Course 220° T, Speed 11.5 Knots, Lat 28° 28′ N, Lon 125° 27′ W

A quiet and relatively slow night. Around 10 PM it became clear that the wind was backing off and that we were entering the “Pacific High doldrums ridging zone”. That means large oscillations and significant wind speed changes. These conditions don’t wear you out physically, but they do mentally. In fact it’s all about patience. At 11 PM we decided that I’d stand watch until sunrise as I tend to be the Night Owl and Crusty would pick-up during day time. In the dark.

The full moon is out, but there is 100% cloud cover, The wind is oscillating between NW and NE. It’s tough to take pictures in the dark! MotionX-GPS is guiding the way.

On watch on deck with WiFi live, we have perfectly watertight Otter cases for our two iPhone 3GS. One for each. With the new magnetic compass and iPod integration it’s awesome.

Take a look at this screen:
– The Compass points in the direction that we are travelling. (225°)
– The Blue arrow points to the finish line. (251°)
– VMG of 12.6 kts (Velocity Made Good) is the rate at which Pegasus is moving towards the finish line.

With Pegasus maintaining this VMG we will finish in 171 hours from now or just over 7 days.

Course 227° T, Speed 14.7 Knots, Lat 29° 42′ N, Lon 123° 23′ W

Sail changes and more sail changes

Sail changes and more sail changes

After we licked our wounds, we made sail changes all day. With just the two of us and a lot of sail area, each change is a major project. Therefore, we think before we act, and we triple check everything. The one who’s steering watches for the one who’s on the fore-deck. I took that picture with MotionX-GPS, while steering, as Mark was hoisting the Code 3 sail.

We spent hours talking about the weather charts as well as our own observations from the boat. Mark and I agree that we should dive deep south to find some compressions with more wind. The weather forecast doesn’t agree with us. It rarely does, but we don’t agree with the weather forecast and we have good reasons for that. Consider the following: we carry a highly accurate Vaisala Barometer. This barometer employs 3 different high-end pressure sensors, has the algorithmics built-in to always pick the two best sensors and average them. This is a high precision instrument and we named her Kulani. Well, Kulani is telling us that we are on the 1018 isobar and all the forecasts and weather charts are telling us that we are on the 1015 isobar. It’s kind of like the weatherman telling you that it is raining, but the sun is shining out of your window. So, we’ll follow our own science and sense our way down that 1018 isobar.

We now have a lot of sail area up: full main, staysail and large, strong Cuben-Fiber code 3 tight luff headsail. We’re going fast into the night. We’re three hours from Sunset and getting ready to sail through one more wet and dark night. Turning the corner of this ridging high pressure system fast is what we want to do.

Fly Pegasus Fly through the night!

Where no iPhone has gone before!

Where no iPhone has gone before!

Course 219° T, Speed 14 Knots, Lat 31° 18′ N, Lon 121° 27′ W

Mark and I split the night. I stood watch until 2 am, Mark took over until sunrise. We are both wet, cold, battered by waves, yet happy as can be: We sailed fast and smart.

At one in the morning we put up the big Genoa, cracked the sheets and stood on 14 to 16 knots. Fast in the night. We saw lights from racers ahead of us, then on our beam, then behind us, Then no more.

I saved a life last night. I was hit on the chest by a giant flying fish. I looked at it flapping in the dark amidst the fluorescent krill brought on by the large waves submerging the boat periodically. So, I made a dive for the fish on my way, hit the  auto-pilot switch, grabbed the fish, felt a violent right turn,  and I got washed to leeward by a wave. Bloodied nose, bruised knee. The pilot didn’t engage. But I saved the fish. I wasn’t going to eat it. It was a male so no Tobiko. Now this fish has quite a story to tell his fellow fish. Mark slept down bellow through all of this.

Pushing hard for the record after a wild, wet and exhausting night.

Catalina Islands, Course 234° T, Speed 8.2 Knots, Lat 33° 33′ N, Lon 118° 27′ W

Right before the start, one hour on our way, our hydraulics failed. That’s the system that helps cant the keel. It’s a must have. Our shore team hustled and made miracles happen. They had just 50 minutes because 10 minutes before the start they have to be off the boat with Crusty and I the only souls on the mighty Pegasus. By the time they hopped into our escort boat, we had half of our hydraulic systems back up. That’s enough to take us to Honolulu safely. Thank goodness for redundant systems, and thanks to Gilesie and Zan for a miracle fix.

Now it is just the two of us sailing on our way to Honolulu. We’re upwind because we must leave the top of Catalina to port. This is the only mark of the course. Next stop, the Diamond Head lighthouse.

We had a good start, just where and when we wanted: At the boat end 10 seconds after the gun. We are now happily sailling upwind, half way to Catalina. Crusty is steering.

Long Beach: Heading towards the starting line.

