Monday, June 28, 2010

Friends of Cirrus - Save the King !

The nicest award to Cirrus in the Pacific Cup 2008 was the statue of King Kamehameha, 3 foot high, carved in wood, given to the fastest (in corrected time) Hawaiian boat. Too bad this is a challenge trophy, which needs to be defended again this year.

So let's see who our Hawaiian competitors are this year ... Oh no!

There are only two Hawaiian boats sailing this year, one is Cirrus, and the other is - Pegasus! She will probably be the fastest sailboat on the Pacific, this summer. Sure, we are being rated on corrected time, but Philipp Kahn and his crew are highly seasoned sailors!

Is there still a chance for us? How did we fare in the past against Pegasus? My Cirrugator database has only two races with data on both boats, the Pacific Cup 2008, and the transpac 2007. Graph (13) from Cirrugator compares the runs in the two races on corrected time. As can be seen, in 2007 Pegasus beat Cirrus by a good margin, but in 2008 Cirrus actually beat Pegasus! And in more detail, the first starters in the transpac, like Cirrus, but to some degree even the late starters, like Pegasus, experienced poor to very poor wind conditions at the start (the curves go right, and Cirrus' curve goes way to the right) but later on, the curves are basically parallel. Actually, within both sets the curves are pretty much parallel apart from the beginning, and being parallel here indicates that on a corrected basis, the two boats eventually performed comparably.

I can't help but present this little treat: In 2007 Cirrus had beaten Pegasus on ABSOLUTE time! Yes, no denying, we the slow boat were faster than the turbo! Ok, let's not study the details too much, but it sure felt good at least on this single day ;-).

Conclusion: we are the underdog, but after all, we do have a chance!

But we will need all the help we can get, and a generous serving of good luck! We therefore call upon all Friends of Cirrus for their support during the race. Save the King, as the King undoubtedly belongs into the hands of Cirrus!

Therefore, line the cyberspace waves along our route, and let's hear your cheers to make us sail better than ever! See the flyers below? Download them and forward by eamil, or print them out, and hand them to your friends and neighbors, your newspaper editor, and radio station, and TV station,  and, and, and, ... well, you get the picture. Whatever may come out, I am sure it will be exciting,


Flyer in English
Left-click for large version, Right-click to download
Flugblatt auf Deutsch / Flyer in German
Links-Klick für Grossbild, Rechts-Klick zum Download

Friday, June 25, 2010


From Bill  --  Some notes in passing and an update.

Let’s see where was I? Oh yes, now I remember. We were sailing along at latitude 38 and enjoying unseasonable good weather, sunny and warm. We had been flying the spinnaker and were looking forward to the predicted stiff northerly winds that were going to drive us at high speed straight into San Francisco in record time. We were full of ourselves. (Read the blog.) Hubris is the key word here

At some point Bill walked into the boom (There was no damage.) and somewhat later a totally rotted hose clamp turned up in a routine inspection of the bilge pump system. Always something!

At about this time we were celebrating one or the other of half a dozen different half way events. The champagne flowed like water. Actually, some of the time it was water. We had a lot of Martinelli and that also came in handy for celebrations. Even Kate, who got pretty sick later, was feeling pretty chipper.

We had to motor through some light air to reach the northerlies, but every thing went like clockwork, with wind shifts appearing right on schedule. Pretty soon it was clear that we needed a reef in the main and not too much later came the big event.

The starter motor on the engine failed and we lost our ability to charge the batteries. That meant no more refrigeration, no more autopilot, no more SSB radio, limited use of the ship’s GPS, etc. Eventually even the bilge pumps, and running light and other stuff began to fail as the voltage fell. Even though lots of stuff shut down, some other things lasted to the very end. The satellite phone runs off its own battery as does the hand held VHF radio. For some reason the cabin lights continued to work and so did the bilge pump water alarm. Once or twice a day it would go off and we would pump the bilge by hand. No problem. Of course Kathie’s iPad (with detailed charts and GPS) continued to work (and it would have guided us in the SF shipping channel if I had not fallen asleep on the cockpit sole in the beautiful warm sun in the soaking wet foulies that I hadn’t taken off in four days). Fortunately, at that point after what we had been through, coming in through the “potato patch” was a piece of cake.

Losing the auto pilot was serious. The wind was picking up. It was probably over 20 knots all the way to SF. Seas were mostly 12-15 feet and bigger on occasion. We were close reaching to start with but it settled into a beam reach. At some point it seemed that a second reef was called for, and most of the time we completely furled the jib.

Picking the course and sail plan is a Skipper’s dilemma. We could have gone faster with more sail up but the additional speed adds to the violence the boat encounters plowing its way through the big choppy seas. On the other hand, “Isn’t it always better to get there sooner?” There is also the concern that the crew members may be pushed beyond their limits driving in the cold windy darkness with seas breaking over the boat. A balance of difficulty versus endurance. It is my guess that anyone else in my position might have made slightly different choices.

In the middle of all this the distaff part of the crew (when off watch, of course) was below decks watching TV. 

Then came the cry. “Land ho.” Right on schedule almost to the minute. The Farallon Islands have never been so beautiful. A couple hours later we blasted under the Golden Gate on the peak of a full bore tidal flood. We called RYC on the phone and said, “We’ll be there in an hour.” After a pause, came the reply, “There is no wind in the bay. Give us a call when you get closer.”

Dammed if they weren’t right. We had just sailed 5-6 days in 25 knot winds and big breaking seas, right up to Mile Rock and Point Bonita. Then, minutes later, as the tidal current swept us into the bay the wind died completely the sky was blue and the sun so hot that people were removing clothes in a panic and ending up in shorts and tee shirts. What a day! We were so glad to be home, even if they had to send out a boat to fetch us, (Just off Red Rock as the tidal current was sweeping us off to Sacramento.) Greetings included a “Certificate of Congratulations” from the mayor of Richmond.

I’m writing this a week after our arrival and a lot has been accomplished toward getting the boat ready for the return trip. The diesel engine starter motor has been replaced and it works beautifully. The bottom has been cleaned and painted. The cutlass bearing has been replaced. I’ve been up the mast 3-4 times for various issues. The torn spinnaker is at the sailmaker. The life raft is being re-certified. The 2nd EPIRB is getting a new battery. I’ve started refueling to get the tanks back up to where they should be for the race. The garbage and deposit plastic bottles have been unloaded. Kathy picked up some of the provisioning boxes. Arrangements have been made for dry ice for the return trip. On the schedule for tomorrow is the maintenance of a couple winches that developed problems during the delivery. And there is a page long ToDo list as usual.

From Bill from the dock at RYC.

