Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Opua to Bundaberg passage log
South Pacific Ocean
Bundaberg 1289 miles 294°T
1010 With the first breath of wind from the south on a sunny mooring, I dropped the mooring and sailed off under mainsail. Slack water. High tide, so we would have the current with us all the way out of the bay.
A few minutes later I unfurled the jib and GANNET glided along at 3 knots. In a few minutes the wind backed to the southwest and increased and our speed rose to 5 and 6.
We were off Russell before 11:00.
The wind began to gust to 18 knots and veered almost directly astern. Concerned about an accidental gybe I lowered the main and we continued under jib alone, still making 5 to 5.5 knots. The accidental gybe did come, but with only the jib set was not serious.
However, in a gust, the Pelagic lost control and we rounded up into the wind until I got to the tiller and turned us back on course.
The Pelagic remote is a small key ring fob. Not wanting to lose it, I tied it to a loop on my Levis and kept it in a front pocket. I thought that possibly some of the buttons had been pressed inadvertently. But when this happened twice more after I had re-raised the mainsail, I switched from the Pelagic to a Raymarine, which thus far has handled the gusty conditions. It is probable that the Pelagic needs gain adjustment, but we are rolling around too much for me to mess with that now.
35° 11’S 174°09’E Bundaberg 1287 miles 293°
SOG 5.6 COG 027°
day’s run 8 miles
The distance to Bundaberg is more than 1278. That is the straight line distance to my waypoint there and crosses land.
I had to stop in the middle of the last paragraph because sails were slatting. When I stood in the companionway I saw that the wind was blowing 25 knots and we were making 8.4. I lowered the main. We are still making 6 under partially furled jib.
Already the new cockpit configuration has proven its worth. It is so easy to slide aft rather than having to step over the traveller bridge.
I wrote the following last night and incorporate it here:
May 25. 2000. Dark. Perhaps my last night in New Zealand. I actually felt that last night more than this. Standing in the companionway at sunset yesterday, I looked around and thought: all this is so familiar, Is it possible I will see it only for one more night? But in thinking so I made the transition. New Zealand is behind me. Perhaps forever. The sea. The sea.
I did a load of laundry this morning. Reconfirmed with Gary in Customs that I’m leaving tomorrow. I am on a first name basis with Gary. I remember when he first transferred up here ten years ago. I commiserated with him for having to be on duty on ANZAC Day. There was a line at Customs and the laundry room was crowded. You will never find a better forecast for sailing from New Zealand for the Tropics or Australia and many boats are leaving.
Returning to GANNET just before noon with a takeaway order of Mediterranean couscous from the Marina Cafe for lunch, I spent an hour this afternoon wrestling bags around the forepeak, ending with a new and I believe superior arrangement that enables me to get to those things I am likely to need more easily while keeping GANNET evenly trimmed. I tied water jerry cans and duffle bags in place so they can’t shift much when GANNET heels, and sealed everything vulnerable in watertight boxes and bags. I spent some time freeing zippers that had not been closed for more than a year. I freed the long unused pipe berth lee cloths.
The stuff I have removed from GANNET since I have been in New Zealand is evident in less cluttered space between the pipe berths and in the v-berth. GANNET really is better than ever. If I take her around twice, I may get her perfect.
I gybed the newer Avon RedStart—I’ve been using the old one—and a day food bag from the port to the starboard pipe berth, expecting that the port berth is going to be to windward tomorrow night and I will be sleeping there.
In some ways I like the passage mode configuration better than the harbor mode, but my anchoring procedure is dependent on having half the v-berth clear as it is in harbor mode and I will have to reconfigure in Bundaberg or Cairns for the passage inside the reef to Cape York when I will be anchoring every night.
I don’t suppose that I gave New Zealand a thought for the first thirty years of my life, but many of the most important events of my life have occurred here. I stepped ashore after passing through the crucible and being on the edge of survival for five months. I met and loved Suzanne. I sailed from here with Jill for Cape Horn. Carol joined me here on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.
Uniformly all those to whom I have said good-bye have said that of course I will be back. Though I am old, I am vital and give the illusion of immortality. But I am more hard-headed than romantic. I know that is an illusion. Perhaps I will return. Perhaps I won’t. But it has been a life.
As I have been writing, a scrambled play list of ‘favorites’ has been playing on the Megabooms. At the moment Geoffrey Gurrumul, whom I first heard on the radio when I was sailing the Australian coast on my last circumnavigation in 2008, is singing “Warwu’. In a month or so I will sail past his remote home island off the northern Australian coast.
You won’t be surprised that I am about to pour a farewell glass of Laphroaig.
1600 The day is exactly as forecast. Sunny. South wind 18-20 knots with a few 25 knot gusts.
We are sailing with an apparent wind angle of 120° under full jib, probably averaging 5.5 to 6 knots. I’m sailing to try to keep water away from the companionway. A lot is coming over the bow. The tiller pilot is working almost constantly.
The wind is coming off the land and the waves are only 2’ to 3’ high, but when we catch one our speed goes above 7 knots.
I brought the wind display back down below where I can observe it in its bulkhead mount. With the iNavx app I can see our speed and course sitting here at Central. And I can control the tiller pilot with the remote. I have a below deck steering station.
The land is receding from us. I have not sailed along this coast since the gale on my arrival. As we passed the Cavalli Islands a while ago I remembered how glad I was at the first glimpse of their dim silhouettes in the rain in the gale. And even more to have Cape Wiwiki abeam and know that I had made it in and would not get blown past Cape Brett.
1700 Sun low and golden ahead of us.
I’ve had the port running backstay set since we started sailing under jib alone and noticed that it was rubbing against the lifeline. I cut a piece of plastic tubing and taped it around the backstay as a chaffing guard.
The lee cloth is up on the port pipe berth to keep sleeping bag, pillow and waterproof computer case from sliding off, and in a few hours me.
