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February 28, 2019

Day 147

Noon Position: 46 44S  138 22W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): Up/Down and Sideways…

Wind(t/tws): SW to NW 9

Sea(t/ft): W 2

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 1025

Cabin Temp(f): 64

Water Temp(f): 53

Relative Humidity(%): 59

Sail: Twin headsails poled out

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 88

Miles since departure: 20,205

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 90

Miles since Cape Horn: 12,564

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 09

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 290 11

Avg. Long./Day: 3.22

Day ninety in the Roaring Forties demonstrates that the forties do not roar every day.

Overnight we were becalmed. When the WHAP WHAP of the main is continual and invading one’s dream, then it’s time to put the dear out of her misery. I lowered sail at 3am. We drifted until dawn.

The variability of wind direction this morning has been stunning. I set the poles early, when the wind suggested it might be from the west for a time. And then I let Mo go her own way–dead downwind–whatever that might be–until noon. This photo of the chart plotter tells the tale.

The calm gave me a chance to shoot a short video report, the first in quite a while…

https://youtu.be/32ShI6FColI

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February 27, 2019

Day 146

Noon Position: 46 43s  140 30W

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxS 25

Sea(t/ft): W 7

Sky: Towering cumulus and squalls

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1020+

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 55

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: Working jib poled starboard, main out to port. Broad reach.

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

Miles since departure: 20,117

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 89

Miles since Cape Horn: 12,476

Avg. Miles/Day:

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 32

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 288 02

Avg. Long./Day: 3.24

Twenty-thousand miles sailed since departing San Francisco in October of last year, the equivalent of traveling that city to New York city ten times over. It seems a big number. Also, it seems *just* a number, one of many to be appreciated briefly as we pass.

Last night, I found Arcturus, a star I think of as belonging to the northern sky.

2am. I’m on deck launching the starboard pole for the working genoa. Winds are moderating and backing quickly; the sky is clear, and without her moon, dark, save for the pinpoints of pale, blue light.

Rare it is that I see such sights from the roaring forties. I’m on deck at night in all types of foul weather, but if it’s fair, I’m probably sleeping.

With sail trimmed and taut, I paused to inspect my surroundings. To the west, Orion was setting, and Leo had shifted into Orion’s start-of-the-night position. The Southern Cross tilted high above Mo’s starboard bow. Corvus hung in the sky to port.

And then there it was, a solitary bright light near the NE horizon. Arcturus, Guardian of the Bear.

It’s called that because of its proximity to the Ursas, Major and Minor, known by most of us as the Big and Little Dipper. This association is what makes Arcturus, for me, a northern star, for we follow the edge of the Big Dipper up to find Polaris, the North Star, and we take its handle down and around to Arcturus. “Arc to Arcturus and Spica” is the mnemonic.

From here, I have two paths to Arcturus. It is at the end of a line drawn from Procyon (found just off Orion’s Betelgeuse shoulder) through Leo’s Regulus and Denebola. Or I can use the small end of the constellation Corvus to find Spica and then move on to Arcturus.

It is this latter route that is the most compelling, for one can also follow the broad end of Corvus down to the Southern Cross, and thereby connect the two hemispheres using Arcturus as the hinge.

And too, there was the romance of seeing a star visible at that moment to my family at home. Joanna, I fantasized, could walk out onto the porch and gaze at a object I was also gazing at, though we are separated by over 80 degrees of latitude.

Nights have been busy of late, and sleep, erratic. Tonight will be the same. Winds will diminish and back into the south, requiring several sail adjustments in the wee hours. I’m running a bit on fumes, so tried a full-on, in-my-bunk nap this afternoon. Typically, I can fall asleep anywhere…except in my bunk during daylight hours. But I think today I was successful.

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February 26, 2019

Day 145

Noon Position: 46 38S  144 02W

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxW 11

Sea(t/ft): SW 4

Sky: Clear, the Squalls

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1016, rising slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 53

Relative Humidity(%): 67

Sail: Big genoa and main, full. Reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 122

Miles since departure: 19,971

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 88

Miles since Cape Horn: 12,330

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 58

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 284 30

Avg. Long./Day: 3.23

Can’t remember a day when I spent more time on deck.

Was reefed way down overnight. Winds were in the middle twenties from the south, which we carried foreward of the beam and plenty healed over. I had difficulty crawling out of my bunk for the routine deck inspections.

Unfortunately, wind didn’t hold into the day. I launched the big genoa after coffee, but we were soon overtaken by squalls, which required I spend the entire morning on deck easing the main as a troll lumbered over us and reeling it back in as it passed. Every hour velocities changed as much as 20 knots; direction, as much as 90 degrees. Busy time, but I was unwilling to take in the big sails. We needed the speed.

In fairness, it was a lovely day for such exercises. The sky that was not squally contained cottonball cumulus gliding over a cobalt sea, and plenty of sun shone on my many wet things spread on deck to dry.

The afternoon has continued the variability theme, but without the trolls. Things are steadier. But to windward looks ragged. I think it may be a busy night.

I found these notes on the cabin sole this morning…

WESTERLIES FOR BREAKFAST

Monte and Randall are seated at a diner. A waitress approaches.

Waitress: (to Monte) What can I get ya, hon?

Monte: Señora, for me, I will have the twelve-pancake-eight-bacon-six-sausage-five-potato-and-four-egg-fry-up-Dura-Breakfast. With a small side of spinach.

Waitress: So, the number three for you?

Monte: No, one only. And an espresso.

Waitress: (yelling to the kitchen) Mac, we got an espresso machine?

Mac: (pointing) Ya, it’s right next to the milk dispenser.

Waitress: That’s an orange juice machine.

Mac: Well, if that ain’t it, Marge, then we ain’t got one.

Waitress: (to Monte) Mac says the espresso machine is out for repairs.

Monte: Then I’ll have a Madeira.

Waitress: (to Randall) And you, hon, what do you want this morning?

Randall: I just want westerlies. Westerlies at 20 to 30.

Waitress: Lately those westerlies come with a lotta north or a lotta south. Do you have a preference?

Randall: Ya, I don’t want any north or south; I just want west.

Waitress: So no north or south. (yelling) Hey Mac, can we hold the north and south on those westerlies?

Mac: Marge, you see me open a fresh can of westerlies every morning.

Waitress: (to Randall) Sorry, Mac says the westerlies are individually wrapped in north and south for baking. Can’t be separated. Would ruin the whole dish. They’re imported from France.

Monte: (raises his glass of Madeira ) Ah, the French!

Mac: Can says it’s from Hoboken, Marge!

Waitress: Mac says they’re made in a small village near the sea.

Monte: It always reminds me of home, that village.

Waitress: And I should tell ya, the brand we use has a fair bit of light wind too. In fact, I served a westerly last week and the customer found a big fat becalmed right in the middle of it. Some people go for that kind of thing. Ok with you?

Randall: Na, skip it. I’ll have a boiled egg and a black coffee.

