Thursday, January 14, 2010

Last Day at Home

I left Tuesday afternoon with the rigger, electrician, and camera man on board. It was really a great day out, except for there being hardly any wind. We calibrated the autopilots, I went up the mast and got some good work done.

After about an hour of working on the rig and some of the electrical stuff, everybody hopped off of Wild Eyes, and I was off for a good sea trial alone! It was so nice to finally get out there alone! I was headed down to Malibu going a good 5-6 knots in the light wind. There was supposed to be a bit of a blow coming in around 3 in the morning, so I was really looking forward to that. The wind was picking up nicely, so after a few hours, when it was starting to get dark I tacked out towards Santa Barbara Island.

The wind picked up to about 12 knots so I put the first reef in the main, so I wouldn't have to once it was completely dark thinking that if the wind didn't pick up I could always shake it out. The night went smoothly. The boat was so loud with both of the wind generators going! It is the kind of noise that you're happy to hear though because it will be what keeps the batteries up enough to run the radar and autopilot during the night.

After I had set up the alarms and made sure that everything was working I was planning on getting a little sleep, but with all the excitement, I wasn't able to! Anyway, there was so much I could do and why waste time sleeping? I would have plenty of time for that later.

The radar got a good work out as I went through the shipping lanes twice during the night. I went out a few miles past Santa Barbara Island then tacked back in around 12:30am. I had been excitedly waiting for the wind and waves to pick up a little... but instead they died down. The wind picked up and died down for a about an hour, giving me a good work out reefing and pulling up the sail a few times. By about three the wind had died almost completely and the autopilot was acting up so I was at the helm going a very depressing 2 knots.

I had a few dolphins following me which was fun. You could see the glowing streams where they were swimming because of the phosphorescence. It was really amazing and just added to the fun and excitement of the night. I got back in to Marina del Rey around 10:00am and pulled into my slip where two news crews were waiting. Noone had been expecting them and having been up all night long I was in no mood to humor the media, but at least they were quick and stayed out of the way.

We are looking into why the autopilot went out and also why the alternators weren't charging the batteries. So it looks like I wont get out by Saturday which is not that bad because there wasn't going to be any wind anyway.

Well I have to run, tons to do at home here! Just a quick note about the difference between an Open and a Class 40. They are generally quite similar. In Wild Eyes' case, she has a much more narrow beam and she is a Category 0, she will self right if she capsizes as long as the keel hasn't broken and she also has five water tight compartments. If she ever started to take on water I would be safe inside the cabin until I could find out what was wrong.



  1. Sorry I posted to an old one...
    Hi Abby,
    I was looking info about OUR Abby North (or Nord?) here in Vancouver BC but instead I found you! Our Abby will be 16 in April (is also blonde) and she's departing from the marina tomorrow - Friday morning. I talked briefly to a little dude who said Abby was his big sister and apparently she's 100% twittering her trip around the world. Then he told me he wasn't supposed to talk to people and I left when I saw a couple of guys coming up the pier towards me. If anyone here gets her twitter address please post it so people can request to get the tweets. She said they've already got hundreds of people who plan to light night time bonfires on the beach as she signals and passes them sailing down the western U.S. coast. The boat looked to be 50 to 60 ft long with a tri-hull sort of like outriggers. The sail is like shiney silver and says "North" and has a bunch of other logos too. I'm going to come back later this evening and see if I can get a closer look and maybe some pics. When I was there, the dock was loaded with a flock of suits all pointing and laughing. Some appeared to be Japanese (imo)
    I've haven't heard a thing about this on the news...does anyone have any more details?
    P.S. Glad you're leaving at different times!

  2. Bonjour Abby,

    Thanks for the update.


  3. What a great description of your night out, Abby! You made us all feel like we were right out there with you.

    Good luck with your departure, and Godspeed.

