About to leave Cape Town

It’s the wee hours of Friday night and I am again sleepless. Sunday is departure day for Leg 3 race to Fremantle in Western Australia. The sail is expected to be 3 weeks and some days. I am not alone in my fears of the weather and conditions that we may expect.

We thought we had experienced the full range of conditions in our two leg 1 races from London to Portimao Portugal and then the much longer Atlantic Crossing to Punte Del Este Uruguay. However on Leg 2, the second of the race’s three Atlantic crossings, we experienced days on end of close reaching or close hauled upwind sailing in winds mostly north of 20 knots often in the high 20’s to low 30’s. Many crew had serious falls or other injuries to contend with. This includes me when I was moving around the nav station area and lost my hand grip and took a backwards fall into the low side and banged some l

I right hand side ribs on that nav station. Banged up ribs just take long time to get better as I still have some pain.

As skipper Nick Leggatt on boat Zhuhai tells it: “This was my 44th crossing of the Atlantic. I remember the first one in 1985, where I crossed Punta del Este to Cape Town. We had storm force conditions and I thought I’d never forget that trip. But since then, the only one that has come anywhere close has been this one and it topped it. It was pretty bad out there.”

People we have met here in Cape Town have told us tidbits of the local conditions here such as these. 1: The winds are usually blowing like crazy or not at all. 2: The beach water temperatures are warmer in winter than summer. This is because the summer winds come down off Table Mountain and drive the surface water out to sea allowing the colder deeper warmer to rise and take its place.

I participated today in two sailings. In the morning we did our “Corporate Sail” commitment taking about 10 local college age kids out to experience out boat. We also did a second sail for a “Kite Shoot” in which we launch a special spinnaker from our Sanya China sponsors and photos are made from a photo boat that goes out with us. Here the theme was to get some good shots of us with spinnaker up and the city and Table Mountain in the background.

The day was supposed to start with “Kite Shoot” in the morning and “Corporate Sail” in the afternoon but as of Thursday evening the kite sail was still stuck in customs processing having been shipped from Punte Del Este where we also had a photo shoot. So the order of events was swapped putting in the hopes that we would have the kite by afternoon.

We wrapped up a successful “Corporate Sail” around noon and Skipper Seumas gave us literally thirty minutes to grab lunch and be back ready to go back out. So for me it was a quick trip to the bathrooms in the mall (close walk from the boats) and a chicken and egg filled pastry which I had just enough South African currency remaining in my coin purse to get.

Kite shoot was tough because we had feared that afternoon winds would be too strong to pull it off. What we found was a strange dual competing wind. To one side of the bay we had strong wind that we could use if we did not sail too far into it but riding that down wind with the kite the winds abruptly shut off changed to light winds coming from the opposite direction. This also was

clearly marked by white caps on the water o the one side and smooth water on the other. It was like nothing I have ever seen in all my previous sailing experience. We did manage to make two very quick downwind runs by motor sailing up to the windy side and turning downwind with quick sheet out on the mainsail and spinnaker launch which lasted five to ten minutes at most before reaching the wind change where we had to quickly drop the kite on deck. On the second run at the spinnaker drop the heel of the spinnaker parted from the halyard shackle just as I was beginning to lower the halyard for the sail drop. So we had a quick fire drill on the foredeck getting the sail in as it fell quickly and partially on deck and the other spilling out over the water. We certainly don’t want to run over the sail with engine still running which was certainly possible it quick actions were not taken. So after that we called of any remaking attempts and hope the photographers got what they wanted.

During the day I did get some photos looking from the water towards table mountain.

CapeTown and Table Mountain
A closer view
Turning around 180 degrees we see Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. Sadly I never had time to go there.

It is now Sunday morning and I finally have time, energy and internet access to make this post. In 45 minutes I will be going with my boat mates to pass through customs. We have to take a bus ride from the marina to there and back. Then we may hack possibly another hour of shore time before reporting to the boat to do final bits and leave for race start. Briefing meeting yesterday gave us some small idea of the conditions we can expect over the next three weeks in our race to Fremantle. We should get more down wind sailing this race whis is what we all want.

