Thursday, August 21, 2008

8/21/08 Signs of Land

We are surfing downwind wing-and-wing at 7-8 kts with winds blowing 20-25 from the W and seas of 5-8 with an occasional 10. We just sighted land and all the trimmings – a seagull, the lighthouse at Pt Reyes, and Sandy studying a chart SHOWING LAND! We are heading for the Gate which we expect to cross at rush hour for those confined to cars - between 16:30-17:00. That plus a 3 knot flood at the Gate puts us back in business! See you dockside.

A Message from the Skipper

hard for me to believe that we will be making the dock in emeryville this afternoon. it's been a very long trip that has gone by way too fast, one that i don't want to end but i know it must. this trip was two years in the making for me... it was "my thing", david and i decided, shortly after the return from paccup '06. two years of preparation of the boat, the trip, and the crew. what we couldn't guess was exactly how the return would go - there were so many possible outcomes. here i am, almost dockside, almost meeting my husband and children like i stated in this blog what seems like a lifetime ago, and i can barely contain the fullness and the simplicity of my emotions. when we set out 15 days ago it felt like stepping off the edge. compromise was the single known entity, having proven herself to be tough as nails during the race. i am always so proud of her. over the years she's proven to be a member of the family. she has taken care of us so many times; oh, the stories we could tell (at another time). the big unknown was my crew. i had grown increasing uneasy about setting sail knowing so little about their abilities. accordingly, the first night matt and i pulled two on/two off watches in difficult sailing conditions - squalls, high, shifty winds, rain showers and little sleep were the nightly menu for the first 5 nights or so. matt was indoctrinated immediately, and called upon time and again to handle the various crises that cropped up. so capable, so dependable. lorraine proved herself to be up to the challenge very quickly; no surprise considering her extensive sailing resume which includes the global challenge (round the world sailboat race) in '04 -'05. what set lorraine aside for me very quickly was her unwavering calm and cheerfulness in the face of adversity. try reefing/dropping/configuring sails in the middle of the night during a squall and then try being cheerful! i love it! dave t., having only begun sailing a few years ago, more than making up for his inexperience with his dedication and enthusiasm, quickly followed some days later due in large part to some pretty grueling watches. i make landfall this afternoon with a crew that i completely trust with the safety of compromise. this crew has made the voyage so meaningful to me, and so fun. it's been a lot of hard work for all, and we've had a lot of laughs. i'm sure it is common for one to arrive on the boat before setting sail with more baggage than you can carry (metaphor), but issues have remained subsurface and i've watched each crewmember put the boat first. i couldn't be happier with them, or more proud of them. and what a pleasure the last two weeks have been.

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8/21/08 Almost Home

We are definitely back. Fog has welcomed us back to Northern California obscuring our ability to see those really big container ships barreling along at 30 kts. I watched the radar from the port side cockpit bench while Matt surveyed the water. Approximately 1/4 mile visibility – not pea soup but enough to keep you on your toes with visions of the bow of a ship appearing on your stern. Sandy passed up what looked like a plastic party horn left over from the halfway party. Turned out to be a Skyblazer foghorn to be sounded at two-minute intervals blowing for 4 seconds at a time. We did not have to use it as we are still some distance away from the lanes but Sandy and Dave E have used it before when entering the Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge in dense fog. In our case all 3 night watches passed without any sightings, which is a good thing. Probably won't be crossing shipping lanes until sometime this afternoon. Nonetheless it is wise to be vigilant. Coast Guard just came over the VHF announcing low visibility outside the Gate. Hopefully it will burn off by this afternoon. Then again, the fog always seems to suck into the bay in the late afternoon.

Had a very cool sighting last night. We could hear splashing on either side of the boat that was too far to be either a bow or stern wake. Looking more closely, we could see a line of bioluminescence running through the water like a torpedo ending with a splash – a pod (?) of porpoises was swimming alongside us in the night. Show lasted for about 15 minutes then they took off for another venue.

