|Atlantic Ocean: South Africa to North America
|Indian Ocean: Australia to Africa
|Vanuatu to Australia
|Tanna Island, Vanuatu
|New Zealand to Vanuatu
|Nelson NZ to Bay of Islands via West Coast
|Privateer setting sail Jan 2015
|Privateer in Nelson, NZ
|Fiji to New Zealand
|Tonga (Vava'U) to Fiji
|Suwarrow to Tonga (Vava'U)
|Bora Bora to Suwarrow
|Tuamotus to Societies
|Marquesas to Tuamotus
|San Francisco to the Marquesas
|Alaska to San Francisco
|March 17, 2017, noon
|26 5.38 N, 78 4.72 W
Tonight the sun went red to bed, with the promise of a good day ahead...our final sunset on the high seas! The passage is winding down so sweetly, and Privateer is hissing through the low seas of the Northwest Providence Channel. Overnight we will cross the Gulf Stream and with luck, should make West Palm Beach right around sunrise. The American sky is lit up with the glow of Miami and filled with the twinkling lights of countless aircraft. Freighters and cruise ships come and go from every point on the horizon and it's a bit like a game of dodge-ball out here.
We have sailed 7,000 NM in the past 60 days: The distance equivalent of Minneapolis to Auckland, NZ. Or, if you aim another direction, Minneapolis to Mumbai, India. All by the free power of the wind! Day and night we've sailed, through squalls and high seas and the long lonely stretches of the Trade winds. Over the horizon and far beyond.
Last night the winds piped up as we sailed past the "Hole-in-the-Wall" entrance to the Providence channels, confirming my good decision to wait out the previous blow 70 NM out to sea from there. We had a bit of a last rodeo, pressed hard into the wind, but we were just barely able to keep our course angle and sail throughout the night without having to tack. Like clockwork, the winds began to veer in our favor as we got deeper into the channel and the seas flattened out once we gained the protection of the "cays" (islands). All day today we've had pleasant beam-reaching in 14-17 knots and flat seas.
I can tell Privateer is happy to be here. She'll have a good time in Florida while we are away for awhile, and have a well-deserved rest! I passed my eyes over every inch of the good ship today, making mental notes about what we need to do upon lay-up. All broken and worn gear will be stripped off the boat and return with us to Minneapolis for TLC and repair. I am still keen to sail Privateer up to higher latitudes to give the cockroaches a taste of old man winter, but that will have to wait. The weather north of here has been and still looks horrendous, and we've simply run out of time to passage any further north. The sea-lorn sailors are coming home!!
|March 16, 2017, noon
|25 54.45 N, 75 45.23 W
Sunrise--winds 18 knots N-NW. Not the ideal wind angle yet, but if we are to landfall in Florida in the morning (always preferred) we needed to leave at daybreak (283 NM to go). I unlashed the tiller & eased the staysail sheets. Privateer took off through the waves and we jibed her around and sailed back on course toward the NE Providence Channel, Bahamas. It feels great to be on our way again!
With just 2 days left at sea, we're on our final round of watch rotations now. Each on-watch we have now will be the last of its kind. It's a very exciting time! Not only that, but the weather forecasts are shaping up very nicley, and it looks like clear sailing the rest of the way (for now). We'll sail on under the high as it builds, and the wx charts are showing the high will park itself right over West Palm Beach for a day while we make landfall, which should bring us nice calm conditions for our approach from the Gulf Stream, and for finding our slip in the marina. The relief that I feel right now is so sweet. I am elated!! You can't have this feeling without the pit in your stomach that you feel for days as you sail into worsening weather, as we did last week.
The seas were still pretty boisterous today and we sailed on pressed into the wind, at a 15-20 degree angle of heel. Our double-reef is still set in the Mainsail and the tiller pilot is managing the load well, as we have a very balanced rig. Just now, a freighter passed close by, not showing on AIS. They really sneak up on you a lot quicker when you don't see the green triangles on the GPS chart-plotter... It's a good reminder to always be looking over your shoulder. Many other freighters these past few days have altered course for us, after we made calls to the bridge.
It's the big count-down now!!
|March 15, 2017, noon
|26 0.36 N, 75 3.03 W
We reached latitude 26 N just before 0200 hrs and hove-to. We could see lightning on the horizon from the massive storm to our north. Good thing we are where we are! For the past 24 hours now we've basically remained in the same 6 NM patch of ocean, parked.
The first wave of west winds came on rapidly with a visible band of cloud stretching across the horizon. Our backed sails filled and Privateer created the classic "slick" that magically flattens the seas just before they reach the boat. It looks like you're about to get clobbered by big breaking seas, when all of a sudden the foam crumbles and disappears just feet from the boat. I am very pleased at times like this to have the full keel and cutter rig--Privateer heaves-to like a textbook best-case scenario.
We spent a relaxing day, watching for traffic & calling a few freighters here & there that looked like they were going to pass close. Looks like we're on the Gibraltar to Miami shipping lane... It's amazing how many freighters there are criss-crossing the globe. We watched a movie in the afternoon and made tacos for dinner. Not much else to report here--we're just patiently biding our time until the winds shift in our favor. Today was kind of a nice reflective pause for me to contemplate the voyage as a whole, before we make our busy landfall. We have come a long, long, long, long way! I was able to put in some sat phone calls to the marinas and boatyards today, and have arranged for a slip in West Palm Beach on arrival for a few days, and then on to Indiantown boatyard for the haul-out, scheduled March 23 at 1000 hrs. We'll be sailing into the madness of Spring Break 2017 on the beaches of Florida--that'll be pretty weird!
|March 14, 2017, noon
|25 6.20 N, 74 34.50 W
We've weathered the cold front today. Throughout this last night, the winds slowly intensified and shifted around from the SE to the S, then SW and W into the afternoon. It was great sailing and the tiller pilot got a workout to the max, in 24-knot beam reaching. I really missed the wind vane today! As we came within 300 miles of destination my concerns about fuel usage eased. We've passed a point now where we could motor the whole rest of the way and still have reserve fuel. But it looks like the winds will remain with us, not always in our favor, and we should be able to sail most of the remainder of the passage.
Throughout the afternoon the seas stacked up as the winds clocked around ahead of the beam. We dogged down all the hatches and took a solid spray bath today. In the late afternoon we passed through a band of squalls and under a really dramatic line cloud. Once past the cloud the winds took a sharp turn to the NW (the direction we need to go). I disengaged the tiller pilot, giving it a kiss of gratitude, and trimmed the sails for close-haul. Privateer sails herself very well without any helm assistance when she is close-hauled with full Yankee, Storm Staysail, and double-reef Main all sheeted flat. Right now we're on a course due north, on a 45 degree angle to the wind.
The plan is to reach a northern way-point of about 26 degrees, which we should reach around midnight, and then heave-to for the duration of the W and NW winds. We'll probably remain locked in for 24-36 hours, until the winds finally clock to the north. As long as we stay above 26 degrees, we can then run down to the Providence Channel entrance through the Bahamas, and enjoy moderate to light tail-winds after that for the final 2 days of passage-making and the Gulf Stream crossing. Fingers crossed, anyway.
I'm looking forward to heaving-to and taking a shower, lounging around, and making some good meals on the stove! The highest winds are forecast to be only around 20 knots or so, so it should hopefully be a pretty mellow heave-to. Not even necessary, perhaps, but the winds do look quite a bit higher on the Florida Straits side of the Bahamas, and we don't want to jump the gun and run into that mess. The biggest thing to keep an eye on will probably just be alerting the numerous cruise ships and tankers of our stationary location as they pass by. We hear word that the front that just swept us brought a blizzard to the US East coast! Glad to be on this end of it, below latitude 30. It looked really nasty up there on my weatherfax charts.
|March 13, 2017, noon
|23 46.42 N, 72 40.74 W
All in all it was a very pleasant day today, besides the motoring. Nep has established himself as the ship's cook this week, serving the captain breakfast in bed each morning. He's perfected his salad recipe which he is pretty proud of, so we enjoyed today's lunch of crisp cold lettuce as we watched the blue waves roll by.
Finally this evening the breeze kicked up a notch and we were able to shut down the engine. All day today I considered our options for the coming cold front and associated wind shifts forecast in the coming days. I've worked us to the north a bit, staying well east of the Bahamas. I want to set us up with plenty of sea room so that we have 360 degrees of hazard-free navigation options. I'm beginning to favor heaving-to for 18-24 hours once the head-winds start. I like the idea of sitting down below watching movies on the laptop rather than blasting close-hauled through the foam... With the monitor vane, no problemo--but given our circumstances I'd hate to see our new tiller pilot take a dump--I'm really beginning to like it as a calm-weather helmsman. Either way, we'll see what happens. Sailing is all about perceiving the dangers before they become a threat. The Bahamas and their shallow waters are a definite threat! Give us the open sea, please. Our entrance through the islands is past "Hole-in-the-wall" and the "Devil's Backbone". Names like that are usually for reasons best kept wondering about. We'll take our pleasure cruise through the islands once the weather and winds have eased to the NE.
Sailing with an electric autopilot is a bit like bicycling with low air in the tires. The sails are never presented quite correctly to the wind, and we slow down & lose some momentum as the boat hunts through the waves. Unless the electric pilot can interface with the wind-angle indicator, it's an inferior and easily dangerous set-up if not watched constantly. Even with an interface, the masthead indicator signal relayed to a delayed mechanized arm cannot be as accurate or instant as the direct action of wind hitting the air-vane. I'm baffled that so many cruisers use hydraulic/electric autopilots only.
The last 500 miles of the voyage are always the longest, especially with motoring and fronts and winds shifts and currents on the horizon... The things I dream about now are blasting the boat down with a freshwater hose, reducing my weather worries to the landsman's "will it be cloudy or sunny today?" and, most of all, Kelsey and Taz!! This is also the time of the voyage to step it up and be extra-professional. We've made it this far, and it's time to give the last few days our all.
|March 12, 2017, noon
|22 49.38 N, 70 47.83 W
A classic gear failure today: the ship's head! For the past few days, the head (toilet) has developed an alarming habit of spraying a jet of fecal water from the flapper-valve every time we pumped to flush. The offending "waters" would leap up out of the bowl and spray under the seat & lid, and even onto your shirt and face, if you weren't ginger about finessing the handle as you pumped. I tried probing the flapper but it only made the jet stronger! Finally today, the head failed to flush altogether. I was barely able to pump out the bowl back to clear seawater, and then promptly dumped a bunch of chemicals into the bowl, wiped down all surfaces, and taped the damn lid shut so we won't "forget". The ship's head is closed for business until further notice. There's a few things I won't do at sea, and re-building the head is definitely one of them! For the remainder of the passage, it's a 5-gallon bucket experience. I was planning on re-building the head upon haul-out anyway, so it's just as well that we put the beast to rest. She, like the Monitor, has served us so well on this circumnavigation, and we only have a few more days at sea so it's OK.
