With an April 1st, 2016, start for the Bicycle Across America, 3000 miles in 30 days with only 3 day’s rest, for the Foundation for Physical Therapy, I thought an early test of my current riding skills would be in order. And so the MS 150 to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis organization seemed like a good challenge. Actually, don’t believe the 150 as it was 166 miles over two days.
I rode solo most of the way as the groups of riders drafting one another were going too fast for this ex Ironman, but I finished in a good time. I did not take all the stops, but when I did, I did so briefly. At 78 I was most probably one of the three oldest in the event.
On the first day I became dehydrated and very light headed and decided not to make that mistake again and so I hydrated every hour after the second hour. On the second day, I crashed when my front wheel hit sand and left me with a skinned elbow and a hematoma on my right hip. My bike needed a little therapy and before long I was on my way again. All in all it was great fun.
Now off to New Zealand where I shall train three days a week in the mountain airs. I will pause to enjoy the fabulous scenery and to check on the local wine production. Retirement is a tough challenge!
I have been very quiet on social media as of late given a number of uncertainties – some of which are still up in the air, but the following I can share.
Catherine Patla (my wife) has completed all but 126.8 miles on the Appalachian Trail stretching 2,189.2 miles from Georgia to Maine. This summer I accompanied her through New Jersey, New York, Vermont and into New Hampshire. Many were her challenges. For me, I just dropped her off each morning and met her at the end of the day wherever I could – often hiking in to meet her. She had to camp out overnight on several occasions but I managed to get our compact RV into some pretty challenging situations offering a shower and a good nights rest. Catherine has been at the trail on and off for the past thirty years making her a section hiker as opposed to those who do it on one season and are known as thru-hikers. All have “trail names” and hers is “B Rock” for if she sees a rock of a suitable height she rests her butt on the rock. Sustaining a patella injury she decided to do the last few miles next year commenting, “the mountains will still be there.”
Now for me, there are three events on the horizon. The first event is to bicycle across America, 3,000 miles in 30 days plus rest days. I am organizing this event to raise funds for the Foundation for Physical Therapy and my next blog will focus on this ride. The ride will be following the well established Southern Tier Route. For now I am interested in inspiring a small band of dedicated riders to join me and attempt the entire 3,000 miles averaging 100 miles a day to raise money for research and scholarship. If interested in cycling the entire way, email me at email@example.com.
The second event is a little private in that a group of us are planning to motorcycle from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Key West, Florida, a distance of some 5,300 miles, in 7 days. I have twice motorcycled across America from coast to coast, some 2,380 miles in less than fifty hours each time – so it’s doable. The start date is July, 2016.
The third event is not yet decided and it’s a third attempt to solo circumnavigate, to be the oldest to do a non-stop voyage and to do it green. The last two attempts failed when on one voyage the deck fittings failed and on the last attempt the mainsail tore in half. So I am looking at a new boat and will be in Europe in January to see a sister ship in build. If I like it I will order it with some serous modifications based on all my team and I have learned from these past two failed attempts. If I do try again I will be 80 years old and will of course seek to raise money for the Foundation – last time having raised more than $125,000 for this good cause. My decision date for this event is February next year.
After an uneventful (relatively speaking) 37 day voyage from Cape Town, South Africa, Kiwi Spirit is once again docked at my home in St. Augustine. The crew consisted of Steve Pettengill, Mike Dolan and Kim Whitaker. They had one refueling stop in St. Thomas and also carried an extra fuel bladder which came in handy as many of the miles were windless. There were the usual manageable problems encountered by a cruiser on a long voyage – radar completely failed, the A2 (spinnaker) tore into three pieces and the starboard rudder once again gave cause for alarm as it worked loose and caused considerable “juddering” of the boat – but this they fixed while underway. But the toilet worked as did the refrigerators and freezer – so yes – relatively uneventful I say with tongue in cheek.
Steve made note of the vast amounts of kelp (sea weed) that he encountered along the way. At one stretch they were in it for 1,600 miles often having to stop and back down to clear the weed from the keel and rudder. With an engine this is quite simple – just lower and furl the sails, turn on the engine and go backwards for a few yards until it all floats free. But under sail and not able to use an engine I had on occasion to head up directly into the wind in order to literally stall the boat (in irons), and in fact sail backwards to clear the weed – not an easy trick. Fortunately for me while I saw a great deal of Sargasso weed and had minor fowling of rudders and hydro generators (you might recall I replaced three sets of hydro generator blades) I saw very little kelp until Cape Town was within sight and I was, having abandoned the effort, able to use the motor and so could easily back down. It was not all kelp, accordingly to Steve, they also were fouled with plastics, wood, netting and other flotsam and jetsam. It’s more than just a little sad to see what is floating in our oceans.
