Write Comment (no comments)

November 9, 2018

Day 36

Noon Position: 31 36S 126 19W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ESE 6 – 7

Wind(t/tws): SWxW 18

Sea(t/ft): W3, S6

Sky: Fronts rolling through. Low sky. Light rain.

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1011, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 70

Water Temp(f): 66

Relative Humidity(%): 67

Sail: #2 genoa, main, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 116

Miles since departure: 4630

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

All sailing today. The sky is gray and low. Small fronts are blowing through, wave after wave from the west. Wind is 10 or 25. I’d reefed and unreefed the main four times by lunch.

No complaint. Reefing is good exercise and a small sacrifice for fast time in the right direction.

It is cooling quickly. For weeks I slept without any cover at all. Then a few days ago, a blanket. Now the summer sleeping bag.

I’m wearing a light jacket and warm boots as I type, this after two-thousand miles in (the same) tanktop and shorts. We’ve seen no sun all day. The cabin is 66 degrees. And I look at the following video, from just four days ago, with wonder. Was it really ever that warm? …

Write Comment (3 comments)

November 8, 2018

Day 35

Noon Position: 30 18S 127 49W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 4

Wind(t/tws): SSE 5 – 6

Sea(t/ft): S 6, not much else

Sky: Complex cloud formations. Feels like a front coming.

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1014, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 72

Water Temp(f): 67

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: Big genoa and main, close hauled.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 106

Miles since departure: 4515

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

At noon I wrote in the log, “Light and contrary. Ug.” All night we ran dead downwind on poles and I star gazed through sparse, cottony cumulus before dinner. Orion is rising earlier; Cassiopea is sunk in the north and Cygnus is not far behind. I have yet to find Crux, the Southern Cross.

But the day brought change.

By mid morning, we were overtaken by a dark and squally system. Wind went from NW to SSW in a matter of fifteen minutes. Down came the poles, and we were close hauled in a 10 knot breeze.

By noon wind had gone SSE at 5 – 6.

At 3pm, the wind went NE at 8.

At 5:30pm, it went NW at 10 – 25 as a front moved through. Heavy rain.

Now it’s just N of W at 11.

That’s a powerful lot of sail changing for one day, and I doubt we’re done.

During a lull I was able to repair the main sail car that broke and spilled its bearings back in mid October. So, something besides line handling got done today.

Write Comment (2 comments)

November 7, 2018

Day 34

Noon Position: 29 09S 129 21W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SE 4-5

Wind(t/tws): NNW 6-8

Sea(t/ft): NNW 1, SE 2, S6 (big, old, dying swell)

Sky: Cumulus low and cirrus with mares tails

10ths Cloud Cover: 7

Bar(mb): 1018, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 79

Water Temp(f): 70

Relative Humidity(%): 52

Sail: All sail. #1 genoa and main rigged for a quartering breeze and #1 genoa poled to windward and sheeted way out.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 56

Miles since departure: 4409

Avg. Miles/Day: 130

Just enough wind overnight to keep sails full and quite.

The sea ran down to nothing and that old swell from the south was too long and slow even to be noticed below. I laid down on a flat and motionless bed and slept like a man at home while Mo ghosted, her bow wave nothing but a tinkling of glass.

More of the same today. Light but steady wind from the north under a fallstreak sky. Mo happily making gentle southeasting. I poled out the working genoa after breakfast and flew three sails all day.

No time wasted. Rigged the inner forestay and flew the new storm jib just to see it. (Thanks to Robin at HOOD for getting this turned around quickly during their busiest time.) It’s smaller and squatter than the old one, and thus it is more appropriate for downwind runs. But given its size, I can’t see using it in anything but the worst snorter. That’s fine. One conclusion I’ve come to regarding last year’s knockdowns is that typically I need to carry more sail in the big blows.

After lunch, I sealed the flue caps over the diesel cabin heater with coax tape. Water squirted down these during the knockdowns and rusted the diesel pan right through. Just a pin hole, but enough to be trouble. Had to remove the heater, disassemble, and hand to the Weld Shop at KKMI what must have been the smallest weld job ever. Plug one pin hole, please.

Finished removing and resealing the leaking plexiglass windows. Then did an end for end on the running back lines, whose covers are showing signs of being chewed on where they pass through the clutch.

The list is getting smaller…

In the afternoon, our first albatross, an immature black browed–a remarkable sighting and a sure sign, just as we are entering 30S.

Yesterday we were visited by a tropic bird. Today, the largest flying fish I’ve ever seen (over a foot long) dashed away from Mo over three wave tops. Water temperature is still hovering at 70 degrees.

But the albatross says we have entered the south.

Write Comment (2 comments)

November 6, 2018

Day 33

Noon Position: 28 18S 129 46W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): S 4

Wind(t/tws): ExS 7

Sea(t/ft): SE 2 (big old swell coming up from S, occasionally S @ 6)

Sky: Stratocumulus (Clear by mid afternoon.)

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 1019, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 77

Water Temp(f): 70

Relative Humidity(%): 54 (47% by mid afternoon; driest this passage)

Sail: #1 and Main, full; close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 105

Miles since departure: 4353

Avg. Miles/Day: 132

Everything today speaks of desert.

Dawn revealed a deck of mid-level stratocumulus clouds, flat and unmoving, clouds Alan Watts in his little *Instant Weather Forecasting* book associates with an inversion layer due to subsiding air and “tropical airstreams that have all dried out.”

In other words, we’d sailed into an area of high pressure. No big surprise; the forecast had been calling for it for days.

By early afternoon, winds had eased to four knots and the sky cleared to a soft, eggshell blue. The sea became still, save for a tired, old swell from the south that was shuffling out its last days in the Pacific basin.

The dry warmth, the lack of wind, the pale, cloudless sky; a calm sea gently rolling like deep blue dunes. The quiet. All speak to me of desert.

It is on days like today that the ocean feels vast. On other days I know it is vast, but if the wind is up, the seas create a sense of closeness, and one is busy sailing. Not today. Today, when on deck, I feel I can see forever. And what I see is an endless plain of the deepest, most engaging blue.

If I were to stop, to think of distances and the depths below and all that could happen between here and there, I might become anxious. But I don’t. Mo knows how to float and wind will return. And so I am free to enjoy the delicious solitude the sea offers up and to pretend that I am flirting with the infinite.

And then I go back to work. Today: dried out the anchor locker; rove the new topnlift lines; removed a plexiglass window covering that had fogged over; now dried and resealed; gave my head and beard a wash.

