Write Comment (2 comments)

January 19, 2019

Day 107

Noon Position: 45 49S  97 23E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExN 7 – 8

Wind(t/tws): WxS 15 – 21

Sea(t/ft): W10

Sky: Big sun, an open sky. Big squall clouds to the NE

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1006, rising slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 55

Water Temp(f): 44

Relative Humidity(%): 63

Sail: Twins poled out full

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 153

Miles since departure: 14,916

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 50

Miles since Cape Horn: 7,282

Avg. Miles/Day: 146

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 41

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 164 41

Avg. Long./Day: 3.29

A glorious night of sleep. Wind stayed W hour after hour despite a forecast calling for it to back into the N. Each time I came on deck prepared to haul down the poles, things were unchanged, and I returned to my warm bunk feeling the luckiest man in the world.

Equally glorious, a full day of sun. Not terribly warm sun, but bright and drying in any case. And again, the wind has stayed dead W.

I’ve not done much today beyond lay out wet things and make a to-do list. Mostly I’ve admired my surroundings, the white chinned petrels, the tropical, towering cumulus, the asure blue ocean … though I have mulled over learnings from our most recent big wind event.

Today’s thoughts:

1. More sail is not necessarily better.

The knockdowns we experienced during the first Figure 8 attempt convinced me that I was being too conservative; putting up the storm jib too soon and taking it down too late. From what I could see (most of the fun happend in the dark) Mo was broaching, sliding slant-wise down a sea and rounding up but with so little speed that Monte couldn’t course-correct before the wave struck.  So, I vowed this time to keep sail up and speed up; this would give Monte the needed control. To that end, I’ve not had the storm jib out once this go around.

I think that was the right call; however, it can be overdone.

In the last couple blows, I’ve noticed that as wind increases, Mo still can come off a sea and round up, even when at speed. Recovery is faster with that speed; Monte does have more control, but it’s still many (tense) seconds to get back on course. I reasoned this was *not* due to more sail forward as that would tend to push the bow off the wind, but rather that the hull and rig, themselves, were acting as a sail when presented to the wind as the boat rounded and that they exacerbated the situation. So, I left sail up.

During this blow, that problem became dangerously uncomfortable. So I went against the vow and reduced sail to a dish rag … and Mo’s tendency to round up was reduced. The implication is that too much headsail is, at least in part, driving the tendency to round in high winds.

So, it’s back to square one for me and high wind sail management.

2. The barometer tells the tale.

I had just read in David Burch’s MODERN MARINE WEATHER that “a pressure drop of more than 2mb per 3 hours is a significant drop, implying the probable approach of strong winds, especially when this happens for two consecutive 3-hour periods.” So, when I saw pressure dropping by 4mb in two consecutive two-hour periods (!), this in the early morning when NW winds were still below 30 knots, I knew we were in for it. The bar continued to drop 2mb every two hours for the next eight hours.

3. The final, SW phase of a low can carry a punch.

My experience is that the final, SW phase of a low is usually less windy; that a gale usually goes out softly. Not so, this low. The SW phase saw initial easing of the wind, but then it filled back in and blew over 40 for two more hours.

4. The crazy happens late in a blow and at night.

That the crazy happens late in a blow should not be surprising. By this time winds have been strong for some hours, seas are large and breaking. As wind eases, its downward pressure is released, and seas tend to heap and tumble. But that the finale of a blow always seems to happen in the dark is just flat-out unfair.

5. All learning is provisional, and the provision may remain inscrutable.

This makes two points. One, the decision to gybe Mo in the SW phase of the low so as to keep stern to the the westerly swell was the correct and rational decision. I don’t know why it failed so spectacularly in this low. That said, the evidence it was failing was pretty clear at the time, and I have wet foulies to prove it. Hanging onto the “correct” decision against evidence would have been precarious. Learning: gybing around late in a blow is not always the right move. Why? Dunno.

The larger point, two, is that each low is different; that as important as it is to have at the ready a collection of storm tactics, it is equally important to let them go if/as they fail, even when the failing tactic is sound and has worked before. This can be tough to do. Remember, there is quite a lot of fear rumbling around the pilot house as things are coming undone. Keeping a rational head going is a difficult business.

Ok. Enough philosophy. Back to sun bathing.

Write Comment (one comment)

January 18, 2019

Day 139

Noon Position: 45 43S  93 42E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExS

Wind(t/tws): NW 15

Sea(t/ft): W 15 (left over from yesterday’s low)

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1001

Cabin Temp(f): 55

Water Temp(f): 45

Relative Humidity(%): 80

Sail: Twins poled full

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 138. For yesterday, Jan 17, 162.

Miles since departure: 14,762

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 49

Miles since Cape Horn: 7,119

Avg. Miles/Day: 145

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 16

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 161 00

Avg. Long./Day: 3.28

Yesterday began at two-thirty in the morning, when the effects of the approaching low started to become apparent. The barometer had been dropping fast since 10pm, from 1010 to 1002mb in four hours, but now a gentle, 20-knot breeze went decidedly N of NW and quickly hardened to 25.

At midnight I’d taken down the poles and put up the main. Now I dropped the main instead of reefing it (no reason for half measures), lashed it to the boom, and went right back to my bunk. This would be my last chance for sleep, I knew.

By 4:30am, winds were a steady 30 knots, and the barometer had fallen another four points to 998. Now there was light enough to make out the action beyond Mo’s gunnels. Seas were smack on the beam but plenty manageable. The sky, a color between charcoal and cement, felt as though it were pushing down on the water.

The system’s front hit us at 6am. Winds 35 to 40 with frequent and long, pumping gusts of 45. A heavy, pelting rain. Barometer down another two points. I tightened up the working jib to my “fourth” reef position and wondered if I should take more.

Within an hour the front had passed, and then the low settled in to do its business, blowing a steady 25 to 35 from the NW. Seas began to heap up and fall inward. During gusts, the tops were blown off. Long, wide crests broke together and stained the black water with large patches of cream and ice blue. The barometer kept on sliding. At each two-hour log entry, it was down another two points.

Then, ever so slowly, wind began to back into the W. We reached the top of the low at 2pm, when the barometer finally flattened out at 989. But the wind pressed harder–40 to 45 was common. The log reads, “Seas big; some plunge-breaking, often heavily.” Two hours later, “Crazy, mish-mash heavy sea. Pyramidal.” At 5pm, “Long gusts to 50. Working jib down to a hanky. Speed down to 6 and 7 knots, but Monte has much better control.” At 5:45, “Our first roaring surf down a wave.”

To this point, Mo had handled the seas with a sure-footed grace; always at the center of the surrounding chaos, her decks seemed as still and solid as mother-earth. Yes, there were times when she stumbled, fell off a sea and was thrown over to the windows, but she came back to rights and shook things off so quickly that the fall seemed hardly worth mentioning.

This changed after dark.

Unlike the first Figure 8 attempt, this time around most of the lows we’ve encountered have come to their maturity during daylight. Just so, this one. And having spent the day engaging it, I felt I had a sense of the field of action and could gybe around with confidence when the time came.

By sundown, the barometer was up six points from its lowest and wind had eased into the low 30s while continuing to back SW. All according to plan, I thought. The wind was pulling Mo further and further abeam the sea, and at 8pm, I judged it time. We gybed around from a course just N of E to one just S of E.

