Our Journey to Bermuda

Exactly one month ago today, Sam Cox and I did this thing.  We sailed a 21-foot--a Mini Transat 6.50--from Newport, RI to Bermuda.  After 5 1/2 days in the North Atlantic Ocean, we completed the passage, arriving in St. George's on June 24 at 0230.  By far, the toughest part about this passage was making the decision to untie our lines from the dock at Newport Yacht Club, point the boat towards Bermuda, and leave behind the protections of land.     

Swirling about Newport in the days leading up to the official start of the 2016 Newport-Bermuda Race (June 17, 2016) were talks of 40+ knots of breeze in the Gulf Stream, wind against current, with higher gusts (potentially 60 knots) in squalls.  Top meteorologists and tacticians were telling well-prepared crews that June 17 was a bad day to sail to Bermuda.  The entire Gibbs Hill fleet withdrew.  Skilled sailors were dropping off boats otherwise intending to race.  We overheard one professional weather briefing where the pros basically told those on the conference call, "We don't know what the f**k is going to happen out there."

We had a tough decision to make.  Sail to Bermuda.  Or go home.  Like all sailors did in the days leading up to June 17, we analyzed all available information, and talked with sailors much more skilled than we in order to make the most prudent decision.  Through our interactions with folks like Chad Corning and Rich du Moulin, we learned some interesting differences between the most readily used weather models--GFS (Global Forecast System),  ECMWF (European Center for Medium range Weather Forecasting), and OPC (Ocean Prediction Center).  For example, we learned from Rich about how GFS does not accurately predict wind speeds above 30 knots, and that one should expect 120% of the forecasted wind speeds according to GFS.  We learned from Chad about how, compared to the other models, the OPC model includes the most human input.  None of these models were consistent with the information we were receiving from the proprietary models put out by PredictWind, who has been supporting us from the beginning.  PredictWind showed the low pressure cell off the coast of South Carolina, but forecasted no more than 30-35 knots in the Gulf Stream when we were expecting to cross it.  

I also considered the tear-inducing words of friends, who suggested--based on nothing more than concern for our well-being--that we abandon our venture.  Lawrence Cutler shared with me his experience sailing in 60 knots during the 2010 delivery back from Bermuda.  Others asked me to think of my kids.  Coupled with the uncertainty in the forecast, these words led to a debilitating physical stress that nearly brought me to the mat in submission.    

Luckily, we had Rob Windsor across from the dock from us at Newport Yacht Club, and I had a chance to talk with Clay Burkhalter following the NBR Skippers' Meeting.  For anybody reading this post, these two names should be very familiar.  Rob is an experienced racer, and active sailor on the Class 40 circuit.  Clay Burkhalter, also an experienced racer, participated in the Classe Mini circuit and finished 12th out of 84 sailors in the 2007 Mini Transat.  Both Rob and Clay gave us the most objectively reasonable advice we could hope to receive.  They said, just head down to the Stream and, if it's gnarly, bail out, and head home.  Although obvious in hindsight, this alternative was nowhere on my radar.  Rob and Clay's advice was the sledgehammer I needed to break through the concrete wall of physical stress that separated me from the ocean, and from this journey. 

We passed Castle Hill on June 18 at 1400 with our bow pointed towards Bermuda, having delayed 24 hours following the official start of the Newport-Bermuda Race.

Once on the ocean, my physical stress gave way to psychological bliss as I was able to free myself from the pains of the past and burdens of the future as I focused on the present--that is, until the hallucinations set in.

We went for it.  We f***in' went for it.  And we accomplished something; we accomplished our goal.  But rather than tell you more about our journey, let me show it to you.

And P.S., PredictWind was spot on.  We topped out at 28 knots of breeze.

Happy Birthday, Wife.

Some time ago, on this very day, you, Sara Heather, were born.  I remember it like it was yesterday--the summer had just begun, and I had a poopy diaper.  21 years (and few more poopy diapers) later, the magic that you brought into the world did what the Heavens designed it to do--it allowed me to find you.  You are, have always been, and forever will be, my beacon; my lighthouse in the dark.  

I love you, and thank you for supporting me with everything I do, especially this adventure.  Speaking of which, we've been kicking ass, so I decided to divert course for a bit and create for you a special ocean message!  Check out that boat speed!

See you soon.

Standing by...

