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Old 05-27-2012
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Transpac newbie, advice?

Hi all,

I'm a relatively green sailor -- I've only sailed ~500 NM so far, but have worked on the water as a fisherman -- but I'll be crewing (along with 3 others) from Cali to Hawaii in a week or so. This will be my first bluewater passage and I would greatly appreciate any advice vis-a-vis safety (anything I should double- and triple-check before we go?), preparation (what should I know fore- and backwards?), and tips on going trans-pacific. Thanks!

-Dano
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Old 05-27-2012
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

If you have not sailed on the open ocean yet, I'd strongly recommend you not eat anything for the first 30 hours, and eat only protein shakes the day before. The coast of California is particularly rough. Let me make that clear it is really nasty. You will be ralphing up anything you eat. Bring antiacid to keep your stomach bile down, and get a hold of some Stugeron pill which work well for me. I typically feel sick the first day on the ocean, which is why I like longer passages. After the second day you should be fine. If you feel queasy when down below lay down and put your gear on quickly, puke if you have to, get and on deck quickly. Don't fold up even if you feel sick, keeping busy on deck helps. My crew that eat a lot the first day and get the drive heaves never seem to recover. There is nothing worse than a crew that stays sick for days. So I insist they follow my directions on eating until they get their sea legs. Also eating a high protein diet the day or two before--it reduces your water weight and helps you adapt quicker. I keep some pre-mixed protein shakes in the galley for the first few days and for rough weather. My stomach likes it and small amounts keep you going when you are seasick. I might drink 3 ounces at a time to keep my stomach happy and it doesn't want to come up.

I like to keep a constant watch schedule, not a rotating schedule. I find people get used to their shifts as opposed to a rotating schedule which is both confusing to remember, and upsetting to your natural rhythms. I've done every possible watch schedule over the years. If it is rough I like shorter watches--they are more frequent, but shorter. You will get used to it and be able to drop right off, when off watch. Keep a good alarm clock and a spare. Do not be late for your watch ever. It is not fair to someone on deck tired. Show up early, and if there is a meal, eat it quickly so you can take over and the guy on watch can eat. He will appreciate it.

Get along with everyone or you won't be invited back. Don't be the poison on the crew.

Probably the most important thing is to keep a good watch. Lots of people don't take that seriously and get killed because of it. You will be crossing shipping lanes. You may find yourself on a collision course with a freighter. Be comfortable talking on the radio and tell them to turn and take your stern if you have right of way. Know how to check for constant bearing--which indicated you are on a collision course. You will impress everyone if you are doing that when someone else notices traffic coming towards you.
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Old 05-27-2012
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

Much appreciated, Night Sailor. The highest seas I've ever been on were ~6 ft swells which broke now and again, but I've been on the water for full days before in average chop and never got seasick, so with Neptune's blessing I'll be o.k., I'll also bring some ginger candy and look into some Stugeron. Roger the protein shake. Constant cuppsa tea for the crew should keep us happy and alert. Not sure what kind of watch the cap'n'll have us on, but I'm pretty flexible there; actually love to be alone on watch in the middle of the night, but I can see how a rotating schedule would keep you on your toes.

Do you have a hard and fast checklist for pre-passage inspection/gear-check that you might share with me?

Fair winds,
Dano
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Old 05-28-2012
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

No I don't have a checklist except I make SURE I am well supplied with Stugeron. I get it in Bermuda every time I pass through.

Sailing to Hawaiis is easy. You don't need to navigate. Head out, turn left (south) until the butter melts and then turn right (west) and you can follow the jet liners to the Oahu. There must be half a dozen jets visible at any one time and all heading either to or from Hawaii. The TransPac is from LA. So you will avoid some of the worst waves. Outside San Francisco, the Pacific Cup is a rougher ride.

Flashlights are important. The head band thingies work well but angle them down so you don't blind the other crew. If someone calls you. Try not to illuminate them. Light up the deck not peoples faces.

My life jacket is interesting. These are all things I have in case I fall overboard. I keep one or two water bottles on me--this is not overkill--water is the most important thing to have if you are overboard. A water bottle weighs nothing in the water and provides floatation if empty. A waterproof VHF radio with a tether and carbiner, strobe attached up high on my shoulder--two is not a bad idea, a couple of plastic garbage bags (to get into if the water is cold--they take no space but can prolong your life--my theory anyway--I never tested it. I have a small key fob compass--the idea being I can talk a boat back to me with a radio if I go in. I've actually used this compass more than once.

I also bring my own thermos and a supply of cup-o-soup. Makes the boring cold watches go faster. I can kill nearly an hour making and drinking a cup of soup--assuming I'm on auto pilot.

