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Day 110

Noon Position: 43 51S 100 29E Course/Speed: E7 Wind: NW2025+ Bar: 1012 Sea: NW8 Sky: Overcast Cabin Temp: 61 Water Temp: 54

Miles last 24 hours: 160 Longitude Made Good: 150 Total Miles: 15,041

Miles to Hobart: 2082

Imagine. A sky slate gray to each horizon. But not even entirely. Here and there jagged Openings, tears with sharp corners, eerie. One of these voids is low down and in the way of the sun, which sets, a vast fiery ball, or so I’m told. In this case, though, the fire is seen as if through a hedge of thorns, black thorns like shadows hiding what mortals cannot behold. Under which the sea runs fast and loud; even after all is dark, she is fast, loud and beautiful.

I have mates on a green-hulled ship named DRINA who are pursuing an excellent cruise of the Southern Ocean in which they stop, unlike Mo and I, at every island in their path. You may recall that back on February 16th I saw,  indistinctly, two islands to the north. These were Ile aux Cochons and Iles des Pingouins, part of the group Iles Crozets at following messages: Friday: We are now hove-to in the gut between Cochon and Possession so we can have a daylight arrival. roughly 47S and 50E. This morning my mates made land in that group. I know because one of them, Matt, and I are corresponding via InReach.

The island is magnificent close up. Wanderers, Sooties, Yellow-Nose and what we think was an Amsterdam Albatross. Elephant and Fur Seals; King and Macaroni penguins on the beach and later in our wake. Fantastic day.” Today: Everyone on Crozets is following you. They could not write due to your not having internet. Hospitality overwhelming. (“Everyone” being the collection of scientists, the only humans allowed on the islands.)

So, to my friends on the Crozets, thank you for the follow. Seeing your islands on the horizon was one of the more memorable moments of this leg. I yelled, “Land Ho!” so loud the Wanderers near me veered off thinking, “This guy’s nuts!” Sorry, the F8 no stopping rule was my idea. Maybe next time.

Best to you and your excellent islands.

Sincerely, Randall

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Day 109

Noon Position: 43 35S. 97 04E

Course/Speed: E7

Wind: WSW25-30

Bar: 1016 Sea: NW8

Sky: Rain/Drizzle

Sail: Working Jib, 2 reefs

Miles last 24 hours: 164

Longitude Made Good: 157

Total Miles: 14,881

Miles to Hobart: 2233

Overnight wind increased and brought with it low cloud and rain. At midnight I took down the twin headsails, out on poles these last two days, and set the working jib to starboard with a couple reefs. The morning came on late and cold and gray and all day the quality of light has remained poor. If you were trying to read a (waterproof) newspaper in the cockpit, you’d reach for a flashlight.

The sea is cement gray, steep and breaking, and again, larger and more aggressive than I would expect for the wind. Sometimes a particular part of the wave train will collapse all at once and produce a solid break three or four boat lengths wide. This is rare. I’ve seen it twice all day. Each time I’ve been grateful the wind is only 25-30. It’s mesmerizing to watch the ocean being itself. I’ve been at odd jobs on deck today; refreshing some cotter pins on the poles; renewing the windvane control line; little stuff…but often the job will fade and I’ll just sit and stare out at  the sea doing its thing.

This afternoon, lunch of canned eggplant ragout on crackers, cheese, and a serving of Soylent. Then a nap. Wind faded for a time, but is filling in again now that it’s dark. And what dark! I can’t even see Monte from my seat in the pilot house. I need to take in some sail; jigger Monte a bit, and then it’s time for dinner.

Tonight, leftover Shepherd’s Pie, a fancy title for:

  • 4 Cups instant mashed potatoes
  • 1 Can ground beef
  • 1 Can cut carrots
  • 1 Can sweet peas
  • Dried garlic, onions, other seasoning
  • butter, garlic
  • chicken stock.

It’s the kind of night one could wish for a big chair by the fire. Shepherd’s Pie will have to suffice.

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Day 108

Noon Position: 43 14S 93 27E

Course/Speed: SE5

Wind: NW8-12

Bar: 1024

Sea: NW4

Sky: Clear

Sail: Twins headsails out full

Cabin Temp: 65 Water Temp: 55

Miles last 24 hours: 137

Longitude Made Good: 117

Total Miles: 14,717

Miles to Hobart: 2396

For those of you just getting caught up, these blogs are now without photos or videos because the gale of two weeks ago that shattered a window in the pilot house and flooded the boat also knocked out the Fleet Broadband 250 unit used for media, email and weather. And it killed the Iridium GO unit, which was intended as a backup system for email and weather reports if the Fleet Broadband went down. Luckily I have an older Garmin InReach aboard, backup to the backups, that enables satellite transmission of text messages and is now the source of tracker data on the website.

I mention this for two reasons. One, though I’m fortunate to have the InReach (the website would be a big blank without it), I  find it challenging to write my daily reports in 160 character chunks, with no recourse to editing, rethinking a paragraph, or adding elegance to a sentence. With the InReach, it’s fire and forget; or rather, fire and keep typing…before you forget what you wanted to say. Two, as “bad” as it is for me, it’s far worse for the guy who has to compile all these texts into a standard display. His name is Freddy, a resident of Oakland and a family friend. He’s been in charge of posting my daily missives since my departure on October 28 of last year, but his job has gotten a whole lot harder since two weeks ago.

For example, this short essay has already run on to 14 texts. The long report on the big blow that took out the window and so of my electronics was a whopping 70 texts. Imagine copy and paste times 70; plus tidy up Randall’s spelling (always creative), plus decide where the paragraph breaks, etc. It’s a job! So, on this, text number 16 for the night, I’d like to say a big THANKS to Freddy for his work at keeping the wheels on the Figure 8 website.again.

Our progress slow. The twin headsails are poled out and pull us along silently. There is a tinkle at the bow but nothing more. Sun all day. I pulled out my boots that filled with sea water two days ago. I rinsed them in fresh water and set them to dry. Ditto the socks of the moment. Ditto a set of fleece similarly soaked and thrown in the forepeak a week ago. Ah the aroma!  In the afternoon I inspected and cleaned the electric switch panels (not much water there) and began to troubleshoot the Fleet Broadband unit. It gives me lights and runs reports and otherwise suggests it would like to return to operational status.  But don’t hold your breath.

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Day 107

Noon Position: 42 56S. 90 35E Course/Speed: E5 Wind: WSW10-15 Bar: 1027 Sea: W4 Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 57 Sea Temp: 54

Miles last 24 hours: 120 Longitude Made Good: 113 Total Miles: 14,580

Wind trailed off overnight, seeming simply to evaporate. When I came on deck at 6am, the sails were complaining at having so  little to do. Actually, they had not been set well for 15 knots dead aft and the lingering swell from yesterday’s blow did not help matters, so after coffee, I lowered the main and put both headsails out on poles.

All day we have been making our slow miles east as the wind eases, fills in, eases, and the sea continues to diminish such that now one would have to press his imagination  into action in order to believe that a gale here was even possible. I am lonely up here—because our way making is so slow;  Because winds are too light even to make the twins happy; because those birds that have surrounded Mo like an entourage are elsewhere. It feels we have left the south. None too soon, says a part of me; prematurely, says another. But truth is we are still in the 40s; this is but a lull, and there is yet a long way to go.

