Thursday, February 9, 2017

Durban: cleared

        A little after 5 p.m. Thursday.  I’ve just come back to GANNET from my last fresh water shower and iced drink for a while—the drink a double gin and tonic at the Point Yacht Club bar.
        I cleared with the officials this morning.  I remembered this being more complicated in Durban than it needs to be, and today I had to visit five different offices, three of them twice.  This is more than usual.  Two return visits were due to a miscalculation of my port fees.
        Immigration apparently intends to send an official to the marina at 0800 tomorrow morning to be certain that I actually depart.  This has not happened in the past and perhaps is due to my having cleared for St. Helena, a foreign port.
        After dealing with bureaucracy, I Ubered to the shopping center for lunch of grilled calamari with a side Greek salad and a Naked Mexican, and to replace some of the provisions I have consumed while waiting this week.
        Back on GANNET I dragged the Torqeedo from aft of the port quarter berth and fitted it.  It started at the push of the button.  The battery showed 99% charge.  I removed it and charged it briefly until it showed 100%.
        You are not supposed to sail in the entrance channel here.  I did sail in.  I’m not sure the Torqeedo has enough range for me to power all the way out.  I’ll go as far as I can, then sail.
        I also re-tested all the tiller pilots.  All are working.  I’ll start with a Raymarine because I am more familiar with it and it is easier to control from the cockpit, but expect to shift to the Pelagic before Sunday.
        The forecast, except for Sunday, is acceptable to good.
        With the current and wind behind us, GANNET should cover some distance on Saturday.
        I have generally been treated well most places, but I have experienced exceptional courtesy and hospitality in Durban, most notably from Chris Sutton and his family.  I thank them.  I thank everyone here, at the marina and at the yacht club, for making my stay so pleasant.
        I’m about to activate the Yellowbrick, so I don’t forget in the morning.
        If all goes well, the next entry may be about three weeks from now from St. Helena.
        I wish you joy.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Durban: Fernando Pessoa and me; departure

        If you google ‘Pessoa statue Durban’ surprisingly you will get me.  I took one of the photographs that appear at the top of the page and if you scroll down you will find my journal entry of October 1, 2008, headed, ‘Fernando Pessoa is still being ignored.’
        Now, thanks to my friend, Chris, you have both of the great writers together.
       Two years ago Fernando Pessoa was, briefly, remembered in Durban when his statue was defaced in an anti-colonial movement.  Charitably one might say this was ill-advised.  More accurately that it was stupid.  I doubt the vandals had ever read a poem Pessoa wrote or even knew who he was.  Portugal had colonies, but South Africa was not one of them, and Pessoa was a child when he lived here while his stepfather was the Portuguese consul.
        The paint has been removed.  
        Were I Pessoa I would have worn it with pride as a symbol not of my shame, but of those who splashed it on me.
         I expect that today Fernando was again ignored by all who passed him, except for Chris and me.


        The wind has been blowing 20 knots all day, gusting 25.  This front should blow through tonight, and if when I wake tomorrow the wind projections are not much changed, I will clear with the officials for a Friday morning departure.  The forecast is not for the seventy-two hours of wind on or aft of the beam I want, but it does not appear that I’m going to get what I want this year.  
        We can expect to encounter 20+ knot headwinds on Sunday that, hopefully, will last only twelve hours.  I will heave to, lie ahull, or head slowly out to sea until they pass.  Do not be alarmed if GANNET’s Yellowbrick positions  show no progress or even go backwards.  
       We will probably face another twelve hours of headwinds on Tuesday.  It is my intention to ride them out as well.
        I plan to clear Durban for St. Helena and not stop along the way unless I have to.
       The distance is about 2500 nautical miles and should take about three weeks, depending on how often I have to heave to or lie ahull.
        Being tied to the dock is not getting it done.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Durban: someday, forever; Friday

