Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Day 16- sail change challenges and too close for comfort

Time: 1700 Zulu (noon PV time)
Position: 19-deg 08-min N 133-deg 25-min W
Wind: NE 18-knots Seas: NE 5-ft
Avg. Course: 270 T Avg. Speed: 4.8-knots
Rig: Tiple-reefed main, 80% jib
24-hr distance traveled: 116-nm
Distance to Hilo: 1,227-nm

With the light winds (which seem to always happen on Chris' watches versus rain and heavy weather on Shawn's- it's become a joke to note it's raining- it must be close to Shawn's watch, or to note that the cloud cover has opened up just in time for Chris' watch...), Chris got motivated and decided to fly our drifter (150%). Unfortunately, while being raised, the foot of the sail snagged on something creating a relatively small rip and then the sail proceeded to wrap itself several times around the headstay. Shawn was awaken by Chris' expletives from above and was on deck in an instant. Together we brought the sail down safely, repaired it, reset it and hauled it up. After losing only an hour, we got 3 beautiful hours of flying along before winds topped 15-knots and with darkness encroaching, we doused the drifter and replaced it with the 80% for the night.

After getting our sails in order for the night, we filled our bellys with chili nachos followed by a full Thanksgiving meal (mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing, and even cranberry sauce). Chris went to bed and then 4-hrs later, he came on watch and Shawn joined Grizzly in the bunk. A mere 5-minutes before her alarm went off for her early shift this morning, Shawn was instantly awake when from up on deck Chris said in a calm but strong voice, "Shawn, I need you to get up and turn on the computer immediately. And pass me the keys for the engine". A million thoughts raced through her mind as she willed the computer to boot faster and plugged the GPS into the AIS and the AIS into the computer. Now, Coastal Navigator, open up, open up, yes, "I Accept". OK, GPS fix. AIS on. Yes, there is a ship right on top of us! Zoom in, 1.75-nm away, 1-min 33-sec to closest point of contact: 0.75-nm.

"Where should I go, I can't tell from their lights"?! Shawn replied, "it looks like we're okay, but if you want to be sure, tack and head east". Chris did so while Shawn hailed the vessel on VHF-16. The vessel returned her call immediately, "Yes we've been monitoring you for 20-min on our radar. What is your destination? Are you in need of assistance?". As long as you don't run over us we will not need assistance came to mind, but instead she replied, "As long as you are aware we are just off your port bow, all is well." Their heading was 220, New Zealand, ours 270, Hilo which is why although not on a collision course, for the past 20-minutes that Chris was monitoring them, he was seeing very little change in bearing. Although our adrenaline was pumping, we were relieved that our vigilant monitoring paid off and that the other vessel was actually paying attention as well. It's such a big ocean, and we are such a small target, what are the chances? No matter how small the probability, the consequences can not be ignored. New protocol: in addition to our 15-min horizon scans, boot up every 2-hrs and check for longer range AIS ships (they will show up hundreds of miles away which will give us advanced warning) because 15-min is really very little time to avoid a ship moving at 18-knots. Many thanks to the Universe for this gentle reminder.


  1. Breathe. Then smile. Well done! Love you lots, Mum

  2. Leah, Gretchen, Luka, and GabrielJune 1, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    What an adventurous day/night! Here's to swift and safe sailing - love to you all!

  3. What an adventure-filled post! The "wake up" to a "drifter wrap" would have been enough. Not nice for solo sailing. Ah..Thanksgiving Dinner. What a nice solution to stress. Comfort food. I could feel it settle as I read along, only to have my adrenlin start pumping as you and a large freighter headed on slowly converging tracks. Great scramble solution, once again electronic but for a far larger beast than the pod of whales you echoed away. Bravo. You guys are a great team and your blog reads like an exciting adventure novel. Love getting my daily fix and seeing yours - Dad -

  4. i just can't even imagine this-- it seems like you'd be so aware of anybody else on the water that you'd be able to steer very clear of each other, but it goes to show you how utterly amazing all of these experiences are, these unimaginables to the ignoramus like me! wonderful-- i love this reminder too.