Friday, May 31, 2013

Ying/Yang

Had an interesting day. It was fantastic in that I was able to fly the spinnaker and my big staysail and put down some very pleasant miles under an occasionally sunny ski. It was horrible in that I managed to clog the head twice, both times requiring me to completely dismantle the thing to fix it. I won't go into the gory details but assume it was the most disgusting thing you could possibly imagine.

I'm just working my way through a soft spot so it will be a torturous evening of flogging sails and moving at a snails pace but I have to slog through it sooner or later as it's just too big to go around (or put another way, I didn't do a good enough job avoiding it!). I can only hope to minimize the slow pace to keep up with the rest of the fleet. Just about everyone will get hit with some very light wind right about now and the ones who come out on top are the ones who can finesse their boats to maintain headway.  Won't get much sleep tonight but should be able to catch up tomorrow as the wind fills in more consistently, ultimately building to some serious blow by Sunday night.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Fresh Outlook

Well that was an interesting couple of days to start off the race. The wind speeds weren't crazy or anything but enough to make life on the boat very uncomfortable. Combined with the need to keep a sharp eye out for the heavy boat traffic, it made for an exhausting couple of days. But all that's behind me, and as the waves subsided last night, I got in a series of four 1.5 hour naps that turned me into a new man. To buck my spirits even more, the latest grib is showing the two soft spots ahead of me taking a slightly more northerly track which puts me in a good position to pass to their south then ride the big breeze that's forecasted to hit my track on Sunday. Expedition is routing me right thru them so I'll weigh that option as well.

The boat's performance relative to others with similar ratings is looking good. As this is the first IRC race Jeroboam has ever entered, I was a little concerned about the rating and how Jeroboam would fair under this handicap methodology, especially after hearing some anecdotes about how Beneteaus, for whatever reason, get slammed under IRC. So far, at least in the moderate to heavy conditions we've seen, the boat's doing well. British Beagle, Sunrise and Tamarind are all right around the same handicap and as long as I don't try to pinch up too much, I appear to be making some tracks on them. Position wise, we're all in about the same boat except Tamarind who sacrificed some speed for a much more northerly track. It'll be interesting to see how that gamble pays off in the approaching soft spots and beyond. I assume he'll try to go north of them.

Up in the fast class, Pathways to Children continues to kick butt. I got to know Richard in Plymouth and found him to be an even keeled, tough customer so I suspect he will continue to do very well out here. He's the kind of guy who would treat a long distance race like this no different from a local overnight, that is, he won't hold anything back, ever. I got a tour of his boat and it's in fantastic shape so hopefully he won't experience any major equipment issues and keep the pressure on. Vento is clearly the favorite in this class. He had to turn around to honor ESL and still managed to blast out into first place handily. Andrea is a great guy who supplied me with a bunch of mineral water from his home turf of Sardegna for the trip and plans to pay an extended visit to Bermuda following the race. It's too early to tell how Spirit and the Class 40 sec Hayai are doing - seeing some inconsistent performance out of them. And don't count out Harmonii! Keith had a lousy beginning but he's slowly marching is way up the fleet. He's going to have a tough time sailing that boat to its rating but he assured me he'd have clean cloths the whole way across as the boat's washing machine is in good working order.

I'm very happy with Expedition so far. This is my first race with it and I'm loving the position report analysis. It's very helpful in understanding Jeroboam's performance relative to others and, later in the race, analyzing the pros/cons of various tactical decisions.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Sleep Deprivation

Brutal 24 hours with 25-30 knots on the nose and big seas. Jeroboam's taking a pounding. The good news is that I'll soon be off the
continental shelf and away from boat traffic which means I can try for some more sleep. It's tough with this pounding sea state but
that too will pass. I need more rest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Update from the Channel Entrance

That was a rough start; couple minor issues on Jeroboam but was able to hold together. Some of the boats that turned around last night were going back to round a mark of the course they forgot about (Eddystone Light), most notably the very sleek open 50, Vento Di Sardegna. That said, I believe Anarchy and Lexia have retired or perhaps are trying some quick repairs with the intent of restarting, if that's possible. I'm not sure about the status of Cabrio 2 and Harmonii. I believe they turned back at some point but the latest position report leaves me wondering if their trackers are not functioning.