I spent the day mulling over all the options for when the north winds kick up in a few days. I'm hoping we can turn the corner at the north end of Eleuthera Island before the strongest winds. Then, we will have the option of pressing on into the winds, or run down to Nassaum the only really safe deep-water port in the Bahamas. I'm hoping we can press on because there's a flat $300 fee to clear into the Bahamas, and Nassau sounds like a cruise-ship traffic jam--the kind of place better left unseen...however, if need be, any safe port in a storm is a sailor's bliss, and we're all about safety at sea.
After noon the winds went light again so our nice sailing that we started on at sunset yesterday came to an end, and we fired up the iron jib again. It is becoming clear that fuel economy will be an issue on this passage, so we are keeping the RPMs low to maintain optimum m.p.g. At the same time, we need to get as far north as possible to set up for the blow, so it's a delicate balance.
|March 11, 2017, noon
|21 23.37 N, 68 53.11 W
The moustaches are gone, and we are at sea once more. Privateer is laden with fresh provisions for her final 1,000 ocean miles, bound for Florida. We plan to haul the boat out of the water ASAP upon landfall so I can return to Minneapolis, Taz, and a very pregnant Kelsey! The forecast is a bit tricky, with many intense lows spinning off the US East coast. At 1,000 miles, this passage will be one of our shortest this year, but possibly the toughest.
We left BVI after 6 days. The timing worked out well, as we weathered an intense NE system that swept through the islands. It was great to be safe in harbor while the winds howled. At one point, a Hunter 34 sailboat broke free of her mooring and slammed into shore. I rowed out into the storm to her with a long coil of line, determined to pull her off the rocks. Another cruiser with a 30hp outboard saw me and came over to help. While he pulled with the outboard, I was able to turn the helm over and steer her into deep water as she grated off the rocks. We towed her back to her mooring and barely managed to hook her back on in the high winds. By this time nightfall was approaching, and the winds were increasing. Good thing she didn't spend the whole night bouncing on the rocks!
We met up with my friends on the Josefina, the Swan 86 that I sailed from Fiji to NZ last year. It was great to catch up with those guys, and they offered me a crew position which the timing unfortunately doesn't work out on--bummer! We did our laundry on the Josefina while sitting below-decks in the air conditioning, using the hi-speed internet, and enjoying meals put out by the cook. It's a whole other world on a super-yacht!
Clearing out of Customs was an equally, if not more-so, nauseating experience than clearing in. I have never met ruder and more unhelpful officers than in that office in the BVI (and I'm from the USA). They're probably related somehow to the pee-pee lady: extremely harsh demeanors, with massive chips on their shoulders. It was a teeth-gritting experience to get through the charade without losing my temper. They didn't stamp our passports out or give us any exit papers, so hopefully we don't have any problems clearing in to the US.
As we sailed away from Soper's Hole, we met the fresh NE breezes--the tail-end of the big system that just blew through. Seas were lively and we made way on a beam reach. Right off the bat, I had perplexing issues with tuning the Monitor. She would pull the tiller one way, but not the other. I kept making small, and then bigger adjustments to the tiller blocks and air vane. We went along well for about 5 hours, but then the boat started rounding up in the higher gusts. Strange. A few miles more and at mile 36 out of BVI she rounded up a final time and I looked back to discover the Monitor rudder trailing, once more, by her safety line. Only this time it wasn't the shear tube--it was the swivel mount above the hinge! The Monitor has suffered a fatal blow for this passage. This breakage is not repairable at sea. We quickly recovered the broken parts and brought out the electric tiller pilot. Fingers crossed that the electric pilot can steer us through the final 1,000 miles! We are putting it to the ultimate test. The Monitor people need to know that they should recommend carrying a full spare rudder and shaft for circumnavigating boats. The optimistic brochures of sailors bragging that they went around the world using only one set of control lines are either untruthful, or their product was used as an auxiliary to a hydraulic autopilot... At any rate, thank god this didn't happen in the middle of the Indian or Atlantic ocean!
The electric pilot does a wonderful job at steering the boat in a perfectly straight line, however this is not how mother nature blows her winds. Unless we make constant adjustments to sail trim, the boat is always sailing slightly off of her optimum wind angle to the way her sails are set. Also, the wind angle must be constantly evaluated in order to prevent the risk of an accidental jibe. What this all translates to is that the boat sails slower through the water on her straight line, rather than the gentle "slalom" track the Monitor gave us when she kept the sails pegged on their optimum angle. After about 24 hours the winds gradually died away, until we were making barely 3 knots through the water. After growing tired of lurching and slatting around in the swell we were forced to fire up the "iron jib". We rattled on for the next 24 hours in fair weather and slight seas.
Finally last night, a fair breeze sprang up from the NE, and we took off under sail again! All night long now we've been charging along at 6-7 knots under the bright full moon.
The winds are forecast to back around to the SE, then SW and W, and then blow harder out of the NW-NE in a few days time. All the way around the compass... Our strategy is to make all of our northing now before the bigger blow, so that we can run down to the SW for the final leg. I am worried that the electric pilot will be overwhelmed in the North winds if they are stronger than 17 knots, and that we may have a few days of hand-steering. I'm trying to set ourselves up with plenty of sea room for a heave-to if need be, not for sea-state, but for the option of not having to hand-steer for 48 hours... Hopefully this good breeze lasts long enough before going light again so that we can keep the motoring to a minimum. The hours go by a lot slower under engine than they do under sail!
|March 3, 2017, noon
|18 23.26 N, 64 42.08 W
We enjoyed our last passage sunset and sailed through the windy night with our storm sails set, for the final 100 NM approach. Timing worked out perfectly, and as we neared the shelf of the Virgin Islands the first morning light began to light up the eastern sky. Dawn arrivals are a passage-maker's best hope!
The small islands rose up before us like a miniature dramatic version of Prince William Sound, swells smashing onto the jagged cliffs. As we entered Sir Francis Drake Passage I was pleased to spy Peter Island, Dead Chest Island (of Pirate fame) and Privateer Point, all off the port bow. And just for Privateer, a vibrant rainbow arced down out of the sky ending at exactly the sea cave where real lost pirate treasure was found on Dead Chest. This was the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" which I had just re-read on this passage.
In the lee of Dead Chest the swells died away as we gained the protection of the channel. A heavy band of rain swept in from the ocean and hammered hard down on the boat. Again, this was perfect timing--Privateer and her sails got an ideal and very badly needed freshwater bath on arrival--score! Boat freshly car-washed, the wind funneled down the channel and we coasted along under Yankee alone, after dropping and stowing our storm sails. The good wind carried us all the way down to the west end of Tortola to our destination. Even after we rolled up the Yankee we were making 3.9 knots under bare poles and the Monitor steered a perfect course. Unbelievable. It's like she didn't want to stop!
All passages come to an end, though, and we busily made the transition from open-ocean sailing to preparing for harbor. Lines coiled, gear stowed, downwind pole lowered, etc. We finally fired up the engine for all of about 10 minutes as we cut up into Soper's Hole harbor, which is chock-a-block full of boats on moorings. We threaded our way defensively through the boats, and witnessed some very alarming seamanship. Since we're in the "charter boat capitol" of the Caribbean, sailing among the other boats here is basically like trying to survive crossing a racetrack infested with 16-year-old drivers trying to impress their girlfriends. We carefully edged over to the far side of the harbor and picked up a mooring buoy well away from the action.
At 0917 hrs, 29 days and 4,150 NM sailed after leaving St Helena, we did it!!!! Way to go Privateer! The long passage...and now we were tethered to the harbor, the helm abandoned. Nep and I looked at each other, stunned, because at that moment we suddenly experienced a complete physical stillness. Roosters crowed lazily into the morning as we both noted that for the past month, our bodies have been in constant, rigorous motion. The stillness was shocking, unexpected.
After a few minutes of bewilderment and congratulations, we got right to work pumping up the dinghy so I could get to shore to meet Customs and Immigration before the heat of the day set in. As I drifted away from Privateer with the boat papers & passports in hand, I got my first glimpse of Privateer from the outside. Her port-side quarter and rudder are covered with a thick mat of goose-neck barnacles and scum well above the waterline, almost halfway up the side to the rail. This is because we spent almost all of our time on starboard tack, with the port side hull underwater for most of the passage. It brought back memories of arrival to the Marquesas, where we discovered them on starboard side after being on port tack--all the other boats arriving from long passages had them too. To me, the green scum line and goose-neck barnacles are the proud tattoos of a long sea voyage.
The Customs and Immigration office was crowded with condescending rich white people and frustrating surly officers who went out of their way to return the attitude. Also, the juxtaposition of rapid transition from the open ocean freedom to office jockeys with badges, combined with sleep deprivation and post-passage adrenaline wearing off usually makes me feel sick and dizzy while clearing in to a new country. The clearing-in procedure cost $10.20 USD. Despite being the BRITISH Virgin Islands, British pounds are not accepted here (only USD) and all I had were pounds from St. Helena. Things were looking a bit hopeless as the officials shrugged and offered no help, and seemed overly-satisfied to tell me that there was no ATM anywhere nearby, no idea, blank stares. Fortunately, a kind American stranger in the line behind me handed me a $10 bill with a smile and insisted that I not pay him back. I will put this in the karma bank and look forward to the day I can return to favor to another stranger! By then, I had become a bit of a curiosity in the office with my unkempt beard and long fingernails (bad luck to clip nails and cut hair on the boat). The Immigration officer asked where we were sailing to from here. When I said "Florida" he said "NO, that is too far. Where are you sailing to next?" By this point I kind of lost my patience and just wanted to get my papers and get out of there ASAP. "We just sailed here from ALASKA so I think we can attempt the sail to FLORIDA, sir." I got the hairy eyeball as he filled in the box: [Florida]. Jesus Christ.
