Saturday, August 22, 2015

return day 19 Sat 8-22

Sat 8-22 1700

Aloha Westward Fans:

Today should be our last day at sea. San Nicolos Island is off of our port bow in clear afternoon sunshine and is our first sighting of land in 19 days. Today we awoke with overcast skies and a good 10 to 15 knot breeze on the beam. The sailing has been very nice with nothing extra ordinary going on until we brought out the luncheon horsd'oerves and the reward for yesterday's fastest speed was awarded as a tie to Roger and Bill.

Bamb! The BS fishing platform performed once again. The fish hit, dove and ran. All hands were needed to slow the boat for the fight. The staysail and the topsail were furled, the engine started for boat control and the fight began. When it was all done and over a 17 lb. yellow-fin tuna was landed, filleted and made ready for evening cocktails.

We hope to reach Catalina by midnight, moor and have a quiet breakfast in the morning. We will have time to kiss the each, swim and snorkel before heading home. The Catalina channel is only another 20 miles so we will be tied up and ready for clean up mid afternoon tomorrow. THEN THE REAL STORIES BEGIN

Waves: 2 to 3 ft.
lat 33 07n
lon 119 31w
almost no debris in the water
no squalls just partial clouds

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits: high
music: loud

A little bit More to follow!

--

Friday, August 21, 2015

return day 18 Fri 8-21

Fri 8-21 1700 hrs

Aloha Westward Fans:

Well, after bathing yesterday the sun was shinning and we were just motoring along. The talk lead to interesting remembrances of the travel that Scott amd Roger have done. Both could write books that would fascinate any enthusiast of travel. The both shared amazing stories and knew of the many remote locations they have traveled. Nothing like sunny skies and not other place to go.

We broke out of the no wind area mid afternoon and into the westerlies about 0200 hrs. We have been traveling at about 7.5 knows ever since. Two head sails and the full mainsail. Weather has been low gray clouds, no rain while we are on a close reach towards home. Our ETA to Catalina is in the wee hours Sunday AM. We hope to stop for breakfast at Two Harbors after a brief stay at Howlands Landing, our family's favorite place.

We just has a miraculous hookup. The BS fishing platform paid off again. We were bit by a small dordo which jumped off of the gaff, spit the hook out at which point Scott re-gaffed it in mid-air just after it thought it had out smarted Bill and Scott. We will only count it as one catch but really it was two.

The 'Westward Mottlies' are now in a run for home contest, prizes for the Mottly with the best average wheel watch speed. Excitement builds as each mile ticks off, this is really a home run. We are trying to get the dedicated Roger back to Work but not one else feels pressed to reach civilization. Our only visual contact out side of the Mottlies has been a few ships that have passed in the nite.

Waves: 2 to 3 ft.
lat 31 43n
lon 122 40 w
almost no debris in the water
lon 128 03w
no squalls just partial clouds

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits:
high

Void, we missed it--COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY. (Looks like we will totally miss it)
More to follow!

--

Thursday, August 20, 2015

return day 17 thurs 8-20

Thurs 8-20 1700hrs

Aloha Westward Fans:

Sorry for the screwed up header dates, I know that bad data is no good.
414 miles to go.


What a difference a day makes!
This morningf at 0200 hrs we turned on the engine for lack of wind. We have entered the no wind zone. At noon we shut off the motor, dropped the sails and dove into the beautifully calm blue Pacific to clean the jelly from between our toes. It was such a wonderful feeling that after we were back under way we all celebrated with ice and cold toddies.
We calculate that we will be back into an acceptable breeze by 0400 tomorrow. If this holds true, it looks like beautiful sailing all the way back, maybe Sunday AM (wishful thinking). We have got to get Roger back to work.

While we were swimming, we noticed what looked like the bloody reminisce of a hit and run on the port quarter. After discussion we determined it was evidence of all the activity that the BS fishing table has created. A brush soap and water removed most of the evidence.

We have aired out, dried off, and are heading home, fuel and water supply is adequate.

Please wish us fair winds and good sailing and we will see you soon.


ssLast night we tacked to starboard after weeks of port tack and have been able to head directly to LA. The computer shows 1 day of good sailing, miles of no wind, and final days of good sailing. We hopefully have reserved enough fuel to handle most of the no wind days, we'll see. This morning we shook out all of the reefs and have had a beautiful double headsail beam reach. We expect to hit the light stuff tonite. All are on deck enjoying everyones' company and not dinner preparations are under way.

We all hope to bathe in the blue pacific in the middle of the no wind area so we do not continue to stick to our clothes.

All's well, just leave the light on for us.

Arrival prediction will take place when we break into the westerlies and remember Roger has to work on Monday.

: unseen floaties
Waves: 2 to 6 ft.
lat 29 48n
lon 128 03w
wind 10 to 15 k
no squalls just partial clouds

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits:
high

Void, we missed it--COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY. (Looks like we will totally miss it)
More to follow!

--

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

return day 18 mon 8-19

Monday 8-19 Wed 1700 pdt

Aloha Westward Fans:

556 miles to go

What a difference a day makes!
Last night we tacked to starboard after weeks of port tack and have been able to head directly to LA. The computer shows 1 day of good sailing, miles of no wind, and final days of good sailing. We hopefully have reserved enough fuel to handle most of the no wind days, we'll see. This morning we shook out all of the reefs and have had a beautiful double headsail beam reach. We expect to hit the light stuff tonite. All are on deck enjoying everyones' company and not dinner preparations are under way.

We all hope to bathe in the blue pacific in the middle of the no wind area so we do not continue to stick to our clothes.

All's well, just leave the light on for us.

Arrival prediction will take place when we break into the westerlies and remember Roger has to work on Monday.



: unseen floaties
Waves: 2 to 6 ft.
lat 29 48n
lon 128 03w
wind 10 to 15 k
no squalls just partial clouds

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits:
high

Void, we missed it--COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY. (Looks like we will totally miss it)
More to follow!

--

Monday, August 17, 2015

return day 16 mon 6-17

Monday 6-17 0700

Aloha Westward Fans:

811 miles to
Sailing last two days wind on the nose 15 t0 20 knots. Not our favorite type of sailing but will have to do. R2
outine on watch, off watch.
Spirits are high but we are looking forward to a freshwater shower and sheets without salt!

: unseen floaties
Waves: 2 to 6 ft.
lat 29 28n
lon 133 16 w
wind 15 to 20 k
squalls

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits:
high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY. (Looks like we will totally miss it)
More to follow!

--

Saturday, August 15, 2015

return day 14 sat 8-15

0900 Thurs Aug 13

Aloha Westward Fans:
We have elected to head in a more Easterly direction because our fuel is getting low and we want to save it for refrigeration, electrical power and dead spots. We did slow down to check the rig, transfer fuel from the BS fishing platform and land another Mahi, not as large and the huge one but about 4 pounds lighter, still a trophy in most tournaments. We will continue east and let the wind eventually lift us back to LA.

Do to the time constraints and the increment weather we have encountered the last several days, we are discontinuing the trawl but Lorie will continue the requested surface observations the has been performing.

We just passed a shipping crate that Farmer Bill identified its use is for transporting 500# of citrus. We then immediately entered a multi squall line in which we missed the rain but got the wind. We had the 130% roller furling topsail and a double reefed main. We just sailed higher than normal for about 20 minutes to ease the stress on the rig then fell back off and happily continue on our way.

