Saturday, September 24, 2016
My last evening on GANNET this year.
A tumbler of boxed red wine at hand. Spanish music, which I also listened to last night, coming from the Megabooms.
I put a second coat of Deks Olje on the wood today. The cabin is transformed from the tidal pool it was a few weeks ago.
I’ve been aboard now for almost seven months, the longest I have lived on board continuously, slightly longer than I did two years ago, and the longest I have been away from Carol. Too long.
When I arrived in Durban some congratulatory emails told me to get a hotel room and relax, but I stayed with the little boat. The first night I slept in a moist sleeping bag on a pipe berth, but by the second I had restored some order and slept forward on the v-berth. I have two homes: GANNET and where Carol is.
As regular readers will know I’ve been largely packed for a while, and today, in addition to oiling, had only to tie down the tiller, lower the flags, and set up the running backstays. None of which would have mattered if I hadn't done them.
16,000 miles along the way GANNET is, as far as I can tell without hauling her from the water, in good shape.
Two of the main projects I wanted done before sailing on have been completed. The sails have had minor repairs and the main a fourth reef sewn in. My tiller pilots have been returned repaired under warranty. At the moment I have three working Raymarines on board.
GANNET also has new mainsail and tiller covers.
Two other projects will be completed in my absence. The spray hood made. And, Gavin and Derrick, riggers, will install the replacement masthead wind units, brackets to prevent the Tides Marine track from bulging when the mainsail is reefed, and cleats on either side of the mast to secure the reef tack line.
When I return in January I will haul and antifoul, touch up the rub rails and the interior, and probably give the deck a new coat of non-skid.
There are a good many items to buy in the U.S. and bring back with me, including an as yet undetermined number of additional Raymarine tiller pilots. Hopefully I will also bring back a functioning Pelagic pilot.
But for now I’m gone.
The next entry will be from the flatlands sometime after October 9.
I won’t be answering email until then either.
Tim sent me a link to surfline, a site I did not know.
He wrote: While you were sailing, I used this website to see what the wave height was in the Indian Ocean. There was a stretch for more than 2 weeks that your path was in the red, meaning 20+ feet or more.
The waves in the gale I had on my approach to Durban were forecast also to be 6 meters/20’.
I did not think the waves were that high in either place, but they were certainly high enough to throw GANNET around, and I may have to revise my estimates.
I gave a talk at the Point Yacht Club a couple of weeks ago, only the second I’ve given in perhaps ten years, and I’ll conclude this as I concluded then: I raise my glass to you and to me, and to our dreams, and the passion to pursue them.
(Passion from a seventy-four year old: absurd!)
Thursday, September 22, 2016
I oiled GANNET’s interior wood today, and cut off a foot of the jib halyard I used this year whose cover had become frayed, and read more of Volume 2 of Shelby Foote’s: THE CIVIL WAR.
Shelby Foote was perhaps the star of Ken Burns’s PBS series about the Civil War and later told Ken that he had made him, Shelby, a millionaire from renewed sales of books written decades earlier.
I just read about Pickett’s charge on the third day of Gettysburg. One Mississippi regiment achieved the unenviable perfection of 100% casualties. A North Carolina regiment came close, with only two non-casualties, a flag bearer and the man beside him, who survived only because the Union soldiers impressed by their courage did not shoot them, but let them to continue on and become prisoners.
One Tennessee soldier when forced to retreat did so walking backwards because he did not want to be shot in the back.
Three sailors from the Seattle area have made remarkable solo voyages returning from New Zealand to their home waters in the past year, all in boats between 30’ and 40’ long, small by current cruising boat standards.
Craig, of LuckGrib fame, did it with one stop. Opua to Hawaii to Washington state.
Dennis did it in two.
And Steve in ROVER OF TACOMA sailed 22,000 miles in ten months, going from Whangarei around Cape Horn to St. Lucia in the Caribbean, to Panama, Hawaii, and then to the mainland.
With the exception that you can pick your weather when leaving New Zealand as you cannot when approaching, it is much more difficult to sail from NZ to the US than vice versa.
