>The Joker in the deck of cards…


You win the war with the many battles before you leave port & it’s been prolonged inner-city urban warfare waged literally all year. Relentless is understatement! The Open 50 “Strum” was all provisioned up, I’d brought in crew & all the associated prep only to have the customary bottom check and cleaning for the 24-hour departure count-down… when the Joker smiled in the form of a jagged crack around the keel fin.

My long-time friend Les Vasconcellos popped to the surface & said it apeared the boat’s keel bulb had run aground at some point. So we then proceeded to take under-water pictures for a closer look. I always say that the “mast/rudder/keel” interface is the most important- that you make sure those three items are happy before you launch above all else as most everything else is usually redundant crap, a power-draw, weight & clutter. Keep the powerplant, wings & flaps happy!

On that count we were two of the three crossed, as initially they had wanted me to deliver the boat with three of the four spreaders that were cracked and compressing their mounting pins into their base allowing the standing rigging to go slack. Too bad because had we known sooner from the owners the boat had run aground on the way to the start of the Vic-Maui Race (which it won) the keel could have been checked and repaired in the many weeks awaiting the spreaders return from New Zealand where they were re-engineered.

Low & behold after a haul-out check- we discovered that a third of the metal fin had stress cracked. Nothing to fool around with as many of the Open 60’s over the years that have dropped a keel or bulb resulting in the boat capsizing sometimes with tragic loss of life.

And so here we are. We’re going to let “Strum” have surgery so we’re delivering a Swan 47 to San Diego in two days then turning around and bringing a Hunter back to the barn… & from there, who knows.


>"The War Chest & More Miles"

Linda Pasquariello and I are on standby for three back to back deliveries to the US mainland and Pacific Northwest. A fast Riptide 50 to Victoria BC, a Swan 47 from Honolulu to San Diego and a tupperware Hunter from San Diego to Oahu. Reshuffling them like a deck of cards to attain the optimal weather/seasonal routing for each.

The objective now is to rejuvenate the war chest of money after depleting it again in France this past summer. The horrible euro to dollar exchange rate ripped us apart.The question now is whether to sell the mini to purchase the boat we will use for the record ourselves or hold out for a new title sponsor. Time will tell.

>Mini Fastnet Race 2004

Selling #348 “Netcarrier”, Allocating #433 “Amazigh”

Funny how things go full circle. On my premier mini race- the double-handed “Odysee Uylsees” in April 2003, me and my crew Natasza Caban were in the pub for the going away party for the skippers in Antibe.

Not unusual we were in a pub but as I was brand new to France and didn’t speak French- I looked for anyone ‘willing’ to speak my less-beautiful sounding native tongue.

I ended up next to a tall guy named Sam Manuard from Port Camargue- France. Turned out he’d done the transat before on a previous design of his own- finishing in a respectable 5th place.

Anyway, low and behold- the three brand new- “Tip-Top 2” sister-ships (#431, 432, 433) encircling my Seb Magnen designed #348 “Netcarrier” were designed by Sam. This race was their debut and they looked interesting for a couple of obvious design features.
…Sam went on to win aboard his #431.

Fast forward a season later- broke but with a good boat and the Class Mini introduction for the next season of carbon masts for the mini. I briefly due to finances put my boat up for sale at the end of the 2003 season.

Corentin Douguet, who’d done a previous Transat 650 contacted me hoping to buy #348. But with my back against the wall, a good boat and no money in sight- I stubbornly refused and vowed to do another Mini Fastnet before I drowned in debt… He went on to buy Loik Lebros’ Sam Manuard designed #433 “Amazigh”.

While I had a perfect sponsor for the boat in- “Netcarrier” and partner equipment sponsors- “Siemens, Kenwood and ACR- I knew that eventually things would turn around and I’d find some money, hang myself or rob a bank.