        6:00 p.m.   An hour ago I poured a libation, in this case an unusual for me rum, Bacardi Carta Negro.  Although rum is traditionally a sailor’s drink and was given daily in the Royal Navy, I don’t drink much.   It is too sweet.  Yet in curiosity I bought a bottle a few days ago.  
        From the label I quote:  Bacardi Carta Negro blended using rums between one and three years in heavily charred oak barrels, then shaped through a secret blend of charcoals, to craft a dark rum that has a bold and intense taste.
        I think the claim is true, but it is still too sweet for me.
        I stood in the companionway an hour ago sipping my first plastic of Carta Negro—I’m not going to pour it overboard—listening to Mark Knopfler’s PRIVATEERING, and noticed the name of the boat two slips over from GANNET.   Usually there has been a boat between us.  The name:  SOMEDAY FOREVER.  A great name.  Ambiguous.  I see several interpretations.  Add a comma and it resonates:  someday, forever.

        I have had my small influences.  Over the decades I’ve sold some bottles of Laphroaig.  And now I take perhaps forgivable pleasure that people in many distant parts of the world are checking wind forecasts for the South African coast.  
        I am almost afraid to do so myself because what I last saw is a good possibility of a Friday morning departure and I don't want to find a change.
        As regular readers will know I firmly believe in not doing things at the last minute and in the value of having a couple of days to sit and contemplate your boat to be certain that you have not forgotten something.  Well, I have had more than enough such time.  Some details can’t be sorted out until you are at sea.  Everything on GANNET that needs to be done in port has been.
        I did a couple of minor boat chores this morning, then spent the day mostly reading INTO THE SILENCE:  The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest.  An interesting book, though some of you will know that I don’t share the delusion that we conquer mountains or capes:  we merely transit them; and if done honorably that is enough.
        I had my laundry done last week.  To avoid going to sea with a bag of dirty clothes, I am wearing passage clothes and alternating underwear and tee-shirts that I wash in the shower.
        I won’t wait much longer.

        Someday, forever.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Durban: the Super Bowl; waiting

        The Super Bowl started at 1:30 a.m. local time.  I woke once during the night, turned on my phone and saw Atlanta far ahead late in the third quarter, so it was with considerable surprise that I learned this morning that the Patriots won in over time.


        Slow, steady overnight rain ended this morning, after revealing a leak around my rebedded forward hatch.  I think it is one of two bolts that I will rebed again with butyl tape.
        Now in early afternoon the wind is still,  Sounds of traffic ashore are muted.  GANNET quietly bobs an inch or two.
        I have downloaded a new GRIB with LuckGrib, checked Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth, and Cape Agulhas in Windfinder Pro, run Windytv, Meteo Weather and VentuSky.  They all tell the same disappointing story:  no period of 48 hours without another low with 20+ knot headwinds for the foreseeable future.
        It blew 25-30 knots from the southwest here yesterday afternoon.  I don’t want to start off that way, but maybe I will have to.
        For now, I continue to wait for something better.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Durban: on hold; an open boat circumnavigation has been made

        The GRIB which was perfect last night was far from perfect when updated this morning.  Not even forty-eight consecutive hours without headwinds next week.  So I'll wait until Monday and see what it looks like then.  Although GANNET and I are eager and ready, we may be here a while.
        Craig of LuckGrib wrote that perhaps in the old days I would have sailed anyway.  I wouldn’t have.  Not on this coast.  I’ve carefully picked my times here and not had trouble.  I suppose in 1987 I did so by viewing the daily weather map in the local newspaper.  How last century.  But then it was.
        For the first half of the seven hundred miles from Durban to Cape Agulhas, the course is southwest.  Around Port Elizabeth the coast and course turn west. I’ll leave when I have the likelihood of at least seventy-two hours of wind on or aft of the beam.  Or when I get fed up with waiting.


