First of all, I would like to thank you personally for everything that you have contributed to make the worlds first human powered journey from Canada to Hawaii a possibility. There is no way I would be as close to making this happen without your support and I want you to know that I am deeply appreciative. I am passionate about inspiring the world to start thinking about human power as fun, healthy and a viable way to travel – in fact – I believe that it is the way we need to LIVE! I am also hoping to demonstrate that we can really accomplish amazing things when we step up to the plate and just go for them. Believe you can do it – because you can! As Goethe says: “What you can do, or believe you can do begin it. For boldness has genius, power and magic in it”.
Unfortunately, I don’t think there will be any genius, power or magic this summer, as recent difficulties during my two primary sea trial expeditions in Ucluelet and on Okanagan lake uncovered some design issues with WiTHiN that require time, effort and testing to resolve. For weather and support boat related issues, our departure window is the first week of July, and I just don’t have enough time to resolve these issues and conduct adequate tests in the 6 weeks that remain between now and my departure window of July 1st. Ken has taken a job doing hardwood floors, so he is unable to work, and I am afraid that I don’t have the skills and ability to complete the required modifications myself in such a short period of time.
Fortunately, Clive and the escort yacht Theodora are available to accompany me to Hawaii next summer. I guess I need to sit down with Helen and my family and ask them if they can stand another year of this. I’m not sure I can take another year honestly. I was so ready to get it done this summer. However, I really believe in the awe-inspiring human powered capability of what we have created. WiTHiN is really quite an incredible machine! I am so proud of what we have built and I think that not doing something amazing with it would be a shame – and a waste of so much time, money and good will on the part of so many others who share this dream with me.
I don’t want to let you down. And more importantly, I don’t want to let myself down. However, I also don’t want to die, and crossing an ocean in a small boat is serious business. After a furry of emails between myself, WiTHiN’s designer Rick Willoughby, Clive, Helen and other trusted advisers in an attempt to sort out some of the problem areas that need to be addressed, I uncovered an additional issue that hasn’t been obvious to me. I need more experience on the ocean. A few trips offshore lasting for a few hours (not days), a 4 day inland trip with Bryon, and a 4 day journey on Okanagan lake (even though I did endure a storm) just isn’t nearly enough time.
Below is my Okanagan lake trials trip report, and following that is a list of 5 problem areas that need to be resolved before a safe ocean crossing can be attempted. As always, I welcome your thoughts, suggestions, opinions or comments.
Okanagan lake trials report:
Ken and I left Calgary by 8:00 am on Sunday morning. We had packed WiTHiN onto the trailer the day before, and most of the gear was packed in the suburban to make her a bit lighter on the trailer. In my enthusiasm to resolve some of my control issues, I had forgotten to allow for a bit of bounce on the trailer when measuring the maximum depth we could make the new rudder. This was limited by the tongue on the trailer. So – of course, I made the rudder the full depth, from the tongue all the way up to the stern as the boat sat on the bunks without thinking. When we loaded her on, we realized that the new rudder was actually rubbing on the trailer tongue which was not good because the force from any small bump would be transferred up to the rudder tube and the stern. So, WiTHiN was shuffled back on the bunks by 18″ and the new rudder protruded down between the “Y” in the trailer frame. This set the balance aft on the trailer, but didn’t seem to be an issue during the 9 hour drive.
We got into Penticton by late afternoon and drove directly to the yacht club and launched WiTHiN into Okanagan lake. The launch was the easiest to date. The ramp is steep enough that we didn’t need to add the 12 foot tongue extender to the trailer which typically takes quite a bit of additional work. Off loading was as easy as removing the ratchet straps and backing the trailer down the ramp where she just floated off and was tied to the dock.
After loading all of the supplies on, I went for a quick spin to see how our modifications effected a couple of problem areas that learned about after the Ucluelet sea trials. On my last day offshore in Ucluelet, I was hit by 20 knot winds in 10 to 15 foot swells and was heeled over into my side at an angle of about 45 degrees. The wind was pressing against WiTHiN’s slab sides and causing her to stay in a broach orientation to the wind at a very extreme heel angle. I was unable to power or steer out of this position and was lucky to be blown into the entrance of the inlet rather than the rocky shore. When drifting, WiTHiN is supposed to automatically turn such that the bow points down wind. This is the safest orientation in either a head, tail or side wind situation and would always allow me control with the pedals and rudder. In the broached position, the rudder is at such a high angle, that is isn’t effective.
