Monday, March 13, 2017
St. Helena: leaving
March 11, Saturday
Misty rain this evening keeping me in the Great Cabin. Not hard rain, but enough to make me wetter than I want to be.
This will be the last journal entry from St. Helena. I’m starting it Saturday evening, but won’t post it until Monday.
There is no order to these thoughts other than that in which they come to me.
Other than topping off the water jerry can I am presently using, GANNET is ready to go. I’ve cleaned, restowed, topped up provisions—mostly sprits, wine, snacks—rewatered, put two coats of oil on the interior wood, applied more sealant to the port chainplate. I’m still not sure what has gone wrong there. I think I applied butyl tape in Durban, but it seems to have disappeared.
I used Dr. Sails epoxy on the tiller pin. Easy to apply, though wasteful with a lot left in the long one-use nozzle. We’ll see if it succeeds where all else has failed. This is not a major concern as I usually tie the tiller arm down so the pin can't lift, I hope.
I untangled the lines I have tied to the mooring. I tied on with two, knowing that they would get tangled as we swung around and they did.
Someday the Jordan Drogue may save my life, but in the meantime it and the Avon Redstart are the bulkiest and heaviest things I have to find room for in GANNET. The drogue dominates the space between the pipe berths. Odd to buy and wrestle with something you hope never to use.
I’ve caught up with all received email. A few of you sent links to YouTube videos. With the slow Internet here I could not open them, so I didn’t even try to upload any videos of my own.
I used LuckGrib to download a GRIB. This is not South Africa or New Zealand. It showed exactly what one would expect: trade winds forever. Or at least until the doldrums, which may be avoided near the South American coast north of the bulge of Brazil. I remember fast sailing there with an aiding current on a passage from Rio de Janeiro to the Caribbean in RESURGAM.
I expect to enter St. Lucia at Rodney Bay. There is a marina there. Carol is going to fly out and spend some time with me, so being in the marina, if there is space, will be convenient.
Unless something unexpected changes my mind, from St. Lucia I will work my way north through the Caribbean to Florida for the northern summer and not sail to Panama until late this year or more likely early next. I need some equipment, such as a new Torqeedo battery, that cannot be carried on airlines, and Sportaseats that are too big to carry, and I’d like to spend more time in places with warm water and where Carol and I were first in love. Also, like Cher, I am in no rush to end what is probably my final world tour. Given time, I can foresee other voyages, but I doubt very much I will circumnavigate again. There are parts of the world I just have no interest in seeing again, and to circumnavigate just to add another number is not my way.
A misty Sunday morning.
The supply ship arrived a few hours ago. It is a modest size cargo vessel that was supposed to be retired last year after the opening of the airport. With the airport unusable, it remains the only way anything gets here. I think it comes from Cape Town once a month. I am told it is the last active mail ship in the world,
Some have asked what is in all the bags stowed on the v-berth.
Here’s the photo again.
The black bag in the foreground holds freeze dry food, protein bars, a couple of jars of instant coffee, a bag of peanuts, zip lock bags, trash bags. As needed I move a thirty day supply of freeze dry food from the stern to that bag where it is more easily accessible.
The red bag to the right has packages of oatmeal and powered milk.
The red bag to the left has electronics. An iPad. Torqeedo charger. Back-up hard drive. Garmin eTrex GPS. Various cables. Etc. And my electric drill. All in watertight boxes.
Not visible behind the left side of the bulkhead is the 5 gallon jerry can I use to fill my daily water bottles.
The blue bag in the center is the G2.
The blue bag above it and to the left holds the four Raymarine tiller pilots, two Pelagic tiller arms, and the tiller arm of the Torqeedo outboard.
It rests on top of a duffle bag of harbor clothes. Forward of which but not visible is a five-gallon jerry can of water.
On the starboard side, also not visible, is a duffle bag of passage clothes and foul weather gear, forward of which is a water jerry can.
These bags and the jerry cans are tied in place.
Slightly visible beneath the G2 is a blue bag that mostly has things that would be in a bathroom. Toilet paper, hand soap, toothbrushes, a few towels. Currently it also doubles as a liquor locker, with reserve bottles of gin, tequila and Laphroaig. Other bottles are kept near my right hand at Central.
The bag which appears white but is actually clear is empty but will hold my knapsack and shore boat shores when we return to sea.
All the trash bags are doubled or tripled. One holds crackers. One dried fruit and nuts. One snacks, cookies and chocolate. One paper towels and Kleenex. One my heavy weight sleeping bag. One a lightweight sleeping bag and a pillow. Not all of these are visible. I can tell them apart by feel and by ties I have put around them.
In the space between the black food bag in the foreground and the bathroom bag/G2 are cartons of juice, cans of beer and boxed wine. I usually remove the cartons from the wine and just stow the plastic bladders.
A fourth 5 gallon jerry can of water is stowed aft between the pipe berths. Also tied in place.
A misty Sunday evening, although much of the day was sunny. Segovia playing Boccherini. Tequila at hand. I was standing in the companionway watching the infinitely changing facets of the sea’s surface until rained below. While up there I idly spun the Harken two-speed winches and discovered that the port one is one speed. I removed the case and see that a gear at the base is not meshing with another. I don’t know that I want to fullytdisassemble it tomorrow, particularly if that means removing it from the deck and possibly causing leaks. I don’t often even need the winches. One speed may have to be enough.
I went ashore this morning. Bought more Kleenex, tonic water and club soda. Filled the last jerry can with water. I am now in water passage mode, though I will buy a few bottles of water when I’m ashore tomorrow.
I had an excellent cheese burger at Anne’s Place while Internetting. So far there I’ve had a BBQ lamb chop, grilled wahoo, a t-bone steak, as well as the cheese burger. All good. I don’t know which I’ll have for my last land meal tomorrow.
This is the ferry boat landing. There is often a 3’/1 meter surge. As the boat comes along side, you grab one of the ropes and on the upsurge pull yourself onto the concrete. The blue jerry can is mine, waiting for the ride back out. The ferry runs every hour on the hour. On the moorings I call on the handheld VHF.
Being in passage water mode I had my last fresh water solar shower this afternoon. There is only enough left for a quick soapless rinse tomorrow.
I tested the tiller pilots. Two Raymarine and two Pelagic tiller arms are working.
I did a Time Machine back up of my MacBook, not one of the time honored pre-voyage routines.
Time to pick tonight’s freeze dry. And the winner is Back Country Cuisine Chicken Tikki Masala.
I lovely cool and dry Monday morning. My second cup of coffee at 7:30. Through the companionway I see terns flying along the sheer cliff.
I’ll go ashore at 10. I have to go to three offices to clear out: Port Control, Customs, Immigration. The first two are in the same building. Immigration a five minute walk away. Then I’ll buy some bottled water and go to Anne’s Place to Internet and have a final shore meal. I’ll probably be on the 1:00 p.m. ferry back to GANNET.
Regular readers will know that I like being ready far in advance and then leisurely look around to be sure everything is right.
I’ll try to remember to activate the Yellowbrick tonight. The tracking page is: https://my.yb.tl/gannet A link is also at the top of this journal page and the journal page on the main site.
I will sail tomorrow with the wind, hopefully off the mooring by 0800 or 0900. You should see movement on the Yellowbrick by 1200 GMT.
I thank Christopher for an excellent quote:
In a 1608 letter to Galileo Galilei, Kepler wrote that the humans might one day use the technology to set a course for the stars:
“Provide ships or sails adapted to the heavenly breezes, and there will be some who will brave even that void.”
— Johannes Kepler
Hopefully the next post will be from St. Lucia in about a month.
I wish you joy.
Friday, March 10, 2017
I had a good day, but then the last week at sea were all good days, as have been all those since I’ve been at St. Helena. I’m on a roll.
This morning before going ashore I removed everything from the v-berth, lifted, scrubbed and dried the cushions, then restowed, moving some items I’m going to need when I go to sea from their bags to the Great Cabin.
While I had access to the bins beneath the v-berth, I got the can of Interdeck and painted the strip exposed by the smaller replacement solar panel on the port side of the mast, and the can of Deks Olje. I want to oil the wood, particularly the floorboards. Having put all the stuff back that lives above the cushions, the Deks Olje is still out and I will have to find a new home for it on the next passage. I also scrubbed mold. It may not look much different, but the v-berth is dry and cleaner and better organized than it was. The duffle bags up there are tied in place, but knockdowns powerfully shift things about.
I cleaned the bilge.
The bilge on most boats is unseen. GANNET’s is up close and personal. Debris falls down there. I can reach it and do. Because of narrow spaces beside the nuts on the keel bolts, I sometimes have to use a hack saw blade to push stuff to where I can remove it.
I sprayed a second coat of waterproofing on the hood.
