Archive for June, 2010
Wednesday June 30,
I’m sitting here on OGOC quietly writing this note to you all and thinking about how to wrap up six days on the ocean. Paul and Tim from my shore team have been doing an amazing job of keeping the world up to date, but the fact is that the satellite phone hardly ever worked, and the spot tracker requires lithium batteries, of which I had none onboard… just regular alkaline. So I was only able to get minimal info out to the world.
Let’s start by outlining the purpose of the run back. To get into the Transat you are required to do a series of qualifying activities. One of which is a 1,000 nautical mile run solo – this was my run back from Bermuda. The reason they require this is so that you get a good sampling of what to expect over 4,300 miles, rather than get part way in, realize you are over your head and have massive rescue missions under way. Pretty logical thinking.
My 1,000 nautical mile solo qualifying run back from Bermuda starts with three days of getting the boat ready. Once on the water there is no support boat and no other competitors out there for help. If I run into any trouble, I pull my EPIRB and the Search and Rescue from whichever closest country gets put into play. Also, there’s no port to pull in to and hide from. So my biggest mission is to make sure that the boat is in good shape. That includes securing shackles, checking standing and running rigging, provisioning the boat and making sure the Active Indicating System (AIS) and the Active Echo (AE) are working. They are my eyes and ears to the rest of the world or more specifically the freighter and BIG boat world. It’s a big ocean and there’s lots of traffic on it. Nick and I saw a minimum of one freighter a night, and often it was two or three. Sailing with another person is one thing… there’s always someone on lookout, but sailing solo, you have to take catnaps, and you need eyes watching while you’re napping to make sure you don’t get run over. After working through the boat and testing the AIS/AE, I’m happy with everything and it’s time to shove off on the Tuesday morning.
Day 1 – Tuesday, June 22
Out we (me and the boat) go to our start position. On my way out I go to hoist the kite, and realize that in fixing the bungee cord for the running backs, I have captioned the spin halyard in the bungee. This means I need to get part way up the mast, grab the bungee and pull it down to the deck to get the halyard out. With a little balancing and wedging and a very long boat hook, I get it done. Now we’re ready to go. The route is to go west at 280°, pass the first ODAS mark (weather station), then work my way up the Gulf Stream to another ODAS mark in a north easterly direction and pass it to port and then head to the Chesapeake light. Looks like it’s going to be port tack close hauled for a while as the prevailing south westerly winds are well in play. That’s ok, it was all part of the big plan.
The first day passed reasonably uneventful until nightfall. Onboard there is a routine for everything. The sun goes down and the nighttime routine begins. The AIS goes on, the watches start, the batteries are checked to make sure they are topped up so I know how much hand steering I need to do, and the layering of the clothing happens. It gets cool at this time of the year, even in the Gulf Stream, but more importantly it gets DAMP and you get cold. Let’s go back to the AIS. I flick it on and it seems to light up. Funny though, the alarm starts going off almost immediately and I don’t see anything in sight. So I check the range, and realize it’s probably something beyond my line of sight. Then I check to see what it is. The system will tell me the Lat/Long and heading of the vessel. There’s nothing on the screen though. Hmmm, strange but on to sailing the boat. A little while later I see a freighter and realize that the AIS hasn’t buzzed an alarm. Long story short, the darn system isn’t working at all. I tried everything I could think of, but ultimately I think the antennae I have is too short a range to work over a mile. This is scary, because now I don’t know if the Active Echo I am sending out from the boat is working and if freighters are seeing me. The buzzer keeps going off, but I don’t know if there are ships around me or if the whole damn system has crapped out. I’m going to assume it’s crapped out, rather than assume boats can see me. This now means staying up at night and catnapping in 15 minute intervals to make sure we don’t get run over by things that go bump in the night. Did I also mention that many of the other electronics on the boat have decided to go on holiday? The spot tracker, the Sat phone, my depth gage is telling me that I have five meters under my keel…….I’m going on a hunch there that there is an octopus or something stuck to my hull, or there’s a whale that has fallen madly in love with me and is following me. Then the flying fish start. We saw them on the way over, but none landed on the boat. Not the case tonight!
Day 2 – Wednesday, June 23
I’m getting lonely and it’s only day two. The wind is averaging 10-20 knots and it’s still in the same direction. Now the Single Sideband isn’t working, so no weather reports other than the ones I am still getting from Bermuda Radio. My VHF can receive up to about 100 miles away. Things don’t feel good. The weather report is for 5-10 overnight….I guess I was too far out for an accurate weather report. I saw 20 solid knots over night and squall after squall. Multiple reefs in the main and jib. This is really starting to worry me. Too many things aren’t working properly and I’m not well prepared for this. There also seemed to be a requirement for all of the flying fish to commit suicide on deck tonight. I had to pick them out of the cockpit. The smell is awful! Like being in a fish market that is past due on a bath, and they’re slippery little suckers for sure.