Today’s project was to get the alternator to charge batteries, a thing it has failed to do since the blow and more important now that winds are light and the hydro generator less effective. Actually, this has been the project for a week and has involved my friend Matt on DRINA, a yacht a thousand miles astern of us and making way toward the Crozets, my friend Kelton in California, and Gerd, a friend in Florida. At issue is the loss of the key, which hung on a hook right behind me and went missing in the deluge that wiped out Mo’s electronics. On the same hook was a small thermometer, which I found wedged between the chart plotter and the, then, broken window; i.e on the opposite side of the boat and higher up than the hook. But hours of searching every available corner of the boat have never turned up the key. This is the spare. I broke the original when a surly wave tossed me into the ignition panel some months ago.

So, how to start the engine? I am familiar with the screwdriver-across-starter-terminals method but getting such an implement to Mo’s starter and then surviving the sparks… I wanted other options. So, the first few days of messaging taught me how to start the engine at the solenoid an then later how to hot wire the ignition switch. Excellent.

Engine fired right up. But the alternator did not. Since much below in the engine room had been inundated with water, I assumed  the alternator was blown. Gerd, however, convinced me it was simply not being activated via my various hot-wiring methods.

He taught me three different ways to connect the alternator’s field wire. None were successful. We were all mystified.  “I don’t understand why you won’t simply drill out the ignition switch and start her up with a screwdriver.” Because the moment I do this, I’ll find the key, was my response. But this morning there seemed no other options. The ignition switch ate the first drill bit. Broke it off right at the key hole.

The second managed to twist the body of the switch such that all the wires on the backside were stripped off. At least I now knew where they all belonged. Job done, insert screw driver and turn. Nothing happened. Drill out a bit more. Insert screw driver. Lights come on but the starter motor does not engage. Hmmph. Was afraid of this: operation unsuccessful and now finding the key is meaningless. One last try. Start the engine via the hot wire method , and THEN turn the ignition switch with the screw driver. And that worked. What’s the lesson here? No idea. But the alternator is now charging the batteries, and that’s all that counts.

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Day 106

Noon Position: 42 48S 88 01E

Course/Speed: E6 Wind: SW20 – 30

Bar: 1021 Sea: SW15

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 57

Sea Temp: 53

Miles Last 24 hours: 167 Longitude Made Good: 112

Total Miles: 14,460

Not too long ago the best weather forecast one could get at sea was from his barometer. And without a satellite link or single sideband radio, that is essentially what I’ve been reduced to. The barometer will tell you that change is a-comin, but with what intensity and from what direction—on these topics, it is more or less mum. When one is used to full-color wind charts for his quadrant for every hour out for five days, the barometer’s silence is deafening. Actually, I’m not entirely blind. Tony Gooch is tracking wind and systems for me. And based on his input, I’ve been pushing hard to get north and above the heart of a  quickly intensifying low from the west whose winds were forecast in the 40s.

I turned northeast just after noon yesterday in winds to 30 knots and NW. All day I spent in getting ready. I taped-up the electronics cabinets against possible water intrusion and anything sensitive got put in plastic bags. I pumped Mo’s bilges, of which we have four, and drained the water from the sleeve into which slides the companionway hatch. I secured anything that might fly. On deck I got the storm jib ready, put the high wind paddle on Monte, and secured lines. In the late afternoon I took a long nap; then got up just before sundown and studied the swell. It wasn’t much. Northwest at 12, maybe. But not steep nor breaking. Still, I tried to make a plan fo when the westerly set in. Winds had increased to 35 and gusting higher, so I dropped the main. Dinner was left over curry, better the day after, and a beer. Then I waited.

The night was dirty with rain and low cloud. Slowly the winds tracked into the west, and at 8pm the sky broke clear and clean.  Low cumulus raced under a bright moon and the sea was black and slick, a giant expanse of crude oil. Now winds intensified into the high 30s with frequent pushes of 40,  but the steepness and break of the wave train did not. I rolled the working jib up to the size of a snot rag and went to bed. Each time I rose, things were the same. I slept until daylight. Wind was still high. Seas were large and confused but still lacked the speed and meanness I had feared. Winds began to ease by noon and I set a course to the east. And that was it.

Why this low of similar strength and duration had such different sea-state characteristics, I can’t say. But grateful, without a drogue, I feel I’ve lost one important tactic in my survival quiver and it’s put me on edge. One low down. 2600 miles to Hobart.

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Day 104

Noon Position: 44 53S. 81 50E

Course/Speed: NE5 Wind: NW13

Bar: 1023 Sea: NW4

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 61

Sea Temp: 50

Miles last 24 hours: 107 Longitude Made Good: 92

Total Miles: 14,136

Slowly we drifted northeast, the twin headsails filling and folding in an endless cycle timed to the swell. The night sky, its moon sunk long ago, darkened to reveal its dimmer, more outward secrets. The Milky Way, so bright you could see it bending and twisting, a cosmic river flowing from one horizon to the other. The only sound, the soft crumpling of sails and a very slight tinkling at Mo’s bow. I woke because something had changed. Usually it’s obvious—a heightening of the “hooooar” in the rigging or a more urgent motion as Mo rounds into the swell. Tonight there was no clue, just something, and when I came on deck, I found Mo had turned to the southeast, following the wind as it moved into the north. I should drop the poles and ready Mo for a reach, full main and big genoa, I thought.

The deck was slick with dew; the sails dripped, their rivulets glistening. The sea, so empty, save a man and a boat. The sky, so full. The sails can wait, we won’t lose but a mile or two. I made a cup of cocoa and sat to watch until dawn. Which, as it turns out, was about an hour away. I thought I’d come on deck at 2am, but I’ve not been careful about ship’s time these last weeks, and, more importantly, I’ve been enjoying being 12 hours opposite of home.

Some days ago, back around 58E we passed the southern ocean halfway mark between home and home again. Somehow being exactly the other side of the world from my wife and family makes them feel closer than not quite exactly the other side; somehow being 12 hours away feels more intimate, more connected than 11 hours. So, I’ve been reticent to move the clock.

Tonight there will be no stars. The wind came up in the afternoon and with it, an uneven cloud that now races in front of a yellow moon. Mo carries this wind on the beam and as it has risen, I have reefed, once, twice, and … and still Mo plows the water like there is someplace to be. Someplace other than sailing an endless sea.

 

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Day 103

Noon Position: 45 20S. 79 33E Course/Speed: NE5 Wind: WSW 11 Bar: 1030 Sea: SW 8 Sky: Overcast Cabin Temp: 56 Water Temp: 52

Miles Last 24 hours: 148 Longitude Made Good: 135 Total Miles: 14,029

“The guys have been great,” said my wife in a message, “Every time something happens to you, one or more of them will check in with me to make sure I’m OK and give me their technical advice on next steps and strategies. It’s like I have a whole squad of Expert Uncles.”

