Article

 November 15, 2016   Joe Cline

The following article, written by Rhys Balmer, was published in the September 2016 issue of 48° North.

This is the story of two PNW sailor dudes who raced to Hawaii double-handed on a 24’ boat. Oh yeah, and we were on what would have to be considered half of a shoestring budget.

Fast forward to the middle of the Pacific Ocean. We have broken our spinnaker pole, boom vang, spinnaker halyard and sheave, topping lift bridle, backstay block, and one of the two only winches onboard just blew up. All the while, the crazy little yacht screams on. White water hisses by my ear as I try to sleep, wedged between the water bladders and the life raft, in wet underwear, on a wet sleeping bag, being dripped on by one of the million leaks that weren’t there before.

It’s not really racing anymore when, if given the opportunity, you would spend your precious PHRF points for some dry skivvies, a combo plate of Zippies, or just for your shipmate to stop talking about all the animals he is seeing in the clouds.

moore-surfing

The crazy little yacht screams on!

With all that breakage, it’s hard to believe we spent innumerable hours refitting the boat! It makes a person wonder what might have happened if we hadn’t done all that work.

It was with a healthy disregard for our lives and bodily comfort, and the irresponsible opportunities made possible with a credit card, we began the refit of my 1982 Moore 24 Evermoore. We had one of the hairiest schemes: racing to Hawaii in this year’s Pacific Cup. We went about haggling with chandleries, scrounging unlocked boatyards (just kidding), marina dumpsters (not kidding), and coercing our downsizing fellow boaters into opening their dock boxes and sharing their hidden wealth – scraps of G-10 for backing plates, old blocks, the self-tailing winches off Martin’s dad’s boat, an old solar panel, a water bladder, and the list goes on. We were the underdog contingent, the Jamaican bobsled team, the Spud Webbs, the Erin Brokaviches, the Oliver Twists, Cinderellas, Davids up against the Goliaths of this wonderful world of offshore “yacht” racing. And, we knew it. Our competitors dinghies are worth more than our boat. They probably have real jobs and other “hobbies” and girlfriends and… I digress.

We wouldn’t have had it any other way. We’ve committed our lives to teaching sailing and fixing boats. It may not be lucrative, but we thrive on our roles sharing sailing with others.

We Evermoore boys make up for the lack of full shoestrings with our experience working on boats, or at least we try. I come from a little backwater area of Portland, was “home” schooled on a sailboat, and have worked on boats professionally since that Hollywood Video manager didn’t give me the first job I applied for because my hair was too long. I met my shipmate, Martin Gibson, at the Willamette Sailing Club, where I was working at the time (though I’d just been demoted from instructor to cook for taking time off to go sailing). He’d been around boats since he was a barnacle as well, and has taught US Sailing dinghy programs and worked in fiberglass repair shops, and everything in between. Martin is also the grinning-est, barefoot-est, hardest-to-please five foot cup of gung-ho jibe turkey I know, and apparently (fortunately) no one in his life loved him enough to stop him from sailing to Hawaii with Evermoore and me.

martin

Martin is the grinning-est, barefoot-est, hardest-to-please cup of gung-ho jibe turkey I know.

The skills we possessed, paired with the priceless naïvety of the first dodo to gogo and commitment of the bravest lemming, weren’t enough to get us riding the waves next to the big boys. The sailing communities we come from perpetually inspire us, filling our sails and fueling our wake. From those that lent a rivet gun when our gooseneck fell off, to those who just give a dock walking high-five or spare beer – you all represent the same helpful spirit that binds the sailing communities of this world.

Our trip to Hawaii had three distinct parts in my mind. First was the push for distance, tempered by the exhaustion that comes with trying to get into the watch schedule of four-on and four-off. Of course, you never really get four hours of sleep, thanks to the persistent drips and the abdominal workout retching from seasickness provides.

As the trip wore on, the second chunk of my experience was defined by the realization that, despite going faster for longer than we had ever gone, we were still nowhere near our goal. This feeling was compounded with the knowledge that the more things broke, the longer it is going to take. When we heard our friends on the well appointed Express 27, Alternate Reality, lost their mast, it really drove home this sobering reality.

spinnaker

There is a lot… A LOT of awesome downwind sailing between here and Hawaii!

This brings me to the main concern of the last third of the adventure: how much longer do we have to eat dehydrated beef stroganoff? You know the food is bad when the emergency rations of cup o noodles start looking better than the primary dehydrated diet. We both love (LOVE!) sailing, but for the last third of the trip, we were so ready to be off the boat that we were willing to push the boat harder and risk more just to get off sooner.

