on we will double-windlass the guy.
We hadn’t quite given up on the spinnakers, but winds and seas were just too heavy this morning for us to keep the larger kite under control, so we dropped it after about an hour and returned to the wing-and-wing configuration. We give up a little speed in theory, but in practice (crashing is slow) we might be better off. In a couple of days the wind may be lighter so perhaps we haven’t seen the last of the kites.
Yesterday afternoon we had switched to the third (and last) water tank, so I decided to use the watermaker to replenish our supply. We had enough to get to Hawaii, but it’s nice to not have to watch every drop. The watermaker wouldn’t start! The fancy controller appeared to have stopped working, and no amount of banging and wiggling of cables could coax it back to life. Fortunately the watermaker has a “manual” mode, so we dug into the instructions and eventually figured it out (with a little satphone help from the good people at Spectra). This required that I re-route some hoses (which required major shifting of heavy parts and strange contortions), and in the process I unknowingly lost a tiny O-ring gasket. The missing gasket caused most of the watermaker output to end up in the bilge. Not good!
As a by-product of the plumbing changes I did have a spare hose-end, from which I stole an identical O-ring, and with this we had a leak-free watermaker. The forward tank is now almost full and this should last us to Hawaii. If necessary, the watermaker can deliver more. Job done with 30 seconds to spare before our afternoon radio net.
Dinner was spaghetti and salad, with a great chicken sauce prepared by Phil.
Then the satphone rang with the news of Tiburon losing her rudder. Much of the night was spent trying to coordinate assistance (although the truly useful part ended up not involving us at all). It was all pretty fatiguing, and I went into my 1:30AM watch with a serious sleep-deficit. Halfway through it I was practically hallucinating and Rich volunteered to take the remainder of my watch. Thanks Rich! I’m much better now!
Crew Profile: John #IMG1# (L-R: Paul, John)
John is a long-time friend and crew on VALIS. I knew him from work, and he first helped deliver VALIS back home after the 2006 Pac Cup. This is John’s third Pac Cup with VALIS.

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Cayenne Renders Assistance to Tiburon

Last night we got word via satphone that Pac Cup racer “Tiburon” had lost their rudder. They were taking on a small, managable, amount of water, and were using a drogue to steer. They were not in immediate danger, but they probably did not have sufficient water to last them while they sailed / drifted to Hawaii.
The assistance efforts were being coordinated from shore, but we did offer to help if we could. Tiburon was about 90 miles east and south of us, so it would have been a long upwind sail for us. We put out a call on the VHF, raising Hana Ho, but they were even further from Tiburon than us. We also called into the Vic-Maui evening radio net and reported Tiburon’s situation.
Fortunately, other boats were in the vicinity, heading towards Tiburon. Cayenne was the best-positioned, or at least the most-easily contacted. This morning at radio Roll Call, Cayenne called in with the good news that they had reached Tiburon and were giving them their emergency rudder and water. The rudder will help them get to Hawaii sooner, probably before their drinking water runs out. Cayenne will be staying with Tiburon while they get things sorted out.
Good luck, Tiburon, and great job Cayenne!
Best, Paul / VALIS