1720 The wind has decreased significantly in the past twenty minutes. Down to 14-15 knots. So I went on deck and raised the mainsail. That is the third or fourth time up and down today. Easier on a small boat than a big one. We’re now making 5.5 knots under full sail.
I’m listening to Radio New Zealand Concert rather than my own music. I doubt I will be able to hear it tomorrow.
Time for a plastic of box wine. In this part of the world, Yalumba, from Australia, is the best box.
1810 I stood in the companionway and had my last view of New Zealand at twilight, a low grey peninsula twenty miles to the west.
The sun set while I was below having dinner of freeze dry spaghetti Bolognese. Most things are more difficult underway, but washing the measuring cup and spoon I eat with are not. Lean over from the companionway, dip them in the ocean. Instant clean. Dry with a paper towel. Done. A simple pleasure.
The wind has continued to back and is now on the beam at 15 knots. I see boat speeds of 6 and 7 knots.
I would be very pleased not to have to get up and reduce sail during the night.
April 27, Wednesday
South Pacific Ocean
Not surprisingly I did not sleep well last night. I retired to the port pipe berth at 2000 and slept for a couple of hours, then woke at 2200 and had just gotten back to sleep not long before midnight when the tiller pilot off course alarm sounded. I could feel and hear that GANNET had been hit by a gust and was heeled far over and smashing thorough the water. Before I could disentangle myself from sleeping bag and lee cloth, the tiller pilot got us back on course and the alarm ended.
I turned on the wind display and saw the wind was 22 knots apparent, so on a broad reach at least 26 knots true. From the companionway I eased the mainsheet and partially furled the jib.
I was wide awake and sat up reading until 0200 when I returned to the pipe berth for broken sleep until 0530.
We have a waning gibbous moon which makes it easy to see sail trim once it rises.
While up at midnight I saw one of the lights at the northern tip of New Zealand, then 18 miles to the southwest.
Mostly sunny this morning with scattered clouds. The wind has decreased to 12 to 16 knots. The display only gives me apparent wind and I am stating my estimate of the true wind based on wind angle: greater than apparent when the wind is aft of the beam; less when it is forward.
I unfurled the jib at first light and we are sailing northwest at 5 to 6 knots on a broad reach under full main and jib. The motion is less severe; but the tiller pilot seems to be working harder than necessary. I reduced sensitivity settings on my first Raymarines, but I don’t recall if I did so on the replacements I bought last year.
I confess to being surprised at how severe GANNET’s motion was yesterday and last night. The waves were not big, but they were steep and GANNET was thrown around. And so was I.
I must also confess to failures of imagination and memory. There will be no more talk of Cape Horn. Those were harbor thoughts. Yesterday brought back vivid memories of the gale of 2014, and that was only 40 to 45 knot wind. Getting this little boat around the world by any route will be enough. My reasons for not wanting to go through Panama remain the same, but I will have to compromise or sail to the east coast.
I finished reading Joseph Conrad’s THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS last night. There have been protests about Mark Twain’s use of the word in HUCKLEBERRY FINN and even, I think, an expurgated reissue. However I am unaware of any protests about Conrad’s novel.
This was the third or fourth time I’ve read it with pleasure and admiration. THE NIGGER OF THE NARCISSUS is one of the greatest novels of the sea, if not the very greatest. I will reread Conrad’s TYPHOON again soon to compare them.
33° 26’ S 172° 25’E
day’s run 136 COG 320° SOG 6.2
Bundaberg 1168 miles 291°
Brief light rain an hour ago. Sky hazy and clearing. We’re still on a broad reach. Not getting much solar charging in the morning with most of the panels shadowed by sails, and heeling to starboard as we are in the afternoon they are tilted away from the sun.
I had expected to use the iPad mini as my primary chartplotter because of its bigger screen, but the iPhone, being my e-reader is more often in my hands, and has become the de facto plotter.
1530 Sky mostly covered with low clouds. Wind has decreased to 12 to 14 knots. Waves mostly 2’ to 3’, but larger 5’ swells pass frequently. For the first time water is not coming on deck and I can stand in the companionway without risk of being drenched. GANNET rolling and heeling at much smaller angles.
I’m tired. Dozed off two or three times sitting reading. I started MIDDLEMARCH, thought by some to be the greatest British novel. Not far enough in to have an opinion.
1800 Wind has gone light in the past hour and backed. We are sailing more west than I want. I’d rather go north of the rhumb line, then west. The jib is being blanketed by the main. I lowered the main. Our boat speed dropped to 3. I raised the main and furled the jib. Boat speed 4. Both back up. Boat speed 5. The angle is wrong to gybe. Maybe during the night or tomorrow.
I found myself wondering yesterday if I had forgotten how extreme is GANNET’s motion. I hadn’t. It was not quite being shot out of a cannon and it was a good offing, but yesterday and last night were rough.
April 28, Thursday
South Pacific Ocean
0815 We might be in the Tasman Sea, but I’m going to keep calling it the South Pacific.
We are sailing under mainsail alone and have been since 2200 last night when I grew tired of hearing and feeling the jib collapse, and furled it. We’re sailing with just the mainsail up now to aid solar charging. We’ve had little since departure with sun behind clouds and blocked by sails, and the tiller pilot is dragging the ship’s batteries down.
The motion was much reduced last night and I got some sleep, but was up at 0500, more than an hour before first light. Usually I heat two cups of instant coffee in the morning. This morning I heated three. One went into the bilge via my ankle. Fortunately the water wasn’t quite boiling.
I intended this morning to switch back to the Pelagic tiller pilot and to reduce the gain on the Raymarine, but I found an electrical wire on the Pelagic arm disconnected. I opened the unit, but the broken crimped connection is tiny and I have no way to reconnect it. I have a second Pelagic arm, but discovered that it does not have a pin to connect it to the deck fitting. I undid the pin on the other arm only to discover that it does not fit the second arm whose end has been redesigned. So I hove to briefly to recalibrate the Raymaine. It does seem to be working less while still keeping us on course and, hopefully, using less power.
