Write Comment (one comment)

Day 154/32

Noon Position: 18 02S 156 32W

Course/Speed: NNE6+

Wind: ESE14-18

Bar: 1016, falling

Sea: E5

Sky: Tropical Cumulus; 30% of sky

Cabin Temperature: 84

Water Temperature: 83 (wow. warm)

Sail: #2 full and Main with one reef; close reaching on starboard

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 138

Miles this leg: 3,828

Avg. Miles this leg: 120

Miles since departure: 21,782

Late in the night wind filled in from the east and by midnight I had a reef in the main. This has happened before; I wasn’t convinced, but each time I rose, I found that the wind held. By sunup it was still blowing freshly from the eastsoutheast. Today same. I think it’s safe to say we’ve punched through and have entered the SE trades at last. The entire ship’s company is relieved, grins on faces all round, and the old man has made allowanced for an extra ration of grog at dinner by way of celebration.

Mo is close reaching at a gallop, shouldering the seas with purpose. The sails are taught; the decks stream. We are on our way.

When I came forward in the early morning to inspect my reefing work from the dark hours, I noted a pea-sized object under the mast. Oh no, not more fasteners falling off the rig! But not to worry, it was a small animal. Mo is a killer. Regularly she catches the panicked flying fish or rocketing squid. But this she has not caught before.

Given its glisten and that it faced resolutely into the wind, I thought the animal still alive. Some prodding proved it otherwise, so I took it below to the lab. Here, and with great difficulty given the heave of the ship and the roundness of the animal, I shot a number of close-ups of its parts, and think I can say this tiny beast is an immature lobster. I believe that a lobster’s early life cycle is spent suspended in ocean currents, but I have no way to corroborate that just yet.

I was wrapping up this important work for science when I noted a vessel target on the chart plotter, a first for this leg. Sailboat Fajo, seven miles to the northeast and making six knots dead at Mo.

We are crossing through popular cruising grounds. French Polynesia, The Cooks, Tonga, Fiji, Samoa are all part of what Americans call the Coconut Milk Run, a “highway” of sorts for sailboats making for Australia or Asia from the Americas. But cruisers who depart Mexico in, say, March and April are still learning how to make grass skirts in the Marquesas. It’s way too early for the caravan to have arrived this far west.

Fajo came out of a squall at five miles off, a white fleck of sail on the horizon barely discernible from the breaking seas; soon after my AIS alarms sounded.

Fajo had the weather gage on Mo, so I let her approach while I held course. She came on to within a mile and then veered sharply south. Confused, I called on the radio and learned that Luka and her husband have been cruising French Polynesia since 2016; thus their “early” departure. They are from Germany. The boat, an Ovni of 45 feet. Their eventual destination, Australia. And the last minute swerve? In fact, they hadn’t seen me; they weren’t converging for a gam. They made the course change when their AIS alarm went off.

So, it’s been a day firsts.

Write Comment (3 comments)

Day 153/31

Noon Position: 20 10S 157 26W

Course/Speed: NNW3

Wind: ENE4

Bar: 1016, falling

Sea: ENE3-4

Sky: Puffy Cumulus to 20%

Cabin Temperature: 83

Water Temperature: 82

Sail: #1 and Main, close reaching; added little staysail in the afternoon

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 103

Miles this leg: 3,690

Avg. Miles this leg: 119

Miles since departure: 20,934

We made a creeping approach to Mauke, the eastern-most of the Southern Cook Islands. Unlike its sister to the south, it did not appear at twenty miles out. In fact, it wasn’t until 0930 and at eleven miles distant that I began to see dark objects on the horizon that did not move, bunched objects and pointed ones–the island’s palms and pines. Mauke is very low.

The wind veered for a time into the eastsoutheast, and we were able to approach to within four miles, close enough to make out a beach, a large man-made structure, a point with what looked like an aid to navigation. Close enough that the lush greenness of the island was reflected back by the sun.

Like the others, Mauke is round as a donut and has no anchorages, only landings here and there, which tempered my temptation to stop. No canoes put off to call on Mo and trade pigs for iron nails. No police boat either. In fact, I saw no movement at all, even through binoculars, during the several hours it took to pass by.

What’s to know of this place?

Suddenly, I remembered I had a Cook biography aboard, the definitive Beaglehole. Aha. Here I learned that Cook first discovered the islands, islands later named for him, in 1773. Then the sighting was an atoll he designated as Hervey Island, now Manuaea. In 1776, he stopped at Mangaia (the island we sighted yesterday) on the way to Tahiti where “from the sea it looked well-wooded and attractive, though defended by a formidable reef and a furious surf. [Later] it became clear that a large number of inhabitants, much like New Zealanders in appearance, were anxious to defend it too. The Mangaians did not favor visitors. The boat sent to reconnoitre found no place to land; reef, surf, depth of water and sharp coral bottom made it dangerous to anchor … It was an unprofitable island to him, as he needed food for his cattle.”

It was April. Cook was on his way to the Society Islands for a brief stop before proceeding for a long summer exploration of the upper North American coast and the Bearing Sea. But after departing New Zealand in March, the Discovery and the Resolution had encountered light and variable winds extending all the way to 30S where, during the 1773 passage along the same route but in June and July, winds had been favorable. Now it had been six weeks and Cook was still in … the Cooks. Bottom line, the slow going and contrary winds took him all the way to Tonga from which he doubled back to Tahiti for the winter, unable to pursue North America until the following year.

So, not only is Mo plying much the same water as Cook, but we are getting waylaid by much the same weather!

Evening. We’ve spent the day making 3 – 4 knots on 6 – 8 knots of easterly, plowing into and being stopped by the easterly swell with too much north in it. Mo just wants more sail. She’s flying a 135% jib (nearly 600 sq ft) and main (nearly 500 sq ft). But to this, in the afternoon, I added the “storm jib/staysail.” It’s a mere 117 sq ft and can’t have added more than a pound or two of push, but I felt much better for it.

Joanna forwarded an interesting question from the blog.

QUESTION

Hi Randall, I’ve been following your blog posts for a couple of months now and am inspired by your journey and your narration of the choices you make. Sounds like you’re weathering the current doldrums as well can be expected. If you’re up for explaining something to a novice sailor to while away some of the time…

As a novice sailor, I’m curious about the 3.8-knot threshold (from the May 20 post) below which you don’t bother to go above to trim sails. Is that a boat speed native to the design of Mo, or did you arrive at that number through trial and error? What’s special about that speed with regard to navigation?

Hoping you have favorable winds soon,

Jay

RESPONSE

Jay, greetings and thanks for following along.

There was nothing at all scientific about 3.8 knots; the speed simply felt really slow and at the same time, the best I could eek out of Mo given the conditions.

For Mo, 7 – 9 knots of true wind on a tight reach (close hauled, same thing) is plenty of wind to develop a respectable speed through the water in calm sea conditions. I would have been happy with, say, 4.5 knots of boat speed. But the chop we were heading into slowed the boat tremendously, and there wasn’t enough wind force or, conversely, enough sail flying–i.e. driving power– to overcome this. The 3.8 knots just seemed to be the threshold of the day.

So, I had to be happy with slow. Or rather, unhappy.

A boat is neither an albatross nor a porpoise, but rather she has a foot (wing/fin) in both worlds–one in the water, the keel, and one in the air, the sails. As such, she’s made to negotiate between two elements, wind and sea, not just the one that other animals contend with. This complicates things tremendously.