All admirable voyages in which Craig, Dennis and Steve should take justifiable pride.
Jay sent me a quote from from Robert Scott who died on his return from the South Pole, having been beaten by five weeks to that goal by Roald Amundsen. Among Scott’s final written words were: How much better it has been than lounging in comfort at home.
I like to believe that I understand, but I must confess that sailing GANNET across oceans is hard and I am very much looking forward to lounging in comfort at home for three months.
Monday, September 19, 2016
The sun set a half hour ago. The sky is dissolving from blue to black at the end of a lovely day, after a raw and blustery weekend. This part of South Africa is suffering from a several years’ drought. I cannot begrudge them the rain even if it exposed leaks in GANNET, and had me sleeping beside a plastic container to catch drips from the forward hatch hinge.
This morning I disassembled that hinge and found a gasket folded back upon itself which was the obvious source of the leak. In trying to put the hinge back together I stripped threads, steel screws into plastic. I’ve taped the whole thing over. New hinge parts cost $60. A new hatch $500. I’ll first try for the new hinge when I return.
I am not stupid about money, yet I’ve never made a lot. For unexpected reasons I have become among the wealthiest of men because, unlike greedy billionaires, I have enough and know it.
Yet this weekend found me reduced to the equivalent of $14 US.
South Africa is apparently a country of great credit card fraud. Since arriving I have had my cards denied multiple times, causing at least eight Skype calls back to the U.S.
Yesterday was Sunday. I took a taxi to a shopping center where I was unable to get cash from multiple ATMs. I telephoned my bank and was told nothing could be done until Monday morning. I forwent lunch, carefully calculated my purchases at a supermarket, hoping I would not have to move aside things I couldn’t pay for, and, after taking a taxi back to the marina—the distance was too far to walk—had left the equivalent of $14 US.
I have far more than enough food on GANNET to last the week until Carol comes to my rescue, but I was feeling squeezed. Fortunately today my cards were unblocked and I was able to get cash. I paid a sailmaker for repairs and new mainsail and tiller covers and splurged on a cheese burger for lunch at the yacht club.
Saturday, September 17, 2016
Evening. Rain is easing, but has been falling steadily, and sometimes heavily, since morning. I have not left the Great Cabin all day.
Sitting at Central, I was disappointed to hear water dripping behind me from the forward hatch onto the v-berth.
I crawled up there and found that it is not coming from the edge or any of the seventeen bolts securing the hatch that I applied butyl tape to, but from one of the screws that attach the hinge to the underside of the hatch. I will see what I can do about that when the rain finally ends, which may not be until Monday.
I also closely examined the bolts of the spray hood frame and the relocated cam cleats. No leaks.
I am a short timer. Only one more week on GANNET before Carol arrives and only two or three weeks when I return in January before I plan to sail on.
Next week should/may see the rigger come and install the replacement Raymarine masthead wind transducer and brackets to keep the lower section of the Tides Marine mainsail track from bulging; a sailmaker come to take measurements for the spray hood; another sailmaker return my repaired sails with a fourth reef in the main and new mainsail and tiller covers; and two repaired under warranty Raymarine tiller pilots returned.
I need to do something about the hatch hinge leak, get my laundry done, and pack.
The photo was taken on July 9, the day I went for a swim during GANNET's magnificent twenty-eight mile noon to noon run.
Thursday, September 15, 2016
Those of you who have read the Darwin to Durban passage log know that when the Great Cabin turned into the Great Dismal Swamp, I tried unsuccessfully to find the bivy I bought following Steve Earley’s lead.
Yesterday I needed to change to a new gas canister for the JetBoil and there in the waterproof bag in which I stow the canisters was the bivy. I don’t remember putting it there, but certainly no one else did. Not a bad place for it. At least next time I’ll know where to look.
I also counted the canisters. I left San Diego with a case of 24 and 2 or 3 extras. I have 14 left.