  4. Hi Abby, Even though the wind was not in your favor for a really solid sea trial, it does sound as though you were able to cover the important issues,reefing,auto pilots,sail practice, etc.
    Auto pilots have a tendency not to be efficient below 5 knots and are not able to maintain a true course in these light conditions, this did give you a turn at the helm to be able to feel 'Wild Eyes' at your finger tips, this would have given you a good emotional response to your yacht.
    I believe you will be fine with the preparation you have put in with the riggers & fitters, and it is more an emotional inward excitement ( all very natural ) you are feeling regarding your departure time.
    Like Jessica your maturity is way ahead of your age.
    Keep Smiling.
    Brian Riley
    Hervey Bay, Queensland. Australia.

  5. Well, Abby, getting ever closer. You will certainly find your autopilot just a little handy on your voyage, so it's worth waiting an extra day to make sure it is working properly. And also those pesky alternators - someone has to beat them into submission!

    I'll be looking forward to reading of your departure and the next stage of your adventure.

    Best wishes

  6. Hey Abby,
    Sounds like you had a good night out. A few things stopped working which is good that it happened now rather than later. Sounds like your staying mentally focused. Thanks for the explaination about you boat. Sure hope you don't capsize but obviuosly it's something you must prepare for.
    Now we'll wait patiently to see what happens next in your exciting life.
    Thanks for the comments from the experienced sailors. It adds to the adventure.

  7. Abby,
    Thanks for the update! Definitely better to get it right! Looking forward to your departure! I'm sure your boat will blow the other Abby's boat out of the water!

  8. Grant,
    Would a bigger boat be necessarily faster?
    (non-sailor here!)

  9. Hi Abby

    I'm sure you've thought of this, but if your wind generators are unusually loud then the blade balance might just need a little tweaking. They are about ten times quieter when they're perfectly balanced than when they're just slightly off. They shouldn't be busting your ears at only 12kts...And if they're perfectly balanced then the stresses on the blades are much less and you're less likely to break one.

    All the best

  10. I think LA forbids bonfires on the beach, but I know Manhattan Beach near LAX is a good place. How do we know where to go? Are these fires for Abby S or Abby N?

  11. Your Oklahoma Well-WisherJanuary 14, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    Thanks for the update, Abby! Sounds like you had a good trial out there, and I hope you're able to get some good rest at home since you stayed up all night and that was only the first of many nights you'll have to stay up. I have to admit, though, I was a little thrown off by the blog title "Last Day at Home" -- I figured that meant you were leaving Saturday, but then your blog says that you've postponed (not leaving Saturday). Also, you mention that the Autopilot went out and that the alternator was not working properly, but there's no mention of these issues in your description of your time out at sea... So did you have to stay up because of the autopilot issue? Take care, best wishes to the team working on last minute issues. Peace, Your Oklahoma Well-Wisher

  12. Is there a chance of you catching up or overtaking Jessica Watson if you leave shortly and you have a much faster boat

  13. Kath, Qld, AustraliaJanuary 14, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    Hi Abby,
    You must be 'champing at the bit' to set sail now. That word 'capsize' scares the heck out of me, but you don't seem fazed at all, good for you!
    Hope you get to catch up on that lost sleep before you head out.
    Stay safe.X

  14. To Dave Ashman,Jessica has already sailed halfway around the world.I think Abby would need jet propulsion to get that many nautical miles under her belt!Maybe she will take the short cut(Panama Canal)but then she wouldnt have the mileage Jessica has.I wish her her fair winds and good sailing anyway.Gum Leaf

  15. @ Rodger - Short answer: Yes, "longer" at the water line (not "bigger") gives potential for greater speed.

    Try this:

    Steve in California

  16. Gum Leaf -
    Both Abbys have boats that are more than twice the speed of Jessica's boat. It may take a month+, but they'll both pass her before she gets back to Sydney!
    Speed Racer>>>>>>

  17. Hi Abby - Enjoyed your newest post! Glad you are getting the kinks worked out this week before you leave. Leaving a day or so later than planned must be frustrating, but for sure it will pay off to have all systems in perfect working order when you get out to sea. I'm keeping a watchful eye on your blog site for all your news! :) All the best to you!!!

    Janell in Oklahoma, USA

  18. Does anybody know anything about this "other" Abby is (the first poster Chad above mentions someone named Abby North or Nord. It's amazing how many teenagers are attempting circumnavigations right now...amazing, and very cool!

    I did a google search for Abby North and Abby Nord and sailing and Vancouver, but couldn't find anything. I'd like some more info, if anybody knows anything.

