Wednesday, April 28, 2010

We're really ready.

Cirrus is set to go. Until we notice that we forgot something, or we break something all that is between us and California is a little provisioning and a pleasant sail. In that connection, it sure is nice that Ulli is showing us how the routing might go if we were starting out today. These charts will be more and more relevant as the actual departure approaches. For now, just interesting and fun.

Last Sunday Ric, Caroline, Graeme (a visitor from New Zealand) and I went out into the ocean a couple miles and did some (bumpy) spinnaker pole drills. It's dampish on the foredeck when she puts her bow under. Then we used one of the poles with the jib on the run back in. Nice day. Since it is "Testing Systems" time I'm thinking of making dinner on the boat sometime soon just to see if all the galley gear is functioning. Anyone want to join me? An overnight at the Sandbar (or Molokai'i) would be even cooler.

Big moon tomorrow night and then one in late May. Looks like both the delivery and race are going to be no moon events. I like the moon for driving at night, but the stars sure are beautiful without it. Also we will miss out on the traditional event where some newbe standing a watch at night gets panicked by Venus rising behind the boat in the morning because it looks like an approaching freighter. Only an evening object this year. (And going down not coming up.)

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Routing for Delivery

I have added a little gadget in the right column labelled "Routing for Delivery". Clicking the link brings you to a webpage, which shows a collection of delivery routing recommendations by Cirrugator. This is NOT a forecast of what it will be when Cirrus departs, but rather the situation for a departure today. See the note on that webpage.
P.S. as you can already see from the few examples, the weather is still quite unstable


We had some offline discussions about Cirrus' previous performances, and I thought that I might give Bill some relieve in posting and put this on our blog.

Cirrugator gave me a helping hand, and if you wish you can look up those numbers yourself at This covers all of Cirrus' races, and all deliveries (but not the returns from the earlier races). Keep in mind that the distance to travel on the Transpac is about 10% greater than in the Pacific Cup.

First the deliveries: You see a lot of variation between the three routes. Even the 2007 delivery to Los Angeles initially went further north than the 2006 delivery to San Francisco. The thin yellow line is the Great Circle between Hawaii and SF, which is the shortest distance between those two points on the globe. The thin white line is the Rhumb line, a straight line on a nautical map, but NOT the shortest distance between the points it connects!

Now the races: You find the tracks much closer together than for the deliveries, but still quite different. And none is on the Great Circle. The reason is that while this would be the shortest distance to travel, it would not necessarily be the fastest; the wind determines how far south you have to go.

The Great Circle between Los Angeles and Hawaii is not shown, but it would be north of a straight line between those points, the Rhumbline, and you see that Cirrus' route was way south even of the rhumbline, yet Cirrus made first place in her division during that race! It all depends on the wind.

Finally I am adding a table summarizing Cirrus' performances on the various passages. The fastest passage ever was the 1998 Pacific Cup (3rd place) with an hour less than 12 days, the longest was the 2007 Transpac delivery with over 19 days. The slowest was the 2000 Pacific Cup.

So, the benchmark is still unchanged: the 1998 Pacific Cup defines the performance to beat!


Monday, April 19, 2010

(21.41898, -157.79014) (2010-April-19-0800)

Another cool overcast morning on Kaneohe Bay. As usual I am optomistic that "Today is the Day!" when the last of the important projects will be completed and we can finally schedule our inspection and then kick back with a beer and wait for June 1st to roll around.


In the previous post I finished up with a male in full plumage. Here is another example. In fact here are two more examples. Both serving to illustrate the fact that the weather in Hawaii is not always as balmy as one is led to believe. Or, perhaps these guys, like the Kolea are getting ready for a trip to Alaska.

Some recent projects have involved the electrical systems. The first one had to do with the control panel for the (monster 2.5 kW) inverter , battery charger. This panel has some circuits that communicate with the power unit using a data cable like a phone line. First the inverter function failed and refused to turn off then the battery charger refused to come on. So, no chance to ignore it any longer and I spent some time digging around in my piles of spare stuff at home. Lo and behold, there were not one but two replacement units available. (It's a long story.)