Passports stamped, I rowed back out to the boat and got Nep, and we went about the more important business of walking around on land and finding our way to Pusser's bar for celebratory (and strong!) Margaritas! The Caribbean afternoon heat is oppressive and our legs and bodies were sore from the short walk to the bar. We lazed around until the sun got a bit lower to walk back around the harbor.
Our beards were really bothering us in the prickly heat and I had packed the razors in our shore bag, and we stopped at the marina bathrooms to shave (remember-bad luck to cut hair on the boat!) Well, about 7/8 of the way through shaving, a very unfortunate lady barged in to the men's bathroom, in what I can only describe as a "Privateer" experience.
"NOOO--you cannot do that here! Get out!" She yelled. "WHat?" we said. "You go pee-pee, then go. Pee-pee, then go! Not for that--you cannot DO that here! Get out! Go AWAY! You go pee-pee then go!" "Okay, okay, we will just finish up h--" I tried. "NOOOOO. Pee-pee, wash hands, then go!!" She was very animated at this point, gesticulating at the toilets, the sink, and the door. Her pitch raised into an elongated repetative monologue. There was sharp transition where polite reasoning ended and open hostility went both ways. "Okay, we got it--pee-pee, then go!" Nep shouted. This lady was actually not going to let us finish shaving our beards! "Yes, you go pee-pee! Only for pee-pee, not shave! Pee-pee, rinse hands, go!" "Can we go poo-pee?" I asked.
She stared us down as we rowed away, and like true Privateers we pretended to get out onto another boat. Sheesh! Not a good first impression of the country. The blatant & garish display of wealth, the open contempt from the service industry, and the heat seem to ignite a nasty vibe in paradise. We laughed all the way back to the boat, however, because the pee-pee lady caused one very funny thing to happen: Moustaches! Nep and I had been saving the 'staches for last, so that we could take a funny picture in the bathroom & send it back to the family before shaving them off. It was precisely at this point in time that the fateful pee-pee lady intervened! So, we have resolved that for our duration in the Caribbean, our moustaches will remain, for better or worse! ;)
|March 2, 2017, noon
|17 35.43 N, 62 49.58 W
A banner milestone day today! Our brave and weather-worn gal Privateer has crossed another ocean, with the Caribbean sea is now rushing under her keel. We are almost one month at sea now out of St. Helena, and 45 days and 5,600 miles out of Cape Town, Africa. Three years ago to the day, Privateer set out from San Francisco, outward bound for the long voyage to the Marquesas. Today, we are winding down what is the longest voyage I will probably ever make at sea! Three years, three oceans, two children, seven seas, and millions of waves later...
The glowing loom of the lights of Antigua rose up from the sea, a surreal sight after a month of empty horizon. Like a gift from god, the winds abated and shifted 15 degrees to the East as we rounded under the island and sailed off to the NW. The timing could not have been any more perfect! Daybreak revealed a string of volcanic islands, laid out like a string of pearls--each island its own country.
All day today we cracked along smartly still under storm sails, in 25-30 knots of strong winds. We flew up the windward coasts of the island chain, admiring the islands from a safe distance. It's a real pity that we have to blow past all these interesting places, but the goal of returning to Kelsey & the nearing due date kept my resolve unquestioning and absolute. Privateer ate up the ocean miles and loves the beam reach sailing of the Caribbean!
Tomorrow morning should see us making landfall at Tortola, BVI. Nep and I are due for a much-needed rest and re-provision! We talked about what we're going to do when we get to land. I'm looking forward to ignoring the weather for a few days. Hopefully our legs will work! We'll be like those astronauts returning to Earth from the space station climbing out of the capsule at sea.
From Tortola, we have only a week or so more at sea before Florida landfall. We have several route options and if needed, could actually island-hop with very little blue-water distance. For now, we're going to focus on making a safe landfall and getting a good rest when we get to shore.
|March 1, 2017, noon
|16 49.63 N, 60 20.32 W
For the past 48 hours Privateer has battled squall after squall after squall after squall after squall. During the day they're easy to see, but they tend to sneak up on us during the moonless nights. First, we'll see an absence of stars, then feel the temperature drop a bit. The boat starts pulling to starboard as the main fills, and wind speeds accelerate. She's trimmed well to handle the steady 25 knots of NE winds we're experiencing on a 120 degree wind angle, but as soon as the line cloud passes overhead we need to drive down on a 150 degree wind angle to keep the boat from rounding up and being broad-sided by the breakers. Not fun!
The dark squally nights are all part of the package, I suppose. Another white hair in the beard. Last night we got clobbered by a particularly nasty rogue breaker that exploded over top of the boat. The dodger windows momentarily looked like a jacuzzi with full jets running! Seawater managed to squeeze its way into every crack in the boat, primarily soaking our beds. My sheets are so salty now that climbing into bed I feel like a mummy dressing itself in wet gauze. Daydreams of doing laundry and airing out the cushions on Tortola...
The winds and seas began to pipe up quite a bit more, with 40 knots in the worst of the squalls. At daybreak on Feb 28, I made the decision to convert down to storm sails, and what a good idea that was! Privateer is now under a "boomerang" sail plan. The mainsail and boom are safely lashed in the boom gallows, and the trysail flies smartly on her dedicated track. Storm jib is flying on the inner forestay, and we still have a scrap of yankee poled out to windward to keep speeds up & take the punch out of the following seas. We look more like a hang glider than a sailboat now.
With 30-40 knots of wind and storm sails flying, Privateer drives like a Cadillac! Smooth, heavy, and powerful. She clips along at a safe 5-6 knots and slices through the waves like a hot knife. Best of all, once the storm sails were set, my stress levels dropped to zero and elation kicked in. This is what Privateer was built for!!
In between periods of squalls I get what sleep I can and let Nep take over. I need to conserve energy in order to be fully alert for the duration of the spells. We are sailing almost due west now, on our approach to the Caribbean just south of Antigua. Wind angles are fantastic, with all winds from behind. We are riding through the squalls in safety and control, though basic functions like cooking & showering etc have ceased for the time being.
|Feb. 27, 2017, noon
|15 52.05 N, 55 7.82 W
As we approached our 15N latitude level-off goal, the winds shifted more E-NE and intensified, as forecast. We are now racing off to the west. Our strategy to sail north of the rhumb line has paid off very well so far: for three days now we've just been able to hold a 120 degree sailing angle for wing-on-wing. Keeping the yankee poled out is helping to stabilize the boat, and gives us excellent boat speed. We're making 150 NM-plus days, easy.
Along with the winds have come a thick series of very annoying squalls. Usually they form in the pre-dawn hours and last until noon. When a squall passes over us, me have to adjust steerage to run deeper downwind, as the wind speeds creep into the 30-35 knot range and the seas kick up. We've been slapped around by several dozen of these squalls now. At sea, they remind me of what an F-5 tornado looks like on the great plains. A massive dark and wide funnel on the horizon.
Last night we had a wonderful 100 NM squall-free run, Privateer tracking steady and straight as an arrow. Even better, I was off-watch for most of it, and got a good sleep! The squalls started up again and lasted my entire 0800-1400 watch today. I'm always glad when the squalls land on my watch. Most of the time it seems they happen during my off-watch, when I'll have to jump out of bed and sit outside in the rain and spray...
Just as I wrote "spray" above, a rogue wave broke across the cockpit, sending water droplets down through the hatch and onto my computer! It's the ocean's way of talking to me...
My friend DanDan has a saying that there's no "off" button at sea. I really like that expression. We take whatever comes our way, every hour of the day and night. We can't turn down the wind or shut out the squalls. We turned the button "on" when we slipped the mooring lines in St. Helena, and it will stay on until the voyage end. It's a good way to deal with these squalls that seem to go on endlessly. When the ocean gets in one of her moods, you tune in and pay alert attention. As we near the Caribbean, we are seeing many planes in the sky, bound of Europe. The passengers ("passive-gers") inside are tuned out, sleeping, "off" buttons for all...
We're sailing through vast schools of tuna, who are hunting the flying fish. At sunrise yesterday a tuna arced out of the water just underneath the sheeted-out boom. It looked like a shimmering war club, with its jagged toothy spikes along its tail. If I'd had a camera going it would have made a one-in-a-million shot! The same tuna happened again, right at sunset. This morning after a squall passed over us, a vivid miniature rainbow formed right off the bow. I've never seen such a "close" rainbow before. The two ends came down into the waves just off the bow and it was about 20 feet high, arcing right through the forestay.
It's the big count-down for us now--as I write, we have just over 500 NM to go to Tortola. At 150 NM per day, we should cover the distance pretty quick! We are dreaming of the land and waking up to flat water.
|Feb. 22, 2017, noon
|9 52.82 N, 44 15.75 W
I believe I read that the Atlantic Ocean is saltier than the Pacific or the Indian. Judging by the rock-salt crystals all over the boat, I would have to agree. It's like someone took a giant salt grinder and sprinkled a fine powder on every surface of the boat. You can run your finger across the woodwork, and it comes up white. Large square crystals gather in the winch handle sockets, in the deck iron, in the sails and on the solar panels. The stanchions are weeping rust. I am looking forward to the day we enter into the Intra-Coastal Waterway, where we will blast every surface with hot fresh water, joy soap, and vinegar!
Gradually over the past few days our persistent cloud-cover has given way to a clear trade-wind sky. We're coming up on the new moon now, and the nights are filled with stars. We've reached a great milestone on the journey: at Latitude 9N, the North Star finally rose above the haze of the night horizon! The Big Dipper pours upside-down above. Looking to the south, we can see the Southern Cross, lowering gently and slowly toward the ocean swells. Direction never felt so certain at sea, with both North Star and Southern Cross (and the associated Pointer stars) to guide us true. Privateer is the needle in the celestial compass.
We've had a pleasant last two sailing days, with a return to low seas and and fair winds. The forecast is showing stronger trades in the 20-21 knot range next week as we approach the Caribbean, so we are taking a more northerly tack now, to set us up for an easterly approach once the winds kick up. No complaints for now, we've been moving right along between 5-7 knots at a steady clip.
|Feb. 22, 2017, noon
|9 52.82 N, 44 15.75 W
The isobars have angled off to the NW for the past few days, and we are taking advantage of the wind direction to sail north. This will allow us to crack off and sail more downwind when the trade-winds start piping out of the NE in a few days. Forecast is for 20-22 knots NE from 65 degrees true. We're going to try and sail right up to latitude 15N and then drive down on the Caribbean island chain, approaching from the east. While adding a half-day or so to our overall passage time, we hope that this dog-leg strategy will provide for all downwind sailing, and that our week of windward work just north of the equator will be our last.
