July 19th, 19:45 utc – lat 25 32 N, lon 129 35 W

We are in the trades. Our two on-board barometers show us around the 1019 isobar and that is exactly where we want to be. Those two barometers are a Vetus recording barometer and the Suunto watch that I wear on the wrist. They are carefully calibrated and together give us an objective assessment of the weather forecasting models, gribs and other modern tools. Guess what: there is no single weather model that has been matching our barometers. In fact, according to all the models, we should now be sailing in 5 knots of breeze. I cross my fingers, but I can see that we are sailing with a wind direction of 25 degrees (North Easterly) at 15 knots around the 1019 isobar on a favorable heading to Hawaii. All good things.

It is now a tough job at keeping everything going on the boat with just the two of us. I mean everything. On a fully crewed boat you have trimmers, bowmen, navigators, helmsmen, cooks. The two of us split all of these responsibilities. Richard does the trimming, the bow and the cooking. We split the driving and I do the navigation and the blog. We’re a great team. No job too big, no job too small. When we have to, we both pick up anything. When we do sail changes, it’s full on. In the last 6 hours we went through 2 spinnakers and staysails. We now have our big gear up – the A2 with the bigger spinnaker staysail. We’re surfing our way to Hawaii. Just like they said in the brochure.

Navigators and Innovators

Navigating this complicated weather pattern is much akin to navigating the future of technology and science. There can be no long term success without clear vision, knowledge and know-how, intuition and some luck.

Before the age of GPS, as navigators, we spent a large portion of our time figuring out where we are. Many think that now navigators can focus on figuring out where they are going as opposed to where they are. I disagree. That’s because the process of working out where you are gives you many clues as to where to go next. You look at the sky, measure angles, look at the clouds, the ocean, look for horizons and you take it all in. You literally tune yourself to the environment. Navigating without mastering the craft of navigation is like driving at night without lights. There is a long tradition of navigation that dates back thousands of years with the Polynesian people. It is well and alive today.

For innovation to happen first you must know where you are and then know where your going. You have to be a navigator. Progress is driven by navigators and explorers.

My Suunto watch says: 1019, that’s where we want to be.

July 19th, 09:00 pst – lat 25 38 N, lon 128 46 W

All is well this morning on-board the good ship Pegasus. The night sky was incomparable. First, with the moon and Venus on our bow, then as they set in the West, Jupiter guided us for a while even matching that 15 degree right shift in the wind in her walk down to the West. Yes, in a period of an hour the wind shifted right 15 degrees. I used the opportunity to take some sextant sites (skip this part if you have no interest in sextants and celestial navigation). At 20:45 pst, the sextant showed me that Venus was at an altitude of 18 deg 30 minutes, azimuth of 270 degrees, Jupiter was at an altitude of 37 degrees 45 minutes and an azimuth of 152 degrees. With an assumed position for lat 26 n and lon 127 w, this tells us that we are 15.8 miles away on a line of position perpendicular to 153 degrees (as it relates to Jupiter) and 5.9 miles towards our point of assumed position on a line of position perpendicular to 270 degrees. That’s pretty reasonable accuracy given the fact that GPS was telling us that our exact position was 26 06.681 n, 127 09.086 w. (More on sextants if I have time later in this blog)

There were lots of little squalls last night with a boost of pressure and a left shift in front of them and a big right shift and no pressure behind them. We saw ten and only got caught up behind one. We did well.

We are more than happy with our position. We seem to have cut the corner and been able to fight ourselves into a chance at the record. Now we need some serious wind. We’re fast in the breeze!

July 18th, 19:45 pst – Lat 26 10 N, lon 126 58 W

We found the trade winds

High five! Now we’re going with 12 knots of wind, the kite and staysail up, and 10.5 knots of boat speed, pointing straight at Honolulu. The nice trade wind cotton puffy clouds are unmistakable. We’re pushing the boat hard and the reports are going to get shorter. It gets pretty physical. Coltrane’s Giant Steps are rocking the boat soon to be followed by Dave Matthews as the sun goes down we’re thinking about the Magic flute as we start going down the waves. We have all the playlists loaded!

There is only one way to Honolulu: Surfing. Soon. Real soon. We hope.

Night is settling in, a fast and busy night we hope.

Fly Pegasus, Fly!

We found the trades, Fly Pegasus, Fly!

July 18th, 19:02 pst

We are roaming around 26N 126W and we like it. We call it our lucky number 26! With just the two of us 24 by 7 in a confined space the size of your kitchen table, we’re an easy audience. Take a look at the 48 hour surface analysis that our friends at NOAA just put out. That’s one complex set of systems… We’re just making sense of it. There is a slow swell with a long period of 100ft going from South to North that combines with the normal North Easterly swell. Two waves of vastly different wavelengths and yet similar in proportion so that the resulting motion seems to ‘hang us in the air’ in slow motion. We believe that the Southerly swell was generated by Cosme, the weakening tropical depression. Quite an experience.