Clearly Pathways to Children and Spirit have a bone in their teeth so far this race but Vento and sec Hayai are in the hunt. In Jester Class, Tamarind is hot on my heals which does not bode well as I owe him time. I'm not sure what's up with British Beagle and Sunrise. I was right with them leaving Plymouth but when I tacked away to beat up to Eddystone Light, they didn't follow so I'm not sure if they rounded; didn't look like it on AIS.

We're going to get beat up again tonight, though hopefully not as bad as yesterday. Gribs are showing 25-30 knots and shifting to the NW then N by mid-day tomorrow so it won't all be on the nose. I image the waves will kick up higher than yesterday now that we're clear of land which is always a challenge on Jeroboam.

Tons of ships around so the naps are short and infrequent. We'll bump into the fishing boats over the next day and a half so there's lots to watch out for but should be in deep water by Thursday where I can catch up on some sleep.

Monday, May 27, 2013

30 on the nose and no where to hide

Getting a little banged up out here beating into some heavy seas and solid wind. Eddystone Light was the first mark of the course
but I'm concerned a couple boats may not have rounded! Hope they didn't have to turn back. Wind should calm down a bit tonight and
shift to the W or NW which will be a welcome change.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Main Event


Well sports fans, the time has come to cease and desist boat prep work and get serious about racing. It's been a busy week on Jeroboam. My buddy Nate arrived on Wednesday night with some much needed boat parts. The wind turbine and the dodger went together brilliantly but we struck out on the radar. I think it's just a wiring problem but we weren't able to sort it out in time so I'll have to do without. Other than that, Jeroboam is in tip top condition and ready to rumble.

The weather outlook is challenging. We start with the wind on the nose so it'll be a beat to get out of the harbor and clear of land. Once in the Celtic Sea, the weather pattern will be dominated by a large low moving toward the north of Ireland, then by Sunday we'll bump up against another low. All three of these challenges will present 30+ knot sustained wind in our face with higher gusts if the forecasts hold. I'm not all that excited about the weather routing suggestions from Expedition which show a flyer to the far north with an attempt to get on the good side of Sunday's low. It's way too early to even consider a gamble like that as the position of the low's center is sure to change between now and then, perhaps dramatically so.

It's been great to get to know the other competitors a bit, although I wish I had more time to do so with less weight on my shoulders with the pending start. It will be great to see everyone on Newport when the race is over and we can all relax a little.

I will make an attempt to post updates daily but in the worst of the weather, updates are one of the first things I begin to neglect. I only have a low bandwidth connection so updates will be text only but I'll post photos and video upon my arrival in Newport. The race tracker is here and the OSTAR website will post lots of news along the way from all boats here. My shore support team will be passing along your questions and comments so fire away and I'll do my best to respond.

Here's the scratch sheet with the class breakdowns:


BBC Coverage

Unfortunately the broadcasts are not available online but they did post a nice shot of Jeroboam at the dock.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Brief Update

Race starts in 48 hours and I'm feeling the pressure - just a quick update now but I'll try to post more later today or tomorrow. The race tracker is live so check it out here. To find Jeroboam, click on the Teams tab on the left side of the screen and boat names are listed alphabetically. I'm in the Jester class, appropriately enough, so you can view all the boats in my class by clicking on the Jester Class box at the top of the Teams tab.

I'm going up against some seriously experienced sailors in this class, such as Peter Crowther on Suomi Kudu who is starting his 9th OSTAR and Mervyn Wheatley who is starting his 4th on Monday. I can assure you, these guys are Not feeling the pressure.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ode to Eddystone Light

John Keane used to own a C&C 40 named Eddystone Light on which we had too many good times to count so when I sailed out to Eddystone Lighthouse yesterday I was feeling a bit nostalgic and put this together for the old crew. Enjoy.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chow Time


One of the write ups I did for the Sail For Kids program between Horta and Plymouth was about on board cuisine. Here's the accompanying video on MREs.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

All Tied Up




Jeroboam is all safe and snug at Queen Anne's Battery in Plymouth. I more or less accomplished my goal of not breaking anything between Horta and here so I can be proud of that, but more importantly, I made it to the starting line. I knew it would be a difficult early season crossing and even characterized it as the hardest thing, mentally and physically, that I've ever tried but as it turns out, the delivery demanded far more from me than I ever imagined it would. I generally don't allow myself to beam too brightly at an accomplishment but I'm making an exception here. However the beaming is naturally shadowed by the looming test ahead: racing back to Newport, up wind, along a much more northerly route, with no stops. To think the delivery was the hard part would be foolish.