I discovered that both the depthsounder and the steaming light were not working. The switch on the electrical panel that controlled the depthfinder has failed. I moved the wire to another switch and the depthfinder works. Our mooring is in 68’/21 meters of water.
The steaming light problem was obvious, I think. A wire had corroded and broken away from a crimp fitting. I crimped on another. It is not yet dark, so I don’t know for sure if I have fixed the problem, which really isn’t much of one. The steaming light is only used when powering after dark, which GANNET never does. I was pleased to see that the new deck running lights are still working, but only because I like things to work rather than not. They too are never used.
Almost 1800. Just before coming below to write this, I was standing in the companionway sipping white wine. Two masts were visible on the horizon. One to the northeast on a boat approaching the mooring field. One far off to the northwest, a vertical sliver on an otherwise flat horizon, on a 50’ boat that left this afternoon. I’m surprised I can still see her. She must be 15 or 20 miles out.
There is another small boat here. A 27’ being sailed by two young men from Perth, Australia. I have only spoken to them briefly on a ferry ride in to shore and don't know details of their voyage. But good on them.
I expect to leave next Monday or Tuesday. It should be easy to sail off this mooring. The moorings are arranged in three parallel lines. You know that given a choice, and I had one on arrival, I am in the line farthest from shore. Depending on the wind, I might even be able to sail off the mooring with the G2.
I put in a waypoint off St. Lucia. It is 3,729 miles distant, bearing 295º. Rodney Bay, which is the location of a marina and a port of entry, is another 20 or 25 miles farther.
It should be a passage of three parts: a trade wind broad reach from here to the doldrums; doldrums; a trade wind beam reach to St. Lucia.
Divide 3800 by 120, a 5 knot day’s run, and you get 31.66 days. By 132, a 5.5 knot day, 28.78. By 144, a 6 knot day, 26.38. The unknowable variable is the doldrums. Our course from St. Helena to the Equator may zig-zag as I don’t want to loaf along as we did the last week coming here and may gybe broad reach to broad reach.
We pass within sight of Barbados a hundred miles before reaching St. Lucia. I have never been to either. From what I read, St. Lucia has better yacht facilities. I may have visitors in the Caribbean and being in a marina would be useful. If any of you have personal knowledge of these islands, I’d appreciate your sharing your information with me.
Time for another tumbler of boxed white wine and freeze dry chicken and noodles.
Here are two Prisma variations on the above sunset as seen from our mooring.
Twilight now, but dark enough so that when I turned on the steaming light, I could see it lit.
As I said, a good day.
Thursday, March 9, 2017
March 7, Tuesday
St. Helena: antidotes to Bonaparte
7 p.m. Still light in a gray cloudy sky, though the sun has set.
Misty rain kept me from standing in the companionway for my evening drink. Brief spells of rain came and went all afternoon, including when I was taking a solar shower in the cockpit. A bit more fresh water was welcomed.
I took my sail bag of wet clothes to Annie’s Laundrette today and while ashore filled two jerry cans with St. Helena water. Also bought two bottles of gin, one of tequila, and four cans of Lipton green tea.
Tomorrow I go on a tour to Napoleon’s last home and first grave. I did this 29 years ago. The hotel where I used the Internet today has a statue of the pot-bellied emperor—I deliberately do not capitalize. I have written before that the British have less lavish tombs for the winners, Wellington and Nelson, than the French have for the loser.
I do not admire Napoleon, who twice deserted his armies to further his own ambition and to save his short, fat ass. Once in Egypt, once and much worse in Russia. Perhaps if you are Napoleon or any of a number of other kings and generals and dictators, you think that if these fools believe the lies you tell them, they are of no account and you can use and dispose of them freely. And perhaps you are right.
Two antidotes to this are Joseph Conrad’s excellent short story, ‘The Warrior’s Soul’, which I reread this evening, and Mark Knopfler’s song, ‘Done with Bonaparte’, which I listened to this evening. Cause so much death and suffering and then die on this island of natural causes, though I believe he claimed the British poisoned him. Cancer did run in his family. If the British poisoned him, it was a public service.
The herd admires many despicable men. And a few despicable women too, I suppose. But mostly men. We men surely cause the most trouble.
I would rather be a forgotten Webb Chiles than a remembered Napoleon.
March 8, Wednesday
St. Helena: toured
I posted the passage log today, I think. The blogger administrative page showed that it didn’t properly save, but the entry appeared to be online. If it disappears, I’ll try to fix it.
I am writing this on GANNET near sunset.
I took my land tour today. In two of these photos you will see a large sailing vessel which came in yesterday. She is a school ship with several dozen teen-agers, with presumably wealthy parents, who are in the the 11th and 12th grade and first year of college. I arranged a tour through the Tourist Office on Monday and four of the students ended up with me. Two Canadian, two German. I don’t have much contact with teen-agers and these were intelligent, friendly and well-mannered. Perhaps there is hope for the future, at least in Canada and Germany.
The photos are of Jamestown, the only town on the island. The small boats visible are local boats. The mooring field for visiting boats is blocked by the mountain to the left.
There is a photo of the runway to nowhere. People here say this will be sorted out, but how do you sort out the trade winds and a sheer 2,000’/600 meter cliff?
The house is Longwood, the little emperor’s last home. (Again the lack of capitalization is deliberate.) A very nice house. Compare his life there with the deaths of the soldiers he abandoned in Russia.
His bedroom. Dining room. And his death mask at age 51.
The British really did treat him better than he deserved.
There are great contrasts on this island and endless spectacular vistas.
7:30 p.m. I had a good late lunch of a BBQ lamb chop with rice and vegetables at Anne’s Place which served as my main meal for the day. I picked up my washed laundry at Annie’s Laundrette much farther up the steep road and have the no longer salty clothes stowed. So I am sitting here, listening to music, the album FIESTA by Chico and the Gypsies, sipping gin, feeling the wind blow against my skin through the open forward hatch. I am content. It has been a life. It still is. To Bill in the UK, I’m not sure but I think Wales, I lift my glass to not putting our mastheads in the water, to all of the rest of you who don’t do that, I lift my glass to your finding joy without knockdowns.
Wednesday, March 8, 2017
February 10, Friday
0730 Left slip Durban Marina. Immigration came early, as did Chris Sutton to see me off. There was a slight wind from the southwest, so Chris undid the docklines and walked GANNET out of her slip. I put the Torqeedo in gear and we were away.
Once clear of the end of the dock, I raised the main and unfurled the jib. We were able to sail at 3 knots, so I cut the Torqeedo, only putting it in gear again when we turned downwind in the entrance channel.
With the tide behind us, we made the end of the breakwater not long after 0800 and I cut across the channel to open water. A pilot boat passed as I did.
I was able to remove the Torqeedo and outboard bracket without difficulty. The battery was still at 90%.
Now at 0910, we are making 4 and 5 knots close-hauled on starboard tack against 5 and 6 knots of wind from the south-southwest, the direction we want to go. The wind is supposed to be from the west. The cabin is disorganized because I am charging the Torqeedo battery before stowing it, and it must go in place before other things such as fenders.
When I took the black Sportaseat on deck, I discovered that the hinge is broken. Sitting at Central where it leans agains the bulkhead that doesn’t matter. On deck I’ll use the gray one.
We will continue offshore until we’re near the two hundred meter curve where the current should be strongest. I hope the wind goes west soon.
day’s run 11 miles COG 201º SOG 4.6
The wind slowly veered until 1100. Close-hauled we followed it, our course changing from 130º to 200º At 1100 the wind died. We continued to make 1.5 to 2.0 knots which I think must have been current because the sails were constantly slatting. At 1130 I saw wind darkening the water to the east. It finally reached us. We’re now on a port beam reach with five or six knots of wind from the east. Not the predicted direction. Low overcast being burned away by the sun. Forward hatch open.
The Torqeedo battery charged to 99% but wouldn’t get to 100%. I’ve stowed it and the fenders and dock lines. Rain fell last night and I have the mainsail cover drying in the cockpit before I put it away.
1500 I switched to the Pelagic tiller pilot two hours ago. It is steering properly. The gain is now set to three. In the past it was at 1.5. I also note that the status lights on the main control box are now steady. If I remember correctly in the past they flashed on and off which was distracting. I’ve still put two pieces of tape over them to make them dimmer.
I noticed a small clevis pin on the cockpit floor near the traveler. I found that it came from what I think it called the becket on the mainsheet block on the traveler. I dug out a replacement split pin and reattached the mainsheet, the knotted end of which was held by one of the blocks on the boom.
Wind ten knots from the ENE. GANNET making 5.5 to 6 knots in the right direction, but she feels sluggishly heavy with the burden of two month’s provisions.
