Monday, February 18, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina: wasted

        Not me.  The day.  And I don’t have enough days left to waste one.
        I realized that once the mast is down, I will find it difficult if not impossible to fit the Torqeedo and steer to the travel lift dock, so I told Steve, the rigger, that we will not lower the mast tomorrow, but at the travel lift dock or when out of the water.  He raised his eyebrows at the last, which causes me some concern.  GANNET’s mast was lowered without difficulty when she was out of the water before being trailered to San Diego.
        I then walked toward the boat yard office and came across Edwin coming toward me with another owner.  I asked when he plans to haul GANNET and was told “when the materials to build the cradle arrive.”  I was not told when that might be.
        This afternoon I received an email from DHL that they had tried to deliver my tiller pilot order from Amazon but that “I was not at home.”  What?
        I took my laptop with this message in it to the marina office where a young woman whose name I do not know, but has always been extremely helpful, called DHL and seemed to establish that their driver had shown up at the marina office but said the package was for a yacht whose name was other than GANNET.  Perhaps he couldn’t read it.  I don’t know.  Whatever he said, the women in the office said that no such yacht was there.  Hopefully this has been sorted out.  Another delivery attempt is to be made tomorrow.
        So I spent the day reading THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS.
        I know I wrote this yesterday.  I feel it even more strongly today.  And will try to resist writing it again tomorrow.  The thing I have always disliked about Panama is that my life is no longer under my own control here.  It isn’t in the canal.  It isn’t going overland.  I can only wait until others do their jobs.
        And one of those jobs will be to sort out the jammed furling gear.
        If I ever get out of here, I will never come back.

————


        My Bach this evening was The Orchestral Suites, subtitled “To a Young Prince.”  Thank you, Johann.  I don’t get called ‘young’ much any more.  In fact men I consider old call me ‘sir’.  It happened on the dock a few days ago, causing me to laugh and reconsider my obviously false image of myself.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina: waiting; a human error; part 3

   
        7 pm.  Tequila with a slice of lime at hand.  Eva Cassidy singing, “I know you by heart”.  Earlier I was sitting on deck listening to the 1955 Glenn Gould GOLDBERG VARIATIONS and a man walking along the dock said, “Beautiful music.”  It is.
        I did more mast lowering preparation  this morning.  Disconnecting the wires that run to the masthead tricolor and the steaming light.  ‘Steaming light’ and GANNET don’t seem to go together.  I removed the split rings from the shroud turnbuckles and tied a line between the stern corner pulpits to support the mast when it is lowered.  There isn’t anything more for me to do except wait for others to do their work.  That is what I most dislike about Panama:  my life and my boat are no longer in my control, either in the canal or trucking across.  I will be so glad when GANNET is in the Pacific Ocean with her mast up and I don’t need anything from any body and can just deal with the sea.

————

        It is a common human failing to postulate  personal failings into universal principles.  You can’t do something, so no one can.   This is not usually true.
        Three examples.
        I don’t read much about sailing any more and when I do, I often find younger sailors reinventing the wheel, thinking they are solving problems that I solved and wrote about decades ago.
         One of these, written by a self-styled ‘expert’ stated that you can’t row an inflatable dinghy.  
         I have rowed Avon Redstarts for forty years.  Carol learned to row a Redstart.  She might need some refresher practice, but she could again.
         Gin has become trendy.  I feel about trendy drinkers as true Christians probably feel about those who only go to church at Christmas and Easter.
      I recently read that no one drinks gin straight.  Gin is for cocktails.  At this moment I would love an ice cold martini, but in the absence of that impossibility, on GANNET I usually drink air temperature gin straight.
         A reader sent me a link to an online sailing forum in which someone wrote that Moore 24s have impossibly small interiors in which no one can move around much less live.
         I sometimes get tired of ignorance.
         It is proven that a tall, 6’1”/1.85 cm, old man can live on a Moore 24 continuously for at least seven months and live well, making ocean voyages, writing superior prose, listening to beautiful music, reading great books,  and drinking from time to time 10 year Laphroaig from a crystal glass.
        So I sip tequila—I have only a third of a bottle of Laphroaig on board and unless I find more in Panama City will save it for San Diego.  There can be no other end of voyage, end of the second part of my life, drink.  And I wait until I regain my freedom from others.
        I don’t know what my future brings, other than death, but I do know that I will never  return to Panama.  I hate—not too strong a word--my dependence on others here.
         The alternatives are the Northwest Passage and Cape Horn.
         The Northwest Passage is cold, though decreasingly so, but it is all coastal, and I am pelagic.
        Cape Horn is at the heart of my life.  But I don’t think that in anything but exceptional conditions GANNET could round it east to west.  Off the Bahamas a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t tack GANNET in less than 180º.  She just doesn’t have the weight.  10’/3 meter waves stopped her dead, and the waves off Cape Horn are often much higher.
        The other way, west to east, is possible on GANNET and would be interesting.  
        I don’t think it will happen.
        I would first have to sail to New Zealand and once there, I would certainly keep GANNET in the Bay of Islands for the two years foreign vessels are now permitted.  That would take me into my 80s.  And if the Hilton Head condo problems are ever resolved, I may become an Atlantic Ocean sailor.  Of the oceans, I think of the Pacific and the Southern as home waters, though I once wrote that the world is my home waters and I agree with the ancients that there is only Ocean.
        So I wait.
        When I was on deck earlier, two hawks were circling high overhead, light wind created ripples on the water, stars begin to appear, and a gibbous moon.
        I love being on the water.

————

        The image is a screen shot of a site that measures ocean passages.
        As you can see the shortest distance from Balboa, Panama, on the Pacific side of the isthmus, to San Diego is 2844 nautical miles which at 4 knots made good would take almost 30 days,  Much of the passage will be light winds and in head winds.  We will have to sail far more than 2844 miles and I doubt we will make four knots good.
        With patience we will free ourselves of others and the land and get on with it.

       

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina: lowered



        At 7 a.m. I was on deck to lower the jib before the wind came up.  I need not have bothered.  The jib did not come down and the wind has not come up.
        I unfurled the jib, let go the halyard clutch and went forward to tug down on the luff.  It came 6” and jammed.  I could neither go up or down.  After a few expletives, I stepped onto the dock to have a better angle and looked up.  I can’t see the problem.  I surmise that the top swivel on the furling gear is somehow jammed on the foil.  Presumably we can lower the mast with the jib in place and sort it out at deck level.
        I retired to the Great Cabin and finished my air temperature instant coffee—I haven’t been bothering to heat the water these last few mornings—and my breakfast, which was a combination of oatmeal and a local meusli.  I did not find oatmeal at the supermarket.  I prefer plain uncooked oatmeal, but the combination is satisfactory.



