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December 5, 2018

Day 62

Noon Position: 48 14S  45 52W

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

Wind(t/tws): SE 20 – 23

Sea(t/ft): SE 5

Sky: Low and Gray

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1012

Cabin Temp(f): 52

Water Temp(f): 50

Relative Humidity(%): 82

Sail: Three reefs in main and working jib. Close reaching.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 141

Miles since departure: 8403

Avg. Miles/Day: 136

If it were a merry-go-round, you’d gently step off and stand in the shade of that oak tree for a while. But it’s not. It’s the ocean; it’s the south, and your merry-go-round is a boat. There’s no stepping off, even when wind and wave want to churn you to butter. All you can do is hang on.

The forecast said wind would take all night to swing into the south. It took two hours. By midnight I was on deck again tacking Mo around. This takes time. The running backs have to be shifted. The genoa has to be rolled in now that the inner forestay is set. The sheets have to be moved over one by one. (In strong weather, I move both sheets to one side; one in a car all the way forward for a tightly reefed sail, one further back for a sail a bit free. Then shift from one sheet to the other as needed. Saves moving a car in rough conditions.)

Mo came around smoothly on main alone. I blew her a kiss. By this time, though, wind was 18. I decided to take a reef in the big sail. When I returned to the cockpit, wind was 22. We would be reaching. I went for another reef and then left two rolls in the jib. A conservative sail-set at night means more sleep.

I went below and to bed. Two hours later, wind was 28. I went forward for a third reef in the main, but even in the bracing cold, my head remained dreaming. I forgot the rule: never let go of the halyard when reefing.

Handling the main on Mo takes care. It’s a powerful sail, a complicated rig, and the mast is prickly with hardware. Without care the batten cars can foul the lazy jacks or the sail luff can wrap in a mast step and the halyard can do the same. All of this can be avoided by going slowly and always keeping tension on the sail and halyard.

I had the sail half down when I noticed it had fouled a lazy jack and wouldn’t lower any further (I’d failed to bring the boom in before reefing). I let go the halyard so as to give a yank on the lazy jack line, and before I could correct myself, the halyard had flown up enough to wrap the top two steps. Now I had a sail that wouldn’t come down and couldn’t go up.

It is one of my biggest fears–being caught out in heavy weather with a mainsail stuck in the air.

In this case I simply let go the lazy jack line and pulled through the friction on the halyard. Easy save. But it’s the kind of thing that can go badly.

The day is low and gray. Wind continues hard from the SE and is blowing us into the strong arm of a low I don’t wish top mess with. I also don’t want to go any further north. But north is all that’s allowed for now. So tonight I’ll do without the main entirely; will try to slow down and let the southeasterly gale pass us by. There will always be another.

The cabin thermometer is stuck at 52, but it feels much colder below and on deck. I’ve put on a second layer of fleece and am now wearing gloves and am still a bit chilly. I hug myself and wonder how the albatross and prions do it, cavorting near Mo as if it were summer. Oh, it is summer. This is summer!

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December, 2018

Day 61

Noon Position: 49 47S 48 33W

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

Wind(t/tws): NWxW 20

Sea(t/ft): NW 3 and 8 (granddaddy swell under local small sea)

Sky: Cumulus and alto cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 9

Bar(mb): 1008+, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 59

Water Temp(f): 45

Relative Humidity(%): 70

Sail: Working genoa and main; one reef in main. A reach tending toward broad reach.

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

Miles since departure: 8262

Avg. Miles/Day: 135

Steady winds continue from the NW, and on them we make steady progress. But that is about to change. Tonight wind will back a solid one hundred and eighty degrees and settle into the south for a day or two. I anticipate little good sleep tonight.

Cold drizzle in the afternoon; a gray and pasty sky. Not much worth talking about…

So, for today, a video, a collage of scenes from the wild and beautiful force 8 blow some time back.

The idea for the video’s organization came to me during the blow and the “whistling” scenes were shot in it, this by way of illustration that during tough weather, most of one’s time is spent watching and being ready. It also shows how amazingly quite the pilot house is with mayhem just a few feet away.

The last wave scene in the video is the one in which Mo surfed, hard. I’ve never experienced anything like this brief, pedal-to-the-metal run. All other surfing during that blow was mere indifferent acceleration in comparison. The whole cabin roared. The speed indicator read 15 knots well after the height of things. I just happened to have the camera rolling at the time.

This episode occurred very late in the blow when, as you can see by the breaking sea on camera just after the surf, wave break was starting to pitch bodily forward and with lots of thrust. Winds were not any more intense then they had been; likely they were beginning to ease, but it was day four of force 8, and seas were quite mature. From my perspective, this is a good example of how a blow can be most difficult to negotiate in its latter stages…

Enjoy.

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Hi Virtual Voyagers!

Yes, this post is not one of our usual posts. But we thought many of you would enjoy hearing from Randall for a change. The night before Randall set sail he made time to chat with one of our friends/advisors Matt Rutherford. Matt holds the honor of being the first person to non-stop through the North West Passage and sharing his epic single handing experience has been such a gift Randall in his preparations.

In the following interview you can hear Matt and Randall chat about his upcoming voyage. They talk at length about the perils of the southern ocean and the challenges of the ice of the northwest passage. Randall answered a TON of Matt’s questions which many of you have asked over the last couple of months. This episode might be the ticket.

Listen Here: https://www.59-north.com/onthewindpodcast/250-randall-matt (we recommend fast forwarding through the preamble that finishes around the 4 min mark).

Thanks to all our supporters. Because of you we’re also in talks with a couple of other podcasters about interviewing Randall while he’s at sea. Should be interesting.

As a treat – we thought we’d share what Randall is doing when he’s home. Looking out in the garden at the birds. Yep – pretty much the same. Although a little other surprise, Randall is a magician in the kitchen and his special dish is a chocolate souffle. Yes, I’m pretty spoiled when he’s home.

Until next time , Joanna

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December 3, 2018

Day 60

Noon Position: 50 54S  52 07W

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

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 12

Sea(t/ft): NW 2

Sky: Thin Stratus

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar(mb): 1016, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 43

Relative Humidity(%): 67

Sail: Main and working jib, full. Reaching.

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

Miles since departure: 8110

Avg. Miles/Day: 135

After the Cape Horn rounding, my wife was kind enough to send me a slug of comments from the Figure 8 site. Many thanks to all you Virtual Voyagers for the support and congrats.

In those comments, I found a few questions, and I’ve tried to bang through all of them, below…

-First, a quick shout out to Raquel. Greetings. How on earth did you make it to Puerto Williams? In Coconut? If so, good on you. Actually, good on you in any case.

Q and A

From Howard and Steph:  Can you please explain “four reefs” of a jib?

