December 5, 2013
Where did we last leave off on this mighty adventure of pushing a 21 foot sled solo across the Atlantic Ocean?
After our 68 hour technical stopover in Portugal we said our goodbyes, cast off lines and pointed the bow to Lanzarote. We (the boat, Jack our mascot and I) were well behind the fleet at this point but still in the race with a chance to pick up a few boats. Even along the coast of Portugal I was wearing thermals, midlayers and a dry suit! When was it going to warm up?
The first 24 hours were a test of the new batteries. The power charged up nicely during the sunny day and at night fell as low as 12.4 but we were running with everything lit up. There was also some nice code 5 spinnaker flying and great boat speed! ten knots….12 knots! Woohooo let’s catch up some boats!
Mid afternoon of the 19th we were screaming along in 20 knots of wind. The pilot was driving beautifully. All of a sudden the needle on the wind instrument went dead. In 2o knots of wind, the display was reading 5 knots of wind and no direction. This was definitely annoying. It’s not impossible to run a boat without wind information, but it’s very very dangerous in heavy wind conditions and it certainly isn’t fast! But, I had a second vane onboard from my great friends at Raymarine and tomorrow’s wind was going to ease to 10-12 knots and it would be decent rig climbing conditions to swap out the units. I was pretty sure that after having dumped the existing wind vane in the drink frequently while getting knocked down, that I probably had a significant amount of corrosion at the connection point. It was also possible that infact I had chaffed through the cable for the windvane inside the mast. Earlier on I had lost part of the functionality of my mast head tri-light and I wondered if infact I had now chaffed through the wind vane cable also? So a plan was hatched to climb the rig in two days when the wind and sea state dropped.
Two days later the sun came up and the wind died along with the swell. Perfect! Time to collect the tools, wind vane and everything I might possibly need. While I was sitting in the cockpit sorting my equipment, a flat little round disc caught my eye. It was about the size of a pea, very oxidized with a tiny little hole right in the middle of it and just lying there on the cockpit floor. ”What the heck is that” I thought, and just as I leaned over to further inspect it I realized what it was and I said “oh crap…..where did you come from?” It was the head of a rivet. I looked at the boom with great anticipation that a rivet on the end of the boom had degraded out of the casting. There was no such luck. My next fear was confirmed when I looked up the mast. I was on port tack. The main nicely leaning out the starboard side of the boat and the port side of the upper spreader bracket was banging back and forth against the mast. The rivet head I was holding in my hand had sprung off of the cast piece when the casting broke. There were still two rivets holding it to the mast but if I didn’t act quickly, I would risk the mast falling down.
Immediately I tacked, taking all the load off the damaged side, then dropped the main to properly assess the state of affairs. The cast piece was split into two pieces. The quickest solution was to straighten the mast by adjusting the rig tuning and runner and check stays and compress the broken fitting holding it in place. I could use my small spinnaker and genoa but I would be without a main and 350 miles to the Canary Islands and maybe…just maybe I would be able to effect repairs with enough time to get started again. I only had four hours left for technical repairs. A quick calculation of my position and estimated time of arrival would take me approximately 3 days to get in. I also new that there was a big risk if I stopped in the Canaries. The risk was that I would run out of technical stopover time and be so far behind the fleet that for safety reasons the race director would deny me access to restarting.
So with that in mind I lashed the main to the boom, hoisted the genoa and storm jib and pointed for the Canaries. If the weather degraded I would reduce to a storm jib only. If the wind shifted to the west I would have to go to Africa instead. Always a plan and fingers crossed. With that I reached out and pressed the black button on the race transponder indicating to the race organizers “I have a problem but I am ok”.
When I arrived to Lanzarote it was midnight. A mile offshore from the harbour entrance I was sailing downwind into a bay with no ability to tack. I had been hoping to arrive during daylight and to get towed straight to a seawall where I could repair the bracket and then head off again. Lanzarote is a volcano. Because I arrived at night, I was at risk of being tied up to the seawall for hours until the shops opened. I couldn’t drop anchor. I was in 450 feet of water, drifting into a bay with rocks all around and a seabed that shallowed to 60 feet literally in the mouth of the harbour. This volcano wasn’t being very helpful. My tow in from MRCC Las Palmas meant I tied up at 0230 or so in the morning and my clock would run out about 0730 in the morning. Even with an email to the Race Director, I knew that this was my finish line. At 0930 the Race Director confirmed what I expected. Due to the expiration of my technical stopover time and the fact that I was now days behind the fleet and the nearest support boat, I was denied restarting the race.