As I put #348 “Netcarrier” away for the winter in Francois Robert Chantier in Lorient- I weighed my options. I would return to Hawaii to do yacht deliveries but it was difficult because I had just one quiver of sails and desperately needed new ones, a refit and a carbon mast to remain competitive- saying nothing of the next race season operating budget.
Fastnet first then kill myself …

Off we go…

My French crew- Ronan Guerin- had used Corentin Douguet as a preparateur for part of his 10 Figaro Race campaigns. I was good friends with Corentin but for some reason he no longer had love for Douguet… “Corentin is a bad-boy, we must beat him…”

Ronan steered the start ‘Figaro-style’. A dog-fight starting line jostle- the gun, then a split tack away from the bulk of the fleet into clear air… 2nd place into the windward turning mark. 2ND all the way to halfway thru the 700-mile course to Land’s End England where the wind died and the strong tidal currents reshuffled the deck of cards.

On a close reach with 15 to 18 knots of breeze the next morning- Corentin Douguet powers from a mile below our port stern quarter- climbs past our stern, and just several hours later is off our windward starboard bow… Then gone. A horizon-job and not a thing we could do about it. The Manuard design is more powerful- with duel lateral water ballast tanks and the canting keel etc. She is visibly sailing many degrees higher and more upright… gone and no tactical solution or passing lanes- goodbye.

Around Fastnet Rock we’re in 8th…

Burning down-hill after Fastnet- a 24-hour dog-fight with Tanguy de Lamotte and crew Jacques Vincent (8-round the world races to credit). Surfing up to our stern every few minutes- its touch and go hour after hour. We’re grinding the spi- sheets- the mainsheet- sending “Netcarrier” and still we can’t break away into a manageable lead. Just one good wave and they could get thru our leeward wind-shadow and drop us into 9th place.

Our private battle meanwhile enabled both of us to pass several minis- including Corentin who was now half a mile off our starboard stern quarter. The next morning in lighter wind- Tanguy is front of us but I reel him in and pass to windward.

Now it will all come down to the inshore or offshore option. 50/50 chance. You live or you die. We play the offshore card- covering Eloise’s “Vectuer Plus” now just 30-miles to the finish.
A quick stealth jibe before Eliouse sees us do it and we are to windard and snatch his placing away. Hours later he snatches it back just a mile downwind of us. Entering the Bay of Dournanez with 8-miles to go- we’re angry and determined to defend my previous year top-five result.

“Fix-bayonets!” To say we attack is understatement. Grinding the sheets of the masthead kite and main on a reach while pumping the tiller off small wave crests in the 15-knot breeze- we give it our all.

And slowly very slowly, we are reeling “Vectuer Plus” back in. Now just a mile from the finish- the boats close-reaching, hot and barely able to hold onto our mast-head kites, Eloise is crouched in the cock-pit doing nothing but nervously smoking a ciggerrette and staring back down the barrel of our gun waiting for us to pounce.

His crew looks back over his shoulder every other moment as well and they are both on a hair trigger as they know we are going to go for it when there is technically no way around and no race course left to speak of.

Poker stares and we are just 3-feet behind “Vectuer Plus”, the committee finishing boat and marker a minute away and Ronan draws his weapon in a blur. We luff-up hard and just-just, just barely slide above them a foot away- choking them- it’s a bar room brawl- they can’t breath- we’re taking their breeze.

But still yet, to lay the finish line, we’ll both have to jibe. It will have to define the meaning of perfection or we’ll die. It’s us or them. Off we go, adrenline pumping, both of us broaching in front of the committee boat, meters from the line, keels on the wrong side, mainsails pinned hard up against running back-stays and kites flogging as we hurry to reload.

WE DO IT! We defend the top five and we hold onto my 5th of the year before in a vastly more competitive fleet that saw ORMA trimaran members and many of the top French navigators in all racing disciplines crew!

As we come into the dock we have two surprises, one good and one bad. We beat Tanguy and Jacques- they ended up in 7th but Corentin Douguet nipped us into 4th. “It’s not possible Ronan cries jumping off the boat seemingly ready for a fist fight and to bring the race ashore.
So after the 2004 Mini Fastnet, I asked “my” friend Corentin Douguet if I could crew back to Lorient with him aboard “Amazigh”. After beating us into 4th in the Fastnet- it would be interesting to sail with our concurrent – Ronan’s “bad-boy”.