Day 3 – Thursday, June 24
Last night was a very bumpy ride. I could really use some sleep, but that won’t be the case. I am also feeling very uncomfortable about all of the equipment not working and the high winds we’ve been experiencing. Add to this that my foul weather gear is shot. My boots hurt and I’m soaked to the bone every night. I’ve been thinking about the risky position I have put myself into. The mental exhaustion, the electronic equipment failures that I rely on, the gear to keep me dry and warm and not hypothermic and the lack of communication I have with the rest of the world should I need help.
Day 4 – Friday, June 25
The conditions are getting worse and worse. The weather is just blasting through. 20 – 30 knots all the time and lots of pounding at night with twenty to thirty foot waves. Every night there are multiple squalls. Fortunately there is also a moon, so I get the full benefit of seeing the magnitude of the cloud formations and the squall lines as they are nicely back lit by the moon. Scary stuff. Add to that the fact that my calculations on how long to finish the run are grossly incorrect. Looks like I will need an extra four days at a minimum. I don’t have enough food. Time to make a decision. This isn’t worth life risking stuff. I call Paul and tell him I’m heading the boat for Annapolis (north west), and not finishing the full miles for the run. It’s not worth the risk. I called my sailing partner Nick who did the race to Bermuda with me and asked him to find a spot at the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay where I could pull in once I got in.
The Bay is a plethora of traffic, tide / current, weather action, Naval air strike training targets, fishing nets that are legal and lit and ones that are illegal and not lit, and tremendous shallow areas. I was spent and I didn’t need an extra 125 miles of pain just to get to the trailer.
Day 5 – Saturday, June 26
The winds are so strong today that not only are the waves cresting and breaking, but I can literally see the wind blowing the tops off of some of them. I’m seeing things I’ve only ever read about. Glad I made the decision to head home. Still going to be a long slog but it won’t be as long as it should have been.
Saturday night I saw the wind meter hit 40+ knots. After that I stopped looking. I have never been scared on a boat like I was that night. I half expected the boat to role over or the mast to snap under the pressure. 3 reefs in the main and no headsail at all, and it was all I could do to keep the boat 45 degrees (ish) to the wind and the waves to make sure we didn’t get rolled and still keep some steerage control. Without a headsail it’s difficult, but there was no way I was going on deck to deal with that.
Day 6 – Sunday, June 27
Saturday night’s God fearing storm seemed to be on the edge of the Gulf stream. As I worked my way out of the stream, the sun came up and the breeze slowed up. I think I passed the test and was shown the way out.
I have had a lot of time to think about all of this. As scary as it was, I think it was a VERY valuable lesson. What did I learn? For as much sailing as I have done, I am not prepared yet to do 1,000 miles. I have a HUGE list of things to further prepare myself so that I am properly in shape to attack conditions like this and win the round. More training is on the schedule, more time on the boat is scheduled and more support around the electronics and the gear on the boat is scheduled.
I can do another qualifier. It’s certainly not the end of the world having not completed this one. The class will allow me another go at it. When I get back to Toronto, the team and I will meet and we’ll decide the best approach to take. Everything in life happens for a reason, you just need to recognize the reason and act on it. Lots of people that I have met along the coast and in Bermuda say “keep safe” at the end of conversations where you and I would say “see you later”. I like “keep safe”.
I’m very proud of what the OGOC team and I have accomplished to date. We’ve secured a fantastic boat, competed and performed very well, learned the next phase of the game, and ultimately “kept safe”. I’ll let you all know how we decide to do the next round for the qualifier. In the meantime it’s the LO300 July 17th, in the single handed division.
10pm, Monday June 28
Diane reports: Hi and dry I am! Here’s the quick and dirty as I don’t know when I will get a wifi.
We can tell people I’m in safe and sound. It was the worst conditions I have ever seen.
10pm Saturday June 26
Paul talked to Diane Saturday afternoon: Through the worst of it: 30 knots on the nose. All reefs in all sails were in. 30 foot waves.
Diane made it through the weather and sailing is better now. She is still about 220miles out.
10:30am Friday June 25, 2010
Received a telephone from Paul, Diane’s Shore Crew and ever lovin’ husband. Apparently there was some trouble calling me.
Paul reports: Diane is doing well. There has been a change in the qualifying course. It should be a quicker ride for Diane, with more favorable winds. The spot tracker takes a special type of battery and do not expect any updates from it.