Write Comment (2 comments)

November 5, 2018

Day 32

Noon Position: 26 45S 128 59W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxW 5

Wind(t/tws): SExS 10

Sea(t/ft): E 3

Sky: Altocumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar(mb): 1021, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 81

Water Temp(f): 73

Relative Humidity(%): 55 (dry)

Sail: #2 genoa, main, full; close hauled (AWA roughly 40 degrees)

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 125

Miles since departure: 4248

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

Wind has tailed off and gone SE. We’re cruising the top of a high, and, sadly, we’re giving up much of the easting made over the last weeks. Another day of this and then becalmed a day and then wind goes south, allowing a tack to the east. Within a week we should start to feel the tops of the big lows currently passing toward Cape Horn.

A friend sends me regular reports on the tribulations of the Golden Globe Race skippers, who have been experiencing knockdowns, broken masts, boat abandonments and at-sea rescues. No one’s escaped without being raked. I think at this point they are all through the Indian, but now Cape Horn looms.

Not encouraging reading.

All while Mo and I make four knots in the wrong direction. I’m in no hurry. Thus the #1 is still rolled.

On a cheerier note, below is a video of scenes from the SE Trades…

https://youtu.be/pYskd-lATQ8

Write Comment (5 comments)

November 4, 2018

Day 31

Noon Position: 24 44S 128 17W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSW 6 – 7

Wind(t/tws): ESE 18 – 20

Sea(t/ft): E 6 – 8

Sky: Light Cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1023, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 77

Water Temp(f): 74

Relative Humidity(%): 68

Sail: #2 three reefs; main 2 reefs, close reach (55 – 60 AWA).

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 146

Miles since departure: 4123

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

Henderson Island was hull up when I rolled out of my bunk at 7am. At eight miles off, it was but a thick and unmoving line atop the undulating horizon. This didn’t change much as we approached.

Wind overnight pushed us west such that I thought for a time we might have to take Henderson to leeward. But Mo hunted her way back, and even when, with daylight, wind went decidedly SE, we still made clear by six miles.

I had hoped to do a fly-by of Pitcairn, but Henderson is equally as fascinating, though for quite different reasons.

I’ll thumbnail the items of interest here (from Wiki).

-The Pitcairn Island Group is made up of Ducie Atoll, Henderson Island, Oeno Atoll, and Pitcairn Island, all of which are British possessions. At a landed area of 14 square miles, Henderson is, by far, the largest of the four. Compare Pitcairn, the only inhabited island in the group (by a 2014 census, the population was a small 57 residents) at 3 square miles. Henderson’s elevation is about 50 feet.

-Henderson is one of the last two raised atolls in the world that remain untouched by civilization (the other is Aldabra in the Indian Ocean). For this reason, the island was made a World Heritage Site in 1988.

-Henderson is lush and densely wooded. So, why no residents? Inaccessibility: it is surrounded by step cliffs that often cut away into the sea. Lack of water: there is only one brackish spring on the island. There is evidence of a 12th century Polynesian group living on Henderson, but it is presumed they were supplied by neighboring islands and went extinct with the others.

-Of the 51 flowering plants, ten are endemic. All four resident bird species are endemic (a fruit dove, a lorikeet, a reed warbler and a flightless crake). About a third of identified insects are endemic. Quite an accomplishment for such a small place.

-Henderson was discovered by the Portuguese explorer, Queiros in 1606 and named San Juan Bautista. It was discovered again in 1819 by a British Merchantman, Captain Henderson of the Hercules, who named it after himself.

-The crew of the whaleship Essex landed here in 1820 after their ship was rammed and sunk by a sperm whale (this is the story that inspired Meliville’s Moby Dick). They discovered the only drinking water on the island, a brackish spring available at half tide, ate up the easily accessible food in a matter of a week and departed for South America. Three men stayed behind and were later rescued. These men discovered skeletons in a cave that later proved to be ancient Polynesians.

-As a publicity stunt, American Robert Tomarchin and his pet chimpanzee lived as castaways on Henderson two months in 1957. He was rescued by the Pitcairners.

-Henderson is home to the largest plastics debris deposits anywhere in the world, a whopping 37.7 million items can be found on windward beaches.

That struck me as an interesting history for a small, uninhabited island 3,000 miles from the mainland.

The two anchorages are extremely exposed roadsteads on the west side and not the least bit tempting. But I did feel that pang to explore a coastline, to nose into a protected bay and drop the hook after a long passage.

Not now. Not for us. Onward for us.

Winds are easing but are still south of east. At best, we make south. In the afternoon, I had canned dolmas for lunch with what was left of last night’s lentil stew. Then I rewired the handheld VHF radio charger and drained water from the two forward bilges; then I backed up the computer and took a sun sight.

Work-a-day stuff. Henderson was the high point.

Write Comment (4 comments)

November 3, 2018

Day 30

Noon Position: 22 19S 128 03W

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

Wind(t/tws): E 17 – 21

Sea(t/ft): E 6 -8

Sky: Light Cumulus, sparsly distributed cirrus

10ths Cloud Cover: 4

Bar(mb): 1022

Cabin Temp(f): 81

Water Temp(f): 78

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: Two reefs in genoa and main. Close reaching (60 degrees AWA is about the best I can do and maintain speed).

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 147

Miles since departure: 3977

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

This is the pattern. Days are steady and stiff with wind. Skies are mostly clear. But at night it all goes to hell. Squalls come up from windward an hour after dark, and they have their own idea of a howling good time. Amazingly I am in the pilot house again, this time at 3am, when we get T-boned. 35 gusting 40. Sideways rain so heavy I think it might take my skin off. I ease sheets, let Mo run off before it. An hour later, 15 – 20. That’s the worst one, but there are others. All by way of explaining why I ran with a tripple reefed genoa and double reefed main last night.

Monte: So, Senior, how are you feeling?

Randall: Feeling? About what?

Monte: Your most recent 30 continuous days at sea.

Randall: I dunno. It’s just a month. What do you mean?

Monte: Are you not from California? I thought all those of California were most obliged to be queried about feelings.

Randall: That’s OK. I just don’t know where you’re coming from.

Monte: Let us try again … you’ve been at sea for 30 days. How is your health?

Randall: Ah! Excellent, I think. When we departed, both my shoulders were soar and I’d pulled a vertebrae in my mid-lower back that was bad enough it would wake me up at night. These have both enjoyed a more active sea life. The back pain is gone entirely and the shoulders are mostly better. I woke with a splitting headache last week, and was worried for a while about tainted water or eating expired food or spoiled apples, etc., but I think it was just dehydration. The pilot house is a furnace during the day. I drank three liters of water that day and haven’t had a repeat. I sit too much and don’t do leg exercises the way I should, but my upper body is already much stronger than when I departed from all the work at the winches.

Monte: That is pleasant to hear. And how’s your appetite? Your menu is the same as it was a year ago.