1600 We’ve just picked up a knot or two of current. SOG 6.5 to over 7 and the wind has gone lighter. We are only sailing 5.
Sky clear to north and east. Low overcast over the land to the west.
1830 Dinner of freeze dry sweet and sour lamb accompanied by a plastic of boxed red wine and music—Ludovico Einaudi’s I giorni.
GANNET is rolling on 2’ waves. The wind has backed and weakened. The main was blanketing the jib so I lowered it. Perhaps the wind finally will go west tonight and I don’t want an accidental gybe. Helped by the Agulhas, we are making 6 and 7 knots, while probably sailing 5.
We are eight miles from the coast. I have not seen as many ships today as I expected. Perhaps a half dozen. Two heading north in the past few hours have passed inside of us. A good sign. We are on a course moving us slightly more offshore.
The iNavX app has been crashing. The last time I had to power off the phone and restart to get iNavX to work.
February 11, Saturday
0730 The current and wind both increased during the night. Lowering the main was a very good idea. Light rain fell, forcing me to keep the companionway closed which made the Great Cabin stuffy. I was up many times and saw SOG routinely of 10 knots, sometimes 12, when we were probably sailing 7 or 8. Around midnight waves began pushing the stern around, causing the jib to back and fill. At 0100 I furled the sail to less than half size and changed our course so the wind was more on the port quarter. This has taken us thirty miles offshore. I’ll gybe after a while, but out here we should be beyond most of the shipping and the strongest current. The apparent wind is presently 23 knots. Because it is aft of the beam the true wind is four or five knots higher. Tomorrow we will have that wind on the nose and against the current. I am not looking forward to that. The occasional wave is slamming into us now.
day’s run 180 COG 200º SOG 7.2
Cape Agulhas 496 miles 252º
GANNET’s longest day’s run ever. Very much current aided. I often saw SOGs of 12 and 13 knots. We were sailing 8 or 9.
We are 43 miles offshore. I will gybe after writing this.
The distance to Cape Agulhas is not accurate. The straight line from our position to there crosses land. But it may be useful for judging our progress. The approximate sailing distance from Durban to Agulhas is 700 miles.
The barometer is down 10 millibars since yesterday.
Raymarine in cover steering. I changed back last sunset. The Pelagic had steered well, but is noisier than the Raymarine so I thought I’d sleep better with the Raymarine. Didn’t sleep well anyway. Repeatedly dozed off this morning sitting at Central.
1630 With strong headwind due tomorrow, water will be over the deck, so I switched back to the Pelagic tiller pilot an hour ago. I wore full foul weather gear, but the transition went without a broach. The Pelagic is steering well, but is decidedly noisier below deck.
A rough afternoon, even with the wind behind us. These waves are not big, 3’-4’, but they are steep and some slam us.
1730 I’m listening to music and drinking the second gin and tonic I made this evening. I didn't drink the first. I had just poured it when a wave rolled us far enough to move everything loose in the cabin and empty the plastic tumbler. My primary concern was to locate the open knife I had used to cut a slice from a lime and my eyeglasses. Both were found.
Presumably because of the effect of the current, conditions are rougher than the wind strength of 20-25 knots from astern should cause and we are heeled more.
I’m keeping on keeping on, waiting for the headwinds to hit. I’m not sure what will happen then. I’ve sailed this coast in the past with better weather. I’ll adapt.
February 12, Sunday
0815 Last evening the wind decreased to 10 knots, then backed to the NW and quickly increased again to 20. Just before midnight I decided to prepare for the expected continued backing to the SW while it was easy, put on my foul weather gear and went on deck, furled the half jib, removed the Pelagic and tied the tiller down amidships. This may have been premature, but I didn’t want to wake with an abruptly backed jib and it gave me a good night’s sleep.
At 0500 first light I found the wind in the west at only 10 knots, but it soon backed SW and is now blowing 20-24 apparent, which being on the beam I think is also the true speed, and we are drifting off to the SE at 1.2 knots, a slow speed that makes me think we are beyond the Agulhas Current. Conditions are not bad. Waves are only 2’-3’ and not breaking. We could sail against this, but it would be wet and slow and I am going to continue to wait it out.
day’s run 85 miles
Cape Agulhas 424 miles 258º
Conditions remain the same. Wind 20-24 knots from the southwest. I didn’t record COG or SOG because the readings are wildly variable. I think we are drifting at 1 to 1.5 knots to the ESE. GANNET is heeled 10º-15º by the wind on her mast and hull. Pushed over farther briefly by the odd wave. Not much water coming on board.
We are 49 miles off East London. I thought we were beyond shipping, but saw two this morning.
I hope the forecasts were right and this passes through quickly leaving us with fair wind again.
We are far enough offshore so that the distance to Cape Agulhas is accurate. Three or four days of good wind and we would be around the corner.
1300 Sailing. Close reach. Under deeply furled jib. Making 4 to 5 knots in the right direction. I don’t want to push hard through these waves. Wind still 17 to 20 knots and should decrease. Spray hood up. Just kept a breaking wave from coming below which it would have without the hood.
1630 A little more jib out. SOG 6.5. Faster than I need to go, but we are not pounding.
Very serious leak or leaks at aft edge of forward hatch. Water dripping in after every wave on foredeck. Nothing I can do about it now.
1730 Wind has backed a bit more and the jib is a bit freer. Apparent wind on a close reach is 21. True will be less. SOG of 7.2 makes me think we are still getting some current boost. GANNET moving smoothly. Gin and tonic on cabin sole. Music on Megaboom—I do wish I still had two for stereo
and will buy a second when I can.
Today was better than I expected, even better than I hoped. The forecast was for unfavorable winds for twelve hours. I lay ahull for thirteen. Had I sailed against that wind it would have been like the brutal passage from Apia to Neiafu. There I had no choice. No change was coming. Here I did. Much better to make this an ocean passage rather than a coastal passage.
1930 GANNET is sailing beautifully. The SOG of 7+ must include some current, but she is slicing smoothly through the ocean. What a great little boat. No, what a great boat. Go, GANNET, go.
February 13, Monday
0930 Light wind from astern. Misty rain. We still had current an hour ago with a SOG of 7. Now 5.7 sailing with full jib. I gybed once, but we were heading too much toward land, so I gybed back to port.
An easy night. I slept well.
day’s run 144 COG 262º SOG 5.8
Cape Agulhas 282 263º
Sun is finally burning through low clouds after a grey sky, grey sea morning. Several birds are hunting around GANNET. Petrels, I think, and one albatross.
Land has come out to meet us. We are 25 miles due south of Cape Recife, near Port Elizabeth. We could have been there in three days from Durban, despite lying ahull for thirteen hours. I’m glad we are not. Staying at sea was a good decision.
If the sun dries the deck, I’ll apply sealant to the forward hatch.
1400 Sunshine was brief. Complete low overcast. Light rain.
An hour ago I considered setting the G2, but decided to raise the main instead. Good choice. Wind now 17-19 on the beam. GANNET sailing smoothly at 7 and 8 knots.
1700 Rain ended two hours ago and wind decreased to 13 knots. Still on the beam. Beautiful sailing, SOG 8 and 9 knots, current aided.
Although the temperature in the Great Cabin is 75F, I was feeling chilly and dug out a pair of Levis and a long-sleeved shirt.
1940 In typing the time I noted that it is a minute before the year of my birth.
The wind died with the sun and with it our boat speed. Wind now 4 to 5 knots from the port quarter. Swells rolling what little wind there is out of the sails. I put a preventer on the boom to keep it from slamming. We are on the edge of the Agulhas Bank, depths less than 600’ 24 miles from shore. The Agulhas Current fades here to less than a knot. Our SOG 3.0.
Ship heading west passed a mile or two inside of us an hour ago.
February 14, Tuesday
0645 I went to sleep last night at 2000. An hour later the off course alarm sounded on the Raymarine. The Pelagic has steered properly, but is disconcertedly noisy, particularly below deck and when trying to sleep. I’ll certainly use it when there are waves sweeping the deck.
The wind had died to a whisper and gone to the north. GANNET was facing east into an almost full gibbous moon rising. Starry sky. Three fishing boats working to the south of us.
I managed to get the little boat turned around and retrimmed the sails. The tiller pilot managed to keep us ghosting west at 1 to 2 knots.
Sunny, clear sky this morning. Still only a breath of wind. SOG 1.8. 206 miles to Cape Agulhas.
0845 A busy morning.
I saw that another Aurinco solar panel had failed. That makes seven out of nine. I had a replacement, but it was buried beneath the cushions on the v-berth, so I removed a lot of bags to get to it and put it in place on deck. More complicated than it had to be because Aurinco has changed the dimensions of that size panel and two new screw holes had to be drilled. Nevertheless in place and adding to our charging. Until, of course, it too dies.