I charged right into my boat projects and have already made some good progress. Jeroboam got a nice scrub down, stem to stern, with the delivery sails struck, flaked, bricked and stowed and the race main installed. The furler all came apart yesterday, cleaned, forestay adjusted, new reefing line rove, line leads fixed, all much needed improvements and will give me a piece of mind knowing all this gear is in great condition for the race as it will get much use.

I didn't get any really exciting video on the leg from Horta but I did do more filming than before and have a sort of video log with brief entries from each day of the trip. I'm working on uploading them but these are huge files and take forever so may not have anything published until the end of the weekend.

I want to thank everyone for following along with the delivery and for all the cheering and encouragement along the way. At sea, I don't have internet access (except for weather downloads and brief, plain text emails) but once or twice a day, my shore support team compiles everyone's Facebook and blog comments and sends them to me and they always manage to cheer me up. Anna Neagle, a popular British film and stage star in the 40s and 50s said "Solitude is pleasant. Loneliness is not." Your comments help tilt my day to day life at sea toward the former.

It's been an absolute delight meeting people associated with OSTAR here in Plymouth. Another competitor, Jonathan Snodgrass of the boat Lexia, rolled out the welcome wagon upon my arrival, introducing me around, showing me a bit of the town and helping me get oriented. Two other entrants here, James Taylor on Anarchy and Richard Lett on Pathways to Children, have been extremely kind and welcoming as has the OSTAR race director, David Southwood, who ferried me to the grocery store for some fresh supplies. What a great bunch of guys! I'm loving it here and feeling right at home.

The immediate area has all the marine supplies, parts dealers and service providers I need for boat prep and there's even a good sized town though I have yet to explore it.

About 50 Minis showed up here at QAB yesterday for the Mini Fastnet race which starts on Sunday. Fastnet Rock is just off the southern tip of Ireland and there are a bunch of different races that use it as a mark. The course length, round trip, is 561 miles so very similar to a Bermuda Race distance wise though much closer to land throughout the race. The Celtic Sea can be just as rough and nasty as anyplace in the north atlantic and if there were any doubt, I suggest reading Fastnet Force 10 by John Rousmaniere about the 1979 edition in which a huge storm moved over the race course, disabling or sinking 25 boats resulting in 18 fatalities. The beginning of the OSTAR race takes us right through these waters.

I'll continue to post updates over the next three weeks as I train and prep for the race, though perhaps not as frequently as my daily updates from the delivery. Time to get back to work!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Check-in/OK message from Jeroboam SPOT

Jeroboam
Latitude:50.36431
Longitude:-4.13199
GPS location Date/Time:05/06/2013 10:49:13 EDT

Message:On the dock at QAB marina. All's well.

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/Bynj9/50.36431N/4.13199W

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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Plymouth Pre-Race Punch List

I had another great day on the water today. Although colder than yesterday, it was just as sunny and pleasant sailing. There are tons of fishing boats around so I didn't get much sleep last night with all the traffic but got in a couple quick naps late this morning. There was this one strange encounter shortly after twilight last night where I came upon six boats within a several mile radius and none of them had AIS but I could tell a number of them were using radar because the RTE was activating frequently. It was strange because every other boat I encountered last night and today had AIS, which has been very convenient for tracking and avoiding them.

After having taken a brief break from toiling on the boat yesterday, I compiled a Plymouth Pre-Race Punch list this morning so as not to loose sight of my duties and responsibilities of getting to the starting line. It's a pretty long list, and this is just my first stab at it so there's sure to be more added, but the really good news is that I have three weeks to get it all done which is a reasonable amount of time to do so.

Several items many look familiar from the Horta list and weren't completed there mainly due to the unavailability of parts on the island. We could have had them shipped in but that would have taken another week or more and I was eager to continue along. The repairs are just as easily accomplished in Plymouth so no big deal.

