Happy to report that the Sundowner crew has made it safely home after our participation in the 2013 Harvest Moon Regatta.

It was a great experience for Dani and I.  It was our first time sailing “really” offshore and also our first overnight sail.  It taught us many things about boats at sea and gave us some good ideas of how sailing out across an ocean must be.  We’re very grateful for the opportunity that Todd Johnson gave us in allowing us to crew aboard his W32 Morning Sun.

After driving in late Wed evening we met some of the other crew and put the sails on the boom and rigged up the lines before taking a brief snooze.  We rose early the next day and headed out towards the starting line which was some distance away.   The forecast was wonderful and we anticipated a great race as we left Morning Sun’s home waters.

2013 Harvest Moon Regatta start line

Todd and Scott took over navigation duties aboard and got us started with the position plotting and plan of action.  Our course was west and south and the wind was predicted out of the north clocking around to the east which would give us a brilliant down wind run.
2013 Harvest Moon Regatta navigation

The start of the race was much like Dani and I are familiar with on Wed nights and we did pretty well.  We hit the start line within 15 seconds of the actual start and took off with the “blue” fleet.  One of the interesting things about this start was that it seemed to start the slower boats first.  So one of our first sights after getting going was a fleet of spinnaker boats coming up behind us.
2013 Harvest Moon Regatta spinnaker boats

It was sort of cool that this regatta caters to cruising boats.  You could tell.  The non-spin fleet started first and there were 111 boats in it, divided up into different divisions.  It was nice to be in an early start for once!

Early conditions were absolutely perfect.  A cold front had come through the area and the temperature must have been in the low seventies with a steady north wind.  We found that it was slow and nearly impossible for the W32 to go wing in wing because we lacked a jib pole.  So our tactic throughout the race became a series of gybes downwind about 30 degrees off the breeze.  Sail fast!
2013 Harvest Moon Regatta start line Tate and Dani

Most of the race we had the full main and full genoa up.  We also had the staysail up for a long time when the conditions allowed.  Only for a brief period did we drop the jib and ran along under reefed main and staysail.  The breeze at that point had freshened to sustained 30kts.
Rougher weather

Sunset. We had taken the staysail down.
Staysail was taken down

The night shift was interesting.  Todd broke us up into three person watches.  You’d go on, stand watch for three hours and then have three hours off.  This worked out really well.  One thing that surprised me was how well I was able to sleep during off watch.  It became sort of a joke because the rest of the crew had trouble waking me up.  Apparently someone actually stepped on me at one point and I didn’t budge.  Its somewhat questionable if they stepped on me on purpose or not, since you know, I probably deserved it.  πŸ˜‰

We all pretty much slept in the two pipe berths on the starboard side with leeclothes rigged.  I could only fit on the bottom berth on account of my size.

After my last watch of the night I slept until late in the morning and woke up to find that Dani had spent some real time at the tiller.  She is getting good at it.  We had a long conversation about helming the boat and she is getting the hang of steering through big waves.  Weather helm isn’t as scary and neither are the forces involved.  Here she was helming the boat in a steady five foot swell.
5 foot steady swell

Handling surfing down those waves is actually pretty fun.

The ocean is not a place we’ve spent much time.  I was so thankful that our first experience with this wave pattern was benign.  As the morning went on a few squalls came through and we got wet and donned the foul weather gear.  The wind kicked up but we had a reef in the main and carried on well.  At the worst of it I believe we saw some 8ft waves with a period of about five seconds.  It was not nearly as bad as I imagined.  You see we’re used to the chop of the lake where a wave hits you literally every second.    With a wave period of five seconds the motion is not nearly as bad, even if it is a bit rolly.  We all were taking scopolamine to fight off sea sickness and this leaves you feeling groggy.  I could imagine getting sea legs and not needing it.  It wouldn’t be too bad.

Notice Dani always takes photos of her shoes or toes.
Dani shoes next to waves

Todd and Teresa in the middle of one of the squalls.
Todd and Teresa helming the boat

Todd had to go below shortly after this photo.  Throughout the day/night he had to run the motor to charge his batteries.  At some point the motor started hunting and then died.  We had a crew meeting about the problem.  After a long talk over all the symptoms I was convinced it was a fuel problem and that the tanks were probably clogging at the pick ups.  Todd fiddled with filters and replaced them then bled the engine and we were finally able to get it to crank and charge the batteries again.  Todd was a real trooper down in the engine room in the middle of a sea way doing the work.

I helmed the boat for quite a long spell during the worst of the rains.  I felt it was excellent practice for the future.   I was concentrating hard in this photo trying to keep the motion of the boat steady for Todd while he worked.
Tate helming the boat

After the squalls the sun peeked out and we had a great afternoon on our way back in to the finish line.  We seemed to have wandered too far out past the rhumb line and took a long while to tuck into the jetties leading to the finish line, but we were riding high.  We had passed many boats that we knew owed us a lot of time on the way in.  The coup de grace was passing some of the spinnaker fleet.

It was interesting too because we passed a big ship anchorage.  I’d never seen a big tanker ship at anchor before, seemingly just sitting out in the middle of the ocean.  But there they were.
anchored barge

Once we made it into the jetties we tried the motor and thankfully it fired up and made it into the marina that we would be staying at.  The next day Todd had a mechanic diagnose the problem as a faulty check valve in a fuel bulb (I’ve never trusted those bulbs).  So that was great news since it wasn’t an expensive fix.  Dani and I stayed at a nice little joint called the Tarpon Inn.  We wandered around the town the next day and made our way to the awards party.  We didn’t quite know where it was and we didn’t have a car.  It was our first experience being “car-less” in a place that we didn’t know at all.  We managed pretty well.

In the parking lot of a store I saw a guy wearing a Regatta tee shirt and asked if he knew where the party was.  He looked at Dani and at me and said, “Hey, are you Tate and Dani?”  And we did the whole “Do we know you?” thing.  He had seen us on our blog!  Apparently we were high in the google results for the regatta.  So that was pretty neat to meet some random stranger that knew us.

The party was pretty good.  We met up with the Mantus anchor folks.   We had some good food.  Took a crew photo.  Below from left to right, Kay (our road crew), Richard of SailorGolf on youtube, Scott ( a man with many stories), Teresa (who generously gave us tee shirts), Todd, and the Sundowners.
Morning Sun Crew

The big moment came at the awards ceremony where we found out the results.  Todd can stand proud.  His boat took 3rd place in our division and out of the 111 cruising non spinnaker boats we were 14th overall!  Who says westsails are slow?  Not this guy.   According to our Spot tracking we were averaging 6.9kts over the entire course.  (It was fun as hell watching the GPS say we were going 8kts down waves!)
3rd place awards

Dani and I talked a lot about our trip on the way home.  About cruising dreams and what it takes to make it happen.  We both agree that getting involved in sailboat racing has been a fantastic idea.   It has taught us so much about sailing.  It has given us experience and some small expectations of things to come.  But most of all its let us make a great many wonderful friends.  Todd and Glenn have been infinitely valuable to us letting us race on Quest and Morning Sun.   I would heartily suggest any of you other refitters that follow our blog get involved if you can.  Its been a truly rewarding experience.   Working on our boat and saving dough as become our life for these past few years, but the bright spot in our days are when we get to hoist sails and race with like minded people.

PS. here is some video we shot of the whole thing.