Within the hour, winds returned to blowing in the 40s, and soon Mo was being thrown down hard. One time, as I was entering the pilot house, a sea broke smack on the starboard quarter. I remember hearing it come out of the blackness. I remember looking up as if looking at the sky, and there was a white wall heaving at us. It hit with a slam. Mo went all the way over. Water everywhere. Down my foulies and past me into the pilot house. Cockpit a bathtub. Lines pulled from their coils and thrown over the side. A mainsail reef line at the mast ended up trailing aft and fouling the hydrogenerator propellor all the way at the stern. The jib sheet (the one in use) wound around the heater flue.

I got the message. I put Mo back on her original course of NW. No more knocks. Luckily the water in the boat hadn’t done any damage to electronics, and I soon had the area mopped up.

By now it was 1am. I’d been up for twenty hours; was wet through, achingly cold, beginning to feel undone. Wind had eased significantly; the time had come to start adding back all the sail we’d withdrawn so long ago, but I did not. I left Mo with but a handkerchief of a jib, tore off my foulies and hit the sack. I didn’t even set an alarm.

Write Comment (7 comments) January 16, 2019 Day 104 Noon Position: 45 54S  86 35E Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExN 7 Wind(t/tws): WxS 15 – 20 Sea(t/ft): W 4 Sky: Overcast 10 (the morning was clear; the evening is utterly clear) 10ths Cloud Cover: 10 Bar(mb): 1012, steady Cabin Temp(f): 59 Water Temp(f): 47 Relative Humidity(%): 70 Sail: Twin headsails poled full Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 154 Miles since departure: 14,463 Avg. Miles/Day: 139 Days since Cape Horn: 47 Miles since Cape Horn: 6,819 Avg. Miles/Day: 145 Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 37 Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 153 52 Avg. Long./Day: 3.27
We edged N all night, and to aid us, wind stayed S of W at 15 – 20; and in the day, it remained S of W at 15 – 20, so we have continued edging N. The morning was not entirely clear, but I could see my shadow by 10am, and so I loaded the cockpit with wet things. Then the gray melted, and we had sun; bright, yellow, color-giving warm sun. I went barefoot on deck for the first time since … since … 20S in the Pacific. In fact, it could be that I have not looked at my feet in the intervening time, as down here they live secluded lives in socks or boots or both.
There are those who might call me chicken for edging N in search of a better purchase on the tomorrow’s low. After all, I do have the best boat in the world, so why not stay down at 46 and a half, take my lumps, and go fast. The answer is easy. I’ve seen what this ocean can do with a forecast of winds 35 – 40, and last time it put me into Hobart. There’s only one way to win the race I’m racing: finish. And for that, this is plenty S. After cleaning the cabin, drying the floors, washing head and beard–a pre-heavy weather ritual now similar to dressing up for church–after all that, finally, I got to bread baking. And amazingly, the gas bottle held. One loaf done…and now half eaten with jams sent by my friends Jim and Kelton, blackberry and plum, respectively. I had forgotten the joy of that warm, yeasty smell and the crunch of a golden brown crust. Why ever did I wait so long?
Write Comment (no comments)

January 15, 2019

Day 103

Noon Position: 46 30S  82 58E

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

Wind(t/tws): W 15 – 20

Sea(t/ft): W 4

Sky: Overcast. Rain squalls before noon.

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1009, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 59

Water Temp(f): 47

Relative Humidity(%): 81

Sail: Twins pole out full.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 148

Miles since departure: 14,309

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 46

Miles since Cape Horn: 6,665

Avg. Miles/Day: 145

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 35

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 150 15

Avg. Long./Day: 3.27

Fog all night. Early in the evening, I could see a half moon to the NW, hazy, pale, cold, and a star here and there, but without context, they went unnamed. The reefs stayed in though the wind faded as the night matured; we still made our six knots. Enough till morning.

I woke to rain but just quick squalls. By ten o’clock the sky had dried without clearing, its shade of gray had brightened without becoming bright. And I made a course change.

Mo and I are easing N now. The forecast calls for a heavy low to move through here on Thursday, and I want to be a bit more on top of it–46S is the goal, or a touch more, depending on the wind. Almost as important as northing is continuing to run E. Between here and Wednesday noon‘s projected position will see 50 knots on Thursday, but if we can get another good day’s run in, we’ll be in the 30 – 35 wind range. That’s the target: 30 – 35.

Much of the afternoon was spent on deck at various “marline spike” jobs. One that pleased me is pictured, the swapping of the lovely, large snatch blocks for the genoa pole after guys for lashed-on low friction rings. That after guy is rarely under load and the heavy block knocks back and forth as we roll if the line isn’t perfectly tensioned by the crew.

It’s a thing barely noticeable on deck, but the inside of a boat resonates like an acoustic guitar, and for thousands of miles, that knock, knock, knock has been like a burr under my saddle.

But the low friction ring will re-establish quiet and a sense of order.

Slate gray, steel blue, ice blue, clay green. Then, rarely now, a brown bird; rarely because most have fallen back, not wanting to leave the rich environs of Kerguelen. Then gray again; white gray; charcoal gray; burgoo gray. Ice blue; slate blue. Gray.

Write Comment (no comments)

January 14, 2019

Day 103

Noon Position: 46 35S  79 23E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExS 8, 9 and 10 knots

Wind(t/tws): WxN 17 – 19 (overnight 25 – 30)

Sea(t/ft): NW 10

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1008+, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 60

Water Temp(f): 47

Relative Humidity(%): 84

Sail: Working jib poled port, 3 reefs; main to starboard, 3 reefs; broad reach

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

Miles since departure: 14,161

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 45

Miles since Cape Horn: 6,517

Avg. Miles/Day: 145

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 4 15

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 146 40

Avg. Long/Day: 3.26*

We worked through a small depression overnight with NW winds to 25 and 30. Rain. When I came on deck in the morning, Mo was creaming through nearly flat, ice blue water at 9 and 10 knots. Clearly, we had a whopping current with us, but for how long I can’t say. By noon, we’d racked up 176 miles (7.3 knots, hour after hour) since the previous noon, a number we’ve approached but a handful of times this voyage.

By 2pm it was all over. Our speed hovered around 6 knots; winds were down; seas were tall and lumpy. Though Mo’s head pointed E, her course over the ground was NNE. Our current had gone from E to S and was now pushing us N!

It feels like we have been crossing a vast, counterclockwise-spinning whirlpool, and if so, we’ve yet to find its outer edge as I type.

I caught rain for a couple hours this morning and netted only a gallon. Three reefs in the main and a bumpy ride make catchment a challenge. That said, the gooseneck location of the main cover drain is working better, if only because I can get to it without leaning over the rail.

To date, I’ve caught about 20 gallons, the equivalent to 20 days of water on normal ration.

How does my gallon of water per day get used?

64 oz = 2 x liters clear water for drinking

24oz = 2 x cups coffee in the morning

12oz = 1 cup tea in the afternoon

10oz = water for breakfast muesli

8oz = 1 cup water for cooking pasta/quinoa/mashed potatoes/polenta (prorated: one meal lasts two days)

7oz = water for washing head and beard (prorated: assumes ~1.5 liters every 7 days)

2oz = misc; i.e. spray bottle of soapy water for washing dishes; spray bottle of clear water rinse for glasses, sextant, etc.

127oz = total usage. A gallon is 128oz.

