October 17 – 10 days to the start!!! Spain update

Oct 17, 2023

We’re now entering the final ten days before the October 28 start of the Global Solo Challenge. What began as a pretty full-on project more than a year ago is now down to the final push to the starting line. Fortunately, you can still get a lot done in ten days, and I’ve got a good team of friends helping me get ready. We are still very busy on Shipyard Brewing with a lot left to be done, but I knew that this would be the case from the day I started the campaign. I knew that we would be working on the boat up until the start of the race, so it simply is what it is. 

Finding a title sponsor as late in the game as we did, and still having some of our funding come in while here in Spain meant that certain big ticket items simply couldn’t be done earlier on in the game. So there’s a lot of situations where people may ask or think, “Why didn’t you do this earlier?”. The answer, on most fronts, is that I simply didn’t have the money or resources to purchase a lot of stuff until the very end. Four months ago when I pulled into Maine after my qualifier, I didn’t even know how I was going to pay to haul the boat out and do a summer re-fit, let alone purchase required safety gear or additional spares, redundancy, food, general supplies, etc. To say the least, this campaign has been very humbling and a lot of work. I can empathize with those who didn’t make it to the start, and I feel both proud and accomplished to be in the 1/3 of the entries that has made it this far. With more than 50 entries, we’re going to have something like 16 or 17 boats actually racing. At this point, I’m just feeling fortunate to be in that group. With 8,000 miles under Shipyard Brewing’s keel under my command and a pretty dialed in boat that’s nearly ready for the start, it’s been quite a journey. 

Right now, ten days out, we have our new Solbian solar array fully installed and working now. Thanks to Bruce Schwab from Ocean Planet Energy for helping line that up. We just finished the install up as the weather turned, and so I haven’t seen what this system can do on a good, sunny day. Speaking of the weather, there has been a very dramatic shift in the weather in the last five days or so. Before, we had three straight weeks of sunshine, mostly light winds and almost no rain. Now we have what appears to be low after low after low, just smashing into the Iberian Pinensula and hammering us with huge rain and winds. It’s rained pretty much every day the last five days and was gusting into the low 40s today on the pontoon in Marina Coruña.

We are now 90% or so compliant with the safety rules and making gains daily. Just today we actually bolted down the cradle for the new SOLAS life raft that just arrived from France (very late of course, got held up in shipping due to bureaucracy). While we bolted down the new raft, we also moved the old raft to the cockpit where it will now live under the tiller. Two rafts are required, and so we have two now. Yesterday we adhered our main sail decals to the main sail to honor our title sponsor Shipyard Brewing. I am still waiting on orange paint that should be here Thursday to paint the head of the main, and some new sail numbers that we have to add to all of the head sails and also to the main, since our new 4th reef covers up the old sail number if we were to be deeply reefed. We also still have more sponsor logos that just got ordered literally today to add to the head sails. 

As soon as we got to Spain, we pulled the mast back out of the boat and addressed a couple of issues that arose during the TransAtlantic trip. We removed the staysail halyard and the sheave from the rig, and rebuilt that particular sheave with new ball bearings from Harken. I also modified the NKE mast wand mount and the wand, and put a bolt through them so that the wand itself can no longer rotate in it’s mount. I also installed a new VHF antenna and had an electrician solder on a new VHF connector. It really wasn’t a ton of rig work, but the sheave work in particular was just so much easier with the mast out of the boat, so I think it was worth it. The rig is back in the boat and at least close to a base line tune, and the boom is back on. Still waiting on sails, which can’t be put on yet though for the above listed reasons. 

Other major projects still to be done include adding a wind generator and installing a hydraulic below-decks drive unit for the back-up Pelagic autopilot. Those parts are all in the mail right now, and it’s a long story, but save to say, I’m certainly not a fan of Brexit. I’m thinking the English screwed themselves pretty hard by putting in a hard border and effectively shutting themselves off from the very large economic bloc that surrounds them. Getting stuff from England is insanely hard, and as a result, if you are in Europe, you basically want to avoid doing business with anyone in England, although it’s not always possible.

While here we’ve also been knocking out a ton of jobs related to rule compliance, sourcing freeze dried food from France, buying dry bags, cooking fuel for the Jet Boil, and just knocking out a million and one small jobs that are required by the race committee; mostly for safety. It’s been a massive push and I’m very stressed out and burned out, and just ready to go sailing, but it’s also been a truly special time in my life. As soon as we got to A Coruña, Ed and I had a really cool night before he took off, and then right after that, my partner Marisa and my shore crew Chris got here. Marisa and I had an amazing eight days together, and we will both always cherish those days. And Chris and I enjoyed being together, and he helped me a lot on the boat, but his arm was hurting him horribly as a result of his cancer. He needs to have a medical treatment performed on it, but suffice to say, he was very much disabled by his health issues and needed to go home for treatment. So as much as we both wanted him to be here, he really had to go home. Fortunately, I have met a new Italian friend who came to me by way of fellow competitor Riccardo Tossetto. His name is Gioele and he’s a 29 year old charter captain in the Mediterranean, and he has been a great friend and a great help to me. Also, Dasiel Molina flew out from Florida. I met him in Maine last summer, and he has also come to be a good friend and a great help. And just yesterday, my good friend Jose Miguel Castello arrived from Hawaii and joined the team. We are old sailing buddies from my San Francisco days and we spent much of COVID together, buddy boating in Fiji, and so it’s great to have his help. I simply wouldn’t be here without the help of a lot of really good folks, and I owe all of them a huge debt of gratitude. Perhaps none more so than my title sponsor Fred Forsley and Shipyard Brewing. I’ve spent over $40,000 in the past few weeks and there is no way I would have had the money to do this race if I (with the help of my partner Marisa) hadn’t landed a title sponsor. 

And A Coruña has been AMAZING! This place is so crazy cool I can’t even put it into words at this very moment. Rushing to get this update done, as i’ve been quite remiss in posting on here as i’ve been very busy! But A Coruña, and my friends, and the other skippers, and the experience has been very cool. Beautiful city, amazing country, lovely people. Incredible amount of history here, the food has been fantastic, and the first three weeks the weather was phenomenal, though the last two weeks here the weather is quite miserable.

Huge 10 days coming up and then an even bigger 130ish days after that. 

Thanks again to everyone for their support.