Friday, August 26, 2016

Durban: tested









  At 5 a.m., Monday, August 22, our 53rd day at sea since leaving Darwin, Australia, the wind died, and GANNET, my Moore 24, was becalmed ten miles from Durban Harbor.  Confident that the 6,000 mile passage would be over in a few hours, I took advantage of the smooth conditions to fit the outboard bracket and electric Torqeedo onto the stern.  The Torqeedo had not been used in months, not since I powered the last half mile to the marina in Bundaberg, Australia.  I was pleased when it started at the first push of a button.  Then I removed what is called the tiller arm and tilted the Torqeedo from the water.  It has a limited range and I would use it only after entering the port.
A few minutes later the wind, which had been light and behind us, returned with a rush, but from directly ahead.  I raised a triple reefed main and partially unfurled the jib.  
The wind continued to build and build.  Had I not so wanted to get in, I would have stopped sailing by 6 a.m.  But I did and kept on.   GANNET was heeled 40°, thrashing through and under water.  Lee rail buried.  Activity below was impossible.  One of the rules on GANNET is the same as in boxing:  protect yourself at all times.  Trying to heat water for coffee, momentarily I didn’t and was thrown across the cabin.  This, of course isn’t far, but I lost a good piece of skin and got a good sized lump on my elbow.  I drank the coffee with air temperature water and ate a protein bar for breakfast.
With  the wind coming partially over the point of land to the south, I thought it possible the sea would be smoother closer to the coast.  I was wrong.  The wind there was as strong and the waves steeper.  I threaded my way through a half dozen ships anchored waiting entrance to the harbor until I ran out of room and a mile offshore tried to come about.   Despite moving at speed, GANNET didn’t have the weight to do it.  The wind stopped and shook her like a dog a bone.  I had to do what I didn’t want to and gybe.  The power of the boom going over was immense.  GANNET went to almost to 90°, but Moore 24s are self-correcting boats.  They seem to want to do the right thing, and as I eased the sheet, she came up.  Some.  As I steered back past the anchored ships one of them gave a blast on her horn that I decided to interpret as applause.  To the south I could see the breakwaters at Durban seven miles away.
Wave after wave swept over GANNET and me.  While being flailed In the failed attempt to tack, the jib sheets had tied themselves in a Gordian knot.  Once clear of the ships, I tied down the tiller and lowered and subdued the mainsail and went forward to untangle the jib sheets so I could furl it.  All brutal and dangerous.
Finally under bare pole and being pushed north, I called on the handheld VHF to the anchored ships, asking for wind speed and forecast.  One of them answered, giving wind speed of 45 knots, forecast to go to 50 with 6 meter/20’ waves, easing in 24 hours.   GANNET’s cabin was as wet as it has ever been, but she felt safer and much less likely to be rolled.  She had taken a beating.  We both had.
I don’t think the waves ever reached 20’, perhaps 12’ to 14’, but I have always preferred to err on the low side rather than high.  Whatever their height, they were steep walls of seething water and big enough.
After an unrelenting afternoon and night, the wind began to drop at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday almost as quickly as it rose.  Even after all these years, I am sometimes amazed by how quickly waves decrease with the wind.  By 1:00 p.m. GANNET was headed back toward Durban, now forty miles distant, making three and four knots under full sail across a mildly undulating sea on a sunny afternoon.  Two whales spouted a few whale lengths away.  Albatrosses glided above us.
We entered the harbor late the next morning and tied to the International Jetty at noon.
The passage that ended then was difficult and sometimes tested my limits.  First with too little wind.  A week out of Darwin we were becalmed for almost twenty-four hours on a glassy sea and GANNET had her slowest day’s run ever of only 28 miles.  I went overboard for a swim, startling a fish that seemed to be living beneath us.
Then we had two weeks of too much wind, 25+ knots going to gale force twice.  This was complicated by tiller pilot failure.  I probably did 5,000 of the 6,000 miles using sheet to tiller steering.  In strong wind this can result in accidental gybes.  Twice I had to lie ahull because the risk of being rolled was too great.  And GANNET’s interior was entirely wet, as was I.  Every surface.  Slime and mold.  My sleeping bag intolerably sodden, so I slept in wet foul weather gear beneath a foil survival blanket.
Finally that ended and we again had mostly too light wind.  
On a moderate day, with only six foot waves, one of them broke and caught us just right and rolled the masthead into the water.  I know it went in because the masthead Windex is hanging off the side and the masthead Raymarine wind unit is gone.  I somehow don’t think this will be covered under warranty.
GANNET is the fourth boat whose masthead I have put in the water.  This is a club you probably don’t want to join.
GANNET has covered more than 9,000 miles since we sailed from Opua, New Zealand, less than four months ago.  Despite being driven and tossed on the deep blue sea, I can’t see that she has suffered any structural damage.  
We have done what we planned to do this year.  We are both going to rest.
The photo of me was taken on the 39th day at sea.
I think GANNET looks as though she just came in from a daysail.
The YellowBrick track is based on position updates every six hours.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Darwin: ready