One gallon a day is living the high life. There’s plenty of room for conservation in the above numbers.

Mo carries just under 200 gallons of fresh water in two keel tanks. Assuming the voyage from home to first stop in the American or Canadian NE will take 220 days … I need to keep catching rain.

Now a heavy fog has settled in. The twins are out and we slosh and roll due E. In the afternoon, I attempted to make way through my Practical Navigation book (Parallel Sailing is the lesson) but fell asleep soon after opening the cover.

*I’ve removed “Longitude Miles Made Good” and swapped in “Average Longitude Degrees per Day” since Cape Horn. I don’t sail one longitude, so the mileage number was always a bit of a estimate. Average Longitude per Day is more interesting as it figures directly into the number of days it will take to achieve Cape Horn again.** The current average of 3.26 is low and is still carrying the weight of all our fiddle-farting around between the Horn and Hope. Recent days’ average is well above 3.5.

**Answer: about 62.

Write Comment (4 comments)

Oops. We we were a bit late with posting the video of Randall’s breakfast on today’s post. So just in case here it is again. Don’t want you to miss it!

Team F8

Write Comment (5 comments)

January 13, 2019

Day 101

Noon Position: 46 26S  75 53E

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 10 – 15

Sea(t/ft): W 3

Sky: Overcast with drizzle

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1018, stable

Cabin Temp(f): 59

Water Temp(f): 50

Relative Humidity(%): 83

Sail: Twin headsails, poled out; running.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 161

Miles since departure: 13,984

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 44

Miles since Cape Horn: 6,341

Avg. Miles/Day: 144

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 54

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 161

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 142 25

I woke to a W wind and doused the main in favor of the twin headsails before the second cup of coffee. There had been a persistent drizzle since first light, so the rest of the morning was dedicated to refining my water catchment system off the main sail cover. This entailed moving the drain on the cover all the way forward near the mast. By the time I finished, the drizzle had retracted back into the sky; a test of my success will have to wait.

In the afternoon, more brownie baking (it was too late in the day for bread) and the discovery of a new way to dry socks using the exhausting heat from the stove.

Quick thoughts on 100 days at sea…

How am I doing physically?

Beyond the minor cuts and bruises typical of life on a boat, I have thus far escaped injury. The leg cramps and headaches mentioned in previous logs have not returned, so were either one-offs or are being controlled by exercise (admittedly intermittent) or better hydration.

In recent weeks, I am wrestling with shoulder pain, however. Both are quite soar and gristly and can give me sharp starts if strained too much. Part of the issue is overwork/repetitive motion (winches) and part is poor posture during hours of sitting in the pilot house. I’ve incorporated stretching into my daily routine and am generally being more careful as both shoulders need to last the duration.

I feel minor but chronic fatigue. How much of this is physical and how much is mental (more below) is unclear, but I notice I move more slowly on deck than when in other latitudes and I seek rest between heavy operations. Given where I am and what I am doing, this is not unexpected.

Am I getting enough sleep?

Yes. My pattern is to start sleeping soon after dinner (9pm is normal) and to sleep in shifts until 6am. Shifts are one hour if I need to pay attention to weather or other boat issues overnight, or two and three hours if things on deck are stable. Occasionally, (e.g. last night) I’ll turn off the alarms and sleep the night through.

I take brief naps in the pilot house most afternoons.

How’s my appetite?

Non-pareil. I eat constantly. Beyond the Vitamin C forgetfulness of last month, my nutritional needs have been met fully. Except I wouldn’t mind a pizza right about now.

How are you mentally/emotionally?

It depends on the day. The combination of the continual gray, damp, and cold that defines this part of the world, the need to be ever alert, and the strain of heavy weather can be a trial to one’s optimism. The route is long and, amazingly, still in its early stages, and I am most definitely feeling how much of a marathon this marathon is going to be.

Symptomatic of what we might call emotional fatigue are my anger outbursts, mentioned in previous logs. This emotionality is neither new nor surprising, but beyond the enervation entailed in being angry at an inanimate object (a wet tangle of line that warps around one’s boot just moments after being neatly coiled), it is additionally frustrating that I can’t muster the discipline to control it. Take a breath; try again tomorrow.

Oddy, one element of discontent has been how little time I have for anything but working the boat. I brought books on astronavigation, trigonometry (of all things), and meteorology, but haven’t had serious band-width for any of them since about 40S in the Pacific.

And for the first time on any cruise, I have recently felt very far away, even a sense of isolated from those I love. This too seems appropriate as it is true, in fact.

But these difficulties are, in my estimation, minor and, as Cook has said in his Journals, “Such risks are the unavoidable companions of the man who goes on discoveries.”

I keep busy; I stay to a schedule; I focus on the day, on the sailing, and on my excellent partner, Mo, who weathers all without the least complaint.

And I am always cognizant of the privilege I have been delt to be down here at all. No other ocean will ever be so full of awe as the one where flies the Wandering Albatross.

Write Comment (one comment)

January 12, 2019

Day 100

Noon Position: 46 21S  71 14E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExS 7+

Wind(t/tws): NWxW 19 – 23

Sea(t/ft): NW 4

Sky: High overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1020, falling slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 46

Relative Humidity(%): 73

Sail: Working jib poled to port; main to starboard, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 142

Miles since departure: 13,824

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 43

Miles since Cape Horn: 6,180

Avg. Miles/Day: 144

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 25

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 142

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 138 31

Up in the night, again. At about one o’clock, wind had finally found its way into the north. I gybed the poled-out jib and main by the light of a headlamp in soft and noticeably warmer winds. The sea felt relaxed. Above–briefly and between cloud–Orion marched his way across the sky, a rare sighting. I quickly reeled off the stars I knew: Betelgeuse, Bellatrix, Alnilam, Rigel. None more were visible. Then right back to bed.

We’ve been running on that sail configuration all day. Apparent wind hovers one side or the other of 135 degrees (a broad reach) and between 15 and 20 knots, and on that we fly our way E.

Except for the gray above and the birds below, this does not feel like the Southern Ocean. Back under Cape Good Hope are two storms of monumental proportion, two colliding galaxies battling each other for dominion over an area half the size of Africa. In the end they will eat each other, as is their way, coming together with no more effort than two drops of water on a counter-top. But below, and all the while, the water will rage.

Here, however–for the moment, maybe even for the next week–wind is gentle and consistent … and I am not complaining.

I repeat: I am not complaining.

Day 100. Lots to be said about 100 consecutive days at sea. But not now. Today we have the second in the Meals on Mo series. This one: Breakfast…

Write Comment (4 comments)

January 11, 2019

Day 99

Noon Position: 46 08S  67 49E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 5.5

Wind(t/tws): WxS 15

Sea(t/ft): WSW 3

Sky: Mostly cloudy; Stratocumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 1023+

Cabin Temp(f): 57 (46 degrees in the cabin when I woke)

Water Temp(f): 43

Relative Humidity(%): 71

Sail: Working jib poled to port; main to starboard

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 148

Miles since departure: 13,682

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 42

Miles since Cape Horn: 6,038

Avg. Miles/Day: 144

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 30

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 146

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 135 06

Strange weather day. We are riding the bottom of a small high. Winds have been due to veer from SW to W to NW and lighten significantly as the high moves over us and then on to the E. Accordingly, this morning I poled out the working jib, but left the main up, thinking I’d jibe around as the day developed. That combination, poled out headsail and main, can handle a wider wind range than both headsails poled.