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July 16, 2014

July 16 — Too Much Excitement

3:00PM Wednesday, July 16 Lat 30d 13m N, Lon 145d 16m W Speed 7kts, Course 323 deg mag.
Yesterday’s half-way party finished off with a great meal of salmon cakes with Hollandaise sauce on a bed of Thai rice, prepared by Lin. As sunset approached we doused the large spinnaker and replaced it with the “shy kite”, a small spinnaker designed for higher wind speeds. This dropped our speed a small amount, but gave us a more easily managed sail plan for the unpredictable evening squalls.
The night was glorious, with broken clouds and a bright moon. We could identify the familiar constellations, and the warm air was quite comfortable. Even with the moon shining down we could occasionally see flashes of phosphorescence below as our boat sailed by the marine life.
As the night progressed, the wind gradually built, with small squalls giving us showers and wind-shifts. Around 5:30AM (still quite dark this far west) a gust/shift somehow caused the spinnaker guy to come loose from the winch, with the spinnaker pole swinging rather violently forward. The increased wind, along with the unexpected sail configuration put us on our side, with the cockpit half-full of water. While the crew tried to get things under control, the off-watch crew struggled to put on their safety gear and climb topsides to help deal with the situation.
While a bit scary, this was actually not a serious situation. The crew was fine, and tethered, no hardware had broken, and the boat stayed dry down below due to the high bridge-deck of the PSC44 design. We managed to get the boat back on her feet, and run downwind while we brought the spinnaker down on deck. Unfortunately, the sail had ripped a panel, and is probably out of service for the duration.
We unfurled the Genoa, and spent the night under main/genoa. We made reasonably good speed, pretty close to our desired course. After sunrise we jibed the genoa to starboard and held it out with the spinnaker pole: the Wing and Wing configuration. This is how we have been sailing, but we are now preparing to hoist the large spinnaker. This will give us back the speed we have lost under plain sail.
Today we were passed by two fast Pacific Cup boats: Swazik (a Swan 45) and Locura (a Nelson/Marek 92). We had nice VHF chats as they sailed by within a few miles.
Crew Profile: Phil Mummah

Phil1.jpg

I met Phil during the 2008 Pacific Cup, when he raced his boat No Ka Oi. Our paths crossed a few times and he joined the VALIS team for the 2012 race. He has joined us again for this year’s race, and we are glad to have him back.
That’s it for now, Paul / VALIS

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July 15, 2014

Halfway!

Tuesday, July 15 — 3:15 PM PDT Lat 31d 17m N, Lon 141d 56m W — Halfway between San Francisco and Kaneohe Bay.
Our first clue was the VALIS Tiki Drummer. His spontaneous outburst interrupted our steering, slumber, cooking, etc, and the infectious rhythm soon had the entire crew jumping in time to primitive music. A quick study of the charts soon revealed the reason — we had crossed the halfway point! Tradition requires that a party be held, and gifts distributed. As usual, Rich passed out uncountable varities of “bacon” flavored foodstuffs, room “fresheners”, and the like. The delicious stench <<<<<< aroma is overwhelming. A friendly hint — don't try the bacon jellybeans.
Gifts for the rest of the crew had been smuggled aboard — these were located and passed out. Some items were shared, and others held in secrecy, at least for now. While all this was going on, the Brian Setzer Orchestra played big-band music over the speakers. Definitely an event to be remembered fondly.
With luck, the second half of our voyage won't take as long as out first! We now have 1025 miles to go before we cross the finish line. Estimates disagree, but the wind looks much more favorable for our downhill run.
In other halfway-related news, just after noon we were hailed on the VHF by Pac Cup doublehanded boat "Bladerunner". They were in the middle of their halfway party, and wanted to share the news. We were the closest boat so had a very nice chat with Ward and Andy. They told about their halfway gift of an experimental beer-cooler fashioned from a can of compressed air and a tupperware container. Cold beer was not produced, but the explosion had them convulsing in laughter.
Also, last night we saw the masthead lights of Vic-Maui boat "Family Affair" as she made her way to Lahaina. Halfway to Hawaii is a strangely crowded place right now.
We are currently sailing at 8.5 kts on a course of about 240 deg magnetic. This is a bit north of our desired line to Oahu, but we will adjust as needed. Sailing to Hawaii on the sunshine!
Regards, Paul / VALIS