        Returning to the deck, detaching the boom vang, lowering the boom, and removing the mainsail went better than I expected.  I was able to flake the sail into a compact enough bundle that I could slide it through the companionway without having to remove the full battens.  Then forward, then aft onto the starboard pipe berth where it fits nicely on top of the Avon dinghy. The boom and boom vang are also stowed there and the carbon fiber bow sprit is on the starboard side of the v-berth.
        While I was working, Steve, a South African who works with the boat yard as a rigger, came by and we have tentatively scheduled to lower the mast on Tuesday.
        Also while I was working a man came off one of the nearby catamarans, stopped and asked incredulously, “You are living on that?” 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina: iPad GPS; videos; two quotes from Theodore Roosevelt



        Three readers have emailed a solution to my buying the wrong iPad.  I thank Tom, Rudi, and Wayne for informing me of a GPS device that links to iPads via Bluetooth.  Here is the link.  I will buy a Bad  Elf when I can.

————

        I am not a videographer, but in an effort to express my experience and at the request of others, I take videos.  I very seldom take still images any more, both because being a cyclops I don’t see as much as I used to and because I seldom do see anything on passages that I have not already photographed in the past four years.  Above is one I did take on the way from Hilton Head.
        I have given some thought to videoing on GANNET and have reached a conclusion and a solution.
        The conclusion and solution are that GANNET’s motion is so quick that cameras have to be mounted before hand and set up so they only have to be turned on when action begins.
        To that end I have placed a mount on the mast facing aft and one in the cabin on the companionway bulkhead facing forward.  Before I sail for San Diego I will also mount a GoPro on a bracket on the stern rail facing forward.  I will place a GoPro on the mast bracket.  And I will use another on a head band.  I will also shoot handheld with my Nikon AW1.
        I am a writer and believe in words, but we will see what I get in video on the way to San Diego.
        I shot more videos than usual on the passage from Hilton Head, including one of going to bare poles in the gale, and tried to vary the perspective.  The Internet here is inadequate to upload them.   A six minute video shot at 1080p showed that it would have taken three hours to upload to YouTube.
         I’ll upload them when I can, but that might not be until San Diego.

————

        By chance I came across two excellent quotes from Theodore Roosevelt today.
        David sent me one for which I thank him.  I believe I have posted it here before, but it certainly deserves repetition:
        It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
        And I decided to reread David McCullough’s masterfull, THE PATH BETWEEN THE SEAS, about the building of the Panama Canal.  I first read it before my first transit in 1985.  David McCullough is a fine writer and the story epic.  He prefaces it with these of Roosevelt’s words:
        Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy much or suffer much, because they live in that gray twilight that knows not victory or defeat.

        Great joy.  Great despair.  But then of course I am mad.  Though I like to believe that Teddy would not have thought me so.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina: trucking; among behemoths







        GANNET is going to do a portage.  Portages are honorable.  Chicago was founded on a portage.
        No yacht having come forward to offer to tow GANNET all the way through the canal, which it is not certain the canal authorities would have permitted, an agent obtained a quote for a professional tow of $6,000.  You may recall that GANNET only cost $9,000, though I have put multiples of that amount into her.  Probably on tiller pilots alone, of which more later.
        So Edwin of the boat yard here is making arrangements for the little boat to be trucked across.  The truck alone will cost $900.  There will be additional costs to lift GANNET from the water here and put her into the Pacific at Flamingo Marina, and to build a cradle on the truck for her.  I expect that it will all come to between $2,000 and $3,000.  The canal transit fee for a boat less than 50’ long is $800, but with additional expenses a transit usually ends up costing about $2,000.
        The portage will not take place for another one to two weeks, which has enabled me to order two more tiller pilots from Amazon, which of course delivers to Panama.  They did not have ST1000s in stock, so I bought ST2000s which are for bigger boats.  I doubt they will last any longer than the 1000s.  These things are like popcorn.  I can get by with just sheet to tiller steering, but I hope to be able to set the G2 asymmetrical in the Pacific and that requires a tiller pilot.
        With the enforced delay here, I will reprovison on this side.  I inventoried my lunches this morning and have 39, which is probably enough, but I will buy some more.  I already have freeze dry dinners.  And probably enough oatmeal and trail mix, though I will top them up.  I need juice and snacks and paper towels, etc. 
        Several of you have expressed hope that GANNET could cross Panama on her own bottom, even if not under her own power, with concern it will compromise her circumnavigation.  I fear that you haven’t been paying close enough attention.
        GANNET’s daily runs now add up to 26,680.  She has sailed farther than that and by the time she reaches San Diego, assuming she does, the total will be more than 30,000 miles.
        Above is a screen shot from iNavX of the Panama Canal.  The distance from the locks on the Caribbean side to entering the Pacific Ocean is about thirty miles.  Transiting from the Caribbean to the Pacific, a boat moves about twenty-five miles south and twenty miles east. 
        It is a matter of opinion as to whether those twenty to thirty miles by land compromise a voyage of more than 30,000 miles.  However I suggest that anyone who spends much time considering this should rethink their own lives first.  You need to find better things to do.
        Of opinions, only one actually matters to me.
        I repeat a story about Abraham Lincoln presiding at a Cabinet meeting, during which an issue came to a vote.  Everyone present voted, “Nay”, except Lincoln who voted “Aye” and then said, “The Ayes have it.”
        I don’t believe that whether Webb Chiles has circumnavigated five times or six is of much importance.
        If GANNET and I reach San Diego, I will say that I have circumnavigated six times.  The “Aye’s” have it.


————




        Because of her shallow draft GANNET is on the catamaran dock surrounded by behemoths, all cookie cutter equipped, big inflatables with big outboards on stern davits, cockpits like patios, some with flowers in window boxes, Biminis, thick power cords, and lots and lots of stuff.
        In the panoramic view, the marina buildings are on the left.  The red roofs to the right are an abandoned development.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina, Panama: my mistake; stamped; Colon; sympathy



        Zane in New Zealand quickly caught my iPad mistake.  Not needing cellular for my iPad Pro, I ordered the WiFi only model.  It does not have GPS.  For another hundred dollars, the WiFi and Cellular model does have GPS.  Making a false assumption was a costly mistake.  

————

        The young Customs official finally today was able to stamp my passport.  He is a nice enough young man, but this was the fifth or sixth time I’ve gone to his tiny office in the past few days and it is only a meaningless stamp.  
        One attraction of trucking GANNET across the isthmus is that I would not have to deal with the Canal officials.  Perhaps my experience is not typical, but the bureaucracy here seems more rigid than on my previous visits.
        I hope to get more information about the crossing later this afternoon.

