the to do list

the voyage

the to do list

Robb and Rowena Walker are methodically preparing their Cal 40 for the doublehanded Transpac this summer, and here Rowena does a phenomenal job taking you through their process. How, you ask, could there be a Flying Tiger connection with this project? Look above and read below…

There is about a week to go before our July 5th start and Robb and I are continuing preparations of our Cal 40, Nozomi, for the 2010 Pacific Cup  starting in San Francisco. We had an enjoyable delivery up the coast in late May and NOZOMI has been resting comfortably in front of Kers Clausen’s home in Richmond since June 4th (thanks Kers!).  There is still a punch list , however a great deal has been accomplished since we last reported several months ago and we are down to details, provisioning and race planning. A major part of the preparation has been getting the old boat in a condition that Robb  is satisfied with (a very high standard), along with what the ISAF Category 1 rules require. I have taken on the job of making sure we meet all the ISAF requirements for Category 1 and coordinating for the safety inspection. It has been  a very valuable exercise because it forced me to become much more familiar with the boat. For example, I learned a lot about the boat when crawling around confirming that the emergency plugs for all of the thru hull fittings are available and tied in to place as required.

I began getting organized by going through the ISAF book and creating a spreadsheet (9 pages!) with all the requirements, along with the Pacific Cup amendments. We then broke the list down in to two areas. Robb is making sure that we meet all the hull and rig requirements and I am in charge of all the equipment requirements.

We are very fortunate to know many people who have done recent Trans Pac and Pacific Cup races. They have been very valuable for recommendations on gear to meet the requirements. Norm Reynolds has been an especially great resource based on years of Transpac experience and winning his class in Pacific Cup 2008 with Sabrina. We also attended the first two Pacific Cup Seminars put on by the Pacific Cup Yacht Club. These were informative and entertaining and introduced us to other  Bay Area race participants who have also have been extremely helpful in providing tips and recommendations. I also went  to the Strictly Sail boat show to look at the boat they had there that was fully set up to meet the ISAF Category 1 requirements for Pacific Cup.

One interesting requirement is emergency water. Emergency water has to be in factory-sealed containers and will be inspected after the finish. If the factory seals are broken or we don’t have the required amount, we are disqualified. The containers need to be  stored in such a way that the plastic containers cannot chafe and fail, losing the water. After some poking around on the boat, I decided to use multiple small water bottles and store them in a funky storage hole that is located behind the drawers on the port side of the forward cabin. We don’t usually store anything in this compartment because of dampness from the ever-present leaks in the old Cal 40 rails (some day we will fix this!). The bottles will be wrapped in rubber shelf liner material for protection and that should do the job.

The life raft, MOM and EPIRB have been serviced and re-certified.  Since we are also required to test our inflatable life jackets, we  jumped  into the yacht club pool to test them out. The inflatables worked, however we were both surprised by how long it seemed to take before they inflated! One of the lifejackets only partially inflated and when I brought this to the attention of the dealer we discovered that it was a defect and they replaced it (it really does make sense to test your gear!)  I also feel very fortunate that I was able to take a two-day Standards of Training, Certification & Watchkeeping (STCW) Personal Survival Techniques course through my work with the Navy. I had the experience of abandoning ship (from the diving board in to the pool) and righting an upside-down 25 man life raft by myself. That exercise, plus the entire course, gave me much more confidence that I will stay calm in an abandon ship situation. I highly recommend this training, particularly since I  believe that whatever disaster I am prepared  for will not happen.

The required equipment list for the race is extensive, so I have also created spreadsheets with our paper nautical chart inventory, medical kit contents, and battery and bulb requirements and inventory (spare batteries and bulbs are required for the ISAF required waterproof flashlights). Spreadsheets are  printed on waterproof paper  and kept in a waterproof plastic file box onboard for reference. I have also begun a spreadsheet for provisions. This will be kept very simple because since we are double handing, and don’t want to spend a lot of time preparing food underway. (I would rather sleep on my 2 to 4 hours off watch than prepare food!) We are also ordering some of our food (6 dinners and 8 breakfast burritos) from Baja Sessions, owned by our sailing friend and sometime crew, Romeo Villareal. Since we aren’t very good at cooking, a few good meals from a professional caterer experienced with sailing yacht provisioning seemed like a good idea!

First aid training is required for Category 1 races but is  waived for the Pacific Cup. However I thought we should have the training anyway so I took the one-day STCW Basic First Aid and CPR course. We then realized that I could take care of Robb if something happened to him, but who was going to take care of me? So, in spite of his tendency to faint at discussions of blood, he took the course also. He claims he doesn’t remember any of it but we have the ISAF required first aid book to refer to, if necessary. Also, my spreadsheet of the contents of our extensive medical kit, put together with lots of help from sailing friend Dr. David Ryan, has a column that indicates what each item is used for. Hopefully this will give a good quick look idea of what to do for certain medical situations. Hopefully we won’t have any medical situations!

We scheduled our Pac Cup safety inspection for early May prior to our departure for the delivery to SF. Our designated inspector, Jack McGuire, was experienced with the race on his own boat and was very friendly and helpful.  The process took about 3 hours and involved not only confirming that we had the required equipment, but also discussing in general terms how we had prepared the boat and how we would use the required safety equipment should it become necessary.  (The discussion was punctuated, of course, by sea stories from previous Pacific Cups!) In the end Jack commented that we were very well prepared and recommended us to the committee as candidates for “best prepared boat”.  He was particularly impressed with our emergency steering setup (more on that later). A great conclusion to a lot of hard work, but also to a very interesting and informative process!

While I worked through the safety equipment requirements Robb continued with boat and rig preparation. Nozomi was hauled out for about 10 days in late March, during which time we re-sprayed the bottom, removed and inspected the rudder and rudder bearings (the rudder had not been out of the boat since we owned it), reconditioned the thru-hulls and sea cocks, regreased the propeller, cleaned and polished the topsides, and even repainted the boot stripe (it is important to have the boat looking good!).

We had suspected since our last haul out two years ago that the rudder had water in it, which was confirmed when we noted some blisters appearing on the rudder blade after haul out and when we poured about a quart of water out of the top of the shaft when we dropped the rudder. Robb drilled a number of holes in the blisters, and in the rudder skins near the bottom of the blade, and while water did not gush out it did drain slowly for 5-6 days. Once the rudder stopped draining he ground out the areas around the blisters and drill holes, repaired the damaged areas with a glass/epoxy laminate, and re-faired and prepped the rudder for the painters. Rudder bearings proved to be in good condition, so all we had to do was clean and re-grease them and reinstall the rudder. We also replaced the 22 year old cabin windows (6 additional opening ports in the cabin had already  been replaced last year). All of this work was accomplished over two long weekends (the boatyard did the bottom job during the week between) with the help of several great sailing and non-sailing friends who were interested in helping out and providing moral support. We particularly learned a great deal from Kevin Reilly, a sailor and retired US Navy marine engineer from Coronado who “oversaw” the refurbishment of the prop, thru hulls, and other mechanical components.

Once the boat was re-launched the mast came out for a week. We have not had the mast out of the boat for 3 years, and other than recommissioning it and adding a few things when we bought the boat the rig/rigging has never had any serious servicing.  We replaced the standing rigging (race insurance requirement), disassembled and refurbished the tangs, cleaned up some surface corrosion and touched up the paint, cleaned and serviced the sheaves, and replaced all the pins.  We also fitted a new backstay with insulators for the SSB antenna. One interesting item we found in surveying the rig was that the shackle attaching the spinnaker halyard block to the crane (old style masthead) was significantly chafed and deformed by extremely high loading, probably as a result of our two day heavy air run during the Cal Coastal Cup last year.  That race lasted less than 3 days, so we’ll definitely need to keep an eye on these during the Pacific Cup!

After getting the mast back in the boat we were finally able to complete hook-up of the SSB Radio and Pactor modem (installed several months ago) with no difficulties. I did the basic installation and Shea Weston of Offshore Outfitters provided advice, parts, and did the final connections and testing.  The system has been working great and we have been amazed at how easy it is to send/receive email and download weather information and GRIB files by radio.

My last major boatbuilding project, and one of the most interesting ones, was designing and building a workable emergency steering system that could be installed at sea and be capable of steering the boat. While I did not have a chance to look at emergency steering systems that other Cal 40 owners had developed, I had already decided that a cassette type system would be required in order to make it possible to install the system at sea. Our friend Steve Waterloo, owner of the successful San Francisco based Cal 40 SHAMAN told me about his system that is based on a rudder cassette from an old Santana 23 combined with a custom fabricated blade. I never saw Steve’s system, but his description got me thinking about adapting existing (hopefully used & cheap) components from other boats rather than inventing and building a system from scratch.

When I started looking around for a suitable cassette and was not able to locate any Santana 23 parts I started thinking about alternatives. I realized that an FT-10 or a Columbia 30 rudder/cassette might work and started hearing rumors that the FT-10 class was about to adopt a new rudder and that there might be some used FT-10 rudders available CHEAP. I also looked at the Columbia 30 rudder, but the Columbia 30 transom is very low so I didn’t think that the narrow gudgeon spacing on their cassette would be optimal for mounting on the Cal 40, where my plan was to incorporate the gudgeons into a new backstay tang fabrication.

As it turned out the FT-10 class was not yet ready to adopt a new rudder so there were no used cassette/rudders on the market, however it became apparent that it would cost less to purchase a new FT-10 cassette/rudder from the factory than to design a system and have it fabricated (or even build it myself!). The stock FT-10 rudder and cassette are quite heavy and not particularly elegant, but the blade shape is good and it should be plenty strong to steer a Cal 40 in a non-racing mode (the Cal 40 is heavier than an FT-10, but the design speed is much lower).

The final adaptation involved using the FT-10 cassette as is, fabricating a new backstay tang with gudgeons welded onto the tang to accept the stock FT-10 rudder cassette and pin, cutting off the bottom 18” of the blade span so that the rudder can be easily stowed inside the boat (still plenty of span/draft to steer the Cal 40), glassing an offset tiller head to the top of the blade using fiberglass exhaust tube, biaxial glass, carbon tape and epoxy, and fabricating a  tubular aluminum tiller that “dog legs” around the backstay tang and hydraulic cylinder. I am pretty happy with the result (see photo). It is a robust system that can be relatively easily stored aboard and safely installed at sea (installing emergency steering at sea will never be easy!), should provide decent steerage in non-racing mode for an extended period of time, and was reasonably economical. It would be nice if the whole setup was lighter, but on a dollar spent per pound weight saved basis it just didn’t make sense to build something fancier or higher tech.

With that project completed and the safety inspection behind us all that remained was to get NOZOMI to San Francisco. We had a great delivery trip (not all perfect weather but generally very enjoyable) that included stops at Catalina, Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara, Port San Luis, San Simeon, Monterey, Half Moon Bay and on into Richmond. We arrived at Richmond on June 4th just ahead of our objective of having the boat in SF one month prior to our start.

We have not done as much sailing as we would have liked over the past few months, so we plan to spend the last week with the boat in Richmond attending to last minute details and doing a bit of sailing in order to get back into it. We did The Border Run in April just to get sailing again after all the time in the boatyard (2nd in the double handed division), however time is (always) limited and we now have quite a bit of time in the boat, so it was a higher priority to concentrate on boat prep. There are of course some conditions that we have not yet experienced and some sail combinations that we have not tried, but I think that we are now experienced enough to figure those out if/when the need arises.

It’s going to be a great summer and we are really looking forward to both the race and the trip home (it’s been 31 years since I last did Transpac and spent the entire summer on a boat!).  We expect to have a great time and continue to learn more about offshore sailing, navigation, communications, weather, and perhaps even cooking. We expect to be pretty busy during the race, but will try to send some email updates from onboard when we can.

Rowena & Robb