        When I wrote the ‘decked’ entry I was not aware of the remarkable circumnavigation made in 2013-15 by the Swiss/French sailor, Yvan Bourgnon.  
        Not much has been written about this voyage in English, but I did find a brief article here with an internal link to another article and photos.
        That is unquestionably an open boat.
        I have been surpassed, which is what is supposed to happen.
        Two things particularly interest me about Yvan's voyage:  how he transited Panama, and that he was jailed, as was I.  Obviously a risk of open boat voyages.
        I salute Yvan Bourgnon and thank Matthias for bringing his voyage to my attention.
        I have updated the ‘undecked’ entry.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Durban: reconfiguration day; tentative departure date; additions

        This morning I filled the four five gallon/19 liter jerry cans with water and reconfigured GANNET’s interior from harbor to passage mode.  This took a little over two hours.  When I walked back from my shower I observed that the little sloop’s bow is down to the very top of the anti-fouling.  Today was the first day I haven’t shopped in a week.  Nothing more needs to come on board and any bottles of water or cans of liquid that do will live between the pipe berths until consumed.  I will sleep tonight on the port pipe berth and on one or the other of the pipe berths for at least the next two months.


       I presently use LuckGrib to download GRIBs twice a day, morning and evening.  While the forecast is not as favorable for as long as I wish, if it remains largely unchanged, I plan to clear with the officials on Friday for an 0800 departure Monday morning, February 6.
        I’m not sure I will be able to make Port Elizabeth before the wind heads us, but I should be able to reach East London.  And, depending on conditions, I may heave to or head offshore until the wind again becomes favorable.  It is not impossible that I will sail directly from Durban to St. Helena.
        I created a new default Yellowbrick tracking page for this year and turned the Yellowbrick on to send a couple of positions.  GANNET’s tracking page is  
        I’ve again deactivated the device and will turn it back on before I depart.  It is set to send a position every six hours.
        Previous year’s tracks are still viewable by clicking on the event window to the left of center at the top of the page.


        Last month I added an update to the Introduction to the main site, and today I added the items I love to the lists page.
        I also reread the Credo.  Sometimes I get it right.


        I’m tired of shopping and working.  I want to go sailing.


        The photo was taken from the viewing platform at the top of the arch at Durban’s soccer stadium built for the 2010 World Cup.  Chris drove me there yesterday for which I thank him.  The view is spectacular, as is the stadium.
        The entrance to the harbor is just this side of the headland.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Durban: decked; THE BOYS IN THE BOAT

        This morning I walked the short distance along the harbor front to the Maritime Museum to view the boat in which a South African claims to have made an open boat circumnavigation.  I had seen it when I was here in THE HAWKE OF TUONELA in 2008 and wanted to verify my memory.
        As the photos clearly show this boat is decked.  Decked from the bow to aft of the mast.  Decked from the bow along both sides to the stern.  Decked essentially as much as is GANNET or J-24s or every other small flush decked boat.  There are Moore 24s with cut out sterns that look very much like this boat.
        If I were to seal off GANNET's companionway and live and sail her from the cockpit, she would still not be an open boat.  She has a deck.  CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE did not.  Neither does Steve Earley's SPARTINA, a Welsford Pathfinder.  They are open boats.  Not having a deck is what makes a boat open.
        The South African sailor did complete an interesting small boat circumnavigation.  He did not do it in an open boat.
       When I wrote this I was not aware of the remarkable circumnavigation made in 2013-2015 by Evan Bourgnon in an open catamaran, of which I have written more here.


        I just finished reading an entertaining, compelling, inspiring book, THE BOYS IN THE BOAT by Daniel James Brown.
        To say that it is about the University of Washington  8 man rowing crew who won the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics and were considered then the best crew of all time is true, but a gross over-simplification.  The book is about the technique, the sacrifice and the spirituality of rowing.  It is about the art and craft of building boats of wood.  It is about the pursuit of perfection.  It is about overcoming hardship and poverty, the West Coast against the Eastern Establishment, the Great Depression, Nazi propaganda, which eighty years ago offered ‘alternative facts’.
        Joe Rantz, the crew member followed most closely in the book, had a childhood from Hell with a truly evil stepmother and a father too weak to prevent her from doing what would have seemed to be irreparable harm.  Overcoming adversity can make you strong, but Joe had to overcome more than any child should and he seems to have risen above it.
        Although the outcome is known, Daniel James Brown manages to convey the tension and uncertainty the crew and coach felt through the years leading up to the Olympics and even through the final race itself
        I cannot recommend THE BOYS IN THE BOAT too highly and thank Jay for bringing it to my attention.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Durban: the floating grocery store and an open ended plan