Kiwi will now go to Maine to be completed and offered for sale. I look forward to seeing her in this state as we purposely to save weight did not finish her interior for my two solo attempts. Two toilets will be added as well as several air conditioning units – such a luxury. A larger hot water tank and many other final touches will be made. She is a powerful boat and will when completed be a fast family cruiser as has been the plan. I will envy whoever buys her. In the meantime I am looking at a somewhat smaller boat and will be speaking to Lyman Morse and others about her design and production. Stay tuned. If I am to try again, it will be in November 2017 – at age 80! In the meantime I will be boat-less.
As Promised – Response to some Blogs and Facebook Comments
I wish to begin by saying how amazed I am at the number who followed my effort and who gained inspiration from it. Thank you. Here are some comments that I thought would be helpful to respond to.
“Not carry an extra sail”
“Are you kidding me – no spare main?”
We did have a spare but after team talk we decided that it would be nigh near impossible for one person to launch the sail given its weight etc. Also it is extra weight to carry and all thought that a new sail was a better option. Hindsight – I should have carried the old sail and practiced changing it out.
“Get it repaired and sail on from Cape Town – Chichester (first person to solo) had one stop on his solo”
“Restart in Cape Town and finish up there”
Certainly I considered a restart which would have meant heading east again under Australia, New Zealand and South America, then up to and around Bermuda thence back down to finish in Cape Town. Sounds logical but does not appeal to my emotional heart strings which was to start and finish in St. Augustine where I live and to proceed by way of Bermuda where I lived for some four years and from where Dodge Morgan, a hero of mine, began and thus to challenge his record which I could not have done re-starting from Cape Town. South Africa is a great place but I have no attachments to it.
“This illustrates why sailing such a huge boat is a mistake”
“That he can obviously handle such a large boat is a given”
Yes the boat was large (large is faster) and given my age, any future boat will be smaller. But I was able to manage it albeit with difficulty at times. I did after all finish first in two races, one of which was single handed, and double handed I finished 14th out of 72 boats so the boat was manageable by one person. However a smaller boat may be more manageable. The Owners Brief I am working on is for a 56 – 58 foot vessel. Kiwi Spirit it 64 feet and with the bowsprit out some 70 feet and that is big!
“Leading edge innovations gives me the willies”
True. If there is to be a next time I shall opt for second generation tried and true. For instance I would have in-mast furling on the main rather than slab reefing and hydraulics furlers on the head sails. These I have had before and they worked well for me on my Farr 60.
“Why bother with going green – surely an unnecessary distraction”
Actually it’s fun to try to go green. It does take some attention such as monitoring the batteries and caring for the equipment but at sea there is most of the time, plenty of time. When matters get busy the green can be ignored until all is under control. So I would again try to go green. However, I would use less solar as it takes up space and produces the least power. I would still have two wind generators but with them starting to produce power at different wind speeds, and maybe only three instead of four hydro generators.
“So what do you want to accomplish really? Win the race or just succeed?”
Succeed is the simple answer. But to be faster than those who have soloed would be good, to be the oldest to have soloed would be better and to be green would be a fringe benefit but significant to me and many who believe that every little bit helps to preserve this planet.
“Of course you should try again – there is no alternative.”
“I say third time is a charm”
“Survive to sail another day – accepting the challenge is the real win”
Oh yes there is an alternative to trying again! But if I do try it will be because I want to – not to prove anything or close out on unfinished business. It’s still less than a month since I ended the attempt yet it seems like years and I miss the challenge. I busy myself now between my wife’s honey to do list and working on a draft Owners Brief for the present or the next boat.
Three Closing Comments:
Could I have continued? Know that had I been around the tip of South America and heading north I would not have quit with just the sail problem. I had head sails that could have been adapted to replace the main, though not designed to be efficient for that purpose. I might have held the tear together as I did once before on a smaller tear with the sail rolled up a little and then held with vice grips holding the roll together. But I still had the Southern Ocean to contend with and possibly nine Gales and one Storm it would have been very difficult and slow.