Introducing OceanGizmo

My home page when I am on land is Gizmodo. Those guys are the best; never a dull moment. And, as we were sailing today, Richard and I were thinking: OK we’re doing some pretty crazy stuff, but this racing boat is the ultimate Gizmo and it is full of gizmos. Everything including two types of satellite communications systems, water resistant barometers, radio transmitters, waterproof phones, iPhones, iPods, toughened computers, real-time sensors, sunglasses and it goes on and on… So I thought that I’d share with you what we think of these gadgets and how they work as time allows and we’re pretty busy 24 by 7 (by the way, we get both less than 4 hours of sleep every 24 hours, but we’re now in the groove… more on that later.)

Confused Pacific Ocean weather

July 18th, 15:15 pst – lat 26 21 N, lon 126 11 W

Everything malfunctions, it’s all good!

This morning about everything that could fail failed. Not the sailing part. That always works. And we were down to the sails and the good old compass. That actually felt good. Richard is one of the great dinghy sailors and I sail mostly dinghies these days. So we were back to basics. One steering while the other was trouble shooting. Eventually we found all the faults. I think that we must have made 10 sail changes during the night in trying to get out of the hole that we dug ourselves into. There is not much that we could do. I was steering and running things while Richard took a nap. I felt the rain and by the time I realized, I was happy, the wind was peeking to 18 knots and we were zooming down the track. Then a bit more rain. Then the wind got sucked out of the air and it was dead calm. And then we battled to get out of our wind hole. In the process, all electronics on the boat decided to reset themselves to factory settings and be completely uncooperative. The good news: we’re back trucking South. The bad news: that record looks pretty tough right now, but the adventure is fantastic. We’ll work extra hard to make up the miles. We really like our position.

Where no iPhone has gone before!

On a fully crewed boat it’s hard to agree on a soundtrack. That’s because music is such an emotional and cultural thing for all generations. And we get a full mixture of generations in sailboat racing. We’re double handed – Richard has an iPod and I have an iPhone both packed with music. So we alternate. That makes our soundtrack for a great adventure. Yes, we have a stereo, and yes, it’s running as long as we’re not sailing in light air. Richard loves U2, Dave Matthews and all sort of Canadian bands and I like all good music but carry mostly straight ahead Jazz and classical music, the kind that I like to play. So we shuffle the songs and we shuffle the iPhone and the iPod. Now I bet this is a first for the iPhone: racing on a sailboat in the middle of the Pacific. The iPod that is ‘inside’ the iPhone is great!

Where no iPhone has gone before!

July 18th, 06:00 pst – lat 27 11 N, lon 125 00 W

Half of the night was spent drifting. Our 24 hour run was just 135 nautical miles. We probably skirted the high too close. I’m no rock-star navigator, sorry Richard! Now we’re back sailing with a bit more speed: 8 knots heading 200 degrees. It feels like a hurricane! Speaking of which, the one that we are watching will miss Hawaii and should not be too much of a factor for the fleet. Now let’s see how quickly we can get into the Northwesterly trades. When you are headed Southwest, you get a cool sunrise every morning. Time for breakfast.

Richard and the sunset.

July 17th, 21:00 pst – lat 27 N, lon 124 W

The wind vanished. Gone. For several hours we were becalmed, making sail changes, climbing the mast, seeking the puffs. And now the wind is back. Light, but it is back. This is going to be a short 24 hour run on miles but a critical one in terms of positioning. Richard is a fantastic light air sailor and his superior skills are infinitely precious. We really work well as a team.

So what do you do when you are becalmed? I get Richard to practice single handed sailing: I dove off the boat and went for a magical swim with more than 5000 ft of pure open ocean water to support me. What a treat. If you try it, make sure that you time it right with the puffs, else it is a long swim to Honolulu, about 1855 miles at a bearing of 254 degrees magnetic.

As the sun sets we are settling in for the night. There are no opportunities to take sextant sites at dusk as we are under full cloud cover. From a sailboat racing perspective, it’s going to be tricky getting out of this light spot and within the next 48 hours into the trades. That’s a busy night ahead with a lot of concentration and focus.

July 17th, 15:00 pst – Time to crunch some weather

  1. We’re happy: we entered the ridge of high pressure that extends to the southwest of the Pacific High and we seem to have a good angle. For a few hours we had very little wind, did about 5 sail changes and now are settled into a 9 knot northwesterly. We’ve seen big right handers, all the way to 35 degrees, so we are happy to get away from this ridge of high pressure. The barometer is starting to come down. I think that we’re making the South work. What we thought would happen North happened and, for now, we are very happy where we are.
  2. This is now obviously not a record year for the Transpac race, but it is a great one. Our 312 nautical mile 24 hour run yesterday was close to the record of 340 miles. Not bad for our first full 24 hours of sailing together!
  3. Tropical depression Cosme is heading for Hawaii, but we figure that we’ll solve one problem at a time. We’re too far away for it to matter.

July 17th, 06:30 pst

The mighty Pegasus performed well in the last 24 hours: our 6 am position yesterday was 32-58 N, 119-20 W. This morning at 6 am we were at 28-35N, 122-39 W. A simple spherical geometry calculation gives us a great circle distance of 312 nautical miles at a course of 214 degrees true. That’s a pretty good 24 hour run double handed on a 50 foot boat. Pushing hard has its rewards: we averaged 13 knots of boat speed over the last 24 hours and we went South.

The Weather is very unsettled. There is a tropical depression ahead of us as the following chart shows.