        ‘The floating grocery store’ is how Carol accurately characterizes GANNET these days.
        On Saturday, I carried six sacks to the little sloop in two stages—they were too heavy to carry all at once—representing breakfasts for more than seventy days.
        Yesterday morning was calm as predicted and I was on deck at 5:30 a.m.  I raised and lowered the mainsail several times and got the reefing lines, both leach and tack, sorted out.  I also unfurled and furled the jib whose furling gear now seems to be functioning normally with no halyard wraps.
        That accomplished, I had breakfast and then powered through the items of my GANNET to-do list.  There are only two remaining:  seek leaks I don’t expect to find and glue two small carbon fiber right angle pieces to the cockpit edge to prevent the jib sheet from wearing a groove while using sheet to tiller steering.  I started to do this, but am concerned that they may create more problems than they solve.  I’ll position and consider them again.
        I even wired the new LED bow running lights and was pleasantly surprised last night when I flipped the switch and they came on.  They are merely a legal formality, necessary only when under power after dark, which GANNET never is.  Under sail the masthead tricolor is lit.
        This morning was lovely, sunny with a slight cooling breeze.  I breakfasted listening to Alan Hovhaness’s  AND GOD CREATED GREAT WHALES, then went shopping three times.
        That list, too, is essentially depleted, with the only remaining items being open ended optionals:  bottles of water, cans of tonic, soda water, juice, beer, ice tea, and snacks and cookies. some of which I already have on board.
        This afternoon I organized all this, though not completely.  I will still be sleeping in the v-berth tonight and probably for a few more nights to come.
        My goal was to be ready to sail by February 1 and I could be, but the weather forecast does not offer even three successive days favorable for sailing west this week, and I would like four, so I don’t expect to depart before a week from today at the earliest.
        In 2014 I left San Diego intending to reach New Zealand, which I did.
        A torn left shoulder rotator cuff kept me in New Zealand in 2015.  Hardly a hardship for I am happy there.
        Last year I did exactly what I planned to do and sailed from Opua to Durban, via Australia.
        However, in 2017 my intentions are definite, time and chance permitting, only as far as the Caribbean.
        Once there, presumably at St. Lucia, I will decide whether to sail west for Panama or north to Florida and the southeastern United States for the summer.  At this moment I have no idea which I will do.
        Some approximate distances in nautical miles:

Durban to Port Elizabeth   400
Port Elizabeth to St. Helena   2100
St. Helena to St. Lucia    3800

St. Lucia to Panama    1100
Panama to San Diego   3100

St. Lucia to Key West   1400

Durban to St. Lucia    6300
Durban to Key West   7700
Durban to San Diego    10500

Friday, January 27, 2017

Durban: lunched; untreacherous

        I was up at 5:30 this morning, wanting to work on the sails:  lower the jib and retie the halyard, raise the main and run a leech line to the new fourth reef and attach a reef tack line to the new mast cleats.  However, the wind was already  blowing twelve knots from the stern, not the strength or direction I wanted.  If the forecast is right Sunday morning will be calm.
        Instead I made two shopping forays, and GANNET, already dinnered with months of mostly New Zealand freeze dry meals, now has 84 lunches on board:  12 cans Mackerel; 19 cans chicken; 18 cans tuna; 8 cans salmon; 12 packages of Laughing Cow cheese, each of which makes two lunches; 3 mystery cans bought last June in Australia from which the labels have fallen off; and 14 packages of crackers.
        Tomorrow breakfast, which entails carrying 60+ small boxes of juice to the boat, as well as oatmeal, powdered milk, instant coffee, and dried nuts and fruit.
        That will still leave paper:  toilet, towels, tissues.  Snacks.  Chocolate.  Toothpaste.  Boxed wine.  Cans of beer.  Spirits.  And probably some other things I am forgetting at the moment.
        GANNET’s interior is getting crowded.
        Even if you keep it simple, provisioning for two months is a hassle.
        I’m still sleeping in the bow,  but I don’t know for how much longer.