Monte: (slyly) Señora, when you bring me the check, it is ok to set it next to him. I’ll reach for it later.

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February 25, 2019

Day 144

Noon Position: 46 36S 147 00W

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 18

Sea(t/ft): NW 12

Sky: Stratus, Rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1003, rising slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 55

Relative Humidity(%): 88

Sail: Working jib, two reefs (we’re just coming out of the night’s gale).

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 162

Miles since departure: 19,845

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 87

Miles since Cape Horn: 12,208

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 50

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 281 32

Avg. Long./Day: 3.24

Monte: (at the helm, yelling over the roar of wind in the rigging) Senior, what good is this, your forecast, if it will not foretell the weather?

Randall: (at the mast struggling to douse the main. It’s raining hard, too.) I dunno, Monte. Kinda busy at moment. Can you ease her into the wind a bit?

Monte: In my day, we look over the rail, and if the wind is blowing up a gale, we call it a gale. Like now. This one is good. See, clearly, it is a gale. But your forecast calls for little wind, and only when it blows big does it say, “Oh, yes, now you should expect a gale.” I say it is nothing more than Ocustpocust, your forecast. Did you say something?

Randall: I think you mean hocus-pocus…

Monte: I know what I mean, Senior. I too have read your history. Ocustpocust was the American Indian fortune teller who helped your Lewis and Clark to voyage across America many years ago.

Randall: I think that was Sacagawea. She…  I mean really, could you ease Mo into the wind a bit? It would help me unstick the main batten from that spreader.

Monte: No, Senior, Sacagawea was the mother of Pocahontas. She was from a much earlier period. What was that you want again?

Randall: Ease the damned helm a bit, man! Can’t you see what I’m about? And no, I am quite certain Sacagawea was the guide for the Lewis and Clark Expedition!

Monte: (Eases the helm.) OH, ah, well, “expedition” you say? I thought you meant the Lewis and Clark *Voyage.* If you will recall, that was something else entirely. So maybe you are right about Sacagawea. But then who was Ocustpocust?

Within an hour of my stating in yesterday’s report that I would leave the main up overnight, it was down and wrapped. Winds were 35 and 40, not the foretold 25 to 30. I sat up with the gale until 4am. I was uneasy given the wind strength, the deviation from prediction, and that we were slicing across what must be a growing sea, hidden by absolute dark. It was a loud, rough ride, but Mo plowed solidly forward.

Only with the coming light did winds ease, allowing me to grab a couple hours in my bunk. Not quite long enough for feet to come back to body temperature. After coffee, I pulled the 8pm (previous night) forecast. THAT called for the higher winds, but a good several hours after we were experiencing them.

I cannot complain overly. I rely on these forecasts, and they are more right than wrong. They gave me warning of the coming low and allowed me time to position Mo into a less difficult quadrant. Still, I wouldn’t mind if they had been right about the wind speed and duration.

Rain lasted until noon, but there was too much spray over the boat early to think of catching it. I only rigged the hose and bottle at 11am. Caught two gallons. That brings total capture to 34 gallons. Not enough. By calculation, there are only 22 gallons left in the foreward tank.

By early afternoon, wind had done an about face and was blowing 25 from the south. Confused seas. Confused skipper. Took an hour to tack Mo around, to move sheets and running backs; to roll up and then unroll the working jib.

But we are back to a good speed … and heading due east.

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February 24, 2019

Day 143

Noon Position: 46 05S  150 50W

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

Wind(t/tws): NW 24 – 28 (steady 30 within two hours)

Sea(t/ft): NW 6

Sky: Alto and cirro cumulus. A mackerel sky.

10ths Cloud Cover: 6

Bar(mb): 1011, falling slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): 57

Relative Humidity(%): 77

Sail: Triple reef in both main and working jib. Reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 165

Miles since departure: 19,687

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 86

Miles since Cape Horn: 12,046

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 57

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 277 42

Avg. Long./Day: 3.23

We’re riding the edge. Typically by the time winds hit 30 knots, I’ve dropped even a triple reefed main. But I don’t think 30 will last long, and I want to push us. The faster we go, the longer we stay in this wind and the further ahead of the NEXT low we get.

But it’s bloody uncomfortable. The sea is running bouldery, steep and smack on the beam. Mo is healed way over, and she heaves in a way that makes one defer anything but the most basic and necessary of tasks. Even reading is difficult; after ten minutes my head is a bowl of scrambled eggs. And with the decks awash, I’m essentially trapped inside unless making sail changes.

On the plus side, we’re making good time. Two days now of over 150 miles; this should be the third. We need it. The next low and the next are right on our track and they look some serious business.

Hard to believe it’s nearly March, at the end of which I will have been at sea a full six months.

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February 23, 2019

Day 142

Noon Position: 46 11S  154 47W

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

Wind(t/tws): NW 19 – 24

Sea(t/ft): NW 6

Sky: Overcast; altostratus

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1016+

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): 59

Relative Humidity(%): 74

Sail: Working jib and main, double reefed; wind 10 degrees forward of the beam.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 154

Miles since departure: 19,522

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 85

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,811

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 43

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 273 45

Avg. Long./Day: 3.22

I’ll admit I’m not fond of days like this. Mo is fast again, but on her ear and shoveling water as if it were free. One is fully kitted on deck or he begs to get dunked. The sky is a pasty, impenetrable gray; the water, slate, and filling the gap between these is but a dim, cold light.

We are running, not for the fun of it, not for the joy alone of speed, but rather to get ahead of a deep low slicing down from the north. Now and for many days the lows will deliver nothing but hard north wind. They are a chaos of oblong shapes, and their trajectories are always the bitter end of the world as quickly as possible, as if suddenly the Coriolis force has ceased.

How many gales have we ridden out? I’ve lost count. But I still get anxious in the run up to a blow. What will we find? How will I handle the challenge? What will happen?

After lunch, I pulled down David Lewis’s ICE BIRD and opened to a random page. “The notes for 7 November contain one entry,” writes Lewis at the outset of his attempt to circumnavigate Antarctica below 60S, “‘All that I need for this trip is courage–and that I possess only in very small measure.'”

Mo and I are approaching the exit gate for these waters, but I still feel that way. Risk and danger are close. Confidence is ever illusive. Fear is the companion.

I spent the day before a blow in the usual way. I cleaned. The galley, the head, the pilot house. It’s not as though I don’t clean except at the approach of strong weather, but I pay special attention then. One less thing to worry about.

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February 22, 2019

Day 141

Noon Position: 46 25S  158 30W

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

Wind(t/tws): NW 14

Sea(t/ft): NW 2

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 1021, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 73

Water Temp(f): 59

Relative Humidity(%): 68

Sail: Working jib and main, full; reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 123

Miles since departure: 19,368

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 84

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,727

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 45

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 270 02

Avg. Long./Day: 3.21

Winds went light overnight, and we were back to the slatting sails game by dawn. I poled out the working jib before coffee; we went wing and wing for a time. That helped.

