Friday, June 25, 2010

sailing to seattle and sailing disasters

I just got in from some good sailing between Port Angeles and Seattle. One of my friends needed to get to Seattle for recording a demo, so it was a good excuse to get some sailing in. It was a good trip and I got to spend some good time with mates in Seattle and Bainbridge.

One of the more interesting moments of the trip was an incident that happened when we were tied to a buoy off Fort Warden. We had encountered light headwinds all the way from Port Angeles to Fort Warden and decided to spend the night there before continuing in the morning to Seattle. I tied the boat up, made sure she was secure and headed ashore to wander around Port Townsend for a while. We did a little busking in PT, my friend on the guitar and me on the violin and headed back to Fort Warden to check on the boat and have a campfire.

When I got back to where I was within sight of the boat I didn't like what I saw at all. The stern was way up out of the water and the bow sinking. My immediate reaction was that the boat was sinking and I raced to the dock and rowed to the boat in record speed. It would have been quite clear if we had hit a reef or submerged object on the way to Port Townsend, so I thought that perhaps one of the thru hull fittings had failed, a common cause of leaking for a boat.

Fortunately, the boat was not sinking at all, but was being pulled into the water by the buoy. Whoever set the buoys at Fort Warden apparently had never heard of tides, for the rode was several feet too short when the tide came in and the boat's bow was consequently pulled into the water. It was easily fixed, but the incident certainly got my adrenaline pumping for a while.

The following day I sailed to Bainbridge Island, and the rest of the trip passed with few other problems, except that I missed the last ferry back from Seattle and had to spend a very long and cold night wandering the streets until the first ferry back in the morning.

Many people have been asking my opinion on the Abby Sunderland disaster, and I will take the time to say a few words on the matter. Abby obviously made it half way around the world on her own, and became the youngest person to sail around Cape horn, quite an amazing feat. Her family had much experience with the ocean, and Abby had been dreaming of this voyage for several years.

That said, there were certain decisions made by Abby and her family that played no small part in her dismasting. Her choice of an open 40 was certainly part of it. While open class boats were designed for solo sailing in extreme conditions, they are almost always sailed by the top sailors of the day, experienced adventurers who have often logged numerous circumnavigations. Even when piloted by such experienced sailors, open class boats are prone to spectacular wipe-outs, often resulting in dismastings or worse. It was quite clear that when Abby's family selected a boat for her to claim the record, they sacrificed strength for speed.

Abby's decision to sail across the southern ocean in the middle of winter was clearly made for the sake of claiming the age record. The Vendee Globe sailors, the best in the world, are leaving the southern ocean in January, around the time Abby departed California. Sailing in the southern ocean in June is almost unheard of. Of course, you can't sail through the Indian Ocean without encountering a storm, but sailing in winter means more of them of a far more dangerous intensity.

The disaster has induced a very negative outlook on young adventurers, and it is quite likely that the sponsorship outlook for other young sailors will not be bright for some time. There is much more that could be said on the matter, but ultimately Abby is safe and that is what is important.

On a lighter note, I'm off in early July on another crossing from Hawaii to California with Brian Caldwell, this time on a Columbia 50. I am looking forward to a third crossing with him, the first person to circumnavigate under 21.



Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Latest

Hello Everybody,

It's been way too long since my last post but lots has been happening. I've been talking to some great companies about sponsorship and I hope to move on to the next stage of preparations for the voyage soon. The latest I would want to leave for a nonstop circumnavigation is October, so we've got a lot of work to do!

I've logged some very exciting winter and spring sailing this year (great training for the southern ocean) and am looking forward to the coming warmer days for less stormy training. It's good to get wet and cold every now and then but the real enjoyment is when the sun comes back out again before the next bout of rough weather.

Congratulations to Jessica Watson on the completion of her remarkable journey! Her voyage was quite the incredible accomplishment and I bet she is quite happy to be enjoying the high living ashore.

I've got to go for now but will be sure to type a longer post of what I've been up to soon.

Fair Winds,