Subject: Potter 19 to Hawaii?
Date: Fri, 9 Aug 2002
From: Judy Blumhorst, Commodore, Potter Yachters of Northern California
Have you heard anything from him? Do you know how far he's gotten or how the weather has been? I'd really like to hear the news.
I don't really know much about what it takes to sail to Hawaii, but I'd be happy to share my thoughts about sailing a Potter 19 on such an adventure. It's been done before, but as commodore of the local Potter Yachters Club, I don't advocate taking the P19 on transoceanic voyages. Several skippers have piloted their Potters safely on transpacific voyages, sailing from California to Hawaii and Tahiti. Others have made extended journeys, off shore and near shore, to Mexico and Alaska. Several have taken their Potters from the east coast to the Bahamas.
The Potter is a very small boat for a transpacific voyage, and most folks would consider such a voyage too daring, but more than anything else, the most important factor in such a trip is the skill of the skipper, and how well prepared he is. And, of course, the weather "window." His chances of arriving safely within 20-30 days are very, very good if he gets favorable winds, doesn't get hit with a tropical storm, and can navigate accurately so he doesn't miss the Islands.
The Potter is unsinkable, with foam floatation, so even in the event of being overwhelmed by a tropical storm, if he can stay tethered to the boat and activate his EPIRB, he could be rescued safely. If he stays with the boat, she'll take care of him until help arrives.
I met Bill earlier this spring at Angel Island, while sailing with Jerry Barrilleaux. Jerry and I are (if you'll excuse my lack of modesty) considered two of the best Potter skippers around, and we often sail our Potters in rough conditions that the average Bay sailor wouldn't be able to handle, even in boats twice the size of the Potter 19. I must say that both of us were impressed with his obvious expertise, mastery, and his "skipper attititude".
We chatted for a while about how he had learned to sail over the past couple of years and his single-handed trips out the Golden Gate in Chubby. I was impressed with how the boat was outfitted for single handing and rough weather sailing. Most folks just want to have fun and don't drive themselves past the easier, first stages of sailing a boat - Bill clearly was a cut above the average. He had taught and tested himself in some of the roughest water around San Francisco Bay, and had the cautious, prudent attitude of a skipper who respects and prepares for whatever difficulties Mother Nature may toss his way on the sea.
As for your questions about speed, the Potter 19 is surprisingly fast for such a small boat. She's got a semidisplacement shaped hull, and can easily exceed her so called "hull speed" of 5.4 knots. On a reach, it's not hard for a skilled skipper to get 5.8-6.2 knots (about 6.5 mph) of boatspeed out of her in 12 knots of wind in fairly calm seas. Downwind, with appropriately sized sails, she'll do 5.5 knots easily, and over 6 knots with a spinnaker. Tacking upwind, 5 is reasonably easy.
I would guess that Bill found that sailing Chubby on swells in the open ocean is easier than sailing her in the brutal chop, swift currents and gusty winds of San Francisco Bay. It's said that if you can sail SF Bay, you can sail anywhere. It takes a different set of skippering skills to make a long voyage, but truthfully, except for the isolation, he's probably safer sailing on the ocean than on SF Bay.
Please feel free to call me on my cell phone if you'd like and to share this with Nomi. Please keep me informed about Bill's progress too. And thank you for sharing Nomi's letter with me; it's touching and beautiful.
My thoughts and prayers are with Bill for a safe journey and adventure.