Sunday, March 6, 2016

Opua: admirable

        I was at O’Hare waiting for my flight to San Francisco last week when I received an email from Jen, one of Steve Way’s daughters, saying that he had just landed at St. Lucia.  I had been thinking of Steve from time to time and wondering where he was.  He sails as honorably as I once did, without radio, EPIRB or tracking device.  When he goes to sea, he goes to sea.
        Lots of boats clear into St. Lucia, but I expect Steve is the first to do so whose last port was Whangarei, New Zealand.  I last saw him a few days before he sailed from there last October.  I’m not sure the exact date he departed or arrived, but he was at sea more than four months and 10,000 miles. 
        Steve’s life gives me pause.
        For much of it he led a ‘normal’ life.  He married, had children, taught school.  Well, an almost normal life, for he, in his own words, “snuck in a circumnavigation in a 26’ Westerly Centaur by sailing summers, leaving her, then taking one year off from teaching to complete the trip.”
        Steve is three or four years younger than I, and, like me, didn’t come from a sailing background or start sailing until he was in his mid-20s.
        Since ‘retiring’—a condition in which I do not believe—Steve has led a far from ‘normal’ life, completing a second circumnavigation and making many fine, seamanlike passages in his 31’, I think, cutter ROVER OF TACOMA.
        I have his permission to share what he emailed me about his passage from Whangarei to St. Lucia.  There is some useful information here.  I, for one, was not aware of the Cornell pilot charts.  And astute readers will sense much beyond his modest rendition.
        Steve has my friendship and admiration, one Cape Horner to another. 

        In his first email to me after arriving in St. Lucia, Steve wrote:

Ended up taking my time across the Pacific and passed Cape Horn on Dec. 27.  Not too long after leaving NZ, realized that getting around Cape Horn and up into the Atlantic would be just fine.  Had some great sailing and, all in all, a "drama-less" passage.

I found that Jimmy and Ivan Cornell's pilot charts based on data from the last 20 years were pretty much dead on and, in some cases, significantly different from Lt. Maury’s.

        In his second:

Re the Cornell pilot charts. . . .  I ordered mine through Caters but imagine they're available elsewhere.  The format is exactly that of the traditional charts, but the data comes from NOAA and other agencies and was gathered via satellite during the last 20 years.  I surmise that remote parts of the world get equal coverage.  They show zero percent gales off Cape Horn in Dec.- Jan. and that was my experience.  Also, three years ago, in March, I was becalmed for 2 weeks around the equator and about 650 miles west of the Galapagos and felt a bit put upon because the pilot charts said I should have been fine.  The Cornells' charts show up to 9% calms for that time and area.  They show 1 and 2% in May so I am enjoying St. Lucia for a while.  

Re my trip. . . .  Before too long I figured out that getting around Cape Horn and up into the Atlantic would satisfy whatever it is that makes us want to do these things.  Consequently, I put 3 reefs in the main, kept recharging the Kindle and had a good time crossing the Pacific.  Went to about 40/110 and angled down.  After quite a bit of thought and messing around I decided that weakest link re Rover and her gear was probably me.  I have hove to twice before in winds that were at least in the 60s and decided to take the easy way out and go that route again.  I carry a storm try and had it rigged but heaving to with the main is so easy, it can be done early and then the only reason to leave the cabin is to look things over and check for chafe from time to time.  The weak link in that system is the small blocks that are part of the traveller and I can rig other lines to bypass those.  The rig is new wire and the sails are virtually new from Carol Hasse in Port Townsend, WA and are not cheap but are fantastic.  So, that's what I did.  Watching the weather down there over quite a period of time it seems that lows often generate out west of the entrance to the Strait of Magellan so I headed south of there out to the west and then made the rest of the easting around 55 south.  East of the horn I also stayed south.  After leaving I recalled reading about oil and gas rigs off shore out to the east and that would seem to be on the Burwood Bank.  I decided that another several days around 55-56 south wouldn't make that much difference and was preferable to fog or calms among the possible oil rigs.  I left Rover's diesel in Opua and went with a 5 horsepower outboard which stows below so would not be motoring around any obstacles.  (The difference in her sailing performance without the engine is even more pronounced than I hoped.)  Haven't checked to see whether or not my concerns were warranted.  Took it easy coming up the Atlantic except for around 30 - 20 degrees south where the variables had me with the asymmetrical spinnaker up at night and working hard for my miles.  

As I mentioned, I will be following your progress with great interest.  During my trip I found myself wondering how Gannet would handle the weather I had and, given that she has you to sail her, think she would have been fine.  (Do you travel with a NASCAR driver's seat belt arrangement?)  I have no idea how you'd handle going against those rollers and current.

Am blanking out on the title of the poem, but it's Tennyson and ends ". . .though we are not that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are, one equal temper of heroic hearts made weak by time and fate but strong of will, to strive, to seek to find and not to yield."  Did the two of you know each other back in the day?  

        The poem is Tennyson’s ‘Ulysses’, who didn’t believe in retirement either.