Cirrusblog Analytics

Remember the days of web pages with hit counters in the shape of car odometers? It would be a bit embarrassing to show them these days, yet the interest to understand what traffic your pages have remains strong. Actually, it is a key consideration for commercial sites. My playing around showed me how difficult it is to come up with meanigful results, distinguishing between hits, visits, unique visitors, originating countries, etc, etc. But I should have known - the master of the web search, Google, has it already in an easy-to-use form, called Google Analyics. I implemented this during delivery, and can show some first results now:

Some 300 unique visitors came to this blog about 1600 times over the last two weeks. The highest visitor activity occured when Cirrus was struggling in bad weather, some 150 visits per day. Since Cirrus' arrival several dozen people are still watching the blog (a special hello to you!). A good number of you are probably sailors, as our weather page is some of the favorites among you!

You also get some rough ideas about where your visitors are located, though you don't get more detail than regional analysis. Predominantly they are from the United States, most from CA, closely followed by HI, plus others from a total of 23 US-states. Next in line is Germany - someone there is hammering the blog; wish I'd knew who that is ;-))  - and then in order of frequency of visits:  Canada, Portugal, American Samoa, Brazil, UK, Panama, New Zealand, Colombia, Peru, Taiwan, Thailand, Mexico, Australia.

Who would have known. Welcome to everyone, wherever on the world you may be!

I have a wish : during the race we on the boat have no access to fancy web analysis, all we can see are the comments to the blog, which are being transferred back to us on the boat. I want you to speak-up, so to say, and cheer us up by posting comments. Of course you can do it anonymously, if you prefer, but seeing a name with a comment makes it even more enjoyable for us.

Aloha, Ulli

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Divisions, Ratings and Performance

by Ulli

The Pacific Cup organizers have published their updated "believed final" Divisions and Ratings for 2010, which have changed quite a bit over the previous semi-final ratings, not the least in Cirrus' division. Nevertheless, from a broader perspective the overall pattern is the same.

The PCR (Pacific Cup Rating) is the expected performance of a boat in s/nm (seconds per nautical mile; the smaller the number the faster the boat). The expected total sailing time of a boat is therefore PCR * distance, where the official distance is 2070 nm. For the final ranking of the boats the corrected time is determined as:

corrected time =
(actual time sailed) minus (PCR * 2070)

Any boat sailing exactly at her expected performance would then have a corrected time of 0h (zero hours), and if it were faster, the corrected time would be negative. This is why graph (13) on the Cirrugator front page is so helpful to judge performance.

The graph in this post shows all boats of 2010 by division and their expected sailing time in days. By this token the slowest boat is Victoria in Div A with 15.79 days, and the fastest position is shared by Limit and Pegasus in Div E, both at 8.65 days. They would sail 7 days 3 hours faster, almost twice as fast as the slowest. That's why they start 5 days later.

The biggest differences of up to ~20% between fast and slow within one division are in Div E, followed by the double handers in Div DH2; in both cases this is easy to understand because of the limited number of boats. The other divisions are quite well balanced.

Cirrus is at the bottom of performance in Div B. The difference to the next boats Bequia and Relentless is 8h 37.5min, and to the fastest, Pneuma, it is 24h 9min. So if Pneuma were to cross the finish line first, and Cirrus would cross as much as 1 day and 8 minutes later, it would have beaten Pneuma.

If Cirrus were in Div A it would be the fastest boat in that division, but only 3.6h ahead of the next fastest, Brainwaves. But Div A is currently already 10 boats, and Div B only 9.

While I think it feels a little bit better to actually (hopefully) be ahead of the pack and not just by numbers, I'll settle for Kim & Lou's earlier comments: "Cirrus is the benchmark in Div B"!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Cirrugator is set for the race

I have changed the default setting of Cirrugator for the race - but you can always look at previous passages by 'Select'-ing for them. Obviously you won't see race data, but you can do the routing. Routing results are also copied to the Demo page, which most people do seem to prefer. Interpretation is as before: "if you were starting today on Cirrus, this is the route you would want to take, and the Time-to-go is how long it would take".

Friday, June 18, 2010

Cirrus Greeting Party

On hand to greet the crew of Cirrus were Agnes Doutre, Uta Swiatecki, Sam Kim, Randy Riddle, and Randy and Kathy’s son, Levan, and Tina Crabtree (from the Cirrus delivery crew of 2008). Cirrus arrived at 6:00 pm and we all went to the Yacht club for a welcome celebration. Once we got there, there was a lineup (literally, a lineup!) of people who wanted to welcome and congratulate Bill for his crossing.

We passed the computer around so everyone on the crew could send their own greeting. Here they are:

Bill: Bill’s so glad that he decided to do this again. He’s really glad to be here in Richmond. More later when he has more time.

Kate: I’ve never been so happy to finish a “sail”!

Kathy: A Corona has never tasted so good.

Chris (Left him until last because he’s been hogging the blogging throughout the trip) I’d like to thank my agent; no, my crew-mates, for making this the voyage of a lifetime.

We’ll provide details of the welcome party when we have more time to type.


[update by Ulli: Don't miss the slideshow by Randy ! Everyone is back smiling and no damage to the boat at all!]

[update 2 by Ulli: More pictures, this time from Dave]

Just heard from Cirrus!

Great news! Cirrus is AT the Golden Gate as of 3:30 pm (PDT). So we're
looking forward to seeing them very soon. Chris said that the sun has come
out and they're all warming up (Except for Bill, who is at the helm). If I
can get the computer online at the Yacht Club, I'll get the crew themselves
to provide updates!

More very soon!

How to contact us:

by Ulli

During the excitement of the last few days several people tried to contact us and were leaving e.g. their email addresses in plain sight as comments - which I think is a bad idea, as spam robots will find it and get you even more spam than you already get. But there weren't really other options. Here now a partial solution, which we'll improve over time:

First, notice the new "Contact us" tab in the tab bar (right under the heading). Click and find more info on how to send a message.

Second, if you must / want leave your email address on the blog, I recommend,
- NOT to do it like this:
- but rather in hacker-style like this: mymail (at) somewhere (dot) xyz

Humans can still read it, but most spam robots have a problem.

[Update: Wow, that support crew is faster than even Cirrus! Despite a discussion crossing 12 time zones, we already got a final solution, suitable for the race, only 4 hours later]

Day 18 - prepare for a successful finish!

by Agnes

Here's Chris's sat phone report from today:

TIME: 2010/06/18 16:10
LATITUDE: 37-32.000N
LONGITUDE: 123-17.990W
SPEED: 5.5
COMMENT: 42.7 miles to the Golden Gate. ETA at GG 5:00 pm.

Kate's condition: Kate is doing well. She needs lots of sleep, but she is
happy with her progress.

The crew is doing a one-hour on and two hours off. They will do this for the
rest of the way. They said that they will definitely want hot tea when they
arrive. I guess they're still feeling the chill!

I reminded them that their cell phones should all start working soon, and
that we'd all enjoy a long conversation if possible.

To the welcoming committee (and you know who you are): Many of us will be at
the Yacht Club by 6:00 pm. We are hopeful for a 7:00 arrival of Cirrus. See
you all there!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Day 17 - Things are smoothing out

by Ulli

Things are getting better as you can see from below. I also see that Cirrus' average speed over the last 24h went up to 5.7kn, which is good.