Plymouth Pre-Race Punch List

-Inspect all running rigging, replace as appropriate, vang control and jib furl lines in particular look beat up
-Strike delivery sails & put up racing sails
-Repair hole in delivery main, inspect jib for issues
-Do something about the creases in the genoa staysail, that thing's been a bag too long
-Small length of batten for backstay adjuster gauge
-Take a close look at the gooseneck, perhaps replace pin
-Need to reduce water ingress at the hatch slider, pull up solar panel and take a close look at the forward section of the slider,
too much water getting into the cabin when a wave sweeps bow to stern
-Snug up nuts on new slider bolts and figure out how to reduce slider motion in rocky seaway
-Repair dodger, install new deck fittings and rework mount
-Install radar mount and radome, wire, test
-Rework the wiring for the SeaTalk network, particular attention is required at cockpit navpod and nav station
-Rig downhaul line for genoa staysail and test
-Review ISAF Cat 1 regs and race regs and confirm compliance, lifelines need tension, hatchboard set up ok?
-Full rig inspection, close look at spreader repaired in Horta
-Fine tune rig, tension stb side?
-Apply hull race numbers
-Need better method to secure anchor locker lid
-Inquire about piggybacking on someone's shipping container for getting excess gear back to Newport
-Rework spin tack line lead
-Acquire replacement whisker pole, work out deck storage when not in use and required running rigging, test w/ race jib, practice
gybes/w&w
-Fix jib furl line lead
-Disassemble furler and stay, full inspection, need a little more tension on forestay
-Send inquiry to Spot re: insane battery usage
-Review battery inventory, supplement as needed
-Full engine maintenance cycle
-Install turbine stator and circuit board, reassemble, mount and test
-Train with the racing sails, refine polars
-Recalibrate autopilot compass
-Edit/upload video from leg 2
-Clean up the boat
-Laundry
-Sort out provisions for the race, need more diversity in the offering
-More/better retention bungee for galley compartments
-From chandlery: larger sized split rings, new main tack shackle, 2 winch handles
-From grocery store: fresh fruit, clear plastic garbage bags, WD-40, spare pot for boiling water (handle of one on board looks like
it's about to go), hand towels (4)
-Dive on bottom & scrub just prior to race start
-Top off fuel tank just prior to race start

Check-in/OK message from Jeroboam SPOT

Jeroboam
Latitude:49.83433
Longitude:-7.72336
GPS location Date/Time:05/05/2013 07:29:12 EDT

Message:Just one last push here at the end. Mon arivl

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/BxwKW/49.83433N/7.72336W

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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Gorgeous

I reached the continental shelf shortly after noon today (UTC) and immediately picking up 8 fishing vessels on AIS. Those are the easy ones to avoid. It's the ones without AIS that require more vigilance. One of them had some floating nets out marked with big yellow buoys that I sailed a little too close to so I need to keep my eyes open for all sorts of action in here.

The breeze continues to lighten up and boat speed continues to drop so it's a little unknown when I might make landfall, perhaps Monday or more likely Tuesday. I still have plenty of fuel, about 26 gallons, so if the wind goes too light, I'll make some tracks under power.

It's been such a delightful day on the water: sunshine, pleasant breeze, manageable sea state; all the ingredients to remind me what I love about this sport. I confess I took a little break from working on boat projects today and am spending a lot of time enjoying a nice leisurely sail. Perhaps the trim isn't just right or the angles are a little off, no matter. I'm sailing in the sun and loving every minute.

Check-in/OK message from Jeroboam SPOT

Jeroboam
Latitude:49.47204
Longitude:-11.35797
GPS location Date/Time:05/04/2013 07:49:37 EDT

Message:Fishing boats in sight on the shelf, sunshine

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/Bx7LH/49.47204N/11.35797W

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Friday, May 3, 2013

My new favorite contraption: AIS

Last night worked out to be a lot rougher than anticipated. A bunch of cells moved through bringing gusts into the upper 20s and lower 30s and some steep waves to boot. At first I was reefing and unreefing for each cell then had to remind myself that I wasn't racing, trying to take it easy and determined not to break anything. I stayed reefed thereafter and only just shook them loose this afternoon. The new grib file is showing more breeze than originally anticipated today and tonight so the reefs may return shortly.  It's still out of the southwest so I'm broad reaching with jib and main and these conditions should persist for some time, perhaps all the way into the barn, though gradually dying as I get into the channel.

Still lots of traffic around, about a ship an hour today with one passing about a quarter mile from me which in open ocean terms is quite close. I'm loving AIS. I installed it about a month prior to departing the US and didn't have much of an opportunity to mess around with it. I think I have all the warning and perimeter alarms set the way I want, although there's still some functionality I've yet to explore. I've allocated some time to master this tool in the next 24 hours before I hit the continental shelf as traffic will start to pick up considerably then.