Sunup came bright on cobalt blue water and the ocean opened like a flower. The warm breeze carried a scent of spice into the cabin. The cloudless sky seemed a vast, pale, edgeless desert hung above the softly undulating desert below it. From Mo’s still decks, I felt like we towered above the water; I could see forever. Like when the trade winds begin to fade, but before the squalls move in.

I’m in shirtsleeves rolled above my elbows. My forearms are getting sun for the first time since… Since… Well, now, I don’t recall…

At 47S!

It has been warm and summery for days, since New Zealand, I think. And winds have been mostly lighter than one would expect. Very nice, and also very strange. I have to pinch myself. No, these are not the middle latitudes. That bird there is not a Tropic bird–it is an Albatross. Don’t go soft on me. Not here. Leave the ukulele in its case another month or two.

Still, a  fantastic sailing day. A northwesterly in the teens and on the beam. Full working sail. And we churn out the miles.

By now I’ve got about as much northing as I want. We’re in a zone where the weather forecasts calls for 30 knot winds late Saturday, touching 35 on Sunday. Better than 40. So, we’ve leveled off and are heading due east again.

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February 21, 2019

Day 140

Noon Position: 47 13S  161 15W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): E 3

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 6 – 7

Sea(t/ft): W 2

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 1023+, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 70

Water Temp(f): 58

Relative Humidity(%): 62

Sail: Working jib poled to port, main to starboard.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 79

Miles since departure: 19,245

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 83

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,604

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 55

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 267 17

Avg. Long./Day: 3.22

Wind slowly withdrew in the night. It was enough to sail on when the moon came up full, yellow at first and then milk white, but by early morning, I could hear the main’s rhythmic slatting on the minimal sea, a sure sign. On deck, not a breath. I dropped the complainer and rolled in the forbearing but equally useless genoa at 4am and slept in utter stillness until sunrise.

Becalmed. There is something delicious about it. The world is not rushing by but stopped, there for your unhurried observation. You can look down into the water if you choose and see new detail. Or to the horizon, where, today, I saw flashes of white, specs of breaking water–a far off school of dolphins on the hunt. And the quiet–a palpable relief. It is delicious being becalmed, unless you have some place to be.

In our case, we have an appointment with Cape Horn and a very serious bit of strong weather, due here in two days, to outrun. A wafting variable came up with the sun, so I unrolled the poled-out number one genoa and let us “drift sail” at two knots while I worked.

The work was important and began before breakfast. This would be our only chance for the foreseeable future to loft the repaired genoa. Honestly, I wasn’t quite ready; there was one last seam to stitch, and I’d broken my last drilling needle. (At the suggestion of a friend, I was using needles to prep holes in the sail rather than a drill bit, which kept the sail fabric intact). A replacement had to be fashioned from a filed-down hand-stitch needle. It was too frail for the job and only lasted five passes before it broke. But five passes were enough.

Then the spare genoa had to be dropped and folded, that latter reference being the tricky bit on a rolling deck, and stowed in the anchor locker. Then the repaired sail had to be hauled on deck. Here we ran into serious problems: the sail jammed in the companionway hatch and refused to budge. Only after repeated block and tackle runs did it finally give, falling into the cockpit and jamming the tiller. I lugged it to the foredeck; hauled it up. And that was that.

While I’d rather the sail had not needed repair, the job was an interesting one, and it gave me a deeper appreciation of my primary working genoa . The attention to detail is remarkable, and the major reinforcements at the clew, tack and “reef” points are still so stiff, the sail practically refuses to fold.

A light wind has filled in this afternoon. My new course is ENE; the goal, something around 46S by late Saturday, when the big low begins to drop in. That should give us better purchase.

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February 20, 2019

Day 139

Noon Position: 47 10S  163 10W

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxW 13

Sea(t/ft): W 3

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1023

Cabin Temp(f): 66

Water Temp(f): 59

Relative Humidity(%): 80

Sail: Twin headsails poled out.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 159

Miles since departure: 19,166

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 82

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,525

Avg. Miles/Day: 141

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 53

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 264 22

Avg. Long./Day: 3.22

A nice day’s run. Overnight, we edged further north than I intended. I had wanted to stay down below 47 and a half S so as to avoid some of the coming windless blob. But the forecast late yesterday suggested we’d have to south it all the way down to 49S just to have 4 knots of wind. So, I gave up on escaping the blob and let Mo run at an angle fastest for her.

We may be stuck for as much as a day.

Rain in the early morning gave way to drizzle, which gave way to a low and gray and wet-looking sky that didn’t give way to anything until late afternoon. When the barometer finally got up to 1024, wind and cloud began to evaporate. Clear skies for a time. A lovely orange sunset.

I noted some unusual chafe on the main halyard today. Months ago we went through a spell when it was getting stuck up in the air. It took me several passes of that very inconvenient situation to realize that the halyard was kinking at the masthead sheave. Since then I’ve been careful to keep the line running free and easy. But still, it looks from the chafe like I’ve not been entirely successful. I cut the worn piece out after lunch.

Wind now is very light. I raised the main as the breeze moved from dead aft to the starboard quarter, but as the #2 poled to port didn’t collapse in the wind shadow, I’ve left it flying as well. We scoot along at 5 and 6 knots in 9 to 12 knots of wind.

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February 19, 2019

Day 138.

Noon Position: 47 26S  167 03W

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

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 14 – 16

Sea(t/ft): NW 3

Sky: Stratus with some drizzle

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1019+, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 70

Water Temp(f): 56

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: Main and working jib, full. Wind on port beam.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 131

Miles since departure: 19,007

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 81

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,366

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 12

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 260 29

Avg. Long./Day: 3.22

Today we crossed the 168th meridian of west longitude. Cape Horn resides at the 68th meridian. One hundred meridians to go.

The poles came down at sunup and the main went up. Wind started to veer north in the wee hours, but it was light and our speeds, low; so I let Mo wonder while I slept. With day, we’ve done well. Wind has been abeam and in the middle teens for much of it. Mo clocked 44 miles in the six hours after noon (7.3 knots an hour) and all without breaking a sweat.

During our shot of morning sun, prions swarmed near the boat, swooping and diving in such a mass that I could’t follow the motions of one without losing it in the others. Then I noticed a large group of prions some ways off sitting on the water and facing Mo. As she passed, they ascended, flew a few hundred yards forward and alighted together, facing us. As Mo passed, they flew forward again and alighted. They did this for a solid ten minutes before I gave up watching.

A heavy deck of cloud slid in before noon and has covered us with such darkness I have been temped to put on my headlamp to move around the cabin. Now, drizzle and wind has hardened to over 20 knots.

I’ve spent much of the day reading about alternators.

In the afternoon, a lemon pound cake found its way into and out of the oven. I sliced off a warm end piece by way of testing my success, and next thing I knew, a third of the cake was gone. It just vanished.

