2014 NCC

The 2014 NCC was a rough one. I tip my hat to those that either attempted or did the full 300 mile Blackbeard Challenge. The 100 mile NCC was hard enough for me this year. The first part of the course was fairly easy for me since my boat handles following seas and tail-winds quite well (being a trimaran with amas). My top speed was around 13 knots somewhere in the Nuese River. The Harlowe was a pleasant surprise with the current actually going with us. It was the first time I experienced that. I reached Beaufort after 9 hours 15 minutes (2:45 PM). Compare that to my Beaufort arrival time 2 years ago (2012 NCC) of 19 hrs 37 minutes (3:07 AM). Much faster for the first part of the course this year.

I had picked out a camping place on Browns Island over on the Core Sound side near some trees to use my hammock. The only problem was that I couldn’t quite get there before dark and the most direct way there was to go around Hatcher Island from the South and enter for a bit Core Sound. The problem with this was a very strong Nor’Easter blowing right down Core sound. I also neglected to take my spinnaker retrieval shoot off so the windage on my bow was something fierce. I could barely tack even while paddling like mad the wind was blowing so hard. It was also pitch black out there in Core Sounds. I was worried about being blown back into the break water at the tip of Hatcher Island.

I saw some lights of other Watertribers camping at earlier more sheltered points on Brown’s Island but I feared those spots would not have convenient trees for my hammock so I pressed on.

Eventually I made enough forward progress to get close to the camping spot. I couldn’t see the shoreline that well and ended up beaching it about a quarter mile to soon. I decided to just get out and walk it along the coast to get closer to the place with the trees. I finally made it to the place I needed to be.

The ground was completely saturated with water. Standing water everywhere. Fortunately I was there after the bad mosquito hour so the bugs were not so bad as I was setting up camp. It was difficult to find any dry land even to temporarily lay down my dry bags. Since I was using a hammock. having dry land was not so important.

I realized later on that I was fortunate that I beached it because there was a pound-net near by and I missed it by beaching early.

I cooked a quick Mountain House meal, hydrated, changed into my camp clothes, and got some good sack time in the hammock. I actually slept for about 8 hours. Compare this with 2 years ago of only getting about 2 hours of sleep. Ironically, I reached Cedar Island sooner 2 years ago but I was much more rested this year even with the hard day to come in Core Sound.

In the morning, I pushed off after day break along with about 4 or 5 other Watertribers who had also camped somewhere in the facinity. Some had boats faster to the wind and left me behind. Others had about the same sailing capabilities as myself and I saw them off and on most of the way up Core Sound. We had to tack zig-zagging all the way up to the North East. (Wind blowing directly form the North East). It was a long day but I kept saying to myself over and over “Let the wind do the work”. At one point 3 or 4 Watertribers beached at the same time and chatted for while. No-one was liking beating to weather all day long.

I realized at one point that I would not make it back to Cedar Island before dark. My main goal was to at least get past the pound nets before dark so I could better see them and not get tangled up in them. A couple other watertribers decided to camp one more time before the final slog to the finish but I wanted to press on.

I wasn’t able to get past all the pound nets before dark and had a couple sneak up on me by surprise. In two cases, I needed to pull up my dagger board and flip up my rudder to glide over the net. The problem was with my ruder up, I loose steerage with the wind blowing so hard. I only have a few seconds to paddle over the net, drop rudder, and paddle to a safe distance. On one of the nets (after dark) I came dangerously close to being blown back into the net which would have been a real pain. But I was finally able to get my rudder down in my exhausted state and paddle sufficiently far away for the net to again take my hands off my paddle and get my sail up and dagger board down.

Finally, I reached the cut-through to Cedar Island and was able to assume a course of sail that was not right into the wind. I could actually sail for the first time in almost 12 hours without needing to tack. It was very nice for that last few miles. It was pitch black by that time and I was going to go the camp-site ramp which I had never been before. I was navigating just by my GPS. I wasn’t going to chance going through the cut back to Core Sound and doing a beach landing in the dark and the strong Nor’Easter.

I followed my GPS and eventually got close enough that the Watertribers on shore shown their flashlights to guide me to the ramp. It was nice to be able to finish that second day even if I was a few hours later than my first NCC two years ago. I was in much better shape this second time and packed up my boat after coming ashore. Someone gave me a bean burrito which tasted great.

After packing up my boat, I found an unused camp-site and hung my hammock and got some zzz’s.