Here are a handful of photos I made yesterday.

Coming in to dock our boat.
Boats on the docks.
Sanya yacht , almost ready to go.
Clouds covering Table Mountain
Random other racing yacht
Ever wonder how to haul out a large ship for repair work?
Interesting building in the back of this section of the marina.

Crazy Boat Life Adventure

On a daily basis I am trying to process this adventure that I have gotten myself into in a way that I can even begin to write about it so I just have to start typing and see where it takes me.

It’s Thursday November 14 at 7:00 am and I am in my hotel room in Cape Town South Africa by myself. I have just finished listening to a few sailing related podcasts in the wee morning hours – note to self: must check out havannarace for sailboat racing Florida to Cuba – I would be interested!

I have some time before I need to be at the boat to do my shift on “open boat” where we allow visitors onto the boat to get a glimpse of our ship and talk about life onboard. I have no internet access currently because AT&T sucks and there is no WIFI here in my room. My iPad keyboard case is not working properly so I have to use the touch screen typing – argh! I look at the few photos in my IPad gallery, those that will render because I don’t need iCloud connection to see them and it is not many but something might give some inspiration to write.

So let me give some context for the photocoming up – The races are long. They drag on day after day with a fairly set routine built around the watch schedule. Our boat consists of ~18 crew plus professionals: Skipper and AQP. The crew is divided into thirds to create 3 watches. On race 2 my watch consisted of 6 persons and my times were 4:00 am to 8:00 am and 4pm to 8:00 pm – on deck sailing the boat. 8:00 am to 12 noon below decks support watch which involved cooking and cleaning below and being available at a moments notice to go on deck if some sail change or other evolution required more hands. My two off times when I could sleep were 12 noon to 4:00 pm and 8:00 Pm to 4 am. This repeated every day. (Portugal to Uruguay race)

I captured this during one of my down below times. I was minding my own business reading a Kindle book when I saw this photo in the making – Ashfin being crazy per usual and Rick just trying to beat the heat.

Crazy stuff happens down below!

a

Are we not crazy just a bunch of random people thrown together living the adventure?

In other news I had free time yesterday afternoon so I caught the hop-on-hop-off bus Cape Town tour and made my way to Table Mountain. This and the surrounding mountains form the geologic boundaries of Cape Town. It is not unlike how the Santa Monica mountains bound northern Santa Monica/Pacific Palisades except that these are taller and rise very steeply so there is a very distinct border between city and mountain. Buss dropped us off at the tramway to the top but that was closed due to excessive winds. It was blowing pretty hard and I thought of the new leg and 3 joining crew members who were out on the ocean today doing their mandatory “refresher” sail training. So the only way to the top of Table Mountain this day was to hike it – About 2.5 hours to the top. I thought no big deal. Well not o not! The trail was mostly a rocky sort of staircase mostly 30 degrees up or more. I made about a third up before I had had enough and stopped to rest and snap this city view.

Looking down on capetown and the southern ocean.

I don’t easily give up but that was enough hiking for me this afternoon.

Back on the bus ride back to town we stopped by the Camps Bay Beach area on the north eastern edge of Cape Town and I got this photo.

A little swimming pool in Camps Bay Beach.

Just a year ago I couldn’t have imagined myself in South Africa!

Evolutions and Uncooperative

These events are from somewhere in the middle of our Leg 1 Race 2 from Portimao to Punte del Este and are to the best of my recollection.

This morning Sanya watch starting at 0400 arrived on deck with the Code 2 Spinnaker flying. Now when Rick, Ollie and Me went to bed the Code 3 was flying. So how did we not notice the overnight swap? Previous nighttime drops of spinnaker usually came with so much noise and pandemonium down below that sleeping through was just not an option. Spinnaker drop ends with the sail down below usually in a hopelessly unsorted mess which needs to be cleaned up and properly packed away. Rick is such a take action person that he just leaps out of his bunk to start helping if not leading the effort to get the spinnaker sorted. So I try to follow his lead as it seems to always be a big job. But this night was somehow different as we both slept through it peacefully unaware!