Spirits are high but we are looking forward to a freshwater shower and sheets without salt!


: unseen floaties
Waves: 1 to 4 ft.
`
lat 30 27n
lon 137 18w
wind 12 k

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY. (Looks like we will totally miss it)
More to follow!

--

Friday, August 14, 2015

return day 13 fri 8-14

0900 Thurs Aug 13

Aloha Westward Fans.

Yesterday and today were very uneventful days in the Pacific. The patchy clouds, blue water, bright sun and a periodic squalls would make for a terrific mural in your living room but it is everyday here. Wheel watches continue, oil change for the Perkins and a fuel pump prime because of an empty fuel tank is the call for the day. Reading, Sleeping, and a tasty bill of fare make the passage acceptable. We have halted the trawls because of the weather and waves we find ourselves in, Roger's deadline is coming up so time is an issue, we'll see.

Today we has a Windrose empty the frig ham regatta that had all the flavors that Bill could muster. Cold seconds later in the day were still excellent.

We are trying to head 063 mag. but the wind is on the nose so we motorsail tack towards home. We hope for sailing winds tomorrow so we can shut off the Perkins and save fuel for the final leg. We'll see. Ice is still being produced so who knows what that will lead to.



water: unseen floaties
Waves: 3 to 4 ft.
sky: puffy clouds no squalls this afternoon
lat 30 57n
lon 135 51w
wind 20 k

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY. (Looks like we will totally miss it)
More to follow!

--

Thursday, August 13, 2015

return day 12 wed 8-13

0900 Thurs Aug 13

Aloha Westward Fans.

I here that Alli fixed my bloging and that they now show up. Thats technology for you! We are now on a direct course for home currently motoring directly into the wind at a less that stellar pace. When we left Hawaii the High Pressure area was way north and not defined as it normally is. A more southerly route seemed to be a logical tract for us to take so I elected to do so. The current weather report looks like a more more northerly high is forming causing the winds in our zone to be more than we expected giving us "Mr Toads Wild Ride" . We hope to have enough extra fuel under the BS fishing platform to get us to the westerlies.

Yesterday we completed our 6 trawls, altered our sailing format to a motoring format and changed course to head directly to LA. Going is slower than anticipated and we can better predict our ETA when the wind shifts more counter-clockwise. We did not set out our trawl this morning as the wind and wave action made it unsafe to do so. If the weather backs off we can still perform trawls yet today. What a difference a day makes.

Bill, Laurie, Scott, Roger and Sam have been religious in the watch rotations that are necessary for our 24 hr/day travel but and all have had a positive attitude. When it is time to trawl for trash all parties attend the rig to launch and retrieve the monstrosity that we have carried on our deck since Hawaii. We rig a spinnaker pole to act as a cargo boom for the retrieval process which is necessary to prevent the 4 ft aluminum structure from damaging Westward.

Still no fishing today, that last Mahi will last us for several more meals as long as our ice maker continues to work

water: unseen floaties
Waves: 4to 5 ft.
sky: puffy clouds no squalls today
lat 30 30n
lon 142 28w
wind 20 k

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

return #9 Sunday day 10



Aloha Westward Fans.

With the halting of fishing because of huge Mahi today's info will be short. We have been moving south to where the treasure zone is supposed to be more dense. Our first 3 trawls today actually have resulted in fewer particles but I may have seen the same tire and wheel that Graham pointed out on the race. We are actually in the same area we passed 2 weeks ago but going the opposite direction the ocean feels much different. We are on the wind today whereas 2 weeks ago we were under spinnaker flying along. We just passed the point where we changed from (W)est for Westward to a heading of 210 deg. mag for Howlands or Hawaii during the race. We hope the winds allow us to head for home of 65 deg mag. We are currently sailing about 90 deg to reach the high density trash area.

We believe that luck will prevail as we have had several escorts of dolphins in the recent past and will see all of our loved ones soon

water: unseen floaties
Waves: 4 ft.
sky: puffy clouds no squalls today
lat 31 21n
lon 146 30w
wind 18 k

We will keep you informed as things progress.

spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

return #7 Sunday day 8


1430 hrs Monday Aug 10

Aloha Westward Fans.
What a difference a day makes! The BS fishing platform really paid off. We saw a fish dart out from a floating bunch of junk and lightning struck, a reel real keeper. The size of fish that the normal Hawaiian would nail the tail tale to their front door. It was a hugh Mahi, so big that we didn't dare put the line back in the water for fear of overfilling the ice box. Scott held the tail up and tossed it back into the blue. Needless to say we had fish tacos and cuba liberays(sp) with fresh ice last evening.

Yesterday was one of those days you spend your time dreaming about. The seas were 1 ft., the wind was 10 knots on a close reach and Westward almost sailed herself at 7 knots. The sun was out with few clouds so we looked like a chinese laundry streaming across the Pacific.

Like a dedicated work horse the crew continued to collect plastic samples in out micro filters. Yesterday was a piece of cake however this morning was different. What a difference a day makes! This morning at 6:00 Hawaiian time we began our trawl, wind was 25 knots in the numerous squalls dropping back to 15 outside of the squalls path. We completed our three for this morning and will perform 3 more starting at 3:00 this afternoon. We are planning to continue on a east south east direction to place ourselves in the most congested area of the study zone with a few extra miles. Roger agreed to this since we still have over 200 gallons of fuel and as long as the engine continues to operate in the positive manner in which it has performed, we will be "in like flint". If we do run out of wind, the entire crew will wash up in the flat water.

water: unseen floaties
wind: 15 knots
Waves: 3 ft.
sky: puffy clouds but clearing

We will keep you informed as things progress

lat 33 24n
lon 155 19w
wind 12 k
sea 2 ft waves
spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

return #6 Sunday day 7



Aloha Westward Fans.
Saturday was a BUST, no fish only blue skies, blue water nice sun and good company. After the Bloody Marys wore off we went to work for Ocean Cleanup. We completed 6 1hr trawls, 2 30 minute observations, documented the filters and the crap they contained. The monstrous trawling fixture has a 6 inch micro filter bag that collects what the trawl with its 30 inch opening traps on the surface of the pristine ocean. Even when the ocean look beautiful, the filter captures bits of plastic every 1 hour trawl. The mico plastic is everywhere, you normally just don,t notice. The study is only keeping pieces that are under 2 cm. Our crew is maintaining a stash of the larger pieces so the trash will not just be hear-say. Actually Laurie Banner is doing all of the work, the guys are good support hoisting the trawl off and on Westward by our spinnaker pole lifting crane.