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February 187, 2019

Day 136

Noon Position: 47 16S  173 45W

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 20 – 30

Sea(t/ft): W 10

Sky: Cumulus and squall clouds

10ths Cloud Cover: 7

Bar(mb): 1009+, steady. The bar has been between 1010 and 1008 for three days.

Cabin Temp(f): 60

Water Temp(f): 60

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: Twins poled out, heavily reefed. Running dead down wind.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 162

Miles since departure: 18,734

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 79

Miles since Cape Horn: 11,093

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 56

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 253 47

Avg. Long./Day: 3.21

Brisk winds with squalls continue. Nights have been kind; wind and seas have been steady, allowing good sleep. But the days are a wild card of open sky followed by squalls, then open sky again. The open sky episodes blow hard. The squalls blow hard, but wind is quite variable. Thus, I’ve had to reef the twin headsails way in for the sake of energy conservation. It’s either that or sit on deck with a winch handle in my hand all day.

It feels good to be on the move again. Already we are 800 miles east of The Snares. Cape Horn is less than 4,000 miles on a rhumb line course to Diego Ramirez. We could do that in a month with fast wind.

Sadly, even below 47S we are not immune to calms, which will overtake us by tomorrow.

My biggest concern at moment is a hurricane coming down from Vanuatu by way of Australia’s east coast. The forecast suggests it will impact New Zealand in a week, jump it entirely, and then move into the South Pacific. At that point, it won’t be a hurricane any longer, but it will still be a storm I’d like to avoid. I’m pushing to be well east of it. Winds over the next six days are not entirely favorable for that strategy.

On that note, have you noticed the water temperature? Today both air and water were 60 degrees at noon. That seems incredibly warm for down here.

Sail repair has taken the better part of the last three days but is nearly done. One last row is all that’s required.

I had hoped for a neat job, but it’s turned into a bit of a Frankenstein with stitches going every which way. Sewing is just not something I do often enough to have an approach.

Broke two heavy awl needles (of three) and drilled one clean through my left middle finger.

But I think the result is strong. Time will tell. Maybe relaunch the sail this week. I’m eager to put it back in play.

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February 16 (again), 2019

Day 135 (again)

Noon Position: 47 07S  177 42 *WEST*

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

Wind(t/tws): WxS 25 (to 35 in squalls)

Sea(t/ft): W7

Sky: Squalls till about noon

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1009+, Steady

Cabin Temp(f): 64

Water Temp(f): 56

Relative Humidity(%): 59

Sail: #2 free footed to port; #1 poled out to starboard. About half rolled.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 152

Miles since departure: 18,572

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 78

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,931

Avg. Miles/Day: 140

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 44

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 249 51

Avg. Long./Day: 3.2

Last night before midnight, Mo crossed the 180th meridian and passed from east longitude back into west longitude. More interestingly, from a balance sheet perspective, we crossed the International Date Line, which makes today February 16, again.

What is the International Date Line? It’s the day I get to take my miles back!

I keep Mo on zone time at sea, the same kind of time we live by on land. There are 24 one-hour zones distributed equally around the globe at 15 degree intervals, which means that in order to stay on zone time, I have been moving ship’s clock forward by one hour every 4 – 6 days. For a sailor who is trying to maximize his daily averages, those 23-hour days are deeply aggravating. They make Mo look slower than she is.

Well, today is the day I get to balance the books. Because I have been adding an hour at equal intervals all the way around the world, I am now a day ahead and am in danger of arriving in port (somewhere) thinking that it’s today when, in fact, it’s yesterday. So, by custom, travelers crossing the International Date Line from west to east, as we are doing, relive the day they just left, and those going the opposite direction lose a day.

So, today is February 16, again, and it’s my 135th day at sea, again, which has put my daily averages back into respectable territory.

Of course, clocking 152 miles in the last 24 hours didn’t hurt either.

Blustery with squalls till noon. Winds: 19 – 29 with gusts to 35 and more when the trolls passed overhead. Dash on deck; sheet in; twenty minutes later, sheet out. Repeat. This kept me from the alternator and Wattsy tests (too rough, too active), so, I focused on the #2 clew webbing and got about half sewn up. I won’t win any prizes for my work, but it looks strong.

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February 16, 2019

Day 135

Noon Position: 47 15S  178 34E

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxW 17 – 24

Sea(t/ft): W5

Sky: Cumulus and Squalls

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1009+, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 64

Water Temp(f): 59 (incredibly warm…we’re at 47S)

Relative Humidity(%): 66

Sail: Twin headsails; #2 to port and free; #1 to starboard and pole out.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 127

Miles since departure: 18,420

Avg. Miles/Day: 136

Days since Cape Horn: 78

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,779

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3.16

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 246 07

Avg. Long./Day: 3.16

A slow night has given way to a fast day. Rain in the morning. Then squalls till mid afternoon. Then puffy cumulus as the wind hardened into the middle 30s from the WSW. This surprised me, that the low would come with cumulus and not the solid deck and rain one expects. But as I type, the sky astern has grown dark and heavy. Now comes the low.

We are entering that part of the voyage where gear fatigue and wear has begun to show on multiple fronts, and each day, skipper must focus on keeping his ship together.

Today a knocking in Monte’s pinion gear caught my eye. Investigation showed that my bushing jury rig from a month ago needed a refresher. The forward bushing was worn by well over half and slipping out the front of the unit. Cutting one to shape and fitting it in place was no big job, but I have six new bushings left. Will they be enough?

Two days ago was spent opening, inspecting and cleaning all Wattsy (Watt and Sea Hydrogenerator) connections. Wattsy has started to drop amps during his charge cycles and all indications are its due to a fault in the line. I found no fault. Wattsy is essential. Will he last?

Yesterday I began troubleshooting the irregular failures in the engine alternator. Through the magic of internet introductions, I am being coached by a Chris Harris of Tweeds Marine in Christchurch, New Zealand, a man I didn’t know before three days ago. This unlikely arrangement came about when my friend, Gerd, posted a question for me on one of his forums, and Chris responded with specific and incisive questions. Chris is an electrical engineer who has worked with the likes of Skip Novak and Magnus Day; what good fortune! So far, no dead-ringer cause has been uncovered, but I am learning a great deal about the engine charging system.

Today, while I wait for Chris to digest the results of the alternator tests, I began work on the HOOD #2 sail that has been seated at the salon table this last week. Sewing is not something I take to, but with the help of The Speedy Sewing Awl, a mother-in-law gift from ages ago, progress is being made. This is the most intimate contact I’ve had with this sail since installing it on the bow in 2017, and the more I work with it, the more I am surprised at the clew webbing failure, because everything on it is finely and ruggedly constructed in the extreme. I’m eager to get it flying again.

Except for the engine alternator, all the above items have been in near constant use this and last circumnavigation, and have spent months in one of the most challenging sailing environments on the planet. I’m not surprised we’re seeing failures. It’s just that success requires these failures find fixes.