And every boat is unique, as is every day at sea. With Mo, I’m still learning. For all the miles we’ve sailed together, I’ve not done much lightwind/upwind work with her until this leg. Thus lots of experimentation with sail set, etc., is to be expected.

Hope that helps clarify things a little.

RR

Write Comment (2 comments)

Day 152/30

Noon Position: 21 52S 157 33W

Course/Speed: NNW4

Wind: NE8

Bar: 1015, falling

Sea: NE3

Sky: Typical tropical cumulus, but small

Cabin Temperature: 83

Water Temperature: 79

Sail: #1 genoa and main, close hauled on starboard

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 106

Miles this leg: 3,587

Avg. Miles this leg: 120

Miles since departure: 20,831

To my surprise, Mangaia hove into view a little before noon.

I don’t know the Cook Islands, the group we are starting to pass through today. In 2012, when I cruised French Polynesia on Murre, our 30-foot ketch of the time, I made a hard right turn at Bora Bora and sailed for home, leaving the Cooks and all the islands to the west for a later exploration.

Lacking facts, I had expected Mangaia to have all the height of a poker chip, like the Tuamotu atolls, where the palm trees on the beach are the first thing one sees when making landfall. On the chart, Mangaia and the other Cooks are round and uninteresting, and as advertised, what hove up was a bean-shaped, level-topped smudge below white cloud.

But even at twenty miles off, it stood up. So, how high is that island after all?

Of such puzzles are great pleasures made on a long passage. Ashore the answer could be found almsot while being asked. But out here our resources are limited. And time we have aplenty.

The chart was no help. It pointed out a flagpole, an airstrip, and the location of the village, but it said nothing about the land features. So, I thought to deduce height from Distance of the Horizon calculations, the formula used in pilotage to help predict when a particular lighthouse or land mass (of known height) should become visible. The square root of the height of the object times 1.17 equals the distance at which the object should pop over the horizon.

In this case, I had *that* answer; I knew how far off we were from the chart plotter. So, after some head scratching, I reversed the formula. Distance off divided by 1.17 and then squared. This gave me 292 feet. Sadly, that was just how high the island would have to be in order to be *visible* at twenty miles and did not account for how much of it was clearly sticking above the horizon now.

Next I decided to measure the height with the sextant. The reading was difficult due to the island being so indistinct, but the angle seemed to be about 9 or 10 minutes of arc. Then I spent *all afternoon* attempting to remember high school geometry and the inner workings of the Pythagorean Theorem. And failed. As it turns out, I didn’t have enough arguments for the proof.

Last resort. Bowditch. By luck I recalled a calculation for Distance by Vertical Angle (Table 15). Again, I had distance, but by putting the table in reverse, I got that for a measurement of 9 or 10 minutes of arc and a distance off of twenty miles, the height of the object should be 600 to 700 feet.

So, am I right? Is Mangaia 600 to 700 feet tall?

Slow going again. But winds are steady and beginning to veer east. The sooty anvil headed clouds are gone, and we are at last making way to the north. Tomorrow we should pass the northern Cooks.

Write Comment (no comments)

Day 151/29

Noon Position: 23 58S 157 28W

Course/Speed: NNW5

Wind: ENE9

Bar: 1018

Sea: NE3

Sky: Overcast; but squall complex with rain

Cabin Temperature: 80

Water Temperature: 78

Sail: Close reaching with big genoa and main

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 68 (It doesn’t help when you tack most of a day over your noon position.)

Miles this leg: 3,481

Avg. Miles this leg: 120

Miles since departure: 20,725

Woke to a brisk wind this morning (brisk being 7 to 9 knots) with enough east in it that we could almost make due north. What’s more, the clouds had new features; the cumulus had height and they leaned. That’s a sure sign that there is wind–aloft, at least. As the cumulus forms, its vapors rise and lean in the direction the wind is traveling. This is because winds at the surface travel more slowly than winds aloft; the top of the cloud is being swept along more rapidly than its lower parts. Leaners are trade wind clouds.

Heretofore, clouds have either been dry cotton balls or dark, anvil-headed squalls–neither with any movement other than up. So, this development is a good sign that we may be coming to the edge of the Horse Latitudes. We still have plenty of anvil-heads, mind you. But now we have leaners too.

Another sign of change is proximity to our first tropical islands. As I type, the southern most of the Cook Islands, Mangaia and Maria–one slightly west of north, the other slightly east–are under 150 miles distant. Good and bad. Good in that the Cook Islands are well within the trade wind belt; bad because I’d wanted to be east of them by this time. The goal was to enter the trades at about the longitude of Tahiti. But these persistant northeast winds have knocked that one on the head.

Whales: saw my first pod of the entire trip today. Humpbacks. Four in the group and freight-training it north. I saw them abeam at first. At the time our course had a bit of west in it and (amazingly) Mo was a bit faster. I only observed four blows. I am guessing they are on their winter migration to warmer waters. In which case, they’re almost there.

Had a coffee scare this morning. When I opened the cupboard where are stored the vacuum pouches of grounds, I could see the bottom. Wait, how many are left? Are we running out? We started from home with thirty-three 12oz pouches, enough for a year, I thought. I did a quick count. Seventeen remain. OK, phew!

One tropic bird; one gadfly petrel. Nothing more. The day was really about clouds.

Write Comment (one comment)

Day 150/28

Noon Position: 25 06S 157 05W

Course/Speed: NW5

Wind: NNE7

Bar: 1018, falling

Sea: NNE3-5, sloppy chop

Sky: Weird mix of stratus, cumulus and squalls

Cabin Temperature: 79

Water Temperature: 76

Sail: #2, full; main, full; close hauled to starboard

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 92

Miles this leg: 3,412

Avg. Miles this leg: 122

Miles since departure: 20,657

Slow and dull. The sea is blue; the sky is blue, but there is enough hazy and squally cloud to deaden any vividness the day may have wanted to possess. The thermostat achieved 80 degrees Fahreinheit before noon, though it soon retreated, and I must admit the breeze in the shade of the pilot house is lovely and cool. Still, there is an oppressiveness laying over all like a damp blanket.

What’s aids such a sour impression is that winds are both light and contrary and increasingly so. I don’t mind one or the other, but both together represent bad planning on the part of Neptune, or whoever his Admiral of the Ocean Sea may be this year.

I’ve spent the day tuning sails to optimize our performance, but there is only so much one can do with 7 to 9 knots if wind coming from the direction in which one would like to proceed and which is accompanied by a thumping chop. When all my attempts fail to get more than 3.8 knots of speed, I go below and read until seeing 3.8 on the odometer finally goads me back on deck for another try.

Mo is a heavy bird. She needs a bit more lift to loft.

Wind slowly backed into the north all morning. In the early afternoon, it finally went west of north, so I tacked around to the east. Seeing what I intended, it soon went back to east of north. So now we make 3.8 knots and are sagging south.

One Tropic Bird flew in close today, like a dog looking for treats. I saw it first when it was a hundred feet up, gliding lightly down and down toward Mo until it was hovering just three arm lengths away. It even barked, as Tropic Birds do. I’m grateful this bird is so inquisitive, game for a near inspection of that plodding, silver ship, as it’s nice, if only briefly, to see the details of paper-white, translucent primaries, the long orange beak, the streamer of a tail–the sharp, black eyes looking down at me with a mixture of curiosity and recrimination (what, no fish?).