So, a shout out to the Figure 8 Expert Uncles. It’s nice to know you’re there for Jo. Thanks for the support.

Traveling over large bodies of water, slowly, for months warps one’s sense of distance. I think of Hobart, our target port of call, as right around the corner, a mere 20 days or so of easting. But a glance at chart plotter shows it to be 2,893 miles away, further than a sail from Hawaii to San Francisco; further than a flight from San Francisco to New York. It feels close. It’s not close. Especially when that 2,893 miles are Indian Ocean miles. Which is why I’m trending northeast.

It seems only a matter of time before another low like last week’s rolls through, and without a drogue, I’m feeling exposed. Getting some north in should give me options when the time comes. However, I’ve been too aggressive and have run us clean out of wind. The bar currently stands at 1029, down a tick from noon, but still very high, and winds have trailed off to a mere 6 knots true. I have the twins polled out wide, like great, white nets, but they catch only the wandering puff of air, and in the interim, they whap and bang in the small swell.

Suddenly the sky is a desert sky; the cumulus clouds are infantile, translucent for lack of heft; there are mares tails to the west, but they are whisps. Most birds, knowing where the wind lives, have abandoned the scene. The moon and the sun dominate. The sunset was tropical fire.

We make 3 knots.

Since our re-entry to the civilized world seems imminent, I’ve begun bathing again. It’s been too cold or too rough or both to contemplate otherwise. Heck, I never take the sock cap off. Heaven forbid I get my head wet. But today I boiled water and gave head and beard a good scrub. And now I smell sweet as roses. Amen.

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Day 103

Noon Position: 45 45S. 75 19E

Course/Speed: E7 Wind: SW20 Bar: 1032 (wow!)

Sky: Clear, Puffy Cumulus

Cabin Temp: 56

Sea Temp: 49 Miles last 24 hours: 158 Longitude Made Good Miles: 148 Total Miles: 13,881

Sleep. I can’t get enough of it.

Last evening I sat down for the pre-dinner beer, took two sips, and woke an hour later, having poured the remainder of the can into my lap and all over a cushion that had spent the day drying in the cockpit. So I went to bed. It was 8pm.

At 6am I made the ritual first log entry of the day. Then I went into the cockpit to inspect what was on offer. Winds were down and had come into the west. The sun lit up the sea, made it sparkle like electric sapphire. The sky carried pink cumulus, balls of cotton, from one horizon to the other. And it was warm.

After coffee and oatmeal laced with golden butter and peanut butter, I launched the twin headsails on poles and felt a surge of admiration I’ve not felt since the blow. Their whiteness against the blues; the lovely curve of wing, taut perfection with them skyward we sail with the same grace as the birds. We are quiet and slippery-fast, sliding our way east toward Hobart, Tasmania.

That’s the destination, some 3,000 miles onward. It’s not the closest port, but it is right on our route, which is important to me. What is next for the Figure 8 is unclear, and I’m unwilling to discuss the options yet. I am, after all, still picking glass from the floorboards. But I want the option of returning to the route quickly, something Hobart allows.

But today I didn’t worry about that. Today I didn’t pick glass or troubleshoot a device. Because today we sailed.

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Day 102

Noon Position: 45 36S 72 47E (Just past Kerguelen Island)

Course/Speed: E7; Wind: SW 25;

Bar: 1023

Sea: SW 6 – 8, steep and breaking;

Sky: Clear;

Cabin Temp: 51;

Sea Temp 48. Miles last 24 hours: 161;

Longitude Miles Made Good: 148;

Total Miles: 13,722

Two days ago I disassembled the AA battery charger, washed it in fresh water and let it dry in the sun. I had no hope whatever of success because the power plug and most of the backside of the “motherboard” showed signs of corrosion. Then again, one can’t get lucky without trying. This morning I reassembled the unit and plugged it in. Lights! I plugged in a battery, and three hours later, it had absorbed significant charge. This is a big success for me, as I demonstrated to myself in spades last night.

At 2am I decided the main needed a reef. We were carrying nearly 30 knots on the starboard quarter and were beginning to fish-tail. I rose, dressed and went manfully to the mast; released the sheet, grabbed the luff and pulled. And nothing. The main was stuck. I had gone to the mast without a flashlight on purpose. Eventually, I’ll run out of batteries, I reasoned. Best to practice now. I looked up to see the problem and saw stars but no main. I had to grab a light. The issue was that I’d dropped the main as if we were on the wind. Dropping when off the wind requires much more care or the sail can foul a step or hang up on the lazy jack lines. On this fine evening, I ‘d coaxed it to do both! It took an hour of easing Mo into the wind and upping and downing the sail to free the two hangups. And NONE of that would have possible without a flashlight. So, one success—tentatively repaired battery charger; one failure—mindlessly handling the main.

Second success.

In the afternoon I removed all the tools from the starboard tool bay. Like the battery charger, water had flooded the bags, which, being canvas, held the water in good faith these last days while I did other jobs. Each bag came out; got emptied, dried as best could, and each tool got a good wipe and a blast of Fluid Film. This is a new product to me, a last minute gift from a guy named Brian, who attended my going away party. “Here,” he said, handing me a can of Fluid Film, “You’ll use this on everything.” The best way I can think to describe it is as liquified, carbonated lanolin in a spray can. And I do use it on many things, such as tools. And now it’s mostly gone. But the tools are saved from premature rust and the battery box, with its three cups of sea water, is now dry. Small steps forward. A good day.

Winds have been consistent and moderate, and today we had sun to boot. Our easting has been good and may be so for at least a week. But what is sobering is the Indian Ocean swell. In 25 knots of wind we get 6, 8 and sometimes 10 foot seas that are nearly vertical and breaking. Smaller cousins to what we had in the blow last week and ample incentive to keep a move on.

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February 22, 2018;

Day 101;

Noon Position 45 36S 69 13E;

Course/Speed: E7;

Wind NW20;

Bar 1004;

Sky Overcast:

Sea: NW 5. Miles last 24 hours: 172. Longitude Made Good: 175 miles (more than 24 hour run due to troubleshooting chart plotter)

Total Miles: 13,561

The radar is back online as of this morning. The issue was the router, which had drowned in the deluge and has now been replaced with the spare I thought I’d never use. That’s the good news. The bad news is I’ve not been able to restore the AIS transmitter. At least not as of yet. My reason for trying to work through these electrical issues now, a difficult task in a seaway, is so that I know what needs doing when I make landfall and can thus keep the stop-over as brief as possible.

In the afternoon the wind swung into the southwest, this over the course of fifteen minutes, and accelerated to near 30 knots. I tacked Mo around and reefed down hard. By the time I’d completed these tasks and made up lines the wind had dropped to 10 knots, where it stayed for two hours and until I let out all reefs, at which point it slowly rose back to 20 knots. So some reefs are back in, and I’m just plain pooped.

Tomorrow I need to attack the tool bin, which is just inside the companionway hatch and was loaded with water during the knockdown. All the canvas tool bags have standing water in them, and if I don’t’ have at them soon with a rag and lubricant, I’ll lose 200 pounds of good tools.