In an effort, or at least a gesture, that there won’t be a next time, I am having a spray hood made. The frame is in place and measurements for the hood will be taken next week.
Almost everything on a boat is a compromise, but GANNET was so wet on the last passage that I decided to try to accept those that come with a spray hood. It needs to be low because GANNET’s boom is low when sheeted in close-hauled. I didn’t want to have to relocate a lot of deck hardware. The hood I am having made will require moving only two cam cleats. And a hood will have to be quickly and easily folded forward, probably every time I move from cabin to deck and vice versa, and because I like to stand in the companionway. If it meets all these requirements and also keeps some water out, I’ll be satisfied.
I removed—tedious—and rebedded—easy—the forward hatch today.
To rebed I used butyl tape. If this works it will be wonderful because the tape is a pleasure to work with. No mess. No cleanup.
I am not recommending this. It has yet to be tested by rain, which is due this weekend, and an ocean passage, which won’t happen until next year.
If you are curious and want more information I bought mine here.
Tuesday, September 13, 2016
A raw and rainy day, keeping me mostly confined to the Great Cabin, reading and listening to music, which is not bad. I changed from shorts and t-shirt to Levis and a pullover.
Yesterday, which was warm and sunny, I found more things stowed beneath the v-berth that were wet and was able to dry them on deck. More rain is due tomorrow and over the weekend. My drying days may be over.
With the rain we’ve had, water in the bilge was to be expected. So far there is none. It would be wonderful if the bow leaks were confined to the running lights. The forward hatch is leaking, but not badly. When/if the weather permits I will remove and rebed it, this time with butyl tape. The leak is not directly over where I sleep.
During a break in the rain this morning a man came to GANNET to take measurements for the simple frame for the companionway spray hood. This wasn’t quite as clear cut as you might think. Progress may have been made. Or may not have.Time to pour something warming. And I don't mean tea.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
Zane, a New Zealand friend, sent me links to some of the most beautiful photos of Opua and the Bay of Islands I have seen. I thank him for the links.
I’ve wandered around the site. Julie is a talented photographer. She even has some fine images of gannets.
Joost from the Netherlands, who sails a 22’ light weight Danish built Marsvin in the North Sea, sent me a link to an easily lowered spray hood he made for his companionway. I have been thinking of something similar. The amount of water coming into GANNET on the recent passage was intolerable and endured only because I had no choice. Joost has given me the nudge I need, and I will make some calls tomorrow to see if I can get something similar made here. Thanks, Joost.
I received several emails about the 76 push-ups.
Not having done any for so long, I did not expect to do that many. I would have been satisfied with 50 and build up from there. I was surprised to find how easy they were. Not even any soreness the next day.
Sailing GANNET does not often take great strength. I usually don’t even use the winch handles, except for the last few feet to get tension on the luff while raising the mainsail or while reefing.
Upon reflection I think the push-ups were easy because of the residual effect of the long rows in Darwin two months earlier, combined with the constant, day and night, isometrics while crossing oceans on GANNET.
I also heard from Doug who transited the Panama Canal a few years ago on a Francis 26 without a head and feeding his line handlers with a bucket of KFC, and from Mark, who provided a link to the renewed Panama Canal Railway. GANNET on a train?
Next year may tell.
I thank them both.
Friday, September 9, 2016
Windy and overcast here today. Possible rain tomorrow when I have been invited to see my first live rugby match.
I should go to the foredeck and see how many push-ups I can do. I’ve done none for months and need to get back in training. I have a date with destiny to do 75 in little more than two months.
I took my foul weather gear with me to the shower the other day and gave it a thorough rinse, followed by drying while tied to the boom.
I’ve removed the bow sprit from the deck and stowed it below. While at the bow I knelt down and examined at a distance of about an inch all fittings for possible leaks. The lenses of both deck level navigation lights have wide cracks. That is certainly one source of water coming in. There may be others. I never use those lights, which are only required when powering at night.
I filled the cracks with sealant and added ‘bow nav lights’ to the GANNET list.