Anyone with plans for a Welcome-Party note that destination is now changed back to Richmond Yacht Club! I suppose 8pm is PDT, but better look at this blog again before you leave.

I can tell you that there is quite some scrambling behind the scenes, but I'll let those deeper involved tell the story later.

from Chris by Sat-Phone call to Agnes, by email to me. Agnes says:

Chris called me on the Sat Phone today, and gave me this information. I've
sent it to YOTREPS.

TIME: 2010/06/17 15:55
LATITUDE: 37-32.575N
LONGITUDE: 126-09.855W
SPEED: 5.0
CLOUDS: 100%

He told me that Kate is doing well. She is responding to her medicine, and
she is up eating food and drinking tea. She is not dehydrated, and she
should continue to improve.

He reported that Bill confirmed that they are going to the Richmond Yacht
Club, not to KKMI. They have 175 miles to the Golden Gate, and at about 5
knots, which is what Chris reports that they are doing, they will get to the
GG in 35 hours (8 pm Friday) and then they should get to the RYC an hour or
so after that. I will be bringing them warm clothes and hot drinks in
addition to the picnic I have planned.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Cirrus Blog's New Clothing

Different from the fairy tale story, this new clothing is real. How do you like it?

I took advantage of Google's new Template Designer and cheap labor (my daughter is a graphics designer) and put a fresher look on the blog, though it might be more the real Cirrus, which at this very moment is in need of a touch-up.

You may notice a few technical improvements. One is a broader width - just enough so that the hot selling netbooks with their limited-width screens can be used easily. Using the new template also makes it easier for looking at the blog with smart phones. All that by some genius programmer(s) at Google.

The tab bar right underneath the header is also new, and will be filled with easy-access info.

For any suggestions, complaints, ideas add a comment to the post, Ulli

P.S. no further update since Chris' last post; Cirrus was built with those conditions in mind, so the boat will be fine, but the crew might be a bit shaken.

Position Report

TIME: 2010/06/16 16:39 (09:39 PDT)
LATITUDE: 37-15.91N
LONGITUDE: 128-54.51W
SPEED: 5.0

Kate is responding to the seasickness remedy; she was feeling pretty lousy, but is getting better now.

Dave, our sat phone is not reliable; could you please contact Sector at 415-399-3524. Give them our position and say it's a PAN-PAN; Engine out, dead batteries, no autopilot, no radio except handheld, sailing OK;' ETA SF 60 hours; One crew is sick but seems to be recovering.

4 Pob; we have an epirb if it comes to that; we're ok for now.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hanging in there

TIME: 2010/06/15 21:09UTC (That's 2:10 pm PDT)
LATITUDE: 37-15.21N
LONGITUDE: 130-53.70W
SPEED: 6.8
402 miles to go to the Golden Gate

The main challenge with losing the motor is losing the battery-powered autopilot. So now we are hand-steering. That means four-hours on deck, four hours off, two people on deck at a time. Each person takes 30 minutes at the helm, exposed to the 25 knot winds, and the cold, and the spray, while the other person hunkers under the dodger trying to warm up for 30 minutes. Then they switch.

If we can maintain our 5.5 average, we'll be at the GG in three days. Then two hours to KKMI, our probably new destination.

I presume the first order of business, after one glass of something, will be hot showers and dry clothes at RYC. See you soon. ~~Chris

Engine Problems

by Ulli

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named apparently got a little bit of an upper hand on this tough crew. The engine refuses to start, so they can't charge the batteries, so they can't post neither stories nor position reports.

How do I know? Chris had called Agnes on the Sat-phone, and she send me an email.

Nothing to worry, as they surely have enough wind to sail into Richmond. Their expectation for arrival is still Friday morning. We'll keep you updated for as long as the Sat-phone batteries last ;-)

Update from Bill via Kim:
Cirrus' current position: 37 16 North, 131 20 West. Course 090, hand steering. Speed 5.0 knots. 20 foot seas. Golden Gate 424 miles. ETA still Friday morning.

Update by Ulli:
When you click now on the weather chart on the bottom-right of this blog you get the chart I am showing here with Cirrus' current position shown as a square and a rhumb line to the Golden Gate bridge. You see the isobars being closely spaced, which means it sure is windy.
You will recognize the same info on the Cirrugator Demo site.

YOTREPS 2010/06/15 16:44

TIME: 2010/06/15 16:44
LATITUDE: 37-17.06N
LONGITUDE: 131-24.92W
SPEED: 5.7
CLOUDS: 100%
COMMENT: Engine won't start; sailing with plenty of wind; hand steering; all is well.

Monday, June 14, 2010

So It's a Little Bumpy. Big Deal!

Actually, it is kind of a big deal. Folks who thought that their Mal du Mer was behind them have had a shock. Once the little lull preceding the run downhill to San Francisco we locked into northerly winds in excess of 20 knots. That might not sound like much to the YC Bar experts out there but, given sufficient fetch, serious seas can result. For the last couple days it has been mostly 10-12 feet with prolonged episodes of 12-15 feet. You haven't lived until you are on watch alone in the cockpit and you experience one of those suckers coming aboard in the middle night. Sometimes when I"m standing in the cockpit looking around Cirrus will climb one of these special waves and just before she launches herself off down the face you can glance back into a 20 foot deep abyss between waves. It is even dark down there.

I may have have seen my first "rogue" wave. It was way off on the port quarter and just kept getting bigger until it was about 90 feet tall and looked like Mt. Fuji with white breaking foam on top for snow. (Computational details available on request.)

I think we managed the second of Kim's meat loafs just before the weather set in. Great stuff. Since then it has been impossible to do anything other than fill a pot with whatever comes to the top of the pile. Rice cooked in chicken soup and peas, remainder combined with more soup and then the remainder of that combined with clam chowder. Since enchiladas don't combine well We will probably have to start fresh tonight.

Typing at 30 degrees is for the birds. See you later.

At 6/14/2010 8:36 PM (utc) our position was 37°39.45'N 133°36.97'W

Day 14 - Hunkered Down

[Edit by Ulli: this is actually an exact duplicate of day 12. They might have miscopied. Once they send me what they really wanted to write, I'll replace]

This was written yesterday.

Well. I should have known that sooner or later it would come to this. We have been drifting along toward San Francisco in a bubble of perfect wind, perfect seas, perfect weather, perfect camaraderie and companionship. This morning's sunrise lit up the sky with a Maxfield Parrish kind of pink and blue perfection. One of the crew took me aside and confessed that because it had been so long they could no longer remember how to trim the sails. I had to reassure them that the skills would come back (probably) when needed.

A friend at KYC recently sailed his El Toro around Oahu in conditions much worse than what we have been experiencing. I hope he doesn't get wind of our current conditions. Otherwise, he'll probably be setting out for San Francisco.