In the afternoon, a green fish float the size of a basketball, the first debris and the first human artifact we’ve seen since departing Hobart, unless you count satellites passing overhead at night.

This heading chop makes me uneasy. There’s a stiff wind somewhere uphill. And the evening sky is uncanny.

Write Comment (5 comments)

Day 149/27

Noon Position: 26 31S 156 37W

Course/Speed: N5.5

Wind: NNW4

Bar: 1019, falling

Sea: W3

Sky: Hazy, high stratus, otherwise clear

Cabin Temperature: 78

Water Temperature: 74

Sail: Motoring

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 108

Miles this leg: 3,321

Avg. Miles this leg: 123

Miles since departure: 20,565

It will be intersting to look back at this leg and my routing strategy with an eye toward what could have been done differently. How could we have made better time–found better air–in this first third of the passage home?

My rationale seemed sound, still does: stay high and get all our easting in before reaching the trades. Why? Well, granted, the SE trades are light, but who wants to be close hauled for three weeks when he can grab easting early and ease sheets when heading north.

But the wind way out here has been light and variable for so long! Since 37S we’ve been in and out of ridges and calms and will be until about 20S–roughly 800 miles of puffy stuff–and each time I open the weather chart, I see there appears to be better air between New Zealand and Samoa, well west of us now. Should I have stayed west?

Wind backed into the north in the wee hours and went light at dawn, or should I say lighter. I tacked around to the NE but there was too much chop left over, and even with the big genoa, we made but 2 knots. I tried the spinnaker, and amazingly it filled on a close reach, but our speed did not improve. When wind dropped from 6 to 4 knots, I started the engine.

It is a testament to Mo’s range under power that we’ve motored for over 48 hours since last fill-up in Hobart and have used but a quarter of our fuel. This is due to generous tankage for a boat this size–200 gallons in total–and a small, 3-cylinder, 48hp engine that sips fuel at normal cruising speeds. Granted, she’s slow in any contrary wind or sea, but (so far) that’s a fair trade for range.

Winds have been 7 and 8 knots from the east for an hour. We’re sailing again, an easy 5 knots on a close reach. Then the sun set. Winds are back to 4 and 5.

Normally I would not care. We have plenty of food and water. Environs are beautiful; the air is cool. I have books that need reading. Life is easy at 4 knots.

But I am pressing. I want to get home, get ready for the next launch. Time is already short.

Pressing is bad business in a sailboat.

Head wash day. First time since departure. About a gallon of fresh water. Pure luxury.

Sadly, I ate the last Hobart pastry, a chocolate croissant from Coles grocery, this morning. Time to bake bread.

One apple left. Six oranges. One cabbage will be eaten tonight as accompaniment to Shepherds Pie, and one remains.

Not a bird today. Not even one. No flying fish.

Feels like we are making our slow way across a desert.

Write Comment (no comments)

Day 148/26

Noon Position: 27 46S 155 10W

Course/Speed: NW6

Wind: NNE13

Bar: 1021, falling

Sea: NE4

Sky: Partly Cloudy

Cabin Temperature: 77

Water Temperature: 74

Sail: Full working sail, close hauled on starboard

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 136

Miles this leg: 3213

Avg. Miles this leg: 124

Miles since departure: 20,457

One effect of warming weather as we approach the tropics: those fresh foods which had lasted till now are going off fast. An example is my last loaf of bread, purchased from a bakery in Hobart hours before departure. It had held up well while things were cool, but when I opened the bag today for a mid afternoon nosh, I found it had bloomed.

Over the side with it.

Same with two apples and one orange that escaped my notice until it was too late. The apples were Hobart-grown and delicious; their loss is especially disappointing.

Slow, steady progress today. We are close hauled with full sail and simply following the wind as it gradually clocks around from east to north. When it hits north late tonight I’ll tack to the east…likely just in time for it to die altogether. The next several days will see quintessential horse latitude weather, but Mo should get a good northerly push come late in the week.

We are on starboard tack and heeled right over. This means the galley sink is closed for business, its standpipes being effectively under water on this tack. So where to wash dishes? I haven’t solved that entirely just yet, but in the interim, the cockpit is the washroom.

Only one avian visitor today, an especially curious Tropic Bird, which came almost within reach. Add to that one flying fish flying over wave tops and that sums up my marine life sightings. Not much action here. http://figure8voyage.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/img_2059.mov

Write Comment (no comments)

Day 147/25

Noon Position: 29 56S 154 27W

Course/Speed: N5

Wind: ENE10-13

Bar: 1024, steady

Sea: NE3

Sky: Alternating between puffy cumulus and squall clouds

Cabin Temperature: 75

Water Temperature: 71

Sail: Working jib and main, full, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 128

Miles this leg: 3,077

Avg. Miles this leg: 123

Miles since departure: 20,321

You have to love blue to be a sailor, and I must admit an inexplicable, unreasonable irresistible adoration for the ocean colors in the middle latitudes. Depending on the day and the angle of the sun, the surface we pass through, this seemingly infinite plane, will radiate, even vibrate with the deepest indigos and sapphires. Those colors, considered precious and rare on land, are the entirety of what is out here. They move and shade with the rolling of the sea and their very intensity suggests depth and vastness. All this below an azure sky.

We crossed into the 20s of south latitude at noon and are approaching the tropics, which will be entered at 23 26 south and continue until 23 26 north. In this area, called the Torrid Zone, the sun is directly overhead at least once per year.

In order to ensure we are ready for the eventual entry into this zone, our locality is making tropical overtures. For one, the temperature began the day and has ended the day above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. It is difficult to understand such warmth given where we’ve just come from.

And we are back in the domain of the flying fish, an animal we have not seen since November of last year. I found a small fry in the scuppers this morning. Christened Lazy Eye just before he was gifted to the sea, this fryer was not nearly as clever as his expression in the photo suggests, due mainly to his being dead at the time. Almost immediately thereafter I spotted a flying fish hunter, a Tropic Bird, circling Mo’s mast. These birds are so called because their range is roughly 30N to 30S.

This is also the first windy day during which I have not seen a single southern Albatross.

And finally, in preparation for warmer climes, I removed the stainless steel dorade vent covers. Everyone agrees it is high time we have some fresh air below.

All afternoon, Gray Noddies played around the boat. They are thought of as a “sedentary” bird; they don’t range far from home. And sure enough, the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, where they roost, are approaching, are now fewer than 500 miles north.

Wind has been fickle, cycling between 15 and 8 knots and between east and northeast. Mo is close hauled and doing her best to push north at a respectable pace. I spent the morning fine tuning sails, but there is only so much speed one can get from such wind in a three foot chop.

Still, northing is being made, so we are all happy aboard.

Write Comment (3 comments)

Day 146/24

Noon Position: 32 04S 154 12W

Course/Speed: N5

Wind: SSE4

Bar: 1027, falling (slowly)

Sea: S5, N3 (both old)

Sky: Puffy Cumulus

Cabin Temperature: 75

Water Temperature: 69

Sail: Motoring

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 96

Miles this leg: 2,949

Avg. Miles this leg: 123

Miles since departure: 20,193

I woke to a sea of glass.

We reached steadily north all night. Wind gave out occasionally–I could hear the slatting of the main from my bunk–but filled in again after a time. Then Mo would move silently through the silent heave of sea, making her slow way in time with the slow turning of the astral sky. I slept deeply in two-hour stints until just before dawn. Then the big sail began barking and did not stop. I pulled it down, made coffee and watched for the sun over what had become an undulating mirror.