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February 15, 2019

Day 134

Noon Position: 47 20S  175 26E

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

Wind(t/tws): WSW 8

Sea(t/ft): W 2

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 1012+

Cabin Temp(f): 66

Water Temp(f): 57 (wow, warm)

Relative Humidity(%): 35 (wow, dry)

Sail: Twin headsails, poled; running.

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

Miles since departure: 18,293

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 77

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,652

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 33

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 242 59

Avg. Long./Day: 3.16

So slow. We haven’t had a 150-mile day in nearly two weeks. Fastest day in the last eleven, 137 miles, and that one is way ahead of the average. On four days, we’ve made less tha 100 miles. That’s more sub 100-mile days in two weeks than we’ve had since departure. The forecast predicts wind should pick up–a low is approaching, but each new forecast pushes its arrival out another day.

I’m trying to relax into it. Tough. Cape Horn ain’t getting any nicer.

Drizzly and rainy much of yesterday, but we were reaching until late afternoon. When the wind backed enough, and after the sails had had a bit of a rinse, I rigged the water catchment system to the main sail. Got two gallons before rain quit.

So far, I’ve collected 32 gallons of rain. I figure I need that much again to make it all the way north without rationing.

Since departing The Snares and The Traps, we’ve seen a number of commercial vessels on the AIS monitor. One cruise expedition ship headed for The Snares; two “bulkies”* headed round the island; a great many big (300-foot), Chinese fishing boats coasting north and south at the edge of the continental shelf.

Then, yesterday, a target popped up very close to Mo and on an intercept. That’s quite rare. Name: Evohe. Length: 82 feet. Vessel type: Sail. Oh, wait, that’s also quite rare. I’ve seen one other sailboat in the last circumnavigation and a half, and that was in the Cook Island cruising grounds.

No destination port was given.

Suddenly it struck me that the intercept was purposeful, that Evohe might also find the discovery of a Moli on her screen to be a rare thing, that she might be swinging by for a gam. Or could it be she knew of Mo and Randall and the Figure-8? She could take a few snaps as we sailed; could “report our position,” as was done in the days before satellite communications.

She was a mere four miles off, but stare as I did into the gloom, I could see no silhouette forming, no hull nor masts. The sky was too low and gray, my glasses too wet with drizzle.

I began to tidy the cabin. I cleaned the breakfast dish. I brushed my teeth, again. I exchanged my slippers for boots and put on foul weather gear.

Back at the chart plotter, I could see Evohe had made what looked like an even sharper turn toward Mo. What would she look like? An older, wooden, square rigged charter, perhaps. Or maybe she was a modern design, a sloop with one of those impossibly tall masts. I wondered where she was headed.

On deck. Still no sign of her.

We were both making slow way–Mo, a mere four knots to Evohe’s seven–so, I retrieved a bar of chocolate from the galley and sat down to wait. The chocolate, still cool from the cupboard, crunched satisfyingly. Evohe on the screen, still approaching. I folded the wrapper and set it down. I sucked my teeth. There, Evohe. Approaching. And then I nodded off.

This is the curse of the solo sailor. If he stops moving, he falls asleep.

When I woke, Evohe was well past. I dashed on deck for a look but without hope. I called on the radio, “Evohe, Evohe, sailing vessel Moli.” I called again and again and until Evohe’s target disappeared from the screen.

Only much later did I realize that Evohe’s course was direct for the Antipodes Islands and that our intercept had been random and without import, at least to her.

*Bulk cargo carriers. As opposed to container ships, for example.

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February 14, 2019

Day 133

Noon Position: 48 05S  172 54E

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

Wind(t/tws): NEE 19

Sea(t/ft): NE 5

Sky: Drizzle and Fog

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1006

Cabin Temp(f): 64

Water Temp(f): 44

Relative Humidity(%): 81

Sail: Working jib and main, deeply reefed, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 127

Miles since departure: 18,181

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 76

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,540

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 08

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 240 26

Avg. Long./Day: 3.16

No one who knows my wife, Joanna, would call her sentimental. Nor, being British, does she approve the California habit of hugging when clearly a handshake will do. She’s effusive and bubbly and extremely personable; she knows no such thing as having too many friends. But sentimentality is not her gig.

That said, on the occasion of both Figure 8 departures, Joanna has gifted me with deeply touching letters and a small collection of photos. Frankly, it has almost been worth leaving just to get such expressions of tenderness.

For the first Figure 8, I posted Jo’s letter on a bulkhead in the pilot house, where it stayed, and was often read, until the Indian Ocean knockdown, which soaked it and so much else. Its disintegration was almost as distressig as the other, far more threatening losses.

This year I got smart. I put the Figure 8 2.0 letter in a plastic bag, which I keep safe in a pilot house locker with the photos.

The photos are carefully chosen snapshots of our lives together, the trails we hike behind our house, trees in the neighborhood, Jo relaxing in the back yard, Jo having fun with her nephews, our muddy shoes after a hike in Kauai, a tree in yellow bloom we found in Hobart, a birthday card I delivered with morning coffee.

The colors I always find starteling. My world is gray–light blue, dark blue, white and gray. A sunset can be orange. A bird can be brown. These are mere accents. But happier than the shock of vibrancy are the reminders that my memories of these places and events, my memories of our lives together, are not simple invention. Those places do exist. Those happenings did occur. That woman is, in fact, there and will be there when I return.

I am grateful for that and for the reminders.

I have been sending Valentine’s Day flowers from remote places for years.

It started when MURRE (a 31-foot ketch I sailed around the Pacific in 2011 and 2012) and I were sitting out a February gale in Puerto Escondido. With a start one morning, I realized I had not made arrangements for Valentine’s day. Connectivity from the nearby village was poor, but I trekked in anyway, did a search for florists in my neighborhood, and chose a shop named Arjan Flowers, for reasons having to do with how the letter A sorts in a list.

The proprietor, a Mina Bolouri, received that day unlikely message. “My name is Randall. I’m a solo sailor writing from rural Mexico. Can you send flowers to my wife? Can this be arranged by email?”

It could.

I have used Mina ever since.

All subsequent Valentine’s Day requests have been sent from sea. Most have gone something like this message from last year: “Hi Mina. It’s Randall. I’m 1,500 miles below Africa attempting to circumnavigate Antarctica. Today we have a gale from the west. Can you send flowers to my wife?”

She could.

I’ve never met Mina. I don’t know the location of her shop. I’ve never seen one of her arrangements. Moreover, Mina has never expressed the least interest in the happenings of her nomadic client. Her responses from a Blackberry are short and efficient. She can send the flowers, and that’s that.

This year, I discovered that Mina’s email had not made the short journey from old computer to new, so many thanks to my neighbor, Mary Wildavsky, for sleuthing Mina’s contact for me.

Mina has promised to send photos of the arrangement and the shop, but today is her busy day, so these treats will have to wait.