It's June 17, 2016, at around 0800.  Today is supposed to be the start of the biennial Newport-Bermuda Race.  However, no later than 1100, the OA is scheduled to make a decision whether to delay the official start on account of some gnarly weather that is expected to hit the fleet while in the Gulf Stream.  Gnarly being sustained winds of 35 knots with puffs into the 40s, and potentially into the 50s and 60s in squalls.  A low is expected to park right over rhumb.  

More impactful than the breeze is the sea-state.  The expected TWD (true wind direction) for this breeze is E-NE, which means wind against current in the Stream.  The result is monstrous, steep, square, breaking waves--problematic yet doable for a heavy displacement boat; problematic and downright insane for a 2,500 lb. Mini Transat (to the say the least).  Yes, these boats are designed and built to cross oceans.  But even official Classe Mini events are delayed in big breeze--most notably the 2013 Mini Transat, when the OA delayed the race because of 50 knots and 4 meter waves off Cape Finisterre.  

We have no intention of putting our lives at risk by sailing into the Gulf Stream with the potential for 40-60 knots wind against current.  My 6-year-old daughter says to me yesterday, "Daddy...I hear some bad weather is coming.  Maybe you should just drive home."  I'm not ruling that out.  But right now, we are standing by.  Gear is offloaded from the Jeep and into the boat, food and water is organized and stowed, precious cargo has been loaded, and we have enjoyed Gosling's rum at Newport Shipyard in 100% approved, top choice swag designed by dear ol' dad.

The decision to stand-by is obvious.  Over the past few days, I have talked weather with sailors who, collectively, have hundreds of years of experience sailing offshore, and interpreting weather models--folks like Rob Windsor, Rich du Moulin, Clay Burkhalter, Chad Corning, and Lawrence Cutler.  Here are some choice quotes:

Lawrence:  "Josh.  With all due respect.  If you leave on Friday, you're a f***in' idiot."
Clay:  "Josh.  50 knots in the Gulf Stream will be...challenging.  Maybe head down there.  Dip your toe in, and bail out if need be."
Rob:  "I'd go...but I'm an idiot."  [Note:  Rob is not an idiot, but any stretch of the imagination.]
Rich:  [stares me down with an expression that I took to mean what Lawrence told me to my face].

The camaraderie up here in Newport, like the sunsets, is inspiring.  

#dontbestupid

Bainbridge & Karver Join the Team

As we begin our double-handed adventure from Newport, RI, to Bermuda one week from today in our 21-foot Mini Transat, Abilyn, we welcome Bainbridge International and Karver Systems to the team.  There's a lot of ocean to cover between here and Bermuda, and back to NYC.  When conditions get light and we need to make way upwind, we'll be deploying our 2016 UK Sailmakers Code Zero on a Karver KF1 ECO furler designed for boats like our Mini Transat.  The unit is small and light--I feel like I could lose it between the cushions of my couch.  But it does the job, furling the Code Zero with ease.

A photo posted by Josh (@abilynracing) on

A video posted by Josh (@abilynracing) on

This is no surprise given the innovations that Bainbridge and Karver have developed for the offshore sailing community.  Bainbridge was founded almost 100 years ago as a sailcloth manufacturer, and has had many successes, including in the Vendee Globe and the Whitbread / Volvo Ocean Race.  Over the years, Bainbridge expanded its presence in the offshore world by serving as distributor for many brands that typically equip offshore yachts, including Plastimo and Yale Cordage, and also by sponsoring The Atlantic Cup, which is the longest offshore race on the east coast of the U.S. 

Karver got its start in 2004 and has since been supplying technologically advanced sailing hardware to the IMOCA 60, Volvo, TP52, Mod 70, and Class 40 racing classes, among other designs.  In 2015, Karver selected Bainbridge as its exclusive distributor in the U.S.

We're excited to have the Karver ECO furler in our arsenal as we challenge what ultimately will be more than 1,300 miles of open ocean.  

Dear Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Authority...

As at least some of you know, we intend to sail our 21-foot Mini 6.50, Abilyn, from Newport to Bermuda and back to NYC on June 17--the same time that the Newport Bermuda Race fleet leaves Narragansett Bay en route to Hamilton Harbour.  And, as we've reported previouslyAbilyn is ineligible to enter the race.  Do I believe Minis should be permitted to race?  Absolutely.  These boats are purpose built to handle the rigors of the open ocean, and have been sailed singlehandedly across oceans for decades.  But rules are rules...and stability indexes are stability indexes.  Nevertheless, our taste for adventure persists.  And so, in a good faith effort to advise of our intentions and to promote good will, I reached out to the Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Authority purely in the spirit of Corinthian sailing.  