Not a breath. Not a bird. Not a sound.

We motored until noon. Then a southwest wind let us fly the spinnaker for a few hours. Now we are close hauled with working sails, still headed north. I want as much northing as we can squeeze out before the west end of this high rolls over us and we are headed for a week.

All around the sky has become heavy with low cloud this evening. There are columns of rain to the west. I half expect lightning. I don’t expect much sleep. Tonight will be shifty.

I have left the Australian flag up these last weeks out of respect for her hegemony, and then for New Zealand’s too (it’s the only Crown flag I have aboard). But I figure by now we are well beyond the protected waters of either nation, and so the flag has been replaced.

The new flag, a blue burgee with a white albatross in it center, was the gift of Darryl Ridgeway, one of my sponsors in Hobart, and is technically the ensign of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania (notice the hat with same bird and abbreviations–also a gift from Darryl). But it is too fitting not to be appropriated as Mo’s own.

And on queue, at the end of our flag ceremony, a Wanderer flew by. I kid you not.

Write Comment (one comment)

Day 145/23

Noon Position: 33 38S 154 22W

Course/Speed: N3

Wind: SSW5

Bar: 1029, steady

Sea: S6, N4

Sky: Clear, cumulus on horizon

Cabin Temperature: 71

Water Temperature: 67

Sail: Spinnaker and Main, Broad Reach

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

Miles this leg: 2,853

Avg. Miles this leg: 124

Miles since departure: 20,097

I think it is light wind sailing that separates the men from the boys as much as the heavy stuff. It is certainly as much work.

We’ve been running toward the blessed north, at least, but not with anything like speed. The forecast got the wind direction spot on, but the velocity has not been the promised 10 knots until evening. Think more like 4 knots, 6 if you want to go all racy.

I raised the spinnaker mid morning and have been nursing it and experimenting all day. Tack goes here? No. Here? Pole up? No, pole down. Main in, main out? Does it matter? Is that better? But it’s tough to get a sense of what’s optimal when there’s not enough wind to tickle your fancy.

Add in the large old swell from the south and a newer but equally ancient swell from the north, and neither sail can get arms around our anemic breeze for more than a few seconds.

A can of beans for lunch and an orange for desert. Then back to tuning and tweaking.

When I look up, I realize…not a single bird all day! We must be getting close to the center of this high. No self respecting glider would come in here.

During the heat of the afternoon (74 degrees!) I hid in the shade of the pilot house and kept my watch from there.

And with sunset, we have wind. 10 knots; dead aft. I had planned to motor overnight, but let’s see how long this lasts…

Write Comment (no comments)

Day 144/22

Noon Position: 34 39S 155 37W

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: W15

Bar: 1029, steady

Sea: S6 – 8 (old rollers not from around here)

Sky: Squally

Cabin Temperature: 71

Water Temperature: 67

Sail: Working Jib (poled) and Genoa (free) and Main, all full; broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 105

Miles this leg: 2,748

Avg. Miles this leg: 125

Miles since departure: 19,992

“Monte, you are the horse in this relationship,” I said just after breakfast. I’d been reading and Monte was at the tiller with both hands as Mo was off at a gallop. He looked pleased.

“Ah yes, Senior, there are some woman in my town who have called me stallion. But what compliment do you intend by this reference to horse?”

“I shall read and you shall understand, Monte. From Bowditch,

‘Along the poleward side of each trade-wind belt, and corresponding approximately with the belt of high pressure in each hemisphere, is another region with weak pressure gradientes and correspondingly light and variable winds. These are called the Horse Latitudes, apparently so named because becalmed sailing ships threw their horses overboard in this region when water supplies ran short.'”

Monte silently contemplated the windward horizon. “Just so we’re clear,” I said “you’re the horse.”

“Senior, your compliment is very clear, but I would request permission to remind you of two important pieces. One, I don’t drink water and so do not endanger your precious supply, and two, you are a terrible helmsman; without your pilot, Monte, you may not get home.”

“Well, let’s hope it doesn’t come to push vesus shove,” I said.

Frustratingly light and frustratingly variable as winds have been this last thousand miles, at this exact moment, Mo is on a tear, and we are all experiencing a highly unusual phenomenon…

Mo is imitating the big race boats by *outrunning the weather,* in this case, a large squall to leeward.

The night was utterly clear and dark, the Milky Way like a freeway of light overhead. Just after midnight winds went to fifteen knots; so I doused the spinnaker, and we ran on a broad reach until dawn under big genoa and main. The day came on muggy with heavy, towering squall clouds, but the wind had relaxed. That is, until we were approached by one of the thicker cloud-sets pouring out water in great, black columns and pushing ahead of it a very fresh blast. I took the opportunity for some speed and unfurled the working jib poled out to windward. So, now we were running on a broad reach with both headsails and a full main. Mo took off.

I kept a close eye on the squall as I expected I’d reef hard when it was on us. But to my amazement, it stopped approaching. Wind stayed fresh for two hours as we ran before this behemoth, and then it finally gave up. The rain columns thinned and then stopped; the cloud became lighter, and the wind began to ease. Our nimbus pursuer had utterly blown itself out in the chase, and we left it by the side of the road, panting and gasping for air.

THAT has never happened before!

My current goal is to get Mo to 34S and 154W by noon tomorrow when, per the forecast, at that locality the high’s center will be to the west of us (hosanas!) and winds will come lightly to the south. We can then begin a push north. I have faint hope in this plan as the forecast continues to suggest that the high will then move east and over us, but I also don’t see a better tactic. Honestly, the mid range future looks pretty grim for northing.   

Write Comment (3 comments)

Day 143/21

Noon Position: 35 09S 158 07W

Course/Speed: 0/0

Wind: WNW2

Bar: 1029, steady

Sea: SW4

Sky: Clear

Cabin Temperature: 74

Water Temperature: 66

Sail: Sails down; drifting last hour

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 106

Miles this leg: 2,643

Avg. Miles this leg: 126

Miles since departure: 19,887

Mom would not admit it, but she is partly responsible for my aquatic wanderlust. “How could this be,” she would ask, “when I told you never to sail that little ketch you had outside the San Francisco Bay?

But will she recall that going out the Golden Gate the first time was her idea?

I learned to sail in highschool. Then our family had a small sloop on which we explored the San Joaquin River on weekends, and the San Francisco Bay during summer vacations. We never went beyond the Golden Gate Bridge except once, when Mom thought it would be fun to sail to Half Moon Bay, a small fishing town about 20 miles down coast.

Dad, the retired Merchant Sea Captain, was cautious. “It’s not protected, like the bay,” he said. But my sister and I were game, and Mom won-out because she thought it would be fun to see new territory.

It was July. We departed early from the Corinthian Yacht Club at Dad’s insistence, motoring out under the bridge and past Mile Rock at dawn where we picked up a light northwesterly.

Beyond the protection of Point Bonita, we began to encounter our first ocean swell, not large, but lumpy and fast where it rode in over the bar. I remember mom looking at dad with worry. She’d never seen the ocean up close before.

We continued out to sea until the pilot station before turning south, by which time the day was mature. What morning fog there had been had long ago burned off, and now, running before a softening wind under a brilliant sun, it was downright hot.