In a strange way Kathy's iPad contributes to the sense of unreality. Last night (moonless, cloudless) we held it out at arm's length and the screen blended in so it seemed as if the illustrated constellations were actually part of the sky. I had to catch my breath when, at one point, I turned to look back and there was the earth behind us and below. Virtual reality is fun and all that, but enough is enough. I thought my heart would stop.

This morning I realized that I was baking in the cockpit. I was wearing a polypro long john layer, a fleece layer, my foul weather gear, boots, gloves, a hat with ear flaps, etc. Why? Because we are at Latitude 38, and that is what you do at Latitude 38.

Turns out to be a dumb idea. So it is back to shorts and tee shirts. There is one new twist to things. Earlier it was so warm and stuffy below that we would have to escape to the cockpit to cool off. Now it is so pleasant and warm in the cockpit that we have to occasionally escape down into the cabin to cool off. The cabin is actually a little chilly because of the dropping water temperature. ~~Bill

Sunday, June 13, 2010

About our ETA

Everyone who has been following Cirrugator, including me, is of course very excited that we will apparently be landing sometime very late on the night of the 16th. But we have a new wrinkle. Cirrugator calculated that we would be making about 8 knots through this band of 20+ knot winds, and we certainly have the wind. But we also have a severe 6-foot chop with interspersed breaking 9- and 12-foot swells. So, not only are we on our ears, but we are really being thrown around a lot. So, for the welfare of vessel and crew, we have throttled back to an average of about 5.5 knots. Sometimes we hit a wave and stop; sometimes we get a smooth spot and shoot ahead at 6+ knots. But let's assume 5.5 knots for the moment.

It is approximately 6:00 pm on Sunday evening and we are showing 631 miles to the Golden Gate Bridge. At 5.5 knots, that's 115 hours. If we add an hour to get to Richmond, that's 116 hours, or 4 days and 20 hours. That puts us in Richmond on Friday the 18th at 2:00 pm. If anything changes, we'll be sure to let you know.

It's a bummer for all of us who are waiting to be reunited with loved ones, but I guess the Wednesday arrival was not to be. At least we now have a somewhat realistic expectation to work with. Stay tuned. ~~Chris

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How I learned to love SPS mail, and live with the QRM

SPS = Satellite Phone Store
QRM = Radio Interference from Man-made Sources (as opposed to QRN = Natural Sources; e.g., lightning)

When Bill and I first started making plans to rent an Iridium satellite phone, way back in March, it was with the idea that it would give us a way to make phone calls from the boat in an emergency. At $1.25 a minute, we certainly wouldn't use it for everyday chit-chat and email. But something happened during the shopping process. I found lots of places that would rent us a phone for $60 a week, with $1.95 a minute airtime. For a ten-week rental, that would be $600 just for the phone, then you would need to rent the external antenna and the data kit for connecting the phone to the computer (as a modem), and then buy a SIM card for $975 (500 minutes x $1.95 per minute). Plus tax ($$$), two-way-shipping ($$$), and insurance ($$$). Then I discovered the Satellite Phone Store in Florida that was selling used phones outright for $695 and offering a 500-minute SIM card for $625 ($1.25 per minute). So I emailed them and we made a deal, phone, 500 minutes, and all accessories included, for $1700. The phone arrived, with all accessories, a week later. But it was DOA. So I called them up and, after playing phone tag for about a day, they agreed that the phone was defective and they would repair it if I sent it back, which I did. In due time, the repaired phone arrived and it did work, for voice. I did not test its data capabilities until I got to Hawaii.

Long story short (I know, too late!), when I got to Hawaii, I hooked the phone up to Bill's computer and, lo-and-behold, the data capability did not work. Since departure date was about a week away, too short to get a new phone, I was freaking out. I spent hours researching this problem on the Internet and leaving panicked messages at SPS. I even went over to Rick's house to try it on his computer, and Bill and I went to Radio Shack to buy replacement data kit parts, but nothing worked. Finally, primarily through guesswork, I changed a modem setting and got it to work, but not at the full specified speed of 19,200 bits-per-second. Does anyone remember an era when dialup modems were rated at less than 56 kbps? Anyway, it was working well enough at 9600 bps that we could shov e off and be reasonably confident that our SPS email ( would work for us.

However, this left me hugely anxious, but not for the obvious reason. The obvious reason would be that I had bought what I thought was a 19,200 bps modem and all I got was 9600; in effect, I was baited and switched. True, but no big deal. What really concerned me was the possibility that this symptom indicated a more serious hidden problem and that the whole thing might fail at any moment. That was eating at me.

Once we were at sea, I had two three-hour watches every day when I was mostly alone, inventing mental tricks to stay awake, and stewing about this modem situation. Finally, one day after my watch, I sat down and wrote a long scathing email to SPS about how unhappy I was. That led to a series of tech support email exchanges that eventually involved the company UU+, the Morro Bay software vendor for SPSmail. I had determined that I could force the modem into the 19,200 bps mode, and it would work, but just until I ran SPSmail, which would then cause it to fail. At this point, one of the UU+ tech support guys recognized this lower data rate as a characteristic of an older generation of satellite phones, one that cannot be upgraded in the field. But at least it reassured me that this was a known problem and this was normal operation and the whole thing was probably not going to fail at any moment. So I was able to accept that this phone is working perfectly, albeit at 9600 bps, in total accordance with its (dated) specification. Whew!

During this whole interaction with SPS and UU+, I developed a new theory about how SPSmail relates to Sailmail. As I said previously, I had no expectation that I would be using SPSmail all day every day, but that's what happened, and here's why.

The satellite phone can be left on 24/7; it has its own internal battery and its cigarette lighter charger draws almost no power. While it is on, it can receive text messages, which are free and which cause the phone to ring. The HF radio draws more power from the main ship's battery so we leave it off most of the time.

The satellite phone can be used any time without any planning or preparation. It is always ready to go and it is immune to ship-board QRM. The HF radio doesn't work very well when the ship's battery is low, and it doesn't work at all when the engine is running, due to QRM from the alternator. Plus, even when the battery is up, and the engine is off, the HF radio is plagued by QRM from the autopilot, so the on-watch crew (usually Kathy) has to hand steer while I use the radio. Note that this will not be an issue during the race, where autopilots are not used.

The satellite phone is a dedicated service, just like a land line, not shared. Each Sailmail shore station is shared among all users in range, like a giant party line (you've heard of those?). While Sailmail has lots of shore stations, only one or two are reachable at any one time from any one location. So all vessels in your area will be using the same few shore stations. This has not been an issue during the delivery because there's nobody else out here. It's very rare that I hear another station sending email. But I can remember in previous races, with 25 boats sailing more or less in formation to Hawaii, when we would have to wait an hour or more, listening to the radio, before we would be able to use that frequency. And sometimes I just waited until three o'clock in the morning to improve our chances of getting in.

Finally, satellite phone email is much faster than Sailmail and its file size limitations are higher. If you are willing to pay for the airtime, you can send very large files like digital photos and videos.