My buddy Tom scored much needed parts for my wind turbine that burned out in the last storm. The manufacturer, Southwest Wind Power, apparently sold over 100,000 of these small turbines world wide but ran into financial difficulty and had to sell off the division to a company named Primus. They've been extremely difficult to deal with and Tom had to wrestle with them for several weeks just to get them to ship parts. It always amazes me to see a customer, standing there, just dying to give some company their money and they're reluctant to take it. How does a company like that survive? Anyway, huge thanks to Tom for bulldogging that one through.  Let's hope it all goes back together and works for the race.

Each night it gets a little colder out here - I know, I shouldn't be moaning about the temperature since the race will hold the highest latitudes and coldest temperatures of this entire journey as we head north into iceberg territory. So this will be last of the complaining: It's getting cold! I even broke out the long underwear last night.

Check-in/OK message from Jeroboam SPOT

Jeroboam
Latitude:48.64474
Longitude:-14.56326
GPS location Date/Time:05/03/2013 09:30:39 EDT

Message:150nm to continental shelf,400nm to Plymouth

Click the link below to see where I am located.
http://fms.ws/BwPPE/48.64474N/14.56326W

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Another great day on the water as Jeroboam is flying along on a broad reach often hitting 10+ knots surfing down the face of a wave.  The seas are building a fair bit as the wind continues to climb, but it will likely be short lived as the front is forecasted to on the way past me by dawn. In the meantime it could get a little rough tonight. No matter; I'm about 500 miles to the English Channel and closing fast.

Speaking of the channel, I'm starting to see a lot more traffic coming and going from that direction. After only spotting about one ship a day on average so far on this leg, I saw five today and there's still 6 hours left in it. For anyone interested in seeing just how congested the boat traffic is in the channel, go to marinetraffic.com and zoom in on that area. Day or night, you'll see a veritable conga line of non-stop ships moving in and out. And that's just the boats fitted with AIS. There's plenty more that don't show up at that website that are out there. It's still a little early in the season for the pleasure boaters and day sailors so it won't be as bad as it will be for the race start at the end of May, but still plenty of traffic to dodge and weave around.

I got some work done on the running rigging that was bothering me and did some more clean up from Leg 1 that went neglected in Horta. The engine behaved again today. We're not out of the woods yet but the signs are right.

The sparrow flew the coop shortly before sundown yesterday so I guess it found a better deal, perhaps on one of the passing ships I encountered last night. So I sail on. Alone. As usual.

Check-in/OK message from Jeroboam SPOT

Jeroboam
Latitude:47.24356
Longitude:-18.86447
GPS location Date/Time:05/02/2013 08:47:59 EDT

Message:Magnificent surfing in following sea.

Click the link below to see where I am located.
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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Birds of a Feather

The excitement on board today consisted of a small sparrow taking up residence. Actually I don't know if it's a sparrow, in fact I have no idea what kind of bird it is, but its small and not a water bird so who knows how it got all the way out here. I tied to give it some crumbs and water but it clearly wanted me to leave it alone as it just kept flying off. I know I don't have any worms on board so I'm at a loss as to what to offer it. It must be starving or dying of thirst or both so I suppose I need to try something.

Down below it hasn't decided which cabin it likes best as it keeps flying around, checking the place out, even spending some time in the head by the mirror which it apparently found entertaining. Every now and then it will go outside and fly around the boat a little, probably looking for a better deal.

The center of the high crossed my path so the wind has begun to shift to the south and I've turned east. The new weather routing is taking me fairly far east before turning northeast to get a better angle on forecasted NW breeze starting Friday night but that's still a little too far ahead to bank on.

The engine issue showed improvement this morning when I did my daily charging cycle. I'll keep a close eye on it but it appears Keane's first guess at the problem was spot on, as usual. Thanks buddy.

I've been busy chasing down a gremlin in the SeaTalk network which is how the boat instruments communicate with one another. There's a loose and/or corroded connection someplace that I still haven't found. I thought for sure I'd uncovered the culprit last night but after redoing that connection the problem reoccurred this morning. What I've found is network wiring that's holding together with spit and gum so there's lots of room for improvement. I don't have all the parts I'd like on board to do it right so may put off a key portion of the rewiring until Plymouth and just deal with no autopilot wind vane mode for the balance of the trip, or at least any consistent wind vane mode. It's not the end of the world as the pilot functions fine in compass mode.

Check-in/OK message from Jeroboam SPOT

Jeroboam
Latitude:45.98064
Longitude:-23.13077
GPS location Date/Time:05/01/2013 06:16:07 EDT

Message:Many sail adjustments last pm.Finesse sailing

Click the link below to see where I am located.
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