All for now… (end)

 

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Date: February 21, 2018.

Day: 100 (I was off by two days in last post).

Noon Position: 45 46S 65 01E.

Course/Speed: E7 Wind: NW15.

Sky: Clear.

Temps: Cabin got to 62 today. Amazed. Miles last 24 hours: 133.

LMG: 128.

Total F8 Miles: 13,389.

The southern ocean has dealt us a kind hand the last three days. Winds have been consistently light to moderate and the skies, Bright and open. Except for the Wandering Albatross, one might say he was transiting a trade wind belt. Nights have been clear too. Orion marching high. Sleep has been deep and long. Last night, a full eight hours in two-hour stints. I Am feeling much myself again.

Mo is mostly back to her clean and ordered self. The soggy towels have been hung to dry two days in a row and are now simply damp, making them useless. I’m still digging glass from between floorboards, but we’re down to the small shards. Repair is also underway. I have removed the shattered solar panel and gifted it to the sea. The section of rail that bent in and over the winches, making them almost has been cut away and a lifeline reeved in its place.

As to electronics, troubleshooting today appears to have put back into service the satellite compass, wind instruments, autopilot, and tank levels, and to have revealed that the AIS transmission unit is faulty and was crashing the other instruments. Not sure the fault as yet. Radar is still offline. Its router was waterlogged and so far the spare has failed to boot at all. FleetBroadband is still offline. I have disassembled the AA battery charger, rinsed its parts in fresh water and am letting them dry. These small batteries power my headlamps and other flashlights, without which night work and engine work are difficult. Ditto the Iridium GO. I’m pleased. Feels like progress. Now it is dusk.

Winds have risen this afternoon to 20 knots and the forecast calls for 30. So I took a second reef in the main. I crave another long, calm night. Winds have responded by dropping to 12 knots. The main is even starting to slat. Welcome to the south, where nothing is ever the same. (End)

Heads up from Team F8. If you’re watching Randall on the tracker please note that the tool he uses to submit both these blog posts and his location charges it at night. When it’s charging it’s not sending us his coordination. As of today he’s almost exactly 12 hours ahead of the US so when we’re awake the tracker is waiting. Go figure. Anyway, didn’t want folks to think it was broken. #teamf8

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Quick note from Jo and Team F8 before you read through Randall’s report from Moli. First – you should be aware that this whole thing was typed out 160 characters at a time on the Garmin InReach, the only communications tool currently working aboard Moli. Team F8 then had to copy and paste each section to build this and upcoming posts. Hence the slightly stilted language.  Second – as Randall always does, he’s trying hard to be real with all his readers about the experience, what happened and how he’s feeling. Know that I just communicated with him and we’re back to jokes.

Team F8 and I will continue to copy and paste the 160 characters until we fix or replace the Iridium GO. Sadly no photos until then but I’ve asked him to make sure he keeps taking pictures.

Enjoy the dramatic read! Jo

Blog Report.

Date: February 19

Day 100.

Position: 46 05S 61 15E.

Course/Speed: ENE6 Wind: NW: 20.

Bar: 1022.

Sky: nearly clear.

Temp: 57! Feels like summer!

I pulled the working jib and put up the storm jib at 4pm. Winds had increased to a steady 30 – 35. Remarkable however were the seas, steep and breaking and far larger than one would expect from 35 knots. The dominant swell was west with a smaller train from the northwest and another, inexplicably, from the south. I put Mo on port tack, taking the dominant swell slightly on port quarter and hunkered down to watch.

At 1900 I was typing here in the pilot house when Mo was knocked flat to starboard. Water came pouring in the starboard pilot house dorade vent, the only one I’ve left open so we can have at least a modicum of fresh air below. The laptop was soaked but miraculously survived. By this time it was dark and solid cloud cover, there was no visibility at all save the faint white of a wave just before it hit the boat. I rigged a port-side sheet on the storm jib so we could gybe and take the swell to starboard, but without visibility and knowing there were three trains, choice of tacks seemed a pick-your-poison at best. The only danger I saw was that as the wind came into the southwest, we’d be pulled more abeam the northerly and westerly swells. That hadn’t happened yet, so I left Mo on port tack. No more knockdowns, so by 11pm I started sleeping.

At about 2am we were knocked over again. I could hear the wave come on us. The sound is like being overtaken by an angry jet engine. Then your 40,000 pound boat is thrown as if it has all the heft of a dog toy. I could see from the pilot house that the starboard rail had been bent in from the impact of the boat’s fall onto the solar panel lashed to the rail. Lines were all ahoo, but there was no other damage. By this time there was light enough (ship’s clock is still set to GMT+3) to see. The wind had started to come more into the west, so I gybed Mo around.

This, I felt, gave her a less sharp angle of approach to the westerly swell and she seemed to ride better. I was clearly incorrect in this assessment for an hour later we were knocked hard over to port. I was sitting in the pilot house when the hit occurred. The sensation was of being slammed to the ground. The port side window over the navigation station shattered. It was well underwater at this point, and green water gushed in. In a moment the boat righted. I remember seeing the water flow in, over the navigation desk, onto the floorboards in a big, heavy stream, but the shattered window didn’t register until I looked up and could see the clear ocean and jagged glass.

What action to take first wasn’t obvious. Three immediate priorities: 1) stop the hole; 2) get the water out; 3) find a way to make Mo safe in these seas. By this time winds were 35 to 45 knots; gusts higher but nothing quite 50. We’ve seen worse, I thought, but the seas were tremendous. And the crashing white of the wave throwing itself bodily forward resembled surf-break, wide and long and all-consuming. I pumped water from a full bilge while I thought how to plug the hole in the broken window.

With the bilge half empty, I retrieved two hatch-boards from the forepeak and bolted them together, one on each side of the window. The boards were not quite the right shape and left small voids on two corners, which I filled with silicone. That done I finished pumping the bilge, which only took 10 minutes until is sucked air. The next step, the only option left, was to deploy the Jordan Series drogue. This seemed to take hours. Though flaked for easy deployment, the rough weather meant it had wedged itself deep inside the locker and had to be hauled out hand-over-hand into the cockpit and reorganized.

It was nearly 10am when it began streaming aft. The boat stopped. I pulled the storm jib and felt a gush of relief. Finally, we felt under control. Below was a wreck. I began mopping up and doing a mental assessment of the damage. Chart Plotter OK. VHF OK. Iridium GO, dead. Glass everywhere. Water everywhere. Grab towels.

Winds seemed to have moderated, but the swell was still fast and mean. Even on drogue we were hit hard from the stern, white water regularly in the cockpit and slamming the companionway hatch. I had been at clean up for two hours when I looked up to see we were lying ahull. I went into the cockpit and gave a yank on the drogue bridle. It didn’t yank back. I pulled it in and found the drogue had parted at the splice where it joins the bridle. The metal eye was all that remained. I have lavished untold care on the bridle, which has needed repair, but my assessment of the drogue was that it looked nearly perfect. There was rust around the eye at the lead-end splice, but the splice always looked sound. Lying ahull in this sea was out of the question, so I put Mo before the wind under bare poles.