We had some fine sailing yesterday afternoon, averaging 6 knots, but often reaching 7 and occasionally 8.
Looking aft through the companionway, I see increasing clouds. I want bright sunshine.
day’s run 120 miles COG 320° SOG 4.0
Bundaberg 1051 miles 291°
The sun burned away most of the clouds and I have blue sky and good solar charging. I hope enough.
The wind is about ten knots and backed ESE. I gybed the main at 0930 and we are now on a starboard broad reach. A lovely day, if not fast sailing.
Having gybed the main, I gybed my sleeping bag and pillow from the port pipe berth to the starboard one and moved the day food bag and the Avon RedStart from starboard to port.
My second lunch of salami and cheese and crackers. They’ll last one or two more and then it will be canned chicken or fish on crackers.
1230 Set the G2. Speeds 6 and 7 knots,with occasional 8 and so far one 9. Beautiful. So far the tiller pilot can handle it. When it can’t, I’ll bring it down. The sail holds shape well.
1600 Wonderful sailing this afternoon. I saw 8.8 knots four times before finally a 9.1. I sat on deck for a while in a Sportaseat, and stood in the companionway longer, watching, hearing, feeling, GANNET rush through the water. I love the way she accelerates.
Mostly blue sky with small scattered puffs of white cloud. Dark blue sea with a few white-caps. Three foot waves. 14 knots of wind. Barometer high and steady.
The wind was forecast to go light in New Zealand yesterday and today, but we seemed to have moved ahead of that as I hoped.
I furled and lowered the G2 a few minutes ago when it began to shade all the solar panels. We’re again under mainsail alone, but after sunset, depending on wind angle, I’ll set the jib.
1630 Standing in the companionway, listening to music, sipping a tequila and tonic, watching GANNET slash through the sea, now under full main and jib with three wraps on the furling gear, seeing even faster speeds than earlier with the G2—highest 10.4 knots—it suddenly dawned on me that we entered a new time zone yesterday. Geographically we are how 11 hours ahead of Greenwich. The dividing line is 172°30’E. So I changed ship’s time. This 1630 is actually an hour and a half after the previous 1600.
I’m about to have an early dinner of New Orleans Style Rice with Shrimp and Ham, a vestigial U.S. freeze dry.
April 29, Friday
South Pacific Ocean
0615 We ran out of wind at midnight. Amazing how often on a passage I am up at midnight. The off course alarm sounded. I went on deck. There were a couple of knots of wind. I got us pointed the right direction and took advantage of the lull to further reduce the gain on the tiller pilot. We had used up all the charge we gained during the day and the battery reading was 12.36, about what it was the previous dawn and we still had eight or nine hours before any useful sun.
I left the sails trimmed flatter than usual to keep them from slatting. There was bare steerage way; but the tiller pilot was able to keep us on course and I went back to bed.
An hour later another alarm sounded persistently. It was the tiller pilot remote telling me it needed new batteries. I supplied them.
At 0400 the off course alarm again woke me. We were heeled far over and I immediately knew that wind had come up and the over trimmed sails were overpowering the tiller pilot and bringing us up. Struggling to undo the lee cloth, I opened the companionway, eased the main sheet, eased the traveler and tried to furl the jib. In the darkness the jib sheet and the furling line tangled with one another and around a winch. By the time I freed them enough to furl the flogging sail, the two jib sheets were knotted together.
GANNET back under control, I spent fifteen minutes untangling the jib sheets, finally having to free the starboard one and carry it loop by loop around the port sheet.
Dawn sees wind of 16 to 18 knots from the east. I intended to experiment with sheet to tiller steering, but that needs both main and jib set and I may lower the main and sail under jib alone. I may hand steer some to help the batteries.
0815 GANNET and I are getting wet. Light rain falling. The odd wave thudding into us, as one just did.
We are sailing under reefed main and partially furled jib. Sky disappointingly overcast.
I have been working almost continuously for the past two hours. First I hand steered for a while. Then lowered the mainsail and let the tiller pilot steer while I ate my uncooked oatmeal and brushed my teeth. Then the mainsail back up with a single reef, which on GANNET is at second reef level. Then I prepared lines for sheet to tiller self-steering, tying one around the tiller with loops for shock cord attachment. Then one to the port toe rail, also with loops. I’ll do the same to starboard, but it isn't needed right now. I have two snatch blocks ready, but may be able to use the blocks already on the rail for the asymmetrical sheets. I have several shock cords at hand. I also have surgical tubing, but have found in the past that shock cord suffices. On EGREGIOUS and CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I needed to balance the jib sheet with between one to four shock cords, depending on wind strength and angle. When it stops raining, I’ll give it a try.
day’s run 128 (25 hour day) COG 294° SOG 5.4
Bundaberg 930 miles 290°
Not the day I wanted. Though the sky is lightening now, the wind continues 18 to 25 knots from the east, and the morning saw repeated rain. If we did not have a problem with sufficient solar charging, the day would be only modestly unpleasant. But we do have a problem. Conditions too rough to be experimenting with sheet to tiller. I have now reduced the gain on the tiller pilot by three levels. Surely it must be drawing less power. We are getting some charging through the clouds, but the batteries will be further depleted tomorrow morning.
1400 We have sheet to tiller self-steering. The partially furled jib runs through two blocks and is sheeted to the windward side of the tiller and balanced to leeward by two shock cords. I have two more shock cords ready for quick attachment if needed. The system is steering a course of 300° to 310° on a broad reach at 5 knots. The mainsail is still reefed.