Step back a few nights on our 1600 to 2000 watch. We were sailing into dusk with the Yankee 1 and Staysail and cursing the uncooperative south easterly breeze that just would not clock as predicted by Time Zero weather forecasts to the more favorable north easterly trades which would allow us to flatten out the boat with evolution from white sails to spinnaker and generally improve life aboard Sanya. But this was just not the case as for days the winds just refused to match the forecasts we were getting from race HQ.

So Skipper Seumas comes on deck to take stalk of the situation. Seems winds are building and it looks like we will be sailing into squally conditions so he calls for Yankee 1 down and Yankee 2 up. So our watch goes to work. By now we know or surely should know how to do this evolution. I go to the forward bow armed with sail ties firmly knowing we need three strong persons forward of the inner forestay and three more persons aft of that inner stay just to wrestle the angry beast down to the decks and get it secured. First order of business position your people appropriately. I definitely don’t want to be the frontman as he has to get forward of the outer forestay. Luckily for me we have very capable thrill seekers that clamor for that job. First order of business for me is to get my sail ties laid out so the Yankee will fall onto them allowing us to then get it tied up. This means tieing off each sail tie from one lifeline rail to the other perpendicular to the long axis of the boat. Many ties are barely long enough to accomplish this feat. What sort of not to tie? Need something that will hold but can also be easily untied. Now in hindsight I believe that to be a round turn and two half hitches. Note to self: Must remember to reserve the longest sail tie for tying up the hanks.

When the Yankee 1 comes down it demands to be well a choreographed affair. The six grabbers have to be in place and ready. The person on the halyard must release and ease at just the right rate for us to pull the beast in hopefully dropping to some at least rudimentary flakes inside the lifelines and on top of those precious sail ties for as quickly as we can get it down we must strangle the beast with this ties so that it cannot get blown overboard.

As I tie off my sail tie around the Yankee I suddenly realize that I have looped in some of the lifeline netting and the top rail so that just won’t do! We would never be able to drag the sail back to get it bagged and down below if were tied that way. So I leap way too far over the sail and the leeward rail head first to take corrective actions my tether and close by mates and holding me fast to the boat. It is not before a few face plants in the oncoming waves that I have re-routed the tie and am back safely inside the lifelines and getting the yankee properly tied off.

Un-hanking is yet another difficult chore. Each hank, and corresponding sail flake must be dragged forward enough to release pressure allowing that now thoroughly drenched front man to muscle it of the stay and on to the long sail tie which we have now tied between the two forestays like a temporary clothesline. There always seems to be at minimum one hank that won’t open and we curse why did we not replace said hank during the last evolution!

So we finally get this sail off and back in the bag with one false start of having the tack end of the sail bag at the wrong end of the sail. We quickly correct that and move on to dragging the Yankee 2 out of the port side salon on to deck and get that sail up without issue.

So then naturally these uncooperative winds assert themselves by immediately going light. What can you do? Winds and conditions seem to be quite variable and the Yankee 2 stays up during the night, our once semi comfortable lead over Qingdao slowly diminishing as our conservative sailplan for the remainder of the night gave them room to make gains.

It’s 0400 again and Rick, Ollie, Dennis, Michelle, Ivy and Me are back on deck. Now it is pitch black darkness as far as I am concerned. At age 59 my vision in low light is just not good. I need prescription glasses to see clearly both for closeup and for distance but in this predawn with no moon and clouded over skies my glasses just further limit the feeble light. On previous nights like this I have proven my inability to handle the helm before sunrise.

So Skipper Seamus comes on deck mid shift and we immediately know he is up to no good! He calls for a racing headsail change – Yankee 1 on deck hanked on, then Yankee 2 down, then sheets retied and Yankee 2 up. I dutifully head to the bow thankfully this time Dennis wants the front position and I take the number three slot. We get this evolution done without issue and even secure a compliment from Skipper Seumas afterwards – Best racing headsail change to date – Thanks Skipper!

