Kevin Jones aboard the Capri 25 BACKBEAT completes a SHTP qualifier

Kevin Jones aboard his Capri 25 and Jak Mang and his Ingrid MAITREYA are preparing to leave PT for San Francisco and the start of the 2014 Singlehanded TransPac from San Francisco to Hanalei. Here’s the story of Kevin Jone’s qualifier from the Singlehanded Sailing Society’s blog.

I did my qualifier last week ( May 1, 2014) .  Left Port Townsend at about 1300 on April 28th.  Beat out of Admiralty inlet against a stiff current for seven hours.  Once I got into the Strait the wind was mostly from the East, oscillating in a narrow range from ENE to ESE  I basically had a nice reach/run out to my turn point at roughly 47.50 lat 128 lon.  As I got close, the wind shifted to the SW.  I adjusted my course, as you will see on the picture of my track.  The wind remained steady, and I had a nice reach back to Cape Flattery.  Cape Flattery has powerful currents, and the wind shifted back to the SE, so the first thirty miles inside the Strait was pretty painful.  Shifty winds, strong currents, lots of commercial traffic, rain, fog.  Then the wind died and I basically drifted in with the tide for a while.

When the wind finally piped up I was down below.  A gust hit pretty hard, so I bolted out of the cabin to take the tiller.  When I did I must have kicked the panel master switch, because now I had no electronics at all.  I’d left the key in the switch, and when I kicked it I broke it off.  With no autopilot, and the boat way over-powered, I hove-to to figure out what to do.  Once I got the boat balanced the motion was really nice, so I opened up the 12V panel and bypassed the master switch.  Everything came back on.  I reduced sail and kept going.  The rest of the trip was in light, shifty winds.  By the time I was near Ediz Hook I was bobbing around in the busy shipping lanes, in thick fog, in the dark.  My AIS alarm was going nuts.  I estimated that I had already done more than 400 miles, and had gone roughly 130 miles offshore, so I fired up the outboard and headed in to Port Angeles for the night.  The next day I motorsailed back to Port Townsend.

I learned a few important things.  First, my autopilot doesn’t steer very well downwind under spinnaker in waves.  I ended up hand-steering during the day, and using a poled-out genoa at night.  I’ll have to work on that problem.  I want to be competitive, but I’m not going to hand-steer for twenty hours a day.  Second, my boat broaches easily, but it also recovers easily.  Third, chafe.  A spinnaker guy parted on me in 18-22 kts apparent.  It was pretty spectacular, except that I thought the spinnaker would shake itself apart.  It did shake off four of the sail numbers before I got it under control.  I’m going to look for ways to beef up that sail a bit, and go over every inch of my rigging chasing away chafe.  Lastly, I’m competitive, but I’m not nuts about it.  For me there’s a difference between sailing and racing.  I don’t think I can keep up the racing focus 24/7.  I tried, but there were times when I couldn’t be bothered to work every wind shift.  Hats off to people who can do that, but I’m thinking now that if I’m racing about 2/3 of the time and just sailing the rest, then that’s about what I can do.  I have no idea how the single handing pros do it.

Altogether, it was a fun trip.  I was well-rested the whole time, but then I sailed conservatively and didn’t push anything.  The only things that broke were the spinnaker guy and that master switch.  NOAA said the ocean swells were 11 feet, which seemed about right.  I had no trouble with seasickness.  My top speed surfing the swells was 11.3 kts.  That was soooo fun!  I saw three whales and lots of fishing debris, like floats and chunks of net.

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