Ona voyage like this personalities blossom. Lets talk about Roger Gough, his dedication to work is amazing. He needs get back to continue his teaching career and the boat will not go fast enough or strait enough. After discussing the options, we decided to motorsail when boat speed was too low. This will work well as long as our fuel holds out. ps under the BS fishing platform is an additional 100 gallons. We will keep our fingers crossed and paddle as fast as we can so we can return Roger in time

water: unseen floaties
wind 8 knots
waves 1 foot
sky puffy clouds

We will keep you informed as things progress

lat 33 24n
lon 155 19w
wind 12 k
sea 2 ft waves
spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

return #5 Saturday day 6



Aloha Westward Fans.
The BS fishing platform seems to be working, yellow tail shashimi for lunch wasn't bad at all. Winds keep the same direction however are lightening up. The high is elusive so last night we tacked and headed east(magnetic) to join in the data collection fun. We are now in the zone and put out our first trash trawl at 0800 this morning. We had it upside down and when corrected the monster unit took off in the wrong direction. It crossed our stern and continued until it stabilized 20 yards astern and 10 yards to our stb. side. We let it go for the 1st hour, retied the bridal after retrieving the first sample screen collector and now it looks like a mine sweeper on our stb side. We made ice yesterday and after we put the rig for collection Laurie served up ice cold bloody marys because we felt celebration was in order. We have now joined "the Mega Ocean Cleanup" party which we plan collect plastic as well as other material.We are motorsailing east and plan to trawl for 6 1hour5 knot sessions a day, 3 in the am and 3 in the pm with collection screen replacement each hour.

wind 8 knots
waves 1 foot
sky puffy clouds

We will keep you informed as things progress

lat 33 24n
lon 155 19w
wind 12 k
sea 2 ft waves
spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

return #4 Friday day5



Aloha Westward Fans.
Oh Well, false alarm, The Mahi slid off of the "Bill and Scott" (BS) fishing platform with a roll of the boat. BS built a substantial fishing platform on the stern of Westward under the pretext of securing the 2 55 gal. drums of extra fuel. The platform will survive a complete roll over but the real beauty is the 24x48 inch knife holding working cutting board. I think they are planning on a Wahoo. We did catch several other Mahi that were not nearly as big as "THE FISH THAT GOT AWAY", but were still plenty large enough to eat. We love "catch and release"!

We just put up the large topsail as the winds are beginning to soften, now doing about 5.5 knots about 020 deg. mag. The waves are down, decks dry, beautiful early morning moon, good food, beautiful sunset and sunrise, all spirits are high. Just like Transpac, we will all forget the 1st 4 days.

We are just now approaching the Trash study zone and have made contact with the mother ship. They promised to deliver the bridal for the trawl that was inadvertently left off when head quarters made last minute modifications to the monstrosity.

We will keep you informed as things progress

lat 33 24n
lon 155 19w
wind 12 k
sea 2 ft waves
spirits: high

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

return #3 Thurs day4



Aloha Westward Fans.

Whoops, the all hands on deck call was for naught, the huge mahi wore us out and ended up as a not wanted game of "catch and release".

Life is settling down along with the waves allowing for things to partially dry out. We hope meals will become more regular with a sing along at each.

We discovered that the trawl that we are supposed to use when we enter the "Mega Ocean Cleanup" study area became missing after the sponsors had taken it to install addition scratch guarding material back at Hawaii yacht club. We are going to contact the Mother Ship for instructions and maybe replacement, or not.

We are moving at 5.5 to 6 knots with 1 reef and staysail and riding comfortably with 15 to 20 knots wind going 025 deg M. Except for flying fish stopping to visit on the deck, other that internet, we have had no additional outside contact.

COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

--

return #2 Wed day 3



Aloha Westward Fans.

It appears that we beat Guillermo, except we have had constant 15 to 25 knot headwinds causing a due north compass heading. Squalls to 35 knots cause us to feather the staysail and double reefed main. The staysail stays up and the wind velocity determines the number of reefs in the main, mostly 2. Today at 00:00 hours we cross the tanker Ernst M on its way to Japan. The communication officer said with winds will be better east, what a relief to know. We are wet all over and need some drying time, come on High!
Two on watch at all times with a replacement every two hours, same time of day every other day, seems to work well. Oh, Oh, all hands called on deck to fight the fish that just now hooked up. We have enjoyed the Mahi thet we caught Monday for several meals with Windrose potatoes steamed in our pressure cooker. All systems go.
COME ON HIGH and hopefully DRY.
More to follow!

-

Monday, August 3, 2015

return #1

Aloha Westward Fans!

Well guys, the sad part of any adventure is the retracing of steps back to home. Roger, Bill, Scott, Sam and Laurie left our 1 week home at the Hawaii YC with the fanfare of the whole Suite Host Group. What a week, Wendy watching us like her own flock, vehicle, meals, transportation, continuous "smiles" and any other support needed. Westward headed for a PR rendezvous with the Ocean Cleanup group at 1200 which we milled around for 1 hour off of the Hilton Hotel, said our goodbyes to the organizing group and headed clockwise for Los Angeles. It was a pleasant sail in the lee of Oahu and all were enjoying the sail. We stuck our nose out from under the Island and we all now realize what homeward bound really meant.

Unlike the Hawaiian area on the trip down, rolling swells, nice breezes, sunsuits and warmth, the same conditions on the retrun means steep swells, head on spray, complete foul-weather gear and a chill factor. The boat has to be closed up and is hot and humid within.


Our first meal with Wind Rose potatoes was excellent and future meals will keep the high spirits. We just landed a Mahi Mahi big enough for several days but the second one released itself upon reaching the boat. Future updates to Follow
--

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Transpac 2015 is in the books!


Aloha Westward Fans!

It's been exactly a week since I posted the picture of Oahu from our vantage point, and most of you have probably seen the pictures of our finish and Aloha Welcome on Facebook, so this isn't news -- Westward finished!



The last 16 miles to the finish line were great. We navigated through the paddle board racers and got the chance to cheer them on,  saw "things that swim in the ocean!" on our way down the channel (after 13 days at sea, brains are a little mushy), were cheered on and welcomed by a group of enthusiastic sailors, learned that the amazing Betsy Crowfoot rescued Willie's hat just after the start and brought it to Hawaii, and enjoyed the view of passing by the red buoy off Diamond Head. We finished just after 1:30 pm Hawaiian Standard Time with Zack at the helm.

Mara, Alli, and Graham in the Molokai Channel
After the Diamond Head race committee gave us our official finish time and order (14/61), we took down our sails and followed Abby's Dream, our escort boat, into Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. Sometimes the ride into Ala Wai can be...exciting...because the waves will break into the channel. That was happening when we finished, but our trusty escort boat got us in no problem. It turns out we finished right in time because the channel was closed that night and 11 boats had to bob around after finishing until 5:30 am on Monday when the escort boats were allowed to go get them.

If you've been reading this blog for long, you know how I feel about finishing races and the ULTIMATE in race finishes is Transpac. As we came down the channel and Hawaii Yacht Club came into sight, we saw all the people gathered to welcome Transpac finishers. The Bells travel in packs and the welcoming party in Hawaii was huge! Our shore team consisted of Candy Bell, Shauneen Bell, Rosey Bell, Sadato Hoshina, Lee Ann, Whitney Rush, Jon and Alice Rush, Roger Gough and Margie, Paul Huber, Bill and Sally Huber, Lori and Martin Wilson, the Tom and Dixie Jorgensen family, Tom Trujilio, Dave Cort and Carol, a whole bunch of other LAYC and SDYC people I'm sure I'm forgetting, and of course, the best hosts ever, Wendy and Howard Suite. We also were greeted by our friends at Hawaii Yacht Club and the Honolulu Committee (Beth, Brian, Christina, and Dr. Bob -- looking at you!). We got inspected (every boat goes through a safety inspection) and lei-ed (we had a lot of leis which was good because we were stinky). Some of our competition was there to meet us on the dock, including Kerry Deaver who sailed on Between the Sheets and gave us our admonishment (which always feels more like she's proud of us) for beating them. 

Wendy and Howard Suite







The inspection committee.




Bells...lots of Bells...missing some!
Parents and kids.