But what about cost? Sailmail is $250 a year, for up to 90 minutes a week usage. If you can use it year-round, as a world cruiser might, and you have no urgent email requirements, it's a smoking deal. But if you jam all your offshore email activity into two three-week trips, like we do, that's $125 a trip. SPSmail is $15 a month, or $15 a trip, plus airtime, say $75 a trip.

Conclusion: Cirrus is already equipped for Sailmail, to the tune of several thousand dollars in HF radio and PACTOR modem equipment, plus an extensive antenna system that works extremely well. So I am very happy that we have paid the annual Sailmail membership fee and I will happily use Sailmail whenever I can, like for collecting comments from all our blog readers. I especially like that it's a little more technical, including the Morse code signoff. But for the emails that have big files attached, like our blog entries, and for emails that just that have to go out now, like tech support exchanges, or dock party arrangements, even when the ship's battery is half dead, or, like today, when the motor will be running for 24 hours because we have no wind, I'm very happy to have SPSmail too.

This is my current opinion, based on what I think I know. I am always open to other opinions, and to being further educated. Comments? ~~Chris

Day 12 - Hot Weather - Cold Weather

Well. I should have known that sooner or later it would come to this. We have been drifting along toward San Francisco in a bubble of perfect wind, perfect seas, perfect weather, perfect camaraderie and companionship. This morning's sunrise lit up the sky with a Maxfield Parrish kind of pink and blue perfection. One of the crew took me aside and confessed that because it had been so long they could no longer remember how to trim the sails. I had to reassure them that the skills would come back (probably) when needed.

A friend at KYC recently sailed his El Toro around Oahu in conditions much worse than what we have been experiencing. I hope he doesn't get wind of our current conditions. Otherwise, he'll probably be setting out for San Francisco.

In a strange way Kathy's iPad contributes to the sense of unreality. Last night (moonless, cloudless) we held it out at arm's length and the screen blended in so it seemed as if the illustrated constellations were actually part of the sky. I had to catch my breath when, at one point, I turned to look back and there was the earth behind us and below. Virtual reality is fun and all that, but enough is enough. I thought my heart would stop.

This morning I realized that I was baking in the cockpit. I was wearing a polypro long john layer, a fleece layer, my foul weather gear, boots, gloves, a hat with ear flaps, etc. Why? Because we are at Latitude 38, and that is what you do at Latitude 38.

Turns out to be a dumb idea. So it is back to shorts and tee shirts. There is one new twist to things. Earlier it was so warm and stuffy below that we would have to escape to the cockpit to cool off. Now it is so pleasant and warm in the cockpit that we have to occasionally escape down into the cabin to cool off. The cabin is actually a little chilly because of the dropping water temperature. ~~Bill

Ten hours later, we have entered the twilight zone. Completely overcast dark gray skies, with the cold sun barely visible, give the day a definite winter look. The temperature has dropped to 60 and the winds and seas are building. We are pounding into the building swell with the wind almost on the nose. Hopefully, we'll be able to sail later tonight. We have 746 miles to go to the Golden Gate.

We have switched to Pacific Daylight Time on the boat. It is now 8:38 pm and Bill is about to go on watch, relieving Kathy. By the way, we had tamales for lunch. Yum. ~~Chris

At 6/13/2010 3:39 AM (utc) our position was 37°47.12'N 138°10.97'W

Friday, June 11, 2010

Day 11 - Dream On!

Recently we had a query from Rick, who is doing the race but not the delivery. He asked us:

"Is there any advice on quality of life things to make sure to bring along for the return trip? You probably have said a dozen times "Gee, I sure could use such and such or wish I had brought this or that.""

Up to this point we hadn't given it much thought, but after some discussion several ideas immerged. One of things we all miss is a particular hors-d'oeuvre (puu-puu), the one where you start with a slice of a small red skinned potato that has been boiled. You add a dollop of sour cream and a generous dab of caviar. (We couldn't agree on the best caviar to use but I could send you a list of suggestions if you are interested.)
Another place that there was not universal agreement was what to drink with it. Even champagne was mentioned. (Yuk!) Myself, I lean toward a particular Danish aquavit. Others had vodka suggestions.

Another thing we miss is live chamber music. Recordings are not the same. Alas, not very practical during a sailing trip. If someone wanted to do something really cool they could arrange a greeting at RYC consisting, for example, of a violin, viola, cello and flute. The score could be just about anything, with a slight preference for Mozart.

At the last minute Kate said that a climbing wall would be nice. Once again, not so practical. A trip up the mast, just for fun, is in the works but we have agreed that it would be more interesting to do it during the day when it is light so you can look around.

As far as learning, literature, navigation, etc. Kathy's new iPad has taken care of that. Its GPS navigation and charts are better than what we have on the boat. It seems to contain just about every book that comes up in discussions. (This is a bookish group.) Classics included!
We spent part of the early evening on a Periodic Table app that even has 112 properly named. Half the night was spent using its animated star charts to find and name various constellations. Thank goodness it was my watch and I had to be up anyway. ~~ Bill

Break, break.

Bill and I may agree on a lot of stuff, but caviar and chamber music are not among them. Bruschetta and Billy (ZZ Topp) are more to my taste. While we were discussing this topic (early, very early) this morning, I added my suggestion that a mobile shower room would really add to the dock party. One thing led to another and I hallucinated on a music video with ZZ Topp playing Sharp Dressed Man in this huge luxurious locker room with the sights and sounds of showers in the background. Maybe have the showering sailors and their groupies doing some kind of "Thriller" dance behind the shower curtains. Man, I gotta get some sleep!

Seriously though, to answer Rick's question, one thing that would have added comfort to this delivery would have been a cockpit cushion. We were very fortunate that we had benign conditions and we were able to keep the bean bag on deck almost all the time; extremely comfortable. I mean EXTREMELY! You have no idea how hard the fiberglass feels after several hours of having your backside jammed in place against it. If condition had been wet on this trip, the bean bag would have been kept below and there would have been a lot of really sore butts (aka monkey-butt; Google it!).

I think the time has come to start discussing our landfall. Here on the boat, we have a local copy of Cirrugator running. In theory, it should give us the same results you see on the Cirrugator website. However, our results may be slightly different because I might be using slightly different weather data from Ulli, and because Ulli knows what he's doing and I don't (Time offset = 17, right Ulli?). So, allowing for those variations, our copy of Cirrugator says that we will land at 7:27 pm on the evening of the 16th. Of course, that's completely bogus; we all know that Cirrus always lands between midnight and four am. The other thing we have just started looking at is the tide data for the Golden Gate. If you are not familiar with the Golden Gate Bridge, it is known for its very strong tidal currents, currents that are strong enough to overwhelm the forward movement of sailboats, and currents that are strong enough to create a violent washing-machine effect if they flow against strong winds. Ideally, we will arrive at the GG on a strong flood tide with the wind behind us. Alternatively, we would look for a slack current regardless of wind. Anything else can be very slow and extremely scary. So stay tuned for updates as we get closer.

