An Approaching Low

February 23, 2019

Day 142

Noon Position: 46 11S  154 47W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExN 7

Wind(t/tws): NW 19 – 24

Sea(t/ft): NW 6

Sky: Overcast; altostratus

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1016+

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): 59

Relative Humidity(%): 74

Sail: Working jib and main, double reefed; wind 10 degrees forward of the beam.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 154

Miles since departure: 19,522

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 85

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,811

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 43

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 273 45

Avg. Long./Day: 3.22

I’ll admit I’m not fond of days like this. Mo is fast again, but on her ear and shoveling water as if it were free. One is fully kitted on deck or he begs to get dunked. The sky is a pasty, impenetrable gray; the water, slate, and filling the gap between these is but a dim, cold light.

We are running, not for the fun of it, not for the joy alone of speed, but rather to get ahead of a deep low slicing down from the north. Now and for many days the lows will deliver nothing but hard north wind. They are a chaos of oblong shapes, and their trajectories are always the bitter end of the world as quickly as possible, as if suddenly the Coriolis force has ceased.

How many gales have we ridden out? I’ve lost count. But I still get anxious in the run up to a blow. What will we find? How will I handle the challenge? What will happen?

After lunch, I pulled down David Lewis’s ICE BIRD and opened to a random page. “The notes for 7 November contain one entry,” writes Lewis at the outset of his attempt to circumnavigate Antarctica below 60S, “‘All that I need for this trip is courage–and that I possess only in very small measure.'”

Mo and I are approaching the exit gate for these waters, but I still feel that way. Risk and danger are close. Confidence is ever illusive. Fear is the companion.

I spent the day before a blow in the usual way. I cleaned. The galley, the head, the pilot house. It’s not as though I don’t clean except at the approach of strong weather, but I pay special attention then. One less thing to worry about.

6 Comments on “An Approaching Low

  1. Randall, you write about your feelings, the sea state, the heavens overhead, your companions at sea that fly about and the gallant MO, all so beautifully described. I am a great fan of David Lewis, and my husband, Andy knew him and thought of him as a great pioneer of high latitude sailing. Now you are my hero, and I applaud you!! One hand for the ship! Randall, and you will take care of MO, and she will take care of you.

  2. A very descriptive post, enthralling to read. You are right there with the other brave sailors who have ventured into those waters and there are not a lot of them. You and Mo are a magnificent team.

  3. A small amount of fear is good, it always pays to respect the elements. One hand for the boat etc. Too much fear is not good because it paralyses the mind. I think the Royal Navy used rum in daily measures to counteract the problem and the fact that the water wasn’t fit to drink 🙂

  4. Randall What is your plan on when to start running further south below 47S? Are you going to wait until 105W? Or will you cut the corner if weather forecast allows a sooner turn?

  5. Ah, haven’t heard David Lewis’ name for such a long time I would not have been able to bring it to the fore. During my voyaging on the late 70’s, I was in touch with Mr Lewis when we were both in Australia, inquiring as to whether he would consider taking me as crew. His plans were stalled at the time and I lost track of him.
    Your prose is mesmerizing! You have such a gift and what better opportunity to practice it than doing what you are doing!

    • Mary, in the late 1960’s did you ever cross tacks with 30 foot wooden Carmen class sloop from Sydney, CARRONADE? My husband, Andy Wall, was cruising around the Pacific until he sailed direct from Tahiti to Cape Horn in March of 1967? Pam Wall

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