Aug 11 – Sailing Fast

Greetings from VALIS, making excellent speed towards San Francisco. We are currently (Aug 11, 1:30 PM PDT) at latitude 38deg 57min N, longitude 130deg 10min N. This is 368 nautical miles from the Golden Gate, and about the latitude of Point Arena. Our speed is 7+ knots and we are sailing 100deg true. Wind is 24 knots, from the north. Seas are moiderate and it is overcast and decidedly cool.
Yesterday was reasonably uneventful: we sailed, read books, ate the last of our tuna, stood our evening watches, etc. What our loogbook only hints at is just how enjoyable it all is (but I have to admit that we are all anxiously counting the hours until we arrive back home). The log is a notebook where I (Paul) note, on an irregular basis, the time, our position, speed and course, then wind speed and direction, and in a tiny column at the edge of the page notes on sail changes and anything else of interest. On the facing page I note battery condition, watermaker run times, and anything that doesn’t fit elsewhere.
Here is a sample entry from yesterday:
19:15 39deg 19min 132deg 38min 085deg 7kt 19kt 65deg port Stys’l full
Not very romantic, is it? What it says, though, is that at 7:15 PM we are sailing fast and on-course to San Francisco. The winds have been steady and we have decided to add the staysail The 2′nd-reefed main, 2′nd-reefed genoa and a full staysail are appropriate for the wind speed and angle, and appropriate for the seas; the swell height and direction.
At 9:00PM the log notes 23 knot winds. At 9:08 a log entry says “genoa furled”. We are being overpowered by the rising wind and have decided to keep things under control as the evening commences by bringing in the genoa. We are now under reefed main and staysail, which means VALIS is now heeling less (she had been heeling 15-25 degees — not unusual, but living at 25 degrees isn’t very comfortable, either).
Watches start at 9:00, with Davey on first.
A log entry comment at Aug 11, 00:00 says “160 miles” — The Pacific Cup return fleet radio schedule has begun, and I will report our midnight position. We have sailed 160 miles since the previous midnight, which happens to be our best run so far on the return. The boats report their position, their wind speed and wind direction, which I copy on a notepad. I make particular note of two boats: “California Girl”, and “Stray Cat Blues”. “Cal Gal” left for San Francisco a couple of days before us, and Davey had planned to ride home on her (he raced to Hawaii on her). It was going to be very crowded, with six on board the small 40-foot sloop,and since we wanted a fourth crewmwmbwe, we offered Davey a ride home with us. Cal Gal has been sailing hard, against the wind across the bottom of the Pacific High, and is now fighting her way north to San Francisco. This has to be tough sailing, but she is making good speed and should be in port within two days.
“Stray Cat Blues” left Kaneohe Bay with us, and we have been following her progress as well. She is a smaller, “racier” boat than VALIS, and while sailing the same general route as us, is now about one day ahead of us.
Once the position reports are concluded, We are called by “Hooligan”. After leaving Oahu, she spent several days in Hanele Bay on Kauaii, and has been sailing home for a few days now. We have previously given her weather information, and we discuss the position of the High. We also discuss radio installations, since VALIS has had a consistently good signal. Hooligan is home-ported in Sausalito (as is VALIS), and we talk about marinas, the town, boats in general and particular, future cruising plans, and perhaps getting together for some local sailing one of these days.
Log entry: 01:01 — “Head seas”
We are pounding into head seas. This isn’t supposed to be happening! In addition to the swells from the northwest, there are swells from the northeast superimposed. They are probably from the gales along the coast north of us, and VALIS forces her way through them.
Log entry 01:54 — “Monitor line broken, under B&G compass”
John is on watch, and he has just heard the sound of one of the windvane steering lines parting. He rushes back to the wheel, disengages the Monitor windvane autopilot, and hand-steers us back on course. About this time I poke my head on deck, having noticed something different. John engages the B&G electronic autopilot and finishes disconnecting the Monitor. We decide to let the B&G steer through the night and look at the Monitor after it gets light. While the Monitor is a great piece of gear, it is prone to having these steering lines chafe and break. We keep a supply of spare line on hand for this.
Log entry 03:50 — “Genoa #2″
I am on watch. T he winds have shifted and dropped, and the staysail isn’t giving us the power we need to punch through the head seas. Our speed has dropped to under 5 knots. I re-lead the genoa furling line so I can do this without waking up the off-watch, and I unfurl the genoa to the second reef point. This is much better.
Log entry 04:30 — “Genoa #1, Stays’l furled”
The genoa is flogging more than I like. I furl the staysail, and unroll the genoa to the first reefpoint. This keeps our sail area about right, and with the different configuration the genoa flys much better. I could have adjusted the position of a block (pulley) instead, but that would have meant crawling out on the deck, on the low side, in the dark and the waves. I don’t want to do that unless someone else is topside with me.
I sit in the cockpit, or under the dodger when it is drizzling, and stand the rest of my watch. The horizon must be scanned for ships every few minutes, I have to make sure that we are staying on course, trim the sails if the wind speed or direction changes, watch and listen for anything going wrong, and generally stay tuned to the boat. The skies are mostly cloudy, but from time to time the moon appears between the gaps and the seas sparkle. VALIS continues to sail through the confused swells, occasionaly tossing a spray of diamonds into the moonlight as her bow crests a wave. The swells and whitecaps surround us out to the unbroken horizon. The moon is once again hidden, and the stars are revealed in the clear sky ahead. The 3:00 to 6:00 AM watch is usually considered the worst, but I am grateful to be out here tonight in these glorious conditions. I reflect on the nature of sailing, how we work with these uncontrollable and unpredictable forces of nature, doing the best we can. Sometimes conditions are perfect, other times we have a struggle, but we trim sails, adjust course and strategy, and usually manage to get where we need to go. Not a bad lesson!
The wind is up again, and we are heeling over 25 degrees. But VALIS is loving it, and we are sailing fast towards home. I am almost sorry when my watch is over, but Phil comes up, I brief him on the conditions and configuration, then quickly crawl into my bunk and fall asleep.
There is a lot that is hidden between the lines in a logbook.
(see atached trackfile)


Responses are currently closed.