It was a very light wind sail to Loqmiquelic, Lorient- however it revealed hints of “Amazigh’s” potential. He agreed to sell her to me for 75,000-euros if I put down a deposit to reserve her a year in advance. It would be a positive move for me because I could sell my boat for the same price- go look for money and “Amazigh” would at the minimum have a new carbon mast and 2nd quiver of replacement sails for the Transat 650 2005.

…It would be a bad move if the “bad-boy” destroyed the boat or got run over by a ship mid-Atlantic! But before Corentin started winning everything and had his sponsorship powerhouse- “LE.CLERC/BOUYGUES TELECOM”- I believed.

On our sail to Lorient I asked Corentin who he thought would win the transat. He said- “Me”. It reminded me of the calm confidence I’d once seen displayed from my skipper- then 20-year-old Liz Wardley prior to the 1999 Sydney to Hobart Race when she said to the crew- “We’re going to win. Because we can!” And we did.

Now post Corentin’s victorious 2005 domination and record-setting Transat 650 during which he reduced the elapsed race record time by over two-days- he’s laughing with me in the bar in Lorient. “You chose to buy the boat before I win everything… maybe I could have gotten more money for the boat.” Yeah but I believed in you- bad boys always get the girls…

IRC (www.racetheworld.net) joins team as official race tracker. This state-of-the-art system that is used for the rugged Paris-Dakar road rally will enable us to keep the public informed via remote positioning and live Iridum interviews from anywhere in the world.

NEWS 08/04/07

6th in Open Demi-Cle with crew Jacques Vincent, Mini Fastnet cancelled due to extreme weather, 27th with broken pilot in Trophee Marie Agnes Peron, 12th in Open Sail Simrad with Jacques Vincent and withdrew from Transgascogne due to extreme weather that capsized three boats and 7 epirbs activated. Messy season but learned allot and will apply the many lessons to the coming years of the program.

Other news- team-mate Natasza got married and left on her round the world a week ago- good luck mate!

>Netcarrier Prototype Mini 650 #348 – March 2004

>Netcarrier Proto ‘348 Update: March 29, 04

La Trinite Sur-Mer France The many winter changes made to the boat have evolved the Formula-1 machine to a new level.

On the sail from Lorient to La Trinite last week, she literaly flew thru the forty miles like a hot butter knife. At the moment her speed is astounding.

Probably the greatest single change was repositioning the keel. Her trim on the water is markedly different (more bow down) -we slid it two inches forward, and the keel plates resolved a problem where she had raked back creating drag…

She planed consistently at 8 to 10 knots speed with 15 to 18 knots of breeze (without spinnaker). Then once there was even a semblance of chop with a few pumps of the tiller we had her surfing off half meter waves!

They are simpily the most incredible boats to sail i have ever been on.. and thats saying allot- i
have crewed on a vast disparity of different designs.

As we approached Quiberon Point Franck Cammas’s 60ft trimaran “Groupama” sped on the order of 30+ knots- If you ever saw the trimaran flying across the water in “Waterworld” -this what they look like!

Passing thru the channel into Quiberon Bay, the current was incoming against the now 30 knot wind as squalls came thru and it created a hellish short chop, we pounded from wave to wave like a plate (minis -especially prototypes! are downwind oriented machines!)

It was like doing the third Sydney to Hobart Race but now on a mini- imagine that! But it was a great test of the machine after her vast facelift.. and she fought into the teeth of the bombs, mortars, field nukes, the lot.. with flying colors! A true ‘nam session on her preliminary season test sail- perfect!

A month away the Select 6.5, a 300 mile solo race, another practice baptism before my 1,000-mile solo qualification and then the 2004 Mini Fastnet.

It’s a brave new world after the introduction to the Class Mini last year. Somthing easier understood ‘in the cut’ than i can describe in writing!

Below is the description of last year’s Mini Fastnet Race, a reminder before we run the gauntlet yet again!

700 miles….