The winds have continued to be uncooperative pushing back our time of arrival. I won't speculate as Sandy has the numbers and needs time to compute them. We are probably looking at a late afternoon/early evening docking at Emery Cove. Sounds a lot like a local weather forecast. (Today will have sun with some chance of clouds and rain. Pack an umbrella and some shorts).

I worked on a couple lists of things I remember and things I won't miss.
Things I Remember:
-The capillary waves that wrinkle the ocean.

-The roller coaster ride of reaching in wind blowing 20-25 and seas of 8-10 feet.

-Driving at night under a full moon with the moonbeam lighting our course.

-Seeing the Orion constellation reflected in the water.

-Knot tying lessons.

-5:00 cocktail hour – ration 1 ESB and some loud Tom Petty.

-Solving the problems of the world between 24:00 and 04:00.

-The Compromise Curtsy.

-Motoring through the High Pressure system on a glassy lake of water.

Things I Won't Miss:
-Reusing Ziplock baggies in the head. Enough said . . . too much said.

-Putting my PFD on backwards when half asleep in the middle of the night. Continually misnaming it a PDF, something my crewmates won't ever let me live down (thanks Adobe).

-Washing dishes in saltwater.

-Waking to the thug-a-thug-a-thug-a-thug of the diesel midway through my off-duty rest period.

-Pumping diesel from a full starboard jerry can in rolling seas.


-Babywipe showers.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

8/20/08 200 Nautical Miles from the Gate

The winds died down last night about sunset, to 8 –10 kts. Still in rolling seas with the wind right behind us, a terrible angle to sail as the speed drops to 3 knots and the boat rocks unCompromisingly back and forth, shaking the rigging as the sail hits the stops to starboard and port over and over and over…. Start up the diesel, drop the sails, and we are motoring until the winds kick in again. We are about 160 nm W of the Farallon Islands which we may pass tomorrow around noon. Sandy went over the grib file with me which show we need to motor another 140 nm before we get winds blowing 15 knts out of the N/NW putting us on a broad reach. That should happen sometime this evening. Sandy uses a divider, a compass-like tool, to measure distance on the chart. A degree of latitude equals 60 miles (anywhere on the globe) and a degree of longitude at our current latitude is ~ 65 nm. Our estimated time of arrival at Emery Cove is sometime in the afternoon Thursday, August 21st!

Today feels a little like Christmas Eve given the anticipation of arrival. Plans for a last dinner meal are being made and final messages being written. For the past 2300 miles, we have been sailing in the wide open waters of the Pacific noting only two ships in the distance. Now as we close in on the shipping lanes, we have to be extra aware of the large cargo/container ships traveling at 30 knts and looming large – kind of like entering Boston after a pleasant drive in the country.

~11 gallons of diesel pumped into the fuel port leaving us with 2 more 5-gallon jerry cans which we will pump tomorrow morning before entering the Bay.

With HAL doing the driving, we have time for on-deck chores. Matt has already sewn nets into the bottom of the cup holders at the binnacle which will now be able to hold a bottle of ESB. He's also whipping the ends of the lines which prevents them from becoming frayed. And in Matt's words, "It looks pretty." An aesthete as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wake Up Time

We have been listening to Tom Petty quite a bit - a definite favorite. This one is from Wildflowers.

You follow your feelings, you follow your dreams
You follow the leader into the trees
And what's in there waiting, neither one of us knows
You gotta keep one eye open the further you go
You never dreamed you'd go down on one knee, but now
Who could have seen, you'd be so hard to please somehow

You feel like a poor boy, a long way from home
You're just a poor boy, a long way from home

And it's wake up time
Time to open your eyes
And rise and shine

You spend your life dreaming, running 'round in a trance
You hang out forever and still miss the dance
And if you get lucky, you might find someone
To help you get over the pain that will come
Yeah, you were so cool back in high school, what happened
You were so sure not to have your spirits dampened

But you're just a poor boy alone in this world
You're just a poor boy alone in this world

