many hats

Will Paxton from Quantum shares his view of the life of a navigator onboard the still class-winning Grand Dehler 46 Favonius on their way to Hawaii…

The modern navigator is a busy guy. Roll calls and position reports, data downloading, and lots of weather and routing analysis in front of the computer. It’s a far cry from the first Hawaii race I did where the navigator hunches in front of the SSB radio diligently taking notes once a day and tuning in some weather faxes printed on paper! It is in fact a full-time job and on our boat, like many others, I make my own schedule outside of the rest of the regular sailing crews’ watch rotation.

Being one of the more experienced sailors on the boat I also come with a lot of driving experience so this means I fill in at the helm at night when there is a premium on good driving. The nights have mostly been moonlit (good scheduling by the race organizer!) but several of the nights there are a few hours after moonset and before sunrise that is truly black and IFR conditions if you understand pilot lingo!

This part is my specialty. You have to feel the dip and roll of the boat under your feet while surfing down waves in 20ish ktss. of wind all the while keeping the spinnaker full and intently watching fast flicking dimmed instruments while calculating heading, TWA, True Wind, and True wind direction along with boat speed to balance it all. You can’t really see your friends in the dark but they are there offering advice while holding on to sheets and vang just in case.

Then with relief, the eastern sky starts to light up. The horizon, deck of the boat, your hands, friends and everything else rematerializes. This is just about the time I hand the helm off and go fire up the satellite comms and start writing out the 8am position report, downloading positions and new weather info and plugging it all into Expedition on the computer for analysis.

I’m usually done with this around 11am and hit the bunk for a few hours rest. Late afternoon I wake up and refresh the weather data and routing and do some sailing on deck with everyone- dinner hour is the best social hour on the Favonius and we usually have some good surfing music going.

Then it’s time for night sailing all over again. Suffice it so say I haven’t needed to put on too much sunscreen this time around hence the vampire reference!

The race is zooming by and it’s been a great trip thus far. The guys and gals on deck just put in a reef and we are blasting thru a squall with 25kt winds. I’m headed up there next!

Navigator Will / Team Favonius