————

        This morning I stowed my washed clothes and organized the cabin.  Put the second Sportaseat on deck to dry, along with a few other cushions.  Carried my foul weather gear for a fresh water rinse in a shower and hung it on the boom to dry.  Telephoned the two Raymarine dealers and was told they have no ST1000+ tiller pilots.
        The marina is surprisingly busy.
        I give the staff here high marks.  They are friendly and helpful.
        As you can see from the above Yellowbrick tracking page screen shot, Shelter Bay is quite isolated, which is in most ways good.
        Almost everyone lives on the other side of the canal.  It is less than three miles in a straight line across the bay, but on potholed roads and a ferry crossing often an hour’s drive, part past shells of buildings that once housed US canal employees, part though jungle.  But the real jungle is Colon, long one of the most dangerous places in the world and only getting worse.  You do not walk in Colon even in broad daylight.  You taxi, as I did yesterday.  The crumbling town looked as I remembered with ten years added dilapidation.  To be born in Colon would be tragic.

———

        Several of you have expressed sympathy that the passage was hard.  While I appreciate the thought, I am quite possibly the person least deserving of sympathy on the planet.  I do what I do because I want to.  No other reason.  No phony claim I am raising money for charity, doing science, or trying to save the world.  And I better than anyone else know what I am getting into.
        I try to write about my experiences truly.  To as the late and unlamented Howard Cossel used to say, ‘Tell it like it is.’ 
        So the passage was hard.  I do hard.  That is part of my job description.  I even take pride in being able to do hard, though I would be glad if it were easy.  I would be glad if that Sunday gale out of Hilton Head were my last gale; but it probably won’t be.  Roger wrote that he checked Windy then and saw highest wind of 43 knots.  I thought it was in the 40ties.
        I wish sailing could be a controlled experiment and that I could simultaneously sail identical passages at different ages and learn if what I consider a hard passsage at 77 would have been a hard passage when I was 37 or 47.  I'll never know.  The ocean does not give senior discounts, and I would refuse one if offered.  So I'lll keep on keeping on.  That, too, is part of my job description.
        GANNET’s interior is dry and pretty well organized.  My wounds are healing.  Several times during the passage waves came from no where and suddenly slammed into GANNET, tossing me about even when wedged in.  I have multiple scabs on both forearms and one thigh.  You will no doubt be pleased to learn that my sore ass isn’t any longer. 
        Part 2 of the puzzle remains before us,

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Shelter Bay Marina: Hilton Head Island to Panama Passage log

        First a correction.  I have been calling this Shelter Cove Marina.  It is Shelter Bay Marina.
        I spent a most unpleasant morning with Panamanian Port Officials, who I finally realized didn't believe I had sailed directly from the US.  I showed them my noon positions on iNavX on my iPhone.
        My two least favorite parts of my sailing life are the chaos that provisioning for long passages brings and dealing with officials when I reach port.
       I still have Customs to see tomorrow.  There is a Customs official here at the marina, but his computer wasn't working today.
        Below is the passage log.  I took several videos along the way, but am not certain the Internet here will permit me to upload them.  I will see when I have time.




Hilton Head Island to Panama Passage Log


January 25, Friday

0910  Sailed off dock under mainsail.  Set jib within a hundred yards.  Exactly the wind forecast and that I wanted.  8 to 10 knots NNW.  Sunny.  Clear sky.  41º.

I was up at 0630 before first light at 0700.  37º outside then.  44º in the Great Cabin.

I dressed in Winter Silk long underwear.  Columbia Omni-heat pants.  A Gill long sleeve layer shirt.  My heavy Polatec.  Boat shoes.  Socks.  And a watch cap that made a remarkable difference.

After breakfast and emailing Carol—I received several emails that I did not have time or inclination to respond to on a morning I am going to sea, but will in Panama and which are appreciated.

Before casting off from the dock, which was as easy as I expected in that wind—had I been in my slip I would have had to use the Torqeedo—I also put on my foul weather gear as an extra layer wind block and once underway gloves.  I was quite comfortable.

1100 Not far from Harbor Town near the southwest end of Hilton Head Island.  The sailing has been a pleasure.  Wind aft of the beam, except for one half mile stretch approaching the bridge onto the island where we were close-hauled, smooth water.  

Looking at Hilton Head I was staring into the sun and couldn’t see much and not having sailed this way before needed to pay attention to markers.  The Intracoastal twists and turns around Hilton Head and there are shoals on both sides.

1200

32º07’N    080º50’
Day’s run  9 miles     COG  180º  SOG  2.7

We are just off the southwest end of Hilton Head Island being slowed by current.  GANNET is sailing at least 4 knots.

The way ahead of us to the open ocean looks to be clear, but isn’t.  Various shoals need to be avoided for six or seven more miles.

1400  The wind has gone light and backed to the west.  We are off the mouth of the Savannah River.  A ship just passed a mile ahead of us in the shipping channel.

1500 Unexpectedly the wind went from west to ESE a half hour ago and to less than five knots.  I don’t recall this being predicted.  We are now close hauled on port tack making 4 to 5 knots on course 166º.  Smooth seas.  Only slightly heeled.  A ship is a few miles northeast of us.

I have put a waypoint northeast of the Bahamas which is presently 333 miles away, bearing 144º.  The distance to Panama is about 1500 miles, but I won’t start measuring it down until we reach the Windward Passage.

I’d like to get well offshore as quickly as possible to avoid shipping and the Gulf Stream.

1600 We are clear of shoals and eight miles offshore, so I have moved from deck to Central.  Warmer in here out of the wind which has veered southeast and is now 7 and 8 knots forcing us to sail south close-hauled on port tack at 5 knots.  Not what I wanted.  At least the wind was right around Hilton Head.

I removed foul weather gear in early afternoon.

I just switched the Yellowbrick from uploading every hour to six hour intervals. 

The ship is still northwest of us.  I conclude it is waiting to enter Savannah.

1630  Wind continued to veer until we were headed for north Florida, so I tacked to starboard.  COG now around 110º.  SOG 4.

1840  Wind keeps veering.  Now to COG of 130º, though making only 3 knots.

Lights of three vessels to the east of us.  One a ship.  The other two smaller.

Dinner of freeze dry sweet and sour pork.  Familiar and acceptable.

Going to shift sleeping bags and pillow to starboard.  Breakfast and lunch bags, foul weather gear and Avon to port.

Lovely sunset with orange and coral dissolving into darkness.

1930 Lights of eight presumably fishing boats to the northeast of us.  One a possible problem off the port bow.  Loom of lights of Savannah astern.  I want to leave all the lights behind.

An easy offing from the land, though now slow.  Wind has continued to veer and I have continued to follow and trim sails.  We are not pretty much on the course to my waypoint off the Bahamas, but only making 3.4 knots in 4 to 5 knots of wind.

I am sailing by instruments, checking the RayMarine for wind angle and speed and iNavX on my phone for COG and SOG.  But I am also sailing by feel.  When I stand in the companionway, I look up at the masthead Windex illuminated by the masthead tricolor, but I also feel the angle of heel, the wind against my face, which once poetically I said was as essential as blood, perhaps more, blood merely keeps me alive, and simply being alive is not enough, wind gives my life epic meaning.  And by the sound and angle of heel GANNET makes going through the water.