Thanks to my Team. I wish to thank all at Farr Yacht Design and at Lyman Morse boat builders for their professionalism and continuing support throughout the voyage. Each did their best in design and build. That I would do it differently is true but that is more due to my age and now the experience I have gained in what works best for me. So a big thanks to all and much appreciation. No one let me down. I selected the team and was responsible for all decisions made and not made.
Finally, blogs now will be less frequent and maybe less than a month and perhaps only quarterly as events transpire. Notice will be sent via Facebook. Thanks again for you interest.
Stanley V. Paris, PT, PhD, FAPTA
University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Two issues have been brought to my attention that I would like to respond to. The first is why I took so long to publish the pictures of the sails and to comment on them, and the second is the visual state of the boat. When I arrived in Cape Town it was on New Year’s Eve and typical of the nations in the southern hemisphere, principally New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, since it is their summer they combine the festive season with a long vacation – most businesses are shut down. So the principals of the loft at North Sails in Cape Town were not immediately available and did not open until Monday, the 5th to get their first look at the sail and get that information to North Sails in the United States. It was on Wednesday the 7th that North Sails communicated with me. Their communication was timely and frank in that they said they still did not understand what happened. It was a unique occurrence. For me to have posted pictures and speculated on what was the cause of the total separation of the sail would have been speculative and unfair. The sail has now been repaired and a crew of three leave this Friday to begin the delivery back to St. Augustine.
The second item concerns a posted comment on a Blog that said “Went down to the waterfront in Cape Town to have a look at Kiwi Spirit. Absolutely amazed at the state of the boat. Deck and cockpit in a complete state of chaos. Nobody about. Literally looks abandoned. Very sad to see such an amazing boat in this condition. Sheets, winch handles and running rigging just left lying everywhere.” If you read this then let it be known that it is totally incorrect. Before leaving the boat in the capable hands of Mike Giles, a professional sailor and well recognized manager of boats such as mine, and has been very helpful now on two occasions, we removed winch handles etc. and tidied up generally. What the person making the comment should be aware of is that Mike and his helpers needed to repair a hole in the deck from where a turning block was pulled out and also needed to raise the rudder as well as complete many other minor jobs to ready the boat. Winch handles and other gear are just not left lying around in a country of have and have not’s as such items have a habit of disappearing. So the boat was being worked on and boats being worked on are messy at times.
Soon I shall review many of the comments to my blogs and others on Facebook and pick from the many hundreds to make a Blog of some of the ones that appeal most to me.
On my ill-fated return from the first attempt I said I would take three months to make up my mind. I had my wife Catherine’s support as indeed I have it again. I am so fortunate. But I promised and I wish to help her this year finish her Appalachian Trail hike from Georgia to Maine and with any luck she will complete between June and August. I drop her off from the small motor home we have each morning with one of our two dogs. She hikes 8 to 15 miles depending on terrain. I sometimes see her along the way if there is a cross road over the trail but mostly I get to the end point for the day and with our other dog I hike in to meet her. We camp in or by the motor home and repeat the next day. It’s a great joy for both of us and it’s something Catherine wants to have finished. So this year is hers.
Next year (August 2016) I plan with my oldest son Alan, and now maybe with some friends as well to motorcycle from Prudhoe Bay Alaska to Key West Florida a distance of 5,477 miles which we just might do in under a week. Then in summer 2017 a group of us are thinking of cycling across America to raise money for the Foundation for Physical Therapy. So it would not be till November of 2018 that I would be able to try the solo again. I will be 80 years of age at that time and much will depend on my health and on what changes I make to Kiwi Spirit or if I in fact exercise the option of building a newer and somewhat smaller boat – say 56-58 feet rather than the 64 feet of the present Kiwi Spirit. I shall wait two years before making up my mind but later this year I will beginning working on an Owners Brief for the new boat so as to put together all I have learned and to test the viability of my ideas. A pity to waste the experience. But if my excellent health sustains then there is every possibility of another attempt.
I suspect I shall update this page every few months. However I will soon access many of the communications that were sent while I was at sea and on my return and reply to many of them in these pages. I thank everyone for their support and concerns. I keep being surprised at just how many people followed my adventure. Best wishes for now. Stanley Paris.
I abandoned the solo circumnavigation attempt for the second time because of the mainsail failure. All else was going well, no impediments to further progress, to best of my knowledge. However there was a real problem developing that would also have ended the voyage – read on.
