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 to attempt this passage. I am setting off from San Francisco about September/October 2020 and hope to complete the trip in 2 to 3 months. During my trip, I’ll be updating my latitude and longitude position, and will provide an internet link so you can see my current position.
Sailing solo across either the Atlantic or the Pacific in a small sailboat has been a plan of mine for over 40 years, and since Chubby Girl and I are now in California, the crossing should be the Pacific.
When I arrive in Hawaii I will be 71 years old. I have lived on sailboats for over 20-plus years, and have sailed extensively since the early 1970s. The shortest sailboat that I had sailed prior to Chubby Girl was three times her length at 24 feet (7.3 meters), called “Aquaholic”, and she was a 24-foot 1967 Columbia sloop. I have sailed from San Diego to Mazatlán Mexico, then back to San Francisco in a 42-foot (12.8 meters) Piver Victress trimaran, which I had lived on for many years. Then after a few years in the San Francisco Bay area while going to graduate school at UC Berkeley, I sailed from San Francisco to Tampa via Panama on the Piver Victress “Wind Rose”. On other boats that I have owned, I have extensively cruised the Caribbean and north coast of South America, and most islands in the Caribbean. I have also traveled the US Atlantic coast from Tampa to Baltimore Maryland and back, cruised the Chesapeake Bay, and have spent a lot of time cruising the Bahamas.
This trip will be unlike any cruising trip I have ever taken in a boat.
There is a class of small sailboats called pocket cruisers or micro-cruisers, and they are generally in the range of 13 to 24 feet ( 3.9 – 7.3 meters), but are not generally considered ocean passage “blue water” sailboats. At 9 feet (2.7 meters) Length-Over-All, Chubby Girl is a very tiny ocean sailboat.
The original Chubby Girl is an one-off custom blue-water design that was designed and built by me. I rented a garage at a house in Walnut Creek California and built the boat after work and over weekends. During the first launching of Chubby Girl, she was so unstable that I was not even able to get on the boat without it rolling over. I contacted Jim Antrim, a San Francisco Bay area Naval Architect with over 11 TransPac Sailboat Races behind him to figure ways to correct this instability problem. He is a very easy-going and brilliant Naval Architect, and he was very pragmatic in his approach to these instability problems. He recommended I add about 6 inches (0.15 meters) of width to each side, increase the keel depth 15 inches (0.38 meters), and add about another 200 pounds (90.7 kgs) of ballast to the keel. Jim also recommended I change the single mast sloop design to a twin mast A-frame sailing rig with twin down-wind jibs. Kame Richards of Pineapple Sails in Alameda, California recommended I use a small mainsail to improve weather helm.
The empty boat weight was about 1200 pounds (544 kg) and fully loaded including my weight, the boat was about 2200 pounds (997 kg).
The changes that Jim recommended made the boat extremely stable and his calculations showed that it should be self-righting, if rolled over. Although I have lined the inside walls with 1-gallon plastic jugs, there is no other designed internal positive displacement, so if the boat fills with water, it will very likely sink. That is the reason I carry an abandon-ship immersion suit and a satellite emergency positioning beacon system (EPIRB).
After a year of sea trials and several modifications, I scrapped the original Chubby Girl in February 2020, and asked Jim Antrim to give me a lighter and faster design, which ended up being a 9 foot boat. I started work on the new design in February 2020, and Cree Partridge, who is the owner of Berkeley Marine Center, has been extremely helpful in the construction of the new boat. He had a 9 foot dingy mold, which he allowed me to use and provided considerable hands-on time instructing me on vacuum infusion foam core construction. Without his very helpful assistance this project would have taken at least another year, and there is no guarantee the boat would even be as good as the one he has helped me build. Jim and Cree are two professionals and gentlemen, who have come into my life and made me realize how lucky I am to have met them. I have also employed Rafael Pietrowski, a young and very enthusiastic fellow from Brazil to help me during the construction to help speed things along. We all worked very hard and many long hours for me to be able to set sail in the next 2 months — about September 2020.
Chubby Girl is too small to carry a lift raft, so I built six water-tight compartments under the cabin sole, which is also where I will store my food. Periodically I will send my latitude and longitude by a Garmin satellite text device to update my position in an internet link, which I will provide. Jim Antrim has agreed to send me a text to the Garmin device about any storms that might present a problem — not that I can do much about that since i travel so slowly. Other than that, there will be no other outside contact, and no support vessels will accompany me during this passage. After I leave SF Bay, my next contact other than my periodic position transmission, will be when I get to Hawaii since there is nothing between California and Hawaii but open sea.
Upon arrival in Hawaii, the Kaneohe Yacht Club on Oahu has graciously extended an offer to temporarily berth Chubby Girl.