We've had a very good few days of sailing now, with moderate winds. We've been alternating between deep reaching on starboard tack and sailing wing-on-wing. We've also picked up quite a good current and are making 150 NM days in light winds with ease. It's nice to have the boat riding on an even keel again, with dry decks and cockpit. Next week will probably get a bit bumpy again...although I keep telling myself that we just got soft in the South Atlantic ocean! This would be an excellent forecast in the Indian Ocean.
The nights are dark and starry due to the new moon approaching, and much more pleasant than the days. Perfect temperatures and steady breezes have been prevailing at night. Globs of phosphorescence boil off the rudder and leave a galaxy of temporary and comets in our wake. The days are cooler now that we are sailing up and away from the oppressive heat of the equator, but it still gets quite hot down below.
We've been catching these weird purple things in the waves out of the corners of our eyes. One morning I got a good look as we sailed through another patch of them. They are a sailing type of jellyfish like the Velella-velellas, but much larger--about the size of a shower cap above the surface. Each balloon sail looks like crinkled purple and pink cling-wrap. And they definitely look like they'd give you a nasty sting! Animals have certainly adapted to take advantage of the furthest reaches of the planet, in the strangest ways...
Today we are sailing through thick carpets of Sargasso again. The yellowy-brown plants gather in endless streaks and strands across the horizon. Below water, filtered through the blue lens of clear ocean water, they appear a bright algae-green color. Our world is filled with every color of the rainbow: the ever-present crystal blue ocean, strings of green & yellow Sargasso, rafts of pink and purple jellyfish, tribes of iridescent flying fish, orange sunrises, red sunsets.
We just passed our 1,000 miles left to go to BVI now! It was extremely satisfying to watch the clicker turn to 999--triple digits! We are 39 days and about 4,800 NM out of Cape Town, Africa. Aside from climbing the 700 stairs of Jakob's Ladder a few times on St. Helena, our legs have gotten little-to-no exercise. My upper body is doing well with all the sail changes & boat chores, but my legs are starting to feel cramped, sore, and soft. I am looking forward to walking around in the BVI! Some sort of electricity-generating bike pedal system at the helm would be a great asset for long-distance voyagers.
Walking the decks tonight I put a double-reef in the main and set the running back-stay in preparation for our stronger trades to come. I've just noticed an alarming amount of chafe at the jib sheet at the clew, where it's been rubbing against the end of the downwind pole. The sheet is cow-hitched to the clew ring, and I am afraid that if one sheet side parts, the other will go with it, and we'd lose control of rolling up the jib. It's a high-cut Yankee so the clew is way up off deck level. The sail will have to be lowered to tie new sheets on. In the meantime, I'm hoping we will make it to BVI without an issue with this. Any sailing friends out there who can think of a temporary solution, send me a sailmail! Ideally I could fix this at sea without lowering the furling jib...
Our diesel fuel consumption has been so low, and the sailing forecast looking so great, that it looks like we'll be arriving in BVI with basically full fuel tanks--whoo-hoo! I always scratch my head when other sailboats need 50, 70, 100 gallons in seemingly every port. Where does it all go? It's very cool that we can hoist a few rags up on a pole in Africa and blow 1/4 of the way around the world--pretty good gas mileage I'd say. I've also been thinking that on this passage--from an outer-space perspective--Privateer will begin at Cape Town and plan to finish in the Caribbean at a right angle to herself, fore and aft. Pretty weird, gravity. Ah well, such are the thoughts we think about over the long ocean miles...
|Feb. 20, 2017, noon
|7 23.39 S, 30 45.48 W
Our bumpy beam reach through the NE trades continues...the weather was stifling hot until yesterday morning, when a cold front swept over us. Winds suddenly accelerated to 25-30 knots and held there for about 6 hours, as the temperature dropped 10 degrees F. We cracked off a bit to ride with the winds, but the seas still made a mess of it. We were "inside the washing machine" as they say, high chop all around. One wave broke into the cockpit filling it to the brim, but Privateer just shrugs off these seas and keeps on sailing. With the Yankee rolled up, our storm sails kept us moving along at a comfortable pace.
Now that we're on the other side of it, we have fresh cooler air and a great sailing breeze, although it lacks the steadiness and constant direction of the SE trades. I've been making several dozen course and sail adjustments every day (& sometimes every hour), to keep us sailing in a relatively straight line.
Flying fish erupt from the ocean all around the boat in astonishing numbers. They arc through the rigging and thump off the dodger and cockpit bimini. The boat charging through the water must give them a good scare. We've been at sea for 20 days now, and have another 10 or so to go until we reach the Caribbean. It's a long ocean road!
|Feb. 17, 2017, noon
|3 35.51 S, 34 16.89 W
Now that we are just above the ITCZ our NE winds have filled in, and we are out of the squalls. There's quite a bit of a NNE component to the wind, so we have to sail slightly to windward to hold a rhumb-line course. Wind speeds are in the 17-20 knot range, which makes for wet sailing! We are forced to dog down all hatches & ports, and during the day the cabin is like a steam-box. It's just like the Winnipeg Folk Festival camping--after a long night of music & partying, the hot sun rises on the treeless field, begrudgingly baking everyone out of their tents by 7 am. One benefit of sailing to windward, however, is that our wind generator is producing unlimited amps and we can freely use as much electricity as we desire. All the cabin fans are running 24/7, and the fridge is stocked with cold drinks. We're living on a 15-20 degree angle of heel which is a bit annoying, but manageable. Temperatures are in the 90s(F) and the steaming torrid jungles of Brazil lie just 450 NM to our south.
Nep did his job well on the night watch the other night. He woke me urgently after spotting nav lights on the horizon up ahead of the boat. "Pete, we've got a ship ahead, not on AIS, and it's pretty close" is just about the fastest way that you can wake me out of a deep slumber. I was on deck in literally three seconds. Sure enough, there was a fishing boat drifting directly on our path, dead ahead. I couldn't make sense of their lights because they were all on--anchor, running, steaming, deck lights. No response from them on VHF. They were surely all asleep for the night, drifting. I quickly altered course 45 degrees and re-set the sails as we charged on at 7 knots into the night. What a great relief as the bearing of the lights fell off to port and we soon passed the hazard! I cannot stress enough the importance of keeping an alert night watch at all times--this boat was not on AIS, and the seas were lumpy enough that our radar was picking up nothing of the low-lying boat. No alarm would have gone off to warn us--only a set of human eyes will do the trick.
Earlier the previous morning we had another fishing boat encounter, right at dawn. I saw the light and no later than 10 minutes, the fishing boat had altered course and was steaming directly toward us! The situation grew tense as they drew closer and I demanded their intentions on the VHF. Eventually I heard some incomprehensible Portugese, and whistling. I whistled back, and they whistled again. At least we had made contact... Soon I saw that there was a buoy in the water quite near Privateer, about 200 feet away. Just like approaching a wild bear, we made sure not to get between the mother and cub (fishing boat and buoy) lest there be a net or lines connecting the two. After not seeing a thing on the horizon for two weeks, it was a shock to look at three other humans standing on the deck of the other boat. They came up to within four boat-lengths of us and we got a good look at each other. This morning we passed through fields of Sargasso plants, floating on the swells. As we sailed along Privateer sucked the plants in through her leeward scuppers and they entangled in the lifeline netting. What a crazy plant...each stem has little hollow "bouys" attached to keep them floating. At times the patches were so thick it looked like we were sailing across a watery golf course. I wonder if this swath is a blown-off remnant from the Sargasso Sea, or if it is associated with the Amazon delta somehow...
|Feb. 14, 2017, noon
|0 46.78 N, 28 48.30 W
Big day for Privateer today--we've found the doldrums, and we sailed across the Equator and into the North Atlantic!
It all started at about 5:30am. I was sleeping peacefully in my bunk, Nep was sailing the boat wing-on-wing in light breezes as we'd been doing for the past 3,300 NM. Suddenly I awoke to big fat raindrops splashing on my face, and then felt the boat lurch as the mainsail was caught aback in the preventers. It was a soaker! The winds dropped right off to zero. We had finally found the ITCZ and it was like a wall.
We rolled up the Yankee, stowed the downwind pole, double-reefed the main, sheeted the storm staysail tight, disconnected the Monitor vane, engaged the electric tiller pilot, and fired up the engine. All while taking an involuntary early-bird morning "swim" on deck, as the rainwater flooded the decks and shot out of every scupper.
We've been under power all day now and into the night, and will probably motor for at least another 24-36 hours to get clear of the doldrums and into the NE trades. The sailors of old had to bob around in this mess for weeks hoping for a breeze,and making hundreds of sail changes as the sails flogged in the swells. Our plan is to motor-reach up to the NNW to about 2 degrees N and then lay an approximate rhumb-line course to the British Virgin Islands.
Last night we turned our clocks back 2 hours to better time the sunrise/sunset into our watch schedule. The sunsets started to come too late--after 2000 hrs--and it affected the sleep of the off-watch. You can pretty much set your clock to whatever time you want at sea, so long as you keep in touch with Greenwich Mean Time. We've sailed through a few time zones since leaving Cape Town so we were due for a switch. We're now using GMT -2 for our local ship's time. We're kind of in a continental time zone "gap" in the ocean, and I was interested to see that except for a handful of people in Greenland perhaps, we are only ones in the world using time zone GMT -2. I'll have to Google it later. We're on "Privateer Ocean Time" now.
Squalls all over the horizon surrounded us all day today as we motored along. We keep the hatches open for much-needed ventilation belowdecks. The heat and humidity are stifling. But when a squall passes over, we have to batten down again, until the rain lets up again. Nep seems to enjoy watching all the squalls and guessing which ones will hit us. I am happy for the hard rain--it's finally washing off all the terrible coal dust we were coated with in South Africa. The halyards and sails were black with soot, and we can now start to see the original color of the lines again.
At 2142 hrs Privateer Ocean Time we rolled across the equator and into the North Atlantic! It is exciting seeing the coordinates read out N and W lat/long on the SSB, GPS & VHF again. It feels like we're home again!
Away from my lady this Valentine's Day...but at least we can chat via the Delorme Inreach. All's well on the home front. We are making our final push to North America where the family will reunite hopefully in 6 week's time, weather depending.
|Feb. 13, 2017, noon
|2 3.05 S, 26 36.44 W
Just as we were settling into a fine sunset one evening we felt a tug on the fishing line: a perfect-size tuna! Within an hour we caught, cleaned, cooked, and ate our dinner--fresh fish & chips!