The other big deal in current events aboard Cirrus occurred yesterday. We were equally distant from Hawaii and the mainland, 1089 nautical miles. Kathy and Kate organized a hell of a bash (see photos). And gourmet delights included tuna salad for lunch (my favorite), pasta for dinner (my other favorite) and various goodies like giant chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, accompanied by real champagne. I want to stress to all our friends at Sea Life Conservation that all champagne corks (all one of them) were noisily popped but kept safely aboard. Kathy also provided the ribbon corsages and bubble pipes. The bubble-blowing competition was pretty muted though. I think Kate was first in the big bubble class, and Kathy and I were distant thirds, totally incompetent. Bill declined to compete; that man knows how to blow a bubble!

That's all for now. Smoke 'em if you got 'em! Thanks for your comments yesterday; keep them coming. ~~Chris

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Day 10 - Half Way Party!

We've already had two half-way parties: one for getting half-way to our target latitude, and one for getting half-way to our projected total time at sea. Today is the day when our GPS indicated that we were equally distant from the Golden Gate Bridge and Makani Kai Marina. So Bill wanted to me to quote a famous person on this topic: "It is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is the end of the beginning." ~~ Winston Churchill.

Specifically, at 07:58:58 this morning, we noted that we were 1089 miles from both the Golden Gate Bridge and Makani Kai Marina. Kathy already passed the cookies and cream candies. Coffee candies to come later, along with some bubbley, and maybe pictures. Stay tuned.

Yesterday, I forgot to post the pictures that accompanied the "Guest Blogger" item. Here they are.

Sailing yesterday afternoon was a blast. During my watch, the wind started to build and our speed started to climb. By about 5:30, we had been screaming along at about 8.5 knots for about an hour. But sunset was coming and we decided to reef for the night. So we furled the jib, started the motor, headed up about 50 degrees, and Bill and Kate went forward to work on the reef, all while the boat was bouncing and swerving in the swell. Just as we were wrapping up, a cargo ship came over the horizon and hailed us on the VHF. We were busy, so we ignored the first few calls, but eventually, I was free to go below and call him back. On the other end of the line was a very polite man who spoke perfect English with what sounded like an Indian or Pakistani accent. We was calling to ask if we were OK. I guess he had seen our wild course changes on his radar and maybe even used powerful binoculars to see Bill and Kate dancing on the foredeck and concluded that we might be in some difficulty. I assured him we were completely normal sailors performing a completely normal maneuver to reduce our speed. And I thanked him for his concern. He assured me that his vessel would pass well ahead of ours and wished us a good evening and a good voyage. "Gee, what a nice guy!" ~~ Madeline Kahn.

Hopefully, we'll have an extra blog item today, after the party. ~~Chris

At 6/10/2010 4:45 PM (utc) our position was 35°42.05'N 145°09.52'W

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Day 9 - Guest Blogger Day

Chris is taking the day off, so here are the words of Cirrus's other crew members.

From Bill: What a wonderful trip so far. And to think that I came close to canceling out this year. The weather and sailing conditions are mellow beyond belief. For example, right now we are drifting along at 4-5 knots of wind to the ENE just like Cirrugator suggests. Making 4-5 knots to weather in very light air and seas that are kind of bumpy but OK.

I have always had interesting people as delivery crew and this group gets 4 stars. The chit chat hits a pretty high plane when books and reading are being discussed.
There is a lot of talk about travel and outdoor adventures. Real life doesn't come close to being as much fun. Guess that's why we do it.

A couple days ago we put our first halfway Point (party) behind us. That was halfway (Latitude). Yesterday's party was halfway (chronological) where the elapsed time and predicted time to finish were equal (8 days). (Oops. Forgot to open the sparkling cider.) The next halfway will be spatial, when the distance to SF is the same as the distance to home. That's coming up tomorrow, about 100 miles from now. The final party (unless someone can help us out with more suggestions) will be the halfway (Longitude).

I don't know if this was previously mentioned but a couple days ago when things were really quiet I decided on a crew training session consisting of races (tethered) around the deck. First up to the bow, switch sides and back to the cockpit. The best time was 27 seconds but the awards are being held up on a technical point. (One of the competitors was heard practicing while on watch the night before.) The new crew members did well but declined to join the subsequent blindfolded competition.

I opened up the engine compartment yesterday to take a look and most everything was fine: oil, coolant, belts, shaft seal, no fuel or oil drips. BUT. The damnned sea water coolant hose had a little drip that coated stuff with salt and required an hour or so of cleanup. Seems to be ok now.

From Kate: Hi Everyone. It became apparent that some of us were not contributing to the blog. Personally, I thought Chris was doing a great job, and sure that he won't have as many spelling errors as me. But here goes. This trip seems kind of like a vacation! Lots of naps, food, and general relaxation. Occasionally, we have to trim sails, etc. but overall it's been quiet. We were well provisioned and have a buffet to choose from each lunch and dinner. Last night we had shrimp scampi with pasta and a veggie to keep our Mom's happy. Cookies for dessert. Lunch today was chili on top of rice with apples on the side. I still get slammed around, though. There is a safety strap in the galley that goes around your back that keeps most of a person's body in the galley area (some appendages exempt).

From Kathy: Today I cooked, served, and ate an entire meal at sea. Those who know me will realize this is quite an accomplishment. They will be more amazed that although I was "in charge" of provisioning, the crew has not starved. Many a meal has been what I have mentally called "man meals"—I set out the cans, they are opened, the contents thrown into a pot and heated, and we eat the results. Clam chowder, canned corn, and canned chicken has been a favorite, we have had it twice. Chris says "Mmmm, delicious!" every time.

Some have asked about our shipboard rituals. I take a lot of naps. A lot. After every meal and every watch. I am well rested. After my really long nap, from ten p.m. to five a.m., excluding checking in on Kate's watch at 2 a.m. (the milky way is finest at that hour) I take out my trusty individual packaged face wipes (first product placement of the day), wash my face, do some leg stretches and bicycle moves, heave myself out of bed, and I'm good to go.

The first few days, those who had them wore the Pacific Cup's "Performance Shirt" incessantly. Perfect to keep the sun off and the air in during those tropical days. Still available on-line.

Also, among the numerous coffees available on board, the coffee of choice has been Starbuck's instant coffee in a tube. Other great items: bandanas. Those headlamps with the red lights on them. Long's over-your-prescription-glasses polarized sunglasses. If you don't have them, get them.

After dinner, Kate and I do foredeck drills. We try to beat Bill's time around the foredeck, totally clipped in the entire time, of course. We couldn't even beat his eyes closed time.

My watch is from 6 to 9, a.m. and p.m., the sunset and sunrise watches. There is absolutely nothing so nice as to be on watch at night, the rest of the crew busy or slumbering below. I look forward to my watches, I look forward to getting home, but first, chicken pot pie for dinner (Costco, Marie Callender's, individual servings, just heat and serve.)