        Late Afternoon.
        The last row out to GANNET is over and the dinghy mostly cleaned of sand, dried, deflated and stowed on the starboard pipe berth.
        The flags have been brought in.
        Spare jib halyard, spinnaker halyard and vestigial topping lift moved from the pulpit to the base of the mast.
        And I’m about to go on deck for libation, music and my last Darwin sunset.
        I did not get my pizza today.  Apparently Darwinians do not eat pizza for lunch.  After getting GANNET’s clearance from Border Protection, I goggled ‘pizza places near me’ and found four.  Two were no longer in business and the other two didn’t open until 5:00 p.m.  So I had a fresh fruit salad with yoghurt instead, which no doubt was better for me, but I really wanted pizza.  And the next one is an ocean away.
        To the extant that any generalization about a nation is true, Australians are friendly people.  But here in Darwin they have been even friendlier and more helpful, from sharing a lunch to powering all the way out to GANNET to deliver an unexpected gift.  This includes the officials at Border Protection. Both clearing in at Bundaberg and clearing out here could not have been easier.
        I like Australia and always have.  The climate and feeling are very different, certainly in Queensland and the Northern Territory, than in New Zealand.  I love the sense of vast emptiness.
        But I am ready to go back to sea.  Even eager.
        As soon as I post this, I’ll turn on the Yellowbrick.  It is set to upload positions every six hours.  It may need to be recharged during the passage, and I don’t know if it will be able to upload a position while recharging, so if an update doesn’t appear on schedule, don’t panic.  I promise I won’t.
        If all goes well, you will next hear from me in the last half of August from Africa.
        I wish you joy.


Darwin: ready

        Late Afternoon.
        The last row out to GANNET is over and the dinghy mostly cleaned of sand, dried, deflated and stowed on the starboard pipe berth.
        The flags have been brought in.
        Spare jib halyard, spinnaker halyard and vestigial topping lift moved from the pulpit to the base of the mast.
        And I’m about to go on deck for libation, music and my last Darwin sunset.
        I did not get my pizza today.  Apparently Darwinians do not eat pizza for lunch.  After getting GANNET’s clearance from Border Protection, I goggled ‘pizza places near me’ and found four.  Two were no longer in business and the other two didn’t open until 5:00 p.m.  So I had a fresh fruit salad with yoghurt instead, which no doubt was better for me, but I really wanted pizza.  And the next one is an ocean away.
        To the extant that any generalizations about a nation is true, Australians are friendly people.  But here in Darwin they have been even friendlier and helpful, from sharing a lunch to powering all the way out to GANNET to deliver an unexpected gift.  This includes the officials at Border Protection. Both clearing in at Bundaberg and clearing out here could not have been easier.
        I like Australia and always have.  The climate and feeling are very different, certainly in Queensland and the Northern Territory, than in New Zealand.  I love the sense of vast emptiness.
        But I am ready to go back to sea.  Even eager.
        As soon as I post this, I’ll turn on the Yellowbrick.  It is set to upload positions every six hours.  It may need to be recharged during the passage, and I don’t know if it will be able to upload a position while recharging, so if an update doesn’t appear on schedule, don’t panic.  I promise I won’t.
        If all goes well, you will next hear from me in the last half of August from Africa.
        I wish you joy.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Darwin: a minor triumph; books read


        After two hours labor and at the cost of only a broken fingernail, I have reconfigured GANNET’s interior into passage mode and stowed provisions for more than two months.  I even know where everything is.  Sort of.  And there is still room for me and the dinghy and anchor and rode that have still to come aboard.  This is a triumph, however minor.
        GANNET appears to be heeling slightly to port, which is all right.  That side figures to be to windward for several thousand miles.

———

         Although June is not quite over, I’m not going to finish another book before I leave and so publish the books read January—June 2016 now.