The South Atlantic has been very kind to us. We've hardly had any winds over 20 knots and very few instances below 12 knots--the perfect wind range. We covered the entire distance except for a hundred miles or so with our wing-and-wing configuration, staysail sheeted flat to reduce roll. It was a downwind run the whole way, and we kept every hatch and port open the entire distance, keeping a bone-dry deck. The SE trades have been good to us, and I will remember the South Atlantic as the most pleasant sailing of the entire world cruise. All good things must come to an end, however, as we are fast approaching the ITCZ (doldrums) that divide the N and S Atlantic. It's an area with heavy rain and light, variable winds. We must cross this "road" to get into the fresh NE tradewinds on the other side. The doldrums might be only 80 NM wide, or they might 300 NM wide--the position and width of the snaking road is always in flux.
The winds and currents in the South Atlantic swirl around the ocean in a counter-clockwise rotation, while the winds and currents in the North Atlantic go the opposite, in a clockwise direction. It's like we're riding a giant figure-8 pattern from Africa to the Caribbean. We're about to jump horse off one merry-go-round and onto another, the ITCZ constituting the leap right where the two loops criss-cross on the figure-8.
It's definitely starting to feel like we're approaching the doldrums. The past few days have been dull and cloudy with lowering pressure. Our solar panels are struggling to make any output with the combines heat and clouds. We have to run the engine every other day for a few hours to top up our batteries. On the positive side, we're still sailing along nicely, on some of our highest mileage days so far since leaving St. Helena. We must be in a good strong current because it looks like the boat is only going 4.5 knots or so through the water, but we are charging along at 6.5-7 knots.
|Feb. 11, 2017, noon
|4 27.22 S, 21 59.99 W
We're on the long, long ocean road. It kind of hit us when we reached the 1/4 way from St. Helena to BVI mile...long way coming, l-o-n-g way to go. The pace of life has really slowed down, and we're totally relaxed into the routine of reading and watching the course as we cut a straight line across the South Atlantic. Sometimes I just sit and stare at the horizon for hours.
We pitched the last few dozens of rotted eggs over the side today--did the old shake test and they all sounded pretty loose inside, and certainly did not smell right on the outside! The other day Nep put in more of a gallant effort at finishing his egg salad than I did, and now he's paying the price--he's been a bit queasy for the past 24 hrs. Just goes to show, the only eggs you can trust are the ones you pick fresh from the coop. I did the math on days at sea and remaining food on board, and we should be fine. The last week may get a bit boring, but that will just make the food taste better after we make landfall.
As we reach into the torrid Equatorial climes, the fridge cycles a bit longer each day, sucking more amps out of the battery bank. The night watch is greatly preferred, under a full moon now. We're picking up radio signals from Trinidad & Chile now as we get further from Africa. And the BBC news is keeping us entertained and happy to be out here on the ocean, dealing with the real issues of the planet! The Orange madman was blathering something about making America "impenetrable"... Winds have picked up a bit and today we finally made more than 150 miles (151) made good on our noon-to-noon. Privateer is slushing down the waves with a single reef, speeds in the 6's now.
Last night the moon was partially shaded by the earth for a few hours. Around 2230 hrs the full moon dimmed and cast a weird greenish light over the clouds, the sails, and the ocean. It was kind of an X-Files light, and a UFO would have completed the picture. As I was watching the eclipse a sea-bird landed on the end of the boom, and it cocked its head toward the moon, and I swear it was watching the eclipse too. Like riding an elephant's back, we sailed on Privateer over the gentle waves under the alien-green moon.
We've seen two Chinese fish-pillagers in the last few days, otherwise it's been an empty horizon. We got an AIS signal from the supply ship from Ascension Island, and Nep hallucinated a few ships the other night. Sometimes, when you go for so long at sea, you wish to see something, anything, on the horizon. I remember one time in Alaska when we'd been weeks without seeing another boat or person. We thought we saw a powerboat in the distance, but as we neared we were disappointed to find it was just an iceberg... We've lost contact with the Beguine. Yesterday I overslept the sked, and today no contact on the radio. Hopefully we'll raise them again tomorrow. It kind of feels like Apollo 13 a bit, and we're on the far side of the moon...
|Feb. 9, 2017, noon
|7 13.50 S, 18 13.18 W
The eggs we bought on St. Helena have already gone bad...they probably sat on some hot wharf in Cape Town for 24 hours before being loaded onto the ship, then were put into refrigeration on St. Helena. Ironically, chicken feed is so expensive on St. Helena that they don't do any kind of commercial egg production there. So, it was a bit of a blow to our fresh food supply. Now that we've discovered a dozen bad ones, the rest are looking pretty suspicious and unappetizing. S/V "Beguine" told us they'd seen a French catamaran in Durban with a chicken coop bolted to the transom including several crowing roosters. I don't know what would be worse--cleaning a chicken coop at sea, or dealing with the occasional bad egg...either way I'm not in the mood for lunch right now!
Our winds have picked up and we've been moving along under 1st reef sails. Mileage has been in the 130's range for the past few days, and the seas are still gentle enough that we can sail with all hatches & ports wide open. How kind the South Atlantic has been to us! We are closing in on the equator. Nights are hot and staying around 89F through the night.
It's almost a dead-downwind run to our waypoint at the equator, so we are sailing a combo of wing-on-wing and starboard tack. We don't want to stay too far to the west once we hit the ITCZ, otherwise we'll just have extra miles to cover in the NE trades. Better to lollygag along down here while the getting is good and easy. There's also a mid-ocean rock pile called "Penedos De Sao Pedro E Sau Paulo" which we want to keep downwind and down-current of.
A bit more polishing here, reading some books and articles there, easy watches, easy miles.
|Feb. 7, 2017, noon
|9 52.48 S, 14 28.04 W
We've fallen into a cadence of wonderfully easy 125-135 NM days, lightly sailing along in 12-14 knots of gentle SE breeze. Like the hands on a clock, we're making steady progress across the South Atlantic ocean. The days flash by in a blur of watches, and each night grows a bit friendlier with the waxing moon. We could certainly get used to this! After the challenges of the SW corner of the Indian Ocean and the South African coast, it's a joke, really. The deck work is so minimal that all we really have to do each day is pull on the string to adjust the air vane 5 degrees here, 5 degrees there, a few times a day. And scrape the flying fish off the deck under the light of the moon. Otherwise, our time is ours to do what we please.
Our spare time allows us to be OCD with our daily chores, which is actually a good practice at sea if you can afford the time. A friend of ours from the Galapagos Islands taught us the trick of using a wide-mouth plastic water jug as a trash can. Only plastic goes into the trash--all else goes overboard to be composted by the sea. You can stuff an amazing amount of trash into a 1-gallon water jug if you shred it up first. As you add more the bottom layers compress, making it essentially a manual trash compactor. When the jug gets full (we can stuff about 2-3 weeks of trash into a 1-gallon container) you just screw on the jug's cap and stow it in the quarterberth. No odors, spillage etc and it's easy to take to shore in the dinghy when you get to land.
My fist-smashing cockroach killing is getting more accurate, and their numbers are dwindling for now. The remaining survivors seem to be getting quicker, though. We could be inadvertently creating a generation of high-speed cockroaches if the ones that are breeding are the ones that escape our attacks. The trick is to leap on them the moment you catch them out of the corner of your eye, so they don't have time to react.
Our friends on S/V "Beguine" are also on passage to BVI with us. They've consistently been about 35 NM behind us, and we are matched for speed just as we were crossing the Coral Sea. We chat daily on the radio at 0800. We had a good laugh when they told us they were polishing their Stainless, just like we've been doing! Easy going, for sure. Circumnavigating is much like doing a long-distance through-hike on the PCT or AT. You run into the same folks at random intervals and as time goes on, the coincidences add up. Take, for example, the fact that we met Beguine in Vanuatu. We had both already decided to sail for Thursday Island, Australia, on the same day. Fast-forward a few months, and again we had both come to the independent conclusion to sail from Cape Town, SA, to St. Helena on the same day, and again from St. Helena to BVI on the same day, without having discussed our plans. On the long trail, it's like that too--a series of hellos and good-byes, and chance reunions when you least expect them. After awhile, you get to know everyone around you on the sea/trail.
As the Southern Cross lowers on the horizon, the Big Dipper is arcing up onto the horizon each night now, upside-down. We should raise the North Star in about 8-10 days. Very exciting to be nearing the NW Hemisphere again! It already feels like we're coming home. Our long range forecast is looking really good right now. The ITCZ is compressing again and it looks like our strategy to cross at 30W will work well. We're still a week away from crossing the Equator, but right now it looks like our fair winds will carry us right up to the ITCZ, with fresh NE trades meeting us on the other side. Anything could happen between now and then, but in the meantime, we carry on...
|Feb. 5, 2017, noon
|12 24.94 S, 11 0.87 W
The past 4 days have been pretty slow going and much alike one another. A slight sea, winds less than 10 knots, and the sails barely filled with enough wind. When we were bashing around in the Indian Ocean I was dreaming of these calm waters, and now that I'm here I am wishing for those windy high-mileage days! The sea is always bluer on the other side of the ocean...
We're taking advantage of the calm weather to do all the odds and ends on the boat. Yesterday (or was it day before yesterday?) Nep whipped every line-end on the boat that needed it. In the process, he stuck himself in the finger with the sailmaker's needle--ouch!
Our daily mileages have been 121, 125, 105... hopefully things will pick up soon. We just got a few more knots this evening and our boat speed is back up in the 5-knot range again. Our plan is to cross the equator at longitude 30W where the ITCZ (doldrums) should be narrower, and then pick up the NE tradewinds for the last 2,000 NM to the Caribbean. Staying a bit further to the East before crossing the equator should hopefully give us a better sailing angle in the NE trades, hopefully with the winds aft of the beam.