Also, grapefruit, oranges, apples, and cabbage last a lot longer than you'd expect—it's day nine and they are still good. And they are easily peelable/sliceable on deck.

That's all for today. Thanks for your comments. ~ The Crew of s/v Cirrus

Reply to Ulli's Commnet on Day 8 - Long Johns

Hi Ulli,

Thanks for the comment. You were correct. It immediately got warm again for a few hours. But last night was fleece night. And I sewed three inches of cloth onto the bottom of my shorts. I'm going to do that every day so that I'll have long pants by the time we get to SF.

Regarding the sails, the wedding dress is slightly shredded around the ankles but, otherwise, all is well. The "Dalmation" sail is doing very well. No more giant squid ink so far.

Klau says Hi. He's been very quiet. I think he's planning something.


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Day 8 - Long Johns

OK, last night we crossed into the arctic latitudes; the air temperatures dropped from the 70's and 80's into the 60's. As you can see from the photo, Kathy is in full foulies this morning; quite a contrast to the "showers" picture. As she says, "Ah, typical summer [San Francisco] bay weather!" I would add, "Except it's not blowing 30!" Rick mentioned that there are no pictures of me in the blog, so here's a picture of me. There are two significant items in this picture. First, the fan blades are stationary. Until last night, this fan ran almost continuously from the moment we went aboard in Makani Kai. Second, I'm wearing a shirt while below. Again, a first since we left Hawaii. Tomorrow, we'll probably be wearing our parkas to bed.

At 0645, Hawaii Time, we were at latitude N33-01.414, longitude W148-51.219, on a course of 045M, sailing at a speed of about 4 knots, with our GPS showing 1320 miles to go. We are hoping to see more wind later today or tomorrow. We still have plenty of coffee, so all is well. BTW, the sea temperature has dropped a lot too. On "showers" day, it was 76, today it is 66! Brrr!

BTW, BTW, we have sighted three ships since leaving Hawaii, all of them we pretty big cargo container ships, all steaming at 20+ knots. Bill spoke to two of them on the VHF. One guy was Japanese, and had an extremely thick accent, but spoke to Bill in excellent English. Then he disappeared over the horizon on his way to Yokohama. Now we're all alone again. See you tomorrow. ~~Chris

Monday, June 7, 2010

Day 7 - Scampi

Today seems almost uneventful. I guess we are really getting into the routine. Last night, we sailed wing-on-wing all night under a poled-out jib in light winds. The ride was relatively smooth and reasonably fast. Today, we remembered to turn the navigation lights off at dawn, unlike yesterday. Imagine our surprise when, yesterday at dusk, we went to turn on the lights and found them all already on. No wonder the batteries were low. Dinner tonight was boiled ziti with a garlic shrimp sauce. Last night was New England clam chowder, fortified with canned chicken and canned peas. This was our no-effort dinner after three nights of oven-baked gourmet delights: meat loaf with mashed potatoes, roast turkey with mashed potatoes, and roast bbq beef with mashed potatoes. Each of these dinners was cooked by either Kate of Kathy, with Bill's supervision. I have to hand it to Kate and Kathy for sticking it out in the tiny galley in spite of the incredible heat (Cirrus has zero ventilation), and less than stable working conditions. OSHA would have a fit. I'm gonna cut this short tonight because I got sunscreen in my right eye today and it hurts like heck. That will also explain why I was not on the radio tonight; my apologies to Lou and Steve for not checking in. Hopefully tomorrow. In the meantime, thanks again for your comments. Good night all. ~~Chris
At 6/8/2010 5:00 AM (utc) our position was 32°25.66'N 149°51.04'W

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Sunday, June 6, 2010

Day 6 - Happiness is Seven Knots in a Light Breeze

For those of you asking about today's position report, it was transmitted about an hour later than usual. As mentioned below, the wind was building as I came off watch and we decided that dowsing the chute was a priority task. But, by the time you read this, our latest position should be available on YOTREPS. FYI, below is what a position report looks like; it is a machine-generated email that is addressed to, and read by, a machine. Our Sailmail software reads our position, and course and speed, and the time, from our GPS unit. It fills in those blanks on a form input window. For the other items, I look out a window, and/or stick a wet finger in the air, and come up with my best guess for each of the blanks. Then I click on "Send to YOTREPS" and all that info gets converted into the emails you see below.

This is today's report:

TIME: 2010/06/06 17:49 (Note from Chris: this is 0749 HST)
LATITUDE: 30-07.55N
LONGITUDE: 152-52.25W
SPEED: 6.5

This is yesterday's report:

TIME: 2010/06/05 16:49 (Note from Chris: this is 0649 HST)
LATITUDE: 28-41.44N
LONGITUDE: 154-10.88W
SPEED: 6.6

If, after reading all this, you still see a discrepancy on YOTREPS, please let me know and I'll contact Mr. Yotreps.

Back to today's blog entry, already in progress: Last night, at sunset, we were still flying the "wedding dress", but the wind was getting light and our speed was dropping into the two knot range. So we had to make a decision: leave the chute up and hope for the best, or take it down so we could fire up the d-sail. So we decided to defer the decision for a half-hour. At the end of the half-hour we saw that the average speed had climbed into the three-knot range, which was good enough for overnight. We agreed that, if the wind died, we'd do what we had to do, but, if the breeze filled in, we would look like geniuses, at least in our own eyes. And guess what; throughout the night, the breeze was light but steady and it gradually filled in. When I went on watch at 0300, our speed had been in the fours for a while and was occasionally in the fives. During my watch, it built further until we were routinely in the sixes, with plenty of sevens thrown in. I even saw an 8.00. But once Kathy was in the saddle, and I was below reading your emails, Bill decided that, since we hadn't yet had a knockdown, but the wind was still building, it was inevitable that we'd get a surprise sooner rather than later. In fact, the GPS was hitting 8.5 knots from time-to-time, with lots of big rolls. So, all hands on deck, let's get the chute down and stowed, let's get the spinnaker fence down and stowed, let's get the jib out and drawing, and then let's, the off watch, go below for coffee and cookies.

BTW, in the spinnaker photo, if you look carefully around the bottom of the "wedding dress", you'll see that it's slightly shredded in a few spots. That's why it's flying on two poles. Before we launched the second (leeward) pole, the chute was tending to drag on the bow pulpit occasionally and we think that's what started the shredding action. Of course, when it comes to expensive sails, once it starts shredding, nobody knows where it will stop. Well, actually, we do know; at the sail maker's front door.

Today's other "stop the presses" photo is from yesterday, when it was incredibly hot and sunny, and 76 degree saltwater was deemed to be the ideal stuff for a beachfront shower. Very cooling. Of course, I, the on-watch crew, was hunkered in the shade under the dodger wearing my technical long-sleeve Pacific Cup sun-shirt, and my long-legged convertible REI sun-pants, with my brimmed camo sun-hat and with 45-proof sunscreen running into my eyes. Really pleasant. And somewhat warm too. Of course, I wasn't hunkered when I took the picture, but otherwise, definitely hunkered.

