D-38, Anxiety level going up

I’m not where I wish I’d be by now. There are many things that are incomplete, each generating their own level uncertainty:

  • Boatyard update 1: the keel work was completed; the bottom paint is still in the works;
  • Boatyard update 2: it’s unclear when the port V1 shroud will be installed (cable has been identified, yeah!) as the fittings are still missing (no ETA); it is likely that CaB will stay next week at BMC too. Hence two weeks, turned into 4.
  • The Watt & Sea converters are still somewhere en route (no ETA), which leaves me with an untested setup;
  • The Pelagic auto-pilot is installed but untested; testing should happen during my trip back to Half Moon Bay;
  • The WSSRC black box was shipped through postal mail (despite my recommendation to use a carrier); hence it may not even arrive (no ETA);
  • The pharmacy kit is in the process of being delivered, a generous donation of Jackie;
  • The small spinnaker and sock are in the process of being manufactured;
  • I need to terminate my berthing agreement 30 days before I depart; that date is up in the air, what with all the “No ETA”s above;
  • I need to activate a satellite plan/SIM card;
  • I need to establish a fund for the meteorologist who will support me during my attempt;
  • Of course, I need to clean the boat, and then load up water, food, tools, spares, all the while keeping the interior somewhat livable, which is going to be a formidable task;
  • I need to get the second mainsail back inside CaB (see above);
  • I had a long talk with Bill Hatfield; Bill recently set the record for the westward solo non stop unassisted circumnavigation, in the less then 40 feet category. He was very helpful with information about the difficult passages I’ll have to go through. And as a result of our conversation, I’m also likely going to modify the course slightly (pending sanctioning by the WSSRC).

News on other fronts

Nick Maloney, of APSU.life and Vendee Globe fame, has offered to furbish me with multivitamins. I have used his products to good success, so I can recommend them for offshore sailors, who would most certainly resonate with their vision for the ocean!

The weather up here doesn’t feel like your usual San Francisco Bay. There have been a lot of southerly winds. I’m hopeful that will turn around as we get into October. The doldrums appear fairly wide at about 10°N, and the Pacific North trade winds light in the 10-15 kts range. On the other side of the doldrums the trade winds appear a little stronger. If this situation remains then it is possible that I’ll sail fairly close to Hawaii. There have been 2 Category 2 hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific (one of which would have crossed my path), and one Category 2. There has been no hurricane yet in the South West Indian Ocean (as is expected) but 3 in the North Indian Ocean. All is good then?

Pictures to close

Good news

Thanks to the suggestion of Randall Reeves of the Figure 8 Voyage, I applied for a grant from the Ocean Cruising Club. If you’re into crazy projects, then do check Randall’s story. That is/was something! Such a bold accomplishment!

So, back to the grant, I put together a document to share my intentions, and asked for a bit of money to buy a spinnaker. I’m happy to report that the grant committee did see something worthwhile in my project. As a result I’ve been awarded a grant, which I will put to work in the next few weeks. My heartfelt thanks to the Ocean Cruising Club!

I also saw a donation to my GoFundMe campaign. So, on the topic of money, may I encourage you to help fund this project. You can donate online here. I know it’s not exactly the right time to ask for money; so I will just say that the other Belgian seeking to circumnavigate Earth did manage to raise a little over 5,000 EURO.

In other news, the winds off the Half Moon Bay coast have been very light. I’ve not been able to do much practice. Instead, I’ve been doing small boat projects, repairing things here and there, upgrading suspect hardware, identifying and purchasing spare items, etc.

That is all for now. Hopefully, next week, the wind will fill back in, and I’ll have a few videos to share.

Stay healthy.

The tracker is live!

Friday I received the wires I needed to finish the wiring of the YB3i. And so I did a bit more contortion to wiggle the power wire from the back of the boat through a post, down the port pilot drive lazarette, through the liferaft lazarette, through the many cable conduits, and finally to the MPPT load posts. This also included crimping wires. In any case, it’s wired now. If the MPPT fails then there’s the option of plugging in the starter battery.

