Chasing Rainbows, Capt's Log

by Del Wiese


On 23 May 2008, we participated in the Gulf Streamer, a semi-annual race from Ponce Inlet to Charleston, SC.  My boat is a 1989 Hunter Legend 37.  The race started at 4:30 pm Friday afternoon and consists of three marks, the start at Ponce, the Daytona Beach Pier (10.3 nm north) and the Charleston Sea Buoy, a total distance of 226.6 nm.  We placed third in the Sprint Race, the Spinnaker Fleet and Overall.  Our very excellent crew consisted of myself, Jim Boyd and Tom Saam from Melbourne Yacht Club, Bob Howley and Steve Padgett.  Tom was our navigator, and did a great job of analyzing the boat polars in view of the Gulf Stream flow predictions and wind direction/velocity forecast to determining our entry and exit points into the Gulf Stream.


The start of the race was in light, very variable winds, a broad reach up to the pier.  We had a good start and were the fourth boat to reach the pier, finishing third on corrected time.  Our strategy was to go high so we could reach down to the pier if need be.  As it turns out we made the pier on one tack.  We flew the asymmetrical spinnaker the last mile which really helped out finish position.  At the pier we hardened up to head out to the Gulf Stream.  Friday evening and Saturday morning continued with light winds although we were surrounded by thunder storms and some spectacular lightning.  We flew a spinnaker for a while, and gybed it at one point.  Saturday morning the wind switched to the NW and we were close reaching on port tack in the Gulf Stream.  The wind was steady 20-25 knots with gusts into the low 30s.  The seas built to about 8-10 feet, with an occasional wave much bigger.  We were getting 1.5-3 knots of current from the Gulf Stream.


The close reach and 20-25/low 30s wind conditions continued Saturday and into Sunday as the wind moved a bit more to the North.  The ride was lumpy but we were not pounding.  Some waves would slap the side of the boat and shower us with spray.  Dinner on Friday and Saturday consisted of frozen casseroles we heated in the oven.  I had planned scrambled eggs for breakfast but things were a bit too lumpy for that.  We settled for cereal and breakfast bars.


We raced the boat during the nights very well, a key on overnight races.  We had a shift schedule that had three persons on deck at all times and switched steering assignments every hour.  The crew did what they needed to do to react to changes in wind direction and velocity in an effort to keep boat speed optimized.  Early Sunday morning we turned and headed for the finish line.  This was a beat and was really lumpy until we exited the Gulf Stream.  We had hoped for a wind shift to the NE which would have made for a close reach but the shift did not materialize and we had to beat all the way to the finish. 


We had a sixth crewmember on board for a few hours, a bird which we think was a Shearwater.  In the darkness of the night we kept hearing this strange sound and finally tracked it down to this bird huddled in the cockpit. After several hours it climbed up over my foot and exited the boat.


We had no significant equipment issues.  We did lose a spinnaker halyard which during a night launch got caught up behind the spreaders and chafed though.  We spotted it and got the spinnaker down before it dumped in the water.  The boat did great under some very rough conditions.  Coming into Charleston near the finish, we had a moment of concern when we smelled something burning.  We turned off all DC power and discovered that the control module for the battery charger had a problem.  Disconnected it and all was well.


Regarding the trip to Daytona Beach for the start of the race and the trip home from Charleston, we had a few memorable occurrences.  I live about 84 nm south of HRYC.  Jim Boyd and I left Wednesday morning (5/21) and had a great sail all the way into the Mosquito Lagoon and made it all the way to New Smyrna.  We overnighted in the anchorage in front of the Smyrna Yacht Club and grilled a couple of steaks on the gas grill.  Thursday morning we proceeded on to Daytona Beach.  Registration was Thursday afternoon at the Halifax River Yacht Club and the Skippers Meeting was scheduled for Friday morning.  While we motoring in the ICW near Ponce Inlet, we were approached by a Volusia County marine patrol boat.  They asked for permission to come aboard to check out our MSD, whether we were pumping overboard or into the holding tank.  We were set on the holding tank and they checked this by putting dye into the head and pumping it out.  No problem.  But they then proceeded to write me a $63 ticket for not having a lock on the through hull valve handle.  I did not realize this was the law.  They indicated any kind of lock will do, I now use a plastic cable tie.


The awards dinner/party was Monday evening (5/26).  On Tuesday morning, Jim Boyd and I departed Charleston, planning to go to Port Canaveral.  The winds were light and on our nose, we had to motor with the main up to steady the boat.  Tuesday night we rotated 2 hour shifts which worked out well.  By Wednesday morning it became apparent we could not make Port Canaveral, we donít carry enough fuel to motor the nearly 260 miles from Charleston to the Port.  We proceeded to St. Augustine to take on fuel.   After taking on fuel, we got back aboard and hit the starter button, nothing happened, no sound at all.  After checking things out, we discovered that the battery selector switch had failed, it was not sending voltage to the starter solenoid.  We had to remove the wire going to the solenoid from the switch and run it directly to the battery.  The engine started.  Wish Iíd had a battery jumper cable on board, it would have made quick work of getting voltage to the solenoid.  The marina staff was indicating we were taking up fuel dock space needed for a 70 foot sport fish yacht so there was some pressure to get started quickly.  After getting the boat started we decided to take some time to thoroughly check out the electrical system to make sure we did not have any other problems so we moved to a slip and overnighted at the marina.  The next morning we motored, with the main up, to Ponce Inlet.  Jim needed to get back so he exited at New Smyrna, rented a car and drove home.  I continued on down the ICW and with the help of 1.5 knots of current in the right direction, I made it all the way to the anchorage off Titusville City Marina.  I anchored there and was home by 12:30pm on Friday.  Overall the trip put 693 nm on the boat.