The start is at 1PM PST. We leave the dock at 10:30 AM so that we get there in ample time. Our last moment decisions will be which sails to take or not to take. The rule goes: “If we don’t take them, we’ll need them, if we take them we will not need them”. That’s mainly for the the very light air sails. They are typically large sails that we have to carry all the way to Honolulu, like useless furniture if we don’t use them. However, there is an exorcism quality to this decision. For now, the first 48 hours are forecasted to be wet and wild. Kanaloa welcoming us to the great Pacific Ocean. That’s good luck!

Yesterday we tested our upwind sails off Long Beach. All is well. Here is a picture of Pegasus 50 charging downwind with the industrial background of Long Beach.

Long Beach – Katayama’s Lucky Sextant

On-board all of our equipment is state of the art. MotionX-GPS will pin-point our position accurately and reliably from the Start to the finish at Diamond Head.

Yet one of the most important pieces of equipment on-board is my trusted 1979 Tamaya Sextant. For tradition’s sake (a good thing), the Transpac race organizers wants each boat to submit four completely reduced sight at the finish line. In other words, at least 4 times during the race you have determine your position on the ocean solely by reference to the Stars, Planets,  Moon and Sun. An endangered art. A beautiful skill to have. However one that takes time a lot of practice to learn. Because there are only two of us on board, that’s my job.

Mark Rudiger taught me the basics of celestial navigation during the many passages that he and I sailed together. Navigation is a skill passed on, navigator to navigator. Especially celestial navigation. Mark and I sailed and won two Transpacs together in 2001 and 2003. Mark, this record attempt is for you.

The principles of celestial navigation are pretty simple: Given three distinct celestial objects in the sky, at any given time if you measure their elevation over the horizon, there is only once place on the planet where you could be. For example at 10 PM tonight as you watched fireworks, if you saw Saturn 19° 32′, Arcturus 62° 55 and Vega 57° 54′ above the horizon, you would be close to Long Beach, exactly at latitude 33°2′ North and longitude 118°26′ West. All you need is an instrument to make those very accurate measurements together with the tools to “reduce those measurements” to your exact estimated position.

I have a “lucky Sextant”. She was made in Tokyo in 1979 and I got her from Captain, Katayama, a retiring successful Japanese merchant Captain.  Katayama’s last command was the mighty Takara  hailing from Yokohama. Katayama told me of many “lucky” voyages across the Pacific, mostly between Yokohama and San Francisco, taking Japanese cars and electronics to America and returning with American farm products together with Harley Davidson motorcycles (his favorite) and American Pop culture icons. When Captain Katayama retired, he wanted to make sure that his “lucky sextant” would be in good hands and shown proper respect. (All sailors are superstitious. I am). So Katayama placed an advert on eBay. I answered and we connected. I have several sextants. This is the one that I want to take with me across the Pacific Ocean: Katayama’s 1979 lucky sextant.

All In Long Beach

Pegasus 50 is at the dock right by the gigantic 100 footer Alfa Romeo crewed by over 20 seasoned professionals. We look good right there. Our goal is to get there within 72 hours of Alfa Romeo.

Now it is time for the last minute preparations. We’ll take the boat for a quick sail and then rest and get some sleep after a delicious crew dinner.

Santa Cruz, CA

While the North Eastern Pacific weather settles nicely, the team is putting the finishing touches to Pegasus 50. We could have a fast race. The record is a possibility. It may be windy. Preparation is all the more important.

Now we must make sure that all systems are a go. This is a very advanced and complex boat. There are a lot of systems to check: we have a canting keel, 6 separate water ballast tanks, two rudders, two moving dagger board foils, duplicate wireless networking systems, two satellite communications systems… it goes on and on.

For optimal speed, doing a last minute thorough bottom clean is a big plus. At the same time we verify the integrity of the canting keel mechanism and all the movable foils. This picture shows how polished our bottom is before she re-enters the water.

Pegasus 50 is now back in the water. Personally I am spending the day working here in Santa Cruz. Crusty is in Long Beach unloading everything from the boat, cleaning everything out, and then reloading everything very carefully – right down to the forks and spoons. Our sailor’s food gets loaded at the last moment. It’s all frozen in dry iced day-boxes. Right now our frozen food is sitting in a rented freezer in Long Beach.

Because there are only two of us sailing, the logistics are that much more important. Any preparation before the start of the race pays immense dividends during the race when we are so busy sailing the boat, just the two of us.

Tomorrow we get to go for the last minute shopping items. Crusty needs a pair of sandals and I need a different hat. Important details.

I will fly my plane to Long Beach late tonight after work. It’s just an hour’s flight.

Santa Cruz, CA

Now we are running routes and the different forecasting models are very different as you can see from the chart. Wildly different. In fact I don’t believe any of them. The great news is that the weather on the Pacific is settling. The upper level blockages are dissipating and we may be in for a more classic July North-East Pacific weather pattern.

I have to confess that I have been arguing with myself as to the playlists for the soundtrack during the next 8 days. Lots of deBussy, ravel, Faure and of course Iz!

The boat will make it to Long Beach today and I will post some pictures soon.