    Oh, almost forgot: good luck Abby Sunderland, and the "other" Abby too!! And Jessica too!! All of you, be safe.

    Thanks.......Mike B.

  19. 2@nd the request for "Other Abby" information. I can find no links whatsoever with a deep Google search.

    Urban myth?


    Steve in California

  20. @ Kyle-- Fires on the beach are only allowed at Dockweiler, which is due west of Los Angeles International Airport. Unless Abby leaves MDR at night, she wouldn't be able to see them. I think the bonfires are intended for the other Abby, anyway.

    Schedule permitting, I would like to show up at MDR to see her off. I think that would encourage her more, especially since seeing fires along the coast of southern California is usually a bad sign.

  21. 01-14-10 @20:33
    Hi Abby,
    Well, once again, better to find the faulty equipment here than a way out yonder. But it sounds like you enjoyed yourself for awhile anyway. But, I know, you want more than that. It's very annoying to have to keep dragging out the departure date, but at least it's for a good reason, plus as you say, there won't be any wind for you on Saturday.
    Here's hoping you get everything taken care of and that you'll be able to leave shortly.
    What's with this other Abby pulling out of Vancouver, B.C., does anyone have any info on her????
    Take care of yourself Abby, and I hope you get everything in order so you can set sail shortly.
    Good luck to you Abby, and may God bless and guide you.
    Michael(75)from Kingwood, WV

  22. @Rodger --

    As Steve in California points out, speed is related to waterline (or length of boat.

    The interesting thing about Abby's boat is that it kind of breaks the old rule. It is so light and efficient, that especially downwind, it is able to kind of jump free of its theoretical waterline restrictions and surf to high speeds.

    While more conventinal boats can break loose of standard waterline calculations when going down wind in waves, Abby's boat it does this more so. Her boat will also be very fast when pointing into the wind -- as long as the wind and seas aren't too great. Jessica's boat would be faster and more efficient pounding through seas to weather (going upwind). But on flatter water, Abby's boat would be quite a bit faster.

    Speed isn't everything though. Jessica and Abby are both trying to make it around the world nonstop, which means not breaking down along the way.

    Jessica has now crossed the Pacific Ocean. Next will be the Atlantic Ocean (Cape Horn to Cape of Good Hope) and then the Indian Ocean (Cape of Good Hope to home).

    It will be interesting to see how well she can keep her boat together, and to see how well the weather goes. She's got a very tough boat, but there's no shortage of things that can go wrong when sailing alone around the world.

    And once Abby gets going we can start the same step-by-step watch for her.

    - Grant Fjermedal, Seattle

  23. Abby,
    Batteries not charging? It sounds like someone accidentally shorted one or more of the diodes during installation and testing...easy to do! Get them tested for diode shorts and you can probably be back in business quickly!

  24. The MDR to SBI trip's a good test run - last time I went I had *hundreds* of dolphins swimming around and under the boat: it was amazing. The wind gave *me* the finger, too, that day! If it hadn't been for the dolphins, I'd have been sad and bored!

    Looks like if you leave on Monday, you may be reefing the main before you pull out of the slip! That's gonna be a windy day!

  25. Abby,

    Electric autopilots are finicky, and almost all of them break eventually. Your autopilot has just given you a little window into your future hand steering out in the cold after it fails. An autopilot failure will end your non-stop attempt just like Mike's. It's just too much responsibility and pressure to put on a little diode, or circuit board.

    Install a windvane just to starboard of your escape hatch. This model only weighs 44lbs and can be mounted off center.

    Flip the vane up sideways out of the way, and forget about it until you need it. If you keep the boat speed below high surfing speeds, this vane will steer just fine. Better to slow the boat down and continue, then have to go in for repairs.

    Your starboard solar panel will be in the way, so you obviously will have to remove it to use the vane. Get your stainless guy to make that panel easy to remove.

    It's not too late to get a vane on. You won't regret it.

    If all your electronics get fried by lightning or whatever, all you really need is the mast pointing skyward, a handheld GPS with a bag of batteries, and your windvane happily steering quietly without electricity.

