The hot weather brings with it squalls and the biggest management issue today has been dealing with them. It's an interesting phenomenon that occurs when a squall approaches. If it passes ahead of you as it is discharging,
the wind tends to be lighter and it slows you down but if it passes behind you, then hang on! The wind can violently increase as the rain collapses from the heated column of energy storage, aka squall. Not only can you be in for a wild wind ride, but you'll likely also get a good dowsing of rain. The Black Watch has been somewhat more fortunate than Top Gun Watch in not getting quite so wet but have not been left completely unscathed. Free
showers at last!
Of course, heavy rainfall and heavy seas means the boat is battened down tight. Hatches and ports are closed creating a lovely, spa-like atmosphere below as wet sails, hot bodies and a closed environment combine. The unique aroma of nine sweaty guys crammed into an overheated cabin is now pleasantly punctuated by the fragrant smell of coconut and other lovely sunscreen scent options. The effects of the hot weather is more pronounced when sailing downwind on a spinnaker run as the lovely cross breeze is gone. All we need is a snowbank to jump into after this sauna and the Swedes would have nothing on us! The sea temperature has also been climbing and at last check was a beautiful 77 degrees F. If we weren't going so darned fast we'd all be
jumping in for a refreshing swim.
And to say that sleep in the heat is challenging would be an understatement. One of the end results has been more interaction between the two teams as people on the off watch linger longer up on deck at the end of their shift or people on the in-coming crew come up early for their watch. When the weather was cooler (or downright cold at night near the beginning), people didn't linger or come up early for a watch; it was all about staying warm and/or getting as much sleep as possible.
And even when an off watch crew does eventually go below for food or an attempt at sleep, different heads will occasionally pop up through the companionway hatch for a blast of cool air, resembling a bunch of gophers
popping their heads out of their holes. But eventually tiredness overtakes discomfort and an hour or two of snoring begins.
Halyard and sail management have been crucial when driving through squalls. Chaffing on the halyards on long spinnaker runs has to be carefully managed and so far we've been able to maintain pace and not chew through a
halyard yet (knock on wood). But we haven't escaped completely unscathed. On a spinnaker take-down today, the spin halyard got jammed in the spectacle plate about four feet down from the top of the mast. The outer sheath of the halyard had chaffed through and then scrunched up into a ball when it passed through the spectacle plate as the spin was being lowered. The end result was a spinnaker that was stuck at almost a full hoist position but otherwise all other preparations has been made to drop the spinnaker (pole forward and down, #1 genoa up, etc).
After quickly running through options, it was decided to try to let the wind do the work to free the halyard. The spin pole was raised again to allow the spin to fly somewhat properly (the genoa was still up at this point) but
unfortunately the halyard didn't work free so we decided more pressure was required. The genoa was dropped and the spin was set as best as possible to allow the full force of the wind to pull on the halyard. After about two
minutes or so - just enough time to have preparations begin for plan B which was to send someone up the mast - we all heard the popping sound of a line suddenly going taught and the halyard worked free; what a relief! So
immediately up went the genoa again and down came the spin. And wouldn't you know it, just as we were getting ready to pack the spin the wind came up suddenly which left us with no choice but to get the smaller (#3) jib set up and hoisted to replace the genoa. It was a very busy hour for all; particularly the foredeck crew.
Also on the to-do list for today, our top notch medical team performed a minor podiatry treatment on the skipper's right big toe. Sadly, the much anticipated amputation was postponed and will be unlikely on this voyage. Jeff still looks forward to the idea of detaching someone's small digit before race end. This is particularly troubling since the entire medical team has a combined depth of experience of more than fifteen hours, none of which includes actually treating people. The good news is that the skipper has made a full recovery and has agreed to write a personal testimonial for Les and Jeff's new (unaccredited) "offshore" medical clinic. Look for further information in your favorite sailing mag."
Flying fish are now abundant and we see them leaping and cavorting like so many little silvery-blue hummingbirds across the waves. A few have been misdirected in their leaps and have landed aboard. If we see them in time we
can toss them back but I'm sad to report the untimely demise of at least one of these little beauties who was transformed into a fish chip as he dried in the sun before being spotted.
On top of all things, though, is the drive to win. We've been running hard and 225+ NM days are not uncommon in an all out effort to fend off our competitors. The HAL9000 Mk II appears to have tirelessly positioned String
Theory into a perfect course directly for Maui through all of this. We all look forward to the sunny shores of the island within a couple of days. The contrails and lights from the planes overhead carrying our loved ones to the
island are like a beacon directing us in. Reminds me of just how close we're getting to the end of the race and our families, friends, fellow racers and the Lahaina Yacht Club. ALOHA!
Signed: Being As Nobody Asks Nicely Anymore Benefits Rarely Extend Above Deck.
P.S. We saw the plane to Maui that a number of our family members were on
today. It flew right overhead of us at about 20:45 HST when we were ~450 NM
out. Did you see us?