Hey guys. In some of the photos I’ve posted featuring the headsails, you can see HOOD has sewn in blue hash marks on the foot of the working headsail at (what I presume to be) preferred reef points–points at which to stop rolling up the sail. I found during the F8V1.0 that two blue hashes–two “reef” points–what HOOD originally sewed on–were not enough in the south, and that I spent an inordinate amount of time at a third, more deeply rolled spot. Once home, I asked HOOD to reinforce the sail to that spot, and they then sewed on a three-hash mark. NOW, for the F8V2.0, I’m trying to keep speed up during bigger blows, and so am carrying the working headsail longer than I would have last year. To do so, however, I’ve had to roll the sail well past the third reef and to a place on the furling line I’ve now marked as reef spot number four. As “reefing” refers to “tying” or “rolling” to reduce sail, I use “reef.” Oats are rolled; sails are reefed. Hope that clears it up.

From Marc: Is there a possibility you could see any of the Golden Globe Racers in the area?

Sadly, no. It had been my fantasy to cross paths with either the leader, Jean-Luc Van den Heede or Mark Slats, who is in second. But Jean-Luc has been too far ahead (about five days) and a touch faster than Mo (he’s averaging 138 miles per day to Mo’s 135–though we may have gained a little on him since his mast fittings issues). By now, however, he’s turned north and is level with Uruguay, whereas we’re just past the Falklands heading ENE.

Slats is a different story. I had a 400 mile lead on him when we came into the same neighborhood and have made every effort to maintain or increase that lead. I’m not racing, of course, oh, no … far beneath such a …  well, OK, I am a little. And successfully, too. I think we gained a bit on Slats during and after the blow. He’s just rounded the Horn yesterday, and now our courses will diverge.

Unfortunately, this is where I part ways with the GGR boats. They’re all headed up the Atlantic and home, and we’re headed east about.

From Jeanne Socrates: Can you be reached on Single Sideband radio? (I hear she’s been attempting to hail Mo while on approach to Cape Horn.)

Again, sadly, no. Mo’s excellent SSB radio, an Icom M710, was water-damaged during the Indian Ocean knockdown and not replaced. Though adored, it was rarely used, and redundant, I thought, next to the three layers of satellite coms I have on Mo. The good folks at Celestaire.com provided me with a $200 receive-only SSB I can use to tune into the WWV for time stamps, but that’s the best I can do.

Jeanne Socrates is sailing NEREIDA in an attempt to be the oldest person to solo circumnavigate non-stop. She appears to be at about 45S on an approach to Cape Horn. I wish her the best. Visit her site at https://svnereida.com

From Paul: Can you tell us about the electrical budget on Moli? Wind and solar generation, batteries and devices that consume power? What does reliable generation look like? How do you protect the solar panel and wind generator from wave damage? Do you monitor power daily load? What devices do you have that consume more power, do you ration use? Nav and cabin lights? I saw a sextant in a photo, could you continue without power? Do you endorse a manufacturer? Whisper? Thanks.

As to energy, much was answered in comments by my friend Kowden. A couple more thoughts: Early on I created a detailed energy budget but have not looked at it in months. As it turns out, my battery bank (about 600 amps) and power generation sources (2×100 watt solar panels and a hydrogenerator; plus engine, if needed) far out perform my energy use. Lucky me.

On a typical cruising boat, the fridge/freezer and autopilot eat up most of the power. Mo has no fridge/freezer and her autopilot is only used if Monte, the Monitor Windvane, needs to be offline for some reason. Otto has steered the boat for maybe two of our 60 days thus far. Monte is really … the man! I tend to be frugal with energy use. Keep lights off that aren’t in use; keep switches off that aren’t in use, but have not had to, as yet, cut down on natural, day-in-day-out usage.

Solar is a less productive power source at sea than at anchor. Boat motion and shadows from the rig are harder to deal with, and so the panels are rarely producing their optimal watts, even when hung on the aft rail, as Mo’s are. Double that problem in high latitudes where the sun is rarely out in full, is at a lower (less productive) angle when out, and the frequent strong winds means the panels need to be down and lashed most of the time. Still, they do produce. On good days in the south, even when lashed, the panels can keep up with daylight power consumptions and extend my time between hydrogenerator charges.

I avoided wind power because, again, it seemed to me that a cruising boat, which is usually traveling with the wind and often moving extremely (rolling, pitching) is a less than ideal platform for that technology. Most wind units need apparent wind in the high teens to really perform, which we get in the south but not in the middle latitudes. In addition, I don’t really have space on the radar tower for anything more.

The Watt and Sea hydrogenerator is my go-to charging device. It runs from 12 – 20 hours every other day. At max it can pull in about 12 amps but averages about 10 in bulk mode and at optimal Mo cruising speeds of about 7 knots. I’ll try to detail later what has worked and not (it’s not perfect but I’m damned glad to have it).

As to the sextant, yes, I could navigate without power. What one needs is: sextant, nautical almanac, site reduction tables, access to accurate time, and a sense of the vessel’s course and speed over time.

One can use the almanac for site reduction, but I use Celestaire’s Sight Reduction Tables for Air Navigation, HO 249. Easy. Three volumes. For time, I have a small collection of cheap quartz watches and for each I’ve done a gain/loss study, so that, once set to the WWV radio signal, I know how much time to add/subtract over months of usage.

The only place I’d struggle is with boat speed and course. Heading I could take from the compass, but Mo lacks a speed indicator outside of the Chart Plotter. For this I’d have to guess. Course and speed are used to establish a dead reckoning position (DR), required for the sight work-ups. The DR does not need to be very accurate (as I prove daily), but a good DR makes the working tidier.

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December 2, 2018

Day 59

Noon Position: 51 57S  56 08W

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

Wind(t/tws): NWxW 20 – 25

Sea(t/ft): NW 5

Sky: Some cirrus; otherwise clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar(mb): 1014, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 59

Water Temp(f): 43

Relative Humidity(%): 79

Sail: Working jib and main, three reefs each, close reach.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 179

Miles since departure: 7947

Avg. Miles/Day: 135

What mileage! Either I, in my sleep, have become a much better sailor, or we are riding a hefty NE current. I’m not pushing Mo nearly hard enough to warrant a straight 7.5 knots an hour for the last 24. But however it comes, I’ll take it.

We had a similar current passing Ilsa Estados just after the Horn and when departing the peninsula; there our speeds were up to 10 knots. A look at the chart shows that there and now, as we pass under the Falklands, we are riding the ridge that rises to the continental shelf. I wonder if this current is a function of upwelling. That might also explain the *still* green sea.

More signs of land. Yesterday towering thunderheads to the north that must have been above the Falklands. In the afternoon I heard a propellor plane but never found it in the sky. Last night when I came on deck, wind had gone north; I thought I could smell land. In this case a kind of punky, wet wool smell. Are sheep an item in the Falklands? And several times now the VHF radio has barked. I can’t make out any words, but there’s a vessel close.