Randall: Also good. I’m not a shy eater. Breakfast is one full cup of Muesli with powdered milk and dried fruit. Lunch is hit and miss, but dinner is always a one-pot wonder stew that’s enough for two meals (actually probably three, but I eat it in two); you know, beef curry and rice; polenta with salmon and stewed tomatoes; shepherds pie; chicken pasta…all hearty if not very diverse. There’s sameness aplenty in my diet, but I don’t mind that as long as the meal is filling. That said, as usual, I’d like more fresh bread and cake, but that will have to wait till a different tack and a might less wind and sea.

Monte: Bueno, bueno. And how about sleep. Do you sleep?

Randal: When I can. Winds this year in the SE trades have been pretty damned strong and incredibly variable, with the variability seeming to come mostly at night. I’m up frequently these days. I have relaxed my old pattern of one hour of sleep followed by a series of two-hour sleeps until morning or interruption. Now I focus more on two and three hour intervals. The further south we get, the less there is for the AIS to get bothered about, and the more we can sleep, weather permitting. It’s that last part that’s been an issue so far, and I doubt that’s going to get any better.

Monte: I understand completely. An how about activity. Are you keeping busy?

Randall: Again, it’s been a busy leg. The list of small chores that need doing before we get smacked by our first low is still long, largely due to Mo the Water Flinger making anything forward of the pilot house off limits, except for reefing. I still need to repair the broken car on the main, rig the storm jib, reeve the new genoa topnlifts. I’d like to dive the hull before the water gets too cold. Still need to close off the dorade vents and water proof the hatches and the stove flu (I use coax tape).

Monte: I sense a calm coming after Pitcairn. You will have your chance.

Randall: And, I’ve been navigating as much as I can. Navigating and memorizing stars. Am up to 25 of the 58 nav stars. I can give you a tour any night you choose.

Monte: Oh, many thanks. I need but one star to steer by and a tiny light on the compass. So, senior, now back to my original question. How are you feeling?

Randall: Ah. Ok, I guess. There’s not a lot of joy to be had when one is driving into stiff trades, and I know what’s coming further south. Last time there was a sense of anticipation and excitement. Now its just anticipation. I feel like a professional with a job to do, and I’m just trying to be ready. For example, I haven’t admired a sunset or gone all bug-eyed over a bird this leg. I miss the sense of wonder. But fear will do that to you… And it’s a big ocean and plenty of room for wonder later on.

Monte: Claro que si.

Write Comment (3 comments)

November 2, 2018

Day 29

Noon Position: 19 53S 128 21W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxE 7 – 8

Wind(t/tws): ENE 18 – 21

Sea(t/ft): NE 8

Sky: Light cumulus low and cirrus high, mare’s tails

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar(mb): 1020+

Cabin Temp(f): 82

Water Temp(f): 79 (down)

Relative Humidity(%): 67

Sail: Two reefs in genoa and main. Dancing between a reach and a close reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 176

Miles since departure: 3830

Avg. Miles/Day: 132

Wind stayed steady from the NE all night, if 18 – 21 with touches of 24 counts as steady. At 18, our rig, double reefed for close reaching, was perfect. At 21 – 24, Mo and skipper felt the press, though our hearts were gladdened by the frequent visits to 8 knots.

Seas have built to that boulder garden stage, and the sensation is that of sailing through a rock quarry just after the dynamite blast. Mo leaps and flings thick water everywhere. If on deck, one is guaranteed a drenching forward of the pilot house, but there is no safety anywhere but below.

At midnight we were T-boned by a squall. For reasons unknown I was in the pilot house when wind suddenly went to 35 knots. Mo laid right over. Heavy rain flew sideways. I eased the main and let Mo run off for an hour. Then back we went the wind to 18 – 20.

This has continued all day. It’s a fast but soul crushing ride.

Today’s story is about gimbaled stoves.

Mo has one, and a week ago the gimbal knobs on which the stove rests began to squeak. So I oiled them. Confession: I used a handy spray can of penetrating oil. A week later, I notice that the gimbal knobs are no longer turning with the stove as the stove swings. The penetrating oil has penetrated the threads of the fastener holding the gimbal knob in place, and the two are slowly working apart.

The stove is in danger of being set free to roam the cabin at will, an unpleasant emancipation for those on the down hill side of the boat when this occurs. Tightening the fasteners required removal of the stove top and grate and some delicate maneuvering between the burners. Not at all difficult in one’s home marina, but while riding Mo the Water Flinger as she charges into the great unknown…it was touch and go for a while.

Write Comment (4 comments)

November 1, 2018

Day 28

Noon Position: 17 09S 129 29W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExE 7 – 8

Wind(t/tws): NE 17 – 21

Sea(t/ft): NE 6

Sky: Mixed cumulus, occasional squall but without heft

10ths Cloud Cover: 3

Bar(mb): 1017+, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 84

Water Temp(f): 80 (slight drop)

Relative Humidity(%): 65

Sail: #2 one reef; main one reef; reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 132

Miles since departure: 3654

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

Miles to Cape Horn: 3570

Twenty eight days to get half way to Cape Horn.

If we maintain this pace, we approach before the end of November. Part of me will be pleased if we can get all our southing in inside of 60 days–that’ll be an efficient run if we can do it. But part of me worries that we’re too early in the season. Jeremy Firth, a Hobart native and round-the-worlder I met while there last year, issued that warning. “Down here it’s all ocean,” he said. “Cold ocean. Seasons are slow to change. They’re at least a month behind what you’d think.”

This may be why most prefer to round the Horn nearer the end of December (except for Vito Dumas, who thought July was best, this according to Moitessier). It may also be why the South Pacific lows I’ve been watching these last weeks often have their centers in the mid 40s of latitude. Three cheers for a good blow, but Lordy, can I please stay above it?

Cape Horn timing. It may be one of the more challenging aspects to the Figure 8 route, which calls for two roundings of that famous promontory in one season. Mo just isn’t fast enough to get two in during official summer. An end of November approach (Northern Hemisphere equivalent: end of May) for the first pass puts me back at the Horn around the end of March (Northern Hemisphere equivalent: end of Sept). Imagine sailing the Gulf of Alaska or the North Atlantic in those months. Certainly doable, but not ideal. But any other timing risks being very early or very late.

Strange to cogitate on Cape Horn when the cabin is 84 degrees at sundown.

Wind today. Big wind and steady and exactly where Mo likes it best: flat on the beam. Squalls overnight to drive a sailor mental. Some were so big–a quarter of the sky, sometimes half–that they created their own wind patterns. I sat up until 3am as wind cycled between E and NW and 10 and 25 knots. Every hour or two, that pattern. Crank in sail; let it out; tap Monte on the left shoulder; now the right. Nap for 20 minutes in the pilot house. But sleep? Try it and you’ll wake to find Mo screaming toward the NE.

The morning showed a clear sky, not to windward, but in our direction of travel, and by an hour past sun up, we got there: wind filled in from the NE at 20 and hasn’t budged all day. Mo spends whole minutes having her way with 8 knots over the ground. Just grand.

Write Comment (one comment)

October 31, 2018

Day 27

Noon Position: 15 13S 130 35W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): W 2

Wind(t/tws): E 3

Sea(t/ft): E 4

Sky: Billowing cumulus and giant roaming squall clouds

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 1017 falling (I hope)

Cabin Temp(f): 84

Water Temp(f): 81

Relative Humidity(%): 64

Sail: It doesn’t matter.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 112

Miles since departure: 3522

Avg. Miles/Day: 130

Miles to Cape Horn: 3704

A day of annoyances.

The satellite equipment I use to send these missives has failed to work today. All lights are green, but nothing goes. Thus, no photos for this post. (This is being sent from the device that populates the tracker.)

Then the faint wind we’d nursed all night failed just after morning coffee. The trades, utterly gone, and Mo just at 15S. Nothing but the merest exhalations here and there from N and W while the sea frolicked at its release from the tyranny of the wind. For non sailors, what this means is that the crew is forever on deck adjusting sail, attempting to catch any wind that will keep the sails from slatting. Slatting is the death song of sails, and it is similar in its beauty to the death song of nails on a chalk board.

Only three of my five star shots from the night before came to anything worth discussing. True, those three did put us right where the chart plotter predicted. But what of Vega and Deneb? Why should they want us to be in the Med?

Then those trolls of the sea, squalls. Dark and wet, they came for us. I rigged the water catchment system and was humming along at the idea of a bath. I could smell the soap. What joy against the usual smells. But not a single squall was a direct hit. Though it was a veritable Noah’s flood just over there, and there, and there, we caught no rain. Salt crystals have etched their way into the paint, into the pilot house glass, into my skin. We all could have done with a fresh water rinse.

A note I’d seen the day before about the Golden Globe Racers being scourged with barnacles has put me on edge. I gave up tending sail and put a waterproof camera over the side. There, in the dark of the bilge and beyond the pelagic pale blue, a collection of Goosenecks have colonized. It’s only day 27. The words of my friend Gerd, ringing in my ear, “There is no good bottom paint for aluminum boats.”

I began to dig out snorkel gear and a putty knife. That colony would reap its reward! But wind came up from the NW. Off we went to the E.

I asked Mo to go SE. “It’s a Great Circle for the Horn,” I reasoned. But S was more to her liking.

I ate an apple. It was rotten at the core.

Then I ate an orange. Well, OK, the orange was fine.

I yelled up to a flock of passing Terns, “Anyone for Cake? I have Cake!” No answer. “Lemon or chocolate. I have both. Up to you!” They flew off.

Conclusion: Terns don’t like cake.

Write Comment (one comment)

October 30, 2018

Day 26

Noon Position: 13 22S  130 53W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSE 5.5 (by evening, SSE 3)

Wind(t/tws): ENE 10 (by evening, NE 6)

Sea(t/ft): E 3

Sky: Clear most of day; occasional tiny, thin cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 1 – 0

Bar(mb): 1016, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 88

Water Temp(f): 81 (Still so high!)

Relative Humidity(%): 59 (DRY!)

Sail: #1 genoa and main, full, reaching

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 138

Miles since departure: 3410

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

Caressingly gentle days as our wind ever so slowly dissipates into … thin air. The sky, pale as an egg shell, hosts but the occasional cloud now, a ragged, shrunken, emaciated cotton ball, panting for moisture. Only the sapphirine sea is unchanged; heaving slowly, awaiting the next development with abyssal patience. Nothing lost to time, it thinks. Nothing lost.

Mo ghosts along at 3 knots. Fast enough to maintain steerage but slow enough that the other world, the world hidden by wind and happy waves, comes into view.  Man-a-war jellies, misshapen bubbles with spindly blue tentacles, a small red jelly the size of a crimini mushroom, a surface animal that looks like a flower petal in the shape of the button off a man’s dress shirt, another that looks like a used dentist’s swab. Egg sacks of various shapes, spheres, tubes, ameboids. Then there are mysterious flashes of silver from further down.

Suddenly a larger object. A sausage in form but long and bent, translucent red, about as wide as a sock and probably five feet long. Quickly gone. And finally our persistent friend, the Halobate, the only insect of the ocean, a flax seed with legs, a white sea skater madly darting across the surface.

On days like this I want to drop the sails and drift for a week. Just to watch. The sea is like a desert. It opens slowly and you must be very still to see it.

But work too. The other eye splice in the topinglift is now done. The jiffy reef lines have been cut and moved down to remove the worn parts. I did a head for tail on the #2 genoa sheets. The aft ends never get more use than coiling down and are essentially new.

I shot the moon again this morning. And at twilight will aim for the stars, Vega, Deneb, Fomalhaut, Antares. Then, later, Mercury and Jupiter will descend to the horizon as one. Scorpius will follow. Orion will rise. Then the moon will rise. On and on.

And all shall be well. And all manner of things shall be well.

Write Comment (7 comments)

October 29, 2018

Day 25

Noon Position: 11 16S 131 47W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSE+ 6

Wind(t/tws): E- 13

Sea(t/ft): E 3

Sky: Clear, utterly

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 1016, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 86

Water Temp(f): 81 (Still!)

Relative Humidity(%): 63

Sail: #2 genoa and main, close reach. Likely go to #1 soon. Wind really tailing off.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 141

Miles since departure: 3,272

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

An idyllic day. Wind has softened and the sea has gone down. I’ve eased sheets and now we slide along at a respectable but unhurried pace over a big blue marble, utterly devoid of thumping drops off wave crests or spray in the face or anything remotely related to harship, not to mention birds, flying fish, sea mammals, or anything else except Mo and me.

Just sky and sea–and Mo and me plying quietly a world of our own.

I wax because beating into the trades is a little like being put into a barrel and rolled down an unevenly built, infinitely long stair case. You get used to the barrel after a while and you appreciate going fast, but it’s not ever comfortable.

Among other things, Mo is now a more even platform for chores.

I’m slowly working through the Southern Ocean prep list. Today, eye splices in the new genoa pole topnlift lines. All Mo’s running rigging was new when I departed on the Figure 8 a year ago. Since then it has all made a circumnavigation without a single failure. Granted, some lines took more punishment than others, but the only two I’m out-and-out replacing are the the headsail furling lines and the genoa pole topnlift lines.

The furling lines, especially the #2, spend a great deal of time reefed in the south, i.e. under load but moving slightly as the sail pressurizes and depressurizes while riding waves and taking gusts. Both were pretty chafed up and taped up by the time we got back to San Francisco. A furling line failure in a gale could be the end of the sail; so, those were renewed before departure.

The topnlift lines suffered from owner abuse as I learned how to balance the genoa poles in heavy weather. Early on I tended to run the lines too taught, asking them to maintain pole positioning rather than relying on the sail to do that. So, there’s been a fair bit of chafe at the line mast entry point when the poles are deployed. Owner abuse has been corrected but as these lines also second as storm jib halyards on Mo, and would disappear forever inside the mast if they parted, it’s better to replace and be safe.

So, today, eye splices in those lines for their snap shackles. It’s a splice that’s just complicated enough to look like a disaster a moment before the hat trick that turns it into a neat loop. Not sure my friend Kevin, head rigger over at KKMI, would approve; the cover around the eye is a little baggy, but then he’s not here to shake his head and mutter, “rookie mistake, Reeves. Rookie mistake.”

Now, if I could only remember to insert the damned snap shackle at the one and only opportune moment!

Write Comment (6 comments)

October 28, 2018

Day 24

Noon Position: 08 58S 132 16W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSE 6

Wind(t/tws): E 14

Sea(t/ft): E 4 -5 (finally swell is coming E. Whew. Easier ride.)

Sky: Light, puffy cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar(mb): 1015+

Cabin Temp(f): 86

Water Temp(f): 81 (surprised at the continuing warm water)

Relative Humidity(%): 709

Sail: #2 genoa full, main one reef, close reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 150

Miles since departure: 3,131

Avg. Miles/Day: 130

Two Frigate birds followed Mo for a time today.

Frigates? Way out here?

Then I realized we are a mere 400 west of the Marquesas Islands, the most northern and eastern group in the French Polynesian archipelago, where also can be found Tahiti and Moorea, to name but two. Just think on it–within three days sail, we could be anchored off a sandy beach enjoying MaiTais at the …

No wait. It’s the Figure 8 Voyage. We must make southing. Always southing…

Today marks an intersting milestone. On this day a year ago, the first Figure 8 Voyage attempt commenced. Here more about that in this video from earlier in the afternoon…

https://youtu.be/e_a-n4p7w80

Write Comment (3 comments)

October 27, 2018

Day 23

Noon Position: 06 36S  133 06W

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

Wind(t/tws): ExN 16 – 20

Sea(t/ft): SE 5

Sky: Cumulus and Squalls coming

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1014, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 84

Water Temp(f): 81 (surprising to see the water temp go up)

Relative Humidity(%): 75

Sail: #2 genoa, two reefs; main, one reef; close reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 137

Miles since departure: 2981

Avg. Miles/Day: 130

Our steady trade winds are a variable beast this year. An afternoon of clear skies, true wind at 18 – 20 and Mo with double reefs will give way in the evening to a turbulent, squally sky with winds going 12 just about bed time. I’ll wait to shake out a reef until midnight, and by three, it’s 18 – 20 again.

Sometimes the squally weather persists until noon; then clear skies will rein again, and always the wind is pumping between 12 and 20. We reef and shake out reefs as required and now can reef without putting on our glasses; without a headlamp at night.

But at least the wind is slowly backing north of east, allowing a course more for the Horn.

Now the question is how shall we pass Pitcairn Island, the three-mile square home of the Bounty mutineers at 24S and 128W, about 1,200 miles southeast of our current position. Last year we left it well to starboard, passing at nearly 126W on our 33rd day at sea.

But that may be a difficult maneuver this year, as we are so much further west; thus I am allowed to entertain the fantasy of seeing Pitcairn rise from the sea as we sail south. How many of the 50 residents, all descendents of Fletcher Christian and his cohort and the Tahitians they brought with them would come out to wave?

Write Comment (5 comments)

October 26, 2018

Day 22

Noon Position: 04 22S 133 35W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SSE 6

Wind(t/tws): E 15

Sea(t/ft): SE 4-5

Sky: High Cumulus, some left over squall from the night; clear by afternoon.

10ths Cloud Cover: 7, 3 by afternoon

Bar(mb): 1014, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 86

Water Temp(f): 80

Relative Humidity(%): 82

Sail: #2 genoa full, main, one reef, close hauled.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 150

Miles since departure: 2884

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

When I bought Mo, she had in her port cockpit locker a hefty series drogue that had clearly been of great help to previous owners. I, too, put it to use in the south last year, twice and was amazed by its power. It was lost off the Crozets during the gale that broke Mo’s pilot house window, and, by the time I departed Hobart, had been replaced by a brand new Jordan Series Droge (JSD), made by ACE Sails in Rhode Island. (www.jordanseriesdrogue.com)

Once home, I sent the JSD back in for some modifications that included a stronger bridle and more cones. If memory serves, it is now 148 cones in total (for a boat displacement of 35,000 lbs), and you could probably lift the boat with the bridle, now of super-strong Dynema.

The design has improved greatly over the years. The old series drogue used a hefty one-inch polyline, and, as connections between drogue and bridle, marine eyes and gigantic shackles. It was a brute. Hefting it out of the cockpit locker was tantamount to lifting a dead linebacker, especially if it had got itself wedged under the spare line bag, as it was prone to do in heavy going.

The new drogue is (I’m guessing) a third the weight. Dynema has been employed for both the bridle and the first, roughly, half of the cone length, allowing a much smaller diameter (read, lighter) polyline for the after half of the drogue. The marine eyes and shackles have been replaced by eye splices wrapped in chafe gear. It is also a wonder of fabrication and represents just mountains of by-hand sewing and splicing on the part of ACE.

Today, I rigged the anchor weight, 25 lbs of chain, to the JSD and stowed it properly for deployment.

Next to it in the port locker, also rigged and ready for deployment, is a new addition, a Shark Drogue, designed and manufactured by Zack Smith and the folks at Fiorentino. (www.para-anchor.com)This drogue is a wonder in the opposite direction, that is, its design is minimalistic and the drogue itself is small enough to be stowed in its own day-pack sized bag. Instead of many cones, it uses one chute roughly the shape of a hot air balloon connected, on the bow end, to a beefy bale and at the stern, a tail line for the anchor weight.

So, why two drogues?

The two drogues represent two schools of thought regarding how a boat should ride out heavy weather. The JSD is commonly referred to as a “stopping drogue” and the Shark as a “slowing drogue.”

In short, once deployed, the JSD will bring boat speed down to 1 – 2 knots and keep the orientation of the boat stern to the seas. Lash the tiller, go below; you’re done (except do check for bridle chafe occasionally).

The Shark, on the other hand, reduces speed from, say, 7 knots down to 4 knots, which allows the boat to continue making way but in a controlled manner. Its adjustable bridle also allows the boat to be steered by the drogue if, for example, the rudder has been damaged or lost.

From my limited experience, in extreme conditions (an Indian Ocean gale with heavy gray beards), what I want most of all from a drogue is a guarantee that Mo stays at a roughly perpendicular orientation to the breaking sea. All the knockdown trouble we’ve had thus far has been due to a breaker catching Mo by the stern, turning her broadside and throwing her down. For this, it’s hard to imagine a better device than a JSD.

On the other hand, not all conditions in which one might want a drogue are like that. For example, during the week I hand steered Mo off our approach to Cape Horn and into the safety of Ushuaia, Argentina, I let Mo lie ahull at night in marginal conditions. This was because the JSD would have been too much work to deploy and retrieve every day of that week. Later we rode out a gale on the JSD just off the coast, but conditions were not extreme. In both cases, the Shark’s ease of use and steering characteristics would have made it an ideal solution.

In the *Shark Drogue Manual*,Zack Smith has written a very thorough review of both the Shark and concerns regarding to the JSD. Key among series drogue concerns is that the difficulty of deploying a series drogue often causes a skipper to delay deployment until the height of things, when such work is more difficult, even dangerous (yep, I’ve been there). Another issue is possible damage to the boat by the JSD due to the forces required to stop a boat in breaking seas (not an issue on Mo). And a third is that a stopped boat can easily take damaging breaking seas into the cockpit and over the boat (true, but in my experience, the oomph of a wave is not in the white water).

Based on Smith’s research, the answer, then, is a drogue that slows rather than stops the boat and allows the vessel to maintain control while working with the seas rather against them.

I love this answer, by the way. The JSD is a bear to handle. Though what it does, it does admirably, if there is a simpler solution, I’m all for it.

But what I’ve not yet gotten from Smith’s excellent booket is whether the Shark has the power to keep a boat under control in extreme conditions. When seas are steep and breaking and threatening to roll the boat, does the Shark have enough power to pull the boat back from the brink? At this point, I don’t know the answer.

Write Comment (2 comments)

October 25, 2018

Day 21

Noon Position: 01 53N  133 40W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): S 6+

Wind(t/tws): ExS 15 – 18

Sea(t/ft): SE 5

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 1014, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 84

Water Temp(f): 79

Relative Humidity (%): 82

Sail: #2 genoa, one reef; main, one reef; close reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 136

Miles since departure: 2694

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

Let me disabuse you of your notion that trade wind sailing is all breezy fast and smooth as silk, that a week out of San Francisco you raise the spinnaker and don’t touch it until the lei-scented approach to Tahiti. That *might* be the case if Mo intended Tahiti, but she is, in fact, climbing her way south and driving hard into a stiff, steady trade and an earnest if contrary sea.

Hour after hour, she pitches high and slams down with a hull-rattling thud, a thud like thunder that portends to open her seams and will wake you with a stopped heart from the deepest of sleeps.   Immediately she drops into a trough, the rail digs up blue water, and the bow often throws its take all the way to the cockpit; Mo lurches once, twice, and then she charges on to do it again.

For two weeks, maybe more.

Steadying one’s self with three appendages at all times is required, and four is better, or one risks being flung across the entire boat. Pots on the already gimbaled stove must be locked in place or dinner ends up on the floor in the head. The peanut butter jar, left but briefly unminded on the counter makes a mad dash for my bunk. The flashlight, set on the floorboards so that one can reach for the screw diver, rolls into the bilge, as does the screwdriver when it is abandoned in an attempt to save the flashlight.

I’ll admit it, with a single reef in both working sails, I’m a wee over canvassed. Mo is heeled to the degree that there is more pressure on my back as I type than there is on my rear. But such is necessary when driving into such a sea. With less, Mo jumps up and down but lacks the oomph to accelerate after a knock.

Heaving or no, chores must progress. One of today’s was to stitch up the #1 reef strap for the main. This strap goes through the reef tack and has a ring on both ends, one of which is pulled down and slipped into the reef clip on the boom gooseneck when reefing. The first reef position gets the most use, and the strap appears to be showing it. The stitching is pulling apart. I thought it would be clever to do a stitch-up while the strap was in use, as it’s unlikely to come out of use any time soon. But the mast area proved quite wet today, and there was much less room to shove a needle around without pricking one’s face than I had thought. Still, got one good stitch in (red twine). More to come.

Write Comment (5 comments)

October 24, 2018

Day 20

Noon Position: 0 21S  133 22W

Course (t)/Speed (kts): SxW 6

Wind(t/tws): ExS 13

Sea: SE 3

Sky: Light Cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar: 1013+, falling

Cabin Temp (f): 86

Water Temp (f): 80 (note big drop)

Relative Humidity (%): 68 (dry!)

Sail: #2 genoa full, main full, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 143

Miles since departure: 2558

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

It happened while I wasn’t looking. Somewhere around 3pm. While my head in a forward locker and Monte hummed softly at the tiller, Mo charged on across the equator, across the line, and didn’t tell a soul.

Monte: What is this? Is it your birthday?

Randall: (popping the cork) No, we crossed the line this last hour. Congratulations. (Takes a pull and hands the bottle to Monte)

Monte: Senior, that we are successful at crossing the street on the way to the market is no reason to open champagne. We will cross many streets…

Randall: Sparkling wine. And sure it is. We’re shellbacks. Not everyone can say that.

Monte: Not everyone can be a sailor just like not everyone…

Randall: Sourpuss! I’ll take the bottle back when you’re done.

Shellbacked, an old square rigger’s term for sailors who had crossed the equator. For me it is a term of highest romance. And for all his ill temper, I later noted Monte fingering the tattoo of a tortoise on his left shoulder, next to which are eighteen hash marks. Hard to imagine that. I’ve only been across four, now five, times. I don’t yet even qualify for a tattoo.

We’re a bit faster this trip. Last November 20th, Mo and I we crossed the line on the way to Cape Horn after 24 days at sea. Granted, we were at 127W, not 133W, but that will be dealt with in time.

Winds are quite light this afternoon. The sea gently rolls. Clouds are too lazy even to form. I’ve yawned twice after the wine. Might be an early night.

Write Comment (no comments)

October 23, 2018

Day 19

Noon Position: 02 42N 132 59W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SxW 6+

Wind(t,tws): SExE 14-18

Sea: SE 5

Sky: Light, white cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 4

Bar: 1012+, falling

Cabin Temp (f): 84

Water Temp (f): 83

Relative Humidity (%): 71

Sail: one reef in the #2 genoa, one reef in the main, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 147

Miles since departure: 2415

Avg. Miles/Day: 127

Monte: Senior, please, this thing you are doing, this I think maybe is singing…

Randall: (startled from some work on deck) What? Was I singing?

Monte: It is sort of singing, possibly, if you take away the need for carrying of the tune. But my question is can you esplain me what is it, the song?

Randall: I don’t know. I’ll have to think. Ah, yes, Fiddler on the Roof, “If I Were a Rich Man.” It goes like … (starts to sing).

Monte: Yes, yes, I’ve heard it, lovely, most kind, deeply enjoyable. But can you esplain me the song. Why is it you now want to be rich. Yesterday you just wanted to sleep. You want many things.

Randall: I dunno. Contended, I guess.

Monte: You want to be rich because you are contented?

Randall: No, I mean it feels like we’ve made it over the first of many hurdles–we’re through the damned doldrums at last. We’re finally in clean, clear breezes that are going east ahead of schedule; the sky is blue and open. There was a tropic bird earlier. We might even cross the equator tomorrow. Things are going our way. Oh, there’s a song… (starts to sing).

Monte: (clasps hands over ears) Oh, forgive me, but I think a fly has got in my head, let me try to trap him. (Randall stops singing; Monte removes hands) No, I was mistaken. It was not a fly. But my question…this all makes you want to be rich?

Randall: Na, that’s just a happy song from childhood. In matter of fact, I think we’re pretty rich right now, don’t you think?

Monte: Yes, yes, it reminds me of a saying we have in my country …”When you wake up in a barrel of money, don’t sneeze.”

Randall: Ah. Hmm. We just say, “We’re in the money.”

Joanna recently forwarded a few questions/comments from the Figure 8 site. As you may know, I don’t have access to the interntet while at sea but am occasionally sent some of your remarks, and thank you very much for the interest.

From Howard and Stephanie – We were struck by the crossed genoa sheets on the great pic taken from forward. Would you explain why they are crossed? (back to southing post)

Answer: Hey Howard and Steph, those are the foreguys for the genoa poles. The control line starts in the cockpit, runs up the deck to a turning block near the bow and then crosses over to the pole on the other side. So, the port foreguy controls the starboard genoa pole. You seen them crossed on deck because I usually leave them attached to the poles and ready for deployment when not in use. Thanks for following along.

From Chuck Fulton – In your photo I see what appears to be reef points in the main, but no reefing lines in them. Do you have another way of securing the foot of your mainsail while reefed?

Answer: Hey Chuck, Mo has a pretty standard jiffy reef system on the main; that is, the reef tack attaches to a clip at the gooseneck and the reef clew is brought down to the boom by a line attached to the boom end. This line runs up through the clew, back to a block on the boom, and then inside the boom and up to the gooseneck. There I take the line to a winch and haul away. When the clew is nice and snug, the jiffy reef line applies some aft-ward tension to the foot of the sail; so, the reef cringles you see don’t need to be tied down.

And to Ben Shaw, thanks for the nice comments about the OCC and the Annapolis Boat Show. Glad Matt and Andy are interested. Maybe we can do a podcast while I’m underway (AFTER Cape Horn success). Best to the family, especially the wee ones.

Write Comment (7 comments)

October 22, 2018

Day 18

Noon Position: 04 57N 132 00W

Course/Speed: SSW 6+

Wind: SExE 16

Sea: SSE 4+

Sky: Dry Cumulus (Squalls in the afternoon)

10ths Cloud Cover: 3 (afternoon, 7)

Bar: 1013+, falling

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 88

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 84

Percent Relative Humidity: 66

Sail: #2 genoa full, main 1 reef, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 106

Miles since departure: 2268

Avg. Miles/Day: 126

Another bizarre weather night after a day that suggested we were finally in the south. During the day, steady winds SSE to 15. After dinner and just as I was about to start sleeping, flat calm and heavy cloud. By midnight it was pelting rain and blowing smartly from the north.

I repeat, north.

Then it blew from the west.

Then it rained.

All night was like that.

By dawn, all done. Squalls cleared away and we were left with a sky of light cumulus, an open blue ocean, and a stiff breeze from the SExE…which we have made every effort to use fully so as to get below whatever evil sneaks into these parts when the sun goes down.

Among other things, I’d like a good day’s run and good night’s sleep.

On a practical note, I have no idea what the weather driver is for such phenomena. How can the day be clear and full of trade-wind promise (see attached video from a couple hours ago) and the night a chaos of contrary wind and rain. Three nights running.

As I type, a line of squalls to windward.

I’ll let you know tomorrow.

Write Comment (2 comments)

October 21, 2018

Day 17

Noon Position: 06 28N 131 06W

Course/Speed: SW 4

Wind: SSE 10

Sea: S E W at 4; a real mashup of lumpiness left over from the night.

Sky: Overcast and squally

10ths Cloud Cover: 9

Bar: 1013, falling

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 88

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 84

Percent Relative Humidity: 74

Sail: #2 genoa, main, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 41

Miles since departure: 2162

Avg. Miles/Day: 127

The short story, “Make Westing,” by Jack London, is about a ship beating her way around Cape Horn into the Pacific. Day after day, week after week, the ship claws forward and is driven back, claws forward and is driven back, by the strong and changeable winds of the south. Ostensibly, the story is about this rounding, but in fact, it is about the captain, who becomes obsessed, even the point of murder, with getting his ship to *make westing.*

We are only trying to beat out of the doldrums, but days of this later, I feel a strong sympathy for this captain.

Yesterday grew clear in the afternoon; the wind, steady. I shot the moon and the sun for a fix. I had a beer, made a curry dinner and then watched the night come on with the satisfaction, again, that we’d made it into the trades.

But somewhere late in the evening cloud took the sky and we were overrun by a squall of rain so heavy I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it. The wind jammed us hard but then backed off a tick, and I thought, “it’s a squall; it’ll blow over quickly.” I eased the main, a fisherman’s reef, and let her ride.

But hour after hour the rain whipped and the wind increased, then eased, then increased again. I sat up with the boat as she churned her way slowly SW, then WSW, then SW again. I kept her pointed as close as could; there is no getting below this mess except by getting south of it.

The main complained, dumped and filled. Finally, at midnight I took a reef. At 3am I took another. Mo dove into the seas. Rain and spray ran through my foulies. I sat on a towel in the pilot house and napped but couldn’t give up my post. We must make southing.

At 5am, the squall moderated to showers. The wind steadied into the SSE, and I went to my bunk feeling vindicated; we’d held our course; we’d punched through.

An hour later, I came on deck to find Mo running off to the NW. The wind, not satisfied with our overnight bashing, decided to steal, unobserved, into the SW and pull us back to the N. We’d lost in an hour what it took three hours to gain overnight.

I tacked off to the E.

At noon we’d made 41 miles of southing for our 140 miles sailed.

I’ve never had such trouble getting out of the blessed damned doldrums and into clear air.

Write Comment (3 comments)

October 20, 2018

Day 16

Noon Position: 07 02N 130 42W

Course/Speed: E 5

Wind: S 12

Sea: S 3

Sky: Squalls of rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar: 1012+, falling

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 88 (got up to 91 at one point)

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 83

Percent Relative Humidity: 74

Sail: Big genoa and main, full, close reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 77

Miles since departure: 2121

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

According to my log from the first Figure 8 attempt, it took 18 days of sailing to get to yesterday’s rough latitude of 7 30N. It took only 15 days this time around. However, we are 7 degrees, about 417 miles, further west of last year’s position of 122 40W. Getting around hurricane Sergio had a cost.

With that in mind, I’ve been looking for opportunities to grab back some easting. I thought I had one this moring. Wind had slowly backed to just W of S and then suddenly went SW. I put Mo about and we took off SE. A straight shot to the Horn. Woohoo!

Then the wind shifted and our course was ESE, then ExS, then E; then a touch N of E. I waited. Our course rose. Then the wind died. Rain.

So much rain I could fill my water bottle from the sail cover spigot as if filling from one of those vending machines at the airport. Then I washed head. Still it rained. So I took a full shower under the spigot. Still it rained.

We drifted for a couple of hours. Then the wind went back to its now usual direction, SSE. So, off we go making more westing.

I’m not good enough with navigational triangles to know how much it will really matter. Cape Horn is still at least 5,000 miles off. Imagine a line from 7 30N 130W to the Horn and one from 7 30N 122W to the Horn. Is there enough of a difference to sneeze at? It’s not like I’m trying to get to a wedding.

The question is how much further west will we go? Last year we were headed due south by 129W. This year the SE trades look decidedly less helpful to sailors wishing to point their boats poleward.

I’ve re-rigged Monte’s control line, brining it into the cockpit where I can reach it and make course adjustments without departing the protection of the pilot house. For years, the line has been attached to the stansions, outboard of everything, necessitating one climb fully out of the pilot house and nearly the cockpit to pull the line. Nothing wrong with that, as several circumnavigations will attest. But the convenience of being able to make course adjustments in really foul, wet weather without having to get suited up or risk a drenching … I look forward to it.

Last of the bananas, now rotten, over the side. I’d intended to take two large green bunches. Somehow, I ended up with three. I just couldn’t keep up.

Write Comment (3 comments)

October 19, 2018

Day 15

Noon Position: 07 49N  129 41W

Course/Speed: SWxW 5

Wind: SSE 10

Sea: S 4

Sky: Squalls and Altocumulus, Rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar: 1013, falling

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 84

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 83

Percent Relative Humidity: 77

Sail: #2 genoa; main, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 95 (Our lowest mileage day this leg.)

Miles since departure: 2043

Avg. Miles/Day: 136

Light and variable overnight with heavy squalls of rain. I motored due south. It was either that or heave to. By morning, a usable wind. I made sail before coffee.

I’d say that by all appearances we’re out of it, beyond the gasping, sickly-hot reach of the doldrums. All day wind has been steady, if light, from just E of S. The sky is mostly blue; the squalls on the horizon are not so dark. The air feels dryer, and the water temperature has gone down one click.

But the forecast declares otherwise. A blob lays ahead of us, it says. But for the moment, I get to feel like we’ve pushed through to the (decidedly south) SE trades.

Just after dawn, a ship, the Ocean Echo, making 11 knots and dead for us. We’ve not seen many ships since getting below Panama, but each seems to have had a point of approach close enough to need attention. I fell off, and ever so slowly we passed.

Then, once our courses began to diverge…

“Moli, Moli…Ocean Echo.”

“Ocean Echo, Moli.”

“Hello. Good morning. You are a sailboat?” The voice was soft, even diffident, and carried an accent I did not recognize.

I don’t call ships. It feels presumptive–like yelling into a construction site just to shoot the breeze with the foreman. But I’m pleased when they call me.

“Yes. A sailboat. A sloop. Aluminum. 45 feet.”

“And…um…how there is room in such a…is there room?”

Ocean Echo is a bulk carrier. At 500 feet on deck, she’s small compared to the 1200 foot container ships common further north, but from her bridge deck, Mo must have been so tiny as to be difficult to see–even at our closest, 1.5 miles–a gray hull on a gray ocean, a mere spec being flung about by seas whose impact Ocean Echo didn’t notice.

I explained the room, the year’s stores; when departed and where, the destination.

“Oh. Ok. And your course. It is moving…very much. You do not steer…?”

I explained small ship, big sea and being steered by a wind device.”

“Oh. Ok. And your crew. How many are your crew?”

I explained I was “Singlehanding. Solo. Alone.”

“Oh. Ok.”

I feel a kinship with the mariners on these big vessels, at least after it becomes clear their behemoth isn’t going to run me down. The guys on Ocean Echo are 10 days out of Lima, Peru headed for Nindge, China with a heavy load of recyclables (I think); it’ll be two weeks before they make port. Long ocean passages, they understand. It’s what they do.

But I forget that my sense of a shared passion, of a common pursuit, is in my own head. The big ship guys haven’t the foggiest notion about sailboats. Likely they regard the crossing of oceans on such small, delicate craft–and without pay!–as incomprehensible, utter lunacy.

None have been so impolite as to say so, but the questions suggest it. For example, no bridge officer has yet responded to my answers with, “Oh, that sounds like fun.”

Evening. Wind is light from SSE. But the sea is large and lumpy, and Mo can’t get up the speed to point better than 60 degrees off the wind. Our heading is SW when our goal (Cape Horn) is SE. If I sail on, I sail away from our destination and risk sailing into a blob of calm, but at least I make some southing. If I tack, I’ll make east but no south and risk sailing back into the belt of calm. Such are the options of sailboats.

Write Comment (3 comments)

October 18, 2018

Day 14

Noon Position: 09 24N 129 34W

Course/Speed: S 5

Wind: NNW 6

Sea: S 5

Sky: Complex cloudy sky. Squally.

10ths Cloud Cover: 9

Bar: 1013

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 88

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 84

Percent Relative Humidity: 70

Sail: Motoring.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 102

Miles since departure: 1948

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

This is the realm of the cloud.

The whole-horizon photos included here are from just after sun-up. Each is taken toward a different cardinal point so that the entire sky can be seen in one moment. What struck me was the complexity of it. Is there a single cloud type not represented?

As for Mo and me, we are slowly working our way through the doldrums, this happy land of clouds and not much wind. The last part of the night and the morning were calm, the water heaving but glassy, and much of our time then was under power. In the afternoon, dark squalls formed whose size was that of ancient cities. Black rain columns were the parapets. Some of these seemed to produce their own wind, though they were stationary, and we glided around two in the afternoon, taking wind from the west at 10 knots, then wind from the NE at 8.

Nothing holds for long.

Often the base wind is 4 knots, easy enough to glide on if the water were flat. It is anything but. The seas from two hemispheres colide here, and Mo rolls and the rig whaps around. It takes a good 6 knots of wind to keep the sails full and quiet.

So we piecemeal our southing out of here-a-breeze, there-a-breeze, and in between we motor.

Unfortunately, the forecast suggests that wind will keep retreating just before us until about 6N, where the SE Trades should begin in earnest.