Join Date: May 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.