July 23rd, 22:15 utc – lat 24 09 N, lon 146 38 W

I realize that my last few updates have been short, at best. That’s because things have been full on. No relief. Now we’ve got a breather. The ‘drenched by the cold rain fingers’ (yes, there is a cold front around here coming through) can start typing again after some weather crunching. I figure I would make this a ‘complete’ update to answer some of the questions that you may have.

1. Mangled/tangled blob on the keel: It came back, maybe remnants of the old one or we’re just a magnet for that stuff. In any case in 20 knots of breeze (more on that later), we heeled her as much as we could with full cant to windward. Richard had a go at ‘unbalancing the blob’ so that the high speed surfs would end up pulling it out (we’re seeing surfs in the upper teens). So while yours truly is keeping the boat on a razor’s edge balance, Richard, the mighty blob slayer, is hitting this thing as hard as he can through fast flowing water. Every time he hits the big carbon batten flexes almost out of control. After 10 minutes of this balancing act, we decide that it is not going to happen. So we figure that with all this squall activity, it’s just a matter of time before we stop behind one and then I’ll dive under the boat with our bigger knife and carve through ‘the blob’. Decisions terminate panic. Done.

2. Squalls: They are everywhere and in fact… I’ve got to stop typing because it’s time to jibe in front of one…

3. Progress so far… Here is the chart. Nice track!

Charting Pegasus’s progress

July 23rd, 14:00 pst

We’ve been ‘hunted down’ by a squall all day. Just like a giant Pac-Man trying to eat us up… The bad news is that we just noticed that there is still a big mangle of stuff at the bottom of our keel. We were not feeling that our boat was making her usual speed and were making theories etc… We’re on it.

July 23rd, 00:30 utc – lat 25 03 N, lon 143 42 W

Richard and I have been battling squalls all day. Our goal was to get into the pressure that is slightly South of us, without going too far South and avoiding having to jibe at a bad angle. So we elected to sail slower, but directly to Honolulu. That gives a South-slant to our course. It’s been some very challenging light air sailing with lots of sail changes. We may now have found the tip of those slightly stronger trades. As the persistent right shift hasn’t happened and, in general, the right handed boats get it first, we are happy to be where we are. If there is significantly more wind South, our strategy will backfire. It’s going to be a close call.

Today was time to do our rig-check. That means yours truly ‘grinding’ Richard up the mast, and Richard checking every fitting and point of attachment before we get into the (hopefully) stronger trades in Hawaiian waters. Richard is 225 pounds and grinding him all the way up the mast is a good effort. And, of course, Richard has to have trust in my abilities to control the situation. It is truly teamwork. And it does make for great pictures. The first large one is a picture of Richard taking a picture of himself at the top of the mast. The second picture is a picture of the boat seen from the top of the mast. I am steering the boat while Richard is checking the rig. This is tricky, but not quite as dangerous as it sounds. Richard and I both have young children and we are cautious.

 

July 23rd, 06:45 pst

Richard taps his foot 7 times on deck. Just an hour of sleep in the last 24 hours… Time to jibe, we’re on a massive lift. We now jibe Melges 24 style. A bit daring, we just send it. Slowly at first, letting that clue pass around the forestay while Richard eases. The main is already pinned in the middle. As soon as the clue of the kite passes the forestay, I accelerate the turn (I drive through the jibes while Richard works the kite sheet), Richard gets the new sheet trimmed while I let the mainsheet run as soon as the boom crosses. We pull off a perfect jibe in the dark in 17 knots and that really makes us happy. Time to crunch weather and report our position. Surprise: although we had a wild night, we actually seem to have done alright. Maybe that’s the 25+ knot squalls that we rode for hours. Nice one, we’re on similar longitudes as the top pack, but to the right with quite a bit of leverage as the wind gradually shifts right. And maybe an opportunity to sleep. First we must check the keel and rudders.

Weather crunching after a wild night

July 23rd, 04:45 pst – lat 24 11 N, lon 145 15 W

Wild Night in the North Pacific!