In my experience sheet to tiller works from broad reach to close reach and requires that at least part of the mainsail and part of the jib be set. It did not work on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE with just jib and mizzen. It is particularly susceptible to changes in wind strength which throw off the balance between the pressure from the sail on the windward side of the tiller and the shock cords to leeward.
I’ve left the tiller pilot in place and expect I will re-engage it for the night. At present we are using no electricity.
1600 Removed reef. Full mainsail. Jib steering now at 6 and 7 knots. Even saw one 8.
Sky partially cloudy. A possible line of rain to the east. We haven’t had any since noon.
The sky has partially cleared in the west and the wind decreased to 16 to 18 knots. Waves are 4’ to 6’ with a few 8’ and also decreasing.
1640 I was right about the rain. It came and bent the wind 30° to the northeast and drove me from standing in the companionway to the Great Cabin. Rain fell hard for five minutes, then passed.
While standing in the companionway I watched GANNET catch several waves. She takes off and runs straight with no tendency to round up. Maximum speed 9.8 knots. With the jib steering. Go, jib.
1830 The sun has set. Full darkness.
There is a sense of rightness in GANNET sailing with sheet to tiller steering. Nothing outside herself. No noises. No grinding motors. Just balanced natural forces.
South Pacific Ocean
0730 A beautiful morning.
I had my second cup of coffee standing in the companionway, watching the sun lift above the horizon, and listening to Janos Starker play the Bach Cello Suites. To reduce recharging I have been listening to music on only one Megaboom, but now that we have broken the tyranny of the tiller pilot, I may go stereo.
The jib steered us flawlessly during what was the most pleasant night so far. One of sheet to tiller’s virtues is that it is silent. Mostly. No motor whirring and grinding in the background, though often this is lost in the ambient noise of the boat moving through the ocean. Only mostly silent because the jib lead block squeaking woke me at 0415 after the best sleep I’ve had. I got up, sprayed it with WD40, but then dozed at Central rather than return to the pipe berth where my back sometimes bothers me.
It looks to be a fine day. Blue sky with scattered low clouds, almost a trade wind sky, but not at this latitude. Wind 14 to 16 from the east. GANNET
making 6 knots on a broad reach. A possible G2 day, but that would require the tiller pilot and I’m going to let the ship’s batteries continue to charge.
I’ve used sheet to tiller steering for 35,000 miles. 10,000 in EGREGIOUS after the strongest wind I’ve ever experienced tore the Aries vane apart south of Australia all the way back to San Diego. 25,000 in the CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE’s. Why then did it take me 7,000 miles before I used it on GANNET?
One reason is that I’m lazy. Another is that it is easier to set up with the new cockpit arrangement. Another that I didn’t needed to until now. But now that I have, I expect that I will use it much of the time. Tiller pilots are superior in very light wind, necessary for spinnakers and sailing under jib alone, and useful near land because they steer a compass course. They are also useful under power, which is how I primarily used them on other boats, but GANNET is hardly ever under power.
One consideration of sheet to tiller is that the steering sail has to be small enough for you to hold the sheet in one hand between the time you remove it from the winch and cleat and tie it to the tiller. On EGREGIOUS I used the storm jib, which was set as a staysail, as the steering sail. I don’t recall how many square feet it was. On the CHIDIOCK TICHBORNEs, where sheet to tiller was the sole means of self-steering, I used the jib which was 30 square feet. I never used sheet to tiller on RESURGAM or THE HAWKE OF TUONELA. GANNET is the first boat on which I have the advantage of controlling the size of the steering sail by furling.
day’s run 128 COG 310° SOG 5.5
Bundaberg 803 miles 289°
Day continues to be beautiful. Jib steering. Wind 16 knots.
I threw overboard the last of the salami and cheese, which had without refrigeration become a bit ripe, and ate canned salmon for lunch.
We have left the 30ties and won’t return until South Africa.
1600 A fine, uneventful day. Uneventful is good. One almost event was a wave that flopped on board and poured through the companionway just as I was about to remove my laptop from its waterproof Pelican case. The only wave to come on board all day. I know to slide the companionway hatch aft when I use the computer, but it was such easy sailing that I neglected to do so.
I’m almost half way through MIDDLEMARCH.
About to stand in the companionway, watch GANNET make her way through the ocean, listen to music, and sip something.
1745 Shearwaters hunting around GANNET in the twilight. First two, then six. They seldom do anything as mundane as flap their wings, but soar and dive, skimming the water by changing wing shape. I did not observe any of them catch a fish. I wonder what they do at night. Do they continue to glide or do they land on the water and sleep?
Yesterday I saw an albatross. Two days ago I found a flying fish in the cockpit in the morning. The first night I saw the running lines of a ship heading south off North Cape. The only visitors to the monastery.
2000 I tried to take some photographs in little light. My iPhone recorded nothing. I have other cameras and lenses on the boat; but they, too, failed to record what I, half blind, can see. We are miracles of evolution. So, there are stars and clouds rising before them, a wondrous spectacle that I can not show you. I love a boat diving into darkness.
May 1, Sunday
South Pacific Ocean
0800 At 2315 last night one of the down sides of sheet to tiller was evident when GANNET woke me by suddenly heeling to starboard. I knew she had accidentally jibed, probably her stern pushed around by a wave. I climbed up out of my berth and went on deck. The last quarter moon had not risen and the darkness was nearly complete, except for the masthead tricolor which illuminated the Windex.
I tried gybing back without untying the jib sheet from the tiller, but couldn’t. Having to hold a loose jib sheet in one hand and then try to rebalance the boat in near total darkness was not desirable. I was able to tack and then let the boat fall back onto a broad reach. I added a third shock cord, but it brought us too high, so I moved it back a loop and we were again on course. That is the purpose of the loops: to fine tune leeward tension on the tiller.
Usually I expect to get wet when something goes awry at night, but no waves swept us during the tack, and I made it back to my berth dry.