January 26, Saturday
North Atlantic Ocean

0900  An easy night and an unexpectedly warm one.  I was up several times adjusting sails as the wind continued to veer finally settling from the northwest again. At 0300 the temperature in the cabin was 55º.  It is 62º now.  This may be thanks to the Gulf Stream.  When I dipped the measuring cup from which I ate my uncooked oatmeal in the ocean to rinse it, the water was warm and our COG is north of the compass course we are sailing.  

We are 77 miles off the Georgia coast with an SOG of 4 and 5 knots in 8 or 9 knots of wind which seems to be increasing, more or less headed toward the Bahamas waypoint.  Sunny sky.  Barometer high at 1028.5 millibars.  This is from my iPhone, which I have checked many times against current official weather service readings both in Evanston and Hilton Head and never found a millibar’s difference.  I give readings in millibars because that is the way I have always read barometers.

Two foot waves are rolling us some.   Last night the ride was so smooth I did not use the lee cloth.

1000  Wind swinging back and forth across the stern.  Not wanting an accidental gybe, I lowered the main a half hour ago.  At times the Gulf Stream is almost moving us sideways.

While on deck I saw two ships pass a few miles west of us.

Pleasant morning.  Polartec off.  Maybe soon followed by more.  Knowing I would be getting up often and expecting the night would be cold, I slept last night fully dressed, except for shoes and Polartec.

1200
31º09’N   079º41’ W
day’s run 83 miles    COG  125º    SOG  3.3

Still being slowed and pushed north by the Gulf Stream and light wind swinging to and fro across the stern with 2’-3’ waves often collapsing the sail.  The G2 would be better, but I am still tired from being awake most of Wednesday night repositioning fenders as wind pounded GANNET against the side tie I had moved her to that morning and I don’t feel like wresting with the G2.

Some high clouds.  Except for the slow progress and collapsing jib, a pleasant day.

1245  I have just discovered that the top of the line iPad Pro probably does not have a GPS chip in it.  

On opening iNavX  and iSailor on the iPad Pro no position is shown.  I have location services turned on and permission for both apps to use location services.  Location is shown almost instantly on my iPhone 7Plus and my old iPad mini.

On both the phone and the mini, there is a statement at location services:  Location services uses GPS, Bluetooth,  and crowd sourced Wi-Fi and cell tower locations to determine your approximate location.

On the iPad Pro which cost more than twice as much as either phone or the mini, the statement reads:  Location services uses Bluetooth and crowd-sourced Wi-Fi hotspot locations to determine your approximate location.

No mention of GPS and no damn good to me out here.

Inexplicable and outrageous.  


1615  Wind 14-16 knots still from the northwest.  Dark blue three foot seas, some white-capped.  The sky has clouded over.  High clouds to the west.  Low to the east.  Barometer 1025 and falling.  GANNET’s motion more active.

Yesterday morning’s GRIB showed a low developing near or likely position with 30 knot winds durning the night and moving away by Monday dawn.

I still can’t get over that there is no GPS chip in the 12.9” iPad Pro.  Is no one at Apple a sailor who goes offshore?


1700  In anticipation of increased wind tonight, I just put a couple of furls in the jib which has only cost us .5 of a knot and has reduced the jib collapsing and smoothed out the ride. 

I put my hand over the side.  The water is still warm.

I thought I had the ocean to myself, but there is a ship to the north west


1800  Complete overcast, with post-sunset slashes of red and orange and gold to the west.

Dinner of New Zealand’s Backcountry Cuisine’s Venison Risotto accompanied by boxed red wine.

The ship I saw an hour ago soon disappeared to the north carrying on the world’s business.


January 27, Sunday
North Atlantic Ocean

0830  We exited the Gulf Stream not long after sunset last night.  Our SOG increased by 1.5 knots and our COG moved south consistent with where the bow is pointing.

The wind continued to veer to the east during the night and increase.  At 0500 GANNET was making 6 and 7 knots on a close reach under partially furled jib in 16 to 18 knots of wind.  I don’t like to sail under jib alone with the wind forward of the beam, even with a running backstay set.  First light was still two hours away, so I donned foul weather gear and headlamp and went on deck, furled the jib deeper and raised the main with a reef in it.

Back below I removed foul weather gear and my layers of cold weather clothing.  It was 68º in the cabin.  I had been too warm sleeping under both sleeping bags and pushed one off of me.  I kept the Gill shirt and a t-shirt, but packed the rest into a plastic bag if needed later.

At 700 the wind was blowing in the mid-20s and water was coming on board, but thanks in part to the spray hood not much below.  I went back on deck and completely furled the jib.  GANNET continues to make 6+ knots under reefed mainsail alone.  I am trying to keep the Raymarine tiller pilot as dry as possible.

Complete low cloud cover.  Barometer continues to drop.  Now 1019.

1200

29º48’N   078º26’W
103 miles      COG 278º   SOG  2.4

We are lying ahull under bare poles being pushed back west by gale force winds.  I sailed under reefed main until 1100 when we began pounding too hard into waves.  I went on deck and lowered the main, tied down the tiller, and brought the tiller pilot down below.

The wind instrument has stopped working.  For the past few days, it gave wind angle and sometimes wind speed, sometimes not.  Earlier this morning it gave both.  Now neither.

Also the remote for the Raymarine tiller pilot persisted in showing ‘No pilot’ this morning.

Both failures make sailing GANNET more unpleasant.  I cannot change course or know the wind from within the cabin.  

The barometer 1017.

I don’t know the exact wind speed, but it is certainly 34 knots+.

1800  I am taking a chance writing this.  An hour earlier I would not have dared removing my MacBook from its waterproof Pelican case, but I think this gale is moving away.  In the past hour the barometer, which has been falling since yesterday to a low of 1012 has risen slightly and GANNET’s angle of heel under bare poles has been reduced by a few degrees.

Almost everyone reading this is doing so in a chair in a room on land which gives an illusion of stability and security.

Imagine your room tilting 20º to 30º.  Get a protractor or a level.  The change is dramatic.  Now add that the tilt is not constant.  Sometimes it is 35º.  Sometimes 15º.  And the room also moves up and down and side to side.  With the added possibility that without warning it will turn 90º  and that wall beside you is now the ceiling, and the ceiling is now the far wall against you have flown for a few moments, before the room falls back to where it was, not level, but titled, and you, never before having considered a seat belt for your chair, fall back too, slightly bruised.

It happened to me at around 1500 today.  Waves routinely have been smashing into and over us.  Then a wave hit that threw us onto our port beam.  Me too.  I don’t know that the masthead went into the water.  I haven’t checked to see if the Windex is still up there.  But close.

Now consider the damage if your room turned 90º.  Books on shelves.  Lamps.  Your flat screen TV a dangerous projectile.  Quite reasonably you don’t have them secured against such a possibility.  On GANNET I do have objects secured against what is a probability.  But this knockdown saw a first.  The Avon dinghy gybed itself from the starboard pipe berth to the port berth, sliding across beneath the cockpit.

