I had a full crew coming northwards, at least from Shearwater onwards. Due to various events and constraints, I’ll be single-handing Opus back south again. As you might imagine, the configuration of a boat for single-handing is very different than the configuration for a crewed boat, especially when the boat does not have an autopilot and must be hand steered.

The first consideration is doing everything you can so that you do not have to leave the cockpit. Leaving the cockpit has two effects. First is that there’s no hand on the wheel and so the boat will ply its own course. The second is the greatly increased risk if you should go overboard. There’s no crew to turn the boat around to come back to get you.

I’ve been reconfiguring Opus for single handing. Some of it is obvious, such as repairing the broken safety line, adding jack lines, and a tether. Next is making sure that I have a clear way to get to any point on the boat while still tethered in. There will be no untethered excursions for me!

The next thing to consider are the prosaic ones. Since the first leg is a 16 hour transit of high-80 to low-90 miles, consideration needs to be given to bodily needs – food, water, and the removal of used up food and water from the body. No autopilot means that when I’m in the head, there’s noone guiding the boat. When I’m at the galley, there’s noone guiding the boat, etc. In both those cases, it means the boat is idling and drifting.

I’ve added two net bags at the helm to hold water bottles and/or snack containers to minimize the amount of time I may have to leave the boat adrift.

And then, lastly, there is the reconfiguration of myself. Due to tides and winds, optimum time to depart is approximately 21:00 or 22:00 PDT (20:00 or 21:00 Alaska time), which should get me into Prince Rupert approximately 14:00 the next day – peak high tide time. That means I’ll fight the incoming tide to Ketchikan for about 2 hours, then be able to ride it out, then get to Prince Rupert in time to ride the last of the incomming tide in through Verney Channel. However, this means reconfiguring my days so that I’m active throughout the night and the following morning and early afternoon. That’s what I’ve been doing the last couple of days – swinging my day around. It’s not a comfortable process, but it is necessary.

Once I reach Prince Rupert, I’ll probably sleep for a day or two before starting the next leg of the trip. It is a bit more of a “normal” day, so I’ll be swinging my time back to a regular diurnal schedule while in Prince Rupert. Somehow, that’s easier. I think we’re evolved to naturally gravitate towards being active during the day.

Tomorrow morning will be about doing all the final engine checks and topping up the fuel tank. Opus has a rather small fuel tank – only 25 gallons. that’s good for about 32 hours of run time. I probably have enough fuel in the tank right now to do the crossing, but “probably” doesn’t have that warm fuzzy feeling. I’d hate to have the engine quit in a narrow, shallow, channel due to fuel starvation, so I’ll make sure the tank is topped up before I start.

I’ve also planned three different routes from Ketchikan to Prince Rupert. They branch off from each other at various places in order to give me options to make best use of wind, waves, and tides.

Lastly is the mental preparation – how to keep myself alert and functioning. This is a multi-pronged strategy. The first consists of something to do to keep my mind active. This is audio books to listen to while helming through the night and day. I have those downloaded onto my iPad, which is also my main display at the helm as it mirrors the chart plotter at my navigation desk in the cabin. And, yes, I do have a boat-supplied, waterproof, power supply to the iPad. The pad’s internal batteries would certainly not last a full transit of this length!

The second prong of the strategy is having a recurrent alarm going off every 15 minutes that I have to take positive action to quiet. Thus, even if I do nod off, I’ll be woken within 15 minutes. This alarm will be served by my cell phone, which also will be supplied with power from the boat. The cell phone also serves as a backup navigation system, running Navionics, if the iPad, for some reason, fails to charge. Then, of course, there are the usual requirements such as logging every hour, to help keep me busy and alert.

So that’s what I’ve been up to lately. Stay tuned for more preparation entries tomorrow.

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