“Just as well you stopped in Cape Town” was the opinion of Mike Giles who is managing the boat repairs and getting her ready for delivery back to the US, after he observed at the dock that the starboard rudder had dropped a couple of inches.. Here is more of what Mike had to say when I asked if I would soon have noticed the problem and what would be the best and worst scenario. . “
“In all likelihood, unless you had a reference on the quadrant height, it would have been hard to pick up. When I saw it had fallen, the fix included removing the life raft, opening up the locker, removing the cover plate. Then attaching a lashing and connecting it to the main halyard through a “guide bridal” to get the angle correct. You would have been able to do that at sea i guess, but would have required the main halyard for the task. …….
The above is best case. If it went any further, the rudder would more than likely dislodged from the top bearing and would thus have no support, so you would have had a rudder floating around, probably causing damage and left with a gaping hole. The tie bar and quadrant would have been damaged.
You would have had to disconnected the tie bar, connect up the port wheel and continue. If any structural damage, that would have definitely be the end of your trip. Fixing holes under the hull would not have been easy.
Worst case a long limp back to land with a hole in the boat. Your safety would have been the water tight trap door behind the aft birth. So there was a design for the worst case… Like I mentioned earlier, lucky you ended up in Cape Town. I think you had some lucky stars looking out for you.” Mike Giles
So I suspect regardless of the sail issue the trip would have had to be abandoned at some later point and with the boat in a much more dangerous condition – life threatening hull damage leading to a possible sinking though it was in a water tight bulkhead. Ironic to state that “…I think you had some lucky stars looking out for you.”
First the sails. Photo #1 shows the mainsail tear within minutes of my first seeing it. I had just finished a moderate air downwind and well controlled gibe with the traveler and boom centered. Something within my eye did not look right and so I looked up and saw the unbelievable tear. I looked away hoping it was a mistake and that I had not seen it at all. I looked back and it was still there. Immediately I knew it was over and sank to my knees resting my hands and head on a winch and try to cry for relief. No tears came and I was forced to accept the reality.
Photo #2 shows the sail a few minutes later when the separation became greater as most likely the luff and leach lines were coming out of the head area. I kept the sail up and used it along with a moderate sized staysail to balance and head for Cape Town. With a gale coming up the day before arrival “winds 30 to 40 knots with gusts to 50” I brought the sail down and tied it to the boom where it remained till Cape Town.
Photo #3 shows the tear once we had the sail down and on the dock. Later it was laid out in the loft for inspection and repair.
The sail is a North Sails 3di, state of the art. The tear is like nothing they have seen before. North will repair the sail without charge and that really is all I can expect. So far they have said “We’ve looked at the sail from every angle trying to find a defect and determine the cause of failure. So far, nothing has been found to raise a red flag.” Once the sail is placed back on the yacht they will look again but do not expect to find anything. My delivery crew (Steve Pettengill plus two others) will use it to sail back and are encouraged to test it especially on the first reef which I had it on when the failure occurred. They are also carrying the “old” tried and true main just in case the repair fails. With three on board they can change the sail though it would have been unlikely that I could have done it alone. They will also have the engine and will carry extra fuel in a bladder.
Next Blog tomorrow is about the rudder which was an issue, and the next Blog the following day will be on whether or not I shall try again.
With torn sail furled on the boom, Kiwi Spirit enters the Inner Harbour in Cape Town where later in January, she will be sailed by a delivery crew back to the United States.
Once again my attempt to complete a solo circumnavigation has come to an end. On Xmas Eve the top quarter of the mail sail separated along a seam from the rest of the sail. This is not repairable by me at sea and given the gales I can expect before I round the tip of South Africa it is once again not advisable to continue. This is of course is a big disappointment to me and too many who have wished me well. But that is life. I have never let difficulties get in my way of trying something worthwhile. I am always aware that failure can occur but I have never let the fear of failure deter or prevent me from trying. To do so would be to accept mediocrity and that I will never do.
To all who wished me well, family, friends, colleagues and school children I am sorry to disappoint you yet once again and wish you all well in following your dreams.
Now I head for Cape Town, South Africa where once again repairs will be undertaken and later a crew will bring Kiwi Spirit, such a wonderful boat, back to the United States.
I am 680 miles from Cape Town and expect to be there in about five days going quite slow to conserve a limited fuel supply.
Kindest regards and best wishes for the holiday season.