Socks just get wet unless they are the quick dry wicking kind--necessary for colder location but not your trip. I usually wear boots when my feet are cold without socks and topsiders without sock when it is warmer. Sometimes I wear Croc's as they slip off easy and protect your toes well. They provide some flotation when swimming. I used the every day in Greece. The Pacific is not as cold as the English Channel and North Sea. For boots I like the Henry Lloyds--so comfortable I stopped wearing mine ashore because I was wearing them out. Worth every penny of $300 to keep your feet warm. It is important to be able to get into and out of footwear quickly.

It is not a bad idea to bring your own GPS. I've had the shipboard units crap out as mate on a 65' sloop and the idiot captain had no idea where we were. He really was an idiot--afraid to go through the Needles. I think he was illiterate and no one realized but me. I don't suppose you need one for this trip, but they are fun to have.

I carry a double mamba--which is two short carbiners with a four inch strap connecting them. I use this so damn often. It is a super short tether. I use it working at the mast. Some boat have the mast winches at chest height and the boom is four feet above that. The only way to flake one of these big mains is to stand on the winches and you need both hands to pull the sail down. So I stand on the winches, clip to a halyard--or two--two is better, lean back and use both hands. On smaller boats you will still want to stand at the mast for reefing or other tasks. It comes in handy often. I used it once when this girl nearly fell overboard. I hook on the lifelines as I needed both hands to pull her back aboard as she was hanging onto the shrouds. anyway, you should have a good long tether or two and I recommend a double mamba also. Sometime I need to loosen my harness. The double mamba works great for that too. If you are working your ass off you need to be able to breath, and screwing with adjusting a harness takes too long.

Inflatable neck pillows. these things are handy.

Crotch strap. There is no point in having a lifejacket that won't stay attached to you. Make yourself a crotch strap strong enough that someone could hook a shackle to your lifejacket and hoist you aboard without pulling you out of it. I learned this sailing with the English. They are quite good sailors in many ways. I want to learn French and go sail with the French sailors next. Some of those guys are amazing. Lots of racers don't wear lifejackets. They are fools. Don't be one of them.

Do you trust your life to an inflatable lifejacket? I sometimes do in warmer waters like south of Bermuda, but I feel better with a foam one with pockets and lots of places to attach things.

Probably one of those signalling mirrors might be a good thing to have. I don't have one but I should. some people carry personal locators. A fine idea, but expensive.

One thing you should do is when changing watch is don't rehearse what you will say to the new watch standers for 30 minutes and then spit out a report to someone that is still half asleep. Give the new guys a chance to come on deck , get situated, and ask if they are ready for a report. They need to know if the wind is backing or veering what course to steer or to try to steer if it is not possible. Wait until they are ready, and then give it to them slowly with crisp pronunciation. There is nothing worse than some guy blathering a mile a minute some information I can't take in because I'm walking around, but still half asleep and he is eager to hit his bunk for some sleep.

I would also personally inspect the steering on any boat I'm going offshore on. It is not fun losing your steering at 3 am 400 miles from land--it has happend to me and I did inspect it before leaving St Thomas. Check the quadrant, cable tension, and sheaves. All this may not matter because the aluminum bolts used on Edson pedestals fail frequently. Those are hard to inspect unless you remove one. I strongly recommend you do on an older boat.

If everyone is awake--my policy is I should be sleeping. I prefer to be on watch alone, and I don't worry about things when four or more people are on deck awake. If everyone gets tired at once, then no one is alert. So I do the opposite of what everyone else is doing. If everyone else is in the water swimming--you should be on board ready to help people back on. When other people are on board, then you go in for dip.

Forget the ginger--it doesn't work. Be sure to get some Stugeron. Someone will have some. Pound the docks and get 3-4 tablets and don't share them.

6' swells are nothing in the pacific. You could have a swell much much bigger and wind waves twice that size which when combined can have an extra high peak next to an extra deep trough. You will know what I mean when you are surfing down a steep steep steep wave. After a while you get used to it even though you will be convinced you will not pop back out at the bottom.

What kind of boat are you sailing on? An ULDB? If you boat tends to stuff it's bow you need to head up a bit obviously.

Chances are good you will have some super good sailors on board. You might run into some arrogant idiots too. I hope not. How many people in the crew?

Be sure to keep your cloths organized and clean. I use LL Bean quick dry shirts and shorts. i don't carry many cloths and I wash them and they dry in seconds. Don't leave body parts around the boat--toenail clippings, hair flaking skin. Keep clean. Dirty boats spread sickness. You don't want to be sick on a plague boat, or the only one not sick when everyone else is. It happend to my friend Eric a few years ago in that same race. The owners wife had a flu and gave it nearly everyone on board. They had to turn around.