In the ongoing tiller pilot saga, the two dead Raymarines are being repaired here under warranty.
The Pelagic did not fail as much as never quite make it to the starting line. Brian, the man behind the Pelagic, has been most helpful, and I’m going to remove the components and carry them back to the U.S. for him to examine. I prefer to live in hope. I’ll report the findings here.
I also will probably buy two or three more Raymarines while in the U.S., just in case hope isn’t enough.
One reader suggested that I switch to Simrad. I have used Simrad tiller pilots in the past, but wiring GANNET for three different systems seems excessive.
I’ve been here long enough to start thinking ahead.
I am due back in Durban on January 12. I’ll haul and antifoul GANNET, provision, and be on my way along the South African coast, but where I’ll stop, or even if, I do not know. I might clear South Africa from Durban.
Beyond South Africa, I will head for the Caribbean, stopping briefly at Walvis Bay, Namibia, and St. Helena, both of which I have not seen since 1988 and would like to again.
I might also stop at Fernando de Noronha, an island off Brazil. Where I’ll pause in the southern Caribbean is undecided.
From wherever I do stop, if GANNET and I are undamaged, after a short rest, we’ll sail for Panama.
I am told that GANNET is not legal to transit the Panama Canal. She does not have an enclosed head, and she is unsuited to transit the canal for other reasons. I have no way to feed four line handlers and an advisor; no where for them to sleep; GANNET can’t make the required speed under power; and her deck cleats are far too small for the lines thrown to yachts in the locks. Perhaps all of these can be overcome by money and reason.
I am not opposed to hauling the little boat from the water and trucking her to the Pacific.
If we make it across the Isthmus one way or the other, we’ll probably sail directly for San Diego, which will involve a beat to windward for the last thousand miles.
The sailing distance from Durban to San Diego is about 9,000 miles, the same as the distance we covered this year in four months.
We could be in San Diego by June 1.
I have considered sailing out to Hawaii.
We would complete a circumnavigation upon reaching Hilo, from where I could sail to Seattle and make my way along the coast to San Diego. Or I could turn south for Opua.
It fills me with nostalgia. Those green hills are engraved in my soul.
If I can’t get GANNET through Panama, I’ll sail to the U.S. east coast and maybe across to Ireland and Scotland on a pilgrimage to Islay to enjoy my favorite liquid at the source.
I’ll be damned. Which is hardly news.
Sailing has kept me in shape.
I just did 76 push-ups.
Monday, September 5, 2016
I’ve been in Durban almost three weeks and today was the first I have done no boat work. Handing sails over to the sailmaker for minor repairs to be expected after 16,000 miles and to have a fourth reef sewn in the main doesn't count.
Because of the positioning of a fitting at the bottom of the Tides Marine mainsail luff track, I practically had to disassemble the boat to remove the fully battened mainsail.
GANNET looks naked without sails.
Yesterday I attacked mold over the starboard pipe berth, the last area I had yet to reach, except the dead area aft of the pipe berths that I’m not going to attempt to reach. I blindly sprayed ExitMold in the direction of the transom and retreated coughing. Good luck to whatever is living back there.
While in the vicinity I counted the bags of freeze dry food stowed aft. There are five bags of thirty meals each. I’ll buy some more, but that might be enough to finish the voyage.
What I did do today was make reservations for the two weeks Carol and I are going to be South African tourists, starting late this month. Even with the Internet, a cumbersome and tedious task.
Here is the GANNET to do and buy list as it now stands. Currently it has an unfortunate tendency to grow rather than diminish.
#Tides Marine track repair
#sail repair and fourth reef in main; new mainsail,
#Apple lightning cables
waterproof food bag
#Raymarine masthead wind unit
Velocitek battery cover
electrical connections, crimp tool, fuses
touch up paint: deck, rub rail, cockpit, hull?
Icom handheld VHF radio bracket
haul and antifoul
Those marked * have been done; with # have been initiated.
Many are things that I can more easily buy back in the U.S. Many are replacements due to water damage.