Below is the e-mail I sent.


Dear Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Authority,

I am the founder and skipper of Abilyn Racing, a sailing program based in Larchmont, NY, focused on shorthanded sailing.  Our weapon of choice is a Mini Transat 6.50 named Abilyn.  I am writing to advise the OA that, despite being ineligible to race in the Newport Bermuda Race on two grounds (length and ORR-calculated stability), we nevertheless intend to "race" double-handed from Newport to Bermuda on June 17.  Our goal is by no means to disrespect the race, its heritage, or the OA.  Rather, the upcoming Newport-Bermuda Race provides us with an opportunity essentially for live practice:  practice for next year’s Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race; practice for future, bluewater racing and passage making; in short, practice for whatever sailing adventures come next.

Our approach to this adventure is well-grounded in the origins of the Newport Bermuda Race.  In A Berth to Bermuda, John Rousmaniere writes that Thomas Fleming Day had a radical idea at the turn of the 20th century—offshore sailing in small boats.  Day believed that “small vessels are safer than large, provided they are properly designed, strongly built, thoroughly equipped, and skillfully manned.”  Confident in his own abilities as a seaman, unphased by those who preached the dangers of offshore sailing, and desiring to “get a smell of the sea," Day set sail in 1906 from Brooklyn, NY, with three other boats in what became the inaugural Newport Bermuda Race.  

Day understood that sailing offshore in a small boat is a beautiful challenge for the prepared seaman.  Even today, to many sailors across the pond and around the world, sailing a small boat across an ocean means only that it must be Wednesday.  It is my belief that, if Day were alive today, he would have smiled and tipped his hat at the thought of sailors venturing short-handed into the ocean aboard 21-foot oceangoing machines.  He would have done so not in amazement, but rather as a gesture of respect and camaraderie that can only be shared among like-minded sailors who understand the importance of safety and seamanship as the bases for offshore sailing.

It is with the principles espoused by Thomas Day in mind that we intend to get a smell of the sea ourselves on June 17.  Our boat—a Pogo 2 Mini Transat designed by Groupe Finot and built to offshore standards—is properly designed and strongly built.  Indeed, Mini Transat boats have been racing across the Atlantic since the 1970s with crews of one.  At least one Mini has circumnavigated the globe.  And another Mini was recently sailed from the Caribbean to NYC, where it is staging for a record attempt between NYC and Lanzarote.  Our boat also will be thoroughly equipped as we are adhering to the Newport Bermuda Race Safety Requirements, as supplemented by guidelines promulgated by the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race organizing authority and the Storm Trysail Foundation.  Finally, our boat will be skillfully manned as my co-skipper and I have substantial ocean racing experience, including five Newport-Bermuda races between us both.  I also previously qualified for the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race aboard Abilyn.  

In view of our intention to “race” along with the fleet to Bermuda, we respectfully request that the OA permit us passage out of Narragansett Bay on June 17 by way of the official Newport Bermuda Race starting line.  As a gesture of good faith—and regardless of whether the OA grants our request—we will donate $500 in the name of the Newport Bermuda Race Organizing Authority to the Storm Trysail Foundation, the preeminent organization providing education to young sailors about the importance of safety at sea.  

Please let us know at your convenience whether the OA will grant our request.  We are amenable to speaking further about logistics, including, for example, an appropriate timing for our start so that we do not interfere with the starts of any official entrants.  

Respectfully submitted,

abilynemail
 

Ok.  I admit.  I probably shouldn't have led with the statement that, despite being ineligible, we nevertheless intend to "race," which implies that we intend to intrude.  This is not our intention, which I made that clear in a follow-up e-mail to AJ Evans, the chairman of the regatta, whom I understand is also the youngest chairman in the history of the regatta.  

Not being one to just let things mull about, I picked up the phone and gave AJ a call, primarily to introduce myself, but also to clear the air.  Why did I feel the need to clear the air?  Let's just say I received a response from a member of the OA that was not meant for my eyes.  This e-mail contained a few exclamation marks and made reference to RRS 69.   

