Monday, April 30, 2007

Racing with Dummies, Day 3

by Mike

To begin with, I would like to point out an omission from yesterday's update. Yesterday our master fisherman, Doc, did not catch any

This morning we continued on very nicely with Whomper pulling us along briskly. Our standings in the race were improving with our
biggest spinnaker pulling us. We speeded along at 10-11 knots, with spurts into the 15s a number of times (when gusts of wind and
the downhill sides of waves cooperated just right).

The waves changed a lot. Sometimes we got a regular following swell, and sometimes we were in a confused mess of waves. We were in a
steady breeze of 15-20 knots which accounts for the nice swell. But we were in different eddies and currents associated with the
gulf stream, causing the mixed-up stuff.

With the boat rocking around randomly, the mast can go back and forth 10-20 feet in an instant. This made Whomper flutter around
sometimes and we got some loud crackles, and pops as the sail snapped back into the desired smooth flying shape. (yes, that was

In the afternoon Bob was driving. He proceeded to shred our dear spinnaker, and Whomper was no longer. Just for the record, Bob's
blamed the equipment, as a true sportsman should. And just for the record, I blamed the driver.

It took some time to retrieve the torn remains of Whomper from the air, the water, and the deck and stuff it into the right front
hatch. Then we raised the mainsail all the way and put out the gennaker while we considered our options. This slowed us to about 6-7
knots. During this process, Doc decided to catch another fish and we had a 15 pound dolphin (mahi-mahi for the snobs and granola
heads) on board.

We decided on our littlest spinnaker, Bambi. After the better part of an hour we toiled physically and mentally and got it hoisted
and puffed out pretty. And after another hour or so we figured out how to trim it and speeded up to 8-10 knots.

So we ate supper. Two days ago Steve ordered pizza. He got it tonight. (this is not Domino's!)

An hour or two after dark we got a call on the radio from a boat called Thunderbird. We have been chasing them the entire race.
Thunderbird is a 40 foot trimaran that goes faster than we can.

Unfortunately, they called because their rudder broke and they couldn't steer anymore. We offered to help them fix it or tow them if
they wanted. It took us almost 2 hours to catch them. During this time they tried several methods to steer and get going. When we
got there they were happy to have us tow them. We tied the boats together with about 300 feet of rope. This took quite awhile since
it was dark and wavy. We finally took off with sails down, motors on, and autopilot engaged.

After we got underway, Bob and I played a rip-roaring rendition of In the Mood on our sousaphones for them.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Steven's Update

Hi to everyone who read's this.

Racing with Dummies! Day 2

by Mike

Overnight the wind was mostly light and variable. Steve did a great job of getting us south during this mess.

This morning Doc Fullerton and I surprised each other in the hall at sunup. We proceeded upstairs, groggily, and eventually took
over for Steve. As we were milling around and waking up, the wind picked up a bit (the sailing word for that is "freshened") from a
usable direction.

The three of us enjoyed trying different sail configurations until we thought we had the boat going the best speed in the best
direction. Every hour or so we tried different sails in different places, but didn't accomplish a lot.

So we ate lunch. We had fresh sashimi (thanks to Fisherman Doc's catch of a 21 pound black fin tuna yesterday) along with Tostitos
chips and Pace salsa.

Mid-afternoon the wind direction shifted favorably and we decided to try out our biggest spinnaker, Whomper. Doc, Bob, and I
successfully got it up in the air and puffed out. Our speed and direction improved dramatically. We went from 3-4 knots to 5-6
knots. This was in about 7-8 knots of wind.

After a couple of hours, the wind direction shifted and we started going too far east. We tried adjusting Whomper for a long time.
It didn't help. A couple of hours later, just for kicks, we lowered our mainsail halfway and readjusted Whomper again to see if we
could go a better direction. Wow!

Somehow we speeded up to 7-8 knots (wind was about 10 knots then). And we were going the right direction, too.

So we at supper. Tonight we had tuna steaks (thanks to Fisherman Doc's catch of a 21 pound black fin tuna yesterday).