Eight days ago I received the following in an email:
Despite the big wind and waves, anchored ships and no protection from the elements, your description is without any hint of fear. You assess and react without drama. I was wondering if you experience the fear emotion but leave it out as you write? Does your vast sailing experience allow you to avoid the fear I feel even as I read your passage notes? Any advice on how to deal with fear provoking conditions I may find myself in while sailing?
I’ve waited to respond because the questions deserve thought.
I have written about fear before.
Mostly we are afraid of the unknown. Fear for me at sea is not common because I have been alone at sea for a total of probably nine years or ten years and most of the experience is familiar.
When something unexpected happens, a wave slams into the hull, or when a boat is out of control, being carried sideways in a breaking wave or thrown onto her beam or turned even more upside down, the animal inside tenses. That may be fear, but it doesn’t last long.
Often on a boat things happen too fast to be afraid at the time, but only in retrospect. The two times GANNET has been heeled 90° or more, I observed the situations with detached curiosity as to what would happen next. Would she keep going over? Would the ocean rush in? Or would she come back up?
I have been careful and steadfast not to claim to have courage. Courage is doing something you are afraid to do. What I do have is nerve, which is the willingness, after making the best plans and preparation possible within the limits of your resources, to go ahead with an endeavor whose outcome is uncertain and may be fatal.
We are also afraid of repeating remembered extreme pain.
I am afraid of thirst because I have almost died of it twice. Hunger is nothing compared to thirst.
I am also afraid in a general diffused way of a passage becoming a life or death ordeal. I’ve done that, too, and would just as soon not do so again.
So I don’t deliberately exclude writing about fear. My writing is a pretty accurate self-portrait.
Advice on how to deal with fear provoking conditions: sail enough so that confidence in your own ability and your boat's to cope with extreme conditions grows and becomes near certainty.
I say ‘near certainty’ because the greatest truth I have read in a long lifetime of mostly serious reading is from Ecclesiastes: I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
Tolerance of uncertainty and acceptance of time and chance are partial antidotes to fear.
Friday, September 2, 2016
I only know the day of the week if I notice it on my laptop or phone or as today when Carol emailed that it is Friday and she is looking forward to the weekend. Here in Durban I am seven hours ahead of her, but usually on the same day. In New Zealand I was usually a day ahead.
So it is Friday and it is September and I realized that this journal is ten years old. The very first entry is dated August 31, 2006. This is slightly longer than Samuel Pepys kept his somewhat more famous diary.
In time I am sure that mine will be recognized as a classic, too. Or perhaps not.
Thanks for coming along for the ride.
Gavin, the rigger, came by today. I had bought a new Windex, but he found the one at the masthead needed only to be unbent. However, I don’t really have any place to store a spare, so when he returns to install the Raymarine masthead unit, I’m going to have him replace the old Windex with the new one.
A sailmaker also came by and will return Monday to take the main and jib for minor repairs to be expected after 16,000 miles and put an even deeper reef in the main.
I have heard from several of my fellow Americans how fortunate I have been not to be exposed to what now passes, or poses, as news.
I have a small Sony radio that receives short wave. On previous voyages I often tuned into the BBC or Voice of America at night. I did not once this year. And even in port with a decent Internet connection, I do not read newspapers online beyond glancing at headlines, and I also only glance at the tech sites I used to view.
They all seem superficial, shallow—as anything must that lives and dies by seeking the biggest possible audience, and jejune.
I went to sea this year and part of me has not come back and possibly never will. For the better.
Responding to immense popular demand, or at least a couple of emails, I took videos during the passage from Darwin to Durban. I didn’t start until about midway across the Indian Ocean, after the calms off Australia and the severe two weeks of gale and near gale force winds.
Whether any of this is worth sharing, I won’t know until after I return to Evanston next month, but ‘GANNET in the Indian Ocean’ may be coming to a YouTube near you.
Whether any of this is worth sharing, I won’t know until after I return to Evanston next month, but ‘GANNET in the Indian Ocean’ may be coming to a YouTube near you.