Westward's crew holding each other up on land.
After the inspection, we were allowed off the boat, into the arms of our loved ones, and up to the party! The Aloha Welcome is a time-honored Transpac tradition and Wendy and Howard sure know how to throw a party. We sat around for hours eating and drinking and swapping stories. When it was time to leave, we continued the party up at the hotel until nobody could keep their eyes open.

It's important to get a good night's sleep because there's lots of work to be done in the days after you finish including cleaning up the boat, regaining your sea legs, and helping to welcome the other boats in! Alli and Candy got up early to help welcome Pyewacket, which was full of SDYC friends, and along the way also helped welcome in two other boats with longtime friends aboard. Unfortunately for them, these were three of the boats that had to spend the night floating around off Waikiki, but that didn't dampen their spirits in any visible way. 

The whole Bell team congregated for breakfast on the balcony of Hawaii Yacht Club and stayed there pretty much the entire day helping to welcome boats in. When a boat would come into the harbor, we'd spread ourselves out along the deck and make as much noise as possible. This practice was later termed a "Bell-come." One of the boats we Bell-comed was Resolute, which was double-handed to Hawaii...only two people brought that boat all that way...well done, Erik and Tim!

Later in the day, when the heat became too much, we retired to the pool and from there to crew dinner at La Mariana Sailing Club and Tiki Bar -- a cool little spot near the airport. The next morning brought the first round of departures with Graham, then Candy, then Alli all heading back home. The two days we all were together were a fitting end to an awesome race. When asked about their first experience at a Bell function, Jon Rush (Graham's girlfriend's father) said "well, the Bells are a great organization." I'm a little biased, but I must say, I agree.

The rest of the crew hung around for the week helping get the boat ready, enjoying Wendy's gracious hospitality, and picking up our THIRD PLACE hardware at the trophy ceremony.

Sam, Zack, Mara, and Willie representing Westward at the trophy ceremony
Just today, Westward began the long trip back home with Sam, Roger Gough, Bill Spencer, and Scott Miller on board. She'll be participating in the Mega Expedition. As part of this effort, they, along with the other boats that are participating, will collect samples twice daily along their unique path to bring back to scientists who will use the samples to learn more about how trash circulates in our oceans. This is an exciting and important effort. The amount of trash that we, and other Transpac racers, encountered during our two weeks at sea was shocking. A good reminder for us all that what we do, and how much we consume, affects the entire planet. (There was a trash blog in the works, but I just didn't have the energy. Let me just implore us all to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Please.)

If you're interested in tracking the return trip, you can do so here: http://yb.tl/transpac2015-return

I've been told that there may be some blogging going on, so keep your eyeballs peeled (as Charlie Bell always used to say...really, it sounds pretty gross).

Before I sign off, let me just say a huge MAHALO to everyone who helped make this possible (and, yes, if you're wondering, I'm getting a little teary). Sam and Willie, thank you for the gift of participating in what is undoubtedly the best family tradition not once, but twice. All the other Bells, thank you for your support and all the work you did to make sure we could go. Howard and Wendy, our Hawaii Ohana, Mahalo doesn't seem like enough. Transpac committees -- both the LA and Honolulu sides, thank you, thank you, thank you for all the hard work you do to make sure we have a kick-ass time and are able to race safely across the Pacific. Hawaii Yacht Club and members, thank you so much for the warm welcome and always making it feel like we're home when we hit (sometimes a little too literally) your docks. There's NOTHING in the world like pulling in there. All the friends who came to Hawaii and supported us from afar, you'll never know how that kept us going when we were cold and wet (everywhere) and just wanted a nice warm bed. Betsy, Sharon, and Jeremy, thanks for the awesome stills and videos that we will always cherish.

Until next time, Westward Fans, fair winds and following seas.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Koko Head!

Aloha Westward Fans!

We've got some good news here on Westward in terms of our view and thought we'd share it with you!

We had a hard night last night--really most of yesterday--with some extremely light winds and very slow boat speeds. That's frustrating normally, but even more so when you're 150 miles from the finish!

Around 3 am the wind picked up and we had several hours of fast sailing and are now about 16 miles from finishing. The wind is threatening to go light again, so please don't stop your wind dances!

Anyway, here's our view at the moment:


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Night sailing, sail repairs, ghost ships, and light air

Aloha Westward Fans!

It's Saturday just before noon Westward time (which is the same as PDT), so just before 9am Hawaii Standard Time. The sun is out and and sky is blue and the only thing we'd change is just a little more breeze. We have about 160 miles to our finish. We had been thinking we might finish early Sunday morning, but the breeze has really lightened up over the last 12 hours or so, so we are thinking later than that at this point. This is probably more welcome news for Howard and Wendy Suite, who are gracious enough to be our Hawaiian hosts, along with the rest of our welcome crew than it is for us here on Westward (we are ALL ready for a cheeseburger and something cold to drink), but we're happy to be in striking distance. The latest position reports have us faring ok (15th overall and 3rd in class), but we could really use all your wind thoughts to get our big beauty to Diamond Head! Since it's not a work day at home, we're not sure if this means you have MORE time to do the wind dance or will be spending LESS time procrastinating at work, but either way, we could use you!

We've had some beautiful sailing over the last couple of days, surfing and romping along happily. One of the most beautiful times out here is night. Especially the last two nights. We've had starry skies and a beautiful moon river to sail down. When it's quiet and you can hear the sound of the boat sailing through the water and see the Milky Way, it's a good reminder of how lucky we are to be here and what a tiny speck on a tiny speck of the galaxy this whole life really is. It's humbling and peaceful.

While beautiful, it's also challenging. At night, especially when it's dark, all you can see is the red lights of the sailing instruments. Just five dots of red that you look at to make sure you're going the right way and that you're doing what you can to keep your sails full. Sometimes, this leads to full on vertigo and even hallucinations. We have a brace on the top of the cabin for Westward's dinghy (which is a guppy named Scratches) and it's usually on the deck, but it doesn't come racing with us. Sometimes, at night, Two Shackles' brain will fill in the whole guppy.

Night can also bring a lot of excitement, usually in the form of squalls. Last night was no exception. An impressive amount of rain was dropped on Westward's deck (and due to some slow porthole closing inside the cabin). This late in the race, normal things are way more exciting at night. After the squalls passed last nigh, Zack spotted something abeam of Westward, then forward, then behind and concluded the only legitimate thing: We'd found a ghost ship! After a fair amount of excitement and commotion, Tubs concluded that it was not, in fact, a mythological vessel, but a fishing ship driving in a straight line while Westward floundered in the dying breeze.

Given that there is less than 10 knots of breeze on deck, this next bit of information seems almost absurd. We have gotten very good at spinnaker repairs here on Westward. We have a bit of a mismatch between the shape of our downwind sails (the spinnakers) and the bow of our boat. Because of this, there is a fair amount of chafing and a fair amount of attempts to stop the chafing (think 2x4's and lots of tape and line). All told, the probability of riping some sails made of light material is pretty high. Two Shackle Alli has gotten a lot of practice repairing these various rips (we're up to six repairs on three sails) and is thinking of switching professions (final decisions to come on that soon).

As we get closer to Honolulu, we start to see some of the other finishers sailing along. Some will pass us (the bigger boats), hopefully some we'll pass, but either way it's pretty exciting. After only seeing each other and this boat for the past 12 days, seeing other life is pretty exciting. We've got a big boy just astern of us now. They'll pass us soon and hopefully be waiting to catch our docklines and keep us hydrated once we get in!