Of course, the problem might have been in the cable (unlikely) or at the other end where the signals are decoded. Fortunately a new panel did the job and it even fit exactly into the old panel location (even though the company name stenciled on the front had changed). Another thing I want to mention here is the Power Pac we have to cover the situation where the whole electrical system fails and we don't have any way to start the engine. I bought an emergency starter unit in an auto parts store and we are going to test it sometime soon.

Then there is water. We have two 30 gal tanks but we need another 30 gal to satisfy the race requirements. The six gallons in sealed containers that we have for emergency use count and the 4 six gallon jerry cans in the photo finish the job. Above and beyond the minimum requirements we will carry at least one liter per person per day in bottles that people can write their names on and carry around with them.

Time flies and this image greeted me when leaving the boat the other day.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Three Pages of done ToDo List, One more to go

For those of you with an interest in such things, it looks like the cost of this year's Pacific Cup campaign is going to come in around $20,000. (We have spent roughly $12,000 so far according to the running total at the bottom of the ToDo List.)

An unexpected item was the new Garmin GPS and plotter unit that I decided to add because the (really old) Trimble GPS was getting hard to read. The new one is kinda cute and, much to my amazement, it seems to work below decks even without an antenna.

Another useful item is the wireless remote for the autopilot. Currently there are three separate controls. One is the base station at the Nav Station. The second is the wired remote at the wheel (that can be brought in under the dodger). The third is the wireless unit shown in the photo that lets me steer from my bunk. (And navigate as well, since the unit also relays GPS info just like the other units do.)

We turned the boat around in the slip to make it more convenient to work on the stern. Then we removed the wind-vane  rudder and replaced it with the (much larger) emergency rudder unit. The photos show the emergency rudder in the water and stowed up out of the way. To actually wait until the emergency rudder is needed and then try to install it in a seaway is probably more exciting than absolutely necessary.
Another item that has taken up a couple days of my time is the First Aid Kit. We have three main Kits. One is in the Grab Bag that goes with us if we need to abandon ship. It was getting a little "long in the tooth" after all these years, so I made up a fresh one. Of course, in the unlikely event that something is needed we can use it to supplement the other kits.  Another Kit is located in the head  compartment. It is pretty complete and is supplemented by extras, like cold packs, sunscreen, seasickness items, etc. The third kit is a big bag of all kinds of serious stuff. I spent a couple days on this and I have an Excel table listing everything if anyone is interested. One of the problems was the fact that many of the prescription drugs that this kit contained were hopelessly out of date. I got my Kaiser doctor to prescribe some new stuff, so I'm pretty happy with the current state of things.There are things like sutures for sewing up gaping wounds. Might be fun to try that should the occasion arise.

There is a sea bird here in Hawaii called a Kolea (Golden Plover)  that has a wonderful story. Most of the year they are very shy and their dull brownish uniform coloring lets them blend in. They are unusual in that they seem to benefit from civilization. They like to pick bugs from lawns, parks, golf courses, etc. Normally they are very solitary, and each one stakes out his own territory and chases other Kolea away. At this time of year a drastic transformation takes place in their coloring. Look at the photo. Isn't this guy a beauty!

There is also a change in personality. Instead of shy they become agressive. One of them that I disturbed recently thought about trying to chase me away. (But changed his mind.) Some time (very soon) they will start to gather in flocks and at some magic moment that only they can sense (There might be weather factors.) they spiral up into the sky and set out for Alaska (and maybe Siberia). When they get there (after recovering from the flight) they hustle up a mate and get down to the business of raising some chicks. 

When the chicks are getting big enough to fend for themselves (and the days are getting shorter) the adults head back to Hawaii.  Amazingly enough the chicks follow later after they bulk up on bugs and get some more flying practice. Then the cycle repeats. Quite a story.

While I clearly enjoy composing these blogs, it would be nice to get some feedback. If you are a reader please make an occasional comment (at the bottom of the page). When we are sailing the comments will come automatically to us by email and that way the blog can become more interactive.

Monday, April 12, 2010

This Time for Real

The ToDo List (to the right)has been updated.
How can it be almost two weeks since my last post? Seems like yesterday. Hard not to start getting a little tense. The way time flies.