Despite the vitriolic nature of the response, AJ and I had a very gentlemanly call, and even batted around a couple of ideas, since our request to sail through the official starting line was not well-received.  AJ initially proposed that I set sail from Brooklyn.  Although starting from Brooklyn has some appeal given that the regatta had its first start there in 1906, ultimately, we are set on leaving from Newport.  We can't help it.  We love Newport.  (If Thomas Day were alive today, we would have kicked back a few over at IYAC culminating with unspeakable activity at the Candy Store).  AJ, however, expressed a concern about potential interference with other boats while offshore if we were to leave from Newport.  I reiterated that we have no intention of intruding upon the race--especially with the official entrants who have undertaken significant preparations (both time and expense) to get to the starting line of this classic regatta.  I also mentioned that we would not seek to enforce any rights of way that we might have against any official entrant while offshore; if we have a port-starboard situation, and we're on starboard, we're going to give way, well before the port boat has to change course.  We're out there to sail as a fast as we can to Bermuda and participate in the adventure, not to be dicks. 

AJ also suggested that we sail out of Narragansett Bay either before or after the exclusion zone is enforced.  This too has appeal, but we're waiting to see the Notice to Mariners once it's posted on the Newport Bermuda Race notice board.  What we don't want is to leave too late in the day on June 17.

One option that we did not discuss would be departing after the last start, but potentially before the exclusion zone is lifted.  In 2014, the last class (14 in total) would have crossed the starting line at 1520 EDT.  Departing after the last start would address both of AJ's concerns:  potential interference during the start and while offshore.  Unless it's blowing 20-30 knots from a downwind point of sail at the start, most if not all of the fleet will remain ahead of us well into the ocean.  If it is blowing 20-30 knots from a downwind point of sail at the start, fuggedaboutit.  

No resolution was reached other than that we made clear that we'd keep clear.

All in all, I'm happy I was able to speak with AJ.  From what I could gather, he's doing exceptional work as the regatta's chairman and clearly has the interests of the regatta and its competitors as his primary focus (as he should as chairman).  

But I also got the sense that AJ understands and perhaps even appreciates what we're trying to accomplish.  In the end, we're all sailors and are unified by our connection to the sea, regardless of whether we're pros or weekend warriors, or whether we participate for trophies and records or for pure adventure and the feeling that overtakes us when we grab the helm on a downwind run under a full moon and universe of stars.  Just like Thomas Day and his contemporaries who chose to venture offshore in small boats in what became the first Newport Bermuda Race, we all just want to "get a smell of the sea."

See you out on the water.

REVISION:  Based on a comment posted to Sailing Anarchy, we want to make clear that we did not refuse AJ's suggestion that we start either before the exclusion zone is in place or after it is lifted.  In fact, we fully support that approach.  When we stated above that we would keep clear, we did not mean to suggest that we intended to start in a sequence but keep clear of official entrants.  We intend to keep clear by starting well before the first start, or after the last start clears.  In other words, we will be avoiding the exclusion zone altogether unless the OA gives us permission to sail through after the last start clears (but before the exclusion zone is lifted).  Our intention is not to violate any rules that are applicable to us as a non-racing, non-participating boat.

 

      

New Sponsor Alert: Mom!

It only makes sense.  They've been saying it to us since we were born.  Eat your breakfast!  Eat your dinner!  Eat!!!!!  Although my sailing tends to scare my mom, I'm glad she supports what makes me happy, and continues to tell me to stay safe and eat!!!  And I'll be thinking about that when I'm guzzling down all the Mountain House that she's supplying for the boat for our "race" down to Bermuda and back.  

Thanks, mom!  Love ya!  For that, you get some real estate on our Partners page, and a big hug when you come to visit this weekend.  I'll also be sure to text you from the Gulf Stream.

Photo credit:  Dad

Abilyn Partners With Interlux: A Fast Boat Needs A Fast Bottom

If you find me in a boatyard, especially Newport Shipyard, it's tough to get me out.  I've been known to roam about, marveling at the lines of beautiful racing yachts and the almost mirror-like finish of their bottoms, oblivious to time.  "We gotta go," someone will say.  No.  We don't.