All is well aboard Westward, stay tuned as we get closer to the finish. Once we're in cell service, there may even be some pictures!
--

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Under 500 miles to go!

Aloha Westward Fans!

At the time of writing this blog, we are sailing downwind in great conditions. We had a morning of some tough sailing, with some pretty light winds (at one point, Two Shackle got the boat speed down to 2.8 knots...a trip low!), some squalls, and some confused seas, but the weather has cleared up and we're romping along just fine now. We had some excellent news in our morning position report: it says we're up to 3rd in class and 5th overall. There's still a lot of time left, though, so we're all looking for every little bit of speed we can possibly get out of the old girl.

Just this morning, the distance to finish data window on our GPS dipped below 500, which means barring a complete loss of winds or something else that would impede our forward progress, we're just a couple of days from finishing. While it's nice to be out here enjoying the sailing, we're all looking forward to passing the Diamond Head bouy and heading in to Hawaii Yacht Club.

One of the great things about Transpac is the camaraderie (read: parties) that the Hawaiians offer once you get there. Westward also has a small shore crew headed to Honolulu. Shauneen has been in Hawaii for a couple of days (we know she's enjoying herself and last night had dinner with our friends from Picante) and today will be joined by Candy and Rosey. Mara's husband, Sadato, will also be there as will Tub's girlfriend, Whitney, and her parents. It will be good to see them all.

Not much else to report from the good ship Westward today, except that Sam has taken to eating shirtless. This is a trend that we don't *think* is going to go viral, but keep on the lookout. We're still waiting for Mara and Zack to earn their nicknames. Certainly, those will be worth the wait.

Oh, and for those waiting for the nacho results, we're happy to report they were a wild success.

--

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Headed for Hawaii!

Aloha Westward Fans!

There is all kinds of exciting news to report from the good ship Westward today.

When we last wrote, we were sailing downwind, but still hadn't turned to point directly at Hawaii. That changed in a hurry when, as if we were being spoken to from the Sailor in the Sky, we got a huge wind shift that forced us to gybe toward Hawaii. The message couldn't have been any clearer: "Hey, dorks, time to turn NOW!" For the last day and a half we have been pointed at Honolulu. It's been great sailing and good fun aboard.

We are also happy to report that it was shower day aboard Westward and now at least half the crew are smelling a little better. Before you get to thinking we're on some kind of luxury cruise, let me reassure you that "shower" is a liberal description of what happens when the Westward crew bathes. Instead, it's more of dousing yourself with sea water on the back deck of the boat. You hang a bucket over the side, get some water, pull the bucket back up, and empty it over your head. Maybe it's not the spa at the Ritz, but it sure feels good. Notably, and this is a source of pride for us, we have not yet lost a bucket to the blue yonder.

On the topic of hygiene, you'll all be happy to know that using the head has also gotten much easier. We're down to just the normal 4 or 5 steps instead of 14.

Probably the biggest and happiest piece of news to share is that the GPS in the main cabin has started to count down time to our finish in Hawaii. The GPS time to destination only will go as high as 99 hours and 99 minutes. Sometime last night, that particular data field read 99:99 for the first time. It has now counted all the way down to 81:43, although we've seen as low as 75:35. It changes a lot right now because it calculates the remaining time based on heading and speed. As those things change, the time also changes. Whatever that says, we're happy to have a countdown.

There are all kinds of bets going on aboard. The WAM watch has bet steak dinner on the highest average speed and breakfast on highest overall speed. Two Shackle Alli is currently winning highest average at 9.5 knots and Willie and Mara are tied for highest overall at 14.7 knots. However, those are likely to change as we're now on Westward's favorite point of sail and moving fast. The two watches have also challenged each other (the stakes are ice cream, cheeseburgers, and curly fries) to highest average watch speed or more miles sailed to the finish (it's not totally clear what the final number will be, but they're based on the same things). The WAM watch is currently winning this one, although Sam, Graham, and Zack surely aren't going to stand for that. The good news is that we are all winners in these bets.

Tubs is currently serving up dinner (mac n' cheese tonight), so it's time to head on deck. Tomorrow, Two Shackle Alli has promised nachos for lunch, although there's a certain amount of skepticism on board as to whether or not she'll be able to pull that off...stay tuned!

--

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Downwind and nicknames

Aloha Westward Fans!

The last couple of days have seen some major changes here aboard Westward. For one, we are finally (and hopefully for the rest of the race) headed downwind. This is a huge improvement in overall quality of life. The boat has flattened and we've pretty much completely stopped pounding into the waves -- instead are running more with them. Westward was designed to be great at sailing downwind and you can tell that for the past week, she's been wanting to surf along the waves. She's getting her chance to do that now.

Even though we have started sailing downwind, if you're following us on the tracker you can see that we're still not exactly pointed at Hawaii quite yet. Our route optimizer tells us that, based on a whole bunch of information about the boat and the weather, it's not quite time for us to point at Honolulu. If we do, it's likely that we will be sitting in a bunch of light air for quite some time and Westward really doesn't like light air. However, the route optimizer is based on models and predictions, so when reality plays out, we'll either look like heroes or zeros (that's the cleaner version of the language we've been using on the boat). We did just have a conversation about jibing and decided to wait for a few hours under the logic that, as Graham so eloquently put it, "we've banged the corner so far, so we're going to see it through."

Even if we do follow what the route optimizer says and it's right, we still have quite a way to go, timewise. The wind is supposed to get light no matter where we are (we're just hoping to aim for the narrowest portion of the light spot), so we're likely to have some slow days in the next week. We've traveled over 1,400 miles this trip already and still have something like 900 to go -- so stay tuned for the exciting conclusion. Right now we're 5th in our class and 12th overall.

Downwind sailing also brings along with it more jovial attitudes. We're not getting pounded around and soaked by spray every other second, so people are feeling more sociable. Even the other day when we had five sail changes in the span of a few hours (a specialty of ours), there were smiles on deck. The higher spirits also help put a different spin on the smaller errors on board. Instead of being huge downers, they become sources of entertainment and, sometimes, nicknames. For instance, you'll soon all get to meet Two Shackle Alli, who was born after regular Alli dropped two shackles in the water within about three minutes. Or Tubs (some of you will remember him as Graham) who joined the crew when trying to rinse the dishwashing tub and instead dropped it overboard. Not everyone can have as complimentary a name as the Boat Whisperer, I guess. Over the next couple of days, we'll see what nicknames Zack and Mara earn themselves.

Westward is performing well. We've had some minor challenges as you do with a 63 year old boat, but nothing that Sam and Willie can't fix or work around. Those guys are geniuses. And Westward is a performer.

We're all looking forward to seeing Hawaii at this point, but trying to keep our heads in the game. There are a lot of miles left to sail and only the sea knows what the next few days have in store for us. Until then, we're enjoying each other's company, some great sailing, and some time unplugged. The only worries are that Graham and Alli have to be back at work early next week and would like to be able to enjoy a few Mai Tais before hopping on a plane!

Think fast thoughts for us!

--

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Marine heads, hanger storms, and other things about life on a boat

Aloha Westward Fans!

As of the writing of this blog, we have FINALLY stopped sailing on the wind and things have calmed down and dried out. (I know in the last blog I wrote that we had calmed a little, but then we had to head up, and had several more bumpy wet hours, so I guess I jinxed it for us.) Last night, we saw big winds and big speeds. We had a little bit of everything: rain squalls, periods of no wind, bright starry skies, total darkness. Today, we're seeing a little bit of everything, weather-wise, and pretty decent speeds. Life is good.