8:30pm Wednesday June 23
Diane sat-phoned again: The nearly full moon is up and it looks like a beautiful night of moon light sailing. Been getting a few naps along the way. Want to do more hand steering through the night – both practice and to save battery power. Earlier in the day, I saw a few dolphins and as much as 18 knots of breeze. Currently there is 8-10 knots of wind and I’m beating (sailing into the wind) on port tack.
Diane has the Spot Tracker but not the instructions. She’s able to send out “OK” signals by manually activating the device. But not yet getting the unit to automatically broadcast tracking reports. Ground support is working on it.
5pm Wednesday June 23
Diane sat-phoned late Tuesday and announced: I’m on my way, left the start mark at 3:45pm (Toronto time) and heading for “ODAS 41002” being an Anchored Oceanographic Data Buoy.
One of Monday’s repairs was to re run the bungees on the running backstays. On the way to the start, I noticed I had hooked one of the bungees around the spinnaker halyard. I extended the pole, dropped the runner so the bungee would hand down, climbed onto the boom, wedged myself between the mast and lower shroud, stretched as high as 5 feet 2 inches can reach and snagged the bungee. Managed to re run it correctly, releasing the trapped halyard.
Tuesday morning, Diane called twice: Lots of activity over night, two flying fish landed on the deck, passed a freighter and spend some time dodging the tail end of the fleet pulling in from the Newport Bermuda Race.
Having a bit of trouble with the Spot Tracker, probably operator error.
Tim again: Fired up Google Maps and put in the way points of Diane’s Solo Run. It is my intention to update her location about once per day, from the Spot Tracker data, drawing a simple track line. Probably do it in conjunction with her sat-phone update blog entries. Was into the local UK Halsey loft this afternoon. Not only is Brian and company one of Diane’s OGOC sponsors, they have my genoa with spreader tip puncture and damaged clew, torn in last night’s club race.
10am Tuesday June 22
Tim again. There is a larger write up about Diane’s One Girl Ocean Challange’s running of the Bermuda Ocean Race at Sail-World entitled One Girl’s Ocean Challange does the Bermuda Ocean Race. It includes a great photo of OGOC dwarfed by one of the competitors.
11pm Sunday June 20
Sunday was clean up the boat day. Monday is do a few minor repairs day.
Tuesday will be the start of my 1,000 nautical mile solo run from Bermuda to Annapolis. This run, sanctioned by the Minis Class is a significant qualifier for next year’s Transat race (France to Brazil) for One Girl’s Ocean Challenge.
As it’s not a race, don’t be surprised if I’m not quite that fast and take a few extra cat naps along the way. The Annapolis to Bermuda race was training. This solo run is a different type of training.
I’ll have the spot tracker on the boat so you can follow the progress.
I look forward to sharing more when I get to Toronto!
11pm Saturday June 19
Well it’s been an amazing run. The last day of the race was truly the best. As you all know most of the race was up hill with occasional opportunites for the code 0 and no opportunities for spinnaker runs. Thursday was the first time we were able to get our big kite up and let her stretch her legs. On Wednesday we were getting worried that Nick wouldn’t make his plane on Saturday, but once the kite was up we started really knocking off the miles.
The skipper’s meeting forecast predicted south and south west winds for most of the race. Can you imagine how fast our little boat would have gone if she had her favorite wind! We were having sooo much fun coming into Bermuda with the kite up and cranking her on any wave we could, that we didn’t notice our heading change. We could have missed Bermuda entirely! Apparently Nick and I get easily distracted!
All of the competitors slowly trickled in and cleared Customs House. The stories started to flow and so did the rum!
There were three boats in our double handed division, even though they listed us seperately in the Mini division. Razor’s Edge retired shortly after the start. The second boat “Quicksilver” a C+C 37R really showed their skills right at the finish. About 60 miles out from Bermuda they suffered a rudder delamination. They turned their wheel and nothing would happen! Imagine a jury rig from the water, under the boat! Well done guys. They still beat us in to the finish line, but Retired After the Finish as they possibly had done the course incorrectly. These guys really deserve a Corinthian trophy for not only effecting a massive repair, but also for coming to the race committee and retiring. You guys are tops with me! I really respect you.
Well it all came together at the awards party. One Girl’s Ocean Challenge won “Double Handed Division First to Finish” and “Double Handed Division First Place Corrected Time”.
It was a great run and now it’s time to get ready for the next run. Well have a great night everyone!
I will send an update after the party tonight, but in the meantime the boat is safely in her slip, we had a great fish fry at the St. George’s yacht club and slept well in the hotel last night.