On August 22 and 23rd, Ocean Planet and I went for a 300 mile spin off the
coast of California, just the two of us. I was a bit nervous with
anticipation beforehand as this was my first singlehanded sailing trip with
her. Didn’t sleep much the last few days, as there was a lot to do to get
ready. I needed to finish some details on our navigation and communication
systems. This proved to be time well spent…….
My local friends in the SSS (the Singlehanded Sailing Society) were racing
a 400 mile offshore race at the same time, so I passed them on the way out
to the Farallone Islands, even though I left about an hour after they
started. The conditions were quite light, but Ocean Planet was almost
twice as fast as the other boats. Of course it isn’t even fair to compare
“regular” boats to an Open 60 like Ocean Planet.
There still is a lot to learn about how to make Ocean Planet really hit her
stride, as she seems fast all the time. But it will take many months of
testing to iron out options like just how much water ballast to put in for
a given wind strength and angle. I really envy the Volvo 60 programs that
have two boats to test against each other, that is a great way to do it.
But at this point, in a way, it is good for me to just get used to being on
the boat and establishing a relationship with her. You can tell a lot by
feel and intuition once you get connected with your boat.
It was really foggy outside the Golden Gate (sometimes I think we should
call it the “Grey Gate”), but the fog lifted in the afternoon and it was
absolutely spectacular when I sailed by the Farallone Islands on our way
out to sea. I have raced around these strange rocks so many times, but to
go so close to them on Ocean Planet, with the afternoon sun illuminating us
both, was really a special moment for me. We sailed on into the night,
close-hauled in the light winds, the autopilot steering perfectly upwind at
8-9 kts of speed. Sorry I didn’t get any pics, the battery on my digital camera went dead and I forgot the charger…..
The morning of the 23rd, we were 100+ miles outside of the Farallones. The
winds were even lighter, which meant I needed to turn around: mid-day on
the 24th I had a job crewing on a Farr 40 in preparation for the weekend
races on the Bay. The trip back would be interesting with the light air
and thickening fog. After a while, I set a fractional spinnaker. It was a
good chance to practice this by myself and play with autopilot settings. I
was wishing we had our gennikers and bigger kite! Hopefully the
contributions will keep up and we’ll get more sponsors so we can add them
to Ocean Planet’s clothing inventory…
When evening fell I took down the kite. We will do nighttime spinnaker
practice on a later trip. From the Farallones on in to the Golden Gate bridge it
was completely foggy. I had to closely monitor the radar and Vessel
traffic on VHF to keep an eye on the freighters, tugs, and other mysterious
blips on the screen. Thank goodness for our Nobeltec electronic charting
system! With the GPS data fed to Ocean Planet’s AMD powered computer and
showing our position on the Nobeltec “Vector” digital charts, I was able to
tell exactly where we were at all times. With the bow of the boat barely
visible in the fog, we were literally flying on instruments. The San
Francisco Bay entrance is one of the busiest on the West Coast and it could
be really dangerous to do this kind of “blind” landfall without the right
equipment and software.
Just after passing under the bridge about 200 feet from the North tower
(never did see it) we gybed and headed for the San Francisco city front.
We had to hurry as there was a short window between a huge tanker and
another tug coming in that we had to pass between. As we got closer to the
City the fog cleared to show the welcome lights and smells of such a
beautiful place. I dropped the mainsail in front of the famous tourist
attraction of Pier 39 (no tourists at 2 a.m!) and motored to our home berth
in Marina Village in Alameda.
I got to bed at 4 a.m., and was out sailing the Farr 40 later in the day.
Now it Monday, two more days and five races later, so my arms are pretty tired from five days of grinding winches in a row. But this is great training! If I stay at it
perhaps I’ll be able to beat Ellen McArthur in arm wrestling….;-) Just kidding,