Mina’s beautiful flower arrangement. (Sent in by Joanna)

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February 13, 2019

Day 132

Noon Position: 47 36S  169 48E

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

Wind(t/tws): NNE 17

Sea(t/ft): NE 3

Sky: Clear; thin stratus to the south

10ths Cloud Cover: 1

Bar(mb): 1009

Cabin Temp(f): 70

Water Temp(f): 55

Relative Humidity(%): 69

Sail: Working jib and main, one reef each, close reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 102

Miles since departure: 18,054

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 75

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,413

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 31

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 237 18

Avg. Long./Day: 3.21

Sunny and clear when I came on deck at 6am. Wind had slowly veered into the north overnight, but it stayed light until midmorning.

During my pre-breakfast ship inspection, I discovered there had been a drama on deck while I slept. Up near the port chainplates, I found a small clump of feathers and a white, chalky deposit. As I looked toward the stern, there were further deposits in various colors, including black and Krill red, until, at the transom, there was one last feather and the trail stopped.

My guess: in the dark of night, a storm petrel or prion collided with the rigging and fell to the deck. It then hobbled (or rolled–they can barely walk) all the way to the stern before finding freedom by falling overboard.

Technically, we entered the Pacific Ocean when we sailed out from under Tasmania. This surprised me as I consulted the chart over coffee. I had considered (and still do) that one enters the vast Pacific when he squeezes his vessel through that narrow, tempest-wracked opening between The Snares and The Traps.

And it’s not just that those features function as the gatekeepers between one ocean and the next, but weather also seems to respect that boundary. The wind we ride at this very moment is from a powerful low to the west of New Zealand that has taken a sharp turn to the south as it approaches those islands. It is diving toward Antarctica as if purposefully to avoid entering the Pacific.

In any case, Mo and I have at last passed out of the Indian Ocean and have begun the long, last leap for the Horn. Only the nearby Bounty and Antipodes Islands will interrupt our view until once again we see (or don’t see) the big, dark rock at the bottom of South America.

The Indian had worried me the most, given its reputation and our recent experience of it, but what comes next is uncharted territory for me. Last year I turned north here and was home in two months. Now we press on to the east…

I recall that Golden Globe Race sailor, Suzy Goodall, was greatly relieved to enter the Pacific just a few months ago. “The Indian Ocean was horrible,” she said. Two weeks later her boat rolled and came up without its mast. So, let’s not be lulled by the name.

Distance to Cape Horn

As of today, we’ve crossed 237 of the 360 meridians that transect the circle connecting Cape Horn to Cape Horn again. That leaves 123 meridians yet to go. If we were to stay at 47S from here, that would give us a rhumb line distance of 5,033 miles (there are 40.9 miles in a degree of longitude at 47S). Adding ten percent for bouncing up and down gives us 5,536 miles. At an average of 140 miles a day, 39 days.

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February 12, 2019

Day 131

Noon Position: 47 34S  167 18E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): –

Wind(t/tws): NNE 9

Sea(t/ft): 2

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): –

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): 56

Relative Humidity(%): –

Sail: Just getting ready to make sail

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 11

Miles since departure: 17,952

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 74

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,322

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 0 10

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 234 47

I put on the anchor light after dinner and went to bed. On an ever relaxing sea, Mo rolled with the slow grace of a cruise ship. The bunk was still; all around was quiet. Quiet. Such unaccustomed  luxury, quiet.

In the night, our drift went to the west, a safe direction, and never more than a knot. Each time I checked, the answer was the same. Sleep well.

On deck at dawn, I found we’d been overtaken by fog. The sea was like glass and the albatrosses were down, white lumps on a gray expanse, randomly distributed as if they’d fallen from the sky when the wind died and hadn’t moved since. Two or three paddled over to Mo, a hint that scraps would be welcome, but offal being in short supply aboard, no scraps were offered. This ruffled no feathers.

After coffee, I started the engine. The alternator engaged immediately. I shut the engine down and started it again. Again, the alternator came to life. Am I chasing a ghost?

In the afternoon, a light breeze. I rigged sail and we began to make way ENE. While underway, I tested Wattsy. He produced power. I took all his connections apart and cleaned them; then tested again. Same. He works at somewhat below his normal output. But he works.

Correspondence with my friends Gerd and Dustin has not yielded the one and true fix for either problem. Current thinking is that it’s a connection issue and/or that I have (how can this be?) gotten salt water on the alternator. Another friend, Matt, writes to inform me that Invercargill is no Hobart, and that if it is refreshment I seek, it might be best to keep exploring.

Because neither unit is actually dead; because more trouble shooting can be done underway; because I’m unlikely to find the fix in Invercargill; because I’m on a schedule; because we now have a light northerly; and mostly because I want to, I’m pushing on to Cape Horn…

Like being anchored in a very large bay, these last two days of calm. To the southwest, I could see a low hump, The Snares; to the northeast, another low hump, Stewart Island. I felt enclosed around–how else could one explain such flat water?

But a quick glance at the chart shows we are at sea. We have never stopped being at sea…

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February 12, 2019

Day 131

Noon Position: 47 34S  167 18E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): –

Wind(t/tws): NNE 9

Sea(t/ft): 2

Sky: Overcast

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): –

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): 56

Relative Humidity(%): –

Sail: Just getting ready to make sail

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 11

Miles since departure: 17,952

Avg. Miles/Day: 137

Days since Cape Horn: 74

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,322

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 0 10

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 234 47

I put on the anchor light after dinner and went to bed. On an ever relaxing sea, Mo rolled with the slow grace of a cruise ship. The bunk was still; all around was quiet. Quiet. Such unaccustomed  luxury, quiet.

In the night, our drift went to the west, a safe direction, and never more than a knot. Each time I checked, the answer was the same. Sleep well.

On deck at dawn, I found we’d been overtaken by fog. The sea was like glass and the albatrosses were down, white lumps on a gray expanse, randomly distributed as if they’d fallen from the sky when the wind died and hadn’t moved since. Two or three paddled over to Mo, a hint that scraps would be welcome, but offal being in short supply aboard, no scraps were offered. This ruffled no feathers.

After coffee, I started the engine. The alternator engaged immediately. I shut the engine down and started it again. Again, the alternator came to life. Am I chasing a ghost?

In the afternoon, a light breeze. I rigged sail and we began to make way ENE. While underway, I tested Wattsy. He produced power. I took all his connections apart and cleaned them; then tested again. Same. He works at somewhat below his normal output. But he works.

Correspondence with my friends Gerd and Dustin has not yielded the one and true fix for either problem. Current thinking is that it’s a connection issue and/or that I have (how can this be?) gotten salt water on the alternator. Another friend, Matt, writes to inform me that Invercargill is a charming town and worthy in its own right, but it is not the metropolis of Hobart (He is Australian, so there may be some bias at play here).

Because neither unit is actually dead; because more trouble shooting can be done underway; because I’m unlikely to find the fix in Invercargill; because I’m on a schedule; because we now have a light northerly; and mostly because I want to, I’m pushing on to Cape Horn…

Like being anchored in a very large bay, these last two days of calm. To the southwest, I could see a low hump, The Snares; to the northeast, another low hump, Stewart Island. I felt enclosed around–how else could one explain such flat water?