Abilyn hasn't had her bottom worked [insert joke here] since she was built in 2012.  So when Groupe Abilyn contemplated a fresh bottom with new anti-fouling paint for the upcoming racing season and our much-anticipated adventure to Bermuda and back beginning June 17, 2016, our primary requirement was--it gotta be fast!  So there was really only one choice for us:  Interlux® VC® Offshore.

The folks over at Interlux have graciously agreed to supply us with a couple of cans of VC® Offshore Baltoplate anti-fouling paint and InterProtect HS (high solids) epoxy primer to help us get to Bermuda as fast as we can, and succeed in beating some official entrants racing in the 50th Newport-Bermuda Race.  We chose Baltoplate because of reported superior performance in light air, which is important when your mast is only 36 feet tall and you have a wide ass.

And, we're happy to have Interlux partnering with us because, as it turns out, many of the racing yachts that have mesmerized me over the years have been painted with VC Offshore.

In the northeast, planning a pre-launch bottom job is still a possibility.  So pick up some yachtpaint, and have fun in the yard!  Or, if you're in the market for a pro job, I'd personally recommend Brewer Pilots Point (North Yard) (Bob Connell) or McMichael's (Helmut Bittlingmayer).  I've had great experiences at both.

See you out on the water.  We'll be the ones gliding by on a slick-ass bottom. 

Newport to Bermuda to NYC: Prepping for Safety

As some of you know, my co-skipper, Sam Cox, and I are planning on sailing (well, racing) from Newport, RI, to Bermuda on June 17, 2016.  Coincidentally, some other folks will be racing to Bermuda at the same time--something called the Newport-Bermuda Race ("Bermuda Race").  You might have heard of it.

Unfortunately, the 21-foot Abilyn, a Mini Transat 6.50, whose design has been tried and tested across oceans, is ineligible under the Bermuda Race Notice of Race ("NOR") and Safety Requirements ("NBRSR").  Like any regatta, the Bermuda Race has eligibility requirements.  For example, the minimum length for participating boats is "at least 27.5 feet."   NOR at Para. 4.1(a)(ii).  Given that Abilyn has a length of only 21 feet (6.5 meters), the NOR, on its face, declares Abilyn ineligible.  Although the Bermuda Race Organizing Authority ("OA") may waive the eligibility requirements at its discretion, see id. at Para. 4.1(b), we've been told that the OA will not do so for Mini Transat 6.50s.  However, even if the OA did waive the eligibility requirements for Abilyn under the NOR, Abilyn would still be rendered ineligible by the NBRSR, which requires a minimum stability index of 115 under the Offshore Rating Rule ("ORR").  NBRSR at Section 2.2.1.   Abilyn's sister-ship, USA 831, has been rated under the ORR as having a stability index of 85.2.  So we're screwed all around. 

The ORR stability requirements are what they are, and reflect only one of a number of methods used to assess whether a boat is "seaworthy."  But, notably, the rules for Minis competing in the Classe Mini circuit in Europe, and the biennial Mini Transat Race, which takes solo skippers across the Atlantic Ocean, require only that the boat have "positive stability with a 45 kg weight . . . at the maximum air draft point [top of mast]" when the "maximum air draft point [is] at sea level."  2015 Classe Mini Rules at Section J-15-b.  This test measures the angle of vanishing stability, and is often referred to as the 90-degree test as the boat is tipped around 90 degrees with the top of the mast attached to a weight and measuring device.

Source:  http://dominiklenk.com/mini-transat-leg-1 (the 90° test the week before the start of the 2015 Mini Transat).

Class 40s, which are eligible to race in the Bermuda Race, rely on the 90-degree test to gain entry to many regattas around the world, including the RORC Caribbean 600.  The ORR, from my understanding, takes into account other values beyond angle of vanishing stability, including a "capsize increment," which can be negative for beamy boats.  But I am no expert on the ORR.  Thankfully, the ORR does not contemplate a 180 degree rollover test as required by the IMOCA 60 class rules.  See below.

At the end of the day, although Minis have been racing across the Atlantic since the 1970s with crews of one, and at least one Mini has circumnavigated the globe, which is reflective not only of the seaworthiness of the boat but also the dedication to seamanship exhibited by those who sail them, we're certainly not upset with the OA's decision.  Indeed, there are other long distance regattas in the U.S. that allow Minis to participate, most notably the Bermuda 1-2 Yacht Race, the Annapolis-Bermuda Race, and the Singlehanded Transpac.  But the Bermuda Race holds a special place in our hearts.  It's where we cut our teeth offshore on other boats, and learned to love and respect the challenges that sailors face offshore that they do not face sailing around the buoys.  So it's time to return to the course aboard Abilyn and take her farther than we've ever taken her.  