Que Sera Sera. We will be ready when the time comes (or not).

We are finally finished with the work up the mast (No April Fool this time.)  and there are some pictures here from the last trip up. That's it for awhile I hope. I needed to lubricate some blocks and add some safety wiring.

We also lubricated the turnbuckles on the shrouds so they will not be so hard to adjust. (I'll probably be tuning the rig this afternoon or tomorrow morning.) A major set back on the schedule (and budget) was the need to remove the sail and take it to the sail maker to fix 10 holes that got punched into the mainsail when I dropped a sharp object from the top of the mast. (Actually, this was not my proudest moment.)

One of these photos is Cirrus from above. Isn't she pretty?

Another recent project was the addition of a new Garmin 440 GPS-Plotter to supplement the Trimble system (whose screen is starting to cloud up). Much to our amazement it seems to be working fine below decks at the nav station without an external antenna. We will check it out when we get sailing again. SOON!

I'll try backing the boat into the slip the next time we go out so it will be easier to install and test the emergency rudder system. It is the same system as in previous years so we don't expect any problems.

The last of today's photos shows the replacement U-bolt for the starboard, spinnaker halyard block. The U-bolts went in without a hitch. Moo did a good job. The old ones lasted 37 years so these ought to do the job for awhile. (Of course a lot of the actual usage was more recent.)

That's it for today's blog. We should be sailing again in a couple days and that will be more fun than all these projects. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Keeping, keeping at It.

In spite of the optimistic email that I sent to all of the crew yesterday (April 1st,2010) declaring that all of the work had been done, there is actually a long way to go.

The U bolt photo at left is a good example. I've two new ones but do not want to go to the top of the mast until the shrouds are back on. The mounting brackets for the spreaders are back on the mast and the tangs for the running backs and lower diagonals as well. (Four or five hours up the mast yesterday in 30 knot winds. (No April fool.) But I could not pull the cables up to get the pins in. Working on it.

I ended up removing the turnbuckles completely to put more slack in the wires. (I hope you are as fascinated as I am by these minutiae.) And I think I'll take them to Moo to see if the somewhat corroded threads can be cleaned up so they will be easier to use. (Not a given since left-handed metric threads are involved.) Actually, I think I'll do it myself. All it takes is time.

Up the mast again this morning with Ron Dodini, a friend from KYC, handling the safety line and hauling tools up and down on the spare jib halyard (an hour or two in 25 knots and rain) and I got the lower diagonals in finally. (Weather sucks.) There was a solid black wall of wind and rain coming across the bay so I bailed out. The running backs can wait until tomorrow.

Another thing I'm going to do tomorrow is replace the VHF antenna on the top of the mast. Hope that helps the performance. I hooked the antenna up directly to the radio for a test, and learned something interesting. It did not seem to be working even though the tester was giving it high marks. Then by accident I discovered that the performance depends very sensitively on the antenna orientation. Very, very sensitive to the direction it is aimed. (If you want to know if a "high gain' antenna is better (or not) contact me.)

It is sort of hard to see but Ric recently replaced 2nd anchor (lunch hook) with a new anchor, new 30 ft chain and 200 ft of brand new nylon rode.
this arrangement is a little better than the race requirements call for. The primary anchor at 48 lb and with 200 ft of chain is way better than required.

The next item is the Spray Curtain just inside the hatch that protects the electronics from the  spray generated by the "rooster tail"  thrown up by the boat as the downwind speed exceeds normal limits. The bolt rope on the top edge was getting ratty so it has been replaced. It needs to be cleaned.

Each crew member gets a shelf for their personal gear. That is mainly stuff like clothes, books, video games, exercise DVDs, handheld GPS (In case Navigator get's lost.), etc. There is some space for toilet gear in the head and foul weather gear goes into the hanging locker behind the head. Some people try to sneak in their own private supply of chocolate or other goodies but this is officially frowned upon.

Some more PFD testing took place. There are 5 on the boat that are up to date and would pass inspection. One is mine and Ric is using one (that Tina could use if she wants to), the other three are spares. Other crew could use them if they do not have their own. I kind of like to have my own. There are spare parts for all of them.