The sky today is as it has been the past two, but there is more wind and GANNET is more lively. The wind display is giving apparent readings of 16 to 20 knots from the starboard quarter, which should mean true wind of 20 to 25 knots. I think that is high and that the true wind is more like 17 or 18 knots.
Wherever they spent the night, two shearwaters are back on duty.
day’s run 140 COG 294° SOG 6.0
Bundaberg 666 miles 290°
Wind a little less than earlier. 16 knots. I made minor adjustments to the sheet to tiller steering. Tightened the jib sheet a couple of inches. Removed the third shock cord and moved one of the others one loop closer to the tiller. Sunny and getting warmer. I had been wearing Levis. Now in shorts. I’d like to spend more time on deck, but it is too wet at present.
The barometer is still high, but has dropped one millibar each of the past three days.
All movements have to be choreographed today. GANNET is lively enough so that nothing un-held will remain in place.
We will pass the half way mark this afternoon. And I passed the halfway mark in MIDDLEMARCH this morning. It is a very good and very long novel.
1530 Wind has increased and may now be 20+ knots. I put a few more rolls in the jib and may have to put a reef in the main to maintain control.
I’ve known for a while that we have a leak in the bow, but I couldn’t locate it. I crawled forward over various bags after lunch and saw drips coming from the bolts for the starboard bow cleat. Nothing I can do about that now. It goes on the resurrected GANNET to do list.
Bundaberg now 646 miles; Opua 660.
1700 The wind has decreased. I was able to stand in the companionway for a while without getting too wet.
A world of pastel chalk. Sky powder blue. Scattered clouds cream and gray. Ahead the sun not far above the horizon yellow white. The ocean obsidian and pewter with white-caps. GANNET’s deck glistening wet. Not from waves. Only an errant few have come aboard, except over the bow. But from spray.
I have to heat my freeze dry now before I lose the light.
1910 Orion off the port bow.
I’m listening to music, presently an album titled State of Grace. A plastic of boxed Chardonnay is at hand.
I was thinking of Inky, the escaped octopus. Here I secure objects, coffee cups, measuring cups, with my feet when my arms are occupied. Inky has eight arms. With suction cups! Intelligence. And a will for freedom. I think we are not the height of evolution. Inky is.
This is so right: GANNET sailing with sheet to tiller steering.
It came undone this afternoon. Somehow the sheet untied from the tiller. I sorted it out. Easier in daylight than being awakened in the middle of the night. But paying a price with my body is acceptable. Even appropriate.
May 2, Monday
South Pacific Ocean
0445 Five minutes of heavy rain just after 0400. I had the companionway hatch slid aft, but not the vertical slat in. Followed by light rain. Now becalmed. Rolling and slatting. First light more than an hour away.
0800 Wind returned at 0500 from the north. I let us reach southwest until it became light enough to see an hour later, then turned us back on course on a close reach. It became easier to balance the sails and tie the tiller down than to have the jib steer and that is the way we continue. This is particularly sensitive to changes in wind strength. I am wearing my light foul weather gear and would already have been soaked if I were not.
Complete low overcast. Barometer down two millibars. Blood red sky at dawn. Rain to the south.
We’re sailing 310° at 5.5 knots under full main and partially furled jib.
There are two isolated reefs out here, Elizabeth and Middleton, that do not appear on electronic charts until you zoom far in. From past crossings of the Tasman I know they are there and put waypoints on both, which are more than a hundred miles away and well off our course.
day’s run 128 COG 308° SOG 5.5
Bundaberg 539 miles 292°
Wind still north. Sailing close reach with tiller tied down. Some waves coming on board. Forward hatch again leaking. Found other new leaks. None serious. Just nuisances. Wearing foul weather gear, though it is getting hot. Sky partially clearing to east.
1630 Tiller pilot steering for the first time in 400 miles.
The wind has started to veer to the east and I expect it will continue to move during the night which will be black. Easier to know the boat is on course and just change the trim of the sails.
I spent more time on deck today than I have any other of the passage balancing the boat. In foul weather gear, of course, but not too much spray reached me in the cockpit.
Cloud cover about 75%. It is raining ahead of us.
The barometer continues to fall, but slowly. It is now ten millibars lower than when we left New Zealand.
1830 The rain ahead stayed ahead.
Complete darkness. Wind remains on beam. Spray confined to foredeck. I have removed my foul weather gear and was able to stand in the companionway a few minutes without getting wet. I hope I don’t need it during the night.
May 3, Tuesday
South Pacific Ocean
0745 I indeed needed my foul weather gear during the night.
At 0100 heavy rain began to fall accompanied by an increase in wind. The tiller pilot handled it. Rain and wind eased at about 0230. Then returned an hour later. I got up and put on my foul weather gear and a headlamp, going on deck and reaching the overwhelmed tiller pilot just as the off course alarm went off. I put it in standby and got us back on course, then tied the tiller down. The wind was heading us, so we were sailing about 250° close hauled.
I really don't remember the full sequence, but I’ve been up since then.
I got a reef in the mainsail, which presently we don’t need, but I expect that as soon as I shake it out, the wind will increase and I’ll have to put it back in. Very light wind, lumpy leftover seas, almost complete cloud cover, rain at various points around the horizon, barometer down two more millibars. GANNET is sort of sailing west at a couple of knots. The cabin is very wet.
day’s run 103 miles COG 268° SOG 3.8
Bundaberg 437 miles 291°
week’s run 883 miles 5.25 knot average
Some sunshine this morning. I don’t know if this is sign of clearing or if we are just in a lull. The wind remains NNW, heading us. We’re close hauled on a starboard tack 30° below our desired course of 300° necessary to clear the north end of Fraser Island as we approach Bundaberg.
I have taken off my foul weather gear which was becoming stultifying. But it is still within arms reach.