The bridge receded; got small and low on the horizon in a way that was disconcerting; the city also now looked small and very far away; not even big enough for a post card. And the sea continued to heave. Soon we began to feel queasy. Even dad had a saltine cracker. “Dear Gussy, but this swell is just terrible,” said Mom.

Half Moon Bay wasn’t much to see, a few restaurants and a small marina. We anchored only one night and motored directly back to the protection of San Francisco Bay the next morning.

But lying in my bunk that night I could still feel the sea’s undulation; I could hear the call of the sea buoys out beyond the spit. I could hear the call.

So you see, Mom was really this sailor’s inspiration.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.

Windless again by noon. Even the spinnaker gave up and collapsed on deck, panting for want of wind. I stowed it and the main and we drifted with the downed Albatrosses, of which there were five in view on the water at one point.

Monte: What are you doing?

Randall: Science.

Monte: Looks like fishing to me, but your net is too small. Senior, I insist that you will not catch dinner with that.

Randall: Not looking for dinner. Looking to see what’s here.

One of the joys of being becalmed (no, the only joy of being becalmed) is that you get to see details missed when the boat has a head of steam.

Mo made maybe one knot of drift, and as I peered over the side, I could see: egg pods shaped like peas, like lozenges, like ameba. I could see tiny sapphire jellies and infant Man-o-War. I rigged a net at the end of a boat hook and brought some aboard. All collected into a jar for detailed inspection.

Here is what I found.

Write Comment (2 comments)

Day 142/20

Noon Position: 36 10S 159 53W

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: WNW17-20

Bar: 1026, steady

Sea: W3

Sky: Clear here, squalls to horizon

Cabin Temperature: 74

Water Temperature: 64

Sail: Working Jib, full; full main; close reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 137

Miles this leg: 2,537

Avg. Miles this leg: 127

Miles since departure: 19,781

The antidote to yesterday’s foul mood is wind, which began to fill in from the west at dusk. By midnight I had reefs in and Mo charged on like a horse feeling her oats. At day’s end (noon), we’d made a respectable 137 miles, good as twenty-four hours earlier saw a boat with limp sails and no steerage.

And what a difference…

The only word for this day with a boisterous wind on the beam is timeless. I think that mariners are so conscientious about logging (every two hours on Mo) because without the constant reminder of the log, both time and place would become insignificant contrivances. In a world of endless blue sky, blue water, pale cloud, and with a boat going like a freight train and yet mysteriously motionless at the center of a world going by–in this world, what is time?

The sea today is a vast plane with here and there a white cap and just enough heave to make man and boat and sea feel like a single living thing. And in that single living thing–whales, two–the first two seen this entire voyage. Off to port. I saw the blow first, an explosion of white mist; then that sliver of gray, shiny body above the water. They appeared to be just churning about. Here, in the middle of nowhere, they were going nowhere in particular, like kids hanging out on a street corner–except there’s neither street nor corner here. In fact, the nearest land is 18,000 feet straight down. But then, that’s the terrestrial animal talking–equating “somewhere” with a fixed body. To the whale, this random bit of sea could be like a piece of back yard, or a special picnic spot in a national park two states away.

I had a wish that, like the dolphins, they’d somehow take chase with Mo. But not. They disappeared into the sun. I waited on deck for twenty minutes but never saw them again.

Wind to one side, we are not out of this calm just yet. Current strategy is to hightail it to a spot around 35S and 158W before a pocket of high pressure develops where we are currently. Here and east of here there will be nada, but there wind will be light from the west and we can head due east for a day or two. Later in the week, if we are very lucky, the wall of calm above us will begin to migrate west and a breath of wind may be found to carry us north, up and around, and… And that’s all I’ll say for now.

Write Comment (one comment)

Day 141/19

Noon Position: 37 18S 162 22W

Course/Speed: ENE2

Wind: SW3-6

Bar: 1027, steady

Sea: SW6…still old rollers from S

Sky: Squalls; otherwise clear

Cabin Temperature: 66

Water Temperature: 63

Sail: Twins poled; then spinnaker and main

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 97

Miles this leg: 2,400

Avg. Miles this leg: 126

Miles since departure: 19,644

I motored until the moon was directly overhead; then I shut everything down. We’ve burned enough fuel for this early in a long passage, I thought, just over a quarter of our 200 gallons.

There was no wind. I went to bed.

Dawn was squally. Decks were wet; the sky, gray and misty. I set the big genoa with which we just made steerage. Then things went still. Wind: 3 knots. That much doesn’t even register on my newly shaved cheeks. Even the petrels went down on the water.

Randall: I must be paying for past sins. This has to be the longest bout of calm I’ve ever experienced.

Monte: Not sins, Senior. Just one.

Randall: And that would be?

Monte: Flirting with a monster.

Randall: Come clean, Monte. What are you about?

Monte: Senior, you don’t go this close to a high without expecting to get stepped on.

Then I found in our inventory a spinnaker. Brand new. Made by HOOD. Now who would have ordered such a thing?

I lofted it just after lunch. Massive sail. Larger than the two genoas combined. Perfect curvature; pristine white. At the front end of the squalls we charged, making 7 and 8 knots in 10 knot of wind. Magic.

Interesting photo of a rainbow presented here. Note that the rainbow does not end at the horizon but extends toward the boat. That’s because Mo is in the mist that is creating the the color display. See that the camera captured mist particles in the close up.

Write Comment (2 comments)

Day 140/18

Noon Position: 37 39S 164 21W

Course/Speed: E6

Wind: SW6

Bar: 1026, steady

Sea: SW8, big slow rollers from down south

Sky: Squalls

Cabin Temperature: 71

Water Temperature: 63

Sail: Motoring

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 106

Miles this leg: 2304

Avg. Miles this leg: 128

Miles since departure: 19,546

My tactic was sound: head east so as to stay in the wind and avoid high pressure to the north. But my timing was poor. I should have turned east many miles sooner, as the barometer, rising ever so slowly but always rising, foretold.

Wind diminished with the setting of the sun and continued on that trajectory until, at 3am, sails were banging more than not. I took them down and we drifted until dawn. I then rehung the big genoa in what, to the naked, unpracticed eye, looked like wind, but the sail failed to fill with anything except regret.

“I told you calms love company,” I said to Monte who, with nothing better to do, was flicking playing cards at passing petrels.

“They are mean ugly bastards, Senior. But sometimes they cannot be avoided. You have your books?”

“I have an engine,” I replied.

So, we’ve been motoring slowly since 7am.

In the afternoon wind came up at 15 from the south. I waited. For an hour. It remained steady.

I flew all the sails.

The wind died.

We are motoring again.

The day has not been an utter loss, however. After lunch I prepared head and face for hot weather by giving both a buzz cut. Refreshing. And I feel so much thinner.

Write Comment (2 comments)

Day 139/17

Noon Position: 38 12S 166 30W

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: SSW 20-25

Bar: 1024, steady

Sea: SW6, lumpy, but fun to watch

Sky: Cloud, squally, some rain

Cabin Temperature: 67

Water Temperature: 64

Sail: working jib, two reefs; main, two reefs, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 150

Miles this leg: 2,198

Avg. Miles this leg: 129

Miles since departure: 19,441

“Monte, doesn’t the wild god of the world know that we are sick of gray skies?” I ask.

“He does,” says Monte. “I have told him for you.”

“And what does he say for himself? Cloud we have today in abundance. And now the seat cushions are all wet.”

