Monday, August 15, 2016

We Made It!

Oahu to San Francisco Bay.

15 Days, 3 Hours, and 23 Minutes.

Thanks for following our journey and all the support!

- The Bullet Crew

Whales, but no wind

We had a wet, windy and cold last 36 hours, which made for some painful night watches but some great boat speed. In the 24 hour period leading up to this morning we had our best run of the trip (172.5 nm), and in the previous 12 hours maintained a respectable average speed (7.7 knots). The windy conditions and mixed seas last night made for some white-knuckled driving -- which included a high speed of 13 knots when surfing down the larger waves.

Today brings finally in sight of land. We caught of first glimpse of California when we spotted the Farallon Islands (pictured, part of the City and County of San Francisco). Our first view of the mainland was Point Reyes. Unfortunately today found us without wind, so now we are motoring along as fast as we can go -- which is not as fast as we could with the wind blowing. Our new ETA at the Golden Gate Bridge is 10 pm tonight.

We had a last cooked meal aboard -- Mike made us Quesadilla Pizza, and we found four relatively chilled beers at the bottom of fridge. Not a bad last lunch at sea.

Entering Northern California waters brought us some new wildlife. We were surrounded by a pod of whales and gang (?) of sea lions, so must have been some good eats down below. Some of the whales got quiet close, as pictured.

Looking forward to seeing our friends and family on land!


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Singin' to Ourselves

During our time out here, we often sings sounds to ourselves or eachother. Usually its just a little rendition of a ol' classic (The wind will clock north, Tomorrow, Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there will be northern wind...) but we thought we would share a Bullet Crew original ditty -- inspired by the conditions during these past few watches.

Give me a full keel,
Without a lot of heel.
A nice center cockpit
with a big ol' wheel.

Give me a winch that holds,
A head that flows,
A nice dry locker
Where we can stow our cloths.

Give me a diesel heater,
Nav desk with gimbaled seater,
A nice dinner table
Where we can rest our keister.

Give me a aft cabin
Where we can do our gabbin'
A nice big bed
With an awful lot of paddin'


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Pizza Night!!

Saturday night pizza night! Well sort of...

We've been sort of exaggerating the hype on pizza night for the last couple days since we came across the bag of pepperoni slices in our food bin. Well into the trip past the fresh cold food we kind of realized that in the rush of provisioning, we didn't leave too much creativity around our dinner meals (plus the need to eat non-perishables) which led to every dinner base of either pasta, brown rice and lentils, or brown rice and more brown rice. Added to that has been tomato sauce or canned veggies or canned mushrooms - in that rotation...

Needless to say we're carb'ed out and looking forward food on land!

Speaking of land, we're making good progress today and seem to have the wind out of the north we've been looking for. This is helping us move along quickly around 8 knots at the moment.

Looking forward to only a couple more days before we enter SF Bay. Hopefully we can share some shots of the Farallon Islands - even if from a distance :)

Talk soon and thanks for following!


Friday, August 12, 2016

Need For Speed!

As we tick down these last hundreds of miles over the next few days, boat speed is a key focus of ours. Mainly because, the faster we sail, the sooner we arrive in San Francisco. The weather forecasts have promised that the wind will shift from the north east to the north. This will allow us to reach (i.e. sail off the wind, and faster) for our final approach to SF. We are waiting patiently to see the wind shift north ... and we still wait. The winds have been variable (5 - 15 knots) over the last few days. In the light stuff, we have had good luck motoring to about 7 knots (speed over ground, our boat speed is higher, but we have some adverse current on our nose). When the wind builds, we are able to shut off the motor and get about the same speed with our sails.

However, 7 knots does not get us into SF on Monday morning (our current target). We will need to average closer to 8 knots, but we will not get that boat speed until the wind shifts to the north. So, we continue to wait ...

As for arrival time, if we do not get a bump in boat speed it is looking like a late Monday/early Tuesday arrival. If we do get the speed increase, then we are hoping on a Monday arrival during daylight hours (latest estimate is afternoon). We will keep you all posted as we get closer, and hopefully you will see some speeds around 8 knots on the tracker (the YB tracker measures our speed over ground). Conditions off shore look pretty breezy for our arrival, but at least we will be sailing with the wind. It may get wet, but should be more comfortable than when we left Hawaii (and better than when Bullet departed SF for the race last month).