Later same day there are some more cooperating winds and the other watch manages to get the code 2 spinnaker up and flying. Sanya boat and crew are Finally more happy! At the tail end of our 1600 to 2000 watch with night and uncertain winds the call is for code 2 down and Code 3. This time wrestling the code 2 down is difficult so there are manny wraps to be untwisted down below before it can be successfully packed. Rick Ollie and I work down below for two hours to get this sorted and finally packed in its bag and into the sail locker. That’s minus two hours of our 8 hour sleep.

Well thats all in a few days racing as we cling to our slowly dismissing lead position over closest boat Quingdao. All others remain hundreds of miles further back.

Race 1 London to Protimao

What can I say about this race? Well we had a little of everything thrown in. The morning starting with raising anchor only to find that the boat must have moved around a bit during the night as the anchor rode was now solidly wrapped and wedged in around one of our rudders. Took lots of effort and problem solving to undo that. We did manage to get that sorted and make it to the start one time. Was this a foreboding of the rough sail ahead?

We had a conservative start with head sails up. Some other boats opted for Spinnakers right from the start. Not long after we also had spinnaker up and settled into racing. By the time we turned the corner and started sailing up the English Channel it was clear that we were in for a multiple day’s long upwind slog before we could pass out into the Atlantic and make the turn towards the Bay of Biscay. These Clipper 70 boats just don’t like to sail up wind. The going is slow, the angle of heel is quite steep and at times especially when the wind is opposing the current the waves get quite difficult to sail thru. So the days and nights of pounding up wind took it’s wrath out on our crew with almost everyone getting seasick for multiple days. I was among the lucky few who escaped that.

But I had another problem. With winds building and sailing into the beginning of darkness the call was made to get the Yankee ( large headsail ) down and people were needed immediately on the bow. I prefer not to be up there but I go anyway. I was comfortable in the back of the boat and at the time it was warm enough for me that I had no foul weather gear on. Once on the bow the waves were crashing over and I immediately got soaked. When three of us were positioned for the sail drop our helmsperson, Rick was instructed by Skipper to luff up to weather a bit to make the drop for us bow people easier to pull the sail down on deck. Unfortunately what actually ensued was a crash tack with the sail coming down upon us and trapping all three underneath with our tethers locking us further stuck under this monster sail which weighs hundreds of pounds. Our brilliant AQP Jorge was quickly up to the bow to help us out of the jam. At some point one of my feet also punched thru the life netting and was stuck there as I could not extract it. On top of all this I suddenly saw Go To Bermuda boat on a very close collision course with us and I honestly don’t know how the helm at the back of the boat sorted that but under expert guidance from skipper Seumas they avoided collision. I evntually had to get my sailing knife out and make the long reach down thru and opening in the pile of sail and cut the lifeline net to extract my foot. We still had to get his monster sail unhanked from the forestry and dragged back and stuffed into it’s sail bag. Under the best circumstances this is a many person task. In the next morning when I got up for 4am to 8am on deck shift it was clear that the evening drama had left me with very sore a most probably cracked ribs on my left back side. I informed skipper and Rick who is also our medic checked me out. Probably not serious but I got some pain meds to deal with it. It is still sore but I am working thru it. It is not the first time I have had cracked ribs so I know what I am in for.

After days of upwind misery It was into the bay of Biscay and then sailing down the Portuguese Coast. We knew the winds were forecasted for 30 to 35 knots but favorable direction for downwind sailing which should ease the comfort on the boat. We don’t have the the large angle of heel or pounding on waves when going downwind.

For the first part of this downwind we still had headsails up and were learning how to deal with broaching or rounding up. This is when the wind gusts too much and the helm can’t keep the boat in control. The boat leans over with the main boom which is sheeted out comes very close to or actually drags in the water. The only remedy to regain control is to quickly release the vang and ease the main sheet. We were getting on with this learning but the wind and waves kept building. I was helming when we hit a 46 knot gust of wind that I could not control. Skipper Seamus quickly took control of the helm and called for all support crew on deck as to take two reefs in the mainsail effectively reducing it’s size to make sailing more manageable.