“He says nothing. The wild gods, they do not talk to sailors, even ancient ones like me.”

“Then what do you suggest?”

“Senior, you must recall that without a little trouble your adventure is but a holiday.”

Cloud to one side–cloud that came in squalls at midnight, covering the stars and blowing its rain into the open pilot house, soaking the seat cushions as the skipper slept–yes, that cloud to one side, the wind it brought has been excellent. All day it has been blowing 20 – 25 from the southwest and now the south. And Mo punches right along with double reefs, shouldering her way through a frothing and ebullient sea.

In the morning I played with sail trim. In a bit, out a bit. Up and then reef. We’re sailing fast, a good steady seven knots; ten when we surf. But how much faster can we go without pulling a muscle? Finally satisfied, I spent the afternoon like a cat, gazing out the window and napping.

The birds now are brown petrels, swooping just beyond Mo’s transom. I’ve not been able to work up a better identification than “brown petrel” because the bird presents no other distinctive features. It is lithe, petite, long of wing, a soaring bird with small head and small beak–like most–but above all, it is brown.

Albatrosses: only two today. One an old and tatty black browed and one an immature wanderer. Prions: one.

You may have noticed that I’ve put a bit of east in our course. This is because we are entering the territory of a roaming high pressure system (read, no wind), a system we have to go through our around in order to reach the SE trades. Current forecasts suggest that right above us a wind hole is developing but that if Mo and I can skinny east a bit, we might just sneak around its margins. We shall see. Calms love nothing better than company, which is why we are sailing ever so quietly.

Write Comment (6 comments)

Day 138/16

Noon Position: 40.00S 168 39W

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: WNW15

Bar: 1026, steady

Sea: S6; W1

Sky: Clear; small, cottonball cumulus to the west

Cabin Temperature: 71

Water Temperature: 60

Sail: Big Genoa and Main, full; reaching

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 149

Miles this leg: 2048

Avg. Miles this leg: 128

Miles since departure: 19,291

Today at noon, precisely, Mo and I sailed out of the Roaring 40s and with that have completed our circuit of the Southern Ocean. Mo had reason to know what was coming, having made the passage before, but I was a babe in the woods.

I am relieved to be headed north and beyond the reach of those great harvester that roam below the continents. The south has been arduous and stressful; the difficult situations and the decisions they required were beyond my experience; the evidence of natural, untamable, raw power, ineffably awing.

If we had completed the course as planned, I would be proud of the accomplishment and humbled by our good fortune. As it is, except for a window and some electronics, we’ve got round in one piece … but we left behind unfinished business.

I now know first hand how serious the effort of a return attempt will be. I will be better prepared, mentally; Mo will be bettered physically. There is not, at least not yet, any dread at the thought of a return. I look forward to the long, gentle passage home, to regrouping–I look forward to the return.

By way of celebrating our transition north, the day dished up encouraged anything but introspection.

I rose and put on boots and a heavy jacket as per usual, and immediately took them off. Even before the sun, it was too warm for such clothes. In fact, I’m down to one layer of long johns, which is quite the look (notice no photo).

Dawn came on orange and summery; the wind sat on the beam and hung there, light and steady. I just couldn’t remain in the cabin; on deck I tuned sails to perfection, tidied line, gazed at the open, blue expanse.

We are entering a desert place. The Southern Ocean is like old growth forest, thick with and vertically stacked with life, but up here things thin out quickly. Southern Albatross we still have, but only stragglers. I saw one Prion today, and (amazingly) one Cape Petrel (very far north for a true Antarctic species). The action is south–it’s where the food is.

Interestingly, by way of showing the lie to that last statement, today a squid chose to fling himself on deck and leave a self portrait in black ink on the non-skid. This did not happen even once in the south.

It’s a beauty of a different kind up here. And for now I’m quite satisfied to be enjoying it.

Write Comment (one comment)

Day 137/15

Noon Position: 41 39S 171 12W

Course/Speed: E6

Wind: SW15

Bar: 1023, steady

Sea: SW4

Sky: Clear

Cabin Temperature: 71

Water Temperature: 61

Sail: Twins poled out and full

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 152

Miles this leg: 1,887

Avg. Miles this leg: 126

Miles since departure: 19,142

Overnight only one squall required I unwrap myself from my bag, rise, and roll up a bit of jib. I came on deck in shirt sleeves and bare feet, this for the first time in memory.

For a few moments the cloud, unseen except by its effect, blanked out the starry sky. Then gone, and the Milky Way, that vast arch bridging the night, returned. How easy to call it “The Milky Way” and to wonder at its beauty. How difficult to comprehend that one’s gaze is outward through the disk of a galaxy and off into space. My tiny boat, a mere speck, even in terrestrial terms, sliding across a minute puddle on a small blue dot in an ocean of stars. I had to grab for the backstay to steady myself; the thought is just too grand.

The day brought sun, full sun, with nary a cloud of substance. And warmth. The cabin was 70 degrees well before noon.

But the strong winds are dissipating quickly. The eager, bounding sea has subsided. I raised the twin headsails and silently we glide north. In the afternoon I read from my storm book and imagined how I would handle differently those gales that already seem from another time. Soon we will quietly take our leave of the south.

For now.

Write Comment (one comment)

Day 136/14

Noon Position: 43 25S 173 40W

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: WXN25

Bar: 1007, steady

Sea:n NW8

Sky: High Cumulus

Cabin Temperature: 63

Water Temperature: 60

Sail: Broad reach with two reefs in working jib and main

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 143

Miles this leg: 1,735

Avg. Miles this leg: 124

Miles since departure: 18,990

We are now treading lightly over the extreme northern arm of some powerful lows to the south. This has lead to unsettled and changeable weather and a very photogenic day.

Wind was WNW at dawn; then veered NNW and just after noon backed sharply to the SW, all while managing a velocity from 15 to 30 knots in the course of just a few minutes. Thus, the neighborhood we are traversing has become a mass of sharp-pointed seas from all directions. Nothing large, but enough to toss Mo around like a piece of driftwood.

Dawn revealed towering cumulus, some with bases big enough to cover the sky and take wind briefly to 40 in their squalls, all forgiven for the beauty of beholding something other than infernal gray.

I began by letting go reefs just after morning coffee. Before lunch I was putting them in again, and in a hurry. For my labors I was rewarded with a boot full of water and about a gallon of frothing sea down my front. Now we slide along under working jib alone. Mo wobbles and corkscrews but makes good time and all of it in the right direction.

From The Chatham Islands, our next waypoint is one thousand miles northeast at 30S and 160W, a spot directly below the Cook Islands. Achieving this latitude should get us up, over and through the Horse Latitudes (calms and variables) that separate the Roaring 40s from the SE Trades.

More importantly, the Cook Islands are on a longitudinal line directly below Hawaii, and for the purposes of getting home once, passing near the Hawaiian Island chain gives one a good launch point for getting around the Pacific High, that ocean’s major summertime weather feature.

I may extend the next waypoint out east to Tahiti in the coming days, this simply to ease the wind angle once in the trades, but right now the SE trades are so light, going close hauled into them might be a good thing. More on that as the days develop.

Write Comment (no comments)

Hi folks!

Quick update from Team Figure 8 now that Randall and Moli are clearly hitting their stride.