After we had returned back to Calgary from the Ucluelet adventure, Rick thought that a larger, heavier rudder, and ballast shifting to the stern would move the center of lateral resistance aft which would allow the bow to swing to point downwind. He also calculated that a larger rudder would give me the control I needed to get out of any orientation that I didn’t want to be in. The third change we made was to add a second, 40 lb marine battery, and to mount both batteries on a sliding rail system with a car seat motor rack and pinion track to allow me to move the 80 lbs of ballast from right to left with the flick of a spring switch on my arm rest. Rick had calculated that a 45 degree heel angle could be offset with 100 lbs of weight shifted to the windward side. To test his ideas, I made a scale model of WiTHiN and did some tests in the bath tub which seemed to work.
The first thing Ken did when we got WITHiN into the water, was sit in the cockpit seat and activate the battery ballast mover. We watched WiTHiN heel about 7 degrees from one side to the other as she sat stationary next to the dock. As I pedaled WiTHiN out past the break water at the Penticton Yacht Club, I was at first very happy with the new rudder. Boy, this baby had authority. Ken and I nick-named it “the Boss” and it was earning it’s nickname. I found that I could use the rudder to rock WiTHiN 45 degrees from one side to the other like a pendulum. The winds were light and I was happy to notice that when allowed to drift, she would cock downwind, so our recent mods looked good so far.
One of the reasons for this tour up and down Okanagan lake was to spend some training time in WiTHiN and get accustomed to living on board – which includes cooking, and sleeping. So, I slept in the cabin of WiTHiN docked at the Penticton Yacht club on Sunday night (May 2nd) in order to get an early start the next morning. Before going to sleep, I called Helen and she looked up the weather forecast for the next day. I was a bit startled to learn about a severe weather alert with winds predicted to be 50 km / hr and gusts up to 90 km / hr. I figured that this would be a good test, so I was sort of looking forward to it.
I woke up at 4:30 am on May 3rd and I was pedaling WiTHiN out of the Penticton Yacht club by 5:00 am in the dark. According to historical weather data from Weatherunderground.com, wind at the time was 18 knots from the south with gusts of 24 knots (all weather data in this report is from Weatherunderground.com). Since Penticton is at the far south end of Okanagan lake, there is not enough distance for significant waves to develop with a south wind, so the water was a bit choppy, but relatively calm. I had the wind at my back and was averaging about 3.8 knots.
By 6:00 am, the following waves were starting to grow to maybe 2 feet. Winds were 21 knots with gusts of 28 knots from the south. I measured a maximum wind of 17 knots with my anemometer, and so far, so good. I stopped to drift and make some breakfast and a coffee and noticed right away that WiTHiN immediately turned abeam the wind and stayed there. This is not good, as our modifications were supposed to keep her bow pointed downwind when drifting. In the light winds and calm water of the previous evening, she was turning downwind, but in this moderate breeze with waves, she was behaving exactly like she did in Ucluelet. While drifting abeam to the wind, WiTHiN heeled over, so I was able to use the battery ballast mover to trim the heel out which worked quite well. In fact, as I moved on, I used the battery ballast mover constantly to adjust for my angle to the wind and to level the ride.
By 7:43 am I was abeam the town of Summerland and winds were 24 knots with gusts of 37 knots, but I measured winds of 10 knots with my anemometer at the time. Waves were bigger and WiTHiN was starting to roll back and fourth from one side to the other in the tail wind. I decided to conduct some drift tests. I deployed my drogue off the stern and observed that my bow turned to point downwind which was good. Drifting speed without the drogue and WiTHiN abeam the wind was .8 knots. Drifting speed with the drogue deployed and with the bow pointed downwind was .5 knots. Pedaling straight into the wind was 3.2 knots. Pedaling straight downwind was 3.8 knots.
At 9:00 am the weather calmed a bit and I thought the morning severe weather alert was over (an afternoon wind alert was still in effect). A police boat pulled up on me and asked if I was OK. Eventually, someone called the police reporting a boater in distress. I told the police that I had not seen another boat on the water that day, and that I was fine. I had been stopping often, standing up and holding my wind gauge up in the air, so someone from one of the near-by homes could have mistaken that for a signal that I was in distress.