    Wishing you much luck, and great weather.

    Have fun!

  26. Thanks, Abby
    Eagerly awaiting your next blog.
    Keep smiling
    Richard (QLD) Aus

  27. Hi Abby,
    Nice to get an update on your trip. I would like to follow along if I may, and offer my support to what you are attempting to do. On this kind of voyage, it's all about the journey, not the destination. You end up where you start!
    I have been following JWs blog since the beginning of her trip, and I know that the positive support she has received from bloggers has been a help to her. I know you will not feel so all alone out there if you have a "blog family" along for the ride.
    Following your trip is a little different than JWs as you are sailing out of LA. I have been to MDR, where they say only 10% of the boats get past the breakwater, and the West Coast sailing conditions are so difficult if you try to go north up the coast. I have a Sabre 28 Mk1 that I singlehand on the Chesapeake Bay, in a very different type of cruising area than yours. I followed with interest your sail down to Florida from Rhode Island. I'm sure that was quite a ride. Some day soon I will do extended cruising,(on a bluewater boat). I learn a tremendous amount from these blogs.
    You pointed out that an Open 40 and a Class 40 were very different. I found a link to a boat review by Perry on an Antrim Class 40. Perry does a good job of explaining the "box" rule and shows how the Class 40 came after the Open 40, and is lighter and more radical. The boat he reviewed has an almost a 15 foot beam! If other Class 40s are that beamy no wonder they float just as well right side up as right side down! I know your boat has an 11.2 ft beam .

    I also checked out your boat's past life as BTC Velocity:

    As " BTC Velocity " she sailed in and completed the Around Alone 2002 finishing 2nd
    2005 and 2007 Bermuda 1-2 (2007 Finished 2nd)
    Sounds like a really tough boat! Already been around once.

    Here's wishing you good luck. I'm sure your Dad isn't going to let you sail around the world until everything is shipshape!

    Richard W

  28. Hey Abby
    You write very well, and I look forward to following you in your trip.


  29. Becca, Rockaway Beach, OregonJanuary 14, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    Hi, I'm from beautiful Rockaway Beach, Oregon (come visit us!)
    I consider myself a sailor, but I would NEVER attempt what these girls aspire to! Kudos all around!

    I am visiting friends in BC this week and since I check in with Jessica's and Abby's blogs almost daily, I saw the piece about Abby North. It took a while - (Vancouver has a LOT of docks!!) but we found the trimaran with the silver "North" mainsail. It's gotta be 70 feet - it's that big - it looks sort of like a Klingon Bird of Prey---but she's dead in the water. They had her hoisted up, if you can image how hard that would be to do, looking at what looked like a really long thin centerboard - maybe a hydrofoil. (It didn't have a bulb like your boat) Anyway, it was seriously damaged and it looked like the hull at the attachment point may have been breached. This is much worse than Jessica's mishap. If they let her touch this beautiful boat again, it's going to be at least a month. We saw lots of men in suit jackets shaking their heads a lot but no little brother. We did see a blonde girl that looked so slight the wind could have blown her off the dock. If that was Abby, she needs to eat a LOT before she takes off - just my opinion. If it was her little sister, then my apologies.
    Reporting from Vancouver,
    Yours truly, Becca!

  30. @Rod Jones provides great advice on setting up an emergency wind vane.

    By the Way: I confess to an error I've posted a couple of times: saying that summer in the Southern Hemisphere ends at the end of February.
    I was a month off. It doesn't end until March 20. (I know, a couple of folks have already posted the correct date, but I just did a search and confirmed this and thought I'd fess up.)

    Also, when summer does end, it isn't as if it slams into winter. It just fades into Fall (though at some point Fall starts roaring into Winter.)

  31. Abby,

    Good shake down. I know you must have a lot of prep work yet, so thanks for taking time for the update. It's very much appreciated.

    From Seattle, WA, USA

  32. Abby, you do not have to race around the world at breakneck speed, you only have to complete your circumnavigation before the 18th October 2010 to become the youngest to achieve your dream, you have the yacht and the ability to do this without causing yourself any major mishaps. I believe you will be slowing 'Wild Eyes' down with the drogue when surfing, this will maintain your control of the SOG. You will experience a feel for this letting the wave under you, rather the wave pushing you forward, I believe you would have experienced this throughout your sailing career.
    Keep Smiling
    Brian Riley
    Hervey Bay, Queensland. Australia.