Wind direction hasn’t budged all day, but it has strengthened to 20 knots and more.

I argued with the weather for a time, lecturing it on its duty to perform according to plan. I won the argument; how could I not? Still, wind has stubbornly remained WSW at 20. I’m not unhappy to have 20 knots of wind aft, it’s just that my sail plan makes me slower than need be. I had anticipated a changing wind day, after all. My muttered rebuke, “this damned wind is costing me miles.”

Splashes of sun in the afternoon. Good, because both sets of foulies need airing, as do the sopping galley tea towels and, now, my two favorite hats and some heavy fleece.

I went on deck last night without donning my foulie jacket, which I never do in such brisk weather, especially when Mo has spent the day tossing spray everywhere. But wind had eased. Decks were dry, and I just wanted to let out a bit more jib, a quick operation.

And I was about done too, when WHAM!, Mo launched an entire bathtub of water into the cockpit. For a brief moment, it was like standing under a waterfall. The second of my two favorite hats, soaked, as were my layers, including the second of three sets of heavy fleece. One clean and dry set left.

Screaming mad.

I’m not a screamer ashore, but at sea I can have a hard time controlling emotions when things go contrarily, which they do with some frequency down here. I can reason with myself. I can ask, What would Epictetus do? Remember, he says to fret only over things you can control. But in the moment, the outburst…bursts.

The odd thing is that there’s no one here to be mad at…but me. I’m the one who failed to put on his jacket, after all.

But the damned sea! Did it have to toss up a wave just then? A little deference would be appreciated once in a while.  

Write Comment (3 comments)

January 10, 2019

Day 98

Noon Position: 45 49S  64 19E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 7+

Wind(t/tws): SWxS 25 – 30

Sea(t/ft): SW 12

Sky: Clear; puffy cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 4

Bar(mb): 1013, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 41

Relative Humidity(%): 78

Sail: Working jib; three reefs.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 160

Miles since departure: 13,534

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 41

Miles since Cape Horn: 5,890

Avg. Miles/Day: 144

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 49

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 159

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 131 36

Wind shifts brought me to the deck twice last night. The 1am visit found Mo heading due N on a fresh southwesterly and required a full switcharoo from one tack to the other. This means rolling up the headsail (so as to get it around the inner forestay) and moving running backs and vangs from one side to the other. In the rain and 25-knot winds. It took a while. At 3am, wind had built such that I had to douse the main altogether. Then I lashed it tightly to the boom. More rain.

So, I set as a goal to take today on the slow bell. And I was well on my way to accomplishing this–I had a nap soon after breakfast and then indulged in cookies and tea–until Monte’s tiller line parted.

Mo rounded up and hung there as I was reading in the pilot house, a tricky business in the short, steep seas that resulted from a morning of 30-knot winds. A peer over the side showed the line had parted about a foot up inside the Monitor frame. That’s not happened this trip, and I can’t imagine how it would as there’s not a thing up there to chafe on. I did an end for end on the line and re-rove it. We were sailing again within 20 minutes.

This is one of the things I like most about Monte: I can usually fix what breaks. Gear that gets used as much as a wind vane is going to need maintenance, and Monte is simple and robust enough that his issues are within my meager powers. Not so an autopilot. If it fails, I’ll likely trouble shoot it for a week to no avail.

Blue skies and a sparkling sea today, but I saw none of it. We close reached all day with a tiny jib, hanging onto our easting as best we could against a stern, unforgiving SSW wind. Mo threw water everywhere and even threw me a few times. So, I tried to stay below and stay put.

Wind is back down to 25 as I type, and I’ve been able to put a bit more S in our course. We need to get below 46S before a calm rides over us and stalls our progress for a day.

Cold on deck. I typically work the deck with bare hands, which were beet red when I came below after raising the main just now. I have fingerless gloves at the ready; these are warm even when wet, but the wool in the palm makes my grip on railings and line feel slippery and unsecure. I use them only rarely.

Birds are back. Those are white chinned petrels in the photo at the top of this post.

Write Comment (3 comments)

January 9, 2019

Day 97

Noon Position: 45 59S  60 30E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): ExS 7+

Wind(t/tws): NW 17 – 21

Sea(t/ft): NW 4

Sky: Overcast. Fog for several hours.

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1008, falling slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 48

Relative Humidity(%): 81

Sail: Working jib poled to port; main out to starboard; broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 151

Miles since departure: 13,374

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 40

Miles since Cape Horn: 5,730

Avg. Miles/Day: 143

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 36

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 150

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 127 47

Slow night and too much northing. I left reefs in expecting wind to veer into the NW and strengthen after midnight. It did neither, and Mo worked up above 46S, which we didn’t need. Winds have come on fresh from the NW this afternoon, and so we’re slowly drifting back S a bit.

I could have risen and made sail changes but chose to sleep. Each time I rose to examine our course, it seemed the detour was minimal and easily corrected in daylight. This is a frequent strategy. I figure that on such a long haul, adding a few more miles for the privilege of being rested is a fair trade. My limit is usually plus or minus 30 degrees off intended course.

Assume I’m asleep for 8 hours and that during that time Mo is making 6 knots or 48 miles for the night. If my course is off by a flat 30 degrees all night (very rare), I will have sailed 6.43 miles more than necessary to get to the same longitude. I’ve cost myself an extra hour of sailing for a good night of sleep. I approve. (The math: 30COSx48-48.)

The day has been dominated by fog, thin enough vertically to allow in the sun, but thick enough horizontally to be thought of as heavy. Mo’s made a steady 7 knots since noon.

Yesterday at 7:30pm local (gmt+4), Mo crossed the antipodes and was for a brief moment on the exact opposite side of the world from home. This was longitude 58E. San Francisco is 122W. If I were simply doing an around the world, I’d be on the return run now, the downhill slide. Think on it–13,374 miles (today’s total) would be half instead of a third of our total anticipated Figure 8 distance, and I’d be back at the house by April.

Not the plan.

Bird counts have dropped off markedly since we left the Crozets behind. White chins sat on the water in small groups in the fog and scolded each other with their loud chit-chit-chit. But that was the extent of our entertainment until the repeated swoops of a light mantled albatross this afternoon.

Write Comment (6 comments)

January 8, 2019

Day 96

Noon Position: 46 18S  56 54E

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 26 – 31

Sea(t/ft): W and NW to 10

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1005+ steady

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 47

Relative Humidity(%): 80

Sail: Working jib and main, three reefs, broad reach to reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 157

Miles since departure: 13,223

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 39

Miles since Cape Horn: 5,579

Avg. Miles/Day: 143

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 40

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 47S): 151

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 124 11

Winds stayed W most of the night, oscillating between 25 and 35. Mo wore just a double reefed working jib and rode like a mechanical bull. Not so noticeable in my bunk, which is well below the waterline way down in the main cabin, but try to make a cup of coffee and you risked your life.

At 8am, we passed just north of where Mo was knocked down in a gale last February 18th. The knockdown broke a window in the pilot house and let in enough water to soak most of her electronics. It also stole the drogue. That put us into Hobart for two weeks and stopped that year’s Figure 8 attempt.