At 10:25 am I was approaching the first major turn in the lake near Okanagan Mountain park and the weather was really building. 15 knot winds with 27 knot gusts from South West. I was noticing excessive rolling from one side to the other even with the wind directed onto my stern. I would estimate 45 degrees from one side to the other, non stop for hours. The relentless rolling action was getting kind of annoying.
At 12:00 noon, I had turned the corner and was in the middle of the lake across from the town of Trepanier. Winds were 19 knots with gusts of 28 knots from SW. The waves were getting large, as by now I was a far distance north up the lake and they had time to build – I estimate 3 to 4 feet and breaking everywhere (whitecaps visible all over the lake). My new larger rudder enabled me to power out of any orientation – which is good. I found the larger rudder very effective and I always felt like I could control the boat. I was using the battery ballast mover and had the boat trimmed to heel a bit to the port side so that when a wind gust hit me, it would reduce the roll to starboard. WiTHiN rolls quite excessively when hit with the wind gusts. I was using the battery ballast mover constantly and the gusts were changing direction a bit. The wind gusts were blowing streaks of what looked like a blast of white fog across the surface of the water (wind blowing the tops off the waves). My bow was digging into the wave in front of me with the water level rising all the way up to the front triangle in front of my front window. I found this very alarming. That’s a good 10 feet of my boat buried into the lake! I was hit on the port side a few times with breaking waves which would slam against portlights and send spray in through the open pilot hatch. I wasn’t certain that some spray didn’t splash in through the closed portlight windows. The force of the breaking waves was very strong, and the resulting roll was excessive – probably 50 degrees and was back and fourth from one side to the other constantly. When a roll to starboard coincided with a wind gust, the degree of roll would be exaggerated.
I was feeling very uncomfortable at this point. I imagined having to stand up through the pilot hatch to deploy a sea anchor or drogue and I could imagine being either thrown out into the water, or tipping so far that water would flood in through the open pilot hatch and flood the cockpit. I don’t think it would be possible to stand up in weather like this.
I also felt the same way about standing up in Ucluelet in light wind and moderate 10 foot swells before the pre-gale knockdown. At that time, there was a bit of white showing on the tips of some of the waves and the wind was probably around 10 knots. I do not think I could have stood up without risking being tipped out or flooding, so getting a drogue ready at this early stage (prior to the forecasted gale) would not have been possible.
My electric battery ballast mover was very effective in reducing the dramatic roll from the wind gusts. I was constantly making adjustments to it and realized how much I was relying on it to reduce excessive heeling. I tried to imagine what it would be like if my battery went dead, or the electric ballast mover motor died. It would have been impossible to turn around, open the seat back compartment, and start to remove the motor with a screw driver to take manual control of the ballast mover in weather similar to this. And, to have the ballast position in the wrong direction, while drifting and broaching could be really scary.
At this point, I was also imagining what it would be like to have to live in these condition for hours – maybe even a day or two. Getting back into the sleeping cabin would have been horrible – especially since I would not be pedaling to keep the bow pointed either up or down wind. WiTHiN would broach and the motion would be FAR worse. I could not imagine having to crawl into the sleeping cabin without smashing my face, head, elbows, knees and hips against various boat parts. Opening one of the cabin portlights for fresh air would have soaked the cabin. If these breaking 3 foot waves were on top of 6 foot ocean swells, there is no doubt in my mind that I would have capsized and rolled. Repeatedly.
I made the decision to head to the lee shore because there was some development there which meant homes, docks, mooring buoys and possibly a protected cove. I reached the nearest development I could spot called Pebble Beach just south of the development of Gellatly. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, I realized that this small cove offered absolutely no protection whatsoever. I arrived at Pebble Beach at 12:43 pm and winds were 16 knots gusting to 23 knots. I spotted one orange mooring buoy near shore and went for it. As the waves tossed me near the buoy, I was very concerned about how close to the rocky beach I was – probably only 15 feet away. The water level of the lake is about 5 feet lower than it is in the summer time, so there was a real risk of running aground. My bow hit the buoy and pushed it to my port side. I pushed the pedals enough to get a good coast going and crouched forward, opened my port side portlight, reached through it and grabbed the hook on the mooring buoy as it passed by. If I had missed the hook, I would have been blown right onto the beach – for sure.