And it's wake up time
Time to open your eyes
And rise and shine

Well, if he gets lucky, a boy finds a girl
To help him to shoulder the pain in this world
And if you follow your feelings
And you follow your dreams
You might find the forest there in the trees
Yeah, you'll be alright, it's just gonna take time, but now
Who could have seen you'd be so hard to please somehow

You're just a poor boy a long way from home
You're just a poor boy a long way from home

And it's wake up time
Time to open your eyes
And rise and shine

'Cause it's wake up time
It's time to open your eyes
And rise and shine

Words from the 4th

Yes, that's right, this is the fourth guy on the crew making a late appearance on our blogspot. Being this late in the "game", I don't feel like there's much to say that hasn't already been said. Personally this has been a horribly successful trip who's end is all too near, however we all knew returning to the real world was an inevitability. In these final days aboard, I continuously wonder about how this trip has or will change me and/or my life. I don't feel like much has changed thus far; I've always felt confident in my skills and mental state of mind to take something like this on. Despite those facts, I would have to say remaining patient has been one of my biggest challenges. Sure, you have to understand that you're in an ever changing environment that is rarely going to cater to your wants and needs, but you are also in a very small, controlled environment aboard a 37 foot boat. Yeah, an unfortunate wind shift or light air might set you back on your ETA by a few hours or a day, but if your not on the same page as your fellow crew members, those hours or that day could seem a lot longer. I know we have all made "Compromises" and sacrifices when it has come to doing what's best for the boat and the crew; such things as taking an undesirable watch without complaint, cooking in a cramped galley only to be stuck there even longer to do the evenings dishes, keeping a tight lip when one recommends something you strongly disagree with, and as you can surely imagine, the list could expand exponentially! But, we've conquered the threshold and are now down to our last couple of days, and even if no one wants to admit it, down to our last couple of nerves as well! I hope you've enjoyed this small insight into our even smaller world on the Pacific Ocean. See you all portside!!

The Fourth Crew

8/19/08 A Double-header

Game time: 20:00-24:00
Last night's double-header against the Brewers was a study in contrasts. The Milwaukee bats were silent during the first game so you didn't need to bring your best stuff. A great night at the yard when you can kick back at Pac Bell, have a dog and some beer, and relax as the ballpark shines. In our case, winds are blowing 10-15 with a gentle swell following Compromise. The blood-red moon turns orange then white and rises directly on our bow at 050 degrees magnetic with a moonbeam lighting the Pacific like a runway. Not too hard to stay on course when nature is so kind. We trade off going up to the bow pulpit with feet over the rail staring at the magnificence of this game. Thank you Mr. McGowan for putting a partnership together and saving the Giants.

Game time: 04:00-08:00
Game two was a thing apart. Sandy is our Matt Morris, a leader in the bullpen whom the Giants should have never traded. She gives us the pre-game warm-up: winds now blowing 15-20 kts with gusts up to 28 AND FOLLOWING SEAS. Oh , and I forgot to mention we are flying wing-and-wing. Matt Mauer is indisputably our Timmy Lindsecum, an ace pitcher who is golden and will be worth a lot of money when he becomes a free agent. Hopefully he won't sell out for a big contract and pitch for the hated Yankees. Lorraine Palmer has all five pitches and can be depended on for a win. And then there's me, a rookie from the farm with one solid pitch (driving upwind); 5th man in the rotation on a 4-man crew (give me a little creative license). Good enough to stay in the rotation but you wouldn't lay down good money to see me pitch.

The Brewer's manager changed things up in game two stacking the line-up with all following seas hitting over 300. This time the bats weren't silent. Compromise, a boat that is wide at the beam, is rocking and rolling in the following seas. A good driver compensates for this motion keeping the boat under the mast. A driver with a bad downwind pitch tends to accentuate this motion. I got rocked by the seas crapping out my ERA. For non-baseball folks, a high ERA (earned run average) is a bad thing for a pitcher and will get you sent back down to the farm squad in Stockton. Fortunately the following seas diminished in the bottom of the 6th inning as my pitches finally hit their mark. Winds blowing 20 and fun is had by all. Matt estimates we did 40 nm during game two. Not a pretty game but you take a win anyway you can get one.