I then ran a bead of sealant along the aft edge of the forward hatch.
During all this GANNET ghosted west.
The wind has now gone around to the stern. If it ever settles, I will set the G2. SOG 2.4.
day’s run 92 miles COG 256º SOG 4.5
Cape Agulhas 190 miles 266º
A pleasant sunny day. The wind has returned to a little east of south and we sail on a beam reach a little south of west.
It would be a good day for the G2, but I will not set it until the sealant around the forward hatch has cured.
A ship heading east passed a mile south of us, and I saw five gannets. I have seen them before on this coast, but then I’ve kept in closer. We are currently 34 miles offshore. I did not think they would be out this far. They were flying together. I grabbed a camera, but they didn’t return.
I can see mountains back in the direction of Cape St. Francis 58 miles away.
The forecast when I left Durban showed strong headwinds off Cape Agulhas on Thursday. Until last night I thought we would have passed the cape by then. Now we won’t. The forecast may have changed. Nothing I can do except sail GANNET as well as conditions permit. If we do have strong headwinds, I’ll lie ahull again and wait them out.
Several things drying in the cockpit. My foul weather gear and sea boots, a flotation cushion, a pair of shorts, two pair of boat shoes.
1530 Beautiful afternoon. Blue sea and sky. Great sailing. GANNET broad reaching smoothly at 7 knots under main and jib, water coming over the bow but not making it’s way aft.
1730 More than beautiful, a joyful afternoon. Before I left Evanston I wished others joy and said that I would find it. I have. This is not adrenaline rush, edge of knock down experience. When you have been in Force 12 eight or nine times, you really don’t seek thrills. At least I don’t. More than enough thrills seek me. This was perfectly balanced, no pain, no water streaming below, sailing. Just pleasure. Just the joy of a sailor being at one with his boat and the ocean.
I’ve come below from standing in the companionway sipping a gin and tonic, listening to Leonard Cohen’s POPULAR PROBLEMS album. Three pleasures: the drink, the music, GANNET elegantly sliding through the sea. Joy.
The wind is softening. I hope it lasts to the Atlantic Ocean.
1915 The wind has strengthened to 18 knots. Again I stood in the companionway. Certainly an evening for Laphroaig, so I poured myself some. GANNET powering on, bow wave rising in white water to the deck is itself intoxicating. Power from such a small boat? Yes. And grace. And balance. The ocean within arm’s length. Literally. As I proved by leaning over to rinse the spoon with which I ate my dinner of freeze dry lamb and vegetables. You could not have so immediate an experience on a larger boat. This is just so great. I love it.
February 15, Wednesday
1010 I’ve been up since 0500, which was first light in Durban, but is still dark here.
The wind had backed and increased and was almost on the stern. I did wait until first light at 0545 to lower the main sail. Apparent wind now 17 to 19. True wind four or five knots stronger. Overcast and brief intervals of rain.
Cape Agulhas is 63 miles distant. I am not steering directly for it, but am keeping our distance from the coast. I don’t know yet when I’ll gybe to the NNW.
I spent the morning working on the solar charging system. I saw that the battery charge is 12.2 but the charge going to the batteries remained at 0. I tested each solar panel individually. All good. I removed leads to the Solar Boost regulator and replaced them. No change. I moved all leads from the Solar Boost to the back-up solid state regulator. It’s lights indicate the batteries are charging, but the voltage remains at 12.2. At the moment the sun has just come out. We definitely have enough light for the solar panels to be producing power.
All of the removing and replacing wires requires working with tiny bolts and screws. Tedious on a moving boat.
day’s run 146 miles COG 253º SOG 6.0
Cape Agulhas 55 miles 300º
Resumed working on solar system. I thought I had found the problem with a corroded wire at an in line fuse. Redid the connection. Worked. Then before I could get everything back together stopped working.
I returned wires to the Solar Boost. I need to fix this.
1330 I worked for another hour after recording the noon position. When I disconnected and then reconnected the wires to the SolarBoost, there was charging for a few seconds, then 0. The wires are now on the solid state regulator whose lights indicate that charging is taking place and that the battery level is high. I am going to believe them until proven otherwise.
Misty rain falling. I intended to gybe. While we are not due south of Cape Agulhas, we are thirty miles south of its latitude and about the same latitude as Opua, New Zealand. This should be the farthest south we go on this circumnavigation. However, while I was trying to get the solar charging system to work, the wind veered and we are now able to sail due west, so I will for a while longer.
1500 Rain has stopped and sun has broken through the clouds. Wind down to 15 apparent.
I just ran the GRIB I downloaded with LuckGrib last Friday morning before leaving Durban. It does not show strong west wind tomorrow, but wind veering to the south, which is ideal.
The last wind forecast from Windfinder Pro does show west wind at 20 to 30 knots tomorrow.
Both could have changed since last Friday. Both could be wrong.
I ate one of my vestigial Australian mystery cans for a late lunch. It proved to be tuna with corn, peppers and Mexican spices.
Sponged a half bucket of water from bilge.
1600 We have been on the Agulhas Bank since yesterday. The current dissipates on the shallow bank and is no longer significant. However the shallow water, only a few hundred feet deep, makes for jagged, confused waves.
1900 Wind backed and I gybed to starboard. That might have been turning the corner. We are 11 miles east of being 35 miles due south of Cape Agulhas, which I take as being the dividing line between the Indian and the South Atlantic Oceans. The wind has decreased to 11 knots and the gray sea has smoothed. A few hours ago we were being seriously thrown around.
February 16, Thursday
South Atlantic Ocean
0530 Well, we haven’t quite made it yet. We are west of Cape Agulhas, but not north. The cape is 32 nautical miles distant, bearing 021º. GANNET is lying ahull with wind from the WNW gusting 30 knots, which came up around 0330, but I may have misread my watch and it was an hour earlier. I furled the jib, tied down the tiller, brought the tiller pilot below, and raised the spray hood. The waves are not big, but some of them are smashing into us. I moved the dinghy and two dry bags with provisions to the windward pipe berth to reduce our angle of heel. The lee cloth is up to keep them in place when a wave heels us far over.
Windfinder Pro unfortunately had this right. I hope it is also right about a twelve hour duration. We may pass Cape Agulhas another time or two.
day’s run 55 miles Cape of Good Hope 95miles 314º
Wind decreased to 20-22 knots for while, now back to 25, blowing from directly where we want to sail.
The morning has been sunny. Even with GANNET being tossed around, I worked on the solar charging, including again checking each panel separately. All are outputting properly. I now have the Solbian panels connected directly to the regulator, rather than through the bus. The light says charging is taking place, but the status light on the batteries indicates only half charge and has not changed since dawn. The batteries are Lifeline AGM’s bought new last year in New Zealand.
I could go into Cape Town and try to sort this out, but I am settled in at sea and don’t want to. I’ve sailed boats without electricity before. Neither EGREGIOUS nor CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE had electrical systems. But it would be harder now. I have three power bricks that would keep the iPhone charged enough for navigation and can use sheet to tiller steering, but it would mean no reading or music or shaving or masthead tricolor light The solar charging system is so simple and it was working. I wish I understood why it isn’t now.
The barometer, which dropped steadily yesterday, has risen as steadily this morning. I have hopes that the wind will shift and we will be underway again this afternoon.
Cape Agulhas is now 39 miles distant, bearing 009º, so we are drifting south at about one knot.
1235 A positive sign. The battery voltage which has been reading 12.2 or 12.1 since yesterday is now reading 12.6, so some charging must be taking place.
The only power I have used since turning off the masthead tricolor at dawn has been to charge my iPhone once.
1400 Success. Maybe. I hooked up all the solar panels to the regulator and the light indicating battery charge level has changed from partially charged to full.
Wind has again decreased to 20 knots. Now if it will just back or veer and blow from any other direction.
1620 We are now 42 miles due south of Cape Agulhas and about to return to the Indian Ocean. Sunny afternoon. Wind unchanged. It has lasted longer than I expected.
The wind decreased to 11 knots and backed to the southwest at last light a half hour ago. We are making 5 knots toward the Cape of Good Hope under partially furled jib an full main.
When I took the Raymarine that I had been using on deck and plugged it in, it malfunctioned. Less than a week and it didn’t even get wet. Another Raymarine is presently steering.
February 17, Friday
Indian Ocean/South Atlantic Ocean
0530 The wind died completely at 2030. I furled the jib and dropped the main. I woke every hour or two and finally found two or three knots of wind from the east at first light a few minutes ago. GANNET is making 1.5 knots in the right general direction under jib alone.