The weather has been largely overcast the last couple of days, which unfortunately meant we were not able to view last nights meteor shower.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Remote, yet busy

As you probably noticed on the tracker, we are now pointed towards SF and heading home! As we get more favorable winds, our speed should pick up and the miles remaining will decrease more rapidly.

Our friend Dave from Mudshark noted that a couple days ago we were in one of the most remote spots on earth, as we were briefly > 1000 nm from any land. (Mudshark is another Express 37 where the Bullet return crew originally met. Dave was kind enough to lend us his Dacron mainsail for this passage, which has been a huge help thus far. Thanks again Dave and Beki!)

Though we are about as far from land as one can get, it also turns out to be a fairly well trafficked area for commercial shipping (when compared to the first part of our journey). We see one to two ships on Bullet's AIS display each day. Most of the time they are 15-20 nm away, and we can not see them. On Sunday evening, we saw the Hanjin Rome on AIS bearing towards us (commercial ships are required to carry a AIS transponder, which provides its position, speed, direction and other information to vessels with AIS receivers within about 25 nm). Once in visual range, we hailed them via our VHF and they agreed to pass us to our stern. Doesn't hurt to make sure the big boats can see us little guys, especially in this big ocean!

Though we will of course keep watch in this "busy neighborhood", being around shipping traffic has potential benefit. In the unlikely event in loss of an emergency, commercial shipping will likely be first on scene to provide rescue.

Pictured is Hanjin Rome about one mile off our stern.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Half Way Party!

Today we celebrate our half way milestone!

Were on day 10 and on a passage like this, sometimes it's best to keep your mind off the individual miles covered and the seconds as they pass on. Dwelling on what can feel like a snail's pace crawl across the big chart can suck the enjoyment right out of the adventure. Instead we've been able to adjust to a different pace of things, enjoy the simple beauty of the world around us, tell stories, be considerate, work though challenges, laugh, and continue an unforgettable experience. It may have been tough to say all of that after just the first several days but we knew the trip could throw anything at us and its the tough days that make the good days so good.

We took showers today and are feeling oh so fresh! The jams playing on the stereo while JT serves up a cheese plate to the cockpit and cooks up some delicious dinner. We treated ourself to a small taste of spiced rum and offered a taste to Bullet and our It's a beautiful night.

You'll see on the tracker we're well in our turn to the east and in the next day or so we should be on our heading directly into San Francisco Bay. The jib is down as we punch through the last bit of light winds on the nose and as soon as the wind starts to clock left to our port beam we should be able to change head sails to our reaching sail and cut the engine for a smooth sail home.

You'll also see on the tracker other boats making their passage home from Hawaii. We call in every night over SSB to report our position and conditions to each other and share any information that might be helpful. It may look like we're all very close on the map but we haven't been within eye sight of the others.

No new wildlife to speak of. Only some interesting jellyfish (we're guessing) that extend a small fin out of the water that look like a they have their own main sail. They let the winds take them where it may I suppose.

Thanks for following and talk to you all soon!


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Motor Sailing On ...

Hey there! So not much excitement from the last couple of days. We have had the motor on during most of the last 36 hours, due to a mixture of light breeze and our course being into the wind at times. Today we started seeing about 10 kts of breeze out of the east, so we turned the engine off and got the sails tuned ... then we got a little too much breeze so threw in a reef. Now, things are lightening up again, so made need to add some sail or engine power. The ocean gives us what she wants so we're always making the necessary changes to get the most out of it.

Our solar panels continue to be a good power plant (when the sun is shinning), so much that a few days ago we did not have to run our engine to refill the batteries. Of course, with the engine going for almost two days, our batteries are now topped off and our solar panels are keeping them that way.

One benefit of getting the motor running (and light conditions) is that we have been able to use the Bullet's autopilot (AP)! We set our heading and it does the steering. The AP is power hungry, so we have avoided using it until we knew we had enough electrical generation. The AP makes watches much more relaxing to stand watch, as we don't have to hand steer the entire time. The solar panels seem to provide enough power to handle the autopilot's energy requirements when we have good sun.

Another benefit to the light conditions and allowing the AP to do the steering is we've been able to dig into our box of books and enjoy a little reading. After a beating into the wind and seas for first several days, this luxury has reminded us of some of the reasons we were so looking forward to making the passage. We've all been able to relax and the mood is better than ever! Now we look forward to the next phase of the trip when we're exiting the high pressure zone and have the wind at our beam reaching all they way home.