I *should* be home with Joanna right now, making a fire in the fire place because the power is out and that’s the only source of heat for the moment. But she’s doing that today while I’m on attempt number two. Life was due to return to normal in 2019. The Figure 8, which has been in-build since 2013, would be finished. Not so. And this is where that changed.

I’ve been keen to get past this area without damage. No matter the likelihood of lightening striking twice, it has made me quite nervous over the last few days, and to see the seas here as chaotic as I recalled…

But about an hour before noon the scene began to shift. Big seas we still have, but they’ve lost that jagged edge and appearance of malice. And suddenly the current is with us. Mo’s been pulling 8 knots an hour since noon.

When I feel like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, when I tire of gray skies and gray seas, my own company and Shepherd’s Pie, again, I pull down my copy of THE TORTORE VOYAGE by Gerry Clark.

Gerry, a merchant mariner turned New Zealand apple farmer, a lover of birds, the sea, and adventure, built a 36-foot bilge-keeled sloop in his barn and set out with short crew to circumnavigate the Southern Ocean, visiting all the islands he could get to along the way. This was in 1983. His goal was to aid in bird conservation efforts by establishing population statistics on those islands, many of which hadn’t been visited since the demise of sealing.

The voyage is glorios and full of disaster. West of Prince Edward Islands (which we passed a week ago), his boat, Tortore, was rolled and lost her mast in a storm. The story of her limping into Marion Island, her jury rigging, the loss of his crew (who had to return to school), the loss of is self-steering gear west of the Crozets, more jury rig attempts at Heard Island; the five times Tortore rolled on the return to Fremantle…

Gerry’s will to survive; his indomitable spirit; his love for where he was despite everything…

Actually, it doesn’t cheer me up, this book. But it makes me realize how good I have it, and that’s something.

Write Comment (8 comments)

January 7, 2019

Day 95

Noon Position: 46 58S  53 14E

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 17 – 26

Sea(t/ft): NW 10 – 12

Sky: Partly Sunny

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 993, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 41

Relative Humidity(%): 75

Sail: Working jib, two reefs

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 161

Miles since departure: 13,066

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 38

Miles since Cape Horn: 5,422

Avg. Miles/Day: 143

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 55

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 47S): 161

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 120 31

Two pleasant milestones today. One, we’ve achieved an average of 143 miles per day since rounding Cape Horn. This, to me, is a magic number as it means we’re cranking out 1000 miles a week. With wind and better management, Mo can do more, but that’s not at all bad.

Two, we have now crossed 120 of the 360 meridians between our first Cape Horn rounding and our second. One third of the Southern Ocean loop is in the bag. It’s tempting to start doing the math on the miles and number of days it took to get here and to project that forward. But don’t. The Atlantic part of this leg saw lots of northing and southing and was, thus, very inefficient. Between here and the Pacific should be faster.

I’d wanted to swing by the Crozets for a peek, but the wind wasn’t for it. We passed 33 miles under Possession Island at 6am. Now that we are E of the islands and are back in deep water, we are really in the slosh pit. The sea is even more steep and chaotic than yesterday and has the distinct resemblance to the kind of seas one gets in wind-over-tide situations. I’m betting the current here reverses or creates a large eddy behind the islands.

Add to that today’s squalls where wind is either 19 or 39 from W or SW, and Mo is having a tough day. She’s getting thrown off some of the larger seas, rounding wildly one way or the other. I’ve had to slow down a bit to give Monte more control (the opposite of my general philosophy).

Re the confused seas here, Michael Scipione commented thusly on the Figure 8 site a few days ago…

“Randall-for over a year this issue over the area around the Crozets has piqued my interest and I have been tracking the ocean dynamics and following your second attempt. On the east coast we are very sensitive to the effect of the Atlantic’s Gulf Stream on waves and weather.

“The answer may lie in the merging of two main Summer current streams.  The tail end of Angulhas running ESE has warmer water than the West Wind Drift running E to ENE. The Angulhas produces a lot of eddies on its southern edge that confuse the seas with a predominant wave pattern from the SW.   Add to that the falloff of ocean depths which probably magnifies the eddies further. The ocean temperature gradients on maps in the area around the Crozets are unusually tighter than elsewhere in the southern Indian Ocean and I have been noticing that the wave height is larger along a band on the Southern edge of the Angulhas there.”

Amazing to think that Africa could have an effect all the way down here. Thanks for the research and the thoughts, Michael.

We are trending ENE partly because I want a little northing and partly for the beneficial wind angle, and our heading takes us directly to the spot of last year’s knockdown, a mere 80 miles distant as I type.

Though this is the strongest weather predicted here for a week, I’m eager to get well beyond the effect of the islands.

Write Comment (4 comments)

January 6, 2019

Day 94

Noon Position: 46 44S  49 19E

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 29 – 34

Sea(t/ft): NW 10

Sky: Rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1000+ and falling

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f):

Relative Humidity(%): 83

Sail: Working jib with two reefs, broad reach tending toward a reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 168

Miles since departure: 12,905

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 37

Miles since Cape Horn: 5,261

Avg. Miles/Day: 142

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 4 03

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46 30S): 167

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 116 36

Winds slowly increased all night. I put the main on three reefs at 10pm and doused it altogether at 2am. We’ve been on a double reefed working jib ever since. With winds in the mid 30s, seas have build to a sloshy 10 – 12 and are tossing Mo about. But she can handle this and more.

Gray day. Rain has kept me cabin-bound most of it while the Albatross still gets to play outside.

Joanna passes on your Figure 8 site comments every week or two, and I very much enjoy reading them. Thank you all for taking the time to be involved and for enjoying the Figure 8 adventure with me.

Sadly, I can’t respond to every one but have selected some of the more pertinent questions for answers below…

Jan writes: Do you have help with your weather routing? How does that work? Or are you sorting it all out just yourself?

Randall: Jan, greetings. I sort it out myself. I use Predict Wind GRIB files for wind and pressure (this came with the communications package I’m using). Essentially, GRIBS are a simpler version of the wind data you see on the Figure 8 tracker. I pull a forecast twice a day that runs out a week and make decisions from that.

In the past, I have gotten loads of help in understanding weather down here from people like Tony Gooch (who sailed this boat for 16 years and did a solo, non-stop round the world form Victoria in 2002). But I do overall and day-to-day planning and wouldn’t want it any other way.

Mary writes: I too am anxious to hear what effect the loss of the larger wind vane will have. Will it make Monte insufficiently responsive in lighter air?

Randall: Hey there, Mary. Sorry I wasn’t clear. I have several, one might say many, vanes aboard. Mike Scheck and the folks at Monitor have made sure I’m well stocked. It’s just that *that* vane and I had worked together for so long, I felt, much to my surprise, a connection. And no, there was no chance of turning Mo about for a retrieval. It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night.

On that note, Connie M, thanks for the thoughts re same. I appreciate your understanding, and it’s nice to get pings from you and Tony on the F8 site.

Todd writes: I wonder, do you think this time around you have less problems from experience in the Southern Ocean, just lucky, or a bit of both?

Randall: Todd, I will be most happy to answer that question in depth from the safety of the Atlantic doldrums, or better yet, a bar in St John, Newfoundland (first scheduled stop). But as I’m less than one third of the way around this Southern Ocean loop, I think it’s a bit premature for me to be expounding on that question. Feel free to remind me later…

Dan writes: I have two questions; How do you deal with sea sickness? Is it ever a problem when you first set sail? And how do you deal with loneliness?