        I started running Craig’s LuckGrib app today.  I enjoy watching the coming week’s forecast play out repeatedly.
        This is a serious coast, with strong currents and few harbors.  However, it is not ‘treacherous’ as today’s NASA Earth Observatory page claims.  How many times do I have to tell people?  And these are allegedly scientists.  Seas can’t be treacherous.  They have made no agreement with us that they can betray.  They also can’t be cruel.  Or merciless.  They don't even exist.  There is just a lot of water out there that we have divided up and given names.  Water is insentient, as is the universe, and therefore not just indifferent but totally oblivious to us.
        Beyond that, the case is overstated.  The Agulhas Current weakens and dissipates as it flows west.  
        On my three previous roundings of Capes Agulhas and Good Hope, I have not experienced a great collision of the seas.
        A serious coast, meaning the sailor has to be serious, not the coast, yes, but not treacherous.
        There is also no Mother Nature, but that’s enough for today.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Durban: the past; Bach and the universe; whisky and chocolate

        Evening of a cloudy and windy day.  Night has fallen, and from Central I look out at a black sky and the lights of high rise buildings ashore.  
        I Ubered to a shopping center today to buy a sleeping bag.  I also found a liquor store there that stocks Laphroaig and bought three bottles.  The essential stores are now on board.  
        Provisioning for a long passage is among my two least favorite aspects of sailing oceans.  The other is dealing with officials upon arrival.  I have seldom had problems—being imprisoned in Saudi Arabia a noteworthy exception— but when you arrive you are tired and you are dealing with bureaucracy that you know is meaningless.
        Provisioning for me is as probably as simple as is humanly possible.  I already have on board evening meals for five or six months.  My breakfast is uncooked oatmeal with trail mix and powered milk and water.  So that only leaves lunch, though trail mix is not easy to find in Durban and I will have to  concoct my own. 
        Tonight I dined on canned mackerel with crackers, testing it as a possible lunch.  It passed.  I’ll buy more.
        I’m at the end of a long dock.  A quarter mile from shore.  The marina offered me a place closer, but I like it out here.   Still it is a long way to carry stuff and I can only provision in stages.


        From Bob comes this photo of CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE  as she and I left San Diego at the beginning of our voyage. 
        Perhaps you can forgive me for stating that when I look at the photo I am decades later impressed by my audacity.  That little boat against the oceans--and I knew them--the truest leap into the unknown. 
        Within walking distance of where I am sitting is the boat that has been claimed to have made an open boat circumnavigation.  I have seen her before.  She is decked as far aft as GANNET.  I may walk down and take a photo.
        I thank Bob for permission to post his photo.


        From Chris comes this quote from Douglas Adams:  Beethoven tells you what it's like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it's like to be human. Bach tells you what it's like to be the universe.
        Douglas Adams wrote, among other things, THE HITCHHIKERS GUIDE TO THE GALAXY, and if you google his quotes, you will find many that rival Mark Twain.


        Last week I found Laphroaig in a gift set with two small tasting glasses inscribed:  “A Storm In A Teacup?  A Volcano In A Bottle.”  Purists don’t need merchandising. 
        Prior to that, unable to obtain Laphroaig, I  bought a bottle of Glenfiddich.  I would not desecrate Laphroaig by doing this, but take a bite of dark chocolate and then a sip of Glenfiddich or perhaps any other whisky.
        You can thank me later.