Netcarrier is a downwind missle. Sitting on fifteen knots – passing boats like they re standing still – solid green water erupting down the length of the deck – rhuster tales off the rudders, i know i m alive. A flick of the hand on the tiller and we re off down another wave. To leeward, yet another victim of Netcarrier. On a reach with the gennaker she is unstoppable.

Passing Fastnet Rock was a dream. At the limit of twilight, the twin beams sweeping the sails- the erriest lighthouse i ve seen.

The start of the Mini Fastnet Race from Douarnenez saw 84 boats on the starting line in full attack mode. My crew – Francois Coutant, the former delivery skipper for Bruno Peyron s Explorer and i spent a week working thru a pre race checklist.

It was a light upwind start, boats everywhere and so it began. After a hundred tacks, moving the saftey gear to the windward side each time and canting the keel, we d worked our way into first place by dark.

Still hard on the wind doing six to seven knots – we continued lifting on course in conjunction with the pre-race briefing by our personal weather advisor for the trimaran – Sergio Tachinni. This would prove a single error as the breeze defied an otherwise perfect weather model.
In a game of musical chairs, twenty boats passed us in the dark to leeward. Bearing away the next morning under masthead gennaker – we worked our way back into 9th place that night. The wind died and shifted back on the nose.

Soon it was a hard slog into twenty knots smack bang on the nose. Masthead lights ahead, behind, to leeward and windward. Fight club in every sense of the word as we prod Netcarrier past competitors in the dark.

A tactical tacking duel toward the waypoint – shifting all the kit yet again – everything in the boat to the windward side. Water jugs slung over the weather rail – nothing left to chance. Lighting Camel ciggarettes for Fanch out of the wind while he steers, marking waypoints and boats on the bulkhead, boiling water for pre-made dinners on a wildly gyrating stove – life at sea and at war.

Somthing like three days after the start, Fastnet Rock in the distance. It s ten-thirty at night but there is still some light at 52 degrees north in summer. The lighthouse is scary and awesome looking. You must see it…

Around her, the twin beams illuminating the boat, and we bear away back toward Douarnenez three-hundred miles away. And then a bit of a gale. Two reefs in the main and we are absolutly blasting throught the dark at fifteen knots. In the bunk below, it feels like you are in a fighter plane, not a boat. You have to sleep with your feet forward because if you hit anything at this speed your head could go thru a bulkhead.

The next day, the breeze lightens a notch and we set the fractional gennaker. And now we are on Netcarrier s best point of sail. Planing at a sustained fifteen knots we pass one boat after another like they are standing still. Spray everywhere, sometimes a wave threatens to launch me from the tiller. Careening up, over and down waves like an ocean-going skateboard – Netcarrier is a weapon. There is no other way to describe her.

A 5th place finish. Out of 84 boats we led the first night and might have won but don t ever look back – the first ‘foreign’ non-French entry to finish…

Brian Caldwell Netcarrier Proto 348

>1st place 1999 Rolex Sydney Hobart Race!

>Preparing for the next BlastOffUpdate: January 00
Previous News Update
BJ Caldwell writes…

1999 Sydney to Hobart Race1st place PHS Div 2 Elliot 36ft ‘Phillip’s Foote’
It’s going well after five yacht deliveries and a victory in the 1999 Sydney to Hobart Race with 20 year old Liz Wardley on her Elliot 36ft ‘Phillips Foote’. An S&S 34 is in my possession, together we will sail very away. A few Australian and American sailors are collaborating with polished visions of miles and places.

In this seafaring nation, where a girl I wave goodbye to in Hobart soon gets rolled upside-down aboard the 60ft race contestant ‘Innkeeper’. She appears on the television news broken but vows to me later, it is only her beginning. Natasza was plucked from the Southern Ocean into the start of her sailing career. Meanwhile, the youngest skipper in the race – Liz Wardley tells me she’d do fifty more Hobarts. This was just a year after Liz experienced and escaped from ocean racing’s worst ever tragedy.

