The Official Magazine of the Bluewater Cruising Association

OCA Series: First to Finish without Really Trying

Peter Heiberg

Scaramouche V
Palmer Johnson 50 Sloop
January 26th, 2015

“Peter Heiberg has raced three times to Hawaii; once with crew in the Pacific Cup and twice in the Single Handed Trans Pac Race. Learn how he challenged the Ocean Racing World on a tight budget.”

After a lifetime of working and cruising on various oceans of the world, and finding himself in possession of a beautiful old former race boat, Peter Heiberg thought he would give ocean racing a shot. Although earning only $30 an hour at the time, he entered the Pacific Cup from San Francisco to Kaneohe Bay in Oahu. “We joked that we were the only boat in the race that had a drill press in the foc’s’le but, in fact, we did have a drill press in the foc’s’le”. His crew of mostly non-sailors had a great time but didn’t exactly light the world on fire. Returning to the PNW with a couple of strangers who turned out to be the bottom feeders from hell suggested to Peter that single-handing must be easier than being trapped in a small space for a long time with two total shipwrecks of human beings.

When Peter heard that the Single Handed Trans Pac was called ‘the bug light for weirdoes’, he knew he had found the ocean race for him. So in 2012 he again headed south to San Francisco to make his first attempt at the SHTP. Again his result was disappointing. As he describes it, “The race was like teenage sex — I was really proud I did it, but a little embarrassed by my performance.”

Swearing he would never ever do it again, in late 2013 he again found himself preparing for the SHTP. Not because he hoped to do well but only to feel that he had “shot his best shot.” Again he sailed to SF and again raced to Hawaii. “Latitude 38 reported that I read eight books during the race, which is a complete lie. I read eleven books. Do they think I move my lips when I read?”

Much to everyone’s surprise — especially Peter’s — he was first to finish. Peter will be talking about the three races and the 18,000 miles of sailing involved. There will be a short film taken during the last SHTP and a question period.

Peter’s newly published book, Lee Shore Blues, Sex, Drugs, and Bluewater Sailing, will be available for purchase at his Ocean Cruising Adventures presentation, Friday, February 6, 2015, 1930h. H.R. MacMillan Space Centre. Advance tickets may be purchased on BCA’s website or at the door the night of the event.

Scaramouche anchored in Hanalei Bay, Hawaii

We have asked five questions of all of our OCA Speakers. Here are Peter’s answers.

1. When and how did you get into sailing?

My father was a very keen sailor (an Olympic medallist in the 1936 Munich games) and so I suppose I can say that I was sailing before I could walk. Really got back into sailing after a hiatus in the very early ‘70s when I sailed aboard the wooden schooner, Buccaneer Prince, from Puerto Rico to Bermuda.

2. If you could share a couple of your very best memories from your offshore cruising experience, what would they be?

I know there are people who just love being at sea. I’m not one of them. I love arriving. I love the sound of the anchor chain tearing out through the spurling pipe, knowing that I will finally get a night’s sleep without a surge of adrenalin at every strange noise or lurch of the boat. Probably the best arrival I ever had was after a 49-day passage from Panama to Hilo, Hawaii in an 80-year-old, 30-ton, engineless pilot cutter. Great sleep that night.

3. What was the most frightening or unusual experience you had during your adventure?

After a lifetime at sea both professionally and for pleasure (?), that’s a difficult question. I spent a night embayed off the world’s worst reef in Haiti in the late seventies, knowing for about 12 hours that if anything failed, rescuers would have to sweep up enough to burn. Losing the rig just off La Perouse reef on the west coast of the Charlottes in a hard westerly in the late ‘80s was not a ton of fun. What a terrible question to ask. Why not ask about the drop-dead-gorgeous French woman who took me home to her waterfront cottage on Baie St. Jean in St. Barts, or…

4. Of all the places you have sailed, is there one in particular that you would name as your favourite destination?

If I had to pick just one I would have to say the Perlas Islands in Panama. Although now that I think about it, the Marquesas weren’t all that bad, either.

5. If you could give one piece of advice to people who are starting out cruising, what would it be?

Oh, jeeesh, I don’t know. Keep your fingernails short.




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