Today wind has gone into the NW and hardened. Our speed remains a solid 7 and 8 knots, but we’re on the wind and the ride is wet and rough. So, this is an “inside play day,” though it is sunny. I got caught up on correspondence (what a strange thing for a solo sailor to say), napped a bit in the afternoon and then did my exercises.

I’m starting to do squats. One hundred now. More later. And stretches. Quite a workout on a bounding boat. Today’s gym was the navigation station.

Why? I’ve gotten leg cramps at night again. Only once so far, but this was a feature of the last voyage as well, and the cramps began at about this juncture–our entrance into the south.

The muscle that cramps is on the inside back of the thigh and runs the body’s entire length. It cramps in the thigh, making it impossible to stand up straight without severe pain. Standing straight is the only way to uncramp the muscle. A week ago when it happened, I thought I might pass out. Then, once gone…it’s gone.

Part of the issue is hydration. I don’t drink enough water when it’s cold. But certainly exercising the legs and stretching can only help.

Today’s bird, the Prion. A flock of 50 playing in Mo’s wake and in the draft of her sails.

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December 1, 2018

Day 58

Noon Position: 53 27S 60 24W

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 15 – 16

Sea(t/ft): SW 2 and 12 (big old swell; we almost surf)

Sky: A front to windward and to lee ward; clear here.

10ths Cloud Cover: 1

Bar(mb): 1014, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 59

Water Temp(f): 43

Relative Humidity(%): 67

Sail: Big genoa and main, full. Reaching.

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

Miles since departure: 7768

Avg. Miles/Day: 134

I keep referring in these logs to the Figure 8 Voyage 1.0, the first Figure 8 attempt, as what happened “last year.” In fact, upon reflection and much to my surprise, most of that voyage happened this year.

Today is day 58 of the current, 2.0 voyage. On day 58 of the 1.0 voyage, it was December 28, 2017. Mo and I were just getting anchored at a little cove on Chile’s Beagle Channel called Caletta Olla, this after a week of hand steering off the South Pacific due to the failure of both our self steering systems. At that time we were just three days from rounding Cape Horn.

Two days of rest and general tidying at anchor, and then it was on to Ushuaia, Argentina, for repairs. We departed Ushuaia for sea on January 12th of this year (!), and the rest of that 1.0 voyage–the knockdowns, the Hobart layover, the sail home–*and* this one, have all happened in 2018.

I’ve made two attempts at Cape Horn, from California, in one year.

Makes my head spin to think on it.

At least the right Horn attempt was successful.

I woke to sunshine and the need to, finally, douse the poles and put us on a reach. That second task happened after morning coffee, but the realization–“OH, IT’S SUNNY!”–didn’t happen until about 10am.

Down here sun is rare and sun is useful. It is, among other things, warming and drying, and every chance one gets in the Southern Ocean to haul pillows and mats and towels and socks and sleeping bags up on deck for a breather, one should take. Otherwise the damp below will, after a time, become utterly demoralizing.

Once boat things had been laid out to dry and locker lids had been opened, I set about small chores: mopping perpetually wet floors, cleaning the sextant of a week of salt spray, draining bilges, repairing the cigar box I use for navigational tools (the lid had broken off when I fell against it)…and studying the problem of the genoa poles.

The issue is simple to describe: the poles keep falling out of the sky unbidden. But the fix has stumped me so far. This started a month ago. I’ve repaired the latch that holds the pole to its socket on the mast rail twice, but the wear of years of happy use has simply worn out the latch and the socket. I’ll have to jury rig some sort of clasp. The challenge is that the pole must be able to rotate 360 degrees while the socket stays still. Thus the study. I think I’m close…

Not all work, though. Since the Horn, the birds are back. Wanderers, Black Browed Albatross, Cape Petrels, White Chinned Petrels, Storm Petrels, Prions. Sometimes I can count as many as fifteen birds in view at one time. A typical hour may be half work and half bird watching.

The water remains an emerald green. Occasionally, we pass slug-brown kelp heads amputated by some wild wave from the cape we have just passed. Ahead and to port is Ilsa Beauchene, an outlying rock some 50 miles south of the Falklands and our closest approach to those islands. I have Beauchene in view now, a low, bean-shaped lump. Once past, we leave behind the rock and the kelp; the water will turn blue in a day or two, and we will become, again, as pelagic as the birds.

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November 30, 2018

Day 57

Noon Position: 54 36S 63 15W

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

Wind(t/tws): SWxS 17 – 23

Sea(t/ft): SW 8 – 10, very steep; wind-over-current seas. Nearly pooped.

Sky: Alternating between squall and clear.

10ths Cloud Cover: 9

Bar(mb): 1008, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 52

Water Temp(f): 40, back down from yesterday’s 45

Relative Humidity(%): 69

Sail: Twins poled out.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 174 (Favoring current.)

Miles since departure: 7645

Avg. Miles/Day: 134

What can one say about Cape Horn, except that he is happy to have rounded it safely and in such fine weather. Apart from the chilling rain, I could not have asked for it half as good.

Wind overnight and the morning of our approach was light, such that I though we might be so delayed as to not see the Horn during daylight. But by mid morning, we picked up a moderate westerly, into which I poled out the headsails, and I haven’t touched them since. The wind has bent around the continent with us. It’s evening of the next day; Mo and I are headed NE, are nearly in the Atlantic’s Scotia Sea, and are wearing the same set of sail.

Such happenings change one’s perspective on luck. I tend to be of the same mind as Amundsen, that luck is manufactured, or, as he would say, “Adventure (by which he meant bad luck) is just bad planning.”

But I could not have manufactured the beautiful four days of Force 8; the strong westerlies that followed, nor the fine day we had at the Horn. I could not have put myself in the way of such blessed timing. That was nothing but chance in the raw.

In fact, I might feel a tinge of remorse for our easy time if it weren’t for the difficulties of last year and the mischievous pleasure of sliding in close to ogle the beast and then getting away clean.

My god, not just to round the damned thing, satisfaction plenty, nor even to have it hove into view from afar, but to run up to within a mile such that I could see the great slabs of black rock, the olive green mosses on its flanks, the light house. To hear the waves crash after their run around the globe. To shudder at the thought of it hulking out of the mirk, lee and frothing, on a dirty night.

All past now. In the night we ran fast toward Isla de los Estatos while I slept six hours and was only up twice. In the morning I could see the island in silhouette and still we ran. Mo made ten knots easy on a strong westerly current. Then, on the back side of the island, it reversed. For four hours we sloshed through eight and ten-foot wind-over-current seas at five knots. We were nearly pooped. I actually worried about pitchpoling.

Now that’s past too. We press on into deep water, into easier latitudes, and towards our next gate.