And we sailed into the night in the right direction (yay) and at a good clip (yay).

Racing with Dummies! Day 1

by Mike

Last night Bob and I attended the mandatory "skippers meeting." There were several people that had some nice and interesting things
to say. Then the boss of the race talked about some rules, starting time, starting line, and things like that. It was probably quite
informative. However, he used a bunch of sailboat and racing terms so neither Bob nor I had much of an idea what he was talking

After the meeting we searched out Mike Boom (one of the race organizers, and a really nice, helpful guy) to find out what to do. We
had read the rules and knew that the race started at 10:00am. "So we just show up before 10:00am and be ready to take off," we
asked? He told us that most of them would leave the dock about 9:00am and gather in the starting area.

So this morning we got up and took off from the dock shortly after 8:00am in order to get out of everyone's way. We couldn't tell
where the starting line was, so we just stayed way behind all the other boats so we could follow them. One of the things they talked
about was being "OCS" in the race. We looked that up on wikipedia later and found out it basically means a false start. In sailboat
racing, if you cross the starting line (which we never precisely located) before the official start time (we thought we could figure
this part out by listening to the radio) then you have to circle back and go through it again.

Anyway … a few minutes before 10:00 they announced on the radio that all racers would motor across the bridge and start near buoy
#17. We found buoy #17 on the map and headed to it. A couple of hours later we noticed the other racers congregating near buoy #70
and realized that #17 was really #70 and we should stay there behind them all.

So we ate lunch. The bologna sandwiches (compliments of Bob) were delicious.

We were truly asea (mentally) at this point. But we persevered and waited. After a pretty long time a lady on the radio said "three
minutes till ????? ????? ????? start ." Something was about to start.

Then she said "two minutes till ????? ????? ????? start." And then proceeded to announce "one minute till …" "45 seconds till …" "30
seconds till …" "15,14, 13, … 3, 2, 1, MARK!" We were getting excited.

We stayed behind all the other boats, expecting them to take off so we could follow. Nothing observable happened. There were still
boats everywhere going in all directions and we stayed away from them.

Then the lady on the radio began another countdown to something else that we could not understand. From "three minutes…" all the way
to "3, 2, 1, MARK!" If any of the boats reacted to this, we could not tell.

After more counting commenced and concluded the boats started pointing in the same direction and took off. We followed behind the
middle of the pack best we could to make sure we didn't miss the starting line. And we were off!

This sailboat racing is not only confusing, it also involves hardships.

Two important things I learned about boat racing. One, they don't let you use powered winches. (One-a: it takes a lot of
hand-cranking to get our mainsail up.) Two, they don't let you use an autopilot.

Today was the first day I have witnessed (I volunteered to drive during that part) our mainsail hand-cranking to the top.

Regarding autopilotless racing, we have crossed the Atlantic twice and sailed a lot of other places. We have used the autopilot more
than 99% of the time that I have been on the boat sailing. Today we used a bungee cord on the steering wheel a lot.

The wind was not particularly cooperative. It was blowing from the south, and we were trying to go south.

So we ate supper. Doc Fullerton had the bad manners to catch a 21 pound black fin tuna just before we ate. So eating was delayed a
bit due to his inconsideration.

We ended up going mostly west and only a little south. But, the sky was clear and the temperature in the 70s. Nice.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Today's News!

Tomorrow Steven Webster and Mike Fullerton join Mike and Bob Webster in Tampa for the start of the great race on Friday morning. The
weather forecast is for very little wind. At least it will be smooth water...

Here's where to track the boats in the race:

Mike broke a light bulb in the fridge, but he repaired it.

We have safety seminars, weather seminars, and meetings tomorrow. The big safety tip on a trip like this is to stay on the boat.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Minnow is Moving

This morning the Minnow made it to the St. Petersburg Yacht Club from Key West! Bob drove, and did an excellent job of parking the boat. That means no permanent damage to the boat, and very little visible damage to the dock. (The dock is concrete).

Sunshine Bridge, Tampa Bay: