March 21, 2018
Royal Yacht Club of Tasmania, Hobart
All day we ride due east on brisk northwesterlies, which Mo takes beam-on with double reefs. Hour after hour she froths the aa, giving off a sense of intention, as if she too understands the urgency. Tony has made it clear we are racing a large and strong low pressure system–“Westerlies to 45 knots and up; at your current rate, you are five hours ahead;” and later “given your progress, you should be under Tasmania’s South East Cape two hours before the weather turns.”
And what Tony did not say, the barometer did. For days it has been dropping a point at every log entry, reminding of the sailor’s proverb, “short notice, soon past; long foretold, long last.”
I want no part of it and feel pleased we are outrunning this final Indian Ocean gale. Only 70 miles to Mewstone Rocks, a nothing compared with where we’d started. In the evening I take photos of the sunset, have a beer and a slow dinner of beef hash and potatoes. I think about Hobart; the pleasure of meeting my wife at the airport.
9pm. The wind eases dramatically and turns northeast. Suddenly we are making but five knots with full sail and are close hauled in a sloppy sea. I start the engine to give us an extra knot. Situation stable, I decide to take a quick nap. The landfall will be rugged and met in the dark. This is my only chance for sleep.
I wake with Mo laying right over. In the pilot house, the gauge reads NNW 35 knots with long pulls of 40. I kill the engine and douse the main in a hurry, then triple reef the working jib. We charge on, close reaching, slanting up for the Cape. Slowly we pass pulsing Needle Rocks light and then are under Mewstone Rocks, unseen.
At 2am the South East Cape light begins to bob. We are well over the continental shelf now. Seas are racing short and steep. Mo shovels water high into the air; immediately it is swept beyond the range of her running lights. I am standing in the cockpit, knees braced and holding the rail with both hands; head under the dodger for some protection from the bullet-spray. This is the most secure place on deck. Still, and for the first time, I am compelled to clip in here. The gauge shows winds to 45 knots.
4am. Dawn. Wind howls in the rigging. A diabolical sky, as dark and heavy as the sea, so low it feels barely above the mast-head. The Cape, a black, evil-looking smudge too far too windward, our goal, D’Entrecasteaux Channel, a tight squeeze on this tack.
I remember my fear at the Cook Bay entrance in Tierra del Fuego. There the landfall was lee, right below the westerlies, and the challenge being that, once committed, there was no turning back. Here, the opposite. Here the headland is decidedly up wind. A mistake means being swept out to sea.
5am. We need to hurry. To the north and west I can see the front carrying the long foretold westerlies, a single roll of low cloud extending from the Cape to the horizon, a giant, inverted wave; behind this, a solid wall of gray extends from sea to sky. But we are behind the weight of Tasmania now. Seas are still a mass of confusion, but smaller by half. We’re still on time.
Mo begins to open D’Entrecasteaux Channel. I can just make out the western headlands, and its eastern border, South Bruny Island and Tasman Head.
Suddenly the wind shifts into the NE, straight down D’Entrecasteaux, without losing any of its strength. And with it the sea changes direction, pushing in a rush through the channel and stacking up as it exits. Now our goal, a mere 6 miles north, is a dead beat in gale-force winds. Mo is still flying a deeply reefed working jib, and our new course, I see, puts us far below D’Entrecasteaux; even Tasman Head and Storm Bay are now up wind. I need more drive, a seeming impossibility in these conditions.
I douse the working jib and raise the hanked-on staysail. With the boat awash, it’s slow work. I’m on all fours or seated with legs wrapped around rigging. Finally the sail flies, but the result is no better. Mo can’t develop enough speed; each sea sets her bow back, heaving the boat bodily southward. We need more drive if we have any hope of raising the land.
I throw triple reefs into the mainsail and haul away, but before I can pull the halyard taught, it fouls in the mast steps. I free it and try again. It fouls again. With the main partly up, I have to climb the mast fifteen feet to grab the line. Boat movement is extreme; keeping hold of the halyard and mast, difficult. I lower the sail and try again. And again. Each time, same result. We are losing ground fast. The great wall of cloud is approaching. I’m running out of ideas.
Gerry Clark in The Totorore Voyage recounts being blown off a southern ocean island in just such a gale and having to motor the 60 miles back. It took him three days. This, I decide, is my last option. I start the engine, but instead of pounding directly into the sea coming down D’Entrecasteaux, I turn Mo northwest, taking it slantwise. This heading is just south and west of the Cape. If I can tuck in under the landmass, I reason, the land will block sea and wind, and I can make for the channel by coasting along the cliffs.
To my surprise, Mo can do this. It’s a crawl, but within two hours we are under the headland. There the wind is still strong, but without any fetch, the sea is flattening. We are nearly kissing the black rocks of the Cape when I turn Mo north toward safety. The front is now here, the great rolling wave in the sky right overhead. The northeast wind dies right away. A heavy rain. Astern I see a whiteness rushing toward us at water-top and in a moment we are slammed. The westerlies have arrived. But they are too late. We are sliding behind the protection of South East Cape. We’ve made it.
Inside the weather is sunny and bright. The gale is entirely stopped by the western mountains, the great wall of cloud and its falling mist creating a rainbow high above green forests and smooth sand beaches. We motor slowly north to a divot in the channel called Lady Bay. Anchor down in 25 feet at 2:30pm. I spend an hour cleaning; have an early dinner and am asleep by sundown.
Mo departed Ushuaia, Argentina on January 12th; arrived South East Cape, Tasmania on March 18th; 63 days; 8,500 miles; four lows of Force 8 and 9; three knockdowns; rail bent; window smashed; water-logged electronics. Still safe. One tough boat is Mo!
Noon Position: 43 44S. 140 25E
Bar: 1014 (dropping steadily from 1020)
Sky: Overcast Sea: SW10 (long, slow rollers); NE3
Cabin Temp: 64
Water Temp: 56
Miles last 24 hours: 167
Longitude Made Good: 136
Total Miles: 16,956
Miles to Hobart: 353
Wind light but due east overnight. Slow going. The engine purred as we pounded, but our progress toward the goal of 150 miles a day suffered. 136 was the best I could do.
Today winds have gone into NE at 15 to 20 and have flirted with the NNE. Now we are on the move again with the engine pegged at 2600rpms and a double reefed working jib and main.
We make 7 knots. But do we ever pound unmercifully and are sailing on our ear to boot. The very definition of uncomfortable. I hate to motor, but the race is really on. I have 48 hours from this morning to be in sheltered waters, at which point winds go to W40 and more. All for tonight. Too much going on on the boat and I don’t feel I can pull my attention away.
Hi Virtual Voyagers! As you can see from the fact that we have an image to share, Moli and Randall have made it to an anchorage and within cell phone range. It was a rough and challenging sail into safe harbor (the photo was from last night’s shenanigans). This means getting rested, clean and checked into Hobart/Australia will take priority over writing posts. Plus Jo will be there in a day or so to add to the distraction. We have a couple more posts from the last days to share but if we go quiet a bit we hope you understand. Thanks Team F8
Noon Position: 43 40S. 137 17E
Sky: Overcast Sea: SW8
Cabin temp: 60
Water Temp: 56
Miles last 24 hours: 168
Longitude Made Good: 149
Total Miles: 16,779
Miles to Hobart: 489
We’re pushing to make Hobart ahead of the low pressure system that smacked around my friends on Drina. To do that we need to average 150 miles a day. Over the last five days our average is exactly that, but today the scene has changed. Today winds that were west and northwest and then south have dropped away and gone, as I type, east. We’re motoring hard to maintain 5 knots.
The jib is down; the main has two reefs and is just acting as a steadying sail.Apparent wind is 12 on the nose and we pound into a small chop. I must be grateful. After the punishment, the engine took, that it runs at all is a minor miracle. That it has been purring beautifully these last six hours, sounding like its old self, is nothing short of fantastic.
The forecast calls for wind to veer northeast by tomorrow and stay 15 knots or below. Then it will veer further north northeast and built to 25. Neither of those is great for a boat trying to make fast easting, but our opinion was not solicited, so we’ll try to make use of what we get.
By four days from now, winds go back into the northwest and west, and then the front is upon us with winds to 35 and 40 The importance of that 150-mile-a-day target is that, if maintained, we are around the southern tip of Tasmania, South East Cape, and in sheltered water when the front arrives. And if not. Well then…
Day 120. (Day 60 since Ushuaia; now longest leg. SF to Ushuaia, 59 days)
Noon Position: 43 46S. 133 51E
Sky: Overcast, drizzle from passing low squalls Sea: SW8 (big background swell)
Cabin Temp: 60
Sea Temp: 57
Miles last 24 hours: 162
Longitude Made Good: 138 (odd such a wide variance, especially compared to yesterday’s very narrow variance. Winds were lighter overnight, causing more wandering.)
Miles to Hobart: 637
Total Miles: 16,611
The author is Matt Jensen Young, one of the crew, a professional seaman, and all-around nice guy. We became friends when he crewed aboard DRINA on the Northwest Passage back in 2014, and it’s just one of those happy sailor’s coincidences that, in 2018, he and DRINA are plying some of the same ocean as MO…at the opposite end of the planet!
Of course, I may take his report more personally than the average Joe, having just experienced a similar happening. That said, the things from the report that
jumped out to me are:
1) Location: The knockdown that shattered MO’s portside window occurred between the Crozet’s and Kerguelen at 46 42S and 56 28E. DRINA’s knockdown occurred between the same islands at 47 20S and 60 54E, positions roughly 240 miles apart.
2) Sea: Matt notes early the exaggerated size of the swell from the northwest and the challenge of managing the secondary swell. 3) Whereas on MO we lost a key and a deodorant bar, DRINA lost a toilet bowl brush.
The conjunction of similar locations, sea states and outcomes makes me wonder if, in difficult weather, that area is somehow effected by the banks surrounding the Crozets.
Sunday & Monday 11 & 12.March.2018 Position: S 47 20 E 60 54 Knock-down – Stirred, not Shaken
We had known a blow was coming & had secured for heavy weather as we had countless occasions previously. We had been commenting on the lull before the storm for some time, with winds just 20-25kts but the army of SW swells marching ominously toward us from the NE left no doubt that something big was out there, and all too soon, here. In hindsight, also of significance, was the secondary SE swell on our port quarter which was moderate, but was dwarfed by the SW’ly swell.
We hove-to with the tightly sheeted triple reefed main and so that we could enjoy in relative comfort, yet another South African beef roast. An hour or two after we had hove-to Matt checked the cockpit wind indicator which showed we had already experienced a gust of 71 knots (131.5kmph). Our wind indicator has been anything but reliable since departing Australia, but one thing it has always done reliably was underestimate the wind.
During the evening watch it was apparent from the motion, and amount of shipped water, that this was heavier than most other blows we have weathered on this voyage. Matt ventured out to get the metal companionway plate and thereby improved our watertight integrity by some degree.
The noise was incredible – for the first time it was truly understood why they call these the ‘Roarin’ 40’s’. We’ve a lot of year’s experience on the water but that sound in the rigging will remain with us to our grave. The roar was nothing short of primal.
At approximately 01:00hrs on Sunday morning, all hell broke loose.
It was pitch black and we were battened down – we can only surmise what happened next.
Hove-to we are typically orientated to the wind about 30-45, up to 60 degrees. The extent to which we can sheet-in the main is dependent upon the wind strength, and thus assuming wind and wave alignment, our orientation to the oncoming wave. Estimates now differ, but we agree the angle to the wind was greater than normal as Mike had felt obliged to sheet-in tighter (decreasing drive into the wind) for fear of leaving our keel-induced slick behind. One may speculate being set with an estimated 2 knot current may have been a contributing factor. Nevertheless, general consensus remains we fell off the front of a wave. Having dissected some of the events discussed later herein, we believe the wave had been indeed breaking. The roll was clearly in excess of 90degrees, from the path of the deck plate & projectiles we surmise at least ~105-110 degrees, but it is largely irrelevant anyway. Scooting down the fore part of the wave we were brought up in the trough causing the cushioned but sudden deceleration, which likely likely was the force behind the change of direction of some of the cabin missiles later described.
This is the first knock-down in Mike’s 330,000 nautical mile sailing experience – clearly the conditions must have been somewhat unique.
Most people that were around at the time can put their finger precisely on where they were the day man landed on the moon. (We weren’t, obviously, but we are looking for analogy work with us here).
In any case none of us will likely forget that instant – or rather that eternity in the moment – when we were pitched to starboard.
Mike recalls being in his bunk and claimed he does not know how he remained in his bunk, nor how everything on the port side of his aft cabin landed on the starboard side, totally clearing him whilst laying horizontal in his berth.
Rossco lay awake in his port saloon berth & sensing the statistically significant larger roll, wedged himself tighter between his berth cushion and his lee board, thereby effectively defying gravity.
Matt was wedged in the nav station on the starboard side beneath and just forward of the companionway. The roll to starboard pinned him to the bulkhead, so when the cockpit was filled with water entering via vents in the companionway, he suffered the sensation of water boarding as the salt water cascaded directly into his face. All the while we continued to roll to starboard & then, like some scene from Matrix, he watched as items levitated, hovered slowly and then accelerated towards him.
The galley wood chopping block hit just 1.5ft above his head and left a hefty dent in the woodwork. The deck plate port side aft in the galley was in midair and must have taken out the nav station and all that dwelt there, had it not been for the deceleration of the boat as her bow plunged into the bottom of the wave, the deck plate (which needed to have cleared the galley sink cabinetry), flew to starboard and (thankfully) this forward, ending up in Matto’s starboard berth bunk: this together with the top of the fridge and nearly everything else that was not screwed down. Food items from the fridge cooler recessed into the port galley bench were also sent careening. Items stowed in the bilges which rarely see the light of day were flung throughout the cabin. Food staples (oats, lentils, cous cous etc) stowed in Pyrex locked & sealable containers wedged on the port counter were launched & smacked the starboard bulkheads; the largest container containing rolled oats exploded and rained oats. Evidently water had made its way there in advance as the oats remained plastered on the bulkhead for the duration of Sunday.
Humorously though (& if you don’t laugh this shit’ll kill you) – we found a # potato balancing atop of the GPS unit, a Pyrex container wedged in to the deckhead (ceiling) skylight as well as tomatoes and (additional) garlic in Matto’s sleeping bag. A day later we have yet to find the toilet brush.
Anyone who knows Mike would appreciate the symbolism of the potato on the GPS; the “Irish Navigational System” of potatoes, a net and a bucket being one of his favorite jokes to tell.
Sunday dawned bleak, winds had abated to 30-45 knots but the swell, although short of mountainous, ’twas altogether eerily impressive nonetheless. The wind still streaked the surface and wave crests were whipped off by the angry, unrelenting wind.
With the coming of the light it was also opportunity to witness the above deck toll to our faithfully robust DRINA:
• Dodger shredded
• Mizzen sail cover shredded and mizzen sail torn
• Mizzen vang line wrapped around prop
• Starboard emergency
• Water jerry can swept overboard
• Anchor compressed into the rail
• Port water tank cap washed loose & overboard
• Dinghy center chock washed overboard
• Teak cockpit deck grates & cushions washed overboard
• Starboard upper solar panel torn loose
• Port quarter life-ring swept overboard but remained attached
• Ladder washed overboard
• Radar waterlogged
• AIS’s GPS input cable severed by internal cabin missiles
• Nav station drenched
• Starboard saloon berth & starboard bulkheads drenched and battered
Working (thankfully) ok:
• AIS (after cable repair)
• Rig, main & head’sl
• Duo-Gen water generator
• Engine starting, batteries and charging capabilities
Sunday we were still weathering the storm and simply put, we were all a little waterlogged (boarded) & shell shocked. During the morning it was not really considered safe on deck but by afternoon it had moderated sufficiently for Matt to take a turn around the decks to order and re-lash what he could, Including sealing the water tank.
Monday’s motion and weather had abated sufficiently to enable the day to be spent more productively:
-The nav station was wiped down with fresh water & dried; the nav chart was retrieved from a plastic bag in which it had been dashed sopping wet and dried.
-The starboard saloon berth was cleaned of oats (now porridge) and the cushions removed to the cockpit to benefit from some sunlight & wind in the afternoon.
-Galley was re-stowed, as too the majority of the port side projectiles.
-Rossco & Matt rigged the GoPro camera so that we could capture some underwater images of the mizzen vang line wound around the propeller. When we could see “how” it had been wound, we knew then ‘how’ we could unwind it from the deck. The skipper didn’t want to risk Matt overboard with a knife in his teeth which would definitely would have been faster (haaarrr), but riskier (errr?) … & certainly colder (brrrrr).
-Afternoon conditions meant we could move more freely around the cockpit where together we could cut away the shredded dodger and re-stow the dinghy on the foredeck.
-More cleaning, more drying, more cleaning. No doubt we will be finding oats for weeks to come.
When the prop had been cleared we felt comfortable to start sailing once again. Despite making 7 knots over the ground, it was evident that the we were still benefiting from the +2kts east setting current. As we could not totally rely on the water generator for charge Mike started the engine to positively charge the batteries. Relief that we are good on that front given our friend Randall’s recent trials and tribulations after his knock-down in this very same stretch of water between the Crozets and Kerguelen.
Now Monday night the wind has picked up and although right now we could potentially be sailing, thanks to Stevo we now know to anticipate yet more wind tonight and all though tomorrow. We are therefore happy for the 230′ or so of searoom ‘tween us & the next bit of hard stuff – which is incidentally Les Îsles Kerguelen, & which remains, luckily, our next destination.
We pray the Kerguelen team are just half as accommodating as the Crozet team. The ability to wash some clothes and sleeping bags would be greatly appreciated as we have yet another +3.5-4 weeks sailing awaiting us after departure Kerguelen in order to make Tassie by mid-April.
More on our itinerary changes in a future VLOG update.
Hey virtual voyagers. You get an extra post today as we’re catching up with Randall. As you can see, he’s much closer to pulling into Hobart than this post suggests. Joanna’s heading to Tasmania Sunday night and looks to rendezvous with Moli and her Captian on Tuesday.
Noon Position: 43 50S. 130 39E
Sky: Overcast, occasional drizzle
Cabin Temp: 60
Water Temp: 55
Miles last 24 hours: 170
Longitude Made Good: 164
Total Miles: 16,449
Miles to Hobart: 775
I bought a selection of dry sausages in Ushuaia, the kind that hang from the ceiling in butcher shops, and have been adding them to stews ever since. I’ll bring one out from the larder (forepeak) and hang it from the fan in the galley. It fills the cabin with a rich and earthy punk until consumed. If memory serves, I was eating through the last one when we encountered our big gale a few weeks back. In any case, there’s no sausage hanging from the fan, and I have assumed that the above noted rich punk now coming from the starboard side of the boat and across from the galley was from a sausage that went orbital during the knockdown.
As we are soon to make port and likely to be inspected by the authorities, today I made a diligent effort to track down the sausage. I cleaned out all the cupboards, emptied the bookshelf, removed my boots from their cubby; I cleaned behind and even inside the diesel heater, all to no avail. There was simply no wayward sausage to be found. I was standing over the heater pondering my next move when a sock bonked me in the head.
I have three pairs of heavy wool socks that I rotate through, and when they are not on my feet, they hang from a string over the heater. The heater is not used during passages, but I figure the socks have a chance to air dry as they swing back and forth. When the sock bonked me again, I noticed the fanning effect filled my nostrils with a familiar scent. Wait a minute! The smell is coming from my socks, which, after nearly 60 days of intermittent interment in damp rubber boots have taken on a distinctly sausage-like aroma. Rich and spicy as my socks have become, I have not been tempted to add them to stews. Moreover, I promise to put them and other, equally aromatic outer-wear into plastic bags before making civilization. Fast sailing these last days. Mo has been running before a lovely westerly that, sadly, is soon due to peter out. I’m still pushing to get ahead of the coming low; am shooting for landfall in five days.
Noon Position: 43 58S. 126 51E
Sky: High Fog Sea: SW8
Sail: Headsails poled out full
Miles last 24 hours: 169
Longitude Made Good: 150
Total Miles: 16,279
Miles to Hobart: 939
A note from my friends on DRINA, the green hulled ketch that is exploring those southern ocean islands now 2,000 and more miles astern of us. Last I heard they were just off the Kerguelen Islands. I presume they have since departed and are heading east, because the not read… “Knocked down. Recovery mode. More later.”
I met Matt, Roscoe and owner Michael Thurston back in 2014 in the Arctic’s Northwest Passage. By now these three must have 15,000 ocean miles together, and Michael has been cruising DRINA since the 70s. I only mention that by way of saying these three know what they are about. It’s also curious that their difficulties have occurred in the same general vicinity as did ours—ours, between the Crozets and Kerguelen. Back in Ushuaia, I had the pleasure of an evening with the crew of Sir Enst, who’s skipper, Jiver, said two things of note: 1) “Randall, it is a beautiful cruise you are making” and 2) “The Indian Ocean” (whistles, rolls eyes) ”be careful.” No kidding, Jiver.
This just in from Matt (we communicate via InReach):
“We are up and sailing and charging on again. Also had to clear the prop of a fouled line. Very lucky. Still all wet; still airing, and no doubt we’ll find spilled oats for weeks.” And correction: they are still on the approach to Kerguelen; i.e. very close to where Mo and I saw our window-breaking action.
Fast sailing for us on moderate westerlies last couple days. Hobart is now less than a 1000 miles off. And good thing as I suspect that the gale that caught DRINA will be making a house call here in a week or so.
Noon Position: 43 50S. 123 23E
Bar: 1031 Sky:
Overcast Sea: SW8
Cabin Temp: 60
Water Temp: 55
Miles last 24 hours: 162
Longitude Made Good: 152
Total Miles: 16,110
Miles to Hobart: 1090
Slate gray the sea,
Slate gray the bird,
Slate gray the sky,
And the wind blows.
Slate gray and ice blue the sea crashing;
Slate gray and white the bird passing over;
Slate gray and ash the sky,
And the wind blows its empty howl in the rig.
Slate gray and ice blue the sea crashing,
its endless, blind march from the rising sun
unseen to the unseen setting place.
Slate gray and white the bird passing over,
swinging from one crest to the next,
in taunting arcs just beyond the angry reach fo the sea.
Slate gray and ash the sky,
burnt without fire and unconsumed.
And the winds blows its empty howl in the rig,
a spirit chorus calling out an incomprehensible warning.
Slate gray the sea,
the bird, the sky.
And the wind blows.
From the cockpit I yell to the wind,
“I don’t mind 17 knots or 32, but pick one.
Don’t make me be on deck all day!”
Always on the quarter,
the sea stacks up and kicks Mo in the ass.
She slews around broadside.
The helmsman corrects but too late.
The sails spill; the rig shakes.
We lay over. Fist to sky.“
Must it always be like this?
Can’t we sail without your torments?”
And Jeffers whispers:
“Be angry at the sun for setting if these things bother you.”
While studying the sails,
I glance at the horizon.
A whiteness there,
not the stark white of the sea,
but a cream white and Not diffuse like a collapsing wave,
More like a lump on the sea
that turns out to be a Wandering Albatross squat on the surface,
asleep, its head tucked under a wing and,
as we pass within three bird lengths,
I see its bluey feet slowly treading,
keeping the body pointed into the wind.
It never wakes but keeps on treading over and under waves.
Perfectly at ease. Comfortably at home.
Before we launch into today’s report a quick thank you to Mark Gibbens who created the awesome sketch of Randall after watching the Seeker Video about Randall. If you haven’t seen it take a look. It’s got some footage from Randall’s departure day. They certainly ramped up the drama. 🙂
Day 116 (56 days since Ushuaia)
Noon Position: 44 08S. 119 51E
Miles last 24 hours: 168
Longitude Made Good: 152
Total Miles: 15,948
Miles to Hobart: 1240
Quick report tonight as the day has been long and the night may be … eventful.
Wind swung into the WSW today and went to 25+. At noon I switched to the twin headsails poled out and we’ve been running before fast, squally weather ever since. Seas are running high due to winds further south, so Mo is a bit of a roller coaster ride. Winds have come up to 30 tonight, so I don’t know where this is going; thus the need to stay “on watch.”
This afternoon I performed more engine tests and found seawater in the crankcase oil (by boiling it on the stove and watching for bubbles). So, did an oil and filter change that took until after sundown due to Mo jumping around like an electrocuted cat. But we make good easting, for which I am happy.
Noon Position: 44 08S 113 31E
Sky: Overcast, though clear till noon
Sea: NW5–big roller coming in from somewhere
Cabin Temp: 64 Sea Temp: 53
Miles last 24 hours: 169
Longitude Made Good: 164
Total Miles: 15,653
Miles to Hobart: 1513
When you have the opportunity to see your wife some 1500 miles on, you do the distance math…a lot. Wind machines, that are slow by nature, and schedules aren’t a good match. Much could go right, and wrong. In the 17 days since Mo lost her port pilot house window, we’ve made 2309 miles of easting for an average run of 136 miles a day. This is somewhat below our 139 mile-a-day average from Ushuaia to now; winds have been lighter up here at 44S than down at 47S. It’s also nominally below the 137 miles a day we need to average in order to arrive Hobart on the 19th. Any way you slice it, it’s a close run thing. Which is why as winds eased today, I went for the big guns, that being the big genoa and full main…wind on the beam, 7 knots.
I am largely happy with the foods I’ve packed aboard Mo. Over a hundred days on, the dishes are still appetizing, though there are only four breakfast recipes and five for dinner. This could be due to the fact that, in the case of dinner, curry paste, chicken stock and butter added to any recipe make it a winner. But they are winners. There have been some exceptions, however. At home, I enjoy Quinoa and so featured it in one recipe, whose quantity required I pack aboard 40 pounds of that grain. I don’t know why except that it is simply a matter of taste. I found for that recipe that I preferred Polenta, of which until this week, I hadn’t even opened the first bag. brought but 15 pounds (stocked up in Ushuaia).
Yesterday I forced myself to use the Quinoa. Bingo. Now it’s a favorite. De gustibus non disputandum. Another example is Soylent, one of the very generous Figure 8 sponsors. I have aboard enough Soylent for one meal a day, a favorite easy meal for me. But, I’ve not been taking advantage as often as I anticipated due, I finally figured out, to friction in the process. It was the bag, which can be messy to open and scoop from on a boat bouncing six ways from Sunday. The fix occurred last week: transfer the powder to a separate container with its own scoop! Simple. And I’ve had Soylent every day since!
Noon Position: 44 30S. 109 43E
Sky: Clear: cloud front windward
Cabin Temp: 58
Sea Temp: 51
Miles last 24 hours: 132
Longitude Made Good: 125
Total Miles: 15,484
Miles to Hobart: 1673
Light winds overnight—from the southwest until early morning, and then gently they swung into the northwest and stayed light. I rose every hour and a half. Each time there was more south in our course. Finally at 4am it was too much south. I dressed, had a snack, and then swapped the headsails—larger genoa to starboard, smaller to port. And off we raced east. Wind kept its migration into the north as the day matured, and by noon we were back to main and the working jib. Average speed, 7 knots.
Yesterday I did an inventory of beer and wine aboard, this for Oz customs, who apparently don’t mind my having a liberal supply of both…as long as they know how much that is. One locker reserved for beer is the ice box in the galley. It’s long term storage—I don’t go in there much. Upon lifting the lid, I noted a peculiar smell, a smell very unlike the malty, hoppy odors left over from a can that exploded in the tropics, though those were present as well. This odor had a spicy quality to it reminiscent of the aftershave splash my dad favored, pleasant enough on its own but not the best accompaniment to stale malt and hops. Some digging turned up a disfigured and desiccated Old Spice deodorant stick sans lid that had wedged between two bottles of Cape Horn Lager. Aha! One mystery solved. How did it get in there?
One thing that is coming home to me is just how far Mo went over during the knockdown that blew out her port window. This icebox lid, for example, came off. That’s no mean feat. The lid is about a foot long and a foot wide and six six inches deep, and under normal circumstances, it takes two hands lifting straight up to unseat it. But I recall looking into the galley after we righted. Mostly I saw water sloshing everywhere, but there too was the icebox lid tipped up against a cupboard. (Luckily nothing came out as much of what it contains is glass.) This can only mean that for a brief moment, Mo was well past 90 degrees over, and I’m beginning to suspect that we weren’t simply slammed over by a breaker but actually were pushed off the top of a sea and fell into the trough.
In my estimation, only that kind of force could have blown out the window, leaving nothing but shards around the rim. And unbeknownst to me, as Mo fell, a red stick of deodorant flew from the head and across the boat to the galley, where it collided with a cupboard, which separated it from its lid. The lid fell behind the stove and the stick did a hole-in-one into the icebox, neither to be found for days and days. Which begs a curious question: what is a solo sailor doing with deodorant aboard anyway?
Day 112 (Day 52 since Ushuaia)
Noon Position: 44 16S 106 50E
Sky: Clear, Cumulus: look like Tradewind weather
Cabin Temp: 56
Sea Temp: 51
Miles last 24 hours: 143
Longitude Made Good: 116
Total Miles: 15,352
Miles to Hobart: 1800. I need to average 138 miles/day in order to arrive Hobart in time to see my wife, who arrives on the 19th.
Weather building. It started on the 4th. At first NW 20, then 25, then 30. By 6am on the 5th winds had gone 30 plus, at which point I opened our course up from E to SE to make the ride more comfortable. I’ll ease back up on the coming W and SW winds, I thought, winds I anticipated any moment. But the bar kept dropping. 1007, 1005, 1004; every hour or two, down a point. And then the wind veered into the N, as high as 350 true. Now, instead of a SE course for comfort, I was locked in. I couldn’t point any higher without taking a building, toppling swell dead on the beam. And we were racing, a steady seven knots on a double reefed working jib and a three-reef main.
After sundown, wind increased to the high 30s gusting 40. I dropped the main. Bar down to 1002. By 11pm there was more 40 than 30 in the wind. Bar down to 1001.I rolled in the working jib until it looked like something you could fold up and put in your pocket. Swell had built to a steep and sloshy 8 or 10 feet, but was nothing serious if left on the quarter. After a time I figured this was the max we’d get; Mo was riding fine, so I started sleeping. An hour later the radar alarm woke me. “Targets in your guard zone,” it said. Nothing but sea clutter, I thought. But before I could check, I noticed was Mo was off course. The chart plotter showed her heading due north, and her turn on the screen was sharp. A glance at the wind indicator showed wind still 40 and still on port, but now the direction was not 350T but 210T; from nearly north to nearly south—same velocity, in about an hour. Then I noticed pounding. Now we were pushing into the NW sea. Our speed, 3 knots. I had to gybe around.
On deck, things were wild. Mo jumped and kicked like a wild mustang. Sea spray and rain flew every which way. It took an hour to move the sheets from starboard to port; roll in the jib; gybe, and unroll it again, simple work when you don’t need to hold on with both hands and feet. I kept checking the wind indicator because I simply couldn’t believe wind could do a one-eighty like that and hold its punch. Indicator kept reading 40. Gybe complete I came below and waited.
By 3am winds were down to 30-35, so I called it a watch and started sleeping again. In the morning, blue sky filled with tropical cumulus and a sea full of birds, prions, storm petrels, albatross. And the sea itself, a lumpy, heaving, chaos of opposing swell. But by afternoon it was all over. As I type, wind is coming into the west at 10 knots. I have the twin headsails out full, and we make 5 knots on flat (for the south) water.
Noon Position: 44 21S 104 08E
Sky: Overcast, rain
Cabin Temp: 61 Sea Temp: 52
Miles Last 24 hours: 168
Longitude Made Good: 157
Total Miles: 15,209
Wind moved into the northwest and increased overnight to the high 20s and low 30s. At 4am I took down the main with three reefs and made our course off the wind a bit for comfort, which in this case was east-southeast. However, this system has a sharp corner to it, and by late morning had pulled winds well into the north and has pushed us much further south than I wanted to go.
As I type we are past 44 and a half south, which could put us at 45S by morning. Seas are not well developed nor large, but they have their own heft, and I’m not particularly eager to wear them on the beam; so, for the moment, we’re stuck with this course.
It is simply amazing how much air flows down here. Look at a weather map and the south looks like nothing but one low after another. What could be the terrestrial purpose, or more interestingly, effect, of so much wind frothing so much ocean? It is quite humbling to be a part of such a large and organized mass of weather. All this wind of 25 and 35 knots, blowing steadily now for 18 hours and due to go on for more, all of it is flowing toward a common center. And we are fighting to get out.
I am still sweeping-up Mo’s nooks and crannies of glass from our deluge of two weeks ago. Yesterday, while cleaning under the stove, I discovered a red lid, plastic, oblong, just a few inches long. Last I had seen it, it had been atop the Old Spice deodorant stick, whose job it is to protect. But in all my cleaning, I’ve not unearthed the stick. The deodorant flew across the cabin during the knockdown when its cupboard door opened and the contents emptied into the air. So, somewhere on Mo there is dark, sweet-smelling corner well protected from the odors of perspiration.
Noon Position: 43 51S 100 29E Course/Speed: E7 Wind: NW2025+ Bar: 1012 Sea: NW8 Sky: Overcast Cabin Temp: 61 Water Temp: 54
Miles last 24 hours: 160 Longitude Made Good: 150 Total Miles: 15,041
Miles to Hobart: 2082
Imagine. A sky slate gray to each horizon. But not even entirely. Here and there jagged Openings, tears with sharp corners, eerie. One of these voids is low down and in the way of the sun, which sets, a vast fiery ball, or so I’m told. In this case, though, the fire is seen as if through a hedge of thorns, black thorns like shadows hiding what mortals cannot behold. Under which the sea runs fast and loud; even after all is dark, she is fast, loud and beautiful.
I have mates on a green-hulled ship named DRINA who are pursuing an excellent cruise of the Southern Ocean in which they stop, unlike Mo and I, at every island in their path. You may recall that back on February 16th I saw, indistinctly, two islands to the north. These were Ile aux Cochons and Iles des Pingouins, part of the group Iles Crozets at following messages: Friday: We are now hove-to in the gut between Cochon and Possession so we can have a daylight arrival. roughly 47S and 50E. This morning my mates made land in that group. I know because one of them, Matt, and I are corresponding via InReach.
The island is magnificent close up. Wanderers, Sooties, Yellow-Nose and what we think was an Amsterdam Albatross. Elephant and Fur Seals; King and Macaroni penguins on the beach and later in our wake. Fantastic day.” Today: Everyone on Crozets is following you. They could not write due to your not having internet. Hospitality overwhelming. (“Everyone” being the collection of scientists, the only humans allowed on the islands.)
So, to my friends on the Crozets, thank you for the follow. Seeing your islands on the horizon was one of the more memorable moments of this leg. I yelled, “Land Ho!” so loud the Wanderers near me veered off thinking, “This guy’s nuts!” Sorry, the F8 no stopping rule was my idea. Maybe next time.
Best to you and your excellent islands.
Noon Position: 43 35S. 97 04E
Bar: 1016 Sea: NW8
Sail: Working Jib, 2 reefs
Miles last 24 hours: 164
Longitude Made Good: 157
Total Miles: 14,881
Miles to Hobart: 2233
Overnight wind increased and brought with it low cloud and rain. At midnight I took down the twin headsails, out on poles these last two days, and set the working jib to starboard with a couple reefs. The morning came on late and cold and gray and all day the quality of light has remained poor. If you were trying to read a (waterproof) newspaper in the cockpit, you’d reach for a flashlight.
The sea is cement gray, steep and breaking, and again, larger and more aggressive than I would expect for the wind. Sometimes a particular part of the wave train will collapse all at once and produce a solid break three or four boat lengths wide. This is rare. I’ve seen it twice all day. Each time I’ve been grateful the wind is only 25-30. It’s mesmerizing to watch the ocean being itself. I’ve been at odd jobs on deck today; refreshing some cotter pins on the poles; renewing the windvane control line; little stuff…but often the job will fade and I’ll just sit and stare out at the sea doing its thing.
This afternoon, lunch of canned eggplant ragout on crackers, cheese, and a serving of Soylent. Then a nap. Wind faded for a time, but is filling in again now that it’s dark. And what dark! I can’t even see Monte from my seat in the pilot house. I need to take in some sail; jigger Monte a bit, and then it’s time for dinner.
Tonight, leftover Shepherd’s Pie, a fancy title for:
- 4 Cups instant mashed potatoes
- 1 Can ground beef
- 1 Can cut carrots
- 1 Can sweet peas
- Dried garlic, onions, other seasoning
- butter, garlic
- chicken stock.
It’s the kind of night one could wish for a big chair by the fire. Shepherd’s Pie will have to suffice.
Noon Position: 43 14S 93 27E
Sail: Twins headsails out full
Cabin Temp: 65 Water Temp: 55
Miles last 24 hours: 137
Longitude Made Good: 117
Total Miles: 14,717
Miles to Hobart: 2396
For those of you just getting caught up, these blogs are now without photos or videos because the gale of two weeks ago that shattered a window in the pilot house and flooded the boat also knocked out the Fleet Broadband 250 unit used for media, email and weather. And it killed the Iridium GO unit, which was intended as a backup system for email and weather reports if the Fleet Broadband went down. Luckily I have an older Garmin InReach aboard, backup to the backups, that enables satellite transmission of text messages and is now the source of tracker data on the website.
I mention this for two reasons. One, though I’m fortunate to have the InReach (the website would be a big blank without it), I find it challenging to write my daily reports in 160 character chunks, with no recourse to editing, rethinking a paragraph, or adding elegance to a sentence. With the InReach, it’s fire and forget; or rather, fire and keep typing…before you forget what you wanted to say. Two, as “bad” as it is for me, it’s far worse for the guy who has to compile all these texts into a standard display. His name is Freddy, a resident of Oakland and a family friend. He’s been in charge of posting my daily missives since my departure on October 28 of last year, but his job has gotten a whole lot harder since two weeks ago.
For example, this short essay has already run on to 14 texts. The long report on the big blow that took out the window and so of my electronics was a whopping 70 texts. Imagine copy and paste times 70; plus tidy up Randall’s spelling (always creative), plus decide where the paragraph breaks, etc. It’s a job! So, on this, text number 16 for the night, I’d like to say a big THANKS to Freddy for his work at keeping the wheels on the Figure 8 website.again.
Our progress slow. The twin headsails are poled out and pull us along silently. There is a tinkle at the bow but nothing more. Sun all day. I pulled out my boots that filled with sea water two days ago. I rinsed them in fresh water and set them to dry. Ditto the socks of the moment. Ditto a set of fleece similarly soaked and thrown in the forepeak a week ago. Ah the aroma! In the afternoon I inspected and cleaned the electric switch panels (not much water there) and began to troubleshoot the Fleet Broadband unit. It gives me lights and runs reports and otherwise suggests it would like to return to operational status. But don’t hold your breath.
Noon Position: 42 56S. 90 35E Course/Speed: E5 Wind: WSW10-15 Bar: 1027 Sea: W4 Sky: Overcast
Cabin Temp: 57 Sea Temp: 54
Miles last 24 hours: 120 Longitude Made Good: 113 Total Miles: 14,580
Wind trailed off overnight, seeming simply to evaporate. When I came on deck at 6am, the sails were complaining at having so little to do. Actually, they had not been set well for 15 knots dead aft and the lingering swell from yesterday’s blow did not help matters, so after coffee, I lowered the main and put both headsails out on poles.
All day we have been making our slow miles east as the wind eases, fills in, eases, and the sea continues to diminish such that now one would have to press his imagination into action in order to believe that a gale here was even possible. I am lonely up here—because our way making is so slow; Because winds are too light even to make the twins happy; because those birds that have surrounded Mo like an entourage are elsewhere. It feels we have left the south. None too soon, says a part of me; prematurely, says another. But truth is we are still in the 40s; this is but a lull, and there is yet a long way to go.
Today’s project was to get the alternator to charge batteries, a thing it has failed to do since the blow and more important now that winds are light and the hydro generator less effective. Actually, this has been the project for a week and has involved my friend Matt on DRINA, a yacht a thousand miles astern of us and making way toward the Crozets, my friend Kelton in California, and Gerd, a friend in Florida. At issue is the loss of the key, which hung on a hook right behind me and went missing in the deluge that wiped out Mo’s electronics. On the same hook was a small thermometer, which I found wedged between the chart plotter and the, then, broken window; i.e on the opposite side of the boat and higher up than the hook. But hours of searching every available corner of the boat have never turned up the key. This is the spare. I broke the original when a surly wave tossed me into the ignition panel some months ago.
So, how to start the engine? I am familiar with the screwdriver-across-starter-
Engine fired right up. But the alternator did not. Since much below in the engine room had been inundated with water, I assumed the alternator was blown. Gerd, however, convinced me it was simply not being activated via my various hot-wiring methods.
He taught me three different ways to connect the alternator’s field wire. None were successful. We were all mystified. “I don’t understand why you won’t simply drill out the ignition switch and start her up with a screwdriver.” Because the moment I do this, I’ll find the key, was my response. But this morning there seemed no other options. The ignition switch ate the first drill bit. Broke it off right at the key hole.
The second managed to twist the body of the switch such that all the wires on the backside were stripped off. At least I now knew where they all belonged. Job done, insert screw driver and turn. Nothing happened. Drill out a bit more. Insert screw driver. Lights come on but the starter motor does not engage. Hmmph. Was afraid of this: operation unsuccessful and now finding the key is meaningless. One last try. Start the engine via the hot wire method , and THEN turn the ignition switch with the screw driver. And that worked. What’s the lesson here? No idea. But the alternator is now charging the batteries, and that’s all that counts.
Noon Position: 42 48S 88 01E
Course/Speed: E6 Wind: SW20 – 30
Bar: 1021 Sea: SW15
Cabin Temp: 57
Sea Temp: 53
Miles Last 24 hours: 167 Longitude Made Good: 112
Total Miles: 14,460
Not too long ago the best weather forecast one could get at sea was from his barometer. And without a satellite link or single sideband radio, that is essentially what I’ve been reduced to. The barometer will tell you that change is a-comin, but with what intensity and from what direction—on these topics, it is more or less mum. When one is used to full-color wind charts for his quadrant for every hour out for five days, the barometer’s silence is deafening. Actually, I’m not entirely blind. Tony Gooch is tracking wind and systems for me. And based on his input, I’ve been pushing hard to get north and above the heart of a quickly intensifying low from the west whose winds were forecast in the 40s.
I turned northeast just after noon yesterday in winds to 30 knots and NW. All day I spent in getting ready. I taped-up the electronics cabinets against possible water intrusion and anything sensitive got put in plastic bags. I pumped Mo’s bilges, of which we have four, and drained the water from the sleeve into which slides the companionway hatch. I secured anything that might fly. On deck I got the storm jib ready, put the high wind paddle on Monte, and secured lines. In the late afternoon I took a long nap; then got up just before sundown and studied the swell. It wasn’t much. Northwest at 12, maybe. But not steep nor breaking. Still, I tried to make a plan fo when the westerly set in. Winds had increased to 35 and gusting higher, so I dropped the main. Dinner was left over curry, better the day after, and a beer. Then I waited.
The night was dirty with rain and low cloud. Slowly the winds tracked into the west, and at 8pm the sky broke clear and clean. Low cumulus raced under a bright moon and the sea was black and slick, a giant expanse of crude oil. Now winds intensified into the high 30s with frequent pushes of 40, but the steepness and break of the wave train did not. I rolled the working jib up to the size of a snot rag and went to bed. Each time I rose, things were the same. I slept until daylight. Wind was still high. Seas were large and confused but still lacked the speed and meanness I had feared. Winds began to ease by noon and I set a course to the east. And that was it.
Why this low of similar strength and duration had such different sea-state characteristics, I can’t say. But grateful, without a drogue, I feel I’ve lost one important tactic in my survival quiver and it’s put me on edge. One low down. 2600 miles to Hobart.
Noon Position: 44 53S. 81 50E
Course/Speed: NE5 Wind: NW13
Bar: 1023 Sea: NW4
Cabin Temp: 61
Sea Temp: 50
Miles last 24 hours: 107 Longitude Made Good: 92
Total Miles: 14,136
Slowly we drifted northeast, the twin headsails filling and folding in an endless cycle timed to the swell. The night sky, its moon sunk long ago, darkened to reveal its dimmer, more outward secrets. The Milky Way, so bright you could see it bending and twisting, a cosmic river flowing from one horizon to the other. The only sound, the soft crumpling of sails and a very slight tinkling at Mo’s bow. I woke because something had changed. Usually it’s obvious—a heightening of the “hooooar” in the rigging or a more urgent motion as Mo rounds into the swell. Tonight there was no clue, just something, and when I came on deck, I found Mo had turned to the southeast, following the wind as it moved into the north. I should drop the poles and ready Mo for a reach, full main and big genoa, I thought.
The deck was slick with dew; the sails dripped, their rivulets glistening. The sea, so empty, save a man and a boat. The sky, so full. The sails can wait, we won’t lose but a mile or two. I made a cup of cocoa and sat to watch until dawn. Which, as it turns out, was about an hour away. I thought I’d come on deck at 2am, but I’ve not been careful about ship’s time these last weeks, and, more importantly, I’ve been enjoying being 12 hours opposite of home.
Some days ago, back around 58E we passed the southern ocean halfway mark between home and home again. Somehow being exactly the other side of the world from my wife and family makes them feel closer than not quite exactly the other side; somehow being 12 hours away feels more intimate, more connected than 11 hours. So, I’ve been reticent to move the clock.
Tonight there will be no stars. The wind came up in the afternoon and with it, an uneven cloud that now races in front of a yellow moon. Mo carries this wind on the beam and as it has risen, I have reefed, once, twice, and … and still Mo plows the water like there is someplace to be. Someplace other than sailing an endless sea.
Noon Position: 45 20S. 79 33E Course/Speed: NE5 Wind: WSW 11 Bar: 1030 Sea: SW 8 Sky: Overcast Cabin Temp: 56 Water Temp: 52
Miles Last 24 hours: 148 Longitude Made Good: 135 Total Miles: 14,029
“The guys have been great,” said my wife in a message, “Every time something happens to you, one or more of them will check in with me to make sure I’m OK and give me their technical advice on next steps and strategies. It’s like I have a whole squad of Expert Uncles.”
So, a shout out to the Figure 8 Expert Uncles. It’s nice to know you’re there for Jo. Thanks for the support.
Traveling over large bodies of water, slowly, for months warps one’s sense of distance. I think of Hobart, our target port of call, as right around the corner, a mere 20 days or so of easting. But a glance at chart plotter shows it to be 2,893 miles away, further than a sail from Hawaii to San Francisco; further than a flight from San Francisco to New York. It feels close. It’s not close. Especially when that 2,893 miles are Indian Ocean miles. Which is why I’m trending northeast.
It seems only a matter of time before another low like last week’s rolls through, and without a drogue, I’m feeling exposed. Getting some north in should give me options when the time comes. However, I’ve been too aggressive and have run us clean out of wind. The bar currently stands at 1029, down a tick from noon, but still very high, and winds have trailed off to a mere 6 knots true. I have the twins polled out wide, like great, white nets, but they catch only the wandering puff of air, and in the interim, they whap and bang in the small swell.
Suddenly the sky is a desert sky; the cumulus clouds are infantile, translucent for lack of heft; there are mares tails to the west, but they are whisps. Most birds, knowing where the wind lives, have abandoned the scene. The moon and the sun dominate. The sunset was tropical fire.
We make 3 knots.
Since our re-entry to the civilized world seems imminent, I’ve begun bathing again. It’s been too cold or too rough or both to contemplate otherwise. Heck, I never take the sock cap off. Heaven forbid I get my head wet. But today I boiled water and gave head and beard a good scrub. And now I smell sweet as roses. Amen.
Noon Position: 45 45S. 75 19E
Course/Speed: E7 Wind: SW20 Bar: 1032 (wow!)
Sky: Clear, Puffy Cumulus
Cabin Temp: 56
Sea Temp: 49 Miles last 24 hours: 158 Longitude Made Good Miles: 148 Total Miles: 13,881
Sleep. I can’t get enough of it.
Last evening I sat down for the pre-dinner beer, took two sips, and woke an hour later, having poured the remainder of the can into my lap and all over a cushion that had spent the day drying in the cockpit. So I went to bed. It was 8pm.
At 6am I made the ritual first log entry of the day. Then I went into the cockpit to inspect what was on offer. Winds were down and had come into the west. The sun lit up the sea, made it sparkle like electric sapphire. The sky carried pink cumulus, balls of cotton, from one horizon to the other. And it was warm.
After coffee and oatmeal laced with golden butter and peanut butter, I launched the twin headsails on poles and felt a surge of admiration I’ve not felt since the blow. Their whiteness against the blues; the lovely curve of wing, taut perfection with them skyward we sail with the same grace as the birds. We are quiet and slippery-fast, sliding our way east toward Hobart, Tasmania.
That’s the destination, some 3,000 miles onward. It’s not the closest port, but it is right on our route, which is important to me. What is next for the Figure 8 is unclear, and I’m unwilling to discuss the options yet. I am, after all, still picking glass from the floorboards. But I want the option of returning to the route quickly, something Hobart allows.
But today I didn’t worry about that. Today I didn’t pick glass or troubleshoot a device. Because today we sailed.
Noon Position: 45 36S 72 47E (Just past Kerguelen Island)
Course/Speed: E7; Wind: SW 25;
Sea: SW 6 – 8, steep and breaking;
Cabin Temp: 51;
Sea Temp 48. Miles last 24 hours: 161;
Longitude Miles Made Good: 148;
Total Miles: 13,722
Two days ago I disassembled the AA battery charger, washed it in fresh water and let it dry in the sun. I had no hope whatever of success because the power plug and most of the backside of the “motherboard” showed signs of corrosion. Then again, one can’t get lucky without trying. This morning I reassembled the unit and plugged it in. Lights! I plugged in a battery, and three hours later, it had absorbed significant charge. This is a big success for me, as I demonstrated to myself in spades last night.
At 2am I decided the main needed a reef. We were carrying nearly 30 knots on the starboard quarter and were beginning to fish-tail. I rose, dressed and went manfully to the mast; released the sheet, grabbed the luff and pulled. And nothing. The main was stuck. I had gone to the mast without a flashlight on purpose. Eventually, I’ll run out of batteries, I reasoned. Best to practice now. I looked up to see the problem and saw stars but no main. I had to grab a light. The issue was that I’d dropped the main as if we were on the wind. Dropping when off the wind requires much more care or the sail can foul a step or hang up on the lazy jack lines. On this fine evening, I ‘d coaxed it to do both! It took an hour of easing Mo into the wind and upping and downing the sail to free the two hangups. And NONE of that would have possible without a flashlight. So, one success—tentatively repaired battery charger; one failure—mindlessly handling the main.
In the afternoon I removed all the tools from the starboard tool bay. Like the battery charger, water had flooded the bags, which, being canvas, held the water in good faith these last days while I did other jobs. Each bag came out; got emptied, dried as best could, and each tool got a good wipe and a blast of Fluid Film. This is a new product to me, a last minute gift from a guy named Brian, who attended my going away party. “Here,” he said, handing me a can of Fluid Film, “You’ll use this on everything.” The best way I can think to describe it is as liquified, carbonated lanolin in a spray can. And I do use it on many things, such as tools. And now it’s mostly gone. But the tools are saved from premature rust and the battery box, with its three cups of sea water, is now dry. Small steps forward. A good day.
Winds have been consistent and moderate, and today we had sun to boot. Our easting has been good and may be so for at least a week. But what is sobering is the Indian Ocean swell. In 25 knots of wind we get 6, 8 and sometimes 10 foot seas that are nearly vertical and breaking. Smaller cousins to what we had in the blow last week and ample incentive to keep a move on.
February 22, 2018;
Noon Position 45 36S 69 13E;
Sea: NW 5. Miles last 24 hours: 172. Longitude Made Good: 175 miles (more than 24 hour run due to troubleshooting chart plotter)
Total Miles: 13,561
The radar is back online as of this morning. The issue was the router, which had drowned in the deluge and has now been replaced with the spare I thought I’d never use. That’s the good news. The bad news is I’ve not been able to restore the AIS transmitter. At least not as of yet. My reason for trying to work through these electrical issues now, a difficult task in a seaway, is so that I know what needs doing when I make landfall and can thus keep the stop-over as brief as possible.
In the afternoon the wind swung into the southwest, this over the course of fifteen minutes, and accelerated to near 30 knots. I tacked Mo around and reefed down hard. By the time I’d completed these tasks and made up lines the wind had dropped to 10 knots, where it stayed for two hours and until I let out all reefs, at which point it slowly rose back to 20 knots. So some reefs are back in, and I’m just plain pooped.
Tomorrow I need to attack the tool bin, which is just inside the companionway hatch and was loaded with water during the knockdown. All the canvas tool bags have standing water in them, and if I don’t’ have at them soon with a rag and lubricant, I’ll lose 200 pounds of good tools.
All for now… (end)
Date: February 21, 2018.
Day: 100 (I was off by two days in last post).
Noon Position: 45 46S 65 01E.
Course/Speed: E7 Wind: NW15.
Temps: Cabin got to 62 today. Amazed. Miles last 24 hours: 133.
Total F8 Miles: 13,389.
The southern ocean has dealt us a kind hand the last three days. Winds have been consistently light to moderate and the skies, Bright and open. Except for the Wandering Albatross, one might say he was transiting a trade wind belt. Nights have been clear too. Orion marching high. Sleep has been deep and long. Last night, a full eight hours in two-hour stints. I Am feeling much myself again.
Mo is mostly back to her clean and ordered self. The soggy towels have been hung to dry two days in a row and are now simply damp, making them useless. I’m still digging glass from between floorboards, but we’re down to the small shards. Repair is also underway. I have removed the shattered solar panel and gifted it to the sea. The section of rail that bent in and over the winches, making them almost has been cut away and a lifeline reeved in its place.
As to electronics, troubleshooting today appears to have put back into service the satellite compass, wind instruments, autopilot, and tank levels, and to have revealed that the AIS transmission unit is faulty and was crashing the other instruments. Not sure the fault as yet. Radar is still offline. Its router was waterlogged and so far the spare has failed to boot at all. FleetBroadband is still offline. I have disassembled the AA battery charger, rinsed its parts in fresh water and am letting them dry. These small batteries power my headlamps and other flashlights, without which night work and engine work are difficult. Ditto the Iridium GO. I’m pleased. Feels like progress. Now it is dusk.
Winds have risen this afternoon to 20 knots and the forecast calls for 30. So I took a second reef in the main. I crave another long, calm night. Winds have responded by dropping to 12 knots. The main is even starting to slat. Welcome to the south, where nothing is ever the same. (End)
Heads up from Team F8. If you’re watching Randall on the tracker please note that the tool he uses to submit both these blog posts and his location charges it at night. When it’s charging it’s not sending us his coordination. As of today he’s almost exactly 12 hours ahead of the US so when we’re awake the tracker is waiting. Go figure. Anyway, didn’t want folks to think it was broken. #teamf8