We’d driven Liz’s yacht until we found a very hard won victory. After vast numbers of round-up/knockdowns, incredible surfing across wildly confused Tasmanian waves and a freezing 55 knot blow, the youngest crew in the race arrived into the Derwent River laughing and relatively unscathed. Though, you could say the young faces showed a trace of the three day ‘fight club’ of sorts.

Only the day before, we were fight clubbing away in the grasp of the Southern Ocean gale, while ‘Phillip’s Foote’ dropped off the sheer vertical faces of thirty foot waves. Inside the cabin awash with condensation and diesel fumes, I was braced in with my four watch-mates. I’m busy dipping Gatorade powder into my mouth right from the tin as we tell some pretty off-beat jokes. All the while, we flinch as solid green water explodes across the topsides. It’s just war out, bombs, mortars, field nukes…the lot.

I’d met Liz in Southport as they headed for Sydney to the start of the race from her home in PNG. I’d just walked up and said I reckoned that since I was down under, I should try and do the Hobart, did she know of anyone short of crew? She said yes, they needed one more and she would give me a call once they got to Sydney. The rest is history.

Last year isn’t far away here. Talk of the six that died and a fleet completely broken remain in the thoughts of all those that have returned to the Sydney to Hobart. Especially as damage reports started on just the first night from Sydney. We were extremely fortunate to avoid breakages and stay in the ‘hunt’. I don’t think we could have sailed a more superior race. Liz had some of the best sails, crew and motivation in a fleet of notoriously talented sailors.
We had an immaculate new kevlar main, the best looking asymmetrical chute I’ve seen since aboard Bruno Peyron’s ‘Explorer’ and none other than a carbon fiber ‘Code Zero’ like Paul Cayard utilized in the Whitbread Race!

Once we were firmly in the lead of our class, we continued pushing but allowed just a trace of conservatism as we covered the fleet. We’d just go to the heavier chute a bit faster and try to minimize the wipeouts. A bit difficult sometimes though as the breeze jumped from between 25 to 40 knots true windspeed.

The weather forecast had said a low was developing over southern Victoria which would have been north of us. But as it turned out, we were bewildered when the sun came out and the breeze died in the middle of Bass Straight. I asked Liz what the forecasted central pressure was for the low and she said – 1000 millibars. I looked at my Suunto watch and sure enough, the pressure was just between 999 and 1000 millibars! We were in the center of the developing gale. That night, we were sailing upwind into a southerly that gusted to 55 knots.

One of the things I remember was this huge breaking wave that launched me from the tiller. My watch-partner Bryce grabbed the back of my harness as I reached the end of my tether and hauled me back to the weather rail. We had a bit on. Just a day earlier, Bryce had been steering as we exceeded 20 knots on a huge surf and the boat disappeared through the wave in front indefinitely. I was holding my breath for five minutes before we exploded onto the surface without slowing. I’ve never been so far under water on the deck of a yacht before. The force of the water opened all the Spinlock rope clutches and the off-watch rushed up afterwards and said it went completely dark below-decks and their ears were popping. We’re lucky the mast didn’t go for a walk-about over the bow or pitch-pole.

After the gale, as we crossed Storm Bay and entered the Derwent River, we did nonstop sail changes and peels. We’d won our division: PHS Div. 2!

We gave each other a few good handshakes before the start of the millennium party on the docks in Tasmania.

Click on link below to old posts

The Cobra Event

https://wp.me/p1pcMc-jMy recent yacht delivery to Kwajalein via Johnston Atoll was a nice 2,100 nautical miles in 17 days. The passage was interesting as we requested permission to revictualize our fresh water supplies at Johnston Atoll. To stop at a biological weapons testing and disposal facility for something to drink! ?

The day before, they’d told us we’d have to wear gas masks if we touched land. I couldn’t help but think of “The Cobra Event” – the book by Richard Preston that illustrated the kind of research that went down in the middle of the Pacific.

“The trials, which went on steadily from 1964 to 1969, were successful far beyond the expectations of even the scientists involved. These events were officially called a “joint naval exercise,” but that was a cover for the fact that what was going on were hot field trials for the strategic use of biological weapons over large areas of territory.