I was reaching out of the portlight holding onto the hook and fighting the waves and wind which were pushing WiTHiN toward the beach, and the mooring buoy anchor line was tangled around my keel. With my right hand, I opened the front portlight, reached through it up to the roof and managed to unclip my bow line. Then, I reached over the A frame with my right arm, and was able to clip my bow line onto the mooring buoy hook. Whew! I let go, and the boat tipped sideways because the keel was tangled around the anchor line. After trying various combinations of pedaling forward & backward, and changing orientations to the buoy, I was able to get the anchor line untangled.
After conditions calmed a bit (windy with 2 to 3 foot waves), I decided to put my immersion suit and swim to shore. I stood up through the main hatch and sat on the top deck. WiTHiN immediately rolled way over and I fell off into the water.
I was on the go again by 8:00 am the next day – May 4th with 8 knot winds and calm water. As I passed beneath the Kelowna bridge, the local radio station called and informed me that I was about to be paid a visit by the police boat because people driving over the bridge had been phoning the police and radio station reporting a submarine in the lake! Some reports were notifying authorities of a half-sunk boat in the lake. The radio station just wanted to know know was up so they could announce it over the air. Shortly thereafter, the police boat did pull up on me. They just wanted to know I was OK and they turned around and let me go. I also got a call from CHBC TV station reporter who wanted to shoot some footage and do an interview. I arranged to meet him after I passed Kelowna near a dock. The dock was surrounded by weeds, so I pulled up close to some large rocks near shore and we did an interview. As I back pedaled to leave, I realized that I had wedged the keel bulb on some rocks. My reporter buddy Jeff found a long tree branch and between me rocking the boat around and hammering on the pedals, and Jeff pushing the bow with the stick, we were able to get free and I was on my way again.
At 7:00 pm I reached my turn around point just south of Vernon, and started to head back south down the lake. After a good 12 hours on the pedals, I was moored at a nice spot near Fintry by 8:00 pm. I made a dehydrated spaghetti and meat sauce for dinner (which was fabulous!) and had a really nice conversation with Doug Pitney – of the home owners near my mooring buoy who saw me on news. Doug stepped out onto his dock to chat with me as WiTHiN slowly orbited the buoy and I ate my dinner.
After a good sleep, I was on the water again by 5:00 am the next morning. As I passed by Kelowna again, I was flagged over by a camera man from the Globe and Mail and we did a photo shoot near a marina in Kelowna. In fact, the excellent photos attached were shot by Jeff.
By 3:00 pm, I was close to my first nights mooring location at Pebble Beach and noticed some rain clouds passing over. Just prior to the rain cloud passing, there were repeated blasts of wind that would roll WiTHiN very far over to one side. At the time, I had the battery ballast shifted way over to one side to balance the boat, and even with that, WiTHiN tipped right over. Weather data recorded 8 knot wind with gusts of 15 knots from SE. I didn’t like this at all and hooked up to a mooring buoy. After the squall passed, I moved on, and 2 hours later was hit with exactly the same thing. The gusts were coming from unexpected directions and I could not trim out the heel, or prepare for the gust with my ballast mover. By 5:00 pm, and a total of another 12 hours of pedaling, I was hooked onto another buoy for the night.
I was up again at 4:30 and spent my last 8 hours pedaling WiTHiN across a mirror to the Penticton Yacht club where I was met by Mark – a reported from the Penticton paper who took some really great photos. And of course my right hand man Ken was there to help load her back onto the trailer.
In summary, my immediate concerns about the performance of WiTHiN as experienced during the Okanagan lake trials and as well Ucluelet offshore sea trials from a few weeks ago, could very well make an ocean crossing in 6 weeks a dangerous proposition. I have identified the following 5 issues that I need to be addressed before a safe crossing can be attempted:
- Broaching when drifting. The larger rudder and more weight in the stern was supposed to encourage WiTHiN to turn downwind when drifting. Unfortunately, she still wants to stay in a position abeam the wind, and when drifting (while I sleep), during winds of 15 to 20 knots or more, I would have to endure some pretty extreme rolling. On ocean swells of 6 to 10 feet or more and the odd breaking wave, with winds from 15 to 20 knots, I think that I would capsize and roll – over and over.
