GSSR#18 – Showtime!

Total Distance:5,276 nm
Run so far:1,333 nm
Nautical Miles to go:3,943 nm
Tomorrow’s goal:600 nm!

Greetings all!

This is a very quick update, just to let you know that tomorrow is a big day for the GSSR.

All three GSSR boats are now sitting in Hoonah, ready to depart tomorrow at noon for Kodiak. Tonight, there is a big “send-off” party, with many other boats in attendance. Various friends have flown or boated in for the big event, with boats ranging from 32′ to 127′. The festivities begin with Sushi on the dock in just 30 minutes, so I’m typing this quick.

In the interest of time, I’ll upload photos and commentary from Hoonah in the coming days, and just focus on the strange feeling here on the docks today.

Everything has turned dead serious.

Instead of three couples, each cruising with their boats and friends, we have now been joined by “crew” some professional, and some friends, but all with many thousands of sea miles, and here to do a job. Sans Souci has taken on two new persons, from Pacific Yacht Management in Seattle; Capt. Jeff Sanson, and Kirt Ahlquist. I have traveled several thousand miles with each of these guys and am confident they will help make this a smooth ride.

Seabird has decided to run the next thousand miles, all the way to Dutch Harbor, with just Steven and Carol. We discussed today how we would transfer crew to them, if Steven or Carol become incapacitated due to illness or injury. The bottom line: there is no easy or safe way. The best we could think of was to drop a tender, which in heavy seas could be dangerous.

This discussion was part of our “captain’s meeting’ earlier today. It was a sign of how this next thousand miles is different from the prior thousand. We didn’t do captain’s meetings, and we didn’t need to. Generally, we’d say to each other “When are you planning on leaving?” And, someone would pick a time, and that would be it.

At the meeting we discussed a wide range of topics.

— Mechanical issues. We discussed all three boats, and anything left to be done to get the boats ready, or any mechanical issues anyone might be dealing with.

— Safety. We discussed survival suits, sea anchors, life rings, man overboard drills, etc

— Towing. This became a major topic. We discussed whether to abandon a boat that was dead in the water, or attempt towing. Some feel that towing a boat puts two boats into danger rather than one. We unanimously agreed that if someone needs a tow, we’re there to help, and discussed how we could accomplish the tow.

— Weather. We shared weather information from multiple sources. The bottom line is that the weather looks as good as we could reasonably expect. We’ll have 15-20 knot head winds, and 5-7 foot seas much of the way. We’d prefer calm seas, and the wind behind us, but we’re quite happy with the forecast we were given.

— Route. The Gulf of Alaska is shaped like a large half-moon bay. We need to get from one side to the other. Given the great weather report, we have our choice of a 500 nm run straight across the middle, or a 650 nm run following the shore around the outside. We opted to run approximately 25 miles off shore, and take the longer run. This puts us close to shore should the weather turn ugly, and within a few hours of a “bail out” if needed. We’ve pre-planned where each of the hiding places are, in case we need one, and will be constantly monitoring the weather.  

— Formation. We discussed how close the boats would run in relation to each other. We don’t want to be in a situation where one boat turns into another boat. Our plan is to run a V formation, with Sans Souci in the middle, ahead of the other two boats, and Seabird on the port side, and Grey Pearl on the starboard side. We’ll play it by ear on seperation. Initially we’ll run one mile of seperation, but then because Sans Souci has the best internet, we might tighten up if the sea conditions permit, for internet sharing.

— Communications. We agreed on how the boats would communicate (VHF channels), and the protocols for inter-boat communications. We agreed that as different crew assumes the helm they would announce themselves to the other boats, and that this would be acknowledged. In this way, everyone will know who is at the helm on each boat, at all times.

— Roll calls. We agreed on twice daily roll calls and status updates. We did this during the Atlantic Crossing and found it valuable. With only three boats, it’s perhaps less necessary, but, we’ll do it anyhow.

— Departure Timing. We have several timing issues. We are about a six hour run from the Pacific, along a passage with strong currents. We need to choose a departure time that puts the currents pushing us out to the ocean. We also want to time it so that we are near our bail out points in daylight, and we want to arrive in Kodiak in the morning, so that if there are delays we have the whole day ahead of us, and can still manage a daylight arrival. After a bit of discussion, it was agreed that we’ll depart at noon tomorrow.