It’s live here:


Out with the new in the with the old

Yep, you read that right. I spent two full days to remove the new mainsail and replace it with the old Dacron mainsail. I’m being told it’s deep bellied so we’ll have to see how things look like out there. It’s some serious work to swap mainsails! Un-brick folded sail, remove batten caps, insert batten, close batten caps, remove active mainsail (many hours there), load new (the old) mainsail, re-rig everything, remove batten from old (the new one, do I have you confused) mainsail, fold, brick, etc, etc … I also took this as an opportunity to do a good cleaning of the batten cars, including filling them back up with ball bearings. Of course, many balls were lost in the battle (they are not captive). My wife came to help, which was really a blessing when re-installing those batten cars and folding/bricking the outgoing mainsail.

A few surprises were waiting for me of course: a batten packet is torn (this is for a partial batten so I hope we’re cool without it, until it gets fixed); the 1st and 3rd reef lines are now too short by several feet. And the new mainsail had 4 out of 6 battens damaged showing some electrical tape barely holding the shards together. I’m amazed I was able to pull them out with no problem.

Keep your eyes peeled

The other day, sailing up the Coast, I saw this.

Trouble ahead!

Yeah, that’s the active backstay when going upwind. Notice how a pin has gone missing? Thank you to the previous guys for putting a safety dyneema lashing right there! I considered turning around; but I tacked, re-used the clevis pin from a block and we were back in business. I replaced it with a new clevis pin a few days later. I have no idea how this came loose. It was held together not by a clevis pin but a bolt and screw before.

Where are PJ and CaB?

The YB3i has arrived. So it’s on the list for more wiring work. Speaking of wiring, I’m struggling with the electrical setup. Or more specifically, I spend a lot of time researching how to get things setup, what is needed, ordering stuff bit by bit. I’m still waiting for parts/tools, and I’m sure I’ve missed more stuff. But, it is said, I must get on with this wiring as I need it in place for when we will install the hydrogenerators brackets.

Hydrogenerator bracket (one each side, port and starboard).

What’s next then? Oh, I don’t know … Try to fly that MAXI spinnaker again?

Mid May update

I’ve seen lots of good (but slow) progress over the past couple of weeks. I did some sailing up the Coast, into San Francisco Bay and back home. I took out, repaired, and re-installed the code 0 halyard; these repairs are temporary at best, and I’m likely going to need to replace some of these halyards.

The solo mast climbing gear from ATN, Inc. is really paying for itself (it’s my 6th trip up). I also used it to install a Windex windvane (the old one had gone AWOL).

Going up the mast is much easier.

Sorting out a viable electrical system

I also started putting my teeth into the electrical system. In particular, I’ve made progress on the solar panel front; once a bunch of orders arrive I should be able to mount a bus, run a few cables, and have 3 mobile solar panels (i.e. I’m not going to permanently fix them).

As far as the hydrogenerators go, we’ve finalized the design for the bracket, which we’ll use to mount the hydrogenerators to the sugar scoop. Fabrication will start soon. In parallel I ran some testing on the possibly damaged hydrogenerator and converter (I’ll be sending the HG to France for fixing/revision but we think the converter is good).

Noodles of cables!


I’ve started playing with the big headsails. I doublehanded Changabang with someone who knows what he’s talking about. In about two hours we hoisted the gennaker, the code O and the heavy spinnaker. Back home, I tried the gennaker with success. See video below and a screenshot of the electronics. This is still without using the internal ballast.

This is with the gennaker. We were doing steady 9-11 kts with true wind at 110. With 1 reef we were able to put true wind abeam.

But today I wanted to try the big spinnaker. It was much trouble to get set up for the hoist, what with the foot catching water, lots of water. In the end, when I pulled on the spinnaker sock halyard, it was really hard to pull it up. So I bailed out, sorted the sail at home; and now we wait for the next opportunity (that is, after a small tear is fixed).