If your room moved as mine did today, you would carefully consider your every action and only venture the most essential and simplest.

Thus my dinner was a Quest protein bar and some chocolate.  All within arm’s reach.  Boiling water would have been far too complicated.

While I don’t believe the winds today have been near the 55 knot storm off Durban, and the waves were no where near as big, it has seemed as threatening and dangerous.  I offer no explanation, only an impression.

Since noon we have been driven back west fifteen miles.  

I do not believe in stability or security.

I doubt we will be underway again before dawn.

A violent day of constant animal tension.  A day of struggle against implacable primordial forces.

I have been in literally countless gales.  I only keep track of Force 12, hurricane force, which number 8.  I would not mind if this was my last gale.


1930  I am wedged in with cushions at Central, listening to music, sipping the last of the tequila, and from GANNET’s motion and angle of heel, I would think we were sailing forward, not being blown backward. 


January 28, Monday
North Atlantic Ocean

0900 We have been  underway again for two hours.

The gale abated after midnight.  Our angle of heel was reduced to 15º-20º.  The wind stopped roaring.  The barometer bottomed out at 1011, held there for three hours, then started rising as steeply as it had fallen.

I got up at 0500, but waited for first light at 0645 to go on deck.  I wanted to see the state of the ocean before trying to get underway.  8’ grey black waves.   I turned GANNET until she was heading toward our waypoint off the Bahamas, now after being driven 50 miles back west in the nineteen hours we lay ahull, bearing 139º.  The wind was on our port quarter.  I tied the tiller down and went below and brought up the tiller pilot I had been using.  It would not now work,  I went below and brought up another, which did work.  Set us on course.  Set it on auto.  And set a small amount of jib which has us moving relatively smoothly in the right direction at 5 and 6 knots on a broad reach.

Everything in the cabin is wet.  I had to pump the bilge three times during the night.  I don’t know where all the water comes in.  Not that much comes in around the companionway since the spray hood was made in Durban.  But it does when waves are sweeping the deck.  I had to put plastic bags over the Sportaseat this morning to sit on it

As I have been typing the sky has lightened.


1200

 29º28’N   079º07’W
day’s run  41 miles   COG 136º   SOG  5.2

The day’s run is deceptive.  It is the distance between yesterday’s noon position and today’s, but, after being driven back 50 miles and sailing forward only for the past seven hours we are no closer to the waypoint off the Bahamas than we were yesterday.

I was pleased this morning to find the Windex still at the masthead.   I was uncertain as to whether the masthead had gone into the water in the worst knockdowns yesterday.  It hadn’t.

The Gill shirt I am wearing is a jersey.   I noticed a blood stain on the right arm, pulled it back and found a gash that I not realized I received when thrown to the side in a knockdown.

Barometer continues to rise.  Now 1017.  Some blue patches in the sky.  Sun casting shadows.

1630  Partially sunny pleasant afternoon until twenty minutes ago a wave, the first to come on board for hours, curled over the beam and flooded down below through the open main hatch, drenching among other things my foul weather gear which is not going to be enjoyable to put on when next I need it unless I can dry it tomorrow.


January 29, Tuesday
North Atlantic Ocean

1000  I’ve gone to sheet to tiller steering to try to preserve the tiller pilot. On close reach too much water was coming on board.  It took me a long time to get the balance right.  A close reach is more difficult than a broad reach and the wind is not consistent in strength.  I’m still wearing my foul weather gear, which was not too unpleasant to put on, in case balance is lost and I have to go on deck quickly.  Now that it is set up, the purity of sound is lovely.  Only the wind and waves and GANNET’s wake.

I was up several times from 0400 on when the wind went light and shifted back and forth.  I had only the jib up then.  Once it backed and the off course tiller pilot alarm went off, but before I could get on deck in light rain, the wind had shifted again and unbacked the jib.

At 0700 I raised the main with the reef I had tied in Sunday morning before the gale fully developed.  Complete overcast then with low clouds seeming to touch the sea.  Some sunshine now, but with the wind forward of the beam, it won’t be a drying day.  We need one.  Barometer continue to rise.  1020 millibars.


1200
28º14’N   078º10’W
day’s run  89 miles    no COG or SOG drifting

Barometer quickly dipped two millibars and we had a line of heavy rain with wind all over and from twenty-five knots to zero.  I hand steered.  Now the sky has cleared to the south, is still raining to the north and we are drifting until wind returns.  The barometer has come back up .5 millibar.

1730  We continue under sheet to tiller on a beam to broad reach.  Wind 14 knots (No longer have wind instrument readings, all wind speeds are estimates.)  Fine sailing this afternoon, but a tiring day in which I spent a lot of time on deck sailing the boat and balancing her to sail herself.


January 30, Wednesday
North Atlantic Ocean

0845  After a tiring night, this might be the much desired drying day.

I went to sleep at 2230 and was awake at 2200 to find that the wind had gone light, the shock cords had overpowered the jib, and we were sailing south toward Great Abaco Island.  Rather than spent time of deck trying to rebalance sheet to tiller, I went to the tiller pilot.  An hour later I lowered the main.  And countless times during the rest of the night, I gybed the jib as the wind went light and swung back and forth across the stern.  From silent sailing under sheet to tiller in the afternoon, we went to noisy sailing with the tiller pilot whirring, the jib collapsing and filing and the main traveler pulling its control line from a jam cleat and sliding back and forth as we rolled side to side.  I rescued the line into the jam cleat three times before finally tying another line around the car to keep it from moving.

Light wind on the stern continues this morning with blue sky and scattered low clouds.  Barometer has risen to 1022.
Great Abaco Island is thirty miles off the starboard beam.  GANNET is making 3.5 to 4 knots to the SSW.

1100  Drying was briefly superseded by sailing.  Moderate wind has filled in from the north.  I removed the reef and raised the mainsail.  GANNET is now making her way SSE parallel to the line of the Bahamas under at five knots under full sail and drying has resumed.

1200

27º00’N   076º 50’W
day’s run 103 miles   COG 134º  SOG  4.1 

Drying continues.  Wind has weakened some.  GANNET rolling around more.  I put a preventer on the boom to keep it from slamming.

I filled the daily water containers.  Also an empty one gallon container that originally had Arizona half tea/half lemonade.  I will be able to refill the daily containers from it and have to haul out the jerry can only every other day.

Sky mostly clear.  Barometer 1021.

1700  I stood in the companionway for a while, sipping Plymouth gin, looking at the sky, the sea, the sails, the lowering sun, before coming below.

GANNET is making four knots in six knots of wind just aft of the beam.

She is mostly dry and properly organized again.  

There are days on GANNET when I can only do the absolutely essential, such as in Sunday’s gale, and the boat starts to unravel.  So as soon as I can, such as today, I re-ravel so GANNET is ready for whatever comes next.