One can see the certain challenges of the south as gates that must be got through. Mo and I sailed over 7,000 miles to get to the first gate, the Horn. But there are two others before we approach the Horn again some four months from now. One is … well … the whole of the Indian Ocean. If I were guessing, I’d say the toughest time be around the Crozets where the water shallows and the wind seems always to be super-sonic. Another is at the bottom of New Zealand where Mo and I must skinny below rocks called The Traps but above islands called The Snares. Then it’s back to the Horn, again.

Mo and I are fifty seven days at sea now, but really, this is where it starts.

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November 28, 2018

Day 55

Noon Position: 55 54S  71 58W

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

Wind(t/tws): NWxN 27 – 31

Sea(t/ft): NW 10; very steep and breaking

Sky: Overcast, low gray deck

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1007+, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 71

Sail: #2 working genoa, two reefs, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 172

Miles since departure: 7329

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

All morning I study the seas from the the pilot house. They are northwest, as is the wind we are taking on the beam, not too high, but steep as walls and breaking often. If there are three kinds of wave break–a) a slow, lazy mushrooming at the top and down the back of the wave; b) a pitching up and then forward only to fall down the front of the wave, sometimes with heavy water behind; c) a curling and pitching forward with speed often greater than the wave and with heavy water behind–then these are between the latter two.

Once in a while, a breaker catches Mo on the flank. Thwap! Water explodes into the sky. Mo heels sharply to starboard. The windows go in once.

The big question: what will these look like in the coming shallow water? Is this a silly risk, pulling in close to Cape Horn when south about Diego would be safer? What is “just to see it from sea” really worth?

It is worth all, says a voice. I keep our heading due east for the Horn.

This was my fear last year too. As I made slow way hand steering east for Bahia Cook, I knew the last twenty miles would be over continental shelf. I’d be entirely exposed to westerly wind and sea in water 200 feet deep, not to mention the shallows of the bay itself. The day I made approach, seas were 8 and 10 feet from the west. I watched as the water shallowed, as it went from thousands to hundreds in a couple miles. I could not notice any change to the sea state then.

And now? These seas are sharper. How large a wave is needed to touch the shallow bottom and stack up? I don’t know, but not these. These are not gray beards; these are not the wandering giants we had but a few days ago.

Mo can manage. I keep our heading due east for the Horn.

Cape Horn: 158 miles off at noon.

At 3pm, land how. The day has cleared, the wind is easing; my sea is falling rapidly. The water has turned emerald green, a sure sign the coast is near. I look up to the north and see what I think are tall thunderheads hull down on the horizon. But the black smudges intermixed are the clue. In binoculars, I can see that the thunderheads are the snowy peaks of Tierra del Fuego; the black smudges are the black mountain faces.

Tierra del Fuego. My heart races. To stop, to spend years exploring the canals and fjords where Magellan, Drake, Cook and Fitzroy all made discoveries.

But not this time. I keep our heading due east for the Horn.

Wind is easing still. Light wind is not in the forecast, not for now. Please don’t let the wind die here. The large genoa is already out. I pole out the #2. So close. So close.

Cape Horn: 113 miles off as I type.

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Broken Wing and Positioning for Cape Horn

November 27, 2018

Day 54

Noon Position: 56 01S  77 05W

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 25 – 27

Sea(t/ft): NW 8 – 10

Sky: Overcast with drizzle

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1012, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 52

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 74

Sail: #2 poled to windward; #1 free flying to starboard.

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

Miles since departure: 7157

Avg. Miles/Day: 133

One cannot call these anything but excellent, simply excellent sailing conditions. Winds W, WxN, WNW at 20 – 30, day after day. And Mo churning out 150 mile 24-hour runs and better without effort.

Wind is slowly swinging into the north now, so at noon I took down the starboard pole and let the big jib fly free, while on port, the #2 was kept poled out. The big genoa can handle being cranked in hard and taking a wind deeply on the quarter when poled out, but only if it’s full. There’s just too much wind today for that.

I’ve used this tactic several times, and it always looks weird and feels weird. Mo appears to have a broken wing, and her motion changes, though how I can’t say. I watch Monte and the tiller for signs of imbalance, but there aren’t any. I still don’t like it. When wind went up a few ticks later, I rolled in the #2 altogether, and we’ve been charging at 7 and 8 knots on the big sail alone all afternoon.

As I type, wind is touching 30, and it’s time to start changing down to smaller sail.

If you have been watching the tracker, you saw that I changed course at noon as well. I put a little north in our heading, and will keep it there until we come back up to 55 58S. That’s the latitude of Cape Horn light. I’ve decided to position for a run north of Isla Diego Ramirez.

Why? Because I think I can.

The weather looks manageable; the strong winds between now and climbing over the continental shelf are NW and will be knocked down by the peninsula; and the seas we have, a lumpy 8 and 10, aren’t enough to cause problems in shallow water. And because a chance to see Cape Horn from sea–that’s once in a lifetime.

Cape Horn: 326nm at noon today. Two days and four hours at current pace.

It’s 46 in the cabin when I wake and never gets much above 50 on cloudy days. So today, after a cold lunch, I decided to warm up with hot cocoa. This is my first cocoa this trip and my second total on this trip and last.

I like cocoa. I make it from my own recipe, but I screwed something up when mixing the bulk-batch of 30 pounds, what I thought I’d drink on the Figure 8 Voyage 1.0, and never touched the stuff last year. I didn’t remove it once home either, but left it on board for this voyage. It is HARD AS A ROCK, and took a hammer to make small enough chunks to fit into a coffee cup. Still doesn’t taste right, but at least it was hot.

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November 26, 2018

Day 53

Noon Position: 55 35S  81 46W

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

Wind(t/tws): W 20+

Sea(t/ft): W 10

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 1011+, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 65

Sail: Twins poled out, two rolls in each.

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

Miles since departure: 6997

Avg. Miles/Day: 132

One gets to see first hand during weeks like this why the Clipper Route was the most efficient route around the world for commercial shipping prior to steam and the Panama Canal.

Mo has had consistently strong westerlies since November 15th, when she crossed into 39S, and has logged 150 miles a day or more on all except three of them, and one of those was 149 miles.

In the last seven days, we’ve sailed 1,078 nautical miles for an average of 154 miles per day. Four of those days were during the blow, where we made respectable but not fantastic time due to reduced sail and an extravagant sea. Yesterday and today, however, show what this bird can do off the wind with more than a handkerchief of a sail set. Today was particularly pleasing; 168 miles noon-to-noon and a steady 7 knots, hour after hour, all without pressing (the twins were rolled by a third).

The Horn looms now. We’re headed almost due east. As I type, Isla Diego Ramirez, the island I intend to pass south of as soon as Wednesday, is but 407 miles off.