In our first big blow, this had not worked, but this time I went dead downwind and Monte was easily able to maintain steerage. We rode-out the rest of the gale this way without incident.

Damage assessment: port aft rail bent in over winches; solar panel shattered; port window in pilot house shattered; dead electronics include Fleetbroadband 250 (weather, email, photo, video); Iridium GO (tracker and email/weather backup system); single sideband radio; Emtrak (AIS transmission); Radar; AA battery charger (for headlamps); Metoman barograph (barometer); Winspeed instruments; GPS compass (works erratically).

Working: chartplotter, vhf radio with AIS receive (as long as satellite compass with AIS receive works. Also the Garmin Inreach, being used for this report and now only communications tool left. Monte is fine. Otto is fine. The boat is sound; no damage to sails or rig. I also escaped mostly unscathed. Bangs and scratches, as one would expect. Bruised right calf and welt on the back of right thigh—unknown origin. Left hand and wrist swollen from when momentarily caught in drogue, which jammed a winch as it deployed, but all parts move without pain, so I am calling it a sprain.

The stove works fine too, so I can make hot coffee, which is more of a relief than you can know. What’s Next: Am making slow way in general direction of Australia. Was my general course anyway. Port of call unknown.

At 3700 miles onward, we have time to think about that later. Of electronics, the Fleetbroad band gives me lights and both wind instruments and satellite compass have worked sporadically, which suggests connection issues at the NMEA 2000 junction box. This gives me hope for the Radar as well, which routes through the same box. The others, Iridium GO, SSB, Barograph, AA battery charger, Emtrak AIS transmit are waterlogged and beyond hope.

What could I have done differently? 1) Deploy drogue when I saw that the seas were outstripping the wind. There’s an adage: “it’s not the wind we worry about; it’s the waves.” I read the wind and thought we’d seen worse, so pressed on. Given what happened with the drogue, we can see what good the drogue would have done. 2) I could have gybed earlier so as to take the main swell at a less sharp angle. But in pitch dark, choosing my angle would have been a crap shoot. With three trains, it feels there were few good options. And too, Monte had very tough time steering a course at the height of things because the rudder would practically stall out on the back side and trough of waves. Our course was as wide as 45 degrees at times. Otto would have done no better. So, answer: I don’t know. I still can’t get over how crushingly large and heavy were the seas for a blow whose average winds were 35 to 40 knots. In hindsight, their character felt like what one gets when wind is pushing against current—a line to look into later.

For the moment I’m putting Mo in slow mode, heavily reefed, so I can sleep (am bone tired even after two good nights of sleep) and put below decks back together. When I stop to think about it, I’m terribly disappointed and feel like I’ve let Mo down. I’ve gone from the man who was going to sail all five oceans in a year to the man who broke his boat in all five oceans in a year, etc. Luckily there’s not much time for such thoughts. And that’s my report. More as we continue eastward…

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Hey Virtual Voyagers!

Quick update for everyone following.

  1. Windy TV tracking. Later today (we hope) this should be back up and running due to the awesomness of Tedde and the team at Follow My Challenge. We’re linking our secondary communication system to the Windy TV app. I don’t have an idea of the frequency of the updates yet but you’ll get one at least once a day.
  2. Randall’s updates. We have a “hack” for this too. Unfortunately, in the short term (about a month) we won’t have images he will be writing updates. They might not be as frequent but you will get them.

Next steps. Randall is heading towards Australia to pull in for this round of repairs.We’re going to wait until then to think about how this will impact the larger project and the timeline. As always, we will figure it out.

Thanks for all the notes of support!

Team F8

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Hi all!

For those who follow Randall on his tracker. Do not panic. He’s fine. His tracker is not. I’m sure you all noticed the stormy weather over the last 24 hours. There were, of course, shenanigans. Randall is drying out and figuring things out and we’re going to try and get the tracker back online. Until then, we’ll continue to keep posting here as we get updates.

#staytuned.

Team F8

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Day 96

Noon Position: 47 03S  53 43E

Course/Speed: E7

Wind: NW 20 – 30

Sail: Working jib, two reefs

Bar: 996

Sea: NW to 12; N to 7

Sky: Clear, for the moment

Cabin Temp: 56

Water Temp: 43

Miles last 24-hours: 136

Longitude Miles Made Good: 131

Miles since departure: 13,057

In the Heart of It

We’re in the heart of it now, the heart of what this low has to offer. Winds are mostly middle 30s, but blowing up a gale down here is a very gusty business, so 40 and above is not an uncommon. Neither is 18. Seas are steep and confused, and they’re dealing Monte his fair share of curve balls in the form of gusts followed by lulls, or seas that knock us sideways and essentially stop the boat in her tracks, a tough business for a wind vane. I get dirty looks whenever I go on deck.

It’s evening. Have been running under storm jib now for a couple hours. Wind are on port quarter and a heading more or less east. Seas are mainly northwest with the older train coming from the north. The older train is not very substantial at this point. Am taking the larger train slightly to port; the older one unfortunately is on the beam, but it is rarely breaking.

Night is coming on.

I need to pay attention here. All for now.

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Day 95

Noon Position: 46 48S  50 31E

Course/Speed: ESE7

Wind: NNE20 – 25

Sail: two reefs in working jib and three in the main

Bar: 1012

Sea: N6 but steep

Sky: Overcast with rain

Cabin Temp: 52

Water Temp: 41

Miles last 24-hours: 151

Longitude Miles Made Good: 143

Miles since departure: 12,921

0750 Land Ho. Ilse Crozets. First the upraised clouds and then the smudges on the horizon. Isle Cochon, surprisingly big and round; quite high because I’m 39 miles south of it. Then to the east, Isle Pingouins, much smaller and just shy of 20 miles distant.

I didn’t expect to see land, and it’s an emotional shock. Exciting. Eerie.

Then they are swallowed by cloud.

But their evidence is all around me in vastly increased bird life. I’ve seen my first Cape Petrel and first Giant Petrel, and then all the usual suspects, Wanderers, Black Browed, White Chinned Petrels, Prions, Skuas. An exciting day.

Weather from the north is building. We bash. I ran with the small staysail and three reefs in the main for a time, but it was too little sail. The working jib is back up and just in time for 30 knots. Rough ride.

The real low arrives tonight when this wind turns east. Long day and night ahead.

Some background…

The Crozet Islands (French: Îles Crozet; or, officially, Archipel Crozet) are a sub-antarctic archipelago of small islands in the southern Indian Ocean. They form one of the five administrative districts of the French Southern and Antarctic Lands.