The trials had been gradually increasing in scope since 1964. At the peak of the trials there were enough ships involved to make up the fifth-largest navy in the world. This was as large a fleet as the naval forces used in the air tests of hydrogen bombs in the Pacific Ocean during the 1950s.” – “The Cobra Event”.

In one such test, ships were staged at ten mile intervals for hundreds of miles downwind of the island. Aboard each ship, the crew wore bio-hazard space-suits with special air filters for protection. Also aboard the ships were scores of monkeys, on deck, below-decks, and inside air-tight compartments.

Just offshore of Johnston, a Marine Corps Phantom jet flew a low and straight trajectory, about two hundred meters above the water, traveling just under the speed of sound for fifty nautical miles. It flew by the pristine white sand beaches, heading west toward the setting sun.

“It carried no stores underwing except for a small, strange looking pod. The wing pod was known as a dry line-source disseminator. What was coming out of the pod was a living weapon in the form of a dry powder.

The particles were very small, and they had been treated with a special plastic to make them last longer in the air. They were between one and five microns across, the ideal size of a weaponized bioparticle.

It is the size particle that can be inhaled deep into the human lung, a particle that will stick naturally to the membrane of the lung. Fifty particles lined up in a row would span the thickness of a human hair. One or two such particles trapped in the lung, if they are a weapon, can cause a fatal infection that kills in three days.

Particles this small do not fall out of the air. They stay aloft. You can’t smell them, you can’t taste them, you don’t know they are there until you get sick” – The particles inhaled by the monkeys had a 100% fatality rate.

The virus continued past the last ships all through the night, riding the warm Pacific trade-winds until the following morning when sunlight killed the pathogen. How many seabirds, whales, dolphins – inhaled the cool air of the many thousand square miles covered on this dreadful night of many?

The tests were so successful and so dangerous Nixon scrapped the whole official bio-weapons program. However, the US continued to stockpile thousands of VX nerve gas agents in artilerary shells. And now Johnston Atoll was now the only place in the world with a ultra high tech facility that could incinerate them for arms reduction treaties with Russia…

Creepy like the X-Files yes? The crew aboard the 28ft Hawkfarm “Bellwether” thought so! Nonetheless, after waiting for a couple of hours near the pass, the general granted us permission to enter the lagoon under ‘escort’.

No less than five cars followed along the shore including a Hum-Vee with a 50 calibre machine gun pointed toward us. Minutes later, we tied alongside the off-loading dock for the island – imagine the stuff handled on this maritime pier! Enough ‘cocktails’ to annihilate the world’s population hundreds of times over.

Anyway, I tried to keep the storm within my head under check as two gun yielding officials jumped aboard to insure we weren’t hiding a boat-load of terrorists. Then they most gracefully allowed us to top off our defunct fresh water bladder. And heh, a tub of ice cream, a Playboy, and some hot grub for supper from the PX!

We were back under-way in less than forty-five minutes – what a ‘pit-stop’ for us! We did our best to stay upwind of the plume of smoke ejected from the smokestack of the VX nerve gas incineration facility! I will never forget standing bare-foot on the dock in Johnston.

Back underway, we flew the spinnaker from dusk till dawn, pushing hard toward Kwaj because it was during the middle of hurricane season. Three hundred miles out, I get this message from my dad on the SSB radio, “Watch out – you’ll have fire-works tomorrow!”

The next day, we watched the contrail of a Minuteman ICBM nuclear missile from America pass directly over our mast-head before the ‘Exo-Atmospheric Kill Vehicle’ or ‘THAAD’ (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) interceptor launched from Kwajalein blew it out of space! It was part of the ‘Star Wars’ Strategic Defense Initiative, right over our heads!!!

We were all spun out, what a passage. A delivery aboard a 28ft boat in full hurricane season, a bio-weapons facility for drinking water and a nuclear missile intercepted straight over-head! I can’t use enough exclamation marks to illustrate the jokes and late night talk during our many watches!