Why Isla Diego Ramirez and not a pass by Cape Horn proper? Diego is about 50 miles south and west of the Cape Horn rock and, like my home island of the Farallones west of the Golden Gate Bridge, lies on the edge of the continental shelf. Between Diego and the Horn, water shallows quickly from a mean 15,000 feet to as little as 300 feet. Seas that have had the entire southern ocean in which to roam can stack up over this shelf and become dangerous in short order. There are more than a few stories of yachts rolled or pitchpoled in this area in dire weather.

So, for now, Diego is the target. We’ll keep an eye on the weather to see just how dire it wishes to be.

Basic chores in the afternoon. One was to repair Monte’s water paddle, now done.

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The Bone of Satisfaction

November 25, 2018

Day 52

Noon Position: 54 56S  86 34W

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 25 – 30

Sea(t/ft): W  10

Sky: Total, slate gray cloud cover

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1000

Cabin Temp(f): 52

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 79

Sail: Twin headsails, poled out; reefed by two thirds.

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

Miles since departure: 6829

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

Wind finally eased overnight, and by morning was 25 – 30 from the WNW. Our four-day blow had ended. Seas too had eased. The grand, high swell had moved on, leaving a field of great, collapsing, frothing lumps of water. Mo heaved.

By now we have almost all the southing we need for the Horn, and so, after coffee, I turned Mo’s head to the east, a dead run, and flew the twin headsails as deeply reefed as the poles would allow. In this way, we have made a steady 7 knots all day.

Relieved of deck duty, I gave head and face a bath in hot water. I shook out the rugs and cleaned the floors, which had become slick with salt slime from four days of wet foulies and boots being trekked around the cabin. I made a hot lunch, an unusual luxury, to re-ignite that internal glow, given the absence of the sun (the mean temperature in the cabin is now 50 degrees).

And then I sat and watched the waves and the white headed petrel surfing their crests and gnawed the bone of satisfaction, satisfaction with Mo and how we’ll she’d worked through a long bit of Southern Ocean heavy weather.

Cape Horn: 565 miles. Four days at this rate.

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November 29, 2018

Day 56

Noon Position: 55 59S 67 44w

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

Wind(t/tws): W 15 – 25

Sea(t/ft): W 5

Sky: Overcast with rain and drizzle

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 998, rising slowly

Cabin Temp(f): 55

Water Temp(f): 45 (warmer. hmm.)

Relative Humidity(%): 69

Sail: Twin headsails poled out; three reefs in each.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 142 (light wind overnight as we moved between weather systems)

Miles since departure: 7471

Avg. Miles/Day: 56

EDITOR’S NOTE:

We jumping this post to the head of the line because we’ve just receive a few photos of Randall’s rounding of Cape Horn today. No story yet, except that it was a fine sail, if wet and cold, and he’s tired from the excitement and a few days of inconsistent sleep. He reports he’s headed NE toward Staten Island overnight and will likely trend toward the Falklands from there. There are a couple more pre-Horn posts to come, and then we’re sure Randall will send in the rounding tale when things even out.

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November 24, 2018

Day 51

Noon Position: 53 51S  89 52W

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 33 – 39

Sea(t/ft): W 20

Sky: Light cumulus

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 989, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 54

Water Temp(f): 40

Relative Humidity(%): 77

Sail: Working genoa, four-reefed as usual.

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

Miles since departure: 6669

Avg. Miles/Day: 131

Each morning the forecast calls for diminishing winds and each morning the sea spurns such a futile thing as a forecast.

Yesterday I said we had surfed but not fast and that seas were breaking but not with intent. Both of those changed today. There is a sense of chaos here now. No longer satisfied with steadily blowing, winds are now only prolonged gusts, 35 knots for ten minutes and then 45 knots for ten minutes; repeat.

And the sea has stood up. It is steep as a wall. The break rolls forward, mushrooming out in one giant overfall, spilling beyond and down the wave before rolling back and creating a vast whitewater rapids on the backside. And there is both a SW and NW component to the sea, this though the wind has been but a few degrees of west for the entirety of the blow.

Now Mo is getting knocked around. Mostly it’s the inexplicable SW break that will catch her. If taken by the stern, she’ll be spun around ninety degrees, and Monte will work as much as half a minute to right the course. If the breaker catchers her amidships, it will lay over her bodily. There will be a booming crashing sound below, and then all the windows in the pilot house will go dark. One such breaker was so large and loaded with so much water that when Mo stiffened up, she brought half the water back with her and delivered it from whence it came.

Then there’s the surfing. It’s not as though Mo is surfing more, although she’d be forgiven for doing so. No, it was one wave that caught her dead flat astern as it broke and propelled her forward at an as yet unknown speed. I was looking out the starboard window at the time, and the entirety of it was filled with her flare of water. She roared forward ten seconds. At the end, I turned to look a the speed indicator. 15 knots.

Immediately following this, Mo rounded up and failed to come back. I raced on deck to find Monte’s safety tube had been broken off at the hinge. The surfing force must have been intense.

I switched on the autopilot and reduced sail by another two thirds before putting us back on course. The water paddle dangled behind the boat like a giant fish lure. As I reeled it in, I noted that one of the tiller lines on the pendulum had parted. No, on closer inspection, the knot had un-knotted. I use a figure 8 stopper knot–have for 40,000 miles of Monitor use. Never have I had one work and slip free. That explains the broken tube. With the knot undone, the pendulum was free to slam the frame, and the force of the surfing exercise severed the tube.

Is this a testament to the pressure on the water paddle the last four days? Maybe. Likely it’s due to my being unable to cinch-up the knot enough (the line is extraordinarily stiff) and even with a two inch pigtail, it was able to work loose.

I keep a full paddle assembly ready to go, and we were back under Monte’s able guidance within twenty minutes. For the first time ever, I clipped in for this hang-over-the-stern exchange. The sea was kind. I didn’t go underwater as could have. I didn’t even get wet.

So much energy being expended; so much mass being moved from one place to another. So much weight of water being thrown on its beam’s ends.

A howling. When wind gets over 38 knots, it creates a white roar in the rigging. When it gets to 45 knots, the whole boat shudders continually.

Could this wild place possibly exist on planet earth?

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November 21, 2018

Day 48

Noon Position: 49 18S  100 42W

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 25 – 37

Sea(t/ft): W 14

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 0

Bar(mb): 999 slowly falling

Cabin Temp(f): 57

Water Temp(f): 43

Relative Humidity(%): 63

Sail: Tripple reefed working jib, broad reach tending toward a run.

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

Miles since departure: 6201

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

I stood watch until 3am. By this I mean I sat and watched and napped and watched as Mo worked through the gale. The sails were set; the course decision made; Monte had the helm. My job was simply to be at the ready should all hell break loose.

By dark winds were in the high thirties. By late night, low forties. By early morning, back down to high thirties.