I bring two or three ipods. I often have people asking to borrow one and I don't like lending mine out. Just in case one is lost--or so I can loan extras. Have a few great play list ready. the ipod touch or iphone, or even iPad is great. I enjoy watching movies when off watch. Capt Ron is one movie you are required to have with you. you should have every line memorized by the end of the trip. I find having one ear plug in allows me to listen to music on deck and and still keep track of what is going on on deck. I can pull the other plug out if i need to.

When doing short handed trips, I'm often on watch alone with an auto-pilot for long long hours. I listen to two or three tracks and then get up and check for traffic. I can't sleep with music on and it keeps me awake but also allows me to relax and star gaze.

One more thing. If sailing downwind and your steering feels mushy, you can expect to broach unexpectedly. Breaking waves behind you will change the flow on the rudder and you lose steering in these situations. Time to heave to and set a para anchor. Racers never want to do this and that is how people get hurt. If anyone says the steering feels funny be prepared for the worst and do be tethered in and don't ask--make, everyone else tether in. Be an ass about it if no one listens. Lots of people let other people decide everything When it comes to safety you be the leader--don't wait for someone else to lead.

I suppose you will be hand steering. Bring gloves. some boats are hard to steer. some are easy. You will find out what works and what doesn't. BE CAREFUL WHEN FIRST TAKING THE WHEEL. This is when people driving screw up. My friend Peter was tossed 5 feet in the air and landed on top of me, cracking my sternum and nearly went overboard all because the new helmsman was not in the groove yet and took a wave badly. I was sore for two years after that. And Peter could have broken his back on the primary if we were not on our ear when it happened. He hit with a glancing blow instead of directly. BTW, he had just unsnapped his tether to go below. Unsnap after you go below, not before. he also had his inflatable under his foulies. If it deployed it all would have tried to inflate out of the neck opening. He would have been lost if he'd gone overboard.

In fact be tethered in: at night, when the water is cold enough to kill, or when you are farther from shore than you can swim. The only time I'm not tethered is is day time clear conditions, warm water, when I'm in the cockpit and there lots of people on deck.

The only other thing I'd do is keep my own log. Not required. I do it for fun and for the discipline. Many racing boats don't bother. It is a bad practice. Log your location, speed course, cloud cover, and anything interesting. Keep track of all your sea time and you may want to get a license later. Get the ships numbers and a letter signed by the skipper or owner after completing the trip.

Heck is is late and I have to get up early tomorrow.

I think you will be fine. You will have a great time. It is amazing out there.
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Old 05-31-2012
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Transpac newbie, advice?

I loved reading your advice night sailor. I assisted with my first blue water delivery over mem wknd and was amazed how cold it was on watch at night. I had on all my clothes and couldn't get warm so I wish I had brought a vest. I was surprised because I've done a lot of winter racing but that was more active and I upgraded to a self inflating w/harness for this trip and it added no warmth

Have a great time. I would also take the above advice on eating as my captain and other crew were miserable two straight days after a very rough cape eounding
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ltwud View Post
I loved reading your advice night sailor. I assisted with my first blue water delivery over mem wknd and was amazed how cold it was on watch at night. I had on all my clothes and couldn't get warm so I wish I had brought a vest. I was surprised because I've done a lot of winter racing but that was more active and I upgraded to a self inflating w/harness for this trip and it added no warmth

Have a great time. I would also take the above advice on eating as my captain and other crew were miserable two straight days after a very rough cape eounding

One thing I try to avoid is a sleeping bag. Even on the winter trips south, I leave it home. I figure it is only two days and then shorts and Tshirts, so why bring one? I'd rather have long johns and a soft synthetic blanket and a couple of good pillows that can also be used on deck. I don't share those either. I sleep in my foulies sometimes. I have a two bag limit. I really don't want to take that much but with cold and foul weather gear, boots and lifejackets, you do need two. I was not going to bring a third bag no matter what. So I decided not to bring a sleeping bag and never missed it. My skipper offered me one he had and I turned it down. The more stuff you have the more that you have to organize. You don't need it. I only use a sleeping bag in places where it is seriously cold like northern Europe. Even here in New England I don't use a sleeping bag in the winter I use a down comforter.

Some people wear two layers of foulies. I have a story about that too, but it would be too long for tonight and I need to get to bed.

I also bring lots of zip lock bags to keep things dry. I did one trip where I had my own cabin but it leaked and all my stuff got wet through a couple little holes that fed some wires between the steering compartment and my aft cabin. I never expected water to come in there. I thought I had the dry bunk on the boat. I was mate on that trip so my special priviledge cabin did not work out as well as I thought. I was sleeping on a wet bunk for days.