Randall: Hey Dan, re your first question, I’m not prone to motion sickness. I can get a little queasy in very rough conditions when doing close work, like (ehem!) typing an answer to your question in a gale near the Crozets, but generally it’s not an issue. I have also found that, for me, when it is an issue, the uneasy feelings are often associated with being out of control and frightened. My first ocean crossing was on someone else’s boat, and I was queasy below quite often. The boat smells were unusual, the motion was extreme, and I was exhilarated but scared. On my own where the smells are mine and the decisions too, this is rarely an issue.

As regards loneliness, again, not prone in that direction. I have many interests, like solving my own problems, and love being on the ocean. Those go a long way toward forestalling loneliness. I do, however, get lonely when I’m frightened. In a big sea and a tough gale, I can get sucked into the “Why am I here when I could be home safe and cooking a lovely dinner my beloved wife” mode of thinking. This recedes as the gale moves off east, and I tend not to give it much weight. I know Joanna loves me and will accept me back (after I’ve showered); and I know she supports this venture. I look forward to being home, but would not abort the voyage for it.

That said, I’m only into day 94 (of 210 non-stop to St. John?) of the Figure 8. Between here and Hobart is a famously tough stretch, and I’m now officially on the opposite side of the world from those I love. I’m beginning to feel that sense of isolation; to feel the grind. I’ve bitten off a lot; can I chew it? Etc. So, let’s keep the loneliness question open and see what develops.

Steve writes: Not sure what kind of camera you’re filming with or if its weatherproof, but I for one would love to see some footage of the big seas you are encountering. Of course, you are probably too busy managing the boat to whip out your camera.

Randall: Hey Steve, I use an iPhone almost exclusively. Pretty tough device, actually. My best wave shots so far are in the Handel video. You’d be surprised how shy waves are. The moment you get up on deck with a camera, the sea goes still as a lake. But I’ll keep trying.

Chuck writes: You say, “Lock the floorboards over the engine and close the diesel tank vents (if the engine has been run).” Under what circumstances have you been running the engine? I was under the impression that you were running 100% on wind.

Randall: Hey Chuck, I try to run the engine every week or two. It’s awfully cold and damp in the engine room, but I have motored some as well.

Two reasons:

A) I crewed on a boat similar to Mo in size through the Northwest Passage (NWP) in 2014 and discovered that the Arctic is mostly motoring. Winds are fickle and often light, and you are in a hurry to get through while you can. In fact, I’m not sure any pleasure vessel has sailed all the way through the NWP, much less in one season. So that killed the 100% wind idea early on.

B) I’m on a schedule. I MUST get to the Arctic by early August if I want to get through the NWP in one go. The passage is nearly 6,000 miles and is usually only open for about 60 days. You get one shot if you get a shot at all, and I can’t miss it. Moreover, I’ll need time to stop somewhere in the north for more provisions (I left with a year’s supply, but will have eaten ten months of it by that time) and for unforeseen repairs. So, I’ve given myself permission to motor through the flat calms I encounter and keep the miles rolling.

The log says I’ve motored for 48 hours of my 94 days to date (most of that was in the Pacific doldrums). That means I’ve been 100% wind 99.97% of the time.

Nick writes: I’m currently preparing my Christmas roundup of favourite inks for 2018. I’ll give you one guess for which ink gets top spot? Fondest wishes from your UK fan base! Nick

https://nickstewart.ink/2018/12/27/my-top-12-inks-2018/

Randall writes: Hey Nick, Merry Christmas. Thanks again for producing Randall Ink. That was a cool surprise and I love having a bottle aboard.

Write Comment (7 comments)

January 5, 2019

Day 93

Noon Position: 46 25S  45 16E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 7-8

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 22

Sea(t/ft): W5, NW3

Sky: Partly sunny; high cumulus; front to the N

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1015, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 44

Relative Humidity(%): 63

Sail: Working jib, two reefs; main, one reef, reaching

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

Miles since departure: 12,737

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 36

Miles since Cape Horn: 5,093

Avg. Miles/Day: 142

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 19

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46 30S): 137

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 112 33

A large low starts to arrive tonight; first thrust will be NW winds to 30-35 between midnight and dawn. Late tomorrow, it will clock into the W phase and just as we make the Crozets, still some 212 miles E.

Winds have been 20 – 24 from NWxN for several hours now, in which Mo is reaching under reefed canvas and happily pushing 8 knots. Much of the time, skies are clear, the water has taken on that sparkling sapphire blue. In the cabin, it’s an unprecedented 64 degrees as I type. And there’s hardly any sea to speak of. Am hoping that holds for the stronger, NW phase of this low as I’d like to keep heading due E as long as possible.

Some Virtual Voyagers have asked about what I eat when not eating Shepherd’s Pie. So, today, I made a short video that discusses the first major food group, coffee…

Write Comment (4 comments)

January 4, 2019

Day 92

Noon Position: 46 18S  41 57E

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

Wind(t/tws): WxS 12

Sea(t/ft): W 8

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1018+ (steady since 10am)

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 46

Relative Humidity(%): 68

Sail: Twins poled out full.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 156 (Would have been higher, but moved clock forward one hour.)

Miles since departure: 12,600

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 4,955

Miles since Cape Horn: 142

Avg. Miles/Day: 35

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 45

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46 30S): 155

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 109 14

Ran all night on reefed twins in winds WxN 18 – 25. Slept nearly eight hours. Felt safe as houses such that I didn’t even set the alarm near my bunk in the early morning. Up for the last time at 6am only because there is *another* alarm in the pilot house used to remind me to make log entries. It goes off every two hours starting then and ending at 8pm. My equivalent of ship’s bells.

Basic chores today. A little work on Monte’s aft pinion bushing. Re-lash a turning block to the rail. A can of penetrating oil has rusted through and leaked its contents into the aft bilge; now cleaned. Clean the stove top. Hang foulies, a towel, three pairs of socks out to dry in the two hours of sun this afternoon; hurriedly pull them in when it starts to drizzle.

Time marches on. Our lovely westerly is tapering off and beginning to veer N, as per forecast, and we are entering that unsettled time between lows.

I have decided to go S of the Crozets, still some 320 miles further on. To go over the top would have turned them into a lee shore during the coming northerly. Now we are edging a bit N of their line so that when the wind hardens at about NNE tomorrow night, I can ease Mo a point and head for a waypoint just south of the islands. We should be well under them just as the next low reaches its westerly phase.

I feel uneasy here. As I type, seas are pitching every which way due to (my supposition) a contrary current caused by our passing over a rise on this plateau. Seas are small, sure, but they have a wild motion uncalled for by the wind. Water here is less than a thousand feet where the deeper average is more like ten-thousand. We will be in that deeper water as the next low arrives, and winds are forecast to be in the 30 – 35 range, but what will this current do to the sea-state then?

From Prince Edward Islands to well past Kerguelen feels like a danger zone, and I’m impatient to be past it.