  33. Good Luck Abby
    We look forward to following your trip

    I am not a sailor , so this maybe a silly question

    What is the rush to leave?
    You have done a sea trial and found some small problems woudlnt it be wise to fix the problems and go out for another day sail?

    Is there a time limit on your trip?

    Sorry to aska silly question


  34. Hi Abby,

    It's great that you have found the bibs and bobs you need to fix before you leave. I'd much rather you have your "Wild Eyes" all ship shape and ready to go before you set sail. We can all wait as long as it takes Abby to get "Wild Eyes" ready.

    Great to hear that your radar works well. How fantastic having those dolphins to accompany you on your trial trip. It must have been lovely being out there all by yourself. A nice little taste of what's to come.

    Hope you get a few good nights sleep Abby. I know because of all the excitment it mustn't be easy sleeping as there is so much you must be thinking about.

    Thanks for keeping us posted Abby. Take care. Jan (Auckland, New Zealand)

  35. Too bad that you didn't have wind enough to push the tests furhter, Abby, but at least this trial wont have been useless, pointing the failures of the autopilot and the generators: better now than in one week!
    Work well, and most of all: keep in good mood, all the time.
    Good and bad things alternate, and at sea, you have to be philosophical about them; and it doesn't mean that you won't have to struggle!
    Best wishes!

  36. Hello Abby! Glad to hear you were able to get out on the sea trials. Sounds like some pretty minor details to take care of, but that's why you do the trials right? We have enjoyed riding along the Jessica and Dilip, especially as they rounded Cape Horn. I look forward to doing the same with you! Stay focused, try and get some rest and take advantage of any additional time you have to prepare for this exciting journey. You and your team are already winners in my book for getting this far. I will continually lift you and your team up in prayer. For now the prayers will be focused on your physical and emotional health, and for focus on the final details of preparation. Thanks again for allowing us to be active participants in your quest to accomplish your dream!
    Seek Him for comfort, strength and guidance.
    Grace Fellowship Church.
    North Stonington, CT. USA
    (Just down the coast from Newport, RI.)

  37. Being a bit naughty here, but as Jessica Watson's blog has been swamped... over 1000 comments. I thought people should see this:,23739,26593186-3102.html

    A very proud Aussie Queenslander.

  38. How much amperage are you storing on your boat? I'm kind of surprised you didn't go with ampair 100 hydro as they are very quiet you don't have turn them on and off. They're very efficient though not as productive as the 3 bladers you don't get that infernal racket.

  39. There are no "Chads" in Canada. About as unCanadian a name as you get get :-)

  40. I agree with the statement about wind vanes, especially when sailing alone. I am surprised this was not included in the original fitting out. I have been sailing for 35 years and the one thing I always remember and plan for is that "if it can go wrong it will". Something as important as a back up way of steering should not be ignored.


  41. Anonymous,
    You're a hoot! I'm in Toronto and personally know two Chads. What's your problem with Chad? The other Abby is down and out, so get on with life. Let's support all our sailors where ever they are from. They are all fantastic!


    Watch it all the way through. Raw footage after the first 3:14.

  43. So, Abby --now what? Any idea what your revised departure date will be? Do the electrical problems you are dealing with appear easily fix-able?


  44. An observance on the record to become the youngest solo sailer nonstop and unassisted. If Jessica succeeds, and it's looking likely that she will, she will be arriving in Sydney in May as she turns 17; May being her birth month. Abby won't turn 17 till October; nine months away. With a faster boat, the concern is not beating Jessica's age, it's trying to stay ahead of the coming Southern Fall and Winter weather.

  45. Windvane is useless. Nearly half the time 1 of the 2 rudders is out of the water. There's two rudders for a reason ;-)

    Though if you could synch two windvanes...maybe.

    but they obviated that with auto pilots.