The moon is waxing and each night our night watch gets a little bit brighter. Always nice to have a full moon on the graveyard watch! As this passage is likely to take us over a month of sailing, we will experience a complete lunar phase cycle at sea. Our arrival to BVI should see us with a returning moon and going into the neap tide, all good things.
|Jan. 29, 2017, noon
|15 55.00 S, 5 43.50 W
Nep and I took a driving tour of the island with a local guide. It was 12 Pounds well spent! We walked around the grounds where Napoleon was exhiled, and Nep found an old Chinese mural of a dragon in one of the garden buildings. We drove all around the island, to the governor's mansion at "Plantation House" and saw Jonathan the giant tortoise on the lawn, said to be over 200 years old. Behind the plantation down in the woods among giant bamboo and cypress trees were the "Butcher's Graves", real tombstones straight out of a Hollywood pirate movie, of a slave (who was the butcher) and his wife, whom he supposedly murdered. We visited another graveyard that would be the classic Munster Family creep-out yard--tilted headstones, old wooden crosses, mounds of earth and cracking-apart mausoleums. The inscriptions are fascinating, dating back to the 1600s, and one of the graves was marked with the names of the children of the Zulu Chief's son, who was also exiled to St. Helena back in the day.
Driving over to the other side of the island, our guide took us out to look at the new airport. The airport is a divisive issue for the islanders. Built "in order to keep with the times," and "to make the island economically viable," the airport will eventually be the death of the ship RMS St. Helena, and a way of life for the islanders. St. Helena is currently a sailor's island--it is one of the few inhabited islands left in the world only accessible by ship. Many islanders and sailors alike are heartbroken that this unique place will become just a bit more common once the planes start flying.
The airport was scheduled to open in 2016, but when they tried landing their maiden voyage, the plane encountered severe "wind sheer" and bounced all over the runway, terrifying the passengers and pilot. The future of the airport is unknown, and currently no aviation company will sign on to land their planes on St. Helena. They can land smaller planes for medevacs--formerly you just had to take the ship back to Cape Town & hope you could survive the week before getting to a hospital. But to charter a small plane to the island is in the order of $4,500 round-trip to London, much more expensive than taking the ship. So, the politicians and engineers spent 4-5 years carving an airstrip into a volcanic valley known for its violent williwaws (look at any gnarled tree there), set at a right angle to the valley winds and in the face of the SE trades, spending untold millions of dollars to make the island "economically viable", and now they have an empty airstrip. Most of the contractors have gone home and everyone's just shrugging their shoulders in an "oops..." Perhaps if they'd read Charles Darwin's account of the wind sheer in this particular area when he visited the island, they'd have taken this into account...
I say it's the island gods getting their revenge! There's talk of blowing the top off of King and Queen peak to reduce the wind sheer--that would be another pretty bad omen if you ask me. It will be interesting to follow the fiasco over the coming years. For now, St. Helena is still in its pristine, pre-touristed state, and the plans for filling the fields with 5-star hotels and 50-unit condo complexes are all on hold. Hopefully forever! St. Helena belongs to those who have crossed great waters, as every single person has done since the island was first discovered by seafarers.
We twisted back across the island on the narrow roads, up to another high fort built in the 1700s, way up on a pinnacle, looking like something right out of the Lord of the Rings. The center of the fort is hollow and could hold 5,000 people--the whole island population--in the event of an attack. Inside one of the inner chambers we found a 5-sided flagstone with a pentagram inscribed on it, with eerie candles and skeleton masks set in the stone walls. I'm sure many a doobie and plenty of virginity has been lost up here over the years. The view from the fort commands the whole island, and you can see the curve of the earth across the broad sweep of the South Atlantic. We are standing on a tiny little speck of history in the middle of the vast ocean.
Back in Jamestown, we did our best to provision for the next leg of the voyage. What fresh food there might have been was snapped up by the islanders the minute the RMS St. Helena arrived from Cape Town. The only veggies were a crate of sprouting and rotted garlic, and fruit was non-existent. St. Helena is also currently in a drought, so there was no local produce to be had. Good thing Kelsey isn't here for this shopping! I was having flashbacks to Christmas Island and Cocos Keeling. We'll just have to make do with the last of our limes and lemons on board Privateer, to fight back the scurvy.
The most important task we accomplished on St. Helena was fixing our cracked Monitor hinge. We easily found a good welder and within an hour, we had a solid weld and a thick plate added to the back of the hinge, and two new tubes crafted from the broken spares. I can rest a bit easier now, knowing we have an emergency backup for the rudder tubes after using our second and last full spare. Fingers crossed she'll hold for the next 5,000 NM!
Nep and I huffed up the stairs of Jacob's Ladder one last time before leaving St. Helena. We are about to make sail for the Caribbean, over 4,040 NM distant. This will be the longest-proposed sea voyage in my career, and for Privateer too! St. Helena has been an awesome stepping-stone in the South Atlantic, the perfect place to rest up in between passages. On our way back to the boat, we passed by a plaque, reading "Joshua Slocum lectured in this building on his circumnavigation..." We are truly sailing in the wake of our heroes. Thank you Saints for sharing your amazing island!
|Jan. 28, 2017, noon
|16 48.33 S, 4 31.44 W
All day today we reduced sail and tried to slow the boat down as much as possible, so that we don't make landfall during the middle of the night. Even with heavily reefed sails and a light breeze, Privateer still wants to zoom through the waves at 6-7 knots, as if on an invisible conveyor belt. She's excited to see St. Helena! We've made excellent passage time. If we didn't have to slow down, we'd have made Cape town to St. Helena in 11 days, 12 hours. It looks like we'll still landfall before day 12, for an average overall speed above 6 knots.
We finally got our blue sky back again today, giving the batteries a much-needed boost. The puffy trade-wind clouds returned and the sea turned that electric glowing blue again, bluer than blue, like a 4th dimension. Making the rounds on deck this afternoon I scooped up the usual clutter of squid and flying fish, as I checked the trim of the sails.
Landfall is always an exciting and apprehensive time. There's much to do, much to think about. At sunset, "Land-ho!" we made out the faint outline of St. Helena among the clouds on the horizon. We will stand off until daylight, for a safe approach to the "harbor", which is nothing more than an area in the sea at the base of towering rocky cliffs.
|Jan. 28, 2017, noon
|15 55.00 S, 5 43.50 W
We made our final approach to St. Helena in the dark of night. In order to slow down as much as possible for a daylight arrival to the mooring field, we struck the Mainsail and Yankee, and flew under Staysail only making about 3.5 knots. The dark loom of the island rose up out of the depths of the Atlantic. It's very strange to suddenly have something on the horizon after so many days at sea. Various peaks were lit up with red lights, making the island appear to be a vast fortress. The red lights looked modern-day torches, which is the effect they had in the night. We were to find out later that the island is indeed one vast fortress.
As we rounded the NE side of the island a pod of dolphins joined the boat, creating phosphorescent tubes in DNA helix-patterns off the bow. Inside each tube could be seen the dark outline of each dolphin. Many offshore sailors know of this phenomenon--it must be seen to be believed!
Daybreak revealed the craggy cliffs of St. Helena, fading in and out of the mists and rains of the morning. We called St. Helena Radio for our instructions and made our way carefully to the mooring field. A huge triple-masted tall ship from Norway was anchored in the road, the crew unfurling the sails 3,4,5,&6 yards up! I had to laugh--our St. Helena flag shows a picture of a tall ship in front of a brown cliff, and this is exactly the scene we arrived to. Amazing.
We tied on to one of the fantastic mooring buoys in crystal clear water and could see the bottom 65 feet down. Privateer arrived in fine shape and after an hour or two we had a relaxing breakfast, disassembled the Monitor rudder, and were ready to explore the island! St. Helena has a fantastic ferry service, where the launch comes to your boat and takes you to shore. This worked out great for us, as our dinghy outboard motor stopped working in South Africa.
The launch picked us up and we wove through the maze of local boats and floating lines that litter the main anchorage. It's always quite surprising taking that first boat-ride away from the boat after a sea voyage. After being on Privateer for so long, suddenly we were looking at her from afar, with the towering cliffs of St. Helena behind her. Out of the corner of my eye I caught a glimpse of a giant fin as it splashed above the water. A Whale Shark! Our ferry driver drove right up to the massive animal (the world's largest fish) which was bigger than the boat we were in. It was swimming right along the surface and we got a crystal clear view of the behemoth from our vantage in the boat. How lucky is that? Within our first hour in St. Helena we'd already seen a Whale Shark, one for the bucket list for sure.
The launch dropped us off at "The Steps", a concrete landing affixed with rails and vertical ropes to assist disembarkment onto the island when the swell is running high. Suddenly, it was as if we went back in time 250 years... A line of ancient concrete bunkers and shacks was strung out along the cliff, leading to a moat and the castle wall. That's right, St. Helena has a real moat, a real castle wall, real everything left over from the 1600s. It's a living museum, stuck in time.
The RMS St Helena arrived right after Privateer, and the port offices were busy. Luckily we were able to clear in very easily amid the chaos, as it was Sunday and normally the offices in town would all be closed. Instead, all the officials were down on the wharf and we were quickly done with formalities and welcomed onto the island. We passed through the giant wooden castle door and into the town of St. James.
Nep and I got a good stretch of the legs walking all through town and up the valley on the lazy Sunday afternoon. The buildings are right out of Charles Dickens and you can sense the weight of history that settles on the place. Fortress walls and bunkers from the 1600s perch high on the cliffs in every direction. 17th & 18th century cannons from various ships & wrecks are scattered all over town. It felt as if Napoleon himself could have stepped out of one of the doorways, and it wouldn't be the least bit surprising. "This is a top-stop" I said to Nep. Definitely one of the most fascinating places we've ever seen.
The "Saints" as the St. Helenians call themselves are very friendly, and knowledgeable in the way of ships and sailing. In fact, every single person on the island has arrived there by way of a long voyage at sea. It's currently the only way on and off the island. They are a fascinating mix of European, African, Indian, and just about everything in between. They know exactly how you got there (by sea), because you are the only person they've never seen before--there are no tourists coming to the island in hordes (yet...) and they will go out of their way to help you with anything pertaining to the boat. It's a perfect place for a sailor.
