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August 7, 2014

Aug7 AM Log

Ahoy VALIS fans…We are looking forward to noon today. That’s when the latest GRIB says we are on the highway to home. Forecast calls for winds from 12-25 knots most of the way toward the Strait, on a heading of 030*m.
As for now…we are at 36*13′N 150*18′W…Hdg 033*m…SOG 5.3 kts…Winds 12 kts from 150*m.
We are 1407 nm from the Strait. CMG since 18:00 last night is 66 nm.
Large thunder heads to the NW are probably sucking the energy out of our part of the ocean. Once they pass we expect good winds to return. We tried sailing on a beam to broad reach on stbd tack last night. Winds stopped cooperating. Sailed most of the evening to now with the genoa poled out on the stbd side sailing wing and wing. As soon as the crew has their morning coffee we’ll be relaunching the 1.5 oz spinnaker.
The watermaker is doing it’s thing as this log entry is being written. We will be switching to the auxillary fuel tank during battery charging this morning to check for contamination in the fuel line. We don’t expect any, but as the wise one says, “better to find out now instead of when you really need it.”
All else is good. Erik made chicken fajitas with the makings prepped by Lin…very tasty. Sylvain is right now making oatmeal for everybody.
Today’s puzzle: The gate to Heaven has a guardian who always tells the truth. The gate to Hell has a guardian who always lies. You can ask only one question to determine which gate is which. What question would you ask?
Good luck…
s/v VALIS, out…

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Pacific Cup Recap

As promised, here is a recap of our 2014 Pacific Cup. We had a great time, got to know a lot of boats and crews through our communications duties, and provided assistance to another Pac Cup boat on the high seas

Our start on Monday, July 7 was typical:  good winds and overcast. If I had been more careful with the jibsheet winch we probably wouldn’t have been last to cross the starting line, but in a two-week race a handful of seconds probably doesn’t matter too much (at least that’s what I tell myself!)

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(Copyright 2014 Erik Simonson –

2012paccupday1-009 (Copy).jpg
(Copyright 2014 Erik Simonson -
VALIS Start 1.jpg
(Copyright 2014 Leslie Richter -
Once through the gate and past Point Bonita, the wind got light. Very light!  We slowly sailed towards the west in search of wind, but instead of picking up, it died completely.  After drifting around for a while we managed to get ourselves pointed to the south, where the wind did pick up that evening.

VALIS Route 2.png
Wandering in the windless desert outside the Golden Gate
(Tracker images courtesy YellowBrick)
The wind kept up for a couple of days, on the beam or a little aft, and we made good time.  On Thursday we put up the spinnaker.  On Friday we ran into a vast area of no wind to speak of.  This was essentially unavoidable, so we made what miles we could while waiting for the wind to fill back in.  Here’s our overall Pac Cup track:
VALIS Route 1.png
And for comparison, here are the tracks of the divisions that started on Monday:

VALIS Route 0.png

Once the wind picked up again we had a pretty good run towards Hawaii.

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Two days before our finish we were requested to divert to give assistance to Pac Cup vessel Sweet Okole, who had broken their rudder and were limping into Kaneohe under power and emergency rudder:

VALIS Route 4.png
Here is a detail of our track during the assistance:

VALIS Route 3.png
We trailed a long line with a bag that contained fuel, and later our emergency rudder (in case theirs broke).  There were plenty of opportunities for something to go wrong, but the VALIS  and Sweet Okole crews performed this difficult process with skill and care.

Okole 1.jpg

Okole 2.jpg
We crossed the finish line in very light headwinds.  This was not the typical spinnaker run entrance into Kaneohe Bay!  It was dark, and we were tired, but it felt pretty good!

(Copyright 2014 Leslie Richter -

During the awards ceremony the crew of VALIS was presented with a seamanship award for our assistance to Sweet Okole.  We were deeply moved.

Awards 1.jpg
(Copyright 2014 Leslie Richter -
We tied for fourth place in our division.  The top three boats definitely earned their positions, as they sailed hard and smart. We feel very good about our performance though.  It’s a great race, with a lot of great boats and good friends.VALIS is now sailing back to Friday Harbor, crewed by Rich and Jim (who helped bring her south to San Francisco), and two new crew, Eric and Sylvain.  I will post some of the emails they are sending, but until then you can follow them on the tracker:,

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August 6, 2014

Adendum to Aug6 PM Log

Apologies…forgot to add we were dropping the spinnaker for the night and instead of poling out the genoa we are going to beam or broad reach tonight to make sure we stay as close to a 030*m heading as possible. The new GRIB shows us threading the needle with 15-20 knot winds for the next week on a heading of 030*m. Things change, but right now we are very happy with the forecast over the next few days.
VALIS, out…

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Aug6 PM Log

Sail vessel VALIS is moving right along.
At 0600 this morning we were 1545nm from the Strait of Juan De Fuca. This evening at 1800, we are 1473 nm away. We have been sailing under the big blue 1.5 oz spinnaker on a heading of 030 doing an average of 6.5 to 7.5 knots with the wind on our right hip at 8-14 knots. The sea state is calm, skies are mostly clear with no threatening cloud cover anywhere on the horizon.
The crew picked today as shower day. The forward water tank is still more than a quarter full. We will run the watermaker tomorrow morning while running the engine to charge the batts. The current battery reading is 12.65v and 75% charged.
Only real news to report is that Sylvain’s thumbed discovered how strong the jaws are on the spinnaker pole…ouch. No major damage but we are all ready to yank off his thumbnail when the time comes :-(
That is all,
s/v VALIS, out…

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Aug6 AM Log

Ahoy from VALIS, 1545 nm from the entrance to the Strait of Juan De Fuca…
We are at 34*37′N 152*23′W…heading 025*m…SOG 6 knots…Wind 8 knots @ 129* m
Smooth night of sailing wing-on-wing. Seas mostly calm with an occasional wind shift to keep the trimmers trimming.
Today’s GRIB was a pleasant surprise. Expedition is now calling for a heading of 030*m for the next 8 days. Yep, more or less a straight shot to the Strait. Of course, all is not roses. The winds go from 15 knots to zilch over the course of that time period. We expect lots of change as the the “nothing” zone gets a little more organized.
In the meantime, we have winds in double digits for the most post up ahead. We will stow the 3/4 oz. kite and launch the 1.5 oz. bruiser this morning and hope to have a day of fast sailing on flat seas with the wind putting VALIS on a nice broad reach that the auto helm loves to handle.
All good…s/v VALIS out.

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July 27, 2014

We Have Finished

Sorry for the delay, but VALIS did finish the race, crossing the Kaneohe Bay line in light headwinds around 1AM Tuesday (July 22) Hawaii time.
After redress for the time spent assisting Sweet Okole, we finished in a fourth-place tie.
Details and photos to follow when I don’t have to use the phone to do it.

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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

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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.

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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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