Life has been a whirlwind since our last post! We have finished, celebrated, made new friends, cleaned up the boat, seen some of Hawaii, rested (though, not too much), saw Westward off, and now are wrapping up Transpac 2013. What a ride. Sorry to leave you in the dark for so long! Many of you have probably seen pictures on Facebook or on the Transpac site. We will post some here on this blog once they get off cameras. Some of you have heard the stories, but for everyone who hasn't, here's an overview:
We last left you the night before our finish day...and what an exciting night that turned out to be! We were passed in the late hours by Ragamuffin, a 100 foot boat. In the light air, they slipped by us and while we could only see their running lights, it was fun to watch and know that we'd held them off for so long. Our last night was plagued by light air and squalls, which meant: MORE SAIL CHANGES! We've gotten really good at sail changes on Westward. For a short time, we had our 1970's era orange and yellow symmetrical spinnaker up. Not only was this a different shape and color than we'd been used to seeing, it sure was quiet. When a sail gets to be over 30 years old, it loses some of that new sail crinkle that we'd been used to hearing. It also had a different smell than our others. Something more like what a boat locker would smell like. It was fun to have "The Great Pumpkin" up for a bit.
By the time morning rolled around, we were still in light air, but beginning to see land. The whole crew was up and beginning to get things cleaned up for the finish. Stanchions and ventilators were polished, bunks cleaned up, decks washed, and the cockpit swept. We had to look good for the finish. Sometime in the middle of all that Maserati, another of the super-fast boats, passed right by us. We were on starboard, but let them cross ahead of us (we're so nice). Also around that time, the wind finally began to fill in and Westward really began to stretch her legs to the finish. It was like she knew what was about to come and was excited for it.
The wind filled in as we sailed past Molokai towards Oahu. All the kids grew up hearing about the Molokai Channel, and everyone got to drive and experience it for themselves. Jon and Alli sailed before the gybe and then Sam took us through our last gybe and line up to the finish. Graham was next up on the wheel and as he was driving, a helicopter circled and caught some pretty awesome footage of Westward ripping along (this is the mobile link to it: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=czQQ2dNVi7o).
About 45 minutes before our finish, we were passed by Wizard (another of the fast boats) in the channel. We were all pretty awestruck. It turns out that one of Alli's junior sailing coaches was on Wizard and they joked about gybing over to mess with us a little bit. We would have loved a little match race to the finish. David vs. Goliath. We all know how that one turned out.
Mara and then Willie drove for the final moments of our race. The finish of the race is passing within 100 yards of the Diamond Head buoy, which we did on Saturday, July 20 at 18:09:24 Hawaiian Standard Time. Ultimately, we finished 9th overall and 3rd in our class. Not so bad for a boat that hasn't raced in 30 years with a crew for most of whom this was their first long distance race!
After you finish Transpac, the race committee gives you your official finish time, which number boat you are to finish (10 of 58!), a quick congratulations and welcome, and then turns you over to your escort vessel. Our escort vessel, Hoochie Mama, waited as we took sails down and then led us from Diamond Head, past Waikiki, into the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. The entrance to Ala Wai can get pretty hairy with waves breaking on both sides. We were glad to have someone to follow.
It was a beautiful time of day to finish and as we cleaned up the boat, we were all enjoying our first Hawaiian sunset. As we turned into the channel to the harbor, we heard a great party going on with music and cheering--sounded like people were having a lot of fun and a place that we should check out. That's when we heard "Aloha Westward!" and realized that all that commotion was our Aloha Welcome. We timed our finish perfectly (sunset on a Saturday) and the Hawaii Yacht Club was packed with people welcoming Transpac boats in. Westward got to dock right at the front dock, which was filled with our family and friends, other boat crews, and our soon to be friends from Hawaii Yacht Club and various Transpac welcome committees.
When you get to Hawaii, your boat has to be inspected and during that time, you're not allowed off the boat and only the inspectors are allowed on. That, however, does not stop the over the lifelines hugs, high fives, and welcome kisses. It was really awesome to see Shauneen, Lauren, Sadato, and Rosey on the docks along with family friends Claire Martin, Ally Marquardt, Paul Huber, and Rob and Evan Wallace. With all our supporters, the Westward crew received quite the welcome, and we probably had the most leis (which was good, because we didn't smell good). Also meeting us on the dock was the crew from Between the Sheets, that included two longtime Bell family friends Kerry Deaver and Doug Jorgensen. Westward corrected out ahead of Between the Sheets (even though they finished first) and it was a touching moment to have them meet us on the dock for a prideful admonishment. Kerry and Doug had a "talking to" with the Westward kids about sailing too well.