Obstacle course

I somehow thought that sailing out of Pillar Point Harbor was going to be easy. I’m learning that it’s a bit of an obstacle course out there. As I exit the marina I have to contend with reefs (well signaled), crab pots, fishing boats, whales, kelp patches, and further cargo ships. When I come back docking is fairly straightforward. Except that lately, with the wind blowing from the South, I had to develop new techniques. Live and learn, and use fenders!

Wear and tear

As I start to get familiar with Changabang, she shows me plenty of little things that need attention. It really never stops! On a good note my partnership with the good fellows at PredictWind is being extended to include the hardware for tracking (YB3i); I’m down for the monthly bill. Good stuff. On this good note, stay safe!

A slow day

Big plans, slow execution … I spent more hours than needed for what was done today. A few things were accomplished so here goes for a quick update.

Sat comms

I mounted the wall mount for the GoPro, and downloaded a larger GRIB file: it (still) works! I used PredictWind‘s Offshore app.

The Iridium GO! mounted.

Climbing up the mast

When I prepared for the 2018 SHTP I purchased lots of line and a 5:1 block and tackle system to go up Double Espresso’s mast. I had to lift my own weight all the way up, using weak biceps. I was not going to do this with Changabang’s 60 feet mast! So I splurged for proper equipment. After chatting with Etienne Giroire, the owner of ATN, Inc., I decided to purchase his mast climbing gear. I used it today to go to the second spreader. The quality is great, and the ease of use just the same. I was able to pull the gear out of the bag, read the instructions, and voila, I’m ascending! Maybe I’ll record this next time I go up because …

It’s showtime!

Ok, I’ve gone the modern way and bought a used GoPro for cheap. It’s a Hero5 Black, which is an upgrade from what I had with Double Espresso (the Hero5 Session). I took two videos with different mode today to see which one would work best. We think the second one is better. What do you think? On both I tried to move around the boat to get a sense of what things would look like.

Electron cornucopia

That is the promise of hydrogenerators, I suppose. For now, it’s really just a bunch of parts lying around at home. Thanks to the help of a few folks, we now have a design for the mounting brackets. Fabrication is next. On a side note, one of the hydrogenerators (the demo/used one from Watt & Sea) was damaged in transit. I hope it’s nothing but I think I will only know for sure when it’ll be spinning at 12 kts. The UPS claim was recently closed, and a payment is coming our way. So that’s kinda good news, maybe?

Today I poked at the electrical system, I mean, I barely scratched the surface. There are wires going everywhere! More time, much more time will need to be sunk into those wires, I’m afraid.

Water ballasts

As I was looking into the battery compartment, I was drawn into playing with the water ballasts. I tried to figure out how it works. It’s fairly straightforward so maybe I’ll give it a go next time.

Finally, I also did some minor cosmetic work (applying tape really).

And then drove back home …

First time with the spinnaker

As I shared yesterday I went out to try out one of the two spinnakers. The hull had just received a clean up job, so we were pretty as could be, Changabang and I. She’s been in much more competent hands before, so I hope she’s all right with my foolish beginnings!

Getting ready for a hoist!

And so, I hooked up the main halyard, started the engine, slipped in reverse to spring off the docks, then powering forward. I raised the mainsail as we passed green buoy #3. Every time I raise that mainsail, and it has to slide just right between the lazy jacks lines and the running backstays, I wonder what it’ll be like if one day I have to raise it without the engine.

Getting ready

Changabang came with two spinnakers: a light one and a heavy one (reef-able). A few days ago I got the heavy one out of the bag and hoisted it in its sock to see what it looked like: it was reefed. I got the spinnaker sheets out as well, and started rigging the whole thing:

  • Rig the sheets (I passed them through the eye of the block instead of the sheave!);
  • Attach the tack line, the sheets and the halyard to the spinnaker;
  • Secure tack to the end of the bowsprit;
  • Trim the active sheet all the way in and the lazy one loose.