The Tracker – for those of you checking the tracker on a regular basis you’ll notice that we switched from a continuous line to dots on the map. We needed to make the switch due to the crossing of the dateline. The tracker doesn’t quite understand yet (the awesome team at Follow My Challenge are working on this) the whole concept. We thought dots would be less confusing than a line that ran around the world. Also, for all of our new readers. The tracker updates real time approximately every hour. Randall’s blog posts, however, don’t. So if you’re checking the coordinates on his posts and where he is on the tracker you’ll see a couple of days difference. Getting all those awesome images and stories from Moli to the blog take a couple of days. So don’t worry if they’re off.

Commenting on posts / Facebook / Twitter / Sailfeed. For you virtual voyagers reading about the adventures please note that Randall doesn’t have internet connectivity while he’s at sea. This means he can’t read your comments or questions. However, Joanna communicates with Randall daily. As part of her update, she shares comments and questions as she can. Randall LOVES hearing about all of them and when he can he tries to answer the questions. So while it looks like he’s ignoring you he’s not. I know the support team should be being good social media managers and liking and commenting back but this is our (paid with love) side hustle. It’s worth noting that when Randall does get back to port he reads everything.

Preparing for Figure 8 Voyage 2.0 – yes, the land bound team is already starting to think about this. To help with funding this next round and replacing some of the broken/waterlogged/damaged equipment we’re going to be creating a line of Virtual Stowaway branded goodies. We’ll be letting you all know here. We know, they’ve been a long time coming. Also, if any of you have any contacts with media outlets (magazines, newspapers, podcasts etc)  who might be interested in this story please let us know. Our focus is to share The Figure 8 Voyage story as broadly as we can. We want to be able to inspire as many people as possible.

Lastly, we want to make sure we give credit to the amazing artist Nick Stewart who created the image in today’s post. If you’ve been to Joanna and Randall’s home in California you’ve seen Nick’s work. Joanna commissioned a painting of Murre and Randall of Murre and the Pacific. We think Nick captures the movement and energy of sailing in such a stunning way. You too can have a bespoke painting of your boat. Want to find out more? You can contact Nick through his website at https://quinkandbleach.wordpress.com/

Thanks for all the support! Feel free to email the team at figure8voyage@gmail.com if you have questions or comment below.

Team Figure 8

Write Comment (2 comments)

Day 135/13

Noon Position: 44 39S 176 30W

Course/Speed: ENE6

Wind: NNW25-30

Bar: 1015, dropping a point per hour

Sea: NW8

Sky: Dark, rain, more dark

Cabin Temperature: 60

Water Temperature: 57

Sail: working jib, three reefs; main, three reefs, reaching

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 160

Miles this leg: 1,592

Avg. Miles this leg: 122

Miles since departure: 18,847

A dirty, sleepless night. Up once an hour to discuss our course with Monte, this as the wind backed steadily, or take in more sail or both. By morning we were reefed right down and winds were a steady 25 and 30 from the NNW, wind Mo is carrying as far forward as she can. Rough ride, to say the least, but Mo is a champ and is banging out (literally) 6 and 7 knots.

Three photos in succession of just what “rough ride” looks like from the pilot house.

If I’d not known we were on approach to the Chatham Island group, the birds would have told me. Albaross by the score this morning, along with the now usual Cape Petrel and others. And now we pass kelp pods.

I was able to begin adding north into our course after noon, and soon after that the most southerly installation of the Chatham Islands hove into view, the most aptly named Pyramid Rock. For us it was a formidable dark triangle on the horizon, along with other lumpy masses that make up the southern constellation of islands and rocks. I’d hoped to get closer, but 12 miles off was my best shot, given that the wind refuses to back into the west as per forecast.

In the afternoon I radioed the Chatham Island Maritime Station to chat and to pass a message of greeting from Tony Gooch, who sailed past these islands on his solo round the world voyage in 2002 and also called in to say hello as he passed. But my partner on the island wasn’t willing to abide such informality. We never got past call signs and positions.

Yesterday, or should I say today, Mo and I crossed the International Date Line at 180 degrees (west/east) longitude or exactly half way around the world from Greenwich, England, where resides zero degrees longitude. Forthwith, May 5th resumed again, or so I have read. Beyond sliding over a thick green line on the chart plotter, not much seems to have changed.

Mo and I passed under Greenwich and into east longitude on February 2, 2018, headed, as it turns out, for Hobart. Now we’ve reentered west longitude, exciting for me because two of my favorite places, Kauai, at roughly 150W, and San Francisco, at roughly 125W, are on this side of the planet.  

Write Comment (3 comments)

Day 134/12

Noon Position: 44 31S 179 45E

Course/Speed: E5

Wind: NNE13

Bar: 1027, steady

Sea: NE2

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temperature: 58

Water Temperature: 55

Sail: Working jib and main full, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 43

Miles this leg: 1,432

Avg. Miles this leg: 119

Miles since departure: 18,687

Consider for a moment the commonality of human experience through time.

We lay becalmed all night. The sails hung like sheets on a line, dripping with dew. I stowed them after dinner, put on the anchor light and went to my bunk.

At midnight, I rose, anticipating wind from the north, but the sea was but an undulation, smooth and black and quiet as breath. A beaming moon hung above the spreaders, a lone eye keeping watch as the firmament slumbered. Then the white flash of a bird on the wing.

I rose again at four. Now the anemometer said 8 knots, but on deck I turned my face to the north and felt nothing. The mast had played its tricks; as we rolled it whipped the wind instrument back and forth from three stories high. Up there, it was blowing 8 knots. But nothing had changed down below.

Finally, an hour before sunup, we sailed on the foretold northerly.

The day came on gloomy, again. Even at noon there was the sense that the sun had not quite risen. Then the wind veered and we were being pushed east. North and out of this ocean is what I want, not east; north and out of the reach of the coming great harvesters from the west; north and out of a foreshortened day and lowering gray; north and out of the grim and the cold.

And yet.

All day the albatross and the cape petrel circled Mo in packs, the one soaring in slow arcs at distance, aloof, observant; the other quick flapping so close as to receive lift off Mo’s weather topsides. Then a pod of seals. Then they depart astern, and it is just the boat and the sea. All about, the horizon is a clean, endless expanse.

And I think, who would choose to come to such a place, and who, having seen it, the abode of the wild god of the world, would ever choose another.

Then, from a friend, I receive a note with a poem attached. The Seafarer, one of the first Old

English poems, anthologized in c. 975 AD, but likely much older.

Heres’ one section:

33 Now, therefore, the thoughts of my heart are in conflict as to whether I for my part should explore the deep currents and the surging of the salty waves–my mind’s desire time and time again urges the soul to set out, so that I may find my way to the land of strangers far away from here–but there is no one on earth so confident of temperament, nor so generous of his gifts, nor so bold in his youth, nor so courageous in his deeds, nor his lord so gracious to him, that he never worries about his seafaring, as to what the Lord will send him; he will have no thought for the harp, nor for the ring-receiving ceremonial, nor for the pleasure of a woman nor for trust in that which is of the world, nor for anything else, but only for the surging of the waves–and yet he who aspires to the ocean always has the yearning.

How strange today to feel kinship with a voice so old. We think our thoughts are our own; our experiences, sought-after, we gather them to us as if fresh and new. But they are not; they pre-exist us and those who begot us and stretch back, with lives of their own, to the very beginning. We can only ever see, per The Quartets, “as if” for the first time.