Although we'll be flying a Jolly Roger when we sail out of Narragansett Bay at the start of the official race (potentially the flag flown by The Rhode Island Pirate, Thomas Tew, or a hybrid of our own creation (see left)), our goal is by no means to disrespect the race, its heritage, or the OA.  Indeed, the upcoming Bermuda Race provides us with an opportunity for live practice:  Practice for next year's B1-2; practice for future, bluewater racing and passagemaking; in short, practice for whatever sailing adventures come next.  Our secondary, but equally important, goal will be to provide the Bermuda Race OA with an additional point of reference on which to rely when considering whether to allow Mini Transat 6.50s in the 2018 race.  If we can beat some official entrants, that would be icing on the cake.

With those goals in mind, we will use June 17 as our departure date, Castle Hill as our starting line, and St. David's Lighthouse as our finish line.  More importantly, as any sailor entering the Bermuda Race must do, we will undertake rigorous and comprehensive safety preparations to address the foreseeable risks along the race track from Newport to Bermuda and then from Bermuda to New York Harbor, where we hope the new Brooklyn Bridge Marina will give us complimentary dockage for a night or two before we head up the East River and back to Larchmont.  

Newport to Bermuda and back to New York Harbor.

So what does this prep look like for us?  Well, for starters, we'll be following the NBRSR's Safety Equipment requirements as closely as possible.  Section 3.0 lists all required portable and affixed safety gear, including:

  • Lifejackets
  • Safety harness
  • Jack lines
  • Companionway clipping points
  • Navigation lights
  • Spare navigation lights
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Horn
  • Flares
  • Lifesling (or equivalent MOB rescue device)
  • MOB pole
  • Heaving line
  • Installed VHR radio and antenna
  • Handheld VHF radio
  • Emergency VHF antenna
  • AIS
  • Satellite phone
  • GPS
  • EPIRB
  • Distance measuring device other than GPS
  • Depth sounder
  • Steering compass
  • Second compass
  • Charts
  • Sail numbers
  • Tapered soft plugs
  • Ground tackle (anchor plus rode)
  • Searchlight
  • Flashlights (watertight, 1 per crew member)
  • First aid gear
  • Radar reflector (11.5" diameter or greater octahedral reflector)
  • Buckets (2, stout)
  • Safety gear and through hull diagram
  • Emergency tiller
  • Tools and spare parts (effective means of quickly disconnecting or severing the standing rigging)
  • Marking of safety gear (retro-reflective material required)
  • Knife (readily accessible from deck and/or cockpit)
  • Reefing ability
  • Storm trysail
  • Heavy weather jib
  • Storm jib
  • Boom preventer
  • Boom support (means to prevent boom from dropping if halyard fails)
  • Emergency drinking water (1 gallon per crew member of emergency water in sealed containers)
  • Inflatable life raft (ISO-certified raft apparently not required)
  • Grab bag

KEY NBRSR SAFETY ITEMS THAT WE ALREADY CARRY:

Reviewing this list, the 21-foot Abilyn is already well-appointed.  Most notably, we carry a Winslow 4-man ultralight liferaft (weighing in at only 32 lbs.) and an offshore flare kit, both of which we obtained from Landfall Navigation in Stamford, CT.  

Abilyn is also equipped with a MOM8 MOB module (also obtained from Landfall); a VHF with integrated AIS, two EPIRBs (an ACR GlobalFix iPRO 406 MHz GPS EPIRB for the boat, and an ACR ResQLink 406 MHz GPS personal locator beacon for my PFD); and four separate GPS modules including the Mini class standard Garmin GPS 152, a handheld Garmin 78sc, and two BadElf GPS Pro modules.  

NBSR ITEMS WE NEED TO ADDRESS:

First Aid - Our West Marine Medical Kit 3.5 is still functional, but likely will need to be supplemented with more robust first aid measures designed for offshore sailing where potential evacuation may take more than 24 hours.