Standing watch now. A squall. Drizzle. Winds are nearly ENE; still very light. The sails slap and bang as we roll. Almost time to down the twins and raise the main. But not quite yet…

Write Comment (no comments)

January 3, 2019

Day 91

Noon Position: 46 18S 38 12E

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 16 – 23

Sea(t/ft): W 10

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1018, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 43

Relative Humidity(%): 71

Sail: Twins poled out, three reefs

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 142

Miles since departure: 12,444

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 34

Miles since Cape Horn: 4,799

Avg. Miles/Day: 141

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 24

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 141

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 105 29

Fast sailing with poled out twins as we ride the top of a low. Winds have been 15 – 25 all day (low 20s on average) with my only complaint being that they refuse to go due east, which Monte and I would find more convenient for course making. Seas are chaotic and are producing a stunningly rough ride. I can only imagine what it would be like here in a full gale, and I’m pushing to be off this plateau before the next one arrives.

Mo passed over the Prince Edward Island group at noon today, some 321 days after passing under the same group. That first passing occurred on February 15th of last year at 8 o’clock in the morning. Our course then was ENE at 7; winds were SW at 20; the bar stood at 1023; the sky was total overcast; the cabin temperature, 50 and the sea, 38. My note in the log: “Big increase in bird life. Must be 100 birds; prions, white chinned, wanderers all buzzing around Mo.”

I wonder how many sailors have sailed by the these islands twice in one year on two different circumnavigation attempts.

Prince Edward Islands:

-Two, both small: the larger is Marion, the smaller is Prince Edward.

-Discovered by the Dutch in 1663 but placed at 41S rather than 46S; so, no subsequent Dutch sailors could find it.

-Discovered again in 1772 by Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, who thought he’d found Antarctica (as yet undiscovered).

-Cook passed by in 1777, and as he had Marion’s charts (Marion had been killed by natives in New Zealand) and found the islands unnamed there, he gave them the names Marion and Prince Edward.

-None of the above were able to land due to bad weather; that didn’t happen until sealers arrived in 1799.

-The islands have a tundra climate; small lakes and bogs with little vegetation.

-On average, it rains 320 days a year; i.e. about 28 days a month. Temperatures are like what I’ve been reporting from Mo. So are winds, only the land form makes the speeds even higher.

-Summer and winter have similar climates. It can snow, sleet or hail on any day.

-The islands are aswim with penguins and most of the birds I report on this blog also breed there. Twenty nine species and up to 5 million breeders.

-In 1947, South Africa annexed the islands, which had been managed by the British to that point.

-There are no permanent residents. Only a meterological and research station and staff.

-Access is by boat or helicopter.

Both times I passed by, I hoped to get a view, even from afar. But the winds weren’t right on either occasion.

Write Comment (5 comments)

January 2, 2018

Day 90

Noon Position: 46 32S  35 05E

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxW 20 – 27

Sea(t/ft): W 7

Sky: Squalls, one after the other with hail

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1011, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 54 (48 when I woke)

Water Temp(f): 47

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: #1 free to port, #2 poled out, broad reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 130

Miles since departure: 12,302

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 33

Miles since Cape Horn: 4,657

Avg. Miles/Day: 141

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 07

Longitude Miles Made Good (at Lat 46S): 127

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 102 05

I can’t believe I’ve been away from my wife for 90 days. I doubt we’ve been apart this long since our first date.

Poor day for mileage. Wind went soft but squally overnight, and that has not improved between sunup and this writing.

A frigid airmass is moving through, pushing temperatures in the cabin to 48 degrees by morning, a number not seen since Cape Horn. Condensation dripped from the port lights. Squalls have been huge and heavy and unrelenting and have dominated my day. This is because they not only bring high wind but they bend it beyond what can conscientiously be ignored.

The “true” wind wants to be about WxS at 25, and this is what we get between squalls if there’s enough room. But the squall turns that wind 50 degrees S and more; gusts are to 35 and 40 with hail. As the squall departs, wind goes 15 for a painfully long time. Then the cycle repeats.

Consequently, our course is a lazy S, no matter how much time I spend at the sheets. Am cold, tired and cranky. Have barked at Monte a few times when he fails to correct with alacrity. This, I have noticed, does not have any positive effect.

Part of the issue is that I’m nervous. We’re approaching a difficult stretch of water. Prince Edward Islands (Marion) are less than a day to the east, and 600 miles further on, the Crozets. As you may recall, it was a day’s sailing past the Crozets where Mo fell off a wave and stove in a widow in seas that were breaking for a hundred feet.

What makes this difficult water is a guess. The sea floor rises here, creating a high plateau for the islands to sit upon. Could it be that this generates upwelling which adds to the surface turbulence? Where we were knocked down was well past the Crozets and in deep water again. Does the plateau act like a big boulder in a vast sea, producing a return current in its wake? All unknown. The force of the sea is not unknown.

Arriving in the area with us are two lows, one with strong NW winds day after tomorrow and a full rotator low (NW, W, SW winds) a day later. I am usure how to handle these. Should I stay N of the Crozets in lighter winds but shallower water or stay to the S where water is deeper but winds will be stronger? Currently I’m edging N (at the behest of the squalls) with the intention of going over the top of Prince Edward. The coming northerlies will likely drive me south and just below the Crozets. That’s how things look at the moment.

Cold day … and cold feet. Nothing to do but press on and sail as smartly as possible.

Write Comment (4 comments)

January 1, 2018

Day 89

Noon Position: 46 45S  31 41E

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

Wind(t/tws): NW 10 (within five minutes, WSW 25)

Sea(t/ft): NW 6

Sky: Rain, turning to squally but dry

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 997+, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 46

Relative Humidity(%): 86

Sail: Working jib and main sail full

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 151

Miles since departure: 12,172

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 32

Miles since Cape Horn: 4,527

Avg. Miles/Day: 141

Longitude Degrees-Made-Good (degrees minutes): 3 40

Longitude Miles-Made-Good (at Lat 47S): 150

Total Longitude-Made-Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 98 58

New Year’s Day.

I woke to drizzle and thought the responsible thing to do was catch some of it. Winds were light (NW 18) and seas were down enough that they stayed off the deck. The night had see NW 30 – 40, so the workable sea state surprised me.

I guzzled a cup of coffee, got into foulies, raised the main and rigged my catchment system on the main’s cradle cover. Within three hours I had ten gallons of cool, crisp drinking water in the tank. That’s ten days at normal ration.

Capture started slow at first, due largely to my drizzle being mostly fog. But even fog blown against the sail filled the two gallon container in twenty minutes. When fog coupled with a light rain, it took less than ten.

Lesson: a) rain capture using the cradle cover is more successful in something less than a full gale; b) main at full is the most efficient (see a).

At the tail end of the morning, I experimented with the method previous owner, Tony Gooch, used, which was to build a dam of putty around the water intakes in order to capture deck water as it runs down the scuppers. This is a *much* simpler approach if the sea is down and the deck is salt free (it had been drizzling for hours, so it was). The single disadvantage is that it’s impossible to gauge how much one is taking in. Well, that, and it requires a quantity of putty, which I was barely able to scrape together. Putty wasn’t on the pre-departure list.

Somewhere in the middle there, I was able to break-off for a phone call with my wife, Joanna. We’ve only spoken twice since I departed. Once was Christmas day, and she was so surrounded by family I could barely get in a word. Today, just us two. For her it was midnight. She’d just watched the ball drop in Time Square. Nice way to begin the year for both of us.

Rain dried up by noon and wind went abruptly into the SW at 25. The sky looks menacing and wet. So far it is neither.