Here is the entirety of what was sent:

The Seafarer (SAJ Bradley translation)

I can tell the true riddle of my own self, and speak of my experiences – how I have often suffered times of hardship in days of toil, how I have endured cruel anxiety at heart and experienced many anxious lodging-places afloat, and the terrible surging of the waves. There the hazardous night-watch has often found me at the ship’s prow when it is jostling along the cliffs. My feet were pinched by the cold, shackled by the frost in cold chains, whilst anxieties sighed hot about my heart. Hunger tore from within at the mind of one wearied by the ocean. This that man does not understand, who is most agreeably suited on land – how I, wretchedly anxious, have for years lived on the ice-cold sea in the ways of the sojourner, bereft of kinsfolk, hung about by ice-spikes; hail pelted in showers. There I heard nothing but the raging of the sea, the ice-cold wave. Sometimes I would take the song of the swan as my entertainment, the cry of the gannet and the call of the curlew in place of human laughter, the sea-mew’s singing in place of the mead-drinking. There storms would pound the rocky cliffs whilst the tern, icy-winged, answered them; very often the sea-eagle would screech, wings dappled with spray. No protective kinsman could comfort the inadequate soul.

27 He, therefore, who has experienced life’s pleasure in cities, and few perilous journeys, insolent and flown with wine, little credits how I, weary, have often had to remain on the ocean path. The shadow of night would spread gloom; it would snow from the north, rime-frost would bind the ground; hail, coldest of grains, would fall upon the earth.

33 Now, therefore, the thoughts of my heart are in conflict as to whether I for my part should explore the deep currents and the surging of the salty waves – my mind’s desire time and time again urges the soul to set out, so that I may find my way to the land of strangers far away from here – for there is no one on earth so confident of temperament, nor so generous of his gifts, nor so bold in his youth, nor so courageous in his deeds, nor his lord so gracious to him, that he never worries about his seafaring, as to what the Lord will send him; he will have no thought for the harp, nor for the ring-receiving ceremonial, nor for the pleasure of a woman nor for trust in that which is of the world, nor for anything else, but only for the surging of the waves – and yet he who aspires to the ocean always has the yearning.

48 The woodlands take on blossoms, the cities grow more lovely, the meadows become beautiful, the world hastens onwards: all these urge anyone eager of mind and of spirit, who thus longs to travel far upon the ocean paths, to the journey. The cuckoo too serves warning by its mournful cry; summer’s herald sings and foretells cruel distress at heart. That man, the fellow blessed with affluence, does not understand this – what those individuals endure who follow the ways of alienation to their furthest extent.

Now, therefore, my thought roams beyond the confines of my heart; my mind roams widely with the ocean tide over the whale’s home, over earth’s expanses, and comes back to me avid and covetous; the lone flier calls and urges the spirit irresistibly along the whale-path over the waters of oceans, because for me the pleasures of the Lord are more enkindling than this dead life, this ephemeral life on land. I do not believe that material riches will last eternally for him. One of three things will ever become a matter of uncertainty for any man before his last day: ill-health or old age or the sword’s hostile violence will crush the life from the doomed man in his heedlessness.

72 For every man, therefore, praise from the living, speaking out afterwards, is the best of epitaphs: that, before he has to be on his way, he accomplishes gains against the malice of fiends, brave deeds in the devil’s despite, so that the sons of men may afterwards extol him, and his praise may endure for ever and ever among the angels, and the splendour of his eternal life and his pleasure endure among the celestial hosts.

80 The days have been slipping away, and all the pomps of the kingdom of earth. There are not now kings nor emperors nor gold-giving lords like those that used once to be, when they performed the greatest deeds of glory among themselves and lived in most noble renown. This whole company has perished; the pleasures have slipped away. The weaker remain and occupy the world; in toil they use it. Splendour had been humbled. Earth’s nobility ages and grows sear just as each man now does throughout the middle-earth. Old age advances upon him, his face grows pallid, grey-haired he mourns: he is conscious that his former friends, the sons of princes, have been committed to the earth. Then, when life fails him, his body will be unable to taste sweetness of feel pain or stir a hand or think with the mind. Although a brother may wish to strew the grave with gold for his kinsman, to heap up by the dead man’s side various treasures that he would like to go with him, the gold he hides in advance while he lives here cannot be of help to the soul which is full of sins, in the face of God’s awesomeness.

Write Comment (7 comments)

Day 133/11

Noon Position: 44 52S 178 51E

Course/Speed: NMNE4

Wind: SSW10

Bar: 1027, steady

Sea: W5+ (old rollers)

Sky: Partly Cloudy

Cabin Temperature: 60

Water Temperature: 55

Sail: Twins poled out ful.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 127

Miles this leg: 1,389

Avg. Miles this leg: 126

Miles since departure: 18,644

I came on deck this morning to find a small washer lying near the mast. Mo made slow way northeast with the twin headsails poled out and mostly full. Wind was light but steady, the sky, blue, the water too. A lovely day to be at sea. Except for this discovery.

It is never a happy thing to find random parts scattered on deck. I searched the mast and its hardware thoroughly but couldn’t find anything amiss. Mystified, I left the washer where it fell by way of reminder. No chance of it being swept overboard today.

In the early afternoon, the donor revealed himself. I was at the bow preparing to renew the headsail sheet ends when I noticed the radar reflector at the second set of spreaders swinging as we rolled. One of the two bolts attaching it to the mast flange had, over the months, come apart.

I sat down and watched for a time. What if I just left it? But it was no use. There were too many miles to go and too much possibility for lines to foul. There was nothing for it but to climb the mast and remove the reflector.

Have I mentioned that I’m afraid of heights? I’ve been meaning to practice an ascent to the very top since…since I bought the boat. Each time I crash land in some exotic port, it’s on the to-do list. But somehow the priority is not very high.

Today the priority changed.

I donned my harness, a few wrenches I guessed might be the right size, and climbed.

Once at the reflector, it quickly became clear unbolting the remaning fastener was not in the cards. The job required two hands, and though the sea was not in any sense boisterous, the background swell, magnified by 40 foot of mast, meant one hand and both legs were always hanging on for grim death.

I descended and dug out a hack-saw. I’d cut the plastic housing from around the nut, I reasoned.

Once at the top again, I made several cuts only to find that the saw met a stainless steel reenforcement plate inside the reflector. Of course. Well made piece of kit.

Hmm. Can’t undo the bolt. Can’t cut it (can’t get the right angle). Can’t cut away its support. Ideas? We’re running out of light.

The only one that remained was to cut the stainless flange holding the reflector to the mast, a simple job on deck. But here it took an hour. I’d cut with the hacksaw to the count of 45. Then rest. Then cut again to the count of 45. Ooop. Here’s a roller. Hang on. Then cut again.

Finally done. Radar reflector off the mast. And the jagged flange pieces pressed back and out of the way.

Only then did I look around. What a sight. A seemingly endless horizon all to ourselves.

On deck, my legs quivered. I went below and had a beer.

Dark. The sea is nearly still. I’d wanted to get up to 45S by the time the northerlies set in and we’ve done that and more. We’re now ghosting along at 44 30S where we await wind currently piling in over the top of New Zealand. Will be here by morning.

This position should mean an easy reach the remaining 200 miles to The Chatham Islands and give us a reasonable shot at getting above the worst of the coming lows. I’ve never seen such a succession of ugliness as is making for South Island this week. It is fortunate we rounded Steward Island when we did. Now if we can just be far enough north…