After drying it, I stowed the heavy sleeping bag in a plastic bag.  The light one will suffice from here to Panama.

I also stowed the Omni-Heat pants.

I sponged the last of the water from the bilge—a quarter bucket full. 

I glued down with Gorilla Super Glue the corner of a Raptor non-slid pad that had lifted.  This is the best glue I have found.  Apply, quickly press together for forty seconds.  Done.

I changed my tee-shirt.  I may move from long pants to shorts tomorrow.

1930  Loom of lights to the southwest of a town on Great Abaco.  It seems I am not alone in the universe.

GANNET sails on.

I’m going to take the Boom 2s, playing a shuffled playlist of Mark Knopfler, my tumbler of gin and stand in the companionway again.  The sun is about to sink into a gently undulating silver sea.



January 31, Thursday
North Atlantic Ocean

0820  Very light wind all night until 0500.  With the sea completely flat, the sails remained filled and the the tiller pilot kept us moving at 2 and 3 knots.  Mostly 2.  GANNET moved through the water with no angle of heel.

At around 0500 wind increased from forward of the port beam.  GANNET heeled and began doing 5 and 6 knots.  Concerned about the tiller pilot if water began to come on board—none yet was except at the bow—I put on foul weather gear, went on deck, partially furled the jib and put a reef in the main.  Since then the wind has not increased and I have unfurled the jib.  I’ll leave the reef in the main a while longer to see what happens.

A ship is passing a few mile astern, heading in the direction of Europe.

Shorts and t-shirt this morning, when not in foul weather gear.  75ºF/24ºC in the Great Cabin.  I think we have sailed beyond winter.

1030  Just went to sheet to tiller steering.  Close reach.  Eight knots of wind.  SOG 4.8.  Partially furled jib to get right balance.  Barometer 1024 and rising.


1200

25º51’N    075º45’W
day’s run  91 miles      COG  149º  SOG 5.6

Fine sailing just ahead of a beam reach, sheet to tiller steering with partially furled jib and reefed main for balance.


1800  At 1600 I looked up from the excellent book I was reading, THIS THING OF DARKNESS, and found a thing of darkness, a line of cloud to the north of us.  Expecting a change of wind when the line reached us, I put on my foul weather gear so I could go on deck quickly, and finished the book.  A few minutes later the wind died completely in front of the squall line, with no power in the jib, the shock cords brought our bow up.  I reached the tiller in time to pull the bow off just as a burst of heavy rain and twenty knot wind hit us.  I was then able to let go of the tiller and let sheet to tiller steer us.

I remained on deck for an hour and a half, making minor adjustments to the system, changing the tension on the jib sheet to the tiller, increasing or decreasing the tension of shock cords.   GANNET was making 7 to 9 knots, under perfect control—her own, with some help from me—slashing over waves, spray at the bow, only twice reaching as far aft as the cockpit.   It was great, exhilarating sailing. 

Squalls change wind direction and for a while we had to steer off to the south, but as we sailed beyond the line of cloud, I was able to rebalance GANNET close to the desired 146º course and go below and pour some well deserved Plymouth gin.

I had to leave my drink unfinished and go back on deck to rebalance.  I am typing still wearing foul weather gear in case I have to do so again, which checking iNavX on my iPhone, it appears I will have to do.  We can not fall off the wind too much.  Cat Island is only forty miles south of us. Hard to finish a drink in this establishment.

1830  Dinner of protein bar and gin.  Not a balanced diet.  I do better when I can.

1930  On deck for most of the past hour, unable to get the boat to settle on any course that would not carry us onto Cat Island, so I brought the tiller pilot back up and engaged it and completely furled the jib in an attempt to slow us and prevent waves reaching the tiller pilot.  We continue on course 147º making 4 knots under reefed main alone on a beam reach.  If conditions lessen during the night I’ll set some jib.

While I was on deck, my gin went into the bilge.


February 1, Friday
North Atlantic Ocean

1000  A rough night.

The Raymarine died at 2300.  I went on deck and tried to set up sheet to tiller in 20+ knots of wind on a close reach without success.  Finally I got us more or less on course by backing the jib and tying the tiller to leeward, with the mainsail set for a close reach.  This is heaving to, but we continued to make 2 and 3 knots, pounding into and off waves.  I did not get much sleep.

We have come far enough south so that first light is an hour earlier than at Hilton Head, 0600 instead of 0700.  At 0600 I went on deck and furled the jib down to storm jib size and put the second reef in the main.  GANNET’s second reef is the equivalent of close to a normal fourth reef.  I tied down the tiller and went below to bring up a Pelagic tiller arm.  I had not tried the Pelagic earlier because the last time  I used it, which was off Cape Hatteras, it twice steered for a little while then spontaneously went into stand-by.  This morning it did the same.  So I tried again to set up sheet to tiller and have temporality succeeded.  GANNET has steered herself long enough for me to come below and write this, but the wind is decreasing and fluctuating, which means readjusting the balance.

San Salvador is 35 miles ahead.

The cabin wet.

I am in foul weather gear.

I am tired.

1200
24º29’N   074º56’W
day’s run  94 miles    COG  160º   SOG  3.0
week’s run  613 including 9 miles before noon first day
barometer steady at 1023.

Looking at the line of noon positions, with the exception of Sunday, progress appears to have been constant and orderly.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Almost every mile has been hard earned.

We continue with sheet to tiller and minimal sail area.

San Salvador is thirty miles ahead.  I expect we will pass it to the west.  There is an eighteen mile gap between it and Rum Cay.

I hope the wind decreases so I can remove the second reef from the main, but I most definitely do not want another night like last night.


1500  I dozed off at Central after a lunch of Laughing Cow cheese and crackers.  Awoke to 1320 to find that the wind had headed us and GANNET  was sailing to the SSW toward Crooked Cay.

I tried to come closer to the wind, but we were still being driven toward islands, so I had no choice but to tack to starboard.  We did not have enough sail area up to power through steep, breaking 6’ to 8’waves, so I let out more jib.

After various complications, we are now sailing a little east of north, close hauled on starboard tack, making 4 and 5 knots in the wrong direction, but the only safe direction we can sail.  I hope the wind continues to back and weakens.  If not tonight may be worse than last.

1645  Wind abruptly backed.  Went on deck.  Tacked.  Now again heading toward San Salvador with tiller tied down.  Port  close reach.   Thick cloud cover.  Very rough and wet.

1745  Believing I needed food beyond a protein bar, I did manage to heat water for New Zealand venison in white wine sauce.

Waves seem smaller.  

I expect to be up tonight and will sleep in foul weather gear.


February 2, Saturday
North Atlantic Ocean

0800  Another difficult night. 

I went to sleep at 1930.   Woke at 2030 to find the wind had shifted and we were off course.  This was repeated many, many times during the night.  From midnight to 0300 I dozed some sitting at Central.  Often I was on deck in rain.