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July 14, 2014

Noon Report, Monday July 14

Noon, Monday, July 14 (PDT) Lat 32d 09m N, Lon 138d 08m W Speed 7 kts, Course 240 deg mag Wind 14 kts
Yesterday around this time the wind was falling again, but we were in good spirits.
Today we’re in even better spirits! After our CHicker Biryani dinner we had another spectacular sunset and beautiful night with generally good winds, and the occasional light squall with drizzle. Around 4:00AM the wind had fallen off again,and our boat speed was around 3 to 4 knots, but the seas were small and we could still keep the spinnaker full. Around sunset we had a small pod of six to eight dolphins keep us company for a half-hour, occasionally jumping completely out of the water
Around sunrise the wind picked up and we have had a good 15-kt breeze taking us to Hawaii. The seas are up just a little and we get the occasional boost as one picks up our stern and we slide forward. We are sailing pretty deep, with the wind well aft of the beam and a course to steer of 240 deg magnetic (this course is a goal, but we steer as needed to keep the sails full).
VALIS does the morning radio roll-call at 9:30AM, and it’s fun to talk to many of the Pac Cup boats. Not all boats use the SSB radio to check in; some use email or a satphone voice report. We get the 8:00AM tracker positions just before the roll-call, so I announce the positions of all boats as I collect the SSB reports. A couple of hours later, the Pac Cup shore team emails out the fleet positions so those who can’t hear the SSB roll-call can find out where they stand.
There is a bit of a conflict here, with VALIS being a competitor, and me seeing the positions perhaps an hour before anyone else on the water. I am comfortable with it though, since it takes me several hours to process all this data (after roll-call I have to compile a list of reporting boats and send that to the Pac Cup shore team), and I deliberately don’t make any course-change decisions until my roll-call duties are complete.
VALIS remains fourth in her division (Div A). We’ve been holding our own over the past few days in the light and fluky conditions. We are starting to see the Division A boats split north and south, as we all try to match our boat’s performance to the expected conditions. And “expected” is the word of the day. The forecasts we can get are pretty unreliable past the first several days, and that’s where big things can happen. We’re playing it pretty conservative, but going a little north of the traditional Hawaii approach, and we are several Div A boats who are apparently taking the southern route.
It’s been several days since we’ve seen any shipping, but in 15 minutes we will be passing about 1.5 mile from an 860 ft freighter “MOKIHANA”. She is currently on our bow and will be steaming past at 21 kts, on her way to Oakland. I just had a nice VHF chat with MOKIHANA, and let them know about the Pac Cup fleet. They already know about the Pac Cup and had seen a couple of sailboats yesterday (Pac Cup???).
Crew Profile — Lin: Lin is an avid Pacific Northwest racer, and usually works on the bow. In 2012 Lin helped us bring VALIS back from Hawaii, and she is a valuable member of the VALIS 2014 Pac Cup team.

Lin-1.jpg

Regards, Paul / VALIS

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July 13, 2014

VALIS Morning Report, Sunday, July 13

July 13, 11:00AM PDT Lat 32d 22m N, Lon 135d 17m W Speed 6 kts, Course 250 d mag. Winds 12 kts Full main and light spinnaker.
We had another slow day yesterday — 67 miles — but better than the previous one. Everyone else had a slow day too, and we remain in Division A fourth place.
Early Saturday evening we had a pretty vigorous rainshower as we were dousing the spinnaker for the night. We often fly the kite continuously, but things were so fluky around sunset that we decided to go with the more-easily managed main-and-genoa configuration. As it turned out, there was so little wind through the night that which sails we had up would have made very little difference. There’s less to get tangled up without the spinnaker down though. Sunset was beautiful, with the horizon rampant with strange animals and other shapes. Over the last couple of evenings the terms “squallglow” and “Cat City” have been created — I guess you have to be here.
Last night was spectacular, with the “super-moon” (full moon closest to the Earth) illuminating the ocean, clouds and boat. For much of the night the sky above was clear, and even with the full moon, with the help of our local astronomer Phil we could identify many stars and planets.
This morning we considered ourselves lucky to me making 1/2 kt towards Hawaii. It being Sunday, Rich prepared breakfast: Spanish Scrambled Eggs (egg, salsa, and bacon), and cups of mandarin orange slices. Not only was it delicious, as soon as we had finished the wind picked up (as far as the eye can see), and we put up the spinnaker again. Perhaps it was the bacon? If the wind drops again it’s worth a try.
Speaking of food, we’ve got the Chicken Biryani defrosting for tonight’s dinner. This dish has become a favorite over the last three Pacific Cups.
This is shaping up to be another great day!
But it’s 11:30 AM and the wind just dropped. Oh well, it’s still good.
Regards, Paul / VALIS

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