My name is Wilbur Spaul and I have created this blog to record my attempt to sail single-handed from San Francisco to Hawaii in the smallest boat (originally 8-feet long, but now 9 feet) for this passage. I am setting off from San Francisco about the first of September 2020 and hope to complete the trip in 2 or 3 months. During my trip, I’ll be periodically updating my position at sea; hopefully, about once a week. I am also planning to provide a link that would allow readers to see my position more frequently.
September 2019 Update:
During the past several weeks when we had moderate to strong ocean winds and waves I have been sea trialing Chubby Girl, and have found that she is very difficult to steer a straight course in all but calm conditions. In discussions with a naval architect, he has made recommendations to haul the boat and install underwater fins on the aft corners and to reduce water weight by installing a water maker. (I guess this is part of the development of an one-off experimental craft that is so short and wide.) That way the boat should track straight and be able to self-steer, which is critical for a long ocean passage. To do these design and construction changes will require that I will not be able to leave by the end of October, which is at the end of my pre-winter Pacific storm weather window.
I will make these modifications as soon as I get the designs from the naval architect, and will then spend much of the winter storm season sea-trialing the boat in the San Francisco Bay. I will now leave at my next weather window in April.
March 2020 Update:
After a winter of sea trials by myself and the the naval architect, Jim Antrim, we concluded that the boat was built too heavily and when further loaded with provisions and equipment, the little boat was burdened and too sluggish to be able to steer. On February 2020, I hauled the boat at Berkeley Marine Center, and with a saws-all, after salvaging what I could, I chopped up the boat and put it in the recycling bin. I asked Jim Antrim to give me a lighter design, and Cree Partridge, the owner of Berkeley Marine Center was extremely helpful in providing a place to work and offered his expertise in constructing a foam core resin infused boat. I had never used this vacuum technology to build a boat so Cree was very helpful for this new construction. Cree had a 9 foot dingy mold, so we decided to use that mold to save time and Chubby Girl got stretched to 9 feet, which is still under the 10 foot boat record by Gerry Spiess. We decided to build two hulls from the mold, and turn one hull upside down for the deck, and insert a spacer panel between the two hulls to give me some room inside the boat. As of 1 March, we have popped the two hulls from the mold and have started construction on the spacer side panels. Please refer to the gallery of photos to see the new construction process. With the new construction process, I am still hoping to depart before my Spring/Summer weather window ends because of hurricane season.
This trip is dedicated to Gerry Spiess, who 40 years ago this year sailed a 10-foot home-built boat across the Atlantic and about 2 years later he sailed the 10-footer across the Pacific. He currently holds the world record for the Pacific crossing in the smallest boat. In June of 2019 he passed away after a long bout with Parkinson’s Disease. His boat, Yankee Girl, is
6 July 2020 Update:
On 29 June the new Chubby Girl was launched, and after about 2 months of sea trials and provisioning the boat, I will set sail for Hawaii around the first of September, weather permitting.
After passing under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Bay and entering the Pacific Ocean, I will steer south by southwest to about the same latitude as the middle of Baja Mexico. There is a North Pacific High Pressure zone off the shore of California, which lies on the direct path to Hawaii from California, and I must sail to the east and south of this high pressure zone; otherwise, I could be becalmed for extended times with no wind in this doldrum area. This could become a problem since food and water are limited and rationed. After I get further south and into the trade winds, I will turn to the west and ride these winds to Hawaii.
This path to skirt the High Pressure Zone will add about 700 to 800 miles to the trip, and will require I carry additional water and food in a very limited space. This High Pressure Zone moves around, usually shifts to the south during the fall and winter, and for this reason, I need to monitor the barometric pressure so I can dodge this High Pressure Zone. A problem with leaving before the end of November is that I may be crossing the path of hurricanes on my westward path to Hawaii. If I wait longer, then I will be in the North Pacific winter storms, which come from Alaska and can be very dangerous for a small boat.
I will be aiming for four waypoints during the passage. Waypoints are latitude and longitude positions. The minus sign in front of the longitude position means “west longitude”, which is where I will be until I cross the International date line after Hawaii — if I go further. A latitude and longitude have 60 minutes, so 21.48 degrees North latitude is 21 degrees and 28.8 minutes North latitude. Latitude lines run horizontal from the equator (0 degrees) up to 90 degrees north and south , and longitude lines run vertical and run east and west from Greenwich England, which is Longitude zero degrees and go out 180 degrees East and West. Between California and Hawaii, I will be in North Latitudes and West Longitudes.
Chubby Girl and Wil
The original Chubby Girl (pictured to the right) was a custom-designed and built 8 -foot sailboat by Wilbur Spaul in 2018/2019. The sail rig was an A-frame twin mast design that is raked aft. There was a very small main sail and twin jibs. She is tiny as far as an ocean boat is concerned. The interior height between the cabin sole (floor) and the overhead was about 31 inches, or about the height under a dining room table or office desk. I could not sit up straight when the overhead hatch was closed.
After about a year of sea trials and modification, I accepted the fact that I had built this boat to be very strong, and as such, it was too heavy, particularly when loaded with provisions and equipment. I salvaged the original Chubby Girl and started on a new, faster, and lighter boat in February 2020. I also extended the length by one foot, which also increases the hull speed and gives more volume inside to carry provisions and equipment. The mast height was increased, a keel-stepped carbon fiber single mast was installed, and the sail area was increased.
Although some people have told me that the boat’s name is not politically correct, I am not very worried about that. Chubby Girl got her name by :
1. Boats are usually referred to in the feminine gender;
2.She is short and wide, which by definition would be a “Chubby Girl”