But, enough about the racing part of this trip. Let's talk for a little while about life on a boat. This boat, in fact.

For the last five days, we had been living life at somewhere near a 45 degree angle, which makes everything...more interesting.

For instance, answering the call of nature. We're working hard, which means we're drinking lots of water, which means there must be somewhere for all that liquid to end up. That's where the marine head comes in (for you non-sailors out there, heads are a favorite topic of discussion among distance sailors). On Westward, we've got a pretty complicated process for using the head, thanks mostly to the fact that the water level higher than the plumbing of head, so we're having a bit of an overflow issue. Here's what we've got worked out:

1. Take off all your foul weather gear.
2. Open the floorboard and open the water inlet valve. (Most marine heads have a manual pump and you pump water in, do your business, and flush by pumping the waste out and clean water in, and then pump to empty.)
3. Open the outlet valve (the valve that connects the discharge pipe to the ocean. This is where a lot of water has actually been coming in.
4. Pump the head dry.
5. Close the outlet valve again.
6. Do your business.
7. Open the outlet valve.
8. Flush the head (by some pumping and some letting clean water in) as normal, but make sure to pump fast enough that the bowl doesn't overflow onto the floor.
9. Pump the head dry.
10. Close the outlet valve.
11. Close the inlet valve.
12. Replace the floorboards.
13. Wash your hands (although, in all frankness, I'm guessing this step gets skipped sometimes).
14. Put on your foul weather gear again and head up to do some sailing. Or, don't put your foul weather gear back on and get into your (most likely wet) bunk. (Note: the further south we get, the less and less we'll have to do this -- we are heading toward the latitude we don't need foul weather gear!)

Another fun thing about life at an angle: The hanger storm. We have our foul weather gear and life jackets hanging on a line that runs down the main cabin. When the boat gets rolling, the hangers do to and every once in a while Willie, who is sleeping on the downhill bunk, is the victim of a hanger storm. He's generally a pretty good sport about it.

Spirits are high on board. Today we're pretty sure we revealed Sam's secret stage name: Candy Man. Watch out, ladies, he's soon coming to a port near you.

After a long but fulfilling day, the WAM watch is off to bed. Sam, Graham, and Zack are on deck. Hopefully they'll make some good progress to Honolulu in these next four hours!

-Westward and her crew





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Friday, July 17, 2015

Phosphorescent Dolphins

Aloha Westward Fans!

First and foremost, the entire crew of Westward would like to wish Shauneen Bell a very happy birthday!

We're now in the middle of our fourth day (which means it's time for the morning watch change) and have somewhere around 1,500 miles to go. Since the last posting, things have calmed significantly and we've started to dry out a bit more. We're sailing on a tight reach--sometimes romping along at up to 9.4 knots average! But, according to the latest weather reports, it seems that all could change. Before the race started the weather reports and our routing software had us sailing a more northerly route to avoid some hurricanes that were forming and that we'd be having some pretty good wind. Now it seems that we may be spending some of the later days of the race in no wind and that we could be out here quite a few more days. Only time will tell.

For now, though, the sailing is beautiful. Last night, there was a sky full of stars and the WAM (Willie, Alli, and Mara) watch was joined by some dolphin for about half an hour. They had phosphorescent trails and so we could see them swimming towards the boad as bright green streaks. They'd catch one of our stern wakes and surf for a while before veering off and then heading back for more. It was an amazing sight.

Dan Brandt, if you're reading this, we'd like to give a special thank you for the flashlights you gave Sam. They're really, really bright. And Sam knows(?) how to use them. We've all fallen victim to some night blindness when he's wielding those things around at night.

On another note, today is the Dutch Shoe Marathon. This race starts at SDYC and finishes in Coronado at CYC. Over 100 boats will head out onto San Diego Bay for the long downwind race. Many of Westward's crew sailed this race at the age of seven. In many ways, this race is the Transpac for Naples Sabots: you start with an upwind portion (not always the most fun), then you get to sail downwind for a while (fun), then you navigate a tricky channel to the finish (fun and rewarding), and finally you hit the dock to a party (fun)! If you're in the area, watch for them and if you're sailing, good luck! Check out sdyc.org (I think) for the livecast featuring Daniel Bell!

Time to head up on deck--here's hoping for a great day of fun fast sailing aboard Westward.


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Thursday, July 16, 2015

Paying the Piper

Aloha Westward Fans!

It's the middle of our third out here in the middle of the Pacific. We have had a busy few days aboard Westward, as the first days of Transpac tend to be.

We were sent off on Monday by about 15 family and friends and headed for the starting area. We got out there early and took some time to check in, get organized, and eat lunch. We had a great start and got around Catalina's West End around 4:30 or 5. We hit Catalina at about Starlight Beach and tacked a few times before getting around the West End. It was a beautiful afternoon of sailing.

As the day turned into night, things got bouncy and wet. A few sail changes and a few sacrifices to Neptune (mostly in the form of hats) later and we begun our watch rotation. Since we're sailing 24 hours a day, someone is always racing the boat. Our three-person watches are Sam, Graham, and Zack and Willie, Alli, and Mara. When there's something major to be done (like a sail change) all six of us are on deck.

For the first 48 hours or so, nobody was on deck longer than necessary as it was pretty wet and cold. It was also pretty wet down below, but at least there was a hope of warming up in your bunk. The sailing was fun, but still uncomfortable. We call this paying the piper. Yesterday, the wind backed behind us a little bit and the sun came out, so we've all been lingering on deck a little longer in the day time. It's finally started to dry out down below and, in the words of Graham "Transpac is starting to make a lot of sense."

One bit of bummer news out here is that we heard our friends on Picante had to retire. We all hope that everything is ok and we're thinking about you!

We're trying to get out west a little further (given the name of the boat, it's appropriate) before turining down towards Hawaii. According to our routing software, we think we should probably have about ten more days until Diamond Head.

Stay tuned for another post in the not to distant future!

-Westward and crew



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Monday, July 13, 2015

Next stop Honolulu!

And they're off!

Some pics from the race start today. The official start was 1pm PST and they looked good! Wind was picking up as they were making their way out to Catalina and beyond. Transpac 2015 is officially underway. Go go go Westward!


 You can never have enough crew photos. 

 Westward at the starting line. 21 boats started today. 


 Looking like the great boat they are. Sail safe Bells! 




video
It's incredible to watch all the boats set out, here's a preview from one of the spectator boats. 


Dock Out!


First post from the boat! We left the dock at 10:45 today. As always, Westward had an enthusiastic send off party!

Aloha!




Sunday, July 12, 2015

Transpac Eve 2015

Aloha Westward Fans!

We have about 17 hours before Westward's start in the 2015 Transpacific Yacht Race! Our start is Monday, July 13 at 1 pm PDT. The boat is packed, the crew shirts have been distributed, and the first routes have been run. This year's crew is made up of Sam Bell, Willie Bell, Alli Bell, Mara Bell Hoshina, Zack Payton, and Graham Bell. Everyone (including Westward) is excited and ready to go!

If you've been following the adventures of Westward, you know that she has had an active racing calendar these last few years, including racing to Puerto Vallarta and Cabo San Lucas. She's looking forward to heading back out to the middle of the Pacific and on to Honolulu.

