Looking out into the distance during the overnight hours from the 68-foot yacht Prospector is to see nothing but black. In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, there is no ambient light. Just darkness — until a brilliant bolt of lightning brightens the sky for miles.
“Lightning storms were pretty crazy,” said Drew Wolf, a Greenport High School junior.
There’s no better vantage point to view a lightning storm than the middle of an ocean. In one second, darkness, and in the next “you can see everything for 20 miles,” Drew said.
The lightning storms were just one of the unique sights Drew witnessed this summer during an adventure as a member of Prospector’s crew.
Prospector, as he joined the yacht as a crew member when it was delivered from Hawaii to Australia.
There were the “absolutely beautiful” sunsets and sunrises and the green flashes, a common phenomenon sailors see just after sunset or right before sunrise, when a green spot appears above the sun’s upper rim. And then the dolphins that sounded like torpedoes racing alongside the yacht.
In August, Drew spent 22 days at sea aboard Prospector, helping to deliver it from Hawaii to Sydney in advance of the Sydney-Hobart Race in December. The yacht had arrived in Hawaii after racing from San Francisco in the Pacific Cup race in late July, which it won.
The opportunity for Drew, 16, to join the crew on the most recent journey began much earlier. Tery Glackin, captain of Prospector, brought the idea to Drew’s parents, Heather and Andrew Wolf. Mr. Glackin said Drew had been crewing on other smaller boats since he was about 10 years old and had done some racing locally. Mr. Wolf, who co-chairs the Shelter Island Yacht Club’s junior sailing program, had sailed in the 2015 Transatlantic Race as part of the company known as the Shelter Island Transatlantic Partners. The company was set up in advance of the 2015 Transatlantic Race and has continued since with additional races.
Drew, who has been sailing all his life, said the opportunity to join the crew on a boat like Prospector on a trip across the Pacific was a dream come true. He was part of a 10-person crew, smaller than the usual 18 or 19 when racing, and was responsible for multiple jobs, just like everyone else, during the approximately 5,000-mile journey.
“He far surpassed my expectations,” said Mr. Glackin, noting that it was unusual to have someone as young as Drew on board. “He was great helming and driving on his watch. He was a great help in every aspect.”
For all the beauty of sailing on the ocean, the long trips can be a grind, Mr. Glackin said.
“He had a phenomenal attitude the entire time and he was great to have,” Mr. Glackin said.
Drew said it was a more a relaxed environment with lower stakes compared to when the yacht is racing, but at the same time, with a smaller than normal crew, the work could still get intense. Mr. Glackin described the yacht’s speed and the crew’s pace in terms of percentages. While racing, the crew sails the yacht in the upper 90s. On delivery runs,that percentage dips only to the high 80s.
The first leg of the journey took the crew from Hawaii to Port Denarau, on the main island of Fiji. On the second leg, the crew was worried about a front coming through and bringing poor weather, so they stepped up their effort. The boat began cruising at near race speed.
“The guys are kind of funny. They stopped calling it just a delivery; it’s a performance delivery,” Mr. Glackin said. “We were probably averaging the mid-90s, not too far below the race performance.”
One of the thrills for Drew was crossing the equator on Aug. 8. Tradition has it that sailors celebrate their first crossing of that line. In keeping with that tradition, Drew’s head was shaved into a Mohawk and he got to call himself a “time traveler” for that moment, when he essentially gained a day.
Drew now has his sights set on joining the crew of Prospector for future races. His father is already set to be part of its crew for the Sydney-Hobart Race. Drew will travel with him, and will help during sail testing and training in the days leading up to the competition.
“My goal is to work [Drew] into the race crew in 2019 because he’s a valuable asset and he’s real good on the boat,” the captain said.
Drew said Prospector’s owners and his fellow crew members were “the most generous people you could meet.” He also thanked his parents for the opportunity and said they “were amazing throughout the process.”
When he arrived back to Greenport, Drew had little time to recover from his jet-lag before reporting for soccer practice and catching up on his summer school assignments in preparation for his junior year of high school .
“I got it done,” he said.
Top photo caption: Drew sails Prospector in the Pacific Ocean in August. (Credit: Courtesy photo)