I stated to realize that I was fairly fortunate in this NCC in that almost half the people ended up dropping out for one reason or another. I was fortunate with nothing really going wrong so I just persevered to the finish. The only equipment failure was my pull-down line came out of my rudder off Hatcher Island at one point but I realized that right away and beached it to fix it. I had three mental errors on the trip.

1. Not changing out my GPS batteries before the start. I had to make a stop on Raccoon Island to replace them.
2. Not taking off my spinnaker snuffer after reaching Beaufort. Taking that off would have made the night sail to Browns Island much easier.
3. Not putting a fresh battery in my GoPro camera while camping on Browns Island. I was not able to get any footage of the long beat upwind in Core Sound. I didn’t want to spend the time unloading my boat to get to the spare battery once I realized my mistake.

Other than that, the trip went fine.

The boat line-up

Just after the start

Downwind sailing in the Neuse River

Spinnaker action heading into Beaufort

Checkpoint 1 (Beaufort)

Awards ceremony after the race

OkumeFest Challenge course

The following is the OkoumeFest Challenge course making a video of panning through Google Earth. I had previously marked the course.

Okoumefest challenge course

The predominant wind will be from the South so heading South to CP2 will be difficult. After checking in, though, the trip back to the start will be relatively easy. We have to watch out, though, for storms. The weather on the Chesapeake can change on a dime.

Hammock on Triak

I experimented with building a support system for my hammock so I could use it on my Triak. I used some PVC pipes and various stainless steel fittings. The cost of materials was fairly low. The up-side is that this system would open some additional camping places to me. I merely need to be able to pull the boat up on a low beach or mud-flat. I don’t need the beach to be dry nor do I need trees around. I wouldn’t trust using this system in open water. I would be afraid that an ama might be partially full of water and not be able to hold the boat up-right. I wouldn’t want to find myself awaken trapped and confused under water. But as long as I am on mostly dry land (or just a couple of inches of water), it should be safe. The downside is needing to carry those PVC pipes with me. They would add some weight, some wind-resistance, some possibility of mainsheet fouling, and some obstruction to getting to the rear hatch while underway. Its a judgment call whether the upside is worth the downsides.

The following video shows carrying the PVC pipes and the setting it up.

2013 NCC

The weather gods were not smiling on us this year for the NCC/NCPC. There were extended small craft warnings/advisories in effect for the whole week which led to Chief deciding to officially cancel both races. He said that people could always do them on their own but they wouldn’t be a “sanctioned” watertribe race. Although, if anyone managed to complete one of the courses, then he would include that completion in the record books.

Some people took him up on that and started out to do either the NCC or the NCPC. No one was able to finish the NCPC (at least by the time of this writing) but some did manage to complete the NCC. As I am writing this, some others are doing the NCC course a week late now that the weather is much better.

I decided, along with a few others, to do a downwind reverse course portion of the NCC from Cedar Island to Beaufort via Core Sound. We arranged for a ride back to Cedar Island and I had a place to store my boat in Beaufort so that worked out. The trip was fun and only took 6 hours to go the 30 nautical miles.

The first of the following two videos show the launch beach conditions at Cedar Island the day of the official race launch. The weather didn’t change much throughout the next several days. In this video, I just went out the end of this rock jetty and back to the beach. To do the original NCC course, we all would of had to make it past the rock jetty.

The second video is of me doing that 30 nautical mile downwind run from Cedar Island to Beaufort.

OcoumeFest Ultra Marathon

I participated in (and finished) the OcoumeFest Ultra Marathon in the Chesapeake Bay in May. It was a 64 mile course but was fairly hard for the sailors because there was not much wind. The paddlers were the fast ones in this race.

Although this was just my third watertribe event (and my 2nd shorter event) it was the first for me to finish without stopping to camp. I actually wanted to stop to camp but I couldn’t find a suitable spot to pitch my tent. I might investigate getting a hammock for future trips. With a hammock, you just need two somewhat sturdy trees the right distance apart. The ground underneath doesn’t need to be flat.

I also had a strange occurrence on this trip. I thought I took a wrong turn and did an unnecessary circumnavigation of the wrong island before find Wry Island (which I then circumnavigated). I though this wrong turn took me about 2 hours to complete. Although, when I looked at my Spot track after the race, there was no wrong turn or inadvertent circumnavigation. I must have basically dreamed the whole thing while paddling. It is really strange.

Anyway, The following is the video of the first part of the trip. I didn’t get any video on the later parts of the trip because I was busy dreaming extra circumnavigations and then later it was dark. I didn’t finish the race until about 5:00 AM.