Luckily, all of us arrived alive. And what a beautiful landfall it was! Kwajalein is the biggest lagoon in the world and has some of the best diving anywhere. I was sad to fly home after just three days in paradise.

However, I am delighted to be preparing for an epic delivery from Australia to Honolulu via the Southern Ocean aboard the S+S 34 design – “Stray Bit'”. New Years 2000 at sea is just what I dreamed of. With any luck, we’ll be the first to experience the millennium as we cross the International Dateline!

>Latitude 38 article – November 1996

>Brian ‘BJ’ Caldwell’sSolo Circumnavigation
Letter from BJ –
Latitude 38 (November 1996) with permission…

As I sat becalmed in the Gulf of Panama for a week, the temptation to drop south to the dreamlands of my past was unbearable. The South Pacific – talcum powder-white beaches, turquoise water, the spectacle of lands embraced by Mother Nature – all conspired to waiver my resolve to claim the so-called age record.

It didn’t help to remember another sea-farer in a long bygone age. Fletcher Christian let nothing tear him away from Tahiti and his soon-to-be wife, Mai Miti. His desperation in sailing’s classic Mutiny on the Bounty could well be my own.

After all, the cruising lifestyle is what ruined me in the first place. The thought of going back south to confront the virus drove me to near insanity as I sat out day after day on a windless sea.

When the breeze finally filled in after a week, with it came a return of my resolve. I realized once again my obligations to those who had made the dream possible – and my desire to one day win the Vendee Globe Challenge.

For weeks, Mai (Miti) tore down the predominately southwesterly headwinds between Balboa and the Galapagos Islands. The poor gal was submerged so much of the time that bottom growth appeared over the decks and cabin top. With the headwind, unfavorable current and short chop, progress was little more than a snail crawl. I took advantage of the time by reading, writing my book and enjoying the solitude in general.

Gradually, the wind bore around to a slightly better angle and we began making westing. As I passed nearly 200 miles north of the Galapagos, the mist and fog from the cold Humboldt Current began to dissipate.

For one three-day period, I had a booby bird living on the bow pulpit. The scruffy-looking beast would spend the better part of his day preening, and only fish in the last few hours before sunset. Because we were pounding to weather, he had a hard time staying secure on his bucking perch. Once every few waves, he’d be thrown into the water. He’d gather himself up and fly back, squawking up a storm at the pulpit. Once back aboard, he’d tuck his head in his feathers and try to sleep, only to be dunked by spray every few seconds, or tossed overboard again. Eventually, he finally said the hell with it and flew off to find his wife.

The original plan was to go from Panama to the Galapagos, Marquesas, and then home to Hawai`i. The parking lot in the Gulf of Panama galvanized my will to go straight through. So we ignored those other pit stops on the chart and sailed onwards.

Because it was hurricane season north of the equator, I sailed below the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone until I got to 135° west longitude. After making a hard right turn, we cut through the ITCZ without stopping and picked up the northeast trades. Keeping a lookout for hurricanes astern, we saw the Big Island’s volcano, Mauna Loa, about two weeks after entering ’hurricane alley’.

“Hi, Ala Wai. Ready or not, here we come,” I radio. Coasting along north of Maui with light Kona winds, a twin-prop airplane buzzes overhead. I can’t believe it, my parents are aboard! With the reluctance of a trip almost over, I manage “Hi, Mom!” over the VHF. She is pretty emotional, her answer all but incomprehensible. I did manage to understand something about “our hero . . .”

The next day, all hell broke loose off Diamond Head. Upwards of 20 boats came out to watch Mai (Miti) tie the knot. As we crossed the entrance of the Ala Wai, a cannon exploded on a friend’s boat and my dream was reality.I’d crossed my outbound track. Euphoria that we’d circled the earth was mixed with sadness. The adventure was over. We weren’t going sailing tomorrow. brian ’bj’ caldwell

Hele On Back

Last Modified: Friday – 11-29-96 – 12:57:21 HSTCopyright © 1996, Latitude38Republished electronically by HoloHolo Internet Publishing, all rights reserved