NOSTROMO   Joseph Conrad 
NORTH TO THE ORIENT   Anne Morrow Lindbergh
THE NUTMEG OF CONSOLATION   Patrick O’Brian
A SINGLE WAVE   Webb Chiles
THE TRUELOVE/CLARISSA OAKES   Patrick O’Bria
THE HORSE’S MOUTH   Joyce Cary
DEAD WAKE   Erik Larson
SOCCER IN SUN AND SHADOW   Eduardo Galeano
SHADOWS   Webb Chiles
THE WINE DARK SEA   Patrick O’Brian
THE HUNDRED FOOT JOURNEY   Richard C. Morais
HOTEL FLORIDA   Amanda Vaill
FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS   Ernest Hemingway
THE PARIS WIFE   Paula McLain
THE COMMODORE   Patrick O’Brian
THE YEAR OF LEAR   James Shapiro
MIDDLEMARCH   George Eliot
THE YELLOW ADMIRAL   Patrick O’Brian
THE HUNDRED DAYS   Patrick O’Brian
21   Patrick O’Brian
IN A SUNBURNED COUNTRY   Bill Bryson
TYPHOON   Joseph Conrad
CHILDREN OF THE DAYS   Eduardo Galeano
THE INVENTION OF NATURE   Andrea Wulf
HISTORY’S GREAT SHOWDOWNS   Edwin S. Grosvenor
SHERIFF’S BLOOD   John Legg
DEEP SURVIVAL   Laurence Gonzales
THE NARROW ROAD TO THE DEEP NORTH   Richard Flanagan
THE SOUTHPAW   Mark Harris
DICTATOR   Robert Harris
CIRCLING THE SUN   Paula McLain
WAR MUSIC   Christopher Logue
RED ROAD FROM STALINGRAD   Mansur Abdulin
IN SUNLIGHT AND IN SHADOW   Mark Helprin
WESSEX TALES   Thomas Hardy

I have commented on some of these as I read them.
DEEP SURVIVAL is study of how some people survive extreme situations, while some don’t.  I learned that even among survivors, I am unusual.  I consider that I have been on the edge of survival three times:  during much of the five month passage in EGREGIOUS around Cape Horn; for the two weeks adrift after CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE pitch-poled; and for the twenty-six hour swim after I sank RESURGAM.  Unlike most of those Laurence Gonzales writes about, I did not hear a voice, which perhaps should be capitalized; I did not pray; and two of the three times, I had no one to live for.
If in reading the list you are struck by the title, SHERIFF’S BLOOD, it was one of an ebook of five great westerns offered by BookBud for a couple of dollars.  Not great, but good when I wanted something that held my interest and didn’t require much concentration when the sailing was difficult.
         The best of these are those by Joseph Conrad; those by me; those by Eduardo Galeano; those by Patrick O'Brian, if you get into the series; FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS, though it is flawed—Hemingway couldn’t write about sex and perhaps not about love, but the ending is perfect; THE HORSE'S MOUTH; MIDDLEMARCH; SOUTHPAW, though perhaps only for Americans; WAR MUSIC; WESSEX TALES.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Darwin: in sequence

        Yesterday I rowed ashore and visited Immigration and Border Protection to arrange for clearance on Thursday and to complete my provisioning.
        Today I rowed ashore to top-off the water jerry can I have been using, to shower, and to lunch on salt and pepper calamari.  Above is the view from my table at the Darwin Sailing Club.
        The row in today was not essential.  I could have filled the jerry can when I go ashore Thursday to officially clear; but as you know I don’t like to leave things to the last minute.  I bought extra bottles of water for the next few days, so I will go to sea with the jerry cans full.
        Tomorrow I doubt I will go ashore.  I will remain on board to reconfigure GANNET’s interior to passage mode and, hopefully, impose order on my provisions.
        On Thursday I will officially clear and, hopefully, eat a pizza.
        On Friday, July 1 here/Thursday, June 30 in the U.S., I will sail.
        I am aware of the superstition against beginning a voyage on Friday.  I do not share it.
        If all goes well I expect to reach South Africa in 6 or 7 weeks.

———

        A few days ago a man of middle years found it necessary to shout at me as he outboarded in and I was rowing out, “Get a motor!”  I assume he considered that wit.  I thought of several responses, but did not make them or miss a stroke.
        Twice others have offered me a tow, for which I thanked them for their consideration but did not accept.
        Only one more in and back.

———

        Changes in the neighborhood.
        A ketch that was anchored a hundred yards away is gone.
        A 42’/13 meter sloop came in yesterday morning and anchored fifty yards away.
        And last evening just as the sun was setting a catamaran about 40’ long sailed in under jib and main and anchored under sail.  This is not one of the commodious and now ubiquitous cruising catamarans, but a more performance oriented design. She is sailed by a crew of two.  I enjoyed watching them handle their boat. 