But a quick glance at the chart shows we are at sea. We have never stopped being at sea…

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February 12, 2019

Day 130

Noon Position: 47 52S  167 08E

Course(t)/Speed(kts): —

Wind(t/tws): ESE 15

Sea(t/ft): Slop to 4 feet

Sky: Cirrus

10ths Cloud Cover: 7

Bar(mb): —

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): —

Relative Humidity(%): —

Sail: Drifting, sails down

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 90

Miles since departure: 17,941

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 73

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,311

Avg. Miles/Day: 141

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 11

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 234 37

Avg. Long./Day: 3.21

The Snares lie 20 miles to the SW; The Traps, 35 miles to the NE. In between is Mo, adrift.

I doused sail when the wind died in the early morning and went right back to bed. It had been a long night, crossing that northerly stream of wind and rain. But sleep was not to be had. At 5am, the AIS alarm sounded for the first time since Cape Horn. It told that a small expedition cruise ship out of Invercargill, the Professor Khromov, made slow (7 knots) way toward us. I watched with binoculars. The ship rolled heavily in the leftover swell. Two miles off it altered course to the W and away. An hour later, it altered course for The Snares. We never spoke.

By now the batteries were sorely depleted, down 142amps, that is, 25% or half of safely usable charge. For the last two days, I have not had access to the Watt and Sea (Wattsy) hydrogenerator (the lanyard downhaul had failed again), and much of the time had been calm in any case. So, I started the engine and motored slowly due east.

Three hours later I noted the alternator had stopped charging. I shut the engine down and deployed both solar panels and have been troubleshooting ever since.

One’s biggest danger at sea is compounding failure. I have three charging alternatives: solar, hydro, and engine. Today is sunny, but usually that is not the case down here, so solar panels in the Southern Ocean are a poor primary power source and hung on the rail, as mine are, they are a danger to themselves and others in heavy weather. Besides the lanyard issue, Wattsy has been acting erratic of late, cycling between high and low output for no reason I’ve yet been able to assess. That leaves the engine and its alternator, now also uncertain.

This issue also jeopardizes access to the autopilot (which draws on battery power); this would mean a failure on Monte’s part would be critical. A lack of steady power would mean severely reduced access to the Chart Plotter and AIS. Nav might have to go manual (can do) and AIS would go off until we made an approach (unlikely an issue in scarcely trafficked high latitudes). The stove uses a solenoid safety switch; this would have to be taken offline. Running lights would stay off. Flashlight/Headlamp batteries might go uncharged, making night work difficult.  Comms would be severely reduced. No tracker.

We are a mere 80 miles from Invercargill. Do these issues warrant a pull into harbor?

All this was running through my head as we bobbed.

In the afternoon I did basic troubleshooting. Alternator and switch wires are connected and secure. Fuses are not blown. I cleaned all the connectors on the regulator, which is in the engine room. Then I pulled Wattsy up on deck to examine his underside for chafe causes. None found, but I was careful in re-reeving the lanyard in ways I cannot be when hung over the transom.

In the evening I started the engine by way of a test. The alternator engaged right away. I shut it down and started again. Now it failed to work. What to do?

Out of ideas, I made sail–even though the wind was from the east. I put Mo close hauled and our course was either due S or a direct for The Traps. Fog rolled in at sundown and the wind died. Again we drift.

(Thank you to Gerd Marrgraff and Dustin Fox for immediate–and likely ongoing–assistance with troubleshooting ideas.)

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February 10, 2019

Day 129

Noon Position: 47 33S  164 57E

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

Wind(t/tws): NNE 23 – 29

Sea(t/ft): NNE 12-14+

Sky: Rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1000+

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 54

Relative Humidity(%): 90

Sail: Working Jib “four” reefs, Main, two reefs, reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 89

Miles since departure: 17,851

Avg. Miles/Day: 138

Days since Cape Horn: 72

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,211

Avg. Miles/Day: 142

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 11

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 232 26

No photos again. Same reason as yesterday.

Overnight I “hove to” with main only just to slow down. The forecast called for heavy N winds right off New Zealand’s south coast to extend out another day, and I was suddenly way ahead of schedule.

In the morning, the time seemed right. I made sail and began to drive Mo through the stream.

From my notes to a friend afterwards…

Well, that was a rough go.

Some of the steepest, maddest seas I’ve seen. Not ocean swell, but mean coastal stuff, except they were huge, 15-20 feet high with wide valleys; crests leaping into the air. Mo thrown around really hard. She was pushed to the windows once or twice only, but there were some breaking seas that missed us that could have been serious business.

I almost never wear my harness IN the cockpit (only other time was the Hobart approach); I did last night. Several times when inside the cabin I’d go weightless when Mo dropped off a wave. Very fast, hard falls. How a boat can take this kind of punishment…wow.

It was right to slow down. Can’t imagine crossing that blow at its height.

When first diving into that northerly stream, I had 25 – 30 NxW to NNW; nice fast wind a bit forward of the beam, though very rough. Small genoa, triple reefed main. But heavy rain all day, and when the rain cell moved over us, wind went to 15 and backed to NWxW and even W; seas stood right up. Would stay like this for several hours AND until I launched more sail, at which point, back to 30 – 35 within five minutes. Rush on deck to reef. Fooled me two of three times.

Had 35 and 40 knots as a last hurrah just before midnight when we were only 20 miles W of The Snares. Was just coming into shallow water…and it was preternaturally dark. Serious concern we might be thrown down or rolled. Wind tailed off soon after. Started sleeping at 1am. By 2am genoa slatting; 11 knots of wind from the NE; Mo heading S and straight at The Snares, easily remedied.

By dawn, calm.

Unfortunately, now I am in the wind shadow of South Island; plus there’s no serious wind till end of week.

The temptation to pull into Invercargill is not small. I can smell the lamb roast!

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February 9, 2019

Day 128

Noon Position: 47 33S  162 46E

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

Wind(t/tws): NNE 18 – 21

Sea(t/ft): NE 6 – 8

Sky: Overcast, Fog, Rain

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 999+

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 54

Relative Humidity(%): 83

Sail: Working jib heavily reefed; main , two reefs; beam reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 118

Miles since departure: 17,762

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 71

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,122

Avg. Miles/Day: 143

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 53

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 230 15

Avg. Long./Day: 3.24

No photos today. Am trying to conserve energy. More on that at bottom…

Disappointing days. I’m keeping Mo on the slow bell so as to avoid the very strong winds coming down from the W coast of New Zealand. I’ve run and rerun our mileage on the weather maps and figure that if we maintain 5 knots, we’ll just miss the 40 – 45 knot winds forecast to fill in W of the Snares Islands tonight around midnight and last through morning.