Nep and I rounded out our first day on St. Helena by climbing the 700 steep stairs of the Jacob's Ladder, a massive "inclined plane" that was carved straight up the lava-cliffs above town in the 1800s to transport "soils" up (Jamestown's first attempt at sanitation) and vegetables down. The stairs are so steep that you have the effect of being at the top of a roller coaster, and you hold on tight to the rails as the wind vibrates the iron and tries to blow your hat away. At the top of the stairs, sweating, we entered into another fortress built in god only knows when--OLD!--and had a commanding view of Jamestown, a narrow strip of a town, the stark and severe landscape, and the anchorage and Privateer below. Several gigantic shipwrecks litter the bottom of the bay just below the crystal clear waters of the anchorage. It's an awesome scene. What a day, what a place! We are sailing in the wake of history, where so many of the great circumnavigators have sailed before. It is a privilege to be here on this St. Helena, one of the world's most unique remote islands.
|Jan. 27, 2017, noon
|18 28.66 S, 2 32.01 W
We found another dried-up squid baked to a leather in the lifeline netting this morning. If we could only discover them right when they leap onto the boat, they'd make good calamari... Later in the afternoon we hooked a good size Mahimahi on our fishing line but it shook itself off as we were pulling it in. It struck the line while the boat speed was up to about 7.5 knots. We trail a fishing line astern, fixed to a strong cleat every day during daylight hours. Hopefully we'll get another strike soon so that we can come into St. Helena with a well-stocked freezer...
Another cloudy day today with several patches of drizzle, but the breeze held fair and we are really putting the miles behind us. We'll have to slow down tomorrow so that we don't arrive in the middle of the night--we may have to heave-to if the breeze holds up. I'm amazed at how steady and even it is, even through the squalls.
Looking out at all the waves today I had plenty of time to ponder the future and think about life after the world voyage. People always ask isn't it scary and stressful out there on the ocean? Actually, being a shore-side wage earner is the thing that terrifies me the most! Being that this trip has pretty much ruined me for living any kind of mundane life on land, I'm sure my family will figure out ways of keeping that sea-spark alive, carrying it with us wherever we roam. I've seen it in the eyes of other sailors we've met in the mountains, the desert, etc. It's a defiance of the norm, and a peace that comes from knowing wild places.
It's the big count-down now that we are within 200 NM of St. Helena. These last few days are always the longest miles, filled with anticipation of landfall. We were visited by a few birds today--the tell-tale of land nearby. It looks as if we'll get in on a Sunday morning, which means the government offices will be closed. No matter when you set off on a sea voyage, it seems like there's an abnormally high probability that you'll arrive on a Sunday! Hopefully we can get cleared in and make a trip to shore, otherwise we'll just have to wait another day on the boat.
|Jan. 26, 2017, noon
|20 1.25 S, 0 30.01 E
Last night at the change of the watch, Privateer crossed the Prime Meridian and sailed back into the Western Hemisphere. We are now 1/2 way around the world from Fiji, where we crossed the international dateline back in 2014. Another 1/4 turn around the globe will bring us to the shores of North America.
I was sure glad we double-reefed before dark yesterday--the winds piped up throughout the evening and Privateer surged onward into the night. It's coming on a new moon now, so our night watches are dark, especially with the cloud cover we have now. In the morning it squalled up a bit and winds peaked in the 25-30 knot range for awhile. It raised an uncomfortable cross-chop that kept us in a constant state of aerobic exercise all day. A large pod of big gray dolphins leapt from the waves during the higher winds. Finally things mellowed out in the evening and our winds are back down to steady 16-20, SE.
We're having hit or miss on the SSB propagation, some days we can download GRIBs and send journals, other days we cannot. Another cloudy overcast day today, which may have something to do with it. Hopefully it will clear soon, our battery bank could use a solar top-up ASAP. Though we have good winds, the wind generator doesn't pump out many amps on a downwind sail. During these times, we cut our electronic usage to a minimum in order to avoid running the engine to charge batteries.
|Jan. 25, 2017, noon
|21 31.49 S, 1 25.38 E
Our fair and steady winds continue day-in and day-out. It truly is like coasting a bike down a huge, 7,000 NM mountain road. Today we tweaked the course a time or two, and we reefed the sails at sunset. Other than that, the day and night is ours to live as we please. The deck work is absolutely minimal and we've hardly even shipped a drop of seawater on board since leaving Cape Town 1,250 NM ago. My only complaint today was that there were a few clouds this afternoon reducing our solar charge on the batteries.
It looks like we will have good wind for the next 48-72 hours, and then generally dying down to light on our approach to St. Helena. If we do have to motor at all, we will use the engine time to run our semi-broken watermaker (for showers & dishes only now) and to top up batteries if the overcast continues. Our priority in St. Helena is to find a stainless steel welder to fix our Monitor hinge part (a weary theme this year) and fashion 2 shorter new rudder tubes from the broken ones we have on board. We'll have over 5,000 NM of open ocean sailing ahead of us after leaving St. Helena and our self-steering is of critical importance!
Nep & I really like the way the days are passing--the watch schedule is very pleasant. Here is a 24-hr rundown:
0800-1400 Peter 1400-2000 Neptune 2000-0000 Peter 0000-0400 Neptune 0400-0800 Peter
(repeat above with Nep starting at 0800 the next day)
|Jan. 24, 2017, noon
|22 54.23 S, 3 18.92 E
Overcast skies greeted us this morning and later on we went through a few light rain "squalls", though you could hardly call them that because the winds stayed below 20 knots through them. Mainly, the weather shift brought a change to the steady SE winds, bringing them more Easterly, and we had to make more frequent adjustments to the wind vane as we got pushed more to the West. Around noon we jibed the Mainsail, dipped the pole, and ran the Yankee off to starboard. Dipping the pole at sea is always a delicate process in the high seas swell. Fortunately conditions were pretty mellow today and soon we were off on our new tack, heading on a more direct course for St. Helena.
Nep and I sorted through our food bins today, which were very disorganized from when we'd hurriedly stuffed everything away before leaving Cape Town. We had made multiple trips to the grocery store and judged we had enough food for the Atlantic crossing when we could no longer stuff anything more into the available lockers.
Tonight we listened to the BBC news and how Idiot Donald has "issued an executive order" to complete both the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access pipelines. He's claiming that the pipelines will be built out of "American steel only, just like in the old days", using the well-worn tactic of pitting the under-employed rust belt workers against the possibility of innovative reform, in order to line the pockets of the likes of Rex Tillerson. Just like an abusive dog owner throwing his beaten hound a rind of fat. Thanks, Master! Woof! The roughnecks and prostitutes of the boom & bust cycle will once again descend to devour another piece of innocent America, skulls will be cracked, morals corrupted, and treaties broken. Yadda yadda yadda...the contracts were signed behind closed-doors a long time ago.
As a Privateer, I reject the fake TV/Twittersphere leadership of our hijacked country. I denounce the propaganda that the mainstream media plays to the rest of the world. I've sailed around most of the world now and am getting weary of answering the question "Are Americans really that stupid?" in every country. I don't know, maybe we are? How was it again that the Nazis persuaded the innocent Germans to look the other way? Some sort of group psychology trick? Storm clouds are gathering and we are reefing our sails. Literally ;-)
|Jan. 23, 2017, noon
|24 30.91 S, 5 17.96 E
In the early morning hours we passed our 1/2 way mile to St. Helena. All day today the sailing conditions were better than ideal. Perfect temperature day and night (72 F), perfect breeze (13-14 knots), perfect sea state (gentle & low), and a nice blue sky with little puffy trade wind "popcorn" clouds. The boat scooted along at 6-7 knots, perfectly balanced, and we didn't have to touch a thing with the sails or monitor all day. It was enough for me to just watch the boat cut through the electric-blue waters all day long, and the hours passed by in the blink of an eye.
Nep and I each got a nice long nap today, and we squeezed fresh glasses of OJ with our remaining oranges. I battled the cockroaches in the galley, who have set up a headquarters in the refrigerator compressor. They seem to like the heat that it generates. We did a bit more polishing and tidying up the boat, and had an extremely pleasant day. This is what sailing is all about!!
In the evening the winds freshened up a bit so we put a double-reef in the Mainsail and the Yankee for a comfortable ride through the night. The winds are coming 150 degrees over the port quarter, and the boat is nicely balanced & riding on an even keel. Forecast is for slightly stronger breeze for the next day or two as a few highs and lows dance it out with each other further to the south, which should give us a great push to the NW.
|Jan. 22, 2017, noon
|25 56.12 S, 7 20.91 E
At sunrise the breeze died down and I was awoken by the gentle slapping of windless sails. We had little choice but to fire up the engine, and were soon motoring along at 6-7 knots with our Benguela current assist. The day turned fine and we motored until mid-afternoon when just enough wind (7-8 knots) sprang up again to get going under sail again, wing-on-wing. It built to a gentle 10-12 knot breeze with low seas and hardly a whitecap on the ocean. We're making 7 knots yet it feels like we're tied to a dock, hardly any motion. Easy miles!
Nep and I spent a relaxing day reading and polishing the reading lamps with Brasso, which took me back to my days on the Brigantine. Only on the Brigantine, they made us use our bare fingers to polish the brass, and didn't give us any rags. Today we buffed off a thick layer of tarnish to reveal shiny gold lamps underneath--satisfying work when you've got an empty horizon and a sunny day. At one point suddenly a line of thousands of tuna exploded out of the waves in a long line across the horizon. It was a shocking site at first, seeing all that white water in front of the boat! They must have been hunting in a pack, driving their prey with their unbroken chain formation.
The weather looks really good for the next few days--a bit more wind tomorrow and maybe building to 17-19 knots the day after, all from the SE (behind us). I feel the same way a cyclist must feel when they reach the top of a mountain pass--all that hard pedaling to get to the summit, rewarded by the long effortless descent down the other side. The Indian Ocean from Madagascar to Cape Agulhas was our mountain. Now Privateer can enjoy the 7,000 miles of downwind running! We passed mile 700 today, already 1/10th of the way to North America.
|Jan. 21, 2017, noon
|27 25.22 S, 9 13.58 E
Privateer glides across the blue plains, like a paper plane riding on a gentle breeze. Today the winds and seas mellowed out, as forecast, and we shook out the reefs. Dry decks, hatches open, easy motion, happy sailors!! It almost feels like cheating after all of the challenging sailing across the Indian Ocean and South African coast. We've got a perfect 13 knot breeze and more of the same in the long-range forecast. Yes!!!!
This morning we found several more squid with their strange blue eyes on deck, and a few robust flying fish too. The waters have gone back to a deep crystal blue, as we are now sailing over depths of 15,000 feet plus again. We haven't seen any on the horizon since leaving Cape Town, but we're always checking because we're astride the Cape Town to New York route.
Neptune is the perfect watch mate, always getting out of bed before his watch. I give him parameters to stay within while I sleep, so I know he will wake me if anything goes awry while I am off-watch. We're both getting a lot of sleep. Double-handed sailing is largely a solo experience, because most often the off-watch goes to sleep.