My goal going into this blow was to not use the storm jib and to not deploy the drogue. In the first case, I reefed the working headsail down hard. Let’s call it the forth reef position. There wasn’t much canvas left by the time I got done rolling, but what there was must have been three times larger than the storm jib. Mo dug in and we slogged along at a good pace, but Monte was sometimes sluggish in responding to knocks, and the little jib gybed-over several times.

In the second case, I wasn’t tempted. Seas were large but not steep, and the breaking crests were lazy, falling back in on themselves. We didn’t even surf.

The day has delivered steady, hard winds and rambunctious seas, blue mountains heaving up, carrying Mo skyward, and then down, down, down. They are steeper now. The break is more exuberant. But Mo has only surfed once or twice and only gone over to the windows once.

I made two mistakes last night. One was to reef too heavily. I think this is my biggest heavy weather mistake: letting the boat slow. I am eager to find a set of sail that will last a blow whose upper wind velocities I dont know, but Monte needs water under the keel to maintain control. So, with winds edging again toward forty this evening, I’ve let out the “forth” reef. Now we’re at a standard three reefs. Mo pulls 7 knots easily, and (so far) Monte feels more in control.

The other was to let myself get cold. Dinner is a wonderful thing. Two big bowls of something hot heats me down to my toes, even in a cabin whose temperature is 45 degrees. But I sat on watch too long and let the fire dinner had made go out. By the time I’d seen enough, my feet were burning and I shivered in the bag. A sleeping bag can only maintain the heat you bring to it, and I brought none. The feet didn’t warm till the morning’s round of hot coffee. So, more clothing going into tonight’s “watch.”

The first layer of cloud is over us now. The front for this second low should not be too far behind.

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November 22, 2018

Day 49

Noon Position: 50 38S 97 37w
Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExE 6+
Wind(t/tws): WxN 30 – 35
Sea(t/ft): W 15
Sky: Thin Cumulus
10ths Cloud Cover: 3
Bar(mb): 992
Cabin Temp(f): 57
Water Temp(f): 43
Relative Humidity(%): 68

Sail: Working jib rolled to “forth” reef point

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 151
Miles since departure: 6352
Avg. Miles/Day: 130

Today’s report is via the following Thanksgiving Video.

Thanks for watching…

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November 20, 2018

Day 47

Noon Position: 47 45S 103 54W

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

Wind(t/tws): WxS 15 – 22

Sea(t/ft): SW 8

Sky: Some blue sky left, but squalls in long lines from the west.

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 1003, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 55

Water Temp(f): 45

Relative Humidity(%): 61

Sail: #2 genoa full, main three reefs; trying to slow down

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

Miles since departure: 6050

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

On the slow bell overnight. I haven’t wanted to dive too deeply into the coming low and don’t feel I have the luxury of running off to the east until such is actually required by the sea state. The Chilean coast is not exactly hove into view, but I can feel it there over the horizon, and I have no desire to tempt such a famous snaggletooth. So, we made 5 knots in the right direction until dawn. And I continued that strategy all day.

The morning came on brilliantly sunny and right away I got at the only job left on the prep list: change out Monte’s safety tube. A squall got me to drop the main, too early, I thought, and I then lashed it to the boom to decrease its windage and keep it under control. By then wind was steady at 25 knots. Still we made a slow 5 knots.

I’ve been tidying line and securing all afternoon, and now the wind is on us. A steady 30+ from the west; a steady 40 in the squalls. Mo is down to a triple reefed genoa and making 7 knots…in the right direction. Thankfully, the sea has, for the most part, followed the wind and is now westerly as well.

I really should pay attention while there is light. Things look to get intense around midnight, and I want to have a good feel for the sea. All for now.

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November 19, 2018

Day 46

Noon Position: 46 31S 106 33W

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

Wind(t/tws): WSW 17 – 25

Sea(t/ft): SW 12+

Sky: Light cumulus and wisps of cirrus

10ths Cloud Cover: 2

Bar(mb): 999, rising

Cabin Temp(f): 59

Water Temp(f): 46

Relative Humidity(%): 60

Sail: #2 genoa, 2 reefs, broad reach

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

Miles since departure: 5919

Avg. Miles/Day: 129

Tomorrow afternoon, we will be overtaken by our first sit-up-and-take-notice southern low.

Actually, the whole package is two lows that will be merging into one during our experience of the system. Our entry point into the low is in the northern semicircle, which is forecasting for 30 knot winds in the initial phase (first low) and 35 knots in the secondary (the whammy we get as the two join forces). These don’t seem very intense winds at all. However, seas have been running quite heavy for days–making shooting the sun a special challenge–the low is very large and well organized, and the forecasts typically under predict steady-state wind by around 10 knots. Mine don’t cover gusts all. So, I’m preparing for two days of 40 – 45 gusting 55.

The immanent low has created a convenient completion deadline for the “Ready for The South” punch-list I’ve been working for a while. Here are the main items…

1. Close all dorade vents. All the dorades are sealed with a stainless steel cap at their entry point and stuffed with a rag from inside.

2. Seal hatches. Three of the smaller deck hatches have rubber seals that are worn, and they leak in heavy weather. An easy work around to replacing the rubber seal entirely is to line the rubber with coax tape.

3. Repack drogues. I’ve not been happy with how the drogues were packed (by me before departure). I have taken both out, run them out, and flaked the line in a figure 8 that’s tightly bound together, then folded over and then put back into its storage bag. This should ensure that the drogues can be unpacked and deployed without incident.

4. Finish “waterproofing” the electronics. Those who’ve followed for a while know that Mo lost most of her electronics in the Indian Ocean knockdown. Once home, I worked with Dustin at Fox Marine to either acquire waterproof boxes for gear or build protective boxes. Now the Iridium Go (used for the tracker) and the N2K network (which connects everything) are in off-the-shelf boxes and the Fleet Broadband (used for comms, photos, video) is in a home-built box whose edges needed sealing. In the event of water invading the pilot house, we should be in much better shape this time around.

5. Plug engine diesel tank vents. Again, lesson learned in the Indian Ocean. The port diesel tank vents into the cockpit (the starboard, into the aft storage locker). If the cockpit is under water, water is going into the port diesel tank. In the Indian, enough water got in to fill both engine filters and flow into the injectors. Some tape over the vent opening should stop that. But DON’T forget to remove the tape before running the engine! (I didn’t cover the starboard vent because I can’t reach it. Water does get into that locker but is frequently pumped out.)

6. Lock down floorboards. Mo has locking clips on the engine covers that hold those heavy pieces in place. I never bother with them above 40S. Other floorboards are bolted to the frame (except the two small ones in the galley).

9. Drain all bilges. Mo is blessed with four bilges that catch various kinds of water (the mast bilge catches fresh) This is a regular chore in wet or dirty weather but is especially important just prior to a blow.

10. Lock all food bins. Under the main cabin bunks are lockers stuffed with canned goods. Each lid has two bullet latches that I typically don’t bother with unless in difficult weather.