We passed west of San Salvador, within three miles of Sandy Point, its southwestern corner.  I saw lights on the shore.  I thought then that we were clear, sailing southeast into open ocean and lay down on the pipe berth, still in foul weather gear, only to awaken an hour later and find us heading toward Rum Cay.

I went from sheet to tiller to tying the tiller down going to windward and got us headed out to sea again.

This morning brings rain in many places around the horizon, but not currently on us, some clearing to the east, small leftover waves to roll us around, and becalmed.

When I turned us hard on the wind during the night I realized we didn’t have enough sail up and took out the second reef, which made a decisive difference.

I am waiting to see what the wind does before going to full sail this morning. 

My thighs and buttocks have painful salt water rash.  They need a drying day I don’t think they are going to get.

0845  Full main set.  Making 3 to 4 knots.  Closehauled port tack.  Sun ahead.  Rain behind.  I am rooting for the sun.

1100 There are several passages through the Bahamas.  I had planned to sail the Mayaguana Passage, but we can’t get there without beating, so I just turned due south for the Crooked Island Passage.  A close reach all the way through with this wind, which of course can not be counted on.

A Raymarine is steering.  I had always intended to use one here where a compass course is imperative.  I just didn’t think that eight days out, I would only have two left.

1200
23º26’N   074º27’W
day’s run 68 miles  COG  182º   SOG  5.1

We are directly on the Tropic of Cancer.

Clouds to the west.  Sun to the east.  We continue heading for Crooked Island Passage, the northern entrance to which is 32 miles ahead.  The distance there between Crooked Island to the east and Long Island to the west is 27 miles.  Hopefully we will be there around sunset.

1700 GANNET, tiller pilot and I stayed dry until 1600 when a line of strong wind and heavy rain swept over us.  I had seen it in the distance and was ready in my foul weather gear.  In an instant sails were flogging and I was on deck to furl the jib and trim the main.  I remained on deck trimming the main.  The tiller pilot was exposed to a lot of rain, but not much spray.  For a while we were doing 8 knots under mainsail alone on a close reach.  The squall lasted sixteen minutes.  On the other side, conditions returned to what had been normal.  A white ship appeared out of the squall a mile or so east of us.

We are presently eight miles off the northwest corner of Crooked Island making 5.5 knots under mainsail alone.  I may add some jib, but this is good enough.  I need an easy night.  However it will require a course change.  44 miles ahead of us are the tiny, isolated Mira-Por-Vos Cays, beyond which we need to turn to the SSE for the Windward Passage.  We may not be clear of the Cays until 0400 or 0500.


February 3, Sunday

0845  I woke last night at 0150 to find us at my waypoint five miles northwest of the Mira-Por-Vos Cays.   We had made good time through the Crooked Island Passage obviously with favorable current.  I saw speeds of eight knots and we weren’t sailing that fast.

I went on deck, put a reef in the mainsail and partially unfurled the jib.  We had been sailing under main alone.  Disengaged the tiller pilot which I did not want to risk going to windward and brought GANNET hard on the wind on  port tack.  It took a while to balance the boat with the tiller tied down.  Moderate conditions.  Wind around ten knots.  I had to unfurl a little more jib.  

All this took an hour,

I took the tiller pilot below and went back to the pipe berth. After the activity, understandably it took me a while to get to sleep.  The jib back once and I had to go on deck and turn us in a circle and rebalance.  That has held now for six hours.

Usually up at first light, now around 0600, I allowed myself an extra hour this morning.

I got up with the intention of setting the full mainsail, but when I stuck my head on deck I found GANNET sailing close hauled perfectly and have left her alone.

We need to get 40 miles east and aren’t doing it. We are pretty much sailing south at 4.5 knots toward Cuba 70 miles away.  We would like to be sailing 145º toward the northern entrance to the Windward Passage.  I will tack before we reach Cuba, when there is a favorable wind shift, or most probably before sunset.

A fine day and decent conditions for going to windward.  Not too much pounding or waves coming aft.  However being hard on the wind leads to inertia.  I wedge myself into one position and it requires planning, considerable effort and some pain to make a change.

1200
21º35’N   074º54’W
day’s run   114 miles   COG 180º    SOG  4.5

A very nice day and GANNET is sailing as easily as possible to windward.  I just wish we were headed toward the Windward Passage rather than toward the north coast of Cuba, now 50 miles ahead.  The bearing to my waypoint off the Windward Passage is presently 140º.

Getting hot in the shut Great Cabin.  84ºF/29ºC.  I do have the vertical slat out of the main hatch.

1500 I had planned to tack no later than 1700 so I would have daylight to rebalance the boat.  However, a half hour ago the wind lightened and we fell too far off without coming back, so I unreefed the main and we have gone to full sail.   The wind has also backed slightly and we are sometimes coming sailing 165º which makes this the favored tack.  I will see what conditions are like at 1700.

1630  Eight knots of wind has backed until we are sometimes sailing 150º.  I’ll hang onto this tack as long as I can.

1915  Lights of two ships became visible at dusk.  Until then I had been surprised to have the horizon to myself,

Bands of gold melding into orange and red at sunset.

Ashore I would now be watching the Super Bowl.  Here I am sailing GANNET toward the east end of Cuba and listening to my requiem playlist.


February 4, Monday

0700 Becalmed.

I tacked last night at 2230 fifteen miles off the Cuban coast.  I could see individual lights on shore.  GANNET settled on a course of about 075º on starboard tack and below deck I gybed stuff from pipe berth to pipe berth and tried to go back to sleep.

At 0300 we lost balance and I went on deck to get us back on course.

At 0500 we lost balance again.  No moon last night, so I could not see that this was just in front of a dawn shower which are common in the tropics.  I was out trying to get GANNET sailing again when the rain started.  I had on my foul weather pants, but not parka.  I reached below and got the parka and sat out in the rain hand steering.  It was warm and the rain didn’t last long, but it killed the wind which has not yet returned.

We are ten miles west of the east end of Cuba and now about forty miles off the coast.  A waypoint at the northern entrance to the Windward Passage is also about forty miles away, bearing 165º.  I promised myself some Laphroaig if we were in the passage tonight.  I don’t know that I am going to get it.

I have a little Sony radio receiver on board.  I don’t listen to it much and have not at all on this passage.  Curious who won the Super Bowl I turned it on and in the pre-dawn picked up a station in Philadelphia which told me that Pats won their sixth.

1030 Wind returned, but from the SSW.  I engaged the tiller pilot to steer a compass course.  The sky has cleared as expected, but this wind direction was not.  It is fine now, sailing us on a beam reach at 4.5-5 knots toward the Windward Passage, but will be a headwind in the passage, if it lasts that long.

1200

20º49’N   074º11’W
day’s run  61 miles      COG  165º   SOG  5.4

The day’s run was expected.  We tacked twice in the past twenty-four hours and sailed a ‘Z’.