It's a great feeling to have all the time in the world with these easy watches. I've been catching up on small boat maintenance projects and reading a book by a fellow sailor we just met, about sailing across the Atlantic Ocean with his wife and 4 of his kids. In the book, he talks about the need to do things slowly. And he also describes that sometimes there's a need to do things quickly, but carefully. I've been taking that advice to heart these past few days and it's worked well. For example yesterday we fixed the Monitor rudder quickly, but carefully. And with these easy watches, I can go all around the boat with a fine-tooth comb, really taking my time, enjoying even the most mundane tasks.
The days are quickly growing hotter and the nights pleasantly warm as we approach the tropics. Today we stowed the sleeping bags and traded them for thin cotton sheets. Privateer is all ship-shape and effortlessly cruising along at 5-6 knots, day and night, day and night...
|Jan. 20, 2017, noon
|28 56.35 S, 11 25.79 E
The past 24 hours have been "sleigh ride sailing", and our noon-to-noon mileage came out to 176 miles made good! Privateer is like a horse shooting out of the barn. Life has been a bit rolly for the past few days now, but we were happy to see the 1/4 way to St. Helena mile slip by & it hardly even seems like the voyage has begun.
Early this morning before daylight, Nep woke me up urgently. The boat was rounding into the wind. I shot out of bed from a deep slumber and instinctively jumped out into the cockpit and checked the Monitor. Once again, the rudder post tube had sheared off. Unlike the clean break like in the Indian Ocean, this time to rudder was bent off at 90 degrees. Damn! Thank god I got that extra spare for the spare in San Francisco before we left. I can clearly remember the moment.
This time, the repair went much smoother than the Indian Ocean heaving-to "astronaut" experience. I knew exactly what needed to happen now. We quickly rigged up the new electric tiller pilot to take over while we made the repair. Nep still had to hold me by the ankles as I hung upside-down over the rail to slip a few cotter-ring pins out. I was careful to tie multiple safety lines to each precious part of the Monitor that I disassembled. We lit up the cockpit with the LED deck lights, and at some point a squid must've been attracted to the light, because later on in the day we found a squid in the cockpit. I didn't know they could leap out of the water! It's human-like eyeballs dangled out of the sockets and it lay in a pool of black ink.
I worked quickly and carefully down below at the tool bench, and soon had the new tube installed. I also got a good look at the cracked hinge lever, which we need to repair in St. Helena ASAP. My cruising notes say there's a good stainless steel welder on St. Helena, so hopefully we can find them when we get there. We've got 6,500 more miles of sailing in front of us and no chance of flying in any spares, so any fixes will be Alaskan "Wrangellized" style, as we like to say in Wrangell Alaska. We will also try and make new shorter rudder tubes by sawing off the broken ends and drilling new holes. The rudder is back on again and we are back in business.
Fortunately, it looks like the weather is taking a turn for the ideal! Winds are forecast to drop to around 10-13 knots with seas diminishing to 1.5 meters throughout next week. We're looking forward to some quiet sailing, with hopefully enough wind to keep the sails from flogging.
Another setback with boat equipment today--our water-maker is producing un-potable water again, even after I had cleaned it out in Cape Town. I suspect we may have a problem with the membrane itself, which basically means we can't rely on the water-maker on this passage across the Atlantic. Fortunately, we have loads of fresh bottled water on board already. And Privateer also has massive water tanks--about 250 gallons in 3 separate tanks, which are totally full. We will still use the water-maker to top up one or two of our tanks for doing dishes and showers, but all of our drinking water will have to come out of bottles filled in St. Helena from here on out.
Talking with the other circumnavigators in Africa, it seems as if we're all at a point in the voyage where we're all dealing with multiple breakages and gear failure. After using everything on the boat to the max for so long, it's only a matter of time before things start to give out. We all take what spares we think we'll need, and then deal with the problems as they come. Improvisation is key to success.
In other news, we hear that the orange-faced clown was sworn in as President of the USA today. Quite the contrast to Billy Bush, who lost his job after the jocular video surfaced. I smell a fraud...
|Jan. 19, 2017, noon
|30 52.58 S, 13 59.62 E
I'm on graveyard watch tonight. The moon isn't up yet and the winds are brisk. Bursting galaxies of bioluminescence create an eerie green glow around the boat as we charge through the waves. Privateer herself is creating her own night lights as she tears a wide wake through the ocean swell.
250 NM off to starboard lays the shore of the Namibian desert. Cape Town is already several hundred miles astern, and the cold Benguela current is giving us an extra boost. We're making good speeds in the SE winds, clocking a solid 8.3 knots with regular accelerations to 9 and 10 knots. The miles are slipping by. It looks like the forecast will settle down in a few days, with the winds moderating to 10 knots. For now it's a bit rolly, but an OK price to pay for the added speed. I noticed a problematic hairline crack in the stainless steel hinge on the Monitor rudder shaft. We'll get that looked at by a welder ASAP in St. Helena. In the meantime I am going through in my head what I'd do if the piece failed out here. Sailing is all about perceiving the dangers around you and trying to eliminate a problem before it arises.
Speaking of problems, we have a major cockroach and ant infestation on board Privateer! Such is the problem with tying alongside the docks in Africa--the marinas are teeming with roaches. Every now & then as I type, a roach crawls onto & across my computer screen. I think they like the heat inside the laptop. They're very smart & quick--if you take the time to find something to smash them with, they will certainly get away. They have a disturbing ability to slip off countertops and literally disappear before your eyes. The only way to get them is to pound them with your bare fist, a method Kelsey pioneered and perfected. It all started when we spotted one roach a few weeks ago, and then found a hatched egg nest inside a clove of garlic. Now they have gone through a few generations=85 I've laid out dozens of "hotels" in all the lockers & bilges. Hopefully between that and the old fist-smash, we can get them under control without resorting to fumigation. I'd like to bring the boat to a freezing climate in North America for the winter, and freeze them off the boat. The ants were making highways across the bulkheads. Tiny little things-they didn't have the gross-out factor like the roaches. Neptune and I laid out poison syrup traps for them and within a few hours, I was surprised to see literally thousands of ants swarming the traps. Within 24 hours almost all the ants have vanished, and my tool bench is littered with dead ants like a civil war battlefield.
We've just crossed latitude 30S and are now climbing back into the 20s and toward the tropics again. The nights are growing warmer and more pleasant as we sail north. In a few days we will also cross the Prime Meridian, longitude 0, and pass back into the Western hemisphere, =BD way around the world from Fiji! And shortly after St. Helena we'll cross the Equator into the Northern hemisphere. There will be many milestones on this trans-Atlantic passage.
Nep and I are settling into our offshore routine, and the days and nights are once again blending together into the series of watches and naps. It's pretty ideal, but I miss Kelsey & especially Taz, and tend to daydream about what they're doing back in Minnesota right now.
|Jan. 18, 2017, noon
|30 52.58 S, 13 59.62 E
It's been awhile since our last post, so here's a quick run-down to get you back up to speed:
My Dad & I are sailing the boat across the Atlantic now, a 7,000 NM voyage to the US Eastern Seaboard. We are currently on passage to St. Helena, 1,700 NM distant from Cape Town, South Africa. Kelsey and Taz have flown ahead to the USA, as we didn't want to risk having baby #2 in the middle of the ocean! They are back with the Grammys in Minnesota & Taz is reportedly enjoying the snow and being the center of attention.
After Kelsey, Taz, and I made landfall in Richards Bay, South Africa, we picked our way down the treacherous coast, weathering storms in each of the ports we came across--Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, Mossel Bay, and finally on to Cape Town. Until we post our journals of this leg, be sure to check out our pictures from the safari we took in Hluhlue/Imfolozi game park! Just like being in Jurassic Park... we were blown away by the magnitude of wildlife.
It's been a very busy last two months sailing down the infamous Agulhas current to Cape Town--it took us almost 4 weeks to accomplish the 850 or so NM in between weather windows, and we spent Christmas at sea, rounding the Cape of Good Hope. In Cape Town we spent several weeks getting Privateer in order for her next major ocean passage across the Atlantic.
Privateer has come so far already this year. Of special note is that during 2016, Privateer has had her bow in 3 oceans: The Pacific (NZ-Vanuatu-Australia), all the way across the South Indian Ocean, and finally into the Atlantic at Cape Agulhas, just before reaching Cape Town. 3 oceans this year, and also across the breadth of the Coral Sea, the Arafura Sea, and the Timor Sea. And all with baby Taz (now over 2 years old!) and baby #2 has crossed the Indian Ocean & into the Atlantic in the womb, feeling every ocean wave. It has been a crowning achievement what we did this year. I am very sad to see Kelsey & Taz go off the boat for the Atlantic crossing--it's as if one world voyage has come to an end, and another one beginning. If all goes well we should re-unite in about 2.5 months in North America.
My Dad (whom I will refer to as "Neptune" hereafter) & I departed Cape Town at 1100 hrs on Jan 17 & have been at sea for a few days now, settling into the new rhythms of the Atlantic. The first 24 hours were pretty ideal in light winds & sunny skies. Good old Privateer is all organized and shipshape. The passage from here to St. Helena and onward to the Caribbean is considered one of the most pleasant downwind sails in the world, but the first few days out of Cape Town can be bouncy.
Sure enough, the winds piped up to SE 25, but the seas were much kinder than the cross-swells of the Indian Ocean. We kept a double reef in the Main and are using our same "Indian Ocean sail plan" with the pole out to port, but we're taking the swells at a much better angle now that we're sailing off to the NW, & back into the tropics. Yesterday we had covered 124 NM in light winds and our noon-to-noon today shows we've covered 164 NM now that we've got a decent breeze. Things have tapered off a bit now, and we're hoping for generally pleasant conditions from here on out, maybe with a bit more high winds tonight. Yesterday was just too bumpy to write, and it takes a few days to readjust to the ocean after sitting in a marina for a few weeks.
Nep and I are on a regular watch schedule now that Taz is no longer the determining factor. It's nice for me to know exactly when my watch will end! We break the night watch into three 4-hour blocks, and the day into two sets of 6 hours. This gives us 6-hour stretches of sleep during the day, and one night will be sunset/sunrise watches and the next night the "graveyard" watch, from midnight to 0400. It should take us a few weeks to reach our first destination, St. Helena, a tiny dot in the middle of the South Atlantic...