It looked like everything was ready for the show. And so I proceeded. I went back to the cockpit to start hoisting the spinnaker, only to find out that the sock got stuck in the shrouds. So I move to the mast to guide the sock as I hoist it up. As I was doing so … The sock’s bucket started going up too. I had forgotten about the sock halyard: it was still all bundled up and going up with the bucket. So now there was no way to get the sock down and, more troublesome, no way to stop it from going up!

Drama unfolds

I’m now at the mast with a spinnaker 2/3 up and half out of the sock. I’m still holding onto the halyard. Although this spinnaker is as small as can be and it’s only blowing 8-10 kts, it soon proves too much and the halyard starts slipping from my hand. On my bottom I move back to the halyard’s clutch, while the line keeps on slipping from my hand. Finally I manage to secure the halyard: the spinnaker’s foot is dragging in the water but we’re fine.

Puree de pois!


Ok, so time to finish the hoist. Man, winching these lines is a lot of work! Like I wrote last week … the skipper’s physique is not up to the task! We’ll figure out dousing this sail later on. Let’s put it to work. Ease the sheet; come up a little (we were sailing for the Half Moon Bay beach!): ah, the boat starts powering up, nice! But … Better get this puppy down now quickly! The forecast was calling for >15 kts. Just like the code 0 it didn’t fly much.


I figured I might as well try a letterbox drop. I trim the sheet back in tight and blow the tack. That’s when the magic of gravity happened! The sock, under the spell of the bucket’s weight, came back down. Oh, oh, maybe we can try this again! And try we did: secure the tack and hoist the bucket the proper way. Come up a little, apparent wind forward, we start heeling. Good stuff! But what’s this, the wind is climbing past 11 kts. As the forecast was calling for >15 kts, I decide to take no risk and to douse for good. Trim the sheet tight, blanket the spinnaker behind the mainsail, blow the tack, pull the bucket down. Ouch, it gets stuck in the shrouds up there. That wouldn’t be good. A bit of puzzling around and finally it comes down. Halyard down, and the spinnaker goes back into the bag.

Home run

During all that time I had the engine on, just in case. I turned around, got the solent out of the bag and sailed back up to port. As a thick fog settles in, the promise of 15 kts evaporates; the wind dwindles to 6 kts, 4, then 2. All the sails come down, and I’m back on the iron genny. Practicing is not only about sailing: I go down to cook some food (i.e. boil water and pour it down a bag). Lunch time is:

From our friends at Backpacker’s Pantry!

Docking back into port went well. So next I tidy up the boat, and back home it is. Here’s a little movie to close:

Spinnaker up

On other fronts

I think I may have the satellite communication sorted out. Changabang came with a handheld sat phone (Iridium 9555), which I’ve tested to work. There’s also a fixed sat terminal (BEAM RST100), which also works. It has an external antenna. I bought a used Iridium GO on eBay. That also tested positively; with a cable adapter I hooked it up to the external antenna: I then was able to download a small (tiny, 0.6 KB) grib file. Hurray: that was one big ticket on the list. I’m now pondering whether I should sell the BEAM RST100 for another Iridum GO. I’m being advised to keep the handheld for the ditch bag.

The one piece of puzzle is the SIM card. They rarely fail but it’s a risk; the only back up here is having a few other SIM cards. This also means that I would need to be able to activate it while at sea. So basically, I need to leave with two active SIM cards!

There were other small jobs I took care of, such as doing winch maintenance (2 down, 3 to go), refueling, figuring out a bracket for the hydrogenerators (work in progress), etc.

What’s next you ask?

More supporting friends!

PredictWind has offered their forecast, weather routing and other weather related services. I’m really happy to have them contribute to this adventure as their expertise is highly regarded in the sailing community.

We continue to taste the good food of our friends at Backpacker’s Pantry. So far my taste buds are happy with what we’ve been trying.

Changabang appears to make it to the East side of the Panama canal.

And I’ve updated the Navigation page, summarizing what my choices have been, considering what I have and what I can afford within my budget. Hopefully, you’ll find it an entertaining read.

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