Wouldn't you know that Westward docked right next to Dorade. After all those days and all those miles, we finally got to meet the crew. They finished a few hours before we did and hung around the dock to welcome us in. Dorade were the division and overall winners of Transpac. We couldn't have been beat by a nicer, more complimentary, more supportive group of people. We exchanged our stories of the race, laughing at each other's nicknames for the other boat. We ended up, fittingly, spending a lot of time with the Dorade crew over the next week or so and look forward to following her virtually through her next adventures.
Transpac boats all have hosts that throw them a welcome party. Ours were from Island Pool and Spa and threw us the best party a boat could ask for. Jim, Kate, Howard, Wendy, and Laruen, thank you. We are so glad to count you as our new Hawaii family.
As one boat's welcome party winds down, another's is just starting. About an hour after we finished, Sleeper, the boat that ultimately got 2nd in our division, finished. We stayed to greet them and were very happy to finally get to meet them after watching them for 12 days.
Since we were the 10th boat in, we had quite a few boats that needed to be welcomed, and we took that responsibility seriously. In fact, so seriously, that we did a lot of welcoming of boats and people who did not just finish as well. We met a lot of people, reconnected with old friends, and generally had a great time for the next few days. Alli and Graham, who were staying on the boat, pretty much ventured only as far as the end of Transpac Row (where all the boats are docked) until Tuesday. It was great to hear all the stories and hang out with "real" sailors. It turns out, the Westward/Dorade saga was being followed by a fair number of the rest of the fleet!
On Tuesday, the Westward crew headed down Waikiki for a ride on outrigger canoes and to hang out on the beach. It is such fun to surf those canoes down the waves. Captain Kenny took us out into the second break for some awesome rides. After the canoes, we got to return our hosts' generosity and took them out for a sail on Westward. Wouldn't you know that Dorade was doing the same thing...
Wednesday was a day of relaxing and errands until the Transpac Luau at Waikiki Yacht Club. Thursday morning brought our first round of goodbyes as Jon and Lauren took off for a wedding. Alli, Graham, and Mara spent the rest of the day touring the Oahu by car until it was time for the awards ceremony. After the awards ceremony, we all headed back to Hawaii Yacht Club for dinner and the Bells' second favorite activity: dancing. We totally ruled the dance floor.
Friday the kids relaxed and the adults went down to tour a nuclear submarine. It was a great experience for them. That evening, Alli and Graham sailed on Howard's boat and got third in class! The whole crew was reunited for the Transpac Mt. Gay party at Hawaii Yacht Club.
On Saturday, we all headed over to Kaneohe Yacht Club, thanks to Howard and Wendy. On our way there, we stopped at Pali Lookout. Pali Lookout is very windy. The world gliding record of 21 hours was set there. At Kaneohe Yacht Club, we relaxed in the shade, at cheeseburgers and ice cream, watched squalls roll in across the bay, and generally enjoyed being together.
Saturday night, we met up with Westward's return crew for dinner. Westward's return crew is a group of four port pilots. These are the people who bring large ships into and out of various ports. For fun, they like to deliver sailboats home from distance races. We spent dinner hearing about their previous trips and asking questions about driving ships into and out of harbors. We couldn't be leaving our girl with a better group of guys. The return crew has their own blog you should check out: stinkyscaredandlost.wordpress.com. Given that there are no showers on Westward, you can bet that at least one (and probably only one) of the descriptors in their blog title are true. Westward started her return journey home this morning and will probably arrive mid-August. She'll make her triumphant return to Catalina not long afterwards.
Most of the Bells have left Hawaii at this point or are leaving tomorrow. It's hard to remember exactly what "normal" life is like, but it's time to return to it. Thank you all for following us on this amazing adventure. When you're a thousand miles away from land, your world seems so small. It really was something to regain a little connectivity and learn about all the interest our little boat generated. We appreciate all the support. Westward's sailing crew was six, but the Westward Team was far larger. We couldn't have done it without you.