- Inability to deploy a sea anchor. Currently, I don’t have a way to safely deploy a sea anchor or drogue to stop the wind from blowing me backwards, and to keep me in line with the wind and waves. Standing up through the pilot hatch to manage a drogue or sea anchor lines during a storm (or even a pre-storm period) would be suicidal. I realized that big-time both in Ucluelet and on OK lake. Whatever solution is available to deploy some method of slowing my backward drift, and keeping the bow (or stern) pointed into the weather would have to be deployable from the safety of INSIDE the cockpit.
- Wind knock-down. The modifications that we made to cause the bow to turn down wind, and to shift battery ballast weight to one side were to mitigate the dramatic roll or heel when wind blows flat against WiTHiNs side. With the larger rudder, I now have rudder control when that happens, and I can correct it with power on the pedals and rudder, but the bow still doesn’t turn while drifting, so if this ever does happen while I am sleeping, WiTHiN will probably stay heeled over until the wind slows. If a side porlight is open, the cockpit or cabin would flood. The battery ballast mover does help offset this force in winds up to 15 knots, but stronger winds will over-power this offsetting weight. Also, if it is set in the wrong position during a sudden wind gust (as happened a few times on OK lake), then the heel is greatly exaggerated. I found this to be very unnerving – both in the ocean near Ucluelet and on OK lake.
- Excessive roll. Even in light waves and wind, WiTHiN starts to oscillate like a pendulum. This isn’t dangerous unless a roll in one direction coincides with a wind gust from the other direction or a breaking wave. However, it is very uncomfortable and difficult to cook or move about the cockpit into the cabin. Ricks suggests that this excessive rolling won’t be as much of an issue in larger ocean swells and he may be correct to some extent – however, I do remember how much bouncing around, and rolling I experienced in Ucluelet off shore sea trials (video linked). However, I was in a channel that was being fed with swell from two different directions. Also there were many reefs and island around to reflect the waves.
- Bow piercing. I was very alarmed to watch my bow plow into the trough with water covering the entire bow all the way up to the tip of the triangle in front of my portlight. This happened in 3 to 4 foot waves. However, I realize that the waves are compressed on a lake and unlikely to be an issue on widely spaced ocean swells.
- My lack of experience on the open seas. This isn’t so much of a problem with WiTHiN as it is with my own development as a someone who feels comfortable and confident at sea. I’m not even close to that stage yet. I don’t like big ocean swells, and I’m not a real huge fan of 20 knot winds blowing the tops of waves off and breaking waves that smash into the side portlights and send water streaming in through the open pilot hatch.
Perhaps the conditions that I experienced in Ucluelet and on OK lake were extreme and unlikely on my Pacific journey. I do not believe that is true, as I have been looking at data from COGOW . On my route to Hawaii, following are the percentages of time I can expect various wind velocities:
20 – 25 knot = 10%
15 – 20 knot = 22%
TOTAL = 32%
If I were a bit closer to the California coast (fast route):
20 – 25 knot = 16.3%
15 – 20 knot = 23%
TOTAL = 39%
As I head west and approach Hawaii:
20 – 25 knot = 0%
15 – 20 knot = 60%
TOTAL = 60%
- Broaching. I could experiment with a centerboard or daggerboard of some sort, but this will cause additional drag so I’m not crazy about adding any more surface area under the water. A small retractable sail on the bow could work, but this is about human power – not sailing. Also a sail would require complicated rigging, hardware and more weight where I don’t want it – on the bow. Rick thinks that a ‘T’ rudder would help. All of these possible solutions require some experimentation.
- Sea anchor or drogue. I think we could probably design a method to let a drogue go from the stern through a tube passing through the cabin to the cockpit where the line would be spooled. This would allow me to let it out or pull it in without opening a hatch or standing up. Ricks suggests that a circular disc – type drogue would be good enough for WiTHiN’s narrow aerodynamic profile.
- Wind knock-down. I don’t think there is anything that can be done about this aside from ensuring the wind will push the bow down wind when drifting. If I am on the pedals, then I need to be either pedaling directly against the wind, or with it. Either way, when these conditions exist, I must keep the hatches and ports shut tight because rogue gusts can come from any direction.
- Excessive roll. I guess I just have to trust that with larger spaced ocean waves, this won’t be as much of an issue as it was on OK lake or in Ucluelet.
- Training. I simply need more time in WiTHiN, and more time on the ocean.