Make Southing

October 21, 2018

Day 17

Noon Position: 06 28N 131 06W

Course/Speed: SW 4

Wind: SSE 10

Sea: S E W at 4; a real mashup of lumpiness left over from the night.

Sky: Overcast and squally

10ths Cloud Cover: 9

Bar: 1013, falling

Cabin Degrees Fahrenheit: 88

Water Degrees Fahrenheit: 84

Percent Relative Humidity: 74

Sail: #2 genoa, main, close hauled

Noon-to-Noon Miles Made Good: 41

Miles since departure: 2162

Avg. Miles/Day: 127

The short story, “Make Westing,” by Jack London, is about a ship beating her way around Cape Horn into the Pacific. Day after day, week after week, the ship claws forward and is driven back, claws forward and is driven back, by the strong and changeable winds of the south. Ostensibly, the story is about this rounding, but in fact, it is about the captain, who becomes obsessed, even the point of murder, with getting his ship to *make westing.*

We are only trying to beat out of the doldrums, but days of this later, I feel a strong sympathy for this captain.

Yesterday grew clear in the afternoon; the wind, steady. I shot the moon and the sun for a fix. I had a beer, made a curry dinner and then watched the night come on with the satisfaction, again, that we’d made it into the trades.

But somewhere late in the evening cloud took the sky and we were overrun by a squall of rain so heavy I’m not sure I’ve seen anything like it. The wind jammed us hard but then backed off a tick, and I thought, “it’s a squall; it’ll blow over quickly.” I eased the main, a fisherman’s reef, and let her ride.

But hour after hour the rain whipped and the wind increased, then eased, then increased again. I sat up with the boat as she churned her way slowly SW, then WSW, then SW again. I kept her pointed as close as could; there is no getting below this mess except by getting south of it.

The main complained, dumped and filled. Finally, at midnight I took a reef. At 3am I took another. Mo dove into the seas. Rain and spray ran through my foulies. I sat on a towel in the pilot house and napped but couldn’t give up my post. We must make southing.

At 5am, the squall moderated to showers. The wind steadied into the SSE, and I went to my bunk feeling vindicated; we’d held our course; we’d punched through.

An hour later, I came on deck to find Mo running off to the NW. The wind, not satisfied with our overnight bashing, decided to steal, unobserved, into the SW and pull us back to the N. We’d lost in an hour what it took three hours to gain overnight.

I tacked off to the E.

At noon we’d made 41 miles of southing for our 140 miles sailed.

I’ve never had such trouble getting out of the blessed damned doldrums and into clear air.

2 Comments on “Make Southing

  1. Jack London, great author, “Make Westing” great book, ‘nough said. Sorry you are having such a tough time in the doldrums. is the “iron Genny” a consideration??

  2. Oh, Randall, your description shows your great frustration, and I can heartily understand! The challenges are what you will remember the most, and glorious days of sailing free and clear will fade from your memory!! I know this first hand.. So carry on Randall and the gallant MO. You will get your southing and then ease the sheets and off you go!

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