I finished MIDDLEMARCH which is a fine novel. George Eliot captures the inner working of minds and marriages with exceptional insight and skill. The greatest British novel? I don’t think there is a single ‘greatest’. But it would be in the conversation.
1310 Foul weather gear back on, though the top is off now. Too hot. Rain again just after lunch of a can of smoke flavor tuna and crackers with a couple of slices of dried mango for dessert.
I went on deck, took the reef out of the mainsail and tacked to port. Last time I looked we were slowly sailing north, which is better than southwest on the other tack. I wish the wind would go east or south before sunset.
1600 Conditions the same. 8 or 9 knots of wind from the NW. GANNET making 3 and 4 knots close hauled to the north.
I was able to stand in the companionway for a while without getting wet. Waves of lead coming from all directions. No sign of change.
I re-secured two electrical wires that had come adrift.
I gybed my sleeping bag and pillow from starboard to port and the Avon and day food bag from port to starboard.
GANNET is back in reasonable order after a wet night.
I dozed an hour this afternoon sitting at Central.
1710 I tacked to see if starboard was better. It isn’t. Tacked back.
I doubt this wind will last the night.
1730 Sunset. Nice sailing. We aren’t getting any closer to Bundaberg, but it is pleasant looking down from the port pipe berth where I am sitting and see the ocean pass by below.
May 4, Wednesday
South Pacific Ocean
0700 Clouds, wind and waves all disappeared last sunset. GANNET ghosted north all night, barely heeled, across a smooth sea. First with just the tiller tied down, then after 2200 with the tiller pilot holding course. We’ve made only 52 miles since noon yesterday and not all that is toward Bundaberg.
A slight increase in wind this morning after a spectacular dawn. We’re sometimes touching 3 knots, but mostly still 1 and 2.
I tacked to starboard a few minutes ago, but we can’t hold 270° and are sailing better on port, so I tacked back.
Near complete high cloud cover this morning. Barometer has risen 2 millibars in past 24 hours. A wind shift should come.
1000 I have tacked several times without gaining much. Now on starboard sort of sailing west at 2 or 3 knots in maybe four knots of wind.
day’s run 54 COG 350° SOG 1.7
Bundaberg 401 miles 286°
We are again on port tack. Light headwind persists.
We are only 36 miles closer to Bundaberg than we were yesterday noon.
1300 The wind has moved, backing 30°, and increased slightly. I hope it keeps on moving. We are now sailing 325° at 3 to 4 knots.
1500 The wind has continued to back, but there is little of it. I hope it will strengthen.
We are only making a knot or two on 305° with the tiller pilot steering. At least our bow is pointed in the right direction.
A odd day with almost complete high cloud cover. Barometer back down a millibar.
1800 Becalmed at sunset. We have made 16 miles since noon.
1930 I just finished reading THE YELLOW ADMIRAL, the eighteenth in Patrick O’Brian’s Aubry/Maturin series. Only two and one unfinished at O’Brian’s death to go. I will feel the loss when they end.
I do not understand what is happening. Assuming I ever get ashore, I would like to see a meteorological chart of these days. It has been a long time since we’ve had real wind. Usually such a lack of wind would come under a big high, but we have moderate barometric readings and far from a high pressure sky. The barometer has risen a millibar today, but is still ten millibars below readings when we left New Zealand. Again clouds, wind and seas, never big, disappeared with the sun. The tiller pilot is somehow keeping us pointed in the right direction, usually with slack sails. When it can’t, I will lower the sails and let us drift.
2015 Sails down.
I was listening to the soundtrack of the film THE MISSION. I turn it off and there are a few sounds: a strumming, a creaking. GANNET rolls slightly side to side. Less than in many anchorages. No lee cloth on the pipe berth tonight. Wind that would cause us to heel enough to throw me from my berth would be welcomed.
I’ll get up every few hours to see if there is wind. It will return.
May 5, Thursday
0800 The mainsail went up at 0115, and down at 0117. A breath of wind was directly astern and the sail hopelessly gybed back and fourth with every slight swell.
I unfurled the jib and brought us 10° to port. We were only making 2 knots, but that was two better than we had done for five hours.
The jib collapsed and filled during the night, but our motion was easy and I got some sleep.
An hour ago I furled the jib and set the G2. It is cut flatter for beam reaching than for running, but is 20% larger, 384 sq. ft. versus 320 sq. ft., than my old asymmetrical, and I like it and the ProFurl top down furler better, so it will have to serve all purposes. With it we are making 5 to 6 knots toward the north end of Fraser Island on a sunny day with only a few scattered high clouds and the barometer up 2 millibars.
The G2 did not go up without complication.
When I last furled it, one of the sheets furled with the sail. I thought the sail might unfurl anyway, but it wouldn’t and had to be lowered to the deck, the furled sheet unwound by hand and retied to the clew. Up again and all was well.
I set the sail before breakfast and am drinking my first cup of coffee.
day’s run 53 miles COG 290° SOG 5.0
Bundaberg 351 miles 284°
Fraser Island 322 miles 291°
Sunny hot day. Temperature in Great Cabin 86°F/30C. Wind still astern.
No water coming on deck, so I have the forward hatch open for ventilation and foul weather gear drying in the cockpit.
We continue under G2. Wind has slightly decreased and so has our speed. I am seeing some 4s, but hope we are still averaging at least 5.
The shadow of the G2 is falling on the four forward solar panels and will be for much of the afternoon, reducing solar charging.
1630 A very pleasant day. The wind has not varied in direction by even five degrees and up and down only a knot or two. Now eight or nine knots. Clear blue sky with a few clouds scattered around the horizon. None overhead. GANNET rocks slightly from side to side on low 2’ waves, though her motion is so measured that I can set a glass or cup down without holding them in place every instant with hand or foot.
Unless something changes I’ll leave the G2 up tonight.
Time for music and boxed wine standing in the companionway.