History

The Crozet Islands were discovered on 24 January 1772 by the expedition of French explorer Marc-Joseph Marion du Fresne, aboard Le Mascarin. His second-in-command Jules (Julien-Marie) Crozet landed on Île de la Possession, claiming the archipelago for France.[2] The expedition continued east and landed at New Zealand, where Captain Marion and much of his crew were killed and cannibalized by Maori.[3] Crozet survived the disaster, and successfully led the survivors back to their base at Mauritius. In 1776 Crozet met James Cook at Cape Town, at the onset of Cook’s third voyage.[3]Crozet shared the charts of his ill-fated expedition, and as Cook sailed eastward he stopped at the islands, naming the western group Marion and the eastern group Crozet.[2] In the following years, sealers visiting the islands referred to both the eastern and western groups as the Crozet Islands, and Marion Island became the name of the larger of the two Prince Edward Islands, which were discovered by Captain Marion on the same expedition.[2]

In the early 19th century, the islands were often visited by sealers, to the extent that the seals had been nearly exterminated by 1835. Subsequently, whaling was the main activity around the islands, especially by the whalers from Massachusetts. In 1841 there were a dozen whaleships around the islands. Within a couple of years this had increased to twenty from the United States alone. Such exploitation was short-lived, and the islands were rarely visited for the rest of the century.

Shipwrecks occurred frequently at the Crozet Islands. The British sealer, Princess of Wales, sank in 1821, and the survivors spent two years on the islands. The Strathmorewas wrecked in 1875. In 1887, the French Tamaris was wrecked and her crew stranded on Île des Cochons. They tied a note to the leg of an albatross, which was found seven months later in Fremantle, but the crew was never recovered. Because shipwrecks around the islands were so common, for some time the Royal Navy dispatched a ship every few years to look for stranded survivors. The steamship Australasian also checked for survivors en route to Australia.[4]

Between 1924 and 1955, France administered the islands as a dependency of Madagascar. Crozet Islands became part of the French Southern Territories in 1955. In 1938, the Crozet Islands were declared a nature reserve. In 1961, a first research station was set up, but it was not until 1963 that the permanent station Alfred Faureopened at Port Alfred on Île de la Possession (both named after the first leader of the station). The station is staffed by 18 to 30 people (depending on the season) and does meteorological, biological, and geological research, maintains a seismograph and a geomagnetic observatory (IAGA code: CZT). The Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization ( CTBTO ) has listening equipment on the island after the CTBTO disclosed that two of its stations, the other being on Ascension Island, detected what is believed to be an underwater, non-nuclear explosion off the coast of Argentina and believed to be a fatal accident of the ARA San Juan submarine in 2017.[5][6]

Geography

The Crozet Islands are uninhabited, except for the research station Alfred Faure (Port Alfred) on the East side of Île de la Possession, which has been continuously manned since 1963. Previous scientific stations included La Grande Manchotière and La Petite Manchotière.

Climate

The Crozet islands have a maritime-influenced tundra climate (Köppen climate classification, ET). Monthly temperatures average around 2.9 °C (37 °F) and 7.9 °C (46 °F) in winter and summer respectively.[7] Precipitation is high, with over 2,000 mm (78.7 in) per year. It rains on average 300 days a year, and winds exceeding 100 km/h (60 mph) occur on 100 days a year. The temperatures may rise to 18 °C (64.4 °F) in summer and rarely go below −5 °C (23 °F) even in winter.

Flora and fauna

The islands are part of the Southern Indian Ocean Islands tundra ecoregion that includes several subantarctic islands. In this cold climate plant life is mainly limited to grasses, mosses and lichens, while the main animals are insects along with large populations of seabirds, seals and penguins.[7]

The Crozet Islands are home to four species of penguins. Most abundant are the macaroni penguin, of which some 2 million pairs breed on the islands, and the king penguin, home to 700,000 breeding pairs; half the world’s population.[10] The eastern rockhopper penguin also can be found, and there is a small colony of gentoo penguins. There is also an endemic subspecies of the duck Eaton’s pintail. Other birds include black-faced sheathbills, petrels, and albatross, including the wandering albatross.

Mammals living on the Crozet Islands include fur seals, and southern elephant seals. Killer whales have been observed preying upon the seals. The transient killer whales of the Crozet Islands are famous for intentionally beaching (and later un-stranding) themselves while actively hunting the islands’ breeding seal population. This is a very rare behaviour, most often seen in the Patagonia region of Argentina, and is thought to be a learned skill passed down through generations of individual orca families.

The Crozet Islands have been a nature reserve since 1938. Introduction of foreign species (mice, rats, and subsequently cats for pest control) has caused severe damage to the original ecosystem. The pigs that had been introduced on Île des Cochons and the goats brought to Île de la Possession—both as a food resource—have been exterminated.

Another on-going concern is overfishing of the Patagonian toothfish and the albatrosspopulation is monitored. The waters of the Crozet Islands are patrolled by the French government.

In popular culture

A 2012 French film, Les Saveurs du Palais, begins and ends with scenes in the Crozet Islands. The film’s protagonist, a grandmotherly chef from the Périgord region of France who signed on as cook for the research station, had once been the personal chef to President François Mitterrand.

In the 1978 novel Desolation Island, the fifth book in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey–Maturin series, the fictional frigate HMS Leopard is severely damaged in battle in the southwestern Indian Ocean. The crew attempts to make landfall for repairs on one of the Crozet Islands. But they miss the island and continue to drift towards the east, unable to reverse direction.

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Day 94

Noon Position: 46 45S  47 02E

Course/Speed: E7

Wind: NW20

Sail: Big Genoa, poled out (damn but it looks huge)

Bar: 1014

Sea: NW6

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 57

Water Temp: 45

Miles last 24-hours: 159 (I set ships clock back an hour, so this was a 23-hour day)

Longitude Miles Made Good: 147

Miles since departure: 12,770

Yesterday, Valentine’s Day, my wife posted an article on this site remembering warmly how things began for the two of us and what we have in common, even when proximity is not one of those things. Meanwhile, from the other side of the planet, her adventuresome husband posted an article about … the weather.

I have made the Figure 8 as public as possible, yet I still struggle with the sharing of things I hold as private, especially those things that are difficult and private, like my feelings about being away from my wife so frequently and for so long.

She’s earned the appellation “Best Wife in the World” for letting me go because it’s the one thing no cruiser I meet can comprehend, that I am off on a solo sail *and* am happily married to a woman who is not with me. When I tell the story, I credit that we met later in life (I was 40); we had our careers and our passions in order, that we don’t have the responsibility of children, that Jo comes from a sailing family, so understands (though does not share) the desire to explore exotic places by boat, and that I talked about my blue-water inclinations on the first date.

But the other half of that story is that my wife is an enabler. For some reason I can’t explain, she believes people *should* pursue their passions, and she is quite happy to push them over the starting line–shove in some cases–even when it appears to be to her disadvantage. Who knows if I would have quit a good job in San Francisco to cruise the Pacific if Jo hadn’t, on one of our hikes, said, “Do it–or quit talking about it!    ” Or if, later, I would have launched from Mexico for Tahiti-and-beyond instead of Hawaii-and-home if, when I proposed the plan that would have me gone an extra year, she hadn’t said, “I think you should do that.”

So lucky me…I get to go. But when I go, I’m gone, and there’s the rub. Some of it is a sense of guilt for abandoning my manly responsibilities–delivering morning coffee, taking out the trash, weeding the yard, cleaning the gutters, unstopping the plumbing, jump-starting the car. But mostly it’s the company I miss, our walks, our long conversations at the dinner table, and the life we have built together that is put on hold when I let go the dock lines.