Let me talk about something important. A dry bunk. A lot can happen to your stuff when you are on deck. I am in the habit of putting all my sleeping stuff back in my seabag when I'm not sleeping. Sailing big boats in rough weather with hatches open changing sails--water gets everywhere--I like my stuff dry. Salt water never dries. But even rainwater in hot climates will get in the boat through open hatches. Also other crew will do weird things like toss something wet on your bunk or leave hatches open. Or in the unlikely event someone pukes on your stuff. That could ruin the whole trip for you. Plan for unexpected stupid stuff like that to happen. If someone pukes on your seabag it is no big deal--wash it off. If the puke on your pillow, that is another whole level worse. I've never had a problem with my stuff getting wet when it was packed up. It doesn;'t take too long and everything does not get packed--mostly bedding. You can also use a plastic garbage bag it is big and fast. While inside a plastic bag it may not dry out it will not get wetter. And you can always chose when to dry things out, under your watchful eye.

On one boat every bunk was damp. I planned ahead, picked my bunk early, and hauled in on deck and dried it out when it was sunny. I was the only person with a dry bunk on the whole boat.

I remember one guy wanted to borrow my towel--this actually has happened on at least three trips. NO! USE YOUR OWN TOWEL! I later found out he had brought five of his own and over packed with five bags of gear. He could not keep track of all his stuff! What did he need my towel for? He was sea sick all the way to Bermuda and stayed in his bunk for the whole time. Phewie!

Also don't share any personal items. If someone forgets a towel--too bad. A week using a tshirt will teach them not to forget it next time. I bring one town and one wash cloth. I wash it and dry it and it is just barely enough for me to get by.

Rememer! "Two Bag Limit". If you have more than that--get rid of some stuff.

I might also have one paper bag with food like granola in it that I won't be bringing home with me. Tell people you only brought enough for yourself and you are not sharing, don't ask to have any. Store your food in your cabin or locker, or those that are unprepared will eat all your special food items. If they don't see it, they can't eat it. Do not be afraid to say NO! I find it is better to tell people up front not to touch my food. It is easier than saying no later when the ask politely--that causes tension.

One more example. It was a humid hot day. We were finishing a cruise in the BVI and we had lots of extra cans of soda. I urged everyone at least four times to take what they wanted and reminded them we would be hot and waiting at the airport. No one wanted to bring any. I brought just enough for me, and the moment we got to the airport one fellow wanted my soda. I gave him one, but I was pissed. The lazy idiot had a chance to take what he wanted and instead chose to let me carry it all the way over there. Be a ***** to those who can't think ahead and tell them in advance you are not sharing anything you carry. Later another guy wanted one after I drank the last one.

I'd love to hear more about your trip. What cape? First ocean voyages are most interesting. It is such a new experience. I worked up to mine with many coastal trips first, and some coastal ocean racing.

Mine was actually a trip to Hawaii on a 65' schooner with a round bilge--that boat like to roll. I was the second mate with a crew of 6. The skipper Monty was interesting. He didn't talk much but one night told a story about how he was shipwrecked in the Bahamas one dark night on a ketch he had. An Aussie crewman fell asleep at the helm and they hit a reef--but were not sinking--just badly holed and stuck. The sleepy guy and his friend, another Aussie heard breaking waves and decided to swim for shore, despite the skipper urging them to wait until morning. It turns out they swam away from shore to another reef farther out and were lost. Monty and the rest made it to shore and after 18 hours of hiking managed to find some habitation.

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Old 05-31-2012
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

Well written, interesting and informative Night Sailor. I did enjoy reading your responses. This should be a sticky.
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

I'll try to clean it up, it is not that well written IMHO. I will try to organize into one document and see if I missed anything. I will use it myself so I don't have to brief my crews. I sometimes forget things when briefing people, and some people lead me to believe they have done cruises and it actually was a trip cruise ship which equals no experience.
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

Great advise.

I have not done Transpac or Vic Maui - I just get to bring the race boats back home. I am doing my third delivery back to Vancouver in July / August.

A couple of further suggestions.

1) Seasickness medications affect folk differently. Check it BEFORE you cast off.

2) Flashlights and headlamps should have red lenses.

3) Be very quiet - when you are on watch, others are off and trying to sleep.

4) I am ALWAYS tethered on deck day or night.

5) If you use an inflatable pfd, carry a re-charge kit.

6) On a race crew it can get intense, make sure you speak the language.

7) Carry a rigging knife on a lanyard.

8) There will likely by a set of standing orders, follow them

I envy you a warm trip. The return to the PNW can be bloody cold; two years ago I was still wearing long underwear we pulled into Victoria.
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Old 05-31-2012
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Re: Transpac newbie, advice?

Any thought about whether a PLB is worth carrying?
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