2013 Everglades Challenge

The watertribe race means different things to different people. Some race other people, some try to beat their own previous times, and others only strive to finish within the race deadlines purposefully taking most of the week. I definitely fell within this last category. My goal was to find a sustainable pace that could be maintained for the duration of the race or even longer. I always got a good night sleep and sometimes delayed my morning departures so the sun could dry any wet clothes. I also had a goal not to have any race drama along the way with things going wrong. Of course, it is usually when things do go wrong that make the most interesting stories, so I will elaborate on the couple of time things did go wrong on my trip.

1. On the approach to CP1, I ran aground by not following the channel. In raising and lowering my rudder, I pulled out the rudder pull-down cable (that keeps the rudder in the down position). I was able to get into CP1 with the rudder kept down only due to its weight. I needed to fix this, though, to be able to effectively use the rudder for sailing later on. It is a simple operation to re-attach the pull-down cable but I had to take the rudder blade out of the rudder bracket assembly at the stern of the boat to do it. Since my Triak is awkward to get out of the water via floating dock, I decided to go swimming at CP1 to remove the rudder with the boat still in the water. I had to carry the necessary tools in my hands and mouth to do the job. If I dropped anything, I would be screwed. I got the rudder off, took it ashore, reattached the cable, and went swimming again to put it back on. Nothing was dropped. Mission accomplished.

2. On the approach to CP2, my asymmetric spinnaker was no longer effectively snuffing. When I tried to snuff it, I would get a wad of sail flapping that could not be retrieved in my snuffer bag. I was able to beach it and manually push the spinnaker back in but I decided not to use it again until the cause could be determined. I did not want to be caught out in a blow far away from shore with not being able to retrieve the spinnaker. When I next camped, I found the cause was a loop on the sail had come unraveled and needed to be sewed back on. Fortunately, my required survival pack had a sail needle and thread. I had also brought along a small pair of needle-nose pliers. With these tools, I was able to sew the loop back on and was once again able to reliably snuff the spinnaker.

3. On the approach to CP3, we experienced first close hauled conditions, then high wind downwind sailing, then close hauled again. Foreseeing these conditions, I decided to partially unrig the spinnaker. It would not be needed for close hauled conditions and can’t safely be used in high winds. I partially unrigged it by removing the control lines and leaving it in the snuffer bag on the bow of my Triak. I didn’t have a lot of room elsewhere to store it. I removed the control lines because it is always better to have only those control lines rigged that are needed. There is less chance of the spinnaker lines getting fouled with anything else since I would be sailing far from shore in order to achieve the best tacking angle and could not beach it to solve any fouling problems. This worked fine until the wind shifted and built to have a strong tailwind and following seas. My bow would burry after surfing down a wave and the spinnaker snuffer would then act like a break (being that it is just a big scoop). Also, the spinnaker itself in the bag/scoop had collected perhaps 30 pounds of water and was weighing the bow down. These things were slowing me down. I finally decided to remove the spinnaker and snuffer even though I was a couple of miles away from the coast. I decided to go overboard to take it off. Since a boat can drift faster than a person can swim to keep up with it, I first tied a safety line from me to the boat. Once I got in the water, I could tell how fast the boat (even on bare poles) was being moved by the wind. I was glad I had that safety line. I worked my way to the bow and untied the and got the spinnaker and snuffer off. I worked my way back to the cockpit and threw the stuff in the cockpit. I then struggled a bit to get back inside. I had to just jam the spinnaker and snuffer down in the cockpit with me under my spray skirt. It was the only place it would fit. With that off, I was able to effectively sail downwind surfing down the swells periodically burying the bow. I made really good time after that. I more than made of for the time the removal took with increased speed.

4. Crossing Florida Bay, I had only bothered to store one route in my GPS. This route turned out to be disadvantaged towards the end (after Manatee pass) with needing to sail against the wind. If I had planned a bit better, I would have had that alternative route programmed that did not have the upwind section at the end. At least I got in a few hours of upwind sailing practice to finish the race. I was paddle-sailing so I could point a bit better but I was trying to let the wind still do most of the work.

The following shows the boat lineup at the start of the race

The following is my Everglades Challenge compilation video:

The following is me commenting while panning through the course with GoogleEarth:

Anchor test

Testing out my new 2.2 lb claw (Bruce) anchor. I was able to both launch and retrieve it form the cockpit. The attachment point is at a new beefier pad-eye near the bow. A separate line is used to pull the main line to me. The only snag was that the main line ended up looping under the bow when I retrieved it. I wouldn’t want to sail a long distance with the line like that because it would add a little bit of unnecessary drag.