We are now 46 miles south and about seven miles east of Cape Agulhas, ghosting toward our third passing of the cape, so far one west and one east, and hopefully our first rounding,
0615 Sun just coming above the horizon. Mainsail set with a preventer to keep it from flopping, SOG 2.8.
day’s run 13 miles COG 300º SOG 5.5
Cape of Good Hope 83 miles 317º
This week has seen GANNET’s longest day’s run, a current aided 180, and now her shortest. We only sailed eight of the twenty-four hours and were pushed back while lying ahull or becalmed the other sixteen. Nevertheless it is 13 miles noon to noon.
A continued pleasant day. Wind eight or nine knots from the east. Weakening in the past few minutes. GANNET broad reaching northwest at 5 knots.
1212 It is actually an hour later than the last entry, but I just realized that we have been geographically within the UTC +1 time zone since Tuesday evening. I have certainly noticed that dawn and sunset have been late. South Africa keeps the entire country on UTC +2. There is no reason for me to do so and I have just changed ship’s time to +1, which will make this a 25 hour day.
1330 G2 set. Wind had gone lighter and veered to the stern. Main blanketing jib. SOG dropped to 3 knots. So I set furled the jib and set the G2. Main blanketed it, too, and I don’t want to come higher and close with the shipping lanes and shore, so I lowered the main. SOG 4.5 TO 5.2. Also a smoother ride with waves and swells not rolling the wind out of the sail.
1700 The wind backed further, coming onto the beam, so I furled and lowered the G2. This was the first time I had furled using the new 5/16”/8mm continuous line I had made in the U.S. Previously I was using a ¼”/6mm line that I had moved from the Facnor gennaker furler and it often slipped. With the new line, the sail furled perfectly, though this was in only 9 or 10 knots of wind which usually is not a problem. We continue under main and jib, making 5 and sometimes 6 knots.
A very pleasant day. I sat on deck earlier drinking a Heineken and listening to music, then stood in the companionway after lowering the G2 sipping white wine and listening to music.
We should be off Cape Town tomorrow morning. Wanting to keep the ocean wind, I will swing wide, though it is a beautiful coast.
February 18, Saturday
0630 Dawn off the Cape of Good Hope an hour ago. I think that Sir Francis Drake called it the most beautiful cape he passed in all the world. We passed nine miles west.
I’ve been up since 0300. There were ships around and the wind was backing, so I needed to keep trimming sails. We are now close-hauled on port tack, making a smooth 7 knots with partially furled jib and full main. A few minutes ago I went on deck and removed the tiller pilot. GANNET is sailing with the tiller tied down.
Ever since rounding Cape York last year, our course has essentially been west. Finally passing Cape Agulhas for the last time yesterday marked a change. Our course now is essentially north for the next several thousand miles. Northwest to be more accurate. But up rather than sideways.
The wind just went light and GANNET off course. Tiller pilot back on duty.
day’s run 118 miles COG 350º SOG 2.7
St. Helena 1669 miles 305º
Wind veered, heading us. Very light. GANNET ghosting along twenty miles west of Cape Town on a lovely, sunny day. We just need more wind from a better angle.
1430 A complete transformation. A half hour ago overcast reached us from the west, the wind instantly backed southwest and increased to 20 knots. I got the jib partially furled, retrimmed the sails, and GANNET took off at 8 and 9 knots.
1740 Rough out there. Disproportionally with only 20 knot wind from the port quarter. Jagged 6’ waves too close together. We are presumably in the Benguela Current, but this wind is with the current, not against. Trying to keep my clothes dry, I put on foul weather gear, went on deck and lowered the mainsail. We are no longer seeing speeds above 10 knots, but under a partially reefed jib are still making 7 and more when we catch a wave. The sun is out, but about to set. We passed several seals sleeping with fins out of the water more than twenty miles offshore. The sound of GANNET approaching startled them into quick dives. She could have been a great white shark, but is only an innocent bird, two of her species I saw hunting far offshore this morning. They seemed bigger than the New Zealand gannets.
1900 I’m free. Free of the land.
I’ve just done something original. Not I like to believe for the first time. I do not know as a fact that GANNET was the smallest foreign boat to enter Durban this year, but I expect she was. Even more likely is that she was the only boat of any size to clear Durban for St. Helena. The Immigration official who came down to observe my departure had to ask where St. Helena is. Sorry, Napoleon.
What was original is that instead of trying to outwit the weather and harbor hop along the coast, I decided to go to sea and make it an ocean passage. There is a caveat to this. If this is your first time in South Africa you don’t want to miss Cape Town, whose physical setting is among the most beautiful in the world. Use your imagination to remove what we have built there and I see the slopes of Table Mountain as the Garden of Eden, plus there is beautiful wine country less than an hour’s drive east. But I’ve spent months there and it is time for me to sail.
However, even though I left Durban intending to remain at sea, until today the land has dictated my course. Now I am free. It is just the wind and the ocean and me.
February 19, Sunday
South Atlantic Ocean
0800 I woke at 0200 feeling that we were sailing too fast. I reached up and turned on the wind display. 30 knots apparent, which coming from near the stern meant low gale force true. When I turned on my iPhone I was startled to see SOG 14.1 knots. Only momentarily. But that is the highest speed I have seen on GANNET and the jib was furled to 40%. SOG dropped back to 9, then up to 13. And I was up, lowering the hood and furling the jib down to t-shirt size.
The wind continues at around 30 knots and we continue to show some double digit SOG even with that small amount of sail set. But for the tiller pilot steering we would probably be lying ahull. Unfortunately it is a Raymarine out there. This is Pelagic weather. But it would be dangerous to try to make the switch now. The Raymarine has the cover on it, and we haven’t been taking a lot of water over the deck. The spray hood has definitely helped reduce the amount getting below. One of the toggles has broken. I have spares, but don’t want to try to replace the broken one now. The lines clipping the flaps down are holding the hood in place.
Sky hazy blue. Barometer high. Waves not big at 5’, but some of them are throwing us around.
Everything is difficult to do in the Great Cabin.
day’s run 158 miles COG 313º SOG 6.6
St. Helena 1516 miles 304º
Two waves knocked us down in opposite directions within a minute an hour ago. I had the lee cloth up on one side. Now on both. I am wearing my foul weather gear which I put on intending to go on deck and have us lie ahull. The apparent wind decreased to 20 knots, so I didn’t, but it is back to 27 and I may. Unless there is a decrease I will definitely lie ahull tonight.
The spray hood has definitely reduced the water coming below, but at one point a flood come from beside me to port and soaked me sitting at Central. Perhaps from around the port chain plate. I’ve not had a problem there before and will investigate when I can.
Still sunny. Barometer high and steady.
1500 Lying ahull. We were being beat up. I went out a half an hour ago, furled the scrap of jib, tied the tiller amidships and brought the tiller pilot below. The wind is howling and the waves are 8’-9’/3 meters, close together, and some with breaking crests. Wind readings now 30 to 37 knots.
I removed the tiller pilot from its cover. It was essentially dry.
We are being pushed at 3 to 5 knots offshore on a course somewhere between 280 º and 300º.
Even though much less water has come below than in the past, most things in the cabin are damp.
While on deck I glanced at the port chain plate. There is a deck plate around it that I will have to remove to see if that is the source of the flood. This wasn’t just a leak, but an inpouring of water.
1715 I am sitting on the port pipe berth, facing the centerline, my feet braced on the starboard pipe berth, listening to music—just now the Portuguese, Dulce Pontes—a gin and tonic on the floorboards. I can see through the closed companionway a lot of breaking white on the blue ocean. The wind reading is 33. I saw 39 a few minutes ago. There is a huge difference in lying ahull as opposed to trying to sail. GANNET really does become a cork without the resistance of even a small amount of set sail. A few waves slam into us, but most pass harmlessly.
Having said that, I hope this blows itself out tonight and we can be a sailboat instead of a cork tomorrow. Sailboats are more interesting than corks.
1815 I was about to pour water into the JetBoil when a wave hit, rolling us far over. Both hands occupied I could not protect myself and my head hit the main bulkhead hard left ear first. When we rolled back I reached up and felt my ear. No blood on my hand, continued to pour the water for tonight’s freeze dry beef stew.
A voyage is real as much of modern life is not. A voyage is a problem to be solved with your mind and body. I left Durban for St. Helena. I either get there or I don’t. Along the way I, and my ear, adapt.
1900 Order is lost on GANNET in a gale. Gravity is inexorable. Packets are overturned. Glasses spilled.
In the roll when I was about to pour water into the JetBoil, some of the freeze dry food flew about the cabin. When after eating it, I went to rinse the measuring cup in the ocean, another wave hit, slamming my head and left ear into this time the side of the companionway,
I refilled the spilled plastic tumbler with boxed red wine.
I’ll restore order when I can.