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Darwin: a day off; empty tank; 100°

        The wind is light today and the row ashore would not be difficult but I have decided to take the day off from visiting the land.  My body thanks me.
        I believe that I can complete provisioning in two or three days, which is fast enough assuming the wind permits me to get ashore.
        I have done some work on GANNET today.  Oiled interior wood.  Added screws to hold the solar panels down.  End for ended the main halyard.  And I may still lift and scrub some of GANNET’s anchor rode.  This is the longest GANNET’s anchor has been continuously down and stuff is growing on the rode.
        I also searched through and inventoried the provisions I have already bought and trash bagged.  I can usually tell what is in the bags by feel, but not always and temporarily lost 24 small boxes of orange juice. They are now found.
———

        For the first week to ten days in Darwin I was tired.   Some of that could be attributed to sailing for four weeks, and some to the marathon rowing, but I realized several days ago that despite beers and ice cream, I was losing weight.  I don’t need to lose weight.  Eating lunches ashore, I often did not eat much for dinner and I am saving my protein powder for the next passage.  I resumed freeze dry dinners on GANNET four nights ago, no matter what I had eaten ashore for lunch and noticed an immediate difference.  Problem solved:  I was running on empty.  I just needed more fuel.

———

        “He holds the world in his mind.”
        From one of my favorite poems which I trot out at any excuse.
        I know the way from here to South Africa, and from South Africa to Australia for that matter.
        In RESURGAM I sailed Bali, Christmas Island, Mauritius, Durban.
        In THE HAWKE OF TUONELA I sailed Bali, Cocos/Keeling, Durban.
        And if you are wondering, in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, I sailed Bali, Singapore, Aden, Port Sudan, Rabigh Gaol.
        But I do not recall the exact latitudes and longitudes of all those places and did not realize until I put a waypoint off the Durban breakwaters, that the coming passage will be 100° of longitude.  131°E to 31°E.  Latitude will be only 18°, from 12°S to 30°S.
        100°F was also the temperature in GANNET’s Great Cabin when I returned from shore yesterday afternoon.  37.77°C

———

        The photo was taken yesterday from the hill just north of the Sailing Club as I was walking to the grocery store.
        Most of the boats are local.  And most are multihulls or small shallow draft monohulls.
        GANNET does not appear in the photo.  She is out of frame to the right.
        While GANNET is usually the boat anchored farthest from shore, eight boats are anchored beyond her here.  Of course, to their crews this only means that the outboard runs a couple of minutes longer.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Darwin: passage photos Cape Grafton to Darwin


Here are some photos taken between Cape Grafton, where I anchored near Cairns, to Darwin.

Other photos taken when I made this passage in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA can be found on the fifth circumnavigation page of the main site.












Friday, June 24, 2016

Darwin: GANNET tides; solar; a mess


       With the full moon this week tides have been GANNET-sized.  Several have been 22’/7 meters.  Out where we are anchored, almost in the next country, the least water I have seen under our keel has been 10’/3 meters, but I haven't checked at all low tides.
       When I was here in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, I anchored close in.  With her centerboard and rudder raised, she drew only 12”/.3 meter and could take the ground.  Listening to the water swirl in and out around us was odd.
        One night we were awakened around midnight by loud voices cursing nearby.  I stuck my head out from the tarp we used as a cockpit tent and found four men more than ankle deep in mud carrying a 14’ inflatable with a big outboard.  Obviously they had gone ashore earlier for an evening of drinking and dining and perhaps a visit to the casino and forgotten about the tide.  
        As they passed us, they still had a couple of hundred muddy sobering yards/meters before they reached water.

———

        The new Solbian solar panels arrived Wednesday and were installed yesterday.  I used screws and may need to add more.  Adhesive is the recommended method, and if they survive to South Africa I may try adhesive.
        The panels are rated at 50 watts, meaning that they are the equivalent of adding two additional 25 watt panels to GANNET’s system.  We now have 200 watts of solar charging on deck.   Divide that by 12 volts and theoretically the output is 16.66 amps.  I have never seen output anywhere near that.  4 or 5 amps is high.  I assume the loss is due to shading and angle and wiring, though I have adequate size wires throughout the system.
        Solbain is an Italian company.  I had to make a quick decision on what is available in Australia.  I hope I did better than when I bought  Aurinco.
        When I ordered the panels I noted that their output is 9 volts.  I asked the Solbain distributor if this would work with a 12 volt system.  He told me to wire them in series, the positive of one to the negative of the other, thus forming one big panel, with the remaining positive and negative wires to the regulator.  I did so and measured the output at 20.4 volts.
        Please forgive the dirt on deck.  I land the dinghy on the beach.  Dirt and sand come back to GANNET with me.