Later the conditions finally allowed us to replace headsails with code 2 spinnaker and we were flying down the bay. But during one sail change to spinnaker we had an issue. When changing from yankee headsail to spinnaker the sequence is rig spinnaker, launch spinnaker, immediately get the yankee down, and finally launch the anti-wrapped the forestay previously occupied by the yankee. This blocks the area between outer and inner forestay. The net looks something like a volleyball net but with wide spacing between lines. It’s purpose is to prevent any brief spinnaker collapse from pushing the spinnaker into the fore triangle where it can quickly tangle with the inner forestay and get hopelessly wrapped up there. It happened very quick but and we could not escape the eventual wrap as we did not have the net fully deployed in time.

Spinaker solidly wrapped on the inner forestay.

We spent the entire afternoon trying to get this beast down. Many people up the mast and lot of folks on foredeck including me. Ultimately it was just to tightly wrapped and the conditions still too windy so we gave it up for the night and resolved to fix it early the next morning when we would have less wind and waves.

Morning arrived and another ~2 hours of fighting with many more trips up the mast and people on fordeack. I had the helm during this time. We finally got it down and were back to sailing full speed. Conditions were grand and I got some photos of the evening into darkness.

Rick and Ivy at the helm.
Dennis and Ollie at the helm, Big wave in the background.
Sunset.
Rick inspecting sail trim.
Guan, our Chinese full-time media. Looking up. If there is some action impending she quickly gets here cameras out and jumps into action.
Mary putting on a cherry face despite the tough upwind sailing.

Our last challenge of the race was soon upon us. The turn around the southern tip of Portugal into the Algarve and the Portimao finish. Winds were quite light and fickle in this region allowing some of us lagging boats to catch right up to the leading boats who were mostly stalled and doing nothing. When my watch shift ended at 8 pm and would not be back on deck tell 4 am I secretly predicted that we would not finish in the night. Night shift took on the challenge and with AQP Jorge’s expert tutelage they mastered the light winds and gut us to finish just around 4 am. Media photos and free beer and hot dogs on shore ensued before we had to clear this pontoon and make way for later finishing boats. We had secured a 5th place finish. Not bad considering all we went through.

Race one in the bag. Portimao to delight us for the next week.

Leaving St. Catherines Docks London

I write this blog in the morning of our last day in Portimao. Just been too busy or tired to get to it before now.

So we had about a week docked in St Catherines for boat work, provisioning and media events. I got some time off to spend with family doing the touristy things. We had a VRBO apartment about an hour commute away from the docks. Not the most convenient but it worked well.

Cooking at the apartment.

Some day I will get around to posting more London photos and blog but no time for that now.

Finally the day came to say goodbye and really start this voyage. For me it started with early wake up and locating all my remaining kit from the apartment and off to the tube alone. I insisted that family needed to figure out on their own when to come to the docks and how to find the spectator boats. No touristy things today please!

This day at multiple times I was struggling with the emotions of leaving for a year on this big adventure. I reread the lyrics to our team song while on the tube back to the boat, just enough to flood the tears.

Excerpt from: Coldplay – Adventure of a Lifetime:

And I feel my heart beating
I feel my heart underneath my skin
Oh, I can feel my heart beating
‘Cause you make me feel
Like I’m alive again
Alive again
Oh, you make me feel
Like I’m alive again

Getting back to sailing makes those lyrics ring true for me.

Other teams taking the main stage for photos.
Some of our team waiting for our turn to get on the stage.
A little bit of waiting around was also on order.
Family watching on as we prepare to leave.

Finally early afternoon the St. Catherines docks gates are open and boats are individually filing out. Emotions are quite high and I try to have a private moments to take it all in.

That is the way out to the Thames.

We all file out and of the docks and wait for Tower Bridge to open where we will motor threw for a few laps between this bridge and the next one up river. Great show for the spectators while we await tower bridge opening a second time were we will pass thru on our way down the Thames to the Estuary where the river meets the sea. We will all anchor overnight there for the real race start the following morning.