11. De-tut the cabin, with specific emphasis on stowing or lashing down anything that can fly when Mo starts pulling Gs.

12. Refresh Monte. One problem from the Figure 8 Voyage 1.0 was with Monte’s break-away tube, the tube that fits between the water paddle (that steers the boat) and the main arm of the windvane (that steers the paddle). The issue was that every few thousand miles I’d break a tube. It took months to figure out that in certain sea states, the paddle was getting wound around an emergency boarding ladder trip line dangling in the water. I have since shortened the line and have broken but one tube thereafter. THAT SAID, a fresh tube in Monte before we get to the rough stuff could do only good.

The only job from above not yet done is the last. It’s been rough, and water temps are not exactly inviting.

13. Extra credit. Zip tie all shackles. Tightened enough, shackle pins usually don’t budge. But usually rarely makes it this far south. Twice now I’ve had a shackle pin let go unexpectedly. The second time was yesterday, when a vang block fell from the sky as Mo came to attention at the bottom of a wave. Now all pins are locked.

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November 18, 2018

Day 45

Noon Position: 44 48S 109 13W

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

Wind(t/tws): W 18 – 22

Sea(t/ft): SW 10 – 12

Sky: Stratus trending to clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 5

Bar(mb): 1008, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 61

Water Temp(f): 48

Relative Humidity(%): 64

Sail: #2 genoa and one reef in the main, broad reach

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 149

Miles since departure: 5767

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

By 8 o’clock last night, I’d dropped the main; by 10 o’clock, I’d changed down to the smaller of the two headsails. A little later, two reefs. The sky had come down as the sun set, but the moon shown through. The diaphanous cloud raced east with grim intent.

By noon today, it was nearly clear. The main flew again with one tuck in it and the genoa, full. We’ve frothed along all day like that as a big-as-city-blocks swell rolls under Mo’s keel, reminding that the gentleness of the moment is not to be expected for long.

The cabin thermometer stood at 55 degrees when I woke. Two hours later, it had risen to a balmy 57. Water temperature is below 50 and will continue its downward slide all the way to the land of icebergs. I expect the cabin to be in the mid 40s in a week.

I don’t heat the cabin at sea. So, the first, light base-layer of thermals went on today. Smart Wool, top and bottom, silky soft, smelling delightfully of laundry detergent, and immediately warm. My favorite albatross emblazoned “mascot” hat, the gift of Daryl Ridgeway of Hobart and actually the hat of the Cruising Yacht Club of Tasmania, hasn’t been off my head in days.

And new UG boots were dug from a forepeak locker, the boot worn in the cabin for comfort and warmth. That old pair were the go-to boots in the arctic in 2014 and all through the south last year, so they did their part. But the inner fleece was worn down to the rubber soles. Slipping into them of a morning was like sticking one’s foot inside a cold fish.

I’m starting to eat more and eat constantly. A full cup serving of oats loaded with nuts and fruit and three tablespoons of powdered milk followed by a Clif bar for breakfast, for example. Tonight’s dinner, last night’s leftover curry, which was intended to be two, full meals (all my dinners are designed that way), will have to be augmented tonight to do the job because last night I just couldn’t stop eating.

No more than one beer, though. I departed San Francisco with 184 cans. Must make them last.

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November 17, 2018

Day 44

Noon Position: 42 56S  111 29W

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 15

Sea(t/ft): SW 10; some much larger, but old.

Sky: Clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 1

Bar(mb): 1013

Cabin Temp(f): 64

Water Temp(f): 51

Relative Humidity(%): 66

Sail: #2 genoa and main, broad reach. #2 poled when wind comes aft.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 126

Miles since departure: 5618

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

A poor night for speed. I misread the forecast and thought I’d need to make sail changes overnight, to launch the poles when the wind came round. So, at sunset I flew just the #2 genoa, the smaller of the two, as a stopgap. Then I set the alarm for two hours and started sleeping. I slept well past the alarm and the wind did nothing but diminish ever so slowly as the night wore on. By the time I noticed we were making only five knots, it was 3am, and my desire for speed, I found, had cooled, while the bunk, I knew, was warm. I did not make more sail until sun-up.

All day a big, clear, open but cold-looking sky. The blue above is almost white and the horizon is blurred by a gray haze. The sun is warm, and appreciated for it, but pale. The blue of the sea, however, is as rich and royal as ever.

Wind has freshened in the afternoon and is now a steady 25 – 30 but has failed to veer north as I’d hoped. My sail plan bets on such a shift and is out of sorts. So, it’s back on deck for me after these notes.

On the way by, a shout-out to skipper Les Parsons, on whose boat I crewed the Northwest Passage in 2014. Les found revolting the idea of peanut butter and jam on bread, but thought peanut butter and *cheese* on bread a real delicacy. Well, at least reliable rib glue. He was right in that latter opinion. Made a good lunch today.

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November 16, 2018

Day 43

Noon Position: 41 29S 113 31W

Course(t)/Speed(kts): SExE 6 – 7

Wind(t/tws): NWxW 19 -21

Sea(t/ft): NW 10

Sky: Low, gray, solid, undifferentiated. Drizzle.

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1003+, falling

Cabin Temp(f): 63

Water Temp(f): 51

Relative Humidity(%): 76

Sail: Headsails poled out, deeply reefed. Running.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 167

Miles since departure: 5492

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

A good day for mileage and hard earned. I ran the headsails out after dinner and spent much of the night tucking them in a bit, tucking them in a bit, and then in a bit more as wind increased. By midnight winds were a steady 25 knots. By 3am, they were 30.

It’s an interesting fact that one’s ability to carry sail has as much to do with the sea state as the wind. By early morning, seas were lumpy and large and Mo labored. I rolled the headsails up as much as ever was possible and still have them attached to the poles, and we flew at 7 and 8 knots, but it was a rough ride. In a different sea state, I could have carried them much fuller.

Wind is coming west now, and I spent the last hour shifting the headsails from one side to the other. By the time I finished, the wind had already moved south of west. The poles will have to come down before dinner … and go back up tomorrow morning. Welcome to the ever-changing south.

This has not been a heavy blow at all. But it has felt heavy. Seas were bigger and harder than one would expect for 25 knots of breeze, and their crashing crests were ice blue below a featureless slate sky.

We have crossed under the 40th parallel of latitude, and things are changing fast now. The cabin was 55 degrees at dawn. Water temperatures are about to dip below 50. I wore the fleece hat all day and put on thermal underware after lunch. One sun shot at 2pm, but not another. Drizzle or fog most of the day. No birds yet.

I ate the last apple after breakfast. Forty-three days they lasted and through the tropics. Good on them. And I opened the first cheese packet. These were double bagged, buried deep and let alone in the tropics as they’d have been a goopy mess, but the time is ripe, and the manchego was tasty.