  46. Thanks for the update; better to find all the troubles now.

  47. Thanks for the Jessica Watson video and media Links!!!

  48. 01-15-10 @ 18:47
    Hi Abby,
    Just wanted to say hello and hope you get everything packed. I'm sure you'll get all that you will need onboard. Do you use a checklist, so you don't forget anything? Not insulting your intelligence, but there's a lot going on right now.
    For SaltyDog:
    It's nice to see a little consideration shown. Ain't we great, Hey, hey, hey. LOL......
    Take care Abby and be safe.
    Good luck to you Abby, and may God bless and guide you.
    Michael(75)from Kingwood, WV

  49. @Dan in FL: The hurry to leave is dictated by the Southern Hemisphere seasons. (Actually there shouldn't be a hurry to leave, as you need to make sure all systems are as prepared and stable as possible before departing on any voyage -- especially an attempt at a non-stop, around-the-world voyage.)

    Having said that, the Southern Hemisphere summer is the best time to be doing Cape Horn, the Southern Ocean, Indian Ocean and other great feats.

    Summer in the Southern Hemisphere ends on March 20th, and after 3 months of Fall, you get into Winter.

    Abby plans to circumnavigate via the 3 Great Capes (Horn, Good Hope, and Leeuwin) which is the traditional way to go.

    My wild guess is that Los Angeles to Cape Horn in Abby's relatively fast boat (but factoring in some doldrum time near the Equator) will be about a 50-day trip.

    If she leaves by Feb. 1, she can make it around Cape Horn before the beginning of Fall.

    Once around she can head north for a ways to get out of the rougher weather of the Cape Horn lattitudes. (Cape Horn is located at about 56 degrees south.) I believe Cape of Good Hope is more like Lattitude 35 south, but that is a guess as I dont' have a chart in front of me.)

    Getting Cape Horn out of the way is the big hurdle to any circumnavigation. There are plenty of challenges before and after Cape Horn, but it would be good for Abby to get the rounding taken care of before end of summer, which her current schedule makes possible.

    (And, just because the season shifts to Fall, doesn't mean the weather suddenly changes. But it does begin the process of degradation toward Winter.)

    - Grant Fjermedal, Seattle

  50. Hey Abby,
    I don't know what your brother is doing these days, but why now be the first to sail from California to New york via the Northwest passage? It will probably be ice free this summer.

  51. Bob from Seattle,

    The trip via the Northwest Passage typically involves a great deal of motoring (many calms, interspersed with stronger winds). As far as "ice free" in the summer, that is a bit of misnomber, as floating ice, whether bergs or smaller brash ice/bergy bits remain serious challenges to navigation, especially for a solo navigator. The bulk of the navigation through the Northwest Passage is coastal navigation, so the solo sailor ends up having little time to relax (as compared to offshore passages where the boat can run on autopilot for weeks at a time).

    The Northwest Passage solo, even "ice free", is a risky undertaking. And if one doesn't make it through in the short summer window, one must be prepared to abandon the boat if not near a suitbable harbor (there are but few), or ice for the winter, which only certain boats can withstand. All in all, the Northwest Passage takes an entirely different kind of planning (and probably a different boat!) to successfully complete.


  52. Look forward to updates and watching your amazing journey. Stay safe !!!

  53. Abby.. You are amazing...As a mother of 3 not sure I could let my child do this.. Hats off to your parents. I don't know you, but can say that I am very proud of you... I am really looking forward for your updates on this journey of yours... Best of luck and you will be in my thoughts and prayers.

    Cathy Brice, Wisconsin

  54. hey am a girl name coral. that is brave of u to do that. am 12 years old and hoping to beat the longest time of hula hooping. there is many thing i want to do in the world and i guess u want to sail around the world. my grandma says to turn around but do what u want too. this is amazing what u r doing.

  55. You are trully an amazing girl! We will be reading your blog and praying for you. Larry and Bev Kidd

  56. You must be a brave 16 Year old (: I sure wouldn't go around that world by myself, Well wish you good luck (:

  57. Best of Luck Abby..I have been following Jessica Watson's blog and she mentioned you so that is how I learned about your adventure. Safe sailing and will be praying for you. NJ Mom

  58. Abby,
    May God bless you on your journey and keep you safe. Enjoy the view!

    Mike M