Bridge open, we are going thru.
About to exit the first parade of sail.
One of many spectator boats.

I kept searching for family each time we passed near a spectator boat. Not having any luck until finally near the end when I did briefly she Sheila. Apparently they were having a grand old time on their boat but I did not know it at the time.

More tears as we passed the flood gates, said goodbye to the last spectator boat and then settled into the long motor down river to our night anchorage point. What a day!

!!!London Race Start Today!!!

It has been an amazing year leading up to this day where I will sail off from the UK with hundreds of like-minded individuals on this Clipper Round The World Race.

My year has been full of so many challenges starting first with my decision to retire from work before it is too late for me to pursue other interests whatever those might entail. I first wanted to get back into the boating/sailing world but to experience that in ways different than when we owned the J24 sailboat and did around—the-bouys racing in Southern California. Long story short – in my quest for a new boat and new experiences I secretly purchased a Northeaster rowing/sailing dory sailboat kit and had it shipped from the east coast manufacturer toour home in California thinking it would be no small deal and quite fun to build and subsequently get back on the waters around our home.

https://www.clcboats.com/modules/catalog/boat.php?category_qn=rowboats&subcat_qn=fixed-seat-rowboats&code=northeaster-dory-rowing-sailing-kit

I commenced building that while simultaneously getting sucked into interest in a much lager blue-water capable vessel and as I tend to do I obsessed on this until I had convinced myself that a used Bristol Channel Cutter would fit the bill nicely.

https://www.cruisingworld.com/sailboats/bristol-channel-cutter-28/

Article captioned above gives a good idea of the boat which is 28 foot long on deck with bowsprit protruding on the front and boomkin on the back end it is actually 37 foot in total length. In boating bigger is not necessarily better but is most certainly more expensive to purchase and own and maintain. I settled on this size boat as near perfect compromise.

https://currents.bluewatercruising.org/articles/two-footitis/

Problem: Sheila was not quite having it. Not ready to retire and get on one of these small vessels with me. We did try to make it to a wooden boat show in Port Townsend Washington but just could not make our work schedules align. This was in the fall of last year. In frustration I ended up booking a weekend flight to Baltimore to attend the annual Annapolis Boat show as there were some very promising, in my mind, Bristol Channel Cutters for sale or as they say here in the UK: On Offer.

I spent literally the better part of 2 days sitting on BCC Pinocchio dreaming of what I would do if it was mine. The boat was beautiful. Every ounce of above decks wood was covered in pristine varnish and just gorgeous.

From the Stern

Looking forward onto the bowsprit.
Below decks.

I took so many detailed photos of this boat in those two days but sadly don’t have an overall picture. It is a little bit cramped for head room for a 6 foot plus person like myself. In my mind that and the excessive exterior teak varnish are the only issues and I was quite willing to compromise on those.

However Sheila was just not quite having it. Not yet ready to retire and sail away. Can’t you find other people with boats who might need additional crew. We know from our previous boat owning days that good crew is highly sought after. But is that only in sailboat racing and the aspect of boating I was wanting to get away from or so I thought?

Purely by happenstance I was passing through the boat show exhibit tents and a brochure image caught my eye for a mere instant, long enough for the person manning the booth to start up a conversation about the Clipper Round The World Race and how they recruit crew persons from around the world, many with little or no prior sailing experience, train and equip them properly to sail their fleet of 11 high performance ocean racing yachts on an year long 40 thousand nautical mile circumnavigation race around the globe. So do I dare return from the boat show empty-handed with just an answer to Sheila’s question?

Well that is just what I did. I spent a few months agonizing the decision but around the turn of the year 2018 to 2019 I pulled the trigger and signed full on into this adventure that for real starts today.

CV 29 or Visit Sanya China as our race boat is named becomes my home for the next 11 months.

Please stay tuned for more posts and go here as a starting point to following me and others as we sail around the world: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/crew-supporters

Also the race viewer is here: https://www.clipperroundtheworld.com/race/standings