This has not been much of a holiday weekend for me.
We're mainly staying home and doing various chores.
Between other things, I've been keeping an eye on Valis' progress through the late stages of the Spinnaker Cup on Friday night and today, Sunday, as they've started the long uphill slog back to San Francisco.
Thanks to the AIS transponder on Valis and some web 2.0 magic, it's possible to watch their position, speed, heading, and track online here (apparently only while they're actually underway, though).
I'm sure Edward will be blogging about his adventures when he gets back (and I really don't know if he's aboard for the return trip), but I've been fascinated by what can be learned just from studying their track today.
The main lesson is that ocean sailing is hard, especially when you're trying to get to where the wind is coming from.
Here's the plot of Valis' progress for about eight hours, late Sunday.
Keep in mind that Valis is an extremely capable, heavily built, 44-foot bluewater cruising boat, designed to click off 200-mile days at sea, conditions permitting. That usually means downhill, or on a reach.
But look how things change when you're clawing your way up a coast famous for its difficult conditions.
Sometimes, the Pacific coast can be as calm as a pond. I helped someone do a delivery from LA to SF many years ago, and we motored the entire way on mirror-flat water - even around the sometimes fearsome Point Conception.
But most of the time, especially at this time of year, winds are strong and steady from the northwest. Swells and waves can build after weeks of this into little mountains that just say, "No."
The long starboard tack in the photo is about 27 miles long. The next port tack is about 23 miles. That's fifty miles of sailing that took 6.5 hours - a very nice average speed through the water of nearly eight knots. But in that time, they made only about 25 miles of progress towards their destination.
The nice ninety degree tacks that sailing textbooks tell us we can make have been substantially reduced by leeway and the relentless attack of swells and waves. Conditions are usually worst off points like the one that protects Santa Cruz. A kind of venturi forms that funnels the winds through such spots.
Notice how much closer to ninety degress was the tack made in close to Santa Cruz, which is much more sheltered from the prevailing winds and swells.
Famous for such conditions is the notorious 'Baja Bash' - the long uphill battle to get back from the west coast's best known cruising rally - the Baja Ha-Ha, sponsored every year by Latitude 38.
Many people who do the Ha-Ha sell their boats once they get to Mexico rather than sail back. Others hire professional delivery skippers to do the hard, sometimes dangerous trip.
Still others, of course, succumb to the seductive charms of cheap tequila, warm water, and the almost endless summer that Jimmy Buffett named Margaritaville. They end up spending years or even the rest of their lives cruising Baja, partially for the reasons Jimmy sang about, but in part out of fear or reluctance to face the conditions that Valis is now into.
Ocean sailing is hard.
Update, Monday 9:05 am:
Welcome home, Valis !