OK, enough for now. As I leave you, here is our position report: TIME: 2010/06/06 19:56 (That's UTC, 0956 in Hawaii)
LATITUDE: 30-12.23N
LONGITUDE: 152-37.38W
SPEED: 6.6
It's sunny and clear here. ~~Chris

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Question about time stamps on the blog

Hi Rick,

Thanks for your question. That email was time-stamped here on the boat at 1209, which is Hawaii time, which is what you use for all activities on board. I can only speculate that the blog server is in the PDT time zone and it time-stamped the message at 1509 local time. Any thing else? keep 'em coming. ~~Chris
At 6/5/2010 11:37 PM (utc) our position was 29°09.47'N 153°55.96'W

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Position Reports at the end of some blog posts

Hi all, we've gotten some questions about this. Here's the answer: There are three ways to get an item posted to the blog. If it's a short item, like this one, we use SailMail to send it via short wave radio and the position report is automatically included. That's a feature of SailMail and SailMail only. If it's an item that includes video or photos, it's a much bigger file so we use the satellite phone email software UUPlus to send it, which does not append a position report. And third, if the item is posted by Ulli, our shoreside system administrator and tech guru, using normal Internet mail, the position report is not appended. Even if Ulli were using SailMail, which he could, from his home in Germany, his position report would not be of much value in determining where Cirrus is. Does that solve the mystery? Any other items of burning curiosity? Inquiring minds, etc. ~~Chris
At 6/5/2010 11:31 PM (utc) our position was 29°09.21'N 153°56.29'W

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Day Five - The Garbage Files

For all fans of marine debris studies, we have data. In the first 240 miles north of Oahu, we did not take waypoint coordinates, but during those several days we encountered one crab pot float, three gray plastic fishing ball floats (see photo), and something that looked like a urethane foam corn-on-the-cob; I speculate that it's a crab pot buoy that's lost its shell and has been battered for a while until it's just a nub of its former functional shape. Since then we have recorded three waypoints with the following inventory: WP1 - polyethylene 6-pack ring, styrofoam blob, larger styrofoam sheet (2 ft x 3 ft); WP2 - one crab pot float, three unidentified chunks of plastic, 2 blocks of styro (like a small stereo might be packed in), and a 20-foot piece of polypropylene line; and WP3 - one more small piece of unidentified trash. We haven't spotted Garbage Island yet, but we remain optimistic.

This morning, while sailing at about 3 knots in extremely light wind, we decided to try the spinnaker. So, we began the drill: furl the jib (speed dropped to 1.5 knots), attach the snatch blocks, hoist the spinnaker fence, run the guy and sheet, hoist and position the pole, and, finally, hoist the spinnaker. At first there was no discernible speed improvement, but gradually we picked up a tenth, then another tenth, and so on until we were up to about 4 knots. So, we are now sailing under spinnaker, and the average has climbed to about 5 knots, but we see the occasional 6 knot burst (see photo).

Ham radio wise, I have had some recent success, now that we are no longer motoring. Previously, with the engine running, the alternator created so much electrical noise that it was impossible to use the radio. But last night, while sailing with the motor off, I was able to reach Tom, W7ISU, one of the operators of the Pacific Seafarer's ham radio network, and he was able to contact my buddy Steve, N6TGM, in Santa Cruz. The way this works is that Tom, with his "million-dollar" radio, and 100-foot antenna tower, located on a 3300-foot mountaintop in the western Washington Cascades, can talk to anyone, anywhere, any time. That's why he is a "Net Control" operator, like a volunteer phone company. Both Steve and I have puny "thousand-dollar" radios, and we have puny 30-foot antennas, which are located a puny 12 feet above the water, 1700 miles apart. So there is absolutely no way that Steve and I could talk to each other directly under normal circumstances. And most sailors around the world are in the same boat, as it were, when trying to use ham radio to communicate with friends and family. We all depend on this "asymmetric" model in which dedicated ham radio volunteers like Tom spend a ton of time and money setting up professional grade shoreside radio stations so that people like us can communicate. Anyway, it was great to hear Tom's voice come booming in through the static and I could hear him calling Steve and repeating to him that we sailing in light wind and that all was well. If you're a ham and you want to listen in, we'll be on 14.300 at 1815 Hawaii Time.

As I write this, our position is N 29d 03.472, W 154d 01.417, course is 027T, and speed is about 5 knots. The sky is 95% clear, the winds are light from the southwest, and the water temperature is 82 degrees F. We saw our friendly albatross again today; that's at least three days in a row. I actually have video. I also have pictures of the crew taking (cold) saltwater showers. So far, I'm the only unwashed one, but then again, I was asleep during the great tarball cleanup exercise. Stay tuned.

BTW, I have just learned that our Pacific Cup start date has been moved from July 5th to July 6th. So if you are making plans to be in town for the start, you have been warned. See you there.

Remember, we look forward to your comments. Thanks to everyone who has written to us so far. ~~Chris

Surprise Change of Start Date

Cirrus's start has been moved to Tuesday, July 6. While officially still a draft, the PCup organizers expect this to be pretty much final. Not sure if that means that Cirrus' rating has changed, I will follow up on this.
Division: B Tuesday, July 6
Cirrus    Bill Myers B 40 feet Standfast 40
Tiki J    Scott Dickinson B 42 feet J/42
Coyote    Connie & St B 42.6 feet Beneteau First 42
Bequia    Dennis B. Ronk B 40.6 feet Beneteau 411
Relentless   Greg Paxton/Arn B 32 feet Sydney32
Sweet Okole   Dean Treadway B 36 feet Custom Farr 36
Scaramouche V   Peter M. Heiber B 49 feet PalmerJohnson
Tiki Blue   Gary Troxel B 41.8 feet Beneteau 423

Friday, June 4, 2010

Day Four - Still a Lake, but with Some Wind

Hi Gang: Well, we turned the motor off today, after motoring for 37 hours. We also emptied five of our eight fuel cans into the starboard tank. The swell is tiny but the ride is very lumpy due to the light winds. We are sailing at about five knots, sometimes more, sometimes less. The pictures are from yesterday. The third one shows how truly flat and calm the ocean was, and the other two show the efforts required to remove the giant squid ink blotches from the deck. Apparently these blotches are made of some other-worldly material; It took a strong cleaner and plenty of scrubbing to get them off. So now, as Bill says, half the deck is clean. The mal-de-mer status seems definitive: no symptoms for two days. In fact, just the opposite. Kathy and Kate have become positively bright-eyed and enthusiastic. 1740 miles to go. 12 more days. See you later. ~~Chris

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Reply to Ulli's comment

Hi Ulli. Thanks for your kind words. Cirrugator is AWESOME! Yes, we have the latest GRIB, and yes, we can see all the bad news in our future, including a lot of motoring. Good thing Cirrus has wing tanks (see photo). ~~Chris

PS: While is attaching the wing tank photo, I discovered a bunch of cool pictures. So here are a couple more.