We can’t go too slowly, however, because these N winds are due to go from 40 to zero in the course of a long afternoon and to hover around zero for days. It’s unlikely we’ll make it past Stewart Island before we run out of wind.

Then what, I don’t know.

A part of me says I’m being shy. That I should just soldier on and take whatever lumps await us. But I invite that self to have a gander at the sea running now, a sea not associated with our winds here but coming from the high winds above us–steep and confused seas that already throw us around something fierce. I then invite that self to reflect upon the joys to be had at entertaining 45 knots of wind in shoal water while on a beam reach, for that’s what we’ll find between The Snares and Stewart Island.

So, we go slowly under gray and rainy skies as Mo gyrates and heaves.

Trying to get a sailing vessel to go a specific speed is an interesting exercise. Most of the day Mo has refused 5 knots, preferring 4 or 6 knots. Often I’ll reef a bit more so as to slow down only to find that by the time I get done and return below, the wind has increased and our speed is still too fast. Or the reverse.

Right now winds are 15 knots from the NNE. The number two is rolled up by half; the main has two reefs. Our speed, 5.5 knots.

Over the afternoon, I’ve worked us up to 47 and a half S and am now trending due E. The northing has been to add some cushion between us and the Snares, which sit smack on the 48S line.

No photos today. Am trying to conserve energy, and so the phone (which is also the camera) and other devices are off. Frankly, there’s nothing to see today anyway.

Several issues.

One, at slow speeds, Wattsy (the Watt and Sea hydrogenerator) produces very little power, and we’ve been slow for days now. Two, the solar panels are lashed below, not that it would matter, given the usual weather down here. Three, I need to be careful with engine usage. I’ve run the engine to charge batteries in the south more than I budgeted (I budgeted none) since removing the solar panels from the rails and since Wattsy has mysteriously decreased his output. Mo still has about two thirds of her fuel aboard, so we are nowhere near running out, but I want to maintain a healthy reserve for emergencies, a lesson learned from the first Figure 8 attempt.

What’s up with Wattsy I don’t yet know. The unit still functions, but amperages are noticeably lower than normal and they race up and down from, for example, +6 to -6 amps, as opposed to putting in a steady charge. Wattsy has also started chewing through his downhaul lanyard every several days, so during the next spell of calm, I need to figure out a way to pull the unit off the transom and examine the underside, which I can’t see or feel from on deck and where the chafe is occurring.

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February 8, 2019

Day 127

Noon Position: 47 45S  159 53E

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

Wind(t/tws): NNE 30 – 40

Sea(t/ft): NE 14+ (steep and breaking)

Sky: Stratus with rain and drizzle

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1000+, still falling (998+ at sundown; still falling)

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 53

Relative Humidity(%): 81

Sail: #2 rolled to fourth reef position, close reaching on port

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

Miles since departure: 17,644

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 70

Miles since Cape Horn: 10,005

Avg. Miles/Day: 143

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 3 06

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 227 22

Avg. Long./Day: 3.25

Frustration beyond measure. The forecast called for winds in the middle thirties with this blow. Actual: overnight, 30 – 35, gusting 40; this morning, a solid 40 – 45; till mid afternoon, 30 – 40. Gobs of rain I can’t catch because the sea we take on the beam is frothing with salt spray; southing we don’t need and can’t avoid even though we claw to keep our track; speeds of 6 and 7 knots we can’t use because in three degrees of longitude we must stop and wait for a big blow ahead of us to pass by.

And our reward for fighting through this mess? Calms on the other side of South Island. Calms as far out as the forecast cares to predict.

I sat up with the low all night. Winds built slowly but continually until, at 3am, I had but a nub of a headsail flying. I couldn’t see what was coming at us, but we could all feel it because Mo was thrown around terribly. Seas climbed aboard, laid themselves over the pilot house windows. When Mo fell off a wave, the landing was like cannon fire. Twice I checked the bilges for leaks; surely the hull cannot take this strain! Heavy rain. And a disheartening course slouching to the south.

Nothing loose below stayed put. The lid on my pot of beef curry ended up in the head, this though it was on the gimbaled stove (luckily the curry didn’t fly). A bookshelf on windward popped its keeper rail and the books launched into my bunk on leeward.

And all night the barometer fell and fell. And into the day. Even now, as the leaden sky begins to fade and we slog through heaping seas in a light and diminishing wind, even now it is down at 999 and continues to fall.

I have up a main with two reefs and a full #2. We crawl along at 5 knots. But I don’t dare carry more sail in such uncertain conditions.

Then, while I type this rant, the sky thins. Above there is blue; and to the west, a vivid sunset.

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February 7, 2019

Day 126

Noon Position: 47 11S  156 47E

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

Wind(t/tws): NNE 17 – 19

Sea(t/ft): NE 3

Sky: Solid altostratus

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1024+, falling quickly

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 55

Relative Humidity(%): 67

Sail: Main and working jib, double reefed, close hauled on port

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 122

Miles since departure: 17,514

Avg. Miles/Day: 139

Days since Cape Horn: 69

Miles since Cape Horn: 9,875

Avg. Miles/Day: 143

Longitude Degrees Made Good (degrees minutes): 2 52

Total Longitude Made Good Since Cape Horn (degrees minutes): 224 16

Avg. Long./Day: 3.25

We’re are on final approach for passage under New Zealand’s South Island. Distance to a waypoint between Stewart Island and The Snares Islands, 400 miles.

Mo is pounding upwind since the high receded early yesterday. Thus, this final approach is a creepily slow one. And it’s just the beginning of what portends to be a difficult run of days, including both strong winds from not quite the right direction and a number of dynamic wind changes.

Tonight a locally-developed low drops down over us with winds forecast to 35 from E of N initially, then backing slowly to W of N. The challenge will be to keep from getting pushed too far S. My hope is that because the low is essentially coming to life right around here, the sea will not be too daunting and will allow us to maintain more easting than we might otherwise.

As I type, the big SW swell of yesterday is gone, and all we have is local chop from local wind, still under 20 knots. That said, the barometer is falling fast, down 1mb per hour for the last four hours since noon. So, I won’t be surprised if we are made to run off downwind for some hours overnight.

Consequently, I expect to pass The Snares well to the S.

After this low, winds stay strong from the N and NW except for one or two ridges (no or light and variable air) that move through quickly.

The final challenge will be a wide band of very strong N winds right off South Island into Sunday. At normal speeds, we’d be plonk in the middle of these, so I anticipated having to slow down to avoid.

I’ve spent the morning getting Mo ready; all the usual steps; pump the bilges, lock floorboards, seal cabinets, move sheets around to leeward, get the solar panels below. Additionally, I’ve taken the storm jib off the inner forestay and rigged the small staysail, this for better upwind work, if it comes to that.

And I spent the afternoon napping, as it will likely be a long night with little or no sleep.

Once around South Island, weather continues to be contrary as a series of tropical lows drop down from Tonga and cruise the E coast of New Zealand, creating headwinds for many days to come.

But that’s next week. We’ll worry about that then.