There have been the normal boat-type preparations, but the crew has also been getting ready. Last night, in addition to the Aloha Send-off Party in Long Beach, the Westward crew got together at Sam and Dana's with many of the Bells and Goughs (Shauneen's family--including Roger, who will be helping to bring the boat home) for a family celebration.

We have a lot to celebrate this year. Of course, there's another Transpac. We've also had a lot of growth (four babies since the last Transpac). Kailee and Marlin (Dani and Mike's children) and Owen (Jon and Lauren's son) got to celebrate their first Transpac Eve. More importantly, the whole crew (shore and sailing) got to help celebrate Owen Bell's first birthday. Continuing the family tradition of a life on water, Owen spent his first birthday racing Lido 14s with his mom and dad. In his first race, on his first birthday, Owen got his first first place! Looks like we have a future Westward Transpac skipper on our hands!

The "kids" at the Transpac Eve celebration.

Jon, showing how he feels about NOT spending 12 days on Westward in the middle of July this year.
If you're interested in following us this year, there are a few ways to do that:

1. Keep an eye on this blog. We'll be updating this from out on the water...sometimes at 2am, which leads to some pretty awesome posts.

2. You can keep in the know on the regatta’s site: http://transpacyc.com. (Also, if you're there, check out the first boat picture in the carousel!)

3. Yellowbrick! You can download the app on your phone or iPad (or whatever mobile device you choose) and also check out: http://yb.tl/transpac2015. Look for Westward--we are aqua this year.

Thank you, Westward Fans, for you support! We'll be posting from the other side of the start and look forward to seeing many of you in Honolulu! Best of luck to all our friends sailing to Hawaii with us!


Friday, March 27, 2015

Finished!


Hola Westward Fans!

As you certainly know by now, we've finished. We drifted across the line at 4 am on Thursday and motored around the point to the marina where a small but enthusiastic welcome party consisting of Shauneen, the race committee and and old sabot friend was waiting for us. Our total elapsed time was 4 days, 15 hours. That corrected to 2 days 21 hours, good enough for 5th in our class and 13th overall. We are pleased and proud to know that we sailed Westward probably about as well as she could be sailed and are completely happy with our results. 

When the sun came up and the restaurants opened, we all headed up for breakfast. By that time, our party had grown and we had a great morning of swapping stories and getting our land legs back underneath us. The rest of the day consisted of napping, catching up with friends, sharing stories of the days and nights of the race, touring some of the other boats, swimming and of course a celebratory drink or two. 

Last night was the awards fiesta on the beach. After that, Graham, Alli, Sam and Ric followed family friend and Cabo expert Rob Wallace to experience what this town has to offer. Today we will take the Martins (who used to own Westward's sistership and are our #1 fans) on a cruise. We will spend the rest of the day prepping Westward for the return trip. Graham and Sam are taking on the yeomans task of delivering the boat home. The trip up Baja can be tough and unpleasant, but the next couple days' weather forecast is favorable, so our boys and boat should be ok. 

Thanks for following us. Rest up, because Transpac is coming soon!



Wednesday, March 25, 2015

60 Miles!

Buenos Tardes Westward Fans!

As I'm sitting here writing this, we are about 60 miles from finishing this race. Just a few days ago, I would have said for sure we would be motoring into Cabo after giving it our best effort, but at this point, it looks like we have a real chance at beating the finish time limit. This thanks to two days of great wind and us beating our target boatspeeds. Westward has clearly been stretching her legs and loving it.

When you approach the end of a race like this, it's funny to see how the attitudes aboard change. Today, at about 5 o'clock, Sam emerged from the after cabin in a boisterous mood. He had entered "King of the Cove" mode. In this mode, he's jolly and full of stories about the days of yore racing Westward. This is a change from the normal conversations about VMG and calculus to find the best route to the finish. Today, we had a surprise of the most amazing bubbles you've ever seen. These bubbles skipped over the waves and lasted at least a couple hundred yards away from the boat. Dana--we did a good job of picking those out.

When Westward approaches the finish, there is a lot of clean up to do...both of boat and of crew. Today was shower day, which entails standing on the back deck with some Prell and a bucket and giving yourself a good ol' seawater wash down. The important thing about shower time is to keep your eyes forward or else you might see something you don't want to. Alli for sure spent the day carefully keeping her eyes forward. Westward also is getting cleaned up and ready for the finish.

Sailing-wise, today was beautiful sailing...the kind where you never wanted to let go of the wheel. Of course, there was always a line of people waiting for their turn, so you didn't get to be on a minute longer than your allotted time. Around mid-day, we gybed to keep from getting too close to shore and ended up also switching sails. Unfortunately, another sail is out of commission and Alli's cabin, where the broken sails are stored, is getting a little fuller. Quick crew work ensured that an unfortunate situation didn't turn into a bad one, and we had a new sail up and flying within about 10 minutes. Ever since, we've been averaging 8-9 knots in about 12-16 knots of breeze.

We're planning our approach to Cabo and the finish. There was just a meeting of the minds around the GPS and chart table. The decision? Well, can't give that away on a public blog, but track us on Yellowbrck to see how we did!

With any luck, we'll be finishing shortly and we'll send our final blog margaritas and tacos in hand!

Shauneen, Rosey and the Martins, we're looking forward to seeing you at the dock!

Team Westward

--

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Night Four

Hola Westward Fans!

After a couple of days of winds up to 30 knots and boatspeeds not often seen on our old girl, the winds and seas have started to calm. The crew is currently sitting up in the cockpit enjoying some Mint Milanos and the sunset after a leisurely dinner at watch change. The weather has started to warm a bit and it's drier on deck than it has been the last 48 hours. Even though we're not going as fast, the change in conditions is nonetheless welcome.

We've had a little bit of everything this race. At the start, as you saw if you were tracking us on Yellowbrick and we mentioned in a previous blog, the winds were light and we had to work hard to get everything we could out of Westward. The newer, lighter boats were able to sail away from us a bit and got into the wind more quickly. We did find the wind, though, in a big way and had a couple of days in it. Yesterday, we sailed over 200 miles in 24 hours, which is pretty good for us...and good news, too. This particular race has a time limit for boats to finish of 5pm on Thursday. After our slow start, we weren't sure that we would be able to make it in the time limit. With our high average speeds and miles of the last couple of days, it's looking more and more possible that we will finish on time.

Some boats have already finished. The first boat to finish, a multihull named Mighty Merloe, passed us on Sunday night. While the non-beards were on watch (that's Willie, Graham, and Alli), Graham noticed a red light directly off our stern. We looked at the computer and saw that it was our friend Mighty Merloe. Within about 30 minutes, they passed us and were again out of sight. We learned that they finished with an average speed higher than our highest speed. It really was something to watch.

All in all, our trip so far has been great. We've seen whales and dolphin, with a school of 50 or so following us at sunset yesterday...the sunset dolphins! We've had some great and challenging sailing conditions and are all learning a lot. We've been putting the boat through her paces and she's been handling it pretty well. During some of our windier moments, there's been a lot of groaning and creaking down below, and that wasn't all from the old guys. Some of it was the boat.