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November 15, 2018

Day 42

Noon Position: 39 18S 115 45W

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

Wind(t/tws): N 18 – 20

Sea(t/ft): N3, S5

Sky: Low and gray but not dark

10ths Cloud Cover: 10

Bar(mb): 1020, falling; 1017 by 5pm.

Cabin Temp(f): 66

Water Temp(f): 56

Relative Humidity(%): 65

Sail: Big genoa out full; one reef in the main; broad reach on port

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

Miles since departure: 5325

Avg. Miles/Day: 127

Apropos of yesterday’s mileage complaint, we were becalmed overnight. Second such in three nights. Mo made fine way in the evening, four knots of speed reaching on six knots of breeze, but even she gave up when that minimum went to two and three knots. Not enough to blow out a candle. I lowered sail just before midnight, and we drifted until dawn.

Then came this fine wind from the north, the result of a small low passing to the south of us. By noon it was a blessedly blustery twenty, and it has stayed that way. The forecast calls for it to back to northwest after dark and accelerate even more. I have the poles ready to go; I’ll run the rest of the low out on the twins.

After that we may see another set of calms, but soon now we will be entering the Roaring Forties, whose main westerly flow picks up between 43 and 45S. And man, what a train of wind it will be this next week. Look ahead on the Figure 8 tracker to Friday/Saturday and see that the nearly consistent westerlies to 30 knots cover an area of ocean larger than the continental US. Imagine the seas…practically infinite fetch and strong wind over an area of roughly 2,000 square miles.

Stunning are the fundamental differences between the northern and southern hemispheres. With so much land subtracted from the picture down here, wind and wave are king.

But we’re not there yet; not just yet.

A mid afternoon glance at the chart plotter revealed an interesting coincidence. On day 42, Mo and I passed within 30 miles of our day 41 noon position (blue X on the screen), just south and west of us. On that day, the old log says Mo churned out 163 miles. Compare yesterday’s 125 miles … not to mention today’s 90.

But as we’re about to get into the wind, it will be interesting to see who is first to the Horn.

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November 14, 2018

Day 41

Noon Position: 38 13S 117 04W

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

Wind(t/tws): WxN 6

Sea(t/ft): S 5  W  1

Sky: Thin cloud cover looks like it will burn off soon.

10ths Cloud Cover: 8

Bar(mb): 1022, steady

Cabin Temp(f): 68

Water Temp(f): 56

Relative Humidity(%): 65

Sail: Reaching with #1 genoa and main.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 129

Miles since departure: 5235

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

On this day, Noah began to move ashore. Happily hard aground and holding an olive twig in one hand, he was shooing off the two-by-two and contemplating which of the most bothersome kind might go well on the barbecue. It had been a real trial–40 days and 40 nights with no barbecue–the Ark had a strict “no open flame” policy.

But now… Well…

That Dodo was looking particularly plump. What a frightfully dumb bird, thought Noah. Didn’t even show up with his wife on departure day. “What, she’s not with you?” And then he’d asked which way to the food court before lumbering aboard. With the giraffes complaining about headroom and the hippopotamus wondering why they couldn’t find the pool, worry about Dodo’s wife hadn’t even made the list. Dumb bird. Really makes you wonder. Might as well eat the damn thing now before it goes extinct.

Meanwhile, on day 41, Mo and I are still sailing. It’s simpler that way.

Not fast, mind you. These are frustrating weeks where we can’t seem to string together even whole days of respectable mileage. Yesterday, for example. Lovely wind after 2pm; dead aft at 15. I poled out the twins and off we went. All night, same. When I came on deck at 6am, wind was 20; still dead aft, and Mo creamed along at 7 knots. We were all set for a 140 mile day. Until the wind died at 9am.

Today I got the last of the hatches closed and sealed. No more fresh air below until 30N in the Atlantic. Last year we had a problem with minor leaks in the tempestuous south. Hatch seals that didn’t seat properly; a mast boot seal that broke. Little drips here and there that were demoralizing over time. I’m attempting to get ahead of these this year.

One example is this excellent piece of kit, plastic “doors” that attach to the fabric dodger. They are very handy for allowing me to exit and enter the cabin without letting in rain and spray, and they generally help to maintain a dryer, lighter pilot house.

Problem is that in higher winds, the flaps can get carried away. For weeks I’ve been trying to work out a way to “tie” them down that doesn’t require tapping a fastener hole in the cockpit. I think I’ve struck on it.

A random piece of bungee cord; two hooks for Monte’s tiller lines that didn’t work out so well, and a tiny shackle whose pin went missing in some previous age. The hooks attach the bungee to the cockpit cubbies and the shackle was sewed onto the doors today. The bungee is easily slipped up and into the open shackle from inside and should serve to keep the doors in line. A prototype worked well during last week’s blow, so I’m hopeful.

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November 13, 2018

Day 40

Noon Position: 36 35S  118 50W

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

Wind(t/tws): WNW 9 – 11

Sea(t/ft): SSW 8; W 1

Sky: Stratus on the horizon; otherwise clear

10ths Cloud Cover: 3

Bar(mb): 1022

Cabin Temp(f): 70

Water Temp(f): 59

Relative Humidity(%): 49 (wow, dry!)

Sail: Reaching with #1 and scandalized main.

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good (nm): 66

Miles since departure: 5106

Avg. Miles/Day: 128

Becalmed.

For hours we had taken from the dying wind what we could, the sails softly spilling in the troughs some of what they’d so ardently gathered at the crests of that long, low swell from the south.

When I couldn’t feel wind on my face, I lowered the main, rolled up the jib and went to bed.

Midnight.

We have moon again. A yellow sliver behind a black veil of cloud, rising and setting late. For now, its aspect is sinister, but soon it will be gleaming.

Ten knots from the west at dawn. I set sail due south. Below us there’s a weak low passing to the east; if I can just get down to it, we’ll have plenty of wind for a day or two.

Forty days at sea. I celebrated by shaking out the cabin rugs and sweeping. How can I continue to track in dirt when outside is only water?

Then I saw that the batten pocket on the main had pulled out again. This is the same pocket that pulled off the track last year, and about at this position, the same pocket whose car I just rehung with new bearings a few days ago. The pin holding the pocket to the track is stainless steel and, over time, simply strips out the threads of the plastic pocket.

Light wind and a big sea is just murder on gear, but I can’t be dowsing the main every time the wind goes to 6 knots.

Plenty spares for this. Fixed by late afternoon, by which time we’d begun to pick up the NW winds of that low. I ran out the poled headsails and changed course to SE. Ever SE for the Horn.

One other worry from the day. When lowering the main, I noticed unusual friction on the halyard. It required much of my weight to bring the sail in. Possibly the line had slipped off its sheave. I don’t know, but the thought of a main stuck in the air during a blow is an unpleasant one. The halyard runs free now, but the issue is still open.