What I want to to express is simply that adventuring, for me, is emotionally complicated. I am fortunate beyond measure to be able to do what I’ve dreamed. Do I wish, at this moment, that I was at home mowing the lawn instead of watching a Storm Petrel dance at wave-top at 47 degrees south? No. Do I question my motives when there is a big blow bearing down on Mo and me that I’m not sure how to manage–when the risks of this reward loom? Yes.

And when the sea is its obsidian-blue and crashing, when trains of waves roam like immortal giants, when Orion rises right over the mast and the Southern Cross is still there to starboard, when the wild albatross glides in from afar, when the horizon is open and flecked with white in all directions, seemingly to infinity, when a day on the ocean feels like I am seeing the world truly and for the first time … do I still miss my wife? Yes.

Mail service being spotty mid ocean, I woke early on Valentine’s Day and pulled a card from my stash, composed a brief note, took pictures of the cover and the note, and emailed these to Jo. It was bitter-sweet, expressing affection for this woman I will not see for another six months. It heightened the sense of seperation rather than a sense of connection. But it also gave me pleasure to think she might feel warmed by the thoughts, and it fulfilled a duty that I enjoy fulfilling.

And then I utterly forgot to tell you about it.

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Day 93

Noon Position: 46 33S  43 26E

Course/Speed: E7

Wind: W20+

Sail: Twin headsails poled out

Bar: 1015

Sea: W8

Sky: Clear

Cabin Temp: 54

Water Temp: 42

Miles last 24-hours: 176

Longitude Miles Made Good: 162

Miles since departure: 12,611

The difficulties of the night have been balanced out by the joys of the day. In the night, wind came into the middle 30s, and I struggled to get the twin headsails reefed right down without putting undo strain on sheets and the poles. When I went to bed, it was with the feeling that things still weren’t at their best.

But the morning came on clear and sunny. And the wind had eased. I unfurled our wings and we flew. By noon Mo had turned in another solid days run of over 170 miles and nearly 4 degrees of longitude.

Then I had a change of heart and turned Mo’s head due east…because of Rio de Janiero.

Have I mentioned, I hate Rio. I’m sure the city is lovely, but the expanse of sea just off its coast produces all the bad weather we have experienced since Ushuaia. Small, inoffensive lows that quietly sidle their way into the larger ocean pick up steam as they make their southing, and by the time they get below Cape Good Hope, they’re big and tight and roaring mad.

The one I’m referring to is at moment looking coy at 43 48S and 12 28E, but by they time it gets to my position of two days ago, winds near the center are forecast to be 50 plus. Add ten to that number is my experience.

My plan has been to make rapid northing. The target until noon was 46S and 46E at which point I’d turn east and push hard to make the top of Isle Crozet before the strong westerlies arrived. Being over the islands would allow me ample sea room to run off to the northeast if needed. It also meant that I’d get less powerful winds.

Complication. I was studying the islands this morning and the words “Antares Bank” caught my eye, an expanse of shallow water that extends a full degree north of the group. Pause for thought. Deep sea banks can cause large seas to pile up and break dangerously. One of the most famous of such banks is off Cape Horn where water shallows from several thousands of feet to a few hundred in the space of a few miles. Seas that have had the entire Pacific in which to roam are suddenly fenced in from below, and they react by shooting skyward and falling in on themselves. There is a now famous story of Miles and Beryl Smeeton who were attempting to round the Horn in their Tsu Hang and were pitchpoled due to such seas.

So, I’ve decided to go under the Crozets. The target now is some 370 miles east and just past an inconvenient shallow spot southeast of the most easterly island. If I get (and use wisely) the forecast winds between, there’s a good chance I’ll be well beyond the islands before this gift from Rio arrives.

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We were both working at OpenTable. I remember turning to Andy and saying “Wait! You have a boat? Team building activity!” Poor Andy, I was his new boss, and I don’t think he knew the tornado of energy that had descended into his life. Fortunately for both of us this tornado also understood that while I had been brought up on boats also defiantly entered a junior racing week even though I hadn’t taken a lesson or soloed a boat in my life, that other people would be on the boat and we really should have someone other than Andy to make sure we got back to the dock. This tornado was not a good backup plan if something went awry.

Who knew that bashing about the San Francisco Bay with a boat full of slightly tipsy, boisterous and bold women would manifest a date with a quiet, reflective, thoughtful and curious sailor and a loud, industrious and energetic woman.

I know we didn’t.

Heck, I know many people around us thought this was an odd match.

At the beginning, we nearly didn’t make it. At the beginning the struggle between who you wanted to be (or thought you did at the time) and who I wanted to be nearly kept us apart.

But as much as we were different there was a long list of items we both loved. Everything from the muddy trails and white sands of Kauai, to the boat that was as close to home as a boat can be. I still miss Murre. She is a part of our story.

And here we are today. It’s valentine’s day, and we’re nearly 12,000 miles apart. I checked we’re as close to the other side of the planet from each other that we can get.

Such a poetic and romantic example of why our love story works. It’s our apart that makes us work.

Happy Valentine’s Day Randall!

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Day 92

Noon Position: 47 18S  39 28E

Course/Speed: E6+

Wind: SWS 15-20

Sail: Full working jib

Bar: 1027

Sea: SW8, steep

Sky: Overcast

Cabin Temp: 50

Water Temp: 38

Miles last 24-hours: 169

Longitude Miles Made Good: 155

Miles since departure: 12,435

This morning at 8 o’clock we passed beneath Marion Island, the larger of two in the Prince Edward Island group. When I came into the pilot house early, it was evident that something had changed as bird numbers were way up, especially prions, of which there were so many one had to think in terms of flocks. At our closest we were 45 miles south of the island, so no land was visible. The day was murky; we would have had to be close-in to spy it in any case.

The increase in birdlife around us is explained by an excerpt from Wikipedia, generously supplied by David R Kelton and waiting in my inbox when I first logged on for the morning’s weather:

“At least twenty-nine different species of birds are thought to breed on the islands, and it is estimated the islands support upwards of 5 million breeding seabirds, and 8 million seabirds total. Five species of albatross are known to breed on the islands, including the wandering albatross, dark-mantled, light-mantled, Indian yellow-nosed and grey-headed albatross. The islands also host fourteen species of petrel, four species of prion, the Antarctic tern, and the brown skua, among others seabirds. Four penguin species are found, including king penguins, Eastern rockhoppers, gentoos and macaroni penguins.”

Those numbers seem fantastic for islands, the largest of which is barely six miles across, but breeding sea birds are not usually particular about square footage.

Some of the first surveys of sea birds on these and many of the Southern Ocean islands were conducted, not by government or a university, but by a private citizen named Gerry Clark, this in the late 80s and in a small boat he built himself.

“I love the sea. I love birds. I love adventure,” writes Gerry, “In what better way could I indulge myself in my latter years than to undertake an expedition in the great Southern Ocean,” an expedition called THE TOTORORE VOYAGE.