One of the more entertaining parts of sailing this old girl is that some of our sails are older than some of our crew. On Transpac, the kids got a kick out of flying the Great Pumpkin (a bright orange spinnaker) for a while. The thing was older than any of the kids (Alli was 32 at the time) and smelled just like a sail locker. Often, spinnakers are on the loud side because the material is so crinkly. The Great Pumpkin was quiet as a mouse. When the wind started to die today, we needed a replacement for the sail we ripped the other night. Fortunately, we have the Golden Lion on board...a sail that's probably more than 20 years old and, as you've probably gleaned from the name, is white and bright gold. It didn't smell as badly as the Great Pumpkin (which, by the way is Alli's bunkmate and Alli was the happiest girl in the world when it was finally dry enough to open the portholes), but it sure was quiet. We flew the Golden Lion for several hours until the wind died enough to put up one of our bigger, newer sails, which will probably fly most of the rest of the race.

Our crew has been getting along nicely. Lots of laughs and stories. As the only female on board, we thought Alli was helping to keep things clean (in a metaphorical sense, not a literal sense--Willie is in charge of overall cleanliness). But, seems we may have been too optimistic. When we took the Golden Lion down today, Alli, Graham, and Zack were downstairs putting the sails in their bags and Alli told Zack he could go into the fresh air if he wanted. It was hot and gross down below. His response? No. I'd rather be down here stuffing sails with you guys than up there listening to two old dudes talk about girls. I don't know any details, and I don't want to, but happy(?) to report that the presence of a girl on board hasn't dampened any spirits.

All in all, it's been a great trip so far. Keep doing your wind dance for us and we'll hopefully be finished by 5pm on Thursday and ready to celebrate in Cabo!

Team Westward

--

Monday, March 23, 2015

Roaring Down Baja

Hola Westward Fans!

Well, after a very slow start with not enough wind to get this baby going above around 4 or 5 knots for a day, we are now off Cedros Island off of Baja. Mid-day yesterday, the wind started to improve. About mid-afternoon, we had our lightest-air spinnaker up. We have four total spinnakers on board (spinnakers are downwind sails that are often colorful and pretty big) for the different wind conditions. By about 5 am, we had put up and taken down all of them, except for the one meant for heaviest wind, which is what we have up now. How did that happen?

Watch 1 (the non-bearded watch of Willie, Alli and Graham) put up sail #1, and by the end of the watch, replaced it with sail #2 (with the help of the bearded watch of Sam, Zack and Ric). In the middle of their watch, the beards woke up the non-beards to take down sail #2 and put up sail #3 because the wind had increased so much. In the middle of the next non-beard watch, the sail that was up got a small tear and to be on the safe side, the bearded watch was woken up again to change to sail #4. Needless to say, it was a night of togetherness and...skill building.

We've been cruising along with the sail we've got up at about 9 knots. And, we've set some personal records. Willie currently holds the max speed record with 18.4. Everyone else has hit at least the high 16's. It's been fun, but tiring.

The bearded watch is currently on deck and hopefully they can keep us moving for the next four hours. The non-beards will come on deck at around 11. Here's to hoping we maintain this speed but also get more sleep than last night!

Love to you all,
Team Westward

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Saturday, March 21, 2015

First night out

Hola Westward fans!

We've had a great although light day (you already know this if you've been checking out Yellowbrick). Around 0930, Westward and crew left Alamitos Bay Yacht Club to much fanfare that included Dana Bell, Shauneen Bell, Whitney Rush, Monika Sanders and Terry Bishop who gave us a tradition conch shell send off!

We cruised down to Newport Beach, hugging the shore enough to check out the surfers and draw the attention of the Huntington Beach lifegaurds. We arrived at the starting area and it became quickly clear that we were a bit of an...outlier...among the ultra-light racing machines that also started today. Certainly, Westward is also a racing machine, but of a different vintage.

The wind was light and we spent the afternoon waiting for the lift Graham promised to get us where we needed to be to get the wind we want. It's hard to be patient and not get greedy as wait for the wind to lift us and point us where we want to head (basically we need the wind to change direction and allow us to steer the boat the right direction. Alli has won the pun award for the day and has advised us all to not look a lift horse in the mouth (that this is funny is a good indication that things have already gotten a little weird out here). Willie is even making jokes.

If you're tracking us and wondering if it's bad that we're the farthest behind, the answer is maybe. Like golf, sailing is handicaped to try to put boats on an equal playing field. So the total time that we take to get to the finish line will be corrected based on our handicap (or rating) and it is the corrected that really matters. We'll know how we're doing in a few days. For now, we're racing the clock and trying to help Westward stretch her legs down the racecourse and move as quickly as possible.

Cheers to all!

Westward and crew



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And they're off!

The crew was excited and oh so well coordinated this morning in their trademark Hawaiian.
L to R Graham, Willie, Ric, Zack, Alli and Sam
There was some heavy lifting and a conch shell send off for them. 


 They motored to Newport where they leapt off the start line around 1:20PM.
Next stop, Cabo!
Boats jockeying for position at the start line. Westward is on the far right. 



Friday, March 20, 2015

Cabo Eve

Hola Westward fans!

Tomorrow we head for Cabo. The first start was today at 1pm. According to Yellowbrick, those boats are about off San Diego. We'll learn lots from their tracks and positions in the morning.

For now, though, it's last minute gear prep, enjoying running water, eating big dinners and resting up for the next few days.


Westward is all ready and looking mighty fine at her temporary berth at Alamitos Bay Yacht Club:


Keep an eye on this blog and Yellowbrick...we'll keep you updated!

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Snow is Melting...

Hey there Westward Fans!

Back here on the East Coast, the snow has started to melt, the sun is shining, birds are chirping and I'm getting ready to head out to LA next week to join the rest of the Westward crew for final preparation and the race from Newport Beach, CA to Cabo San Lucas, MEX.

Next Saturday, March 21, Westward will cross the starting line for the 800 mile race down the coast. We'll have six on board: Sam, Willie, Graham, Alli, Ric Sanders (Ric sailed to Puerto Vallarta last year and did a (very eventful) leg of the Baja Bash back home), and Zack Payton (Teresa's son and first-time ocean racer!). We are all very excited and, from what I hear, Westward is too. She's been busy getting varnished, polished, and she's even got a new stove!

Many of you have asked how to track us and, other than this blog, you'll have the opportunity to do so with Yellowbrick (the same way you did for Transpac). Also check out the race's site: http://nhyccaborace.com/home/tracking/ for more information.








Tuesday, January 6, 2015

March seems like a good time for a sail to Mexico...

...and July seems like a good time for a sail to Hawaii!

Happy New Year, Westward fans!

Here in Washington, D.C., the new Congress is getting to work and the snow is falling, so of course I'm thinking about sailboat racing (and, I promise, boss, higher education policy). More specifically, sailboat races that end in the warm waters of Cabo San Lucas and Honolulu.

Sam and Willie still have the bug, so Westward races in 2015!

First up, some TLC for our fine lady. Westward spent a lot of the summer of 2014 (after her return from Puerto Vallarta) at her favorite spot--Howland's Landing. So over Christmas, an intrepid crew of cousins and uncles spent some time cleaning and unloading toys.
Zack and the Boat Whisperer getting into it with the bilge.

 They also inspected the sails and rig and made lots of lists.

These guys hoisting...

...this guy!


This is actually somewhat terrifying.
Westward will also be spending some time at the shipyard, having some repairs done. Then, she'll sail in some local races to get the crew work down. Finally, in March, she'll head to Mexico. In July, look for her on the Transpac starting line!

Westward is pretty excited to get back out on the starting line (for those of you who might be questioning my sanity at this point, boats definitely have feelings...and Westward can even write blogs). The humans are pretty excited, too!

We'll keep you updated on how the preparations are going and how you can follow us!