———

        While I still have more provisions to buy, I already have too much.  GANNET’s interior is a mess.  There is hardly room for me.  I will have to eat and drink GANNET’s way back into trim.
        In the meantime, I’m going to try to impose some order on the chaos.  I may have to reconfigure to passage mode to do so.
        Next week is supposed to see more wind.  If I can get ashore most days, I expect that I will be ready to clear a week from today, July 1, or earlier.
        While the row to and from shore has not been hard this week, it is still long.  Only one person here is rowing.  He will be glad to get back to sea where life is easier and he can relax.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Darwin: chill; heavy; paneled; BARABSHELA

        Two nights ago Darwin’s temperature dropped below 20°C/68°F for the first time this year.  This is the latest date that has happened since records have been kept going back to the 19th Century.  Darwin has two seasons:  Wet and Dry.  When the temperature first drops below 20°C is considered the start of the Dry.
       Although GANNET does not have good ventilation, heat here has not been much of a problem, except for yesterday afternoon when for a couple of hours we had a flat calm.
        I took advantage of the opportunity to do some maintenance, including raising the mainsail to locate a few minor holes, which I repaired by glueing sail repair tape over them.
        I also gave the winches and jib furling drum a fresh water rinse and lubrication.  Lubricated blocks and cam cleats and the rudder bearing.  Whipped the end of a reef line.  Polished stainless steel that was not stainless.  Wiped the waterline from the dinghy.  And oiled part of the interior.
        Until a welcome slight breeze returned in late afternoon, it was hot.  I drained my one liter water bottle twice.

———

        While I still have many things to buy, all the heavy stuff is now aboard, although not in its final stowed position.  I filled the third water jerry can yesterday, and will only have to top up the jerry can in use before I sail.  
        I also bought an ample supply of Yalumba box wine, called cask wine here even though it really is a box.  And although it is too hot to drink it, I rectified an intolerable condition and bought a bottle of Laphroaig.  I had drunk the last of the last the evening I arrived.

------
        I rowed ashore this morning about 11 and my solar panels were conveniently delivered at 11:30.  I walked to the closest grocery store to buy stuff, returned, showered, rowed and was back on GANNET by 1:30.  As all this week, the rows in and out were not hard.
        The new panels are decidedly thinner than the Aurinco.  The wires exiting from them are massive.  The junction box, the usual point of failure on solar panels, looks solid.  Time will tell.
        I screwed them in place and then removed them to fill the holes left by the Aurinco panels.  I also need slightly bigger screws and about three feet/one meter of wire.  They should be operational tomorrow.

———
        Kent and Audrey, who have an armada of small boats, including a Drascombe Lugger, are involved in a restoration of BARABSHELA, a 20’ long rowing boat with a beam of only 4½’ that sounds like what I need in Darwin.
        The boat was all but destroyed by Katerina and it is less a restoration that a resurrection.  Some of you have the skills to do this.  I don’t and am filled with admiration.
        Well done, Audrey and Kent.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Darwin: sheered; lunched; petrified

      Eighteen knot early morning wind dropped to eleven knots at 11:00 a.m. and for the third day in a row my row was easy, if tedious.
I walked a short distance to a bus stop near the Sailing Club and rode the bus to the city center.  The distance is not far, but it is hot here and the buses are air-conditioned.  You pay $3.00 Australian/$2.25 U.S. for a ticket that is valid for rides for three hours.  Mine started at 11:51 a.m.
I rode in, went to a barber shop and was sheered.  I hadn’t had a hair cut since Carol cut mine before I left in early March.  My hair is a diminishing resource in which I take no pride or interest.  I told the genial biker barber to give me a 6,000 mile haircut and he did. 
I then had lunch of Vietnamese Pho, a beef and noodle soup; shopped at two grocery stores; and caught a bus outside the second at 2:14 back to the Sailing Club, well within my three hour limit.
I bought mostly lunches.  I have 76 lunches on GANNET:  20 tuna; 10 salmon; 24 chicken; 22 Laughing Cow Cheese; though not the crackers to go with them.
I also bought more trail mix.  You cannot have too much trail mix.
I now have my breakfasts, lunches and dinners on board, and most of my water.  There is still more to buy, but that is the basics.
Checking Windfinder Pro, I better get it done this week when the wind is forecast to continue light.  Next week it is shown to be 20+ knots.  I can’t get ashore in that.

———

For several days there has been an odd and increasingly unpleasant odor in GANNET’s cockpit.  Today it was definitely fishy.  I started emptying the sheet bags and in the third I found the culprit, a six inch long flying fish, who with his dying leap made an unintentional basket.  He was as dry as a stone.  I have enough lunches, so I returned him to his former element.