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.


  1. Bill's writing skills get better with every trip. Just a few more of "I'll never again do the Cup" years, and we can only meet him at the front-end of the line at the Barnes & Noble best seller signing event!

  2. So glad to hear you guys made it back safe! What an adventurous trip!! Happy to know Kate is all better, that the boat is being fixed up, and spirits are high! Great job you guys! Now on to the easy part, downhill from here ;-) Lots of love and finger crossings, Christin

  3. It is funny to read your references to the Pac Cup as "the return trip." For me it is the big event and our "return trip" is some vague future thing to worry about in a few more weeks. :) I agree with Ulli that you are going to end up on the best seller list, Bill. See you at the Bon Voyage Party. -Jennifer, Tiki J

  4. From Bill:

    Thanks a lot for the kind words about the writing. I find that I get more and more pleasure from it as time goes on. It is gratifying to get the positive feedback.

  5. Great recap of the delivery trip! Just wanted to let everyone know that Kate is doing great. We had a very enjoyable scenic trip up the coast highway and through the various redwood parks, camping and motel-ing our way up to Portland where she caught a flight to visit family in Montana. On the winding road north, she spoke often of the great strength and focus of the crew during those rough spots. Glad to hear the repairs and preparations for the race are going well. Best wishes, Sam

  6. Bill,
    Glad to hear from you as your email address still has an automatic response on it. It's good to see how quickly everything has come together since your arrival. We'll continue to watch your blog and see you next week in Richmond. If there's anything you need from here, call!
    Kim and Lou

  7. At last - words (very nicely crafted words at that) from the Skipper. And speaking of "Skipper" is he/she along - haven't seen any pictures. Glad to know that your diagnostics re. the starter motor were accurate and that locating a new one wasn't a nightmare. I think the "fragile" notation is misleading...the number of times that noggin has been bonked and survived it can't be called "fragile" --- vulnerable, though, for certain!
    Confirming your marine insurance is paid in full.
    Please keep writing - communication from you is a treasured event.

  8. hallo Bill, euch allen gute fahrt und immer guten wind bis zum ziel.
    karl aus wolfsburg , ullis schwiegervater.