 All of this may be a bit overkill for a “short” 600 nm run in good weather. That said, all of us have been around long enough to have a healthy respect for the Pacific Ocean, and we all know: Weather reports are usually right, but, sometimes, the weather gods can be grumpy, and when they are….

More, when we are underway…

Thank you,

Ken Williams
N6805, Sans Souci

7 Responses

  1. Ken The U.S. Climate Prediction Center says in a new advisory that an El Nino of undetermined size appears to be forming in the equatorial Pacific.Here in California El Ninos normaly bring us a very wet winter. Im currious to know if you know how they efect the the weather on the other side of the pacific.I know your busy now but hopefully youl find some time later to talk about the weather

  2. I am guessing the seas were flat. Spot shows you making a run straight across the gulf instead of hugging the coast.

    Wishing you fair winds and following seas for the rest of your journey.

  3. All The best Ken and your crew.
    You are so very correct when you suggest caution while making a passage in the Pacific ,it can change so very quick..

    are you guys venturing as far as Australia??? (Brisbane)

  4. Ken –

    I believe during the NAR crossing all the boats pre-rigged their sea anchors so that they would be easier to deploy if needed. Is this something the GSSR boats have also done?

  5. Hi Ken,

    It is great to hear that you have a high-Tec boat that does many tasks for you so you do not need to ‘live’ in the engine room as the rest of us that doesn’t have it.
    I found interesting reading all your engine room checking list, it was like getting ready to leave port ourselves and THAT is what is so great about your blog entries, we get the ‘feeling’ as if we are there with you 🙂
    As you know, before I start cruising on Goleen I knew NOTHING about boats and engine technicalities. In fact I didn’t even like it once I have been trained as an artist and have NO technical mind. As Chris and I travelled many thousands of miles on our own, learning about it wasn’t an option but a necessity. Now I feel at easy with it all and the engine room is not an alien place for me anymore and I understand every item on your checking list, as I would do it myself.
    I am VERY pleased to hear that you are taking with you a professional crew or at least people that are experienced and can give you a valuable hand if things turn ugly. Indeed I got a bit concerned that Seabird – Carol & Steve- are doing this crossing their own. If I may say so, it is dangerous not only for them but for all of you and it can potentially jeopardise your trip and safety if something goes wrong with one of them and they need help.
    The sea can be SO dangerous and can flip from mild to furious in a blink of eye from time to time and taking it for granted is a HUGE MISTAKE! One can never be too careful when dealing with it and RESPECTING it is paramount.
    Well…I guess that there is no much to be done about that now so…
    Have FUN, calm seas and be SAFE!
    Sonaia Hermida

  6. Ron:

    We never did really come up with a good solution for moving people between boats. Our expectation is that it will be a non-issue, but it’s a good thing to think about. We have survival suits on board, so I would think that if someone were to transfer via water, your solution of tossing a line (via a monkey fist) between boats, then pulling the person, in a wet, dry or survival suit, might work.

    That said, I’m assuming that the solution varies with the sea state:

    1) Calm (in which case the transfer is easy … probably stern to stern and walk across)
    2) 6 foot rolling seas (in which case, dropping a tender might be possible)
    3) Ugly (in which case, transferring a well protected swimmer might make sense)
    4) Really ugly (in which case, it’s tough to envision a circumstance where a transfer is worth the risk)

    -Ken W

    PS I’m not familiar with the water sensors Racor has .. I should be! .. I’ll google them when we get some time.

  7. Ken,
    As you know, Racor offers water sensors for their fuel filter bowls. I don’t know if they would survive salt water, but there must be one that can. If that were placed in the sea chest, couldn’t it provide early warning of the absence of water?

    On transferring crew in a very serious emergency, several techniques were used in the NAR as you experienced. Assuming that none of the vessels has purchased a line thrower, even in rough seas you might be able to get close enough to throw a line. That line tied to a swimmer’s harness in a wet or dry suit should assist the swimmer in getting to the vessel in need – especially if they can pull him across with the help of a winch. Boarding would be at the stern. If seas made that too dangerous, the swimmer could connect the dinghy crane line to his harness and the person on the vessel in distress could hoist him aboard. A protective helmet might be in order. Just brainstorming.

    Ron Rogers

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Credits     |     Video produced by: Rock Steady Media     |     Teletype photo: Arnold Reinhold     |     PDP-11 photo: Trammell Hudson