In the last 6 hours, we saw it all: 10 to 28 knots, big thump (we hit ‘something’), multiple jibes in the night and one of the few times that we both trusted the auto-pilot so that I could crunch some weather files while Richard was off watch sleeping. As I was down below, a big 20+ knot puff hits, the autopilot doesn’t respond and we are on our side before we know it, kite flapping in the pitch black night after the moon has set. Last night, we saw it all and we made it through stronger, adrenaline pumping, drenched in the pouring rain of the squalls, a few bruises here and there, nice war wounds to brag about.

To make a long story short because I need to go shut my eyes for a few hours while Richard is on deck,

1. There are squalls everywhere and they start getting active around midnight. And some of them carry quite a bit of power in front of them.

2. So Richard is getting his Z’s, I’m steering in a dark squall, 22+ knots, and the boat wobbles violently. It feels like we’re tearing through blubber. We hit something and it is coming apart… It did. It didn’t phase Richard who slept right though it. When he woke up, I asked him to check the keel and drive the boat to see if he felt anything different. He wasn’t quite sure. We are still going fast in the breeze. We’ll wait until daylight. I bet all is ok.

3. We are puzzled how the solo sailors can possibly trust the auto-pilot. That puff was no more than 25 knots. We both rushed out of the companionway into the night. Richard eased the kite and main sheets and I focused on steering the boat down. Just like a 505, except that we didn’t capsize. We were on our side no longer than a minute.

Bottom line: there is really something extreme about this adventure. We’ll have many stories to tell.

Now for some sleep….

July 22nd, 15:30 utc – lat 25 25 N, lon 142 23 W

Five times during the dark and squally night, Richard and I wanted to jibe either to stay in front of a windy squall or to take the radical right shift induced by the cloud. Yet just the two of us need over 30 minutes to jibe safely at night. We are comparing our track with racing machines crewed by more than 10! So instead, we are simply sailing on our line waiting for a more persistent shift. This is the first time in the race that we can’t do what we want to do from a navigational and tactical point of view. And, of course, if sailing with two was as simple as sailing with twelve, the America’s Cup or the Volvo Ocean race would be sailed with just two. This all makes it even more fun and challenging for us. It’s like playing golf against Tiger Woods with just three clubs! When you keep up or are slightly behind, you feel very good and proud. That’s how we feel. A great feeling.

The sky this morning is 70% overcast and the wind is light, getting lighter. This is not record setting weather for sure. The privilege to be sailing in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, just the two of us, and the empowering feeling that it gives us, makes all of that feel secondary. We sure are going to continue trying more than our best!

In our pod you can see from left to right:

1. Yellow foul weather gear hanging, drying.

2. The camping gas stove with the pressure cooker. All of our meals are vacuum bagged and get thrown into the pressure cooker.

3. Philippe doing the navigator’s job, scribbling on the board.

4. A red fleece and a blue cushion, I sleep on the nav station seat and that is my pillow.

5. In the forefront, vacuum-bagged meals. These are our total rations for the day.

6. Our sink, only salt water, manual pump. Good to clean dishes and stuff.

7. On the nav station panel, right, you can see the handsets that control the two Iridium satellite systems (the best!) and the Fleet-33 (faster but you can’t really count on it).

8. The fantastic M-802 single side band is the box on the lower right corner.

9. Note the Logitech trackball by my right elbow, mice are not an option with the elements, the constant motion and the heterogeneous reflective surfaces. We use Velcro extensively and the wiring is non-trivial. Everything is at least twice redundant.

 

July 22 09:45 utc – lat 25 17 N, lon 141 33 W

Squally night. They come from right to left. So far we’ve been really lucky. The wind lifted a lot. If it persists, we will jibe in the morning at daybreak. There are flying fish everywhere. As I was steering down a wave, I got hit in the arm by a big one. One does get startled, especially in the dark. I bet that we’ll find it in the cockpit in the morning. Flying fish live in schools and probably see the Pegasus as a giant predator. Their natural instinct is to fly away. That’s why they developed wings.

In the morning we’ll decide whether to jibe or not. Time to get a couple of hours of sleep now that Richard relieved me. All things are good.

Using our sensors on the Pegasus, we analyzed the effect of a North East Pacific rain squall. Note that bursty squalls like these tend to behave differently on diverse oceans. The following analysis from our sensor network shows that in the front of the Squall, the wind increases significantly, goes right and so does the boat speed and the heading. As soon as the squall passes overhead, the wind drops dramatically. That is typical. The graphic speaks for itself: