slow and low, that is the tempo

Keith Leitzke sailed back into Kaneohe Yacht Club last week aboard his highly modified Cal 20, Magic, after completing his most recent single-handed voyage.  This time it was a four-month plus one-week-long passage down to 4S and back.  Magic looked to be a little voyage weary with some rust staining and marine growth on the topsides, but otherwise the boat and skipper appeared to be in good shape.

I got a chance to sit down with Keith a few days after his return to discuss his previous voyages and plans for Magic.  He was able to shed some light on his recent passage and methodical approach to long-distance sailing on a micro-cruiser.

This passage was mostly uneventful.  Keith only saw two ships during the entire trip, a large commercial vessel shortly after departure and a fishing boat near the equator.  The bolts anchoring Magic’s mainsheet traveller to the deck sheared early in the voyage, but Keith had spare bolts aboard and was able to fix it.  He had intermittent electrical problems for much of the trip.  After returning he cleaned potentially suspect connections and the problems appear to be resolved.  He blew out both a mainsail and a jib, but they were old and he had newer sails aboard to replace them.  Keith saw the usual wildlife; lots of Mahi, dolphins, and birds.  A large whale surfaced near his transom which got his heart pumping.

Keith’s first three long (three month plus) voyages to this point have been focused on perfecting his systems and processes with the end goal of making non-stop passages lasting up to a year.  His trips have all been round trips starting and ending at Kaneohe Yacht Club.  The first, in 2019, took him up to 55N in the Gulf of  Alaska.  The second in 2020 took him to within 150 miles of the Galapagos Islands.

Keith has perfected sheet-to-tiller self-steering aboard Magic so it works reliably on all points of sail.  He has a couple of electric autopilots, but doesn’t use them anymore.  He is getting his provisioning process down as well.  Magic departs on these voyages carrying a full year’s supply of food and it has been keeping vegan Keith healthy during his four-month-long trips.  During this recent passage, he still had edible fresh onions and squash after four months at sea.  He also grows fresh sprouts aboard.

The electrical issues on this most recent voyage prompted Keith to cut the trip short.  He was worried primarily about navigation since he has relied entirely on electronic charts to this point.  If Magic’s power failed, he’d be lost.  On future voyages, Keith will take along some small-scale charts enabling him to navigate if he loses power.  He already has a sextant and tables aboard Magic.

Keith has been and continues to be focused on giving all landmasses a wide berth because he has no auxiliary power, and in calm winds would not be able to avoid hazards to navigation.  He pointed out that during this last voyage Magic actually went backward over the ground for an extended period when he was sailing in gentle breezes against an adverse current.

Keith revealed that his long-term plans might include a trip around Cape Horn and then perhaps on around the world in the Southern Ocean.  In the meantime, he is planning a couple of shorter duration voyages starting and ending at KYC with the first voyage beginning in a week or so.  He hopes to head south if he can find a safe path between tropical disturbances (it’s hurricane season here).  If he can’t, he’ll head north.

Keith reports in with his position and status via Spot messenger every few weeks during his voyages so we can track his progress.  It has been fun following him and I look forward to tracking his future adventures.  This is truly a unique individual who is living his dream.

Thanks to The Beasties for the title inspiration.