Tools and Spare Parts - We will also conduct a review of our tools and spare parts inventory when boatwork begins in full next month, with a plan to supplement our inventory of nuts, bolts, cotter rings, wrap pins, and Harken low friction rings.  In terms of tools, we have the standard suite of vice grips and screw drivers, and also a hacksaw with spare blades in case we need to cut away the standing rigging.  But we may consider a cable cutter.  

Storm Trysail - Instead of a storm trysail, we're opting to rely on our Dacron mainsail, which has a third reef point allowing us to sail with little canvas up.  We understand the limitations of this option, but, for the Minis, a triple-reefed main and reefed storm jib (or just the storm jib) has been reported to work well in storm conditions.

 Detecteur de Radar

Detecteur de Radar

Radar Reflector - We have a Davis Instruments passive radar reflector that passes muster under the safety requirements.  However, with this device mounted in the standing rigging, we've found that the edges of the reflector, which are quite sharp, chafe against the main when the sail is eased against the spreaders downwind.  So we will opt to use two Plastimo tubular radar reflectors mounted on the shrouds, although the tubular reflectors have been reported to be far less effective than the octahedral devices.  That said, our primary means of avoiding close calls with other ships is our Detecteur de Radar, which emits a loud, biting, unbearable sound whenever we get pinged with radar and also lets us know from which direction the ping originates.

Boom Support - We're considering installing Dyneema lazy jacks.

Charts - We have Maptech paper charts for Narragansett Bay, and surrounding bodies of water. We will add to our charts inventory a Bermuda plotting sheet, and British Admiralty charts for the Bermuda islands.   

Satellite Phone - Our plan is to obtain an Iridium GO! module for use offshore.  This satellite device allows for the same race tracking and two-way text messaging as our Delorme InReach device. However, the Iridium GO! module also will allow for phone communication, and will also allow us to download weather and routing data through PredictWind's offshore app.  The device is attractive because of it's low monthly price for unlimited voice and data usage.  Yes, we understand this goes against purist Mini sailing principles.  In considering that point of view, we are looking at using an SSB receiver to obtain weather information.  Our Mini-sailing friend, Nikki Curwen, who raced in the 2015 Mini Transat, recommends the Sangean ATS-909X.  

Emergency hull repair - The NBRSR requires soft, tapered plugs for all through-hulls, which we have aboard Abilyn for her one through-hull.  Surprisingly, the NBRSR does not mandate sailors to carry items to address punctures or other damage to the hull.  Onboard Abilyn, we already carry emergency epoxy capable of hardening under water, but might pick up a couple of Rupture Seals.

Remaining Items -  Procuring spare navigational lights (bow and stern), a heaving line, a replacement searchlight, and an emergency VHF antenna shouldn't be an issue.

In addition to the required list of safety items in Section 3.0, the NBRSR contemplates that crew members have certain training, including man overboard training, CPR and first aid training, and general onboard training.  Sam and I certainly intend to tune up prior to the June 17 start.  Part of that tune up will include man overboard training, and optimizing through sailing in the Larchmont YC Edlu regatta and the Storm Trysail Club Block Island Race.  And at least I intend to take a Red Cross CPR and First Aid training course prior to the start.

But I consider myself a prudent sailor and somewhat of a perennial student when it comes to safety.  So relying solely on the NBRSR to dictate our safety preparations isn't enough.  Our safety prep will also include an onshore network of experienced sailors and at least one doctor who will be "on call" to field emergency communications.  Joe Harris, who is racing around the world on his Class 40 Gryphon Solo 2, recently described on his blog an incident where he had to activate his onshore network when his EPIRB inadvertently began transmitting a distress signal.  Through this network, which was established to handle "emergency communications," Joe's team was able to advise U.S. and Australian sea-air rescue teams to stand down.  Rich Wilson, who finished the 2008-2009 Vendee Globe in ninth place, set up a similar kind of network, which included doctors and professional yachtsmen, as he describes in his book, Race France to France:  Leave Antarctica to Starboard.  Although our voyage amounts to a fraction of the mileage of a global circumnavigation, having an "on call" onshore network seems prudent, if only to ease the stress on my wife and ensure that rescue services aren't implemented unnecessarily.  

June 17 is not far off, and we hope to lock down all safety essentials well before then.  Stay tuned for more coverage of our prep, including posts on our Helly Hansen gear, food, Gulf Stream and weather analysis, and other musings.  

See you out on the water.