This has been an amazing journey. It’s been the toughest thing I have ever done in my life! We may not have crossed the finish line in Guadeloupe but we have achieved some amazing accomplishments along the way. The weather conditions of this race were some of the toughest in recent history. The mental exhaustion of starting, stopping, starting and stopping were staggering. Some competitors abandoned before crossing the start line because of the conditions. The prospect of arriving to the Canaries and encuring a $10,000 shipping bill to get the boat home to Canada made me sick. But….we managed to plow through 30 and 40 knots of wind, upwind in the Bay of Biscay in a horrible sea state all the way to Gijon Spain, trudge along the coast of Spain for a restart in Sada and finally cranked our way around the treacherous and infamous Cape Finister. The rig wasn’t lost and there was no emergency rescue at sea. Over the years our team has generated some wonderful business partners and a return on investment for them. We’ve also been massively supported by the local sailing community including a great community effort now to secure the money needed to bring the boat home. We’ve even managed to inspire classrooms of school children along the way.
I am incredibly proud of our accomplishments. Thank you for being part of this amazing journey and having fun along the way.
Now…..what’s next? hahahaha :-)
Sunday December 1, 2013
It’s been a pretty busy week in Lanzarote. Diane found herself in interesting company. Six other mini racers dropped out of the race there. You know, the kind of people who think racing across an ocean in a 21 foot boat seems like fun. They’re all facing the similar problems: cell phones, computer & other gear have all been sent on to Guadeloupe and The Big One: how to get their minis back home.
It’s Tim again – pulling together some of Diane’s eMails and texts from the past couple of days. The foyer & computer are doing well, but pictures… not so much. Or at least, the connections haven’t supported sending them. Trust they’ll arrive with Diane this week.
Although the minis are designed, and the fleet has grown with and for this particular single handed race across the Atlantic, the boats are simply not suited for such undertakings without being part of a fleet, along with accompanying support vessels. ”Richard Hewson, myself and the other mini sailors here are working on a bit of a plan. There are 6 of us in total who are needing to move our boats off of this rock.
“Looks like we can have the boats ready for shipping by the end of the week. I am graciously being housed by Rich at the moment. Basically we’ve ended up with almost free accommodations for 5 nights (20 euros a night). If I can have the boat in a container and ready to go by the end of the week that would be ideal and I can fly home. I believe we check out of here on Friday, but I will double check. At that point sleeping on the boat is not an option as it will be in a container, so I may have to find a place to stay for a night or two pending flights etc.
“Just for a little scale on fees here for yard stuff, when we ordered the travel crane to come in to lift the boats out of the water and lift off of the keels, the yard was very cautious because of the very expensive crane times at 35 euros an hour. I didn’t want to tell them what our crane costs were back home!” Other than crane time, Lanzarote has proven a pretty expensive place – most everything has to be imported. This comes on top of the heavy weather budgetary damage from a month of delay on the Bay of Biscay.
Diane did plan for many eventualities on this program, but seems to have overlooked one set of personal gear: ”Did I mention that I am welding tomorrow? Had to buy boots, pants and a shirt for welding. I finally get to an island where it’s warm and sunny and I need to layer up! hahahaha” Glad Diane isn’t welding in her foulies – no idea their fire retardant properties – most manufactures are moot on that point and I’m not in the least bit optimistic.
Steel had to be purchased, but after being victorious in a bamboozling that would make Tom Sawyer proud, Diane was able to use the welding equipment. Diane continues: “I´ve stolen a computer from the Port office. These guys are way too kind!
“The cradles are essentially built. Rich and I are working on this together with his and my boat. We will fit the boats with the forklift tomorrow [Thursday], place the splashes in place and then finish the welding.
“I was welding on my knees from 0900 to 2000… It was a very long day. Tomorrow I will speak to Melanie in the port office to get the container on site. She said it would be easy to do.
“The boat is in it’s cradle! I tell ya, just the story alone of building and welding and fiberglassing cradles on a sea wall in the Canaries, with limited resources and the kindness of the shipyard to loan us tools is an amazing story on it’s own. The french boys here have been a bit in awe. Particularly when we loaded the boats today into the cradles and they actually somewhat fit… we got the respectful nod of achievement from the French boys. They have opted to pay someone to go to France and bring their shipping cradles, and then pay another company to ship their boats back. It’s going to cost them at least 10k euros for the shipping and then another 2 or 3 k for yard fees for crane time etc.
“The container has arrived. The boat is loaded in the cradle and ready to load into the container. The mast has stripped and washed down. This afternoon I will strap the mast up inside the container for shipping. The port is closed today [Sunday] so no fork lift to load the boat.
The mini sailors aren’t the only people dealing with gear failure in the Canaries: “The travel lift is broken.” As Diane’s out of the water, it wouldn’t seem to be a big issue for her, save: “The forklift is stuck behind the travel lift, with an RC 44 keel on it. Rumour is that the travel lift won’t be fixed until Monday night. With that in mind, I have asked Wes (owns one of the shipyards here) if he would load my boat once the forklift can be accessed.
“It’s just such a tricky load that I would rather be here for it, but having said that, I really don’t want to change my flight for something that the yard should be able to do.
“Wes has agreed. He’s a super guy. There will be a fee of course, but it makes sense. Plus, if for any reason my cradle and boat won’t fit, he’s more than capable of pulling the boat off, rejigging the cradle and putting the puzzle back together again. Let’s cross our fingers that everything fits! We have worked very, very hard to try to keep the boats within their shipping tolerances. The problem is that the tolerances are about 2cm. Not much to spare. I’ve also told Wes about the crazy no wood etc. requirements so that the shipment won’t get rejected. He´s familiar with the rules.
I have no idea what stories will transpire in Diane getting off the island and on to a flight home. Will she follow in the foot steps of The Castaways and Tom Hanks? Shore crew is standing by for arrivals logistics on Tuesday. Tim here: and I’m getting ready to blog-off on the assumption Diane returns according to plan. It’s been a lot of fun, waaaay more educational than I imagined and I have enjoyed the many great reader comments.
Even without Diane, the Mini Transat race has continued. This evening, on the 19th day of racing, a well fought victory will arrive in Guadeloupe. It is very exciting. There is a How To Track Arrivals page as well, Fleet Tracking will be updated more frequently while boats are finishing. It is one heck of a race!
And today’s last words are from Diane: “Finally, thanks everyone for the massive work on ‘let’s get the girl home’. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it!”
Tuesday November 26, 2013
Diane mentioning the internet in Lanzarote wasn’t as fast as she might like, observed “I need to go to bed before I launch this computer across the expansive marble foyer”. While Diane is hunting for WiFi connections, in the hopes of sending a picture, it’s Tim blogging again.
The Star, Toronto’s largest circulation has item about the race committee’s decision that Diane was not allowed to continue the Mini Transat. It is a follow up from last week’s piece on Diane sailing in under jury rig.
Diane’s home club, Ashbridges Bay Yacht Club, acknowledged Diane at the Racing Awards Banquet last Saturday. Diane was awarded the Rear Commodore’s Commendation for Courage & Perseverance. The recognition was accompanied by a bottle of Goslings Black Seal rum. When asked if the rum was belated recognition of Diane’s win in the Bermuda 1-2, RC Paul Brennan laughed and referenced the many Dark & Stormy nights on the Bay of Biscay. Diane is gratified with the commendation. And her support team are gratified she’s offered to share when she returns.
“Thank you Ashbridges Bay for all of your continuing Support” -Diane
November 25, 2013
Firstly, thank you so very much to everyone out there who has been following along and sharing all of your heart warming messages of encouragement! I spoke with our race director through email and he has confirmed that I have run out of time under the rules of “technical stopover” to be able to carry on with the race. He also raised the issue of safety as an additional concern. Even if I had the time to do the repairs, I would be three days behind the closest support boat and a day behind the closest competitor who left this port this morning. There is a high pressure system floating over us right now, but there is a weather bomb of a low that will drop in and when it hits I would be far far out of range of conventional safety and rescue measures if something again went wrong. As the Mini Classe rules don’t allow for communication, the race organizers need to take this into account when making decisions. So for adhering to the “technical stopover” race rules of 72 hours and for additional safety concerns, my Mini Transat race has finished here in Puerto Calero, Lanzarote. I will post a full story of the events as soon as I can get the pics and stuff off of my camera.
The good news is that I have some footage of flying my code 5 in 27 knots of wind and some pictures and stuff to share of the 1500 miles I have done from the top of France to here. Once I can get back to the boat and get some good computer time I will try to sort sharing with you all. In the meantime, I need to figure out how to get the boat back to Canada. It’s probably going to cost about $10,000….a cost I wasn’t planning on having to incur as I was meant to be sailing to Miami to bring the boat home. If anyone has any connections or resources to move a mini in an overheight container from the Canary Islands to Canada or the United States, I would be happy to entertain!
Sunday November 24, 2013
Diane writes: I’m in Puerto Calero and tied up to the dock. I am about to send the Race Organizer a note to find out my status. In short, I have broken another spreader bracket and I am still having trouble with power on the boat. I can live without power on the boat as long as there is sunshine during the days to give me enough to get through the night. I will let you all know what the race officer says.
My biggest worry is in fact, there would be too big a gap between myself and the rest of the fleet (if I can restart) and that it would therefore be unsafe to restart again. There are several minis here and one at least is leaving today and one of the accompanying boats left yesterday.
As to the rig damage: I couldn’t tack and I couldn’t turn the boat around without risking losing the rig. The broken spreader bracket was the top one on the port side. The only reason the mast stayed up was because I was able to straighten the mast and pull the checkstays on, causing the mast to compress the broken fitting which still had some rivets holding. But this meant that with both checkstays on I couldn’t hoist the main. The reason the mast didn’t fall down was that I was very fortunate with the weather in that I could do the 300 miles on one tack slightly off the wind.
I was extrememly lucky that there wasn’t any bad weather and that the wind blew from the north west to literally blow me into port. Sailed the 300 miles under jib alone and just barely made it to Peurto Calero. I was told there would be someone here to tow me in. But because I got in so late, everyone had gone home and there was just a security guard here. Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre Las Palmas (MRCC) actually asked me if I could just wait until this morning when everything opened up. Eventually MRCC sent the rescue launch to tow me in the two miles to shore.
Anyway, I am fine, very frustrated and very sad but I will survive
And… I will let you all know what the race officer says.
Sunday November 24, 2013
Diane made the turn inside the harbour wall at 3:50am local time (10:50pm Toronto). Have yet to hear from her directly. When we do…
Welcome Ashore Diane!
You can interact with this Google “chart” directly, or click the link below to open it in a full sized window.
View OGOC: In Puerto Calero, Lanzarote, Canary Islands in a larger map
Saturday November 23, 2013
Fleet tracking is done for the day – last update at 8pm local time, being 2pm in Toronto. It shows Diane off the east coast of Lanzarote, about 25 nm from Puerto Calero, making 4.9 knots, in ten knots of wind out of the north.
Friday November 22, 2013
The Star, Toronto’s largest circulation daily newspaper has a piece on Diane. It’s a good read for its reminders about the minimalist nature of the boats and the years of work & tough sailing it takes to qualify for the start line, including a classic Diane quote: “What could be more amazing than racing single handed over 4300 nautical miles…..solo, on a boat you can fit in your living room and scream downwind at 20 knots!”
Fleet Tracking sees Diane making 4.9 knots under jury rig, in 14 knots of NW wind, about 120 nm NNE or Puerto Calero, Lanzarote in the Canaries. With the race restrictions on communications in place, details remain thin.
There is a pair of high pressure systems, south or the Azores. Mini Transat news reports the bulk of the fleet has slowed down in the lighter winds. The forecast (en francais & you’ll need the weather zone chart) suggests these slow moving highs will dominate the weather for the next few days.
So… what are your plans for Saturday night?
Here is another Google “chart” you can interact with directly. Diane’s position is not automatically updated. Use the link below to open a larger chart.
View Diane: 120 NM To Puerto, Calero in a larger map
Wednesday November 20, 2013 – 300 Miles North East of the Canaries
MiniTransat has been in contact with some sad news. Diane is OK. The boat has been dismasted.
Mini Transat news reports: The Canadian sailor informed the race management, through a cargo ship which was passing nearby, that her mast has broken. She has not requested assistance and just wants to be supported upon her arrival in Lanzarote. She triggered the button on board to indicate that all is well.
Tim here. I’ve personally raced as Diane’s crew for years. Her perseverance inspires awe in me. And I can think of more than one long distance race where her perseverance has come in inspiring and unexpected ways. Obviously disappointed at the set back and greatly relieved Diane is fine. I take some small comfort and can see “my skipper” shining through in her decision to sail to the Canaries under jury rig.
Go Diane Go!
November 18, 2013
As foreshadowed in yesterday’s update, a much happier mini has been splashed and Diane has restarted the race, well within the 72 hour limit for technical stops. The local land based AIS tracker is showing Diane at sea making 8.1 knots at 204°T for the Canaries. Expect Mini Transat’s Fleet Tracking will show her on their next update.
Sail smart. Sail fast!