Here's a quote from the book Mike is reading he thought was fitting to our journey...

"The stories of sea voyages, from The Odyssey through Hakluyt, and into today, retain immediacy and freshness because they took place on the never-changing sea, and each one goes to the secret core of a man's joy. It is a pleasure found not only in the tale of adventures but in the certitude that here on the sea, a man can reaffirm his human animal self, by the power of his arms, his will and his skill in a direct encounter with a huge and impersonal element and to do so in close company with chosen companions."

-William Snaith, On the Wind's Way

We are just about 1200nm to SF from our current position. In the next day we are planning to make a hard right turn towards the Golden Gate. If the weather holds, we may be passing under the Gate the early morning of Aug 15 -- but, still a week between now and then!

We threw in a couple photos as you'll see. JT and Scott doing some reading and this morning's sunrise. Talk soon!


Saturday, August 6, 2016

Reaching the high

Day 8

Just passing north of the 36th latitude, we are closing in on the high. Winds have dropped under 10 knots, often seeming to disappear entirely. The reefs have been shaken out of the main, and the ol' diesel engine (AKA 'The Iron Jib') has been cranked on. Bullet has a rumble in her belly.

With calm seas under the shining sun this has become the voyage we all envisioned. Our cloths are dry, and our footing firm. We are enjoying the simpler routine. Sea sickness is behind us, and our appetites are at an all time high. All the books we stowed away are finally being read.

The night watches have become a completely new experience. Though we never saw the moon, the nights were bright and complex. Between the intermittent squalls the brilliant Milky Way would illuminate the seascape around us. Shooting stars would streak across the sky constantly. The next squall a looming dark blotch on the horizon. Through rain and wash we'd clutch the tiller fighting the wind while in tune with the rhythm of the sea. Our new latitude has brought overcast nights. Now with our Milky Way veiled, the engine rumbling, and autopilot keeping the boat in tune with the wind and sea, for the first time all week I feel bored and useless.

We downloaded new weather reports, and have an updated route. We will be gradually lifted east toward N 39 degrees by W 146 degrees at which point we will tack over and reach all the way home!

Thank you everyone for following us, and all your comments. It's amazing to be in the middle of the ocean, but know and feel you are all here with us.

As Requested ....

.. the one, the only, Ritchie!!!

Friday, August 5, 2016

Conditions as Advertised!

Every day JT checks the weather and compares our routing to the latest forecast and we check email and try and get a post out to you guys. We can do this by transmitting over our satellite phone or via the single sideband (SSB) radio. SSB is low frequency radio transmissions that bounce a signal off the earth's atmosphere. This allows the signal to send for thousands of miles. For example, this blog is being posted through our SSB to a radio station in Watsonville, CA (1400 nm away). It's old technology but a tried and true method of sending and receiving data. It's crazy to think of how all that can work but we're thankful it does!

The gribs we download are then loaded into our navigation software called Expedition. This software is set up to understand the specific sailing capabilities of Bullet and will create a routing scenario for us with preferred heading per the conditions and give us a sense of what navigation tactics we should be prepared for. From the start it's been saying we should expect to be able to turn east as the winds clock around the high pressure zone to the north and we should also expect those winds to settle down to about 10 knots of sustained winds. Well I think we can say it looks like that's exactly what's happening!

Yesterday we had only one squall I think and none over the night watch. This was the first night watch we had with no water spray into the cockpit soaking our clothes and all our gear. To emphasize how awesome that was we should give you a sense of the day/night schedules. For example, Mike gets on watch from 9pm to midnight, sleeps off watch until 3am and is back on from 3am to 6pm. Then another 3 hrs of sleep, cooks breakfast and is back on day watch from 10am to 1p. Finally a break until it starts all over again the next night. We all have similar schedules that are staggered so there is always someone on up top on the tiller and two up top in the night hours. So, if you have a night like we did where our clothes and gear stayed dry that means we didn't have to take off wet stuff, crawl in a bunk, and then put we stuff all back on again over and over. The boat has dried out and so have our clothes! We celebrate the little things :)

You should notice on the tracker we're turning more and more easterly and should be pointed due east at about latitude 40 deg N. San Francisco is about latitude 38 deg N so we'll have gone a little above to get a better point of sail towards the bay. Remember, we update on weather every day and Expedition gives us options to consider for most comfortable sail and expected motoring if needed so we may make a call to change course plan depending on what we see.