February 20, Monday
day’s run 73 miles COG 320º SOG 3.5
St. Helena 1445 miles 305º
First time today I’ve dared to take the laptop from its waterproof case.
Two severe knockdowns, one at around 0400, the other two hours later, at least one of which put the masthead in the water. The new Windex installed in Durban after last year’s knockdown in the Indian Ocean is broken. That didn’t last long. The masthead tricolor and Raymarine wind unit are still in place and working, although the Raymarine continued to function for a while after the previous knockdown. I hope it does work. That information is useful.
I was on the starboard pipe berth for the first knockdown. The lee cloth kept me in place, but instantly awake I also reached out and braced myself with my arm as things dropped through space. Imagine waking up as your bedroom suddenly turns 90º and what was the floor is now the wall.
The companionway slat fell out and washed overboard. I have the one I use in port in place. It is lashed on. I don’t have another replacement.
Lot’s of water down below. Lot’s of things shifted.
I have the Pelagic steering us under bare poles. Several waves have broken across the deck. It is getting a severe test. So far it is doing well.
I keep thinking we ought to be able to sail and then another wave washes over us. I haven’t seen 30 knot apparent wind for a while. I hope this ends soon.
1300 Sailing. Scrap of jib. Wind 22 apparent. We’re only making 5 knots. I’ll add sail when/if the waves go down.
I had thought that after I rounded the capes the rest would be easy. I could not have been more wrong.
1845 Dinner of lamb and vegetables. A plastic of red wine at hand.
The apparent wind still in the low 20s, but the seas are no longer dangerous. I hope.
This has been a stop and go passage. Three times lying ahull. Over the decades I’ve learned that it is sometimes better to wait than push.
I will sleep tonight in wet clothes in a wet sleeping bag. GANNET has been knocked masthead in the water today. This is hard sailing. I am an old man who does hard things.
February 21, Tuesday
South Atlantic Ocean
0830 Wind 15 apparent. Good. Sailing with full jib. If our speed drops below 5 knots, I’ll set the main, but otherwise not. I need an easy day. Sunny. Hazy blue sky just as it was when the winds were gale force. Everything in the cabin is wet, including my clothes. I’m wearing a long sleeved shirt and Levis. I’ll probably change into drier, but know that they will almost instantly be wet, too.
I replaced the three broken toggles on the spray hood. Very cheaply made. I have only one spare left. The lines to the flaps are secured with carabiner clips to pad-eyes. Cam or clam cleats might be better.
day’s run 123 miles COG 305º SOG 5.5
St. Helena 1322 miles 306º
Wind 13-15 knots. Dried some clothes and partially the sleeping bag. Occasional spray on deck, so I have the bag spread on the port pipe berth in the sun.
Pelagic still steering. It is performing perfectly, but is noisier than the Raymarine, which can handle present conditions, so I will switch soon.
1245 That was short and not so sweet.
When I connected the Raymarine unit I last used, it failed. Two down in less than two weeks. Rather than sacrifice another Raymarine, I am continuing with the Pelagic. If I want quiet, I’ll have to go to sheet to tiller and I don’t feel like messing with that today. The Raymarines may be limited for G2 conditions.
1700 We have achieved silence. Actually not silence, just the natural sounds of GANNET moving through the ocean. I have gone to sheet to tiller. Good that I did so in moderate conditions. Wind 14 apparent now.
In one of the knockdowns, the contents of some of the cockpit bags were washed over board. Among them one of the lines I use to tie in reef points and, as I just discovered, the block and tackle I use as a boom preventer.
I raised the main with a triple reef. With only two internal boom reef lines, I will be only be reefing with a triple reef or the new fourth reef. The bracket holding the Tides Marine luff track is doing its job. My reef tack lines to the new mast cleats are superior to my old way of tying the reef luff grommet.
I also lost two hats in the knockdown. They were in the bin at the companionway and must have fallen out when we were at 90º or more and been washed away with the companionway slat.
I just checked our SOG and saw readings from 4.8 to 9.6 knots. Moving smoothly on a broad reach.
It is after 1700 hours. I have music to listen to and gin to drink.
February 22, Wednesday
South Atlantic Ocean
day’s run 133 miles COG 310º SOG 5.1
St. Helena 1191 miles 307º
A repair morning.
My sleeping bag was acceptably dry and I sleep well as sheet to tiller steered quietly through the night, but this morning it turned us too much to the west. I was on deck preparing to gybe when I looked up at the mainsail and saw two small tears near the head. I went below and got the Pelagic, set it to steer, then lowered the mainsail and glued patches over the tears. I have less sail repair tape than I thought.
I then tried to fix a leak in the hand bilge pump and removed the tape around the port chainplate. I’m letting that area dry before applying sealant.
Meantime we continue under jib alone with Pelagic steering on a sunny day with wind 14 knots.
I’ll either go to the G2 or set the mainsail again after a while and resume sheet to tiller.
1530 Sheet to tiller steering since 1300. Wind has backed and we can sail the rhumb line. We are actually sailing a bit higher.
A nice day except for a succession of minor problems, including a wave that came out of no where and poured below, soaking me and my drying sleeping bag. The companionway was open and the hood down. That was the only wave to come on board all day.
Then in checking the batteries I sliced my hand on a sharp edge. No serious, but a nuisance that bleeds. It was easy to rinse it in clean salt water.
I was checking the batteries because the light on the regulator that shows battery state is flashing on and off. I don’t know why. The battery voltage was 13.3, showing the batteries to be solar charging. We’re not using any electricity now anyway.
February 23, Thursday
South Atlantic Ocean
1030 Wind 10 knots near the stern on the port quarter. I lowered the mainsail earlier this morning. We continue under full jib with one of the two remaining functioning Raymarines steering. I’m waiting a while longer to see what the wind does before raising the G2.
When I attached the Raymarine tiller arm to the tiller, I found that Pelagic has again started to lift the pin. One of the lines lost in the last knockdown was a short piece I used to tie the tiller arm to the tiller so it isn’t lifted off by a wave. I just made another one and have the arm tied down. The Raymarine doesn’t lift the pin anyway.
The slice in my left hand is at the base of the index finger and looks like a frown. No longer bleeding. It looks clean. But I have to be careful handling lines not to open it again.
We had a brief flash of direct sunlight, but cloud cover presently complete. I know that as we go north I will be too hot, but now I am a bit too cool in early mornings and welcome the sun’s warmth.
day’s run 124 miles COG 317º SOG 5.7
St. Helena 1067 miles 308º
I am writing this at 1230, deducting from our present position to estimate our noon position. At that time I was on deck making the worst G2 set in the history of the world. As I raised the furled G2, the shackle on the block at the base of the mast for the spinnaker halyard broke. Down sail. Seek replacement. Don’t have one the right size. Cannibalize the shackle from the vestigial spinnaker topping lift. Raise sail part way, see that it is twisted around a shroud. Down sail. Clear twist. Up sail. GANNET takes off probably too fast for the tiller pilot to keep up, but I’m going to leave it up for a while anyway while I eat lunch.
1430 Back to sheet to tiller. The wind isn’t strong, but the tiller pilot couldn’t keep up with the G2.
Some puffs of white cloud. Sunny. A pleasant afternoon. I’ve been working hard today.
February 24, Friday
South Atlantic Ocean
0820 I was up several times last night adjusting the sheet to tiller steering. At one time four shock cords. Another only two. The wind is almost directly behind us. At 0600 I lowered the main and set a Raymarine to steer us under jib alone. The wind has swung back and forth, causing us to gybe several times. We are now back on a port run. I may set the G2 after a while, despite yesterday’s discouraging experience. I’m going to wait to see what the wind does.
Sky covered with low cloud. Barometer high and steady. I don’t want to go too far west where there is a mid-ocean high whose exact position I do not know which would really slow us down.
1115 Wind has veered enough to set both mainsail and jib, which I have done. Raymarine still steering on a very broad reach. SOG improved from 4.0 to 5.5 and occasionally 6.
Complete low overcast persists.
A baby flying fish and a small squid on deck.
day’s run 115 miles COG 307º SOG 6.4
St. Helena 956 miles 309º
Wind is moving about and is presently on the beam at 10 knots. Our SOG routinely above 6.
We have entered a new time zone, GMT/UTC. I’ll change ship’s time after noon, making tomorrow a twenty-five hour day.
Also we have less than a thousand miles to go.
1330 Sky has cleared from the east and south. Perhaps the wind will stabilize. I went back to sheet to tiller steering an hour ago when the wind was 15 knots on the beam. Since then it has dropped to 10 knots and backed to the port quarter.
1600 Back to tiller pilot steering jib alone. The wind will not let us sail the proper course, so as long as I still have tiller pilots, I’ll use them when appropriate.