Write Comment (6 comments)

December 31, 2018

Day 88

Noon Position: 46 33S  28 03E

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

Wind(t/tws): NW 24 – 28

Sea(t/ft): NW 8

Sky: Overcast, drizzle

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1008, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 45

Relative Humidity(%): 81

Sail: Working jib, 2 reefs, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 163

Miles since departure: 12,021

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 31

Miles since Cape Horn: 4,367

Avg. Miles/Day: 141

The low came on overnight. I reefed the main down to the second position after dinner, the third position at 1:30am, and dropped it altogether at 6am. By that time winds were a steady 30 – 35 NW. Mo rides easily with just the small jib and is just as fast, and so I’ve kept that configuration all day, rolling out a bit more sail as winds ease; tucking it back in when they increase. Mo froths her way through the lumpy sea.

In the last seven days, we’ve logged over a thousand miles, and that’s the second week of such speed. This last week, 1,060 miles, and the week before, 1,045, to be precise. By way of comparison, that’s roughly the distance between San Francisco and New York City, and it only took us fourteen days.

Better yet, almost all that mileage was easting.

On that point, I’ve started tracking what I call Longitude Made Good. When the goal is to get from one spot on a circle around and back to that spot again (Cape Horn to Cape Horn), there’s only one direction that counts. And when on a boat that’s being blown north a little this week and south a little the next, the best way to track true progress is by how many degrees of longitude have been traversed in a given time.

For example, back on December 28, our noon-to-noon run was a solid 166 miles. But there was a fair bit of southing in there, and when I compared the beginning longitude with the ending longitude, we’d really only made 150 miles of easting. (In long form: Dec 28, 16 degrees 51 minutes East minus Dec 27, 13 degrees 19 minutes East equals 3 degrees and 32 minutes of easting. Most of that was at longitude 45, which has 42.42 miles per degree equals 150 miles.)

So then, today:

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 55

Longitude Miles Made Good: 163 (at Lat 46S)

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 95 18

That last one is the kicker. It’s a circle we’re circumscribing; thus we must pass through a full 360 degrees to get back to where we started, of which we’ve done 95 degrees and 18 minutes.

Long way to go.

I the afternoon, I punched through the gloom of distances yet to be traveled and the gloom of a gale with drizzle by making Lemon Pound Cake. After the success with brownies, my wife reminded me I have several boxes of this yellow delicacy aboard. Butter, water, packaged mix: mix: bake. Like a little (well ok, a big) bite of summer.  

Write Comment (5 comments)

December 31, 2018

Day 87

Noon Position: 46 19S  24 08E

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 15 – 19

Sea(t/ft): NW 6

Sky: Low cumulus, solid mostly

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1012, falling slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 44

Relative Humidity(%): 63

Sail: Twins poled out full

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 157

Miles since departure: 11,858

Avg. Miles/Day: 136

Days since Cape Horn: 30

Miles since Cape Horn: 4,213

Avg. Miles/Day:  140

Rode the twin, poled-out headsails all night and until late afternoon when wind went into the north and began to build. A low moves through tonight and tomorrow.

On deck mid morning I turned and saw a large patch of brown on the water less than a boat length to port. It glistened and gave the impression of immense muscularity. Visible above the water was the length of its body from its dorsal fin to its blow hole, but that section was moving quickly and away from Mo. Clearly, the whale had just spied us and was polite enough to give way; in fact, it seemed eager to do so. The visible parts of the whale appeared to be as long as Mo, and the fin I saw as the whale turned on a wave, was large and swept back in a crescent shape, a diagnostic feature of the Fin Whale. All over in an instant. I watched for ten minutes. Only one faint blow far astern after the initial sighting.

Today has been a lovely sailing day. By 10am it was clear and I set out wet things to dry (again–different wet things) and shot the sun three times for a running fix. In the afternoon I puttered at odd jobs, like tightening the fasteners on the port genoa car, which were working loose.

I’ve added a few more statistics above, miles and days since Cape Horn and our average miles per day in that time. We’re faster in the south than we were getting here. And recently that’s almost all easting!

Write Comment (12 comments)

“I love what I’m doing, and miss you terribly all at the same time.”

Randall and I had an in-person chat at 12.01am Pacific Standard time January 1st, 2019. The rest of the conversation was mostly Randall laughing at me as I shared with him some of the antics I’ve been up to and a “fight” about how mad he was when I heard I went up on our roof (of a flat one-story house) to fix the twinkle lights. “Jo, you scare me. It’s so dangerous.” he said. I pointed out the hypocrisy.

Hi readers, this is Jo, for one of my periodic check-ins with all of you lovely readers. Time for a quick update on the frequently asked questions…

1. Do you guys chat on the phone and/or facetime each other? No, the phone call is only the second chat we’ve had since Randall left last year. We email however every day.

2. Does Randall have internet access? No. He can, however, send and receive messages. This is why it takes us a couple of days to get his posts live. With the combination of time zones and the fact that Team Figure 8 have day jobs back home means we build in the buffer.

3. Does Randall read my comments or questions? Yes and No. If you’re commenting on the website – we pull all the comments off the site each week and send him a summary. This means if you’re commenting on Facebook, Twitter, etc we’re not sending them. Sadly it’s a bit of a fiddle, and as I need to prioritize paying the bills, this is the call we’ve had to make. That said, PLEASE comment on the website. Randall LOVES to read everything.

4. Wait a second, you work? What do you do? Yep, while I’m HUGELY grateful to all the Figure 8 sponsors and Go Fund Me supporters, I do have to make a living. I get to travel around the world telling people why they’re awesome for a living. Yes really. Randall’s not the only one doing something a bit unusual with his life. Like him, I’m doing my life’s work and getting to change how people (and other people) think about themselves is the best job in the world. Curious, you can read about what I’m doing here.

5. How can I help? Share Randall’s story. Share how easy it is to follow him. We have a couple of readers who have put maps up in their offices and homes so they can update the voyage with the people around them.

If you have other questions you’d like me to answer, please comment below. I. Read. Everything.

Lastly, I want to wish ALL of you – and we’re somewhere around 2000 followers to date – an amazing 2019. And THANK YOU! While this is technically a solo adventure, knowing each one of you is out there cheering us on makes this all worthwhile.

Until next time, Jo

BWITW.

Write Comment (3 comments)

December 29, 2018

Day 86

Noon Position: 46 20S  20 20E

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxW 17 – 20

Sea(t/ft): nw 8

Sky: Overcast after rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1007+

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 46

Relative Humidity(%): 86

Sail: Full working jib. Waiting for wind to come west. Was on poled out headsails by 1400.

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

Miles since departure: 11,701

Avg. Miles/Day: 136

Long day; short post.

Several hours of moderate rain this morning. Tried to catch with my main cover system. Caught little. Drains are in the wrong place with main down. Lost best bucket over side. Spilled half of catch. Drank other half. Didn’t die; so, that’s good. But need to figure better system and soon. In hindsight, likely trying to catch in a rough Force 7, decks awash, isn’t best.

In rain all morning. Discovered that my foulies have lost their waterproofness. And that a sailor’s waterlogged hands are pretty ugly.

Both water transfer containers broken. Fixed in afternoon, one with tape, the other with a bolt and plastic washers on each side.

The downhaul I replaced on the hydrogenerator two days ago chafed through today. My fault. I ran it as per the manual, this instead of the way my unique install requires. Fixed. Charging again.

Clear afternoon. Laid wet things out to dry. Two hours of sun is all we got.

Nice sunset.

Can of soup for dinner.