Gerry owned an apple farm in New Zealand, where he built his 33 foot TOTORORE and set out, at the age of 55, to establish a base-line of seabird populations, then unknown, on the little-explored, remote and practically inaccessible islands of the Southern Ocean. The story is harrowing and brave and includes two dismastings, severe boat icing, and many other survival situations. It must rate as one of the most daring small boat voyages ever to succeed.

I switched to the twins at noon, as wind has come more into the west, and spent much of the afternoon “tuning” them in an ever increasing wind. We race tonight in winds touching 30. Mo hums when she surfs down the short, steep swell. Feels right on the edge.

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Day 91

Noon Position: 48 11S  35 41E

Course/Speed: ENE7

Wind: SW20

Sail: Working jib out full

Bar: 1015

Sea: SW7

Sky: CLEAR!

Cabin Temp: 47

Water Temp: 39

Miles last 24-hours: 171

Longitude Miles Made Good: 163 (We made 4 degrees of longitude–only the second time so far.)

Miles since departure: 12,266

Mo’s motion woke me at dawn. Winds had backed into the southwest, driving the boat north and Mo lurched and shoved her way into a sea leftover from yesterday’s blow. I gybed to the northeast and that eased things.

I had thought to return to my bunk but was awake though it was just 5am. The day came on clear and sunny. I had a coffee and then another and then began to lay out into the cockpit my ever increasing collection of wet things, gloves, socks, shoe insoles, hats, fleeces, galley towels, floor mats, even my sheepskin boots that “never go on deck” needed airing. The sun was strong and wind was strong, but the cold (the cabin never got above 48 today) meant things dried slowly. Then a sneaker wave slapped Mo’s flank, sending spray over the entire aft half of the boat. Everything was soaked. My second layout out of wet things was more strategic.

Winds had eased some by mid morning, so I went to full sail and we flew, dancing on the edge of control but never quite sliding out of it. Monte gave me a wink. We were all having fun.

All morning I worked on deck because I could; and I went without my foulie jacket because I could, but when I finally came below for a pot of oatmeal, I was on the verge of shivering. My hands tingled from the cold.

Yesterday was our 30th day at sea since departing Ushuaia on January 12th. I’d like to say that after 30 days sailing at 47 degrees south and below, I am finally comfortable and in the groove. But I am not. There is too much raw power down here for one to settle in. One is constantly anticipating future days and weathers or cruising the deck for gear that is on the verge of failure.

Today the lashings on Monte’s control lines let go without warning, this after 10,000 trouble-free miles. The cover on the main halyard has chafed where it rubbed against the running backstays during the last blow. The poles have begun to work back and forth in their mast socket, and thus far I’ve not been able to stop them. The use down here is hard use; the lows are one after the other.

At times one can resent the birds that are so perfectly adapted to this environment. Even the tiny storm petrel, hardly the size of a mouse, is running at wave-top during the heaviest of weathers, while I and my tank labor on.

But that resentment is balanced by the fact of seeing them at all, and with my own eyes, of watching Mo crest a wave beyond imagining, and another, of experiencing this inconceivable world.

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Day 90

Noon Position: 48 55S 31 41E

Course/Speed: NE7

Wind: W30, gusts to 40

Sail: Storm Jib

Bar: 1002

Sea: NW12

Sky: Clear

Cabin Temp: 50

Water Temp: 41

Miles last 24-hours: 150

Longitude Miles Made Good: 141

Miles since departure: 12,095

The front, dark and heavy, moved through with rain, but not much more wind than we’d had. That was at 6pm. Two hours later I put the storm jib back up. Winds had moved to a steady 30 knots and the barometer was still dropping. By midnight you could feel that the weather was on us by the roar in the rigging. The wind gauge oscillated 20 – 40 knots, due west. A note in the log fron 1am says, “Wind ranges are stunning. Blowing 17 to 45 now but the running average is 35-40. One gust to 50 so far.” At 2am I thought I’d seen what this blow had in mind. I’d not touched the storm jib sheet or Monte’s control lines in several hours, so I hit the sack.

The morning came on clear and wind howled. The sea, now mature, ran high from the west with smaller trains from the southwest and northwest. Mo got shoved around as if she weighed like a bird.

In the late afternoon, the wind began to ease, and then the swell stood up and started to break. This is the dangerous time, and I was keen not to repeat the knockdown Mo and I experienced in the Pacific back in December at a similar point in that gale. That event happened at night, so what the dynamics were, in fact, are not to be known, but I think I was pushing a course that put the boat too beam onto one of trains.

Here we had a dominant west and a smaller northwest swell, and the later was again beam on. I adjusted Monte as best I could, trying to take the west swell a little to port without being even with the northwest train. This mostly worked. A few seas caught Mo just out of step but only one broke bodily onto her, pushing her over and (somehow) opening a galley cupboard. The contents, dishes, flatware, and that evening’s beer, flew toward the head. The can of beer exploded against the bulkhead. One dish fragmented into a million pieces; I know because I had to lift them from the floor by hand, having misplaced the dustpan. No water in the boat.

Now it is evening and the sea is down. The working jib is out and pulling and we make a happy 7 knots in a 25 knot breeze.

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Day 89

Noon Position: 49 22S 28 14E

Course/Speed: E5

Wind: N20-25

Sail: Staysail and main

Bar: 987

Sea: NW10

Sky: Drizzle and Fog

Cabin Temp: 51

Water Temp: 40

Miles last 24-hours: 109

Longitude Miles Made Good: 83

Miles since departure: 11,945

South, south the wind keeps pushing us until we bottom out at 49 23S at 10amf. The fog is inescapable, and even the birds have given up and gone elsewhere. Not a soul down here but us.

Then ever so slowly the wind turns into the north and hardens, first to 20, then 30, then 35.

We are still close hauled to make a little better than east. I reef the main once, twice, three times; then the jib. Finally I change to the small orange staysail and main with three reefs. That is comfortable and fast.

Seas are steep and break readily. Water everywhere. When on the foredeck on all fours letting go the staysail gaskets, I break a cardinal rule, which says never stick your leg out toward the weather rail. A sea climbs aboard and into my foulies to the knee, then back down into my boot. Lucky–left leg only. Another time a sneaker wave throws me bodily against the shrouds. Water down my front. I’m wet all over.

By 3pm I’ve seen 38 and 40 on the meter where the forecast calls for a flat 30. We are too fast at 8 knots and I don’t know where this wind is going. I drop the main and button her up for a blow. This is a task in a big sea, dropping the heavy boom to its crutch without losing control, lashing the cradle cover where the main likes to blow out in higher winds. It takes a solid hour. Now we are running under staysail only.

As reward for our hard work, winds drop to 25 and the sky is clears. Our speed, 4 knots. We wallow.

I am beat. I have lunch, a can of tomato soup with a can of whole fish bought in Ushuaia. Then I go back on deck, drop the staysail and let out half the working jib and again make a course east at a respectable speed.

The sun makes the sea sharp and clear. Above it, now, are Albatross, count them, six, eight, ten. Black browed, gray headed and Wandering.

Sail set, I go below, change into dry clothes and nap lightly for two hours.

Sundown. Winds are easting a bit and have pushed a little south into our course. To weather, a dark mass. Phase two approaches…