The nicest afternoon so far. Beginning to look something like a trade wind sky with puffs of low white cloud to the west.
February 25, Saturday
South Atlantic Ocean
0900 Sunny morning. Powder blue sky with scattered high white clouds. Wind 13 to 15 from the ESE.
I was up for an hour an a half at 0130 when the wind backed and veered around the stern, trying to find a course we could sail without backing the jib. I gybed several times, ending up on a starboard broad reach. I didn’t bother to move to the starboard pipe berth, thinking I’d be safe until morning. I was, but only barely. Then trying to find the source of a thumping every time GANNET rolled with a wave. It was the water jerry can lashed between the pipe berths. I tied its lashing tighter and wedged a floatation cushion beside it.
With the new time zone’s early dawn, I was up at 0500, and had been out of the berth for only a few minutes when a wave came on board and partially below through the closed companionway. I didn’t have the hood up. It is up now, but I’ll lower it soon to stand in the companionway and look around.
1030 Back to sheet to tiller. I raised the mainsail completely and GANNET took off at 8 and 9 knots, too lively, so I lowered to the third reef and we are balanced.
Warmer as I wanted: 82F/27.7C in the Great Cabin.
As I was brushing my teeth earlier, a sudden thud caused me to look up. The companionway hatch was slid back, though the vertical slat not in place. A big flying fish was on the hatch, then as we rolled continued across the deck and back into the sea. Had the hatch been open he would have made a direct hit on me.
day’s run 127 miles COG 323º SOG 5.3
St. Helena 829 miles 309º
A sunny pleasant day. I can’t quite get us on the course I want, but close enough.
Used a little fresh water for a cat bath this morning.
We’ve now done half the world’s time zones since leaving New Zealand less than a year ago. New Zealand +12. GMT 0.
1615 Clouds moved up from the south and have now passed on.
The Raymarine is steering. I couldn’t get GANNET within 25º of the desired course with sheet to tiller so am sailing under jib alone.
The 82ºF this morning was the high for the day. 5ºF cooler now.
1830 A pleasant sunset. I stood in the companionway for a while, something I have not much done on this passage. Then down to the Great Cabin for a dinner of venison risotto with a plastic or two of boxed white wine and Loreena McKennitt singing.
We have 796 miles to the waypoint on this side of St. Helena. The mooring field is on the other side of the island, perhaps ten miles farther. I have not started to consider what day I may arrive. I’m good where I am.
February 26, Sunday
South Atlantic Ocean
0730 I was up twice last night partially furling the jib at 0100 when the wind increased to 20 knots and the sound of water rushing past GANNET woke me. Then an hour later unfurling when the wind went light. A dark moonless night. The wind increased again at first light around 0500 and I got up for good and partially furled the jib again.
Complete low overcast again this morning, with some sign the sun will burn it off.
I’d like to go to sheet to tiller and maybe I will though we will probably be sailing far from the rhumb line. Sleeping on the starboard pipe berth last night the sound of the Raymarine bothered more more than it did when I was sleeping to port. The unit is above deck just aft of the starboard pipe berth.
day’s run 120 miles COG 330º SOG 5.1
St. Helena 715 miles 307º
We continue with partially furled jib and Raymarine steering. Sunny with some white clouds. Sea dark blue and white-capped. GANNET is ambling along, more than 20º high of the rhumb line. There are some 5’ and 6’ waves that are passing harmlessly beneath us, but that might come on board if we were not keeping them astern.
1600 Continuing under furled jib and tiller pilot. Took a sponge bath this afternoon and changed into clean dry clothes, though the last were not intolerably wet.
1720 GANNET rolling up and down and along. Tequila and tonic in a plastic on the floorboards. Linda Ronstadt singing, “I can’t get over you” from a ‘less than five’ playlist.
Usually as I approach a landfall I start counting the remaining nights. Nights are harder than days. But not this time. I’ll be glad to reach St. Helena whenever I do. But I am good where I am.
February 27, Monday
South Atlantic Ocean
0730 Blessed silence.
The wind veered at 0230. I got up and gybed the jib, then in the cabin my sleeping bag and the Avon. The wind shift enabled us to sail close to the rhumb line to St. Helena.
This morning I could either have set the G2 or go to sheet to tiller. I like the G2, but I was tired of hearing the tiller pilot, so have set up sheet to tiller. As I have noted before, not really silence, but only the natural sounds of water gurgling or rushing by the hull, wind and GANNET. Lovely.
1030 The Velocitek appears to have died. A nuisance. That was my way of getting us on course while on deck. There is a traditional compass in the cockpit that came with GANNET, but it is difficult to read. The Velocitek battery compartment was wet after the knockdowns, but I dried and WD40ed it and it was working until I tried to turn it on fifteen minutes ago preparatory to adjusting the sheet to tiller.
I have the unit in the cabin with the battery compartment open. Maybe sunlight will make a difference.
Wind light. Seas only a couple of feet high. Getting the passage done slowly but comfortably,
day’s run 106 miles COG 310º SOG 5.4
St. Helena 614 miles 305º
A pleasant day. Light wind has just veered 10º. I unreefed the mainsail an hour ago.
1740 I turned off the music. The sounds of GANNET moving through the water were music enough.
We went through all the sail variations today. Tiller pilot steering, then sheet to tiller with partially reefed and furled sails. Then full main and jib, until about 1600 when the wind dropped to 5 knots and the sails were collapsing and filling, stressing the rig, so I lowered them and set the G2 with the tiller pilot steering.
I was standing in the companionway, sipping tequila, when I turned off the music. Slight seas pewter in slanting light. The G2 arcing overhead. GANNET sliding gracefully across the ocean. No greater music was possible.
1945 At 1900 the wind veered to the beam and increased to 12 knots. Down with the G2. Up with the main and partially furled jib. Removed tiller pilot. Set up sheet to tiller.
Better to do at 1900 than 0100.
February 28, Tuesday
South Atlantic Ocean
0745 Light wind and disrupted sleep. I was up many times. We were sailing on the edge of a gybe that never quite happened. Two shock cords, one thin, were on the lee side of the tiller. When I moved either of them one more loop or added a third, we sailed west on a beam reach. When near a gybe we were on course. I probably would have done better by leaving the G2 up and letting the tiller pilot steer. Conditions are the same now. If there is no change, I’ll do something different tonight.
1000 Wind backed across the stern. Now on starboard quarter. I lowered the main and we are sailing under full jib with tiller pilot steering in five or six knots of wind. Complete overcast has yet to burn off. The G2 is the right sail, but I am going to wait a while to see what the wind does before setting it. I’m tired after last night’s poor sleep.
We should reach St. Helena this weekend. I have read that the offices are closed on the weekends, so I may have to wait until Monday morning to go ashore no matter when I arrive. That will not be a hardship. I can happily spend a extra day or two on GANNET.
1100 G2 set. I found myself sitting at Central and thinking: If it’s the right sail, old man, why isn’t it up? And the only answer with was laziness. So I set it. We are only moving at 4 to 5 knots, but that is .5 to a knot faster than with the jib.
day’s run 120 COG 309º SOG 3.6
St. Helena 496 miles 307º
Apparent wind is often showing 0. There is wind. I expect that we are often sailing at the wind speed of 3 or 4 knots.
We are getting close to entering the Western Hemisphere. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.
1230 The Velocitek is again working. After exposing the battery compartment to the sun yesterday, first in the cabin, then in the cockpit, I replaced the batteries this morning. When they were in place the battery level symbol appeared, but the control buttons did not function. I just checked and the unit is operating. I turned it off, then on again, placed it in the mast bracket, and am leaving it on to further dry out.
1600 G2 lowered. The wind is so light and variable that I can’t risk leaving it up overnight when it could inextricably wrap itself around the forestay. I’ve had to gybe the sail several times this afternoon when the wind has swung across the stern. The easiest way to do this is to furl the sail and then unfurl by pulling on the opposite sheet.
I think the Raymarine masthead wind unit is beginning to fail. It is still giving wind angle, but wind speed of 0.0 is wrong. I can’t blame Raymarine for this. They reasonably don’t expect masthead units to be dunked in the ocean.
We’re making about three knots under jib alone. Tiller pilot steering. Not enough wind to keep the mainsail full. The boom would be crashing several times a minute.
Sailing with forward hatch open all day.
1945 I stood in the companionway. Darkness. Shades of gray that I once more carefully defined on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE as I was approaching Bali, Here a halo of bioluminescence. In the sky vague forms as in an Albert Ryder painting.
I found myself wondering at the all but unbelievable that science tells us to believe: that species moved from the sea to the land, realized it was a mistake and went back to the sea.
I’ve made it half way back. I am at home here at least as much as on land.