Let me put this simply: Yes we broke some stuff, but my boat is incredible (it’s probably to be expected with a 34 year old boat). The Moore 24 was one of George Olson’s early designs…sort of. The story goes that the original design didn’t perform how Georgie wanted so he went back to the drawing board to come up with the Olson 30. The 24’ mold was saved from extinction by another sailing, surfing, full-time acetone-huffing, grass smoking architect of wet and wild mayhem, Ron Moore. He widened Olson’s mold with a fateful two-by-four, and somewhere in this scientific process (that ended up with one side being wider than the other) the mighty Moore 24 was born. Despite being symmetrically challenged, it was FAST!

evermoore-dock

The Moore 24 may look small among the big ocean yachts, but she’s no less respected.

Moore sailors are a different breed. Where some go though a 24’ boat phase before growing up and into larger boats, Moore sailors are addicted for life. It’s not hard to see why. From the first puff or wave you catch, the bow that looks like a cross between a 1970s Tollycraft and a stand-up paddleboard will throw water and you realize that you are suddenly going twice as fast as you’re supposed to be able to go on that little waterline. It’s enough to hook anybody.

It sure hooked me. I sold all my worldly possessions to get back on that plane, and signed up to do it day-in and day-out across the Pacific. I didn’t even care if I had enough left over for the ticket back on the other kind of plane (I’m not still in Hawaii, if you’re wondering, I got a delivery gig back).

As awesome as the Moore 24 is, readying any boat, especially a small one, for an ocean crossing is hardly as simple as bopping the pelagic field mice on the head. Doing it on the cheap meant doing the work ourselves, whether it was the endless grinding of fiberglass or figuring out how to acquire thousands of dollars of safety equipment. I even got a job at a sail loft and moved to Seattle to learn how to make my own sails. Martin quit his job so he could get back to work on the bulkhead!

mesewing3-3

One part of my shoestring approach involved building my own sails. I worked in a local loft and learned from more experience sailmakers.

Back in the ocean… When you are sailing to Hawaii, it feels like you are going somewhere no one has ever been before, like you’re on some great watery frontier. It is closer to a rite of passage. Racing ‘round the clock always feels like another world. But the range of emotions on this trip was remarkable. Sometimes, we felt so confident and sublime. We posted along the way, “The night is long and full of terrors…well, not last night. We’ve had some of the absolute best sailing in the world under the full moon!”

At other times, things were hardly as pleasant. A little later on, I logged, “Imagine waking up in a wet sleeping bag to the sound of the stern wave hissing through the 1/8” thick hull as the boat comes off a wave at over 15 knots. Your shipmate “taps out” on the drum of the cockpit overhead. You leave the comfort of your wet sleeping bag for your wet foulweather gear and go on deck to take the helm. You’re not quite awake, but you’re already far away from the mermaid you left in your dream. You stare bleary eyed at the tiny over-bright compass as phosphorescent bow waves stream past you as you begin another four hours alone on deck. It hardly seems humane, but tell that to the flying fish bouncing off our bow like bugs on a windshield.”

After what was a rarely lucid, seemingly psychedelic trip, I got to call “land ho” from my own boat, and we made landfall in Kaneohe Bay in just over 11 days. It is a real-life tropical paradise. Our moms were there and we were alive…maybe. Our land legs grew back slowly in between naps and Mai Tais. I took pictures of every meal and thanked Neptune that all that freeze dried beef Stroganoff was behind me.

finished

Martin and I enjoyed a Mai Tai after completing the trip to Hawaii in 11 days.

I blink my eyes and 15 days later I step off of a delivery sailing back to the mainland on a boat that, unlike mine, is too big to go into a shipping container. I write this as I wait for Evermoore to finish her sail back on the big ship.

With a bit of hindsight, would I recommend it? Hell yes! Rock what you got and do it. I did it on the cheapest, fastest boat I could find and can say it was truly life changing. I’m sure one could find cheaper, better, wetter ways to humble, inspire, and degrade yourself, but I haven’t found it.

Nothing can prepare you for the amount of work involved. You may not decide to make your own sails, or do it on an old boat never meant to leave sight of land, or do it double-handed like Martin and me. Regardless, be prepared for it to totally eclipse your life for a year at least.

I would also recommend that if you have friends, take them with you and make them help. With that much concentrated time together, Martin and I were happy to “split tacks” for a while once we got ashore. One thing is for sure though; whether your crew is big or little, you will need a lot of help. Having that help come from someone you genuinely enjoy and can depend on is indispensable.

Whether your next goal is your first overnight sail or sailing around the world, I encourage you to do it. Clip in, don your waterwings, and help each other out.

As I try to get back to normal, I’m thankful. I’m thankful to Evermoore for the imperfect but safe passage, to Martin for being my other hand, and to what I’m sure is the best village of helpers any boat or captain could ask for.

Pac Cup is a race, too! Big ups to the boys on Mas! – the other Moore 24 in the race and the overall winners on corrected time. We are as happy as could be with a second behind those guys!

Captain Rhys Balmer is a sailing instructor, sailmaker, and delivery captain. He’s based in Seattle… or Portland… or wherever else the wind blows. Check out the Evermoore Racing Development page on Facebook for some video of the trip!