1730 This is beautiful. GANNET sailing down a column of white light toward a setting sun. Moving effortlessly. A gliding bird. The music: Villa Lobos “Bachinanas Brasileiras No. 5”. The wine: Yalumba Shiraz. Well, the wine isn’t beautiful. But the rest is.
1830 Back standing in the companionway after dinner of freeze dry Beef Stroganoff.
The sun has set and the wind decreased to less than seven knots.
I know that sailing dead downwind is inefficient and that I could go faster by sailing from broad reach to broad reach. But my arrival at Bundaberg is dependent on two factors: I won’t enter after dark, and there is useable light now of less than twelve hours a day; and the Bundaberg marina where I clear Customs is a mile up the Burnett River which has up to four knots of current at spring tides. I will be arriving at new moon. So my arrival must coincide with daylight and tide. Maximum speed now is not important. Sailing GANNET across oceans is physically and mentally hard. Easy miles are to be savored.
2030 The wind is much lighter. Five or six knots. Not many boats other than GANNET would still be sailing.
May 6, Friday
South Pacific Ocean/Coral Sea?
0530 We have oozed our way into a new time zone, +10 UCT, and I have just reset ship’s time.
Wind went very light to non-existent last night. What there was of It backed and veered. I was up frequently. I almost gybed the G2 twice, but decided to wait until dawn. I was glad I did because the wind returned to where it was and I would have had to gybe back. I changed course to bring the wind further forward and at first light raised the mainsail. We are still only making 2 and 3 knots on a broad reach.
0630 Some wind has returned with the sun, which rose above the horizon precisely at 0600, and we are making 4 and 5 knots. Sometimes.
Beautiful morning. Clear powder blue sky. A few distant white clouds. Deep blue sea. Beautiful—if we have wind.
day’s run 100 (25 hour day) COG 290° SOG 3.1
Bundaberg 251 miles 284°
Fraser Island 222 miles 293°
Sunny, lovely day with continued light wind.
I furled and lowered the G2 at 1030. It was shading the four solar panels on the foredeck. It furled perfectly, in what were of course very light conditions. I kept an eye on the sheets and they did not get furled with the sail. I’ve also learned how to coil sail and furler into the bag more easily.
I then set the jib, furled a couple or wraps to keep it from shading the solar panels and went to sheet to tiller self-steering. I wasn’t sure this would work in such light wind, but it has. Only one shock cord to leeward.
I did not have this solar charging problem while crossing the Pacific except at the end when two or three of my solar panels were no longer working. But with the sun to the north of us, the wind from port, a course of WNW, the headsail blocks the sun from the foredeck for most of the day. I wish I could use the Pelagic and see if it consumes less power
This is the first passage I’ve made since I tore my left shoulder rotator cuff. It aches a little, particularly when we are heeled to starboard and my weight presses against it sitting here at Central. However, I have a nest or cushions. One inflatable. Two flotation. And a 2” thick gel cushion I brought back because the foam in my Sportaseats has become compressed over the years. This gel cushion is wonderfully comfortable and cannot compress or be damaged by salt water. It has a removable, washable cover and I think would serve very well as a cockpit cushion.
Normally at this distance from my destination I would be planning my arrival. With decent wind we would easily be in on Sunday. But obviously we haven’t had decent wind in recent memory. So I’m not planning.
1700 The sun is setting behind clouds ahead. Day and night are equally divided.
Another lovely day of GANNET gliding slowly WNW.
At sunset we are making an easy 4 knots. I suppose we will be in on Monday.
To paraphrase W.B. Yeats ‘The Second Coming’: What small boat, its hour come round at last, slouches toward Bundaberg to dock?
May 7, Saturday
0700 Now that it is too late, we have better wind and are making 6 and sometimes 7 knots. We still won’t make it in before sunset tomorrow and will have to slow down or heave to until Monday dawn. I have now permitted myself to look ahead and the tide will be rising at Bundaberg Monday morning until 10.19.
Other than that we have a bit more wind, perhaps 8 to 10 knots, the morning is the same: sunny with scattered puffs of low white cloud. A trade wind sky, whether these are true trade winds I do not know.
An accidental gybe at 0200 got me out of my berth, but before I could get on deck, the main gybed back again.
In complete darkness illuminated only by my headlamp, it appeared that the wind had veered. I couldn’t get us close to back on course, so I gybed deliberately and set up steering with the port jib sheet. Just as the mainsail came across, a big flying fish landed in forward end of the cockpit. I don’t like to handle flying fish, which are very fishy and leave a smell that is difficult to remove. But this one was a flopping distraction and still alive, though I doubt a solitary flying fish has much of a life expectancy, so I leaned forward and threw him overboard.
It took a while to balance GANNET on a course of around 320°, which wasn’t what I wanted, but close enough I thought until dawn.
I went down below, gybed sleeping bag and pillow to starboard, day food bag, foul weather gear and Avon to port, and tried to get back to sleep. But GANNET’s motion was not right, got up, stood in the companionway and found we were sailing an unacceptable 340° to 350°. Gybed back, rebalanced self-steering, went down below, moved stuff from one pipe berth to the other, and went back to sleep. We continue on a starboard broad reach with GANNET set up as I did then.
day’s run 110 COG 292° SOG 4.9
Bundaberg 146 miles 275°
Fraser Island 112 miles 292°
Continues to be a trade wind kind of day. Fine, easy sailing.
I have become spoiled and now take as normal that I can set something down and it will remain in place without being constantly held.
1420 I finished the Aubrey/Maturin novels, reading the last three and the unfinished 21st in succession. I have read most of Conrad and Hardy and Zola; but I don’t know that I have ever read twenty and a fragment novels by anyone other than Patrick O’Brian. Every reader must regret that he did not live to finish what is known as ’21’ which seemed likely to include a meeting with Napoleon during his captivity at St. Helena.