Thank you all for the comments. It's fun to wake up and hear from JT that we have you guys our there following.

Ritchie came back today for a third day in a row. He likes to fly right us in the wind coming off our sails. Now that we know he's a white-tailed tropic bird and they could be an endangered species we're happy to help stir up all the flying fish we can for him!

Ok back to pressing on! Speak soon!


Thursday, August 4, 2016

Sea Creatures So Far...

Ok so to be clear right out of the gate, we haven't really seen too many sea creatures and especially not the kind we're really looking for - Mahi Mahi, Tuna and the like. We've done only a little fishing and so far not so successful. One of the other Express 37's headed back to California called Limitless caught 2 Mahi! Perhaps we could have used some Hawaiian blessings on our lures before we departed :) We'll try again in a day or so once we get out of this cycle of repeated squalls and breezy conditions.

In the water we have seen an abundance of flying fish. These things really are pretty crazy to see as they shoot out of the water and flap their fins like wings and glide along the water for quite a distance. I always thought they just leapt out into the air just to splash right back into the water but no, they really are flying fish.

At night the water in our wake glitters and glows with green flashing lights from a bioluminescent bacteria. When there is any movement in the ocean water the disturbance sends little electric pulses through the cells of the bacteria. This causes the release of luciferase, a protein in the cells, that produces light. The disturbance in the water causes a chemical reaction that releases photons of light. Thank you to my wife Katie for sending me the very scientific explanation for me to share :)

There's trash in the water. We haven't been close to where most of it is collected but it's still a reminder to think about where your trash goes and to recycle!

Finally,(and this is a request to you all through the comments) we have a bird friend who's been visiting us the last couple of days just to check in on us. His name is Ritchie the bird and he's named after our brand of compass we've been holding course to day and night. We thought that was fitting given he seems to be helping us get along just as well. Ok, so to the request...we don't know what kind of sea bird he is so if you can help us out given this description that would be great!

He...or I guess it could be a a white bird about the size of a sea gull. He has black beady eyes and black stripes along his wings. The main feature that might be the best clue is his thin needle like tail. I'm not sure if that's enough description but hey, let us know what you find.

The morale and spirits of the crew are getting better and better each day. Bullet is holding together nicely with no real issues and we're looking forward to our turn right towards the east to San Francisco. That should be Fri/Sat about. Today we hove-to which is a method of stopping the boat safely under sail with the jib backwinded. This allowed us to go onto the forward deck and sort out a few things as well as get a look at any lines and rig for wear - all good!

We were delighted to see the comments from the last post and have some responses for you:

Breakfast in the morning started simple with oatmeal and dried fruit. From there we've gone to scrambled eggs and sausage, breakfast sandwiches, and today we baked egg in our muffin pans with turkey, bacon and cheese - yum! BTW there's a name for that but it's escaping me at the moment and I don't have google...doh!

We got a lot of good feedback on the sunset picture. We're making it a point to take one every day. At this point they've all been the sun setting over the latest passing squall so we're looking forward to a clear sky and the green flash!

Thanks for keeping up with us!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Life Aboard Bullet

Hey everyone! It's Mike G. giving some blog relief to JT :) He had a bit of a head start on his sea legs having just sailed Bullet out to Hawaii but now we're all feeling like we're in a groove and have adjusted to the ocean life. When John says it's a struggle getting dressed I'd say that's an understatement! Living at a 20deg heel with the movement of the boat through the waves makes even the thought of standing up to grab something 6ft away almost too much to exert the energy for.

I wanted to give a sense of how things are below with some galley and berth photos. You can see we have a small galley with our gimballed stove which swings to the boat angle allowing us to cook while underway without the contents on the stove sliding all over the place. Currently we've decided (due to the way our watch schedules are laid out) I will cook breakfast each day and the rest of the team will divide up the dinners. That seems to be working well at the moment. To the left of our galley is stowage for things such as our life raft ready to deploy in a moments notice up the companionway if needed. We also have all of our foul weather gear hanging on hooks to dry out as much as possible before you have to put them on again. Mostly that means putting on wet gear in the middle of the night for a 3hr watch - wonderful stuff.