March 1, Wednesday
South Atlantic Ocean
0800 I had a good night’s sleep. Only awakened twice. The wind increased to 8 or 9 knots and we sailed smoothly under jib alone. The wind display seems to be telling the truth this morning, showing apparent wind of 7 and 8 knots as well as wind angle. We are on a very deep port broad reach.
Complete cloud cover continues. Not threatening.
I drank my morning coffee standing in the companionway.
day’s run 99 miles COG 303º SOG 4.5
St. Helena 402 miles 307º
Longitude W not E. I watched the countdown as we passed from the Eastern to the Western Hemisphere at 1107. Our crossing of the Tropic of Capricorn went unnoticed. I had to go back and check noon positions to see that we reentered the tropics Sunday afternoon.
I’ve gybed the jib three or four times this morning. Back on port at present. Sun starting to cast shadows through the clouds.
1700 379 miles to go. We won’t be in Saturday unless there is a significant increase in wind. I’m quite happy rolling effortlessly down the trades.
About to stand in the companionway with libation and music.
1810 Leftover Tandoori Chicken for dinner. The Backcountry Cuisine Outdoor Gourmet line come in two meal packets. I’ve tried to divide the contents into two, but it is impossible to do so evenly and I usually end up with one good meal and one less good, so I’ve started to prepare an entire packet and eat half one night, the other half cold the next. An experiment. I’m not sure an improvement.
Sailing GANNET across oceans is often hard. But the last several days and today have been easy. Perhaps having done hard, I appreciate easy even more.
The waves are low as is the sun. Directly toward the sun is a narrow inverted pyramid of blinding white. Elsewhere millions of constantly changing facets of light, shades of blue, some white crests, near the hull white bubbles and foam. Pristine, untouched natural beauty. I have heard no world news for weeks. Those last two sentences are not unrelated.
1900 The wind has gone light at sunset. First sliver of new moon and a planet, presumably Venus, above the western horizon.
1920 The Dartington crystal glass is perfectly smooth and cool beneath my fingers. I have poured some Laphroaig into it. The evening’s perfection calls for no less. I am exactly where I should be.
2000 Clouds have disappeared. The sky is clear of all but Moon and stars.
2130 GANNET slides through darkness.
March 2, Thursday
South Atlantic Ocean
1000 The sky is lower this morning. Complete cloud cover. One period of brief, light rain. Wind about 10 knots.
We can either sail too high or too low of the rhumb line course to St. Helena. I just gybed to starboard and we are presently sailing 10º-15º too high. If the wind remains unchanged, I’ll gybe back and sail too low tonight and sleep as I have been on the port pipe berth, not having to gybe my sleeping bag.
day’s run 111 miles COG 324º SOG 4.8
St. Helena 292 miles 308º
The sun has burned away the low clouds and is working on the high.
1800 The monastery of the sea is beautiful this evening. Light blue sky, scattered small white clouds, dark blue sea with scattered white-caps. I was standing in the companionway, sipping red wine and listening to my requiem playlist. A line from Lucy Kaplansky’s ‘Scorpion’, “I’ll sting you with a taste of my skin.” Women taste best fresh from the sea.
I came below to prepare tonight’s freeze dry feast. Roast chicken, with corn, peas and mashed potatoes is presently steeping, accompanied by the second of the three renditions of the end of Bach’s ART OF THE FUGUE that conclude my requiem.
Earlier I heard part of Górecki’s THIRD SYMPHONY which plays a key role in my short story, ‘Sailing to Africa.’ I wrote that when I was sailing THE HAWKE OF TUONELA from Cocos to Durban on my fifth circumnavigation. Now I’ve sailed to Africa and beyond again.
The only other time I sailed to St. Helena was twenty-nine years ago with Jill on RESURGAM from Walvis Bay, Namibia, though then a part of South Africa. We had a better wind angle, but I remember conditions being similar to those GANNET and I are experiencing with steady, moderate trade winds which have swung though an arc of perhaps 20º and varied in speed by perhaps 6 knots for more days than I can now recall.
I gybed back to a port broad reach and am now going to move the Megaboom and my wine back to the cockpit while I stand in the companionway and watch the sunset.
March 3, Friday
South Atlantic Ocean
0745 Trade wind unchanged. 12 knots from SE. I gybed to starboard when I got up at 0600. We have about 200 miles to go. Morning low cloud cover. Music, Ludovico Einaudi’s LE ONDE, with coffee.
I finished rereading Thomas Hardy’s JUDE THE OBSCURE yesterday for the third and surely last time. Hardy is one of my favorite writers, the only one I can think of who was both a great novelist and poet in the English language. JUDE is the ultimate anti-Disney ‘When you wish upon a star’ novel, and the last Hardy wrote because of the outrage it provoked. Bishop burned a copy in public. The outrage is not surprising. The novel condones adultery and divorce, and attacks Christianity, the Church, Oxford, Cambridge, academicians, and England’s privileged class.
After JUDE THE OBCURE Hardy only wrote poetry.
days run 110 miles COG 330º SOG 4.5
St. Helena 182 miles 312º
Three brief periods of light rain this morning, none lasting more than five minutes. Some blue sky now. Wind the same.
I’ve looked back in the log and am not certain how long we’ve been in the trades. Five or six days. Maybe longer.
We are three weeks out of Durban today. Last evening while standing in the companionway watching the sunset, I glanced down at the solar panel on the port side of the mast and realized that I installed it during this passage. That seems a very long time ago, but wasn’t.
1900 Even here only seventeen and a half degrees from the Equator, the after sunset wind is cool against my skin.
I pop up and down from sitting on the pipe berth to standing in the companionway. Our days are numbered. I’ve always known that. And my numbers must be short. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched the sun sink below the western horizon. Thousands. I’ve spent nine or ten years out here. I don't now how many more I will know. I cherish these remaining ocean days and nights.
1745 The Dartington crystal glass is as cool against my fingers as is the wind against my skin, and smoother. An evening for a few sips of Laphroaig. The next hopefully Sunday evening on a mooring at St. Helena.
March 4, Saturday
South Atlantic Ocean
0700 When I woke at first light an hour ago we had 100 miles to go to the waypoint on this side of the island. The mooring field is another nine or ten miles farther.
At 0100 the recently constant wind became capricious and veered from SE to S and dropped to 2 and 3 knots. We rolled around for an hour before it increased to 7 and 8 knots, though it has remained more to the south than the southeast. It just did it again, dropping briefly this time to near calm and now back to 8. I had thought I might have to slow down tonight for a dawn arrival. I might have to increase sail instead.
day’s run 111 miles COG 316º SOG 5.0
St. Helena 71 miles 316º
Thicker cloud cover this morning. Some rain to the east. Wind back to 10 to 12 knots.
I heard an odd repeated squeak a half hour ago that I couldn’t identify. I stood in the companionway and found a tern flying overhead. Not a pelagic bird, so I conclude a resident of St. Helena.
St. Helena is an isolated mountain peak rising from the sea, nine nautical miles long and five and a half wide. The highest elevation I see on the chart is 820 meters/2700’.
1500 Clouds not burning off today. Brief periods of misty rain. One now. The wind has backed ESE so that we are sailing the rhumb line on a starboard broad reach. I moved the waypoint a little farther off the island. 56 miles to go.
1800 End of a gloomy day.
We have 44 miles to go. First light is around 0600. So I’ve just furled the jib to storm jib size in an attempt to reduce our speed to 3 knots. I’ll be setting alarms to wake me during the night. The first for midnight, though I usually wake before they go off and then reset for an hour or two later.
March 5, Sunday
South Atlantic Ocean
0445 Up for good. 8.5 miles off waypoint. Making 4.5 to 5 knots under full jib. I partially unfurled at 0100 and completely at 0330. Clouds cleared during the night leaving a starry sky. I see two or three dim white lights and four red ones ahead.
There are 22 or 23 moorings. I hope one is available. They are reputably difficult to pick up. I’ll try to fit the Torqeedo when we are on the lee side of the island.
0600 St. Helena clearly visible 4.5 miles distant. The red lights are on mountain peaks. Waves are building though we are still in deep water.
0900 On mooring James Bay. I kept a couple of miles off the island until I rounded the corner to avoid swell and gusts. St. Helena from the sea is stark barren rock. Once in the lee, there was still wind, but the water was smoother and I fitted the Torqeedo without problem other than gouging my leg without knowing until I saw blood drops on the deck. The St. Helena information at Noonsite is out of date. Port Control does operate on Sundays. I was told to pick up any available yellow mooring. Five red ones are for big boats. I count eleven visiting boats here, including GANNET, which leaves half the moorings free.
day’s run 90
February 10 11 11
17 13 715
24 115 844
March 1 99
3 110 793
5 90 201
2564 Durban to St. Helena