I was not immediately taken by the novels. I came across a couple at different times and for whatever reasons wasn’t captivated. It was only when I started from the beginning and read them in order that I began to enjoy them.
From an afterward to 21 I learned that the series was not initially a commercial success. The first publisher stopped because of poor sales. Five million copies sold by the second publisher must have caused some regret.
1700 Joy. Nothing particularly special. Just GANNET steering herself through the ocean beneath a pristine sky. I deeply like that self-containment. No surprise.
I’ve been standing in the companionway for the past hour enjoying her motion. There is nothing but beauty here.
What you need to do is find, experience and perhaps create more joy and beauty than the inevitable despair of life.
Despair has almost killed me a time or two or three. But I have a talent for joy. For finding it. For knowing when I am experiencing it. And I did this afternoon.
My life has not turned out as I hoped when I was young. But, and here is the vainest statement you may ever hear, and it is a considered opinion. Science says that there have been between one hundred and one hundred and ten billion of our species. I would rather have been Webb Chiles than any other homo sapiens who has ever lived. May you feel the same about your life,
1811 After a deplorable U.S. freeze dry dinner of pasta with meat sauce, which I forced myself to eat because I need the nutrition, but can’t recall why I ever bought, I stood again in the companionway, listening to music and watching fading light.
Total darkness now at 1816. Orion higher on the port bow than a few days ago. Perhaps the Southern Cross astern. I can’t see the fifth star, but with my vision that is not conclusive.
This little boat so suits me. She is so true. She runs true. She balances true.
There is no way we can know all the possible consequences of our actions. I doubt that George Olsen or Ron Moore ever dreamed of a Moore 24 on the Coral Sea.
May 8, Sunday
0730 We are 23 miles from the waypoint off the shallows beyond the north end of Fraser Island and 68 miles from Bundaberg. We could be in before midnight, but not before dark, and I will wait for tomorrow’s dawn.
At 0230 I woke and saw that we were sailing too low to clear the Frazer Island waypoint and went on deck and backed the jib and tied down the tiller, leaving us slowly reaching northwest until 0530 when I returned us to sheet to tiller steering. We still may not clear the waypoint on this broad reach.
The day is as have been the past several: sunny, light wind from the ESE. GANNET is rolling a bit more.
0930 We were not going to clear the Fraser Island waypoint, so instead of gybing both sails and setting up sheet to tiller again, I lowered the main, gybed the jib and the tiller pilot is steering.
0945 I was premature. Our speed dropped to below 3 knots, so I re-raised the main and brought us up a bit higher.
day’s run 103 COG 264° SOG 2.5
Bundaberg 56 miles 242°
Fraser Island 10 miles 259°
I had expected to have to slow down or turn back from land tonight to time our entrance for 0700, but we may be fortunate even to make it near the river mouth by then.
We’ll have a better wind angle once we turn the corner off what is called Breaksea Spit, but we still have ten miles before we can do that.
There are some clouds approaching from seaward behind us. Perhaps they will bring wind.
1500 We are in 52’ of water, sailing over part of the Great Barrier Reef. I cut the corner by a half mile. We’re making 3.5 to 4 knots on course for Bundaberg with an estimated arrival according to iNavx of around 2 a.m. I will stop 5 miles out. If the wind holds and we get that close.
I pulled the Torqeedo battery from where it is stowed aft of the port pipe berth. It shows 99% charge.
1705 Sun almost on the horizon. A beautiful evening. We are making 3.6 knots on imperceptible wind. Freeze dry chicken and rice steeping. Music playing on Megaboom in the cockpit. A plastic of boxed white wine at hand. No sign of the continent ahead.
1730 iNavx now shows a Bundaberg ETA of 0130. I’ve set an alarm for 2300. We are entering Hervey Bay and may be moved around by tides.
1800 First sliver of the new moon to the west. It will set soon and be a dark night.
To the SSE the light at the north end of Fraser Island flashing at 10 second intervals. It is shown as being visible for 21 miles and that is about how far away we are.
I have still to fit the outboard bracket, the Torqeedo, fenders and lifelines. They are all stowed together at the foot of the port pipe birth. At first light tomorrow.
Perversely we are suddenly making 7 knots and our ETA has moved to 2305. I may have to reset my alarm.
1830 Lowered mainsail. Making 4.3 under jib alone. ETA 0130.
April 9, Monday
0915 I tied GANNET to one of the two Quarantine Berths at the Bundaberg Marina at 0900.
The alarm never did go off last night. I kept waking up earlier, looking around, then resetting it an hour or two later. I finally got up for good at 0400.
We sailed under just the deeply furled jib to keep our speed down. Being under-canvassed we rolled, even in light conditions, but not intolerably. I wanted to be five miles off the Bundaberg waypoint, which was just off the mouth of the river, at dawn, and we were 5.5 miles off.
I got the outboard bracket and Torqeedo on the stern. Tested the Torqeedo, which started as it should. Then removed the tiller arm and tilted the Torqeedo out of the water.
I glanced up and saw a sailboat heading out from Bundaberg under power.
Rain began to fall from a cloud that had snuck up behind us. I went below and put on my foul weather parka. It only lasted a few minutes.
Fenders and dock lines were next. Just as I got the lines in place, the wind, which had been light from the east, turned into a land breeze from the west. I had thought it might. Fortunately it didn’t quite head us and I was able to sail down to the main channel markers, tack and then hold course 270° close hauled on port tack with the full jib all the way to where the channel bends once it enters the land. I put my iPhone in the cockpit bag below me and could follow us on iNavx. I furled the jib, turned on the Torqeedo and powered the last half mile on what was now a fine sunny morning. A man from the marina took my bow line. I stepped onto the dock with the stern line and carried GANNET’s motion with me.
I’m now waiting for Customs.
It was physically an easy passage and often a pleasant one. But thirteen days to cover 1300 miles is slow.