The other pic from down below is our port aft quarters over the navigation desk and back to the two berths where Tony and I sleep. He's on the pipe berth above sleeping at the moment - see his foot there?? We slide into those things like we're in a cacoon but when you need rest anything is good enough. My berth on the bottom has about 2 inches of headroom and when the boat is heeled over on a starboard tack like we are, I'm actually laying on the hull of the boat. I can hear the water rushing underneath and can feel the flex of the hull...that's normal :) Scott has a similar situation to the starboard aft all to himself and JT is taking the captains settee on port side in the main cabin. This way he can always be able to jump up if needed in emergency and also allows good access to the navigation desk. The sleeping situation has been a major part of the adjustment as well but we've been able to adjust quickly and get some great sleep so it's pretty good.

Finally I thought I'd throw in a gem from our growing library of sunset pictures. The sunsets have been spectacular and we look forward to sharing them all. This one was from the second night and has a squall that passed just before us.

Thanks to everyone for reading and your comments below are a real treat to help keep us boosted!

Out for now and see you soon!


Upwind, we continue ...

Day 5 aboard Bullet continues our upwind beat north! Not much change in our day-to-day routine, though the beat is quite tiring. Some of the simplest tasks (such as getting dressed) seem to take an inordinate amount of energy when inside a our constantly pitching, yawing, rolling home -- certainly nothing new for experience ocean sailors, but definitely new for us.

Squall activity continues to diminish as we push into the higher latitudes, though last night gave us some very "sporty" winds. One particular combination of wind and waves almost knocked the diesel cans loose on the port side, but Anthony saved them with some quick thinking and knot tying in the middle of the night. As the pic shows, Mike and Scott were still smiling through the worst of it!

At about 9 pm PST last night we had visual and radio contact with another boat -- S/V Longboard. We did not recognize them from the PacCup fleet, but was fun to be within 2 nm of another boat in such a big ocean -- though not sure their origin/destination. Also last night was the first PacCup return radio check-in, an informal and voluntary nightly event conducted over the Single Side Band radio. It allows us to share our positions and any observations that could be of use to the other boats.

This morning we pulled up some new weather data and ran it through our navigation software. The route suggested that we make a slight left turn to the North, which will give us a smoother ride and better boat speed, but also put us in a better position for our planned turned west in a few days. As of now, the route suggests we turn East North East and begin motor sailing around Friday evening near 34 48' North (Latitude) 149 50' West (Longitude). (If you want to hear more about what we systems/software we use, please put in a comment -- we can "nerd out" for you and devote an entire blog post).

Until next time!


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Settling in ....

Day four on the water has us settling in to the routine at sea. Our watch schedule has us on for 9 hours a day -- with two always on at night and one on during the day. The rest of the time is to rest, eat, and take care of other boat tasks.

It has been hot and muggy in the cabin, making it difficult to rest. Also, heading up wind for days on end isn't the most comfortable -- as you are always living at a 20 degree angle and the boat is always being jostled and washed around by the waves. The good news is that we have good wind are making nice progress. Will hopefully be in more comfortable conditions by the end of the week, and make that turn towards California to which we are all looking forward.

Last night we made our first hot dinner. The good food gave us all more energy and was a morale boost.

Also, with the clear skies are are getting great solar power from the sun. Today our two panels are putting 7-8 amps into the house batter banks, and covering our energy consumption. This will mean we should not have to run the motor as much to recharge the batteries.

To answer some questions: Still no luck with fish and we haven't not seen any of the other boats that we are told are close to our position. We saw Pacem on day 2 (I think?), but they headed slightly more westerly and we lost sight.

Pics show Scott eating and Anthony driving.


Monday, August 1, 2016


So Bullet is back in Squally-wood! The last couple of days and nights have been punctuated by squalls. Some are big, but most are small, and bring rain and higher winds. We avoid those we can, but sometimes ride them out if we don't have time to dodge. Some of them have actually given us favorable winds that have allowed us to temporarily steer in a more easterly direction (i.e. towards California!). The winds have been manageable. We have kept the main reefed since departing Oahu so when we do hit the higher winds we still have control of the boat.

The last couple of nights have been mostly clear, allowing for some great star gazing -- certainly a highlight of the night watches. Anthony put out the fishing line for the first time today ... no bites as of yet.

Thank you to Ashley for posting the tracking website to our last blog entry (we departed Oahu prior to PacCup posting the link)! In case you missed it, you can track us at:

Thanks to all for the comments and encouragement. If you ave any questions, feel free to post in a comment and we will try to answer.