Wind continues from the SSW, off Cuba and we continue to have good sailing on a starboard beam reach.  Full sail.  Tiller pilot steering.  If this continues we will be at the entrance to Windward Passage waypoint around 1700.

1330  Wind still from the SS, though weaker.  Around 5-6 knots, reducing our speed to 3.5 knots and enabling wavelets to roll wind from the sails.

I have been able to dry several cushions, my foul weather gear, boat shoes and presently the sleeping bag.

Although I realize that with climate change traditional pilot charts may be less useful than once they were, I have them in my MacBook and checked.  We are on the edge of the trade winds and more than 90% of the wind from here to Panama is from the east or southeast.

1630  Wind continues to veer.  Now NW and only 5-6 knots.  We’re on the edge of the main blanketing the jib, but can’t come up because of land and I don’t want to gybe away and increase distance.  Our speed down to 2.5 knots.  We are 10 miles from my Windward Passage waypoint.

A cruise ship passed a few miles north of us.  Seven or eight decks.  I assume my fellow seafarers left Miami yesterday.  

1745  Music standing in the companionway this evening.  The Bach Cello Suite No. 5 performed by Pablo Casals, followed by my favorites playlist shuffled.

I lowered the main, not wanting an accidental gybe.

I think that through haze I think I can see the east end of Cuba Punta del Quemado ten miles due south.  Uncertain what the land will do to the wind, I am swinging wide.

I am also finishing the last of the Plymouth Gin.  Weather prevented me from biking to a planned final visit to supermarket and liquor store my last two days on Hilton Head.  Nothing left but Laphroaig, Heineken, and boxed red and white wine.  The punishment for slow sailing. 


February 5, Tuesday
Caribbean Sea

0800  I woke an hour and a half ago, just as the sun was rising from the sea.  We had sailed under jib alone last night with the tiller pilot steering and light wind almost directly behind us.  I gybed the jib several times, but not my sleeping bag.  We weren’t heeled no matter which side the jib was on.

Naturally there is a lot of shipping here.  Last evening a parade of cruise ships, one of which came so close I shined the flashlight on the jib.  I expect they are in Jamaica this morning.

I succeeded in staying in the middle of the traffic separation zone.  Almost always when I stuck my head on deck the lights of ships were visible.  One was a couple of miles to the east when I got up this morning.

The wind continues from the north, but is now eight to ten knots.

I immediately raised the main, partially furled the jib for balance, and went to sheet to tiller steering.  On a pleasant sunny morning we are making 5 and sometimes 6 knots on a port broad reach.  High land on Cuba is visible twenty miles to the north.  The nearest point of Haiti is fifty miles to the east.  

We have clear water all the way to Panama 702 miles ahead.  No more mazes to run. 

1200

19º19’N   074º15’W
day’s run  91 miles   COG 176º   SOG 7.1
Panama  679 miles  210º

We sailed more than 91 miles in the past twenty-four hours.  Our course was sideways V.

Light rain this morning.  Fine sailing with SOGs of 6 to 8 knots.

The wind has continued to veer, but needs to do so another 10º-20º for us to clear the southern cape of Haiti 38 miles south of us.  

Barometer has risen slightly and is 1018.

1400 Clearing sky behind us.  Rain to the east over Haiti and off to the southwest that should not bother us.  I expect I will have to gybe away from Haiti before sunset.

1530  Two accidental gybes.  I had a preventer on the boom so it did not slam all the way across, just backed.  After the second a half hour ago, I decided to continue the gybe and go to starboard as it did not seem we were going to clear the corner of Haiti ahead.

The accidental gybes were proof that GANNET was spinning too fast, so I furled the jib a bit more and put a reef in the mainsail.  While doing so I see that two freighters are going to cross our bow, both heading east.  I had to hand steer GANNET to avoid them.  We are now heading toward Jamaica, but it is more than a hundred miles away and we’ll gybe again before we get there.  Wind still from the NNE.

1820  I am sipping my reward Laphroaig and GANNET is sailing faster than it seems this wind warrants.  7 and 8 knots with reefed main and deeply furled jib for sheet to tiller balance.  I had thought to gybe back to port once we can clear the Haitian headland, but there will be shipping there and the land will be modifying the wind.  I am considering continuing on starboard broad reach all night unless there is a change in the wind and then gybe to port at dawn which may move me away from shipping lanes until I approach Panama.

I write ‘Panama’ knowing that when the US controlled the Canal, on the Caribbean side, Cristobal was in the US zone and Colon, one of the more dangerous places in the world, in Panama.  Now I do not know what is what, so I just write ‘Panama’, meaning a waypoint two miles off the gap in the breakwater into what on the chart is called Puerto Cristobal.

We did have clear water ahead all the way to that waypoint, the wind just didn’t permit us to sail it.

I hope there are bottles of Laphroaig in Panama.

1910  I don’t understand the SOG’s I am seeing in iNavX:   8.5.  9.6. 10.4.  10.4?  With this limited sail up? The seas are low and there doesn’t seem to be that much wind.  Perhaps we have benefit of some current, but the little boat can go.


February 6, Wednesday
Caribbean Sea

0815  A fine morning.  Mostly blue sky.  Few scattered low clouds.  No sign of rain or ships.  GANNET is 35 miles off the east coast of Jamaica.  

I do not like to gybe and rebalance the boat at night, but when I woke at midnight, I realized that we had been sailing west so fast that if I waited until dawn, we would be north of Jamaica, so I went on deck and gybed to port and rebalanced the sheet to tiller.  It all went more quickly and easily than I expected.  If the wind does what it should, that was probably the last gybe before our approach to Panama and we should be on a port beam to broad reach the remaining  580 miles.

1200

17º55’N   075º45’W
day’s run   121miles  COG  175º   SOG 5.4
Panama  564 miles   206º

We gybed twice in the past twenty-four hours so sailed farther than the straight line distance.  

Rolly today and not able to sail the course I’d like.  I spent time on deck this morning trying to get GANNET closer to the rhumb line without success.  The wind remains north of east.

1530  A pleasant afternoon.  Rolling less than earlier.  Able to stand in the companionway without getting wet. A cooling 8-10 breeze.  No ships in sight all day.  First that has happened in a while.

I am reading DECEMBER 1941 a day to day account taken mostly from newspaper articles not just of war news but of what life in the United States was then, what was being advertised, movies watched, radio programs listened to, how people dressed, gossiped, thought before and reacted after Pearl Harbor.

I was 19 days old on December 1, 1941.  This book portrays the world in which I was born and has made me realize that if you live to be seventy, perhaps even less, the world in which you were born will almost completely have vanished.

This is not just true of us now.  When my grandmother was born in 1896 the fastest man made motion was the steam locomotive.  Perhaps 80 or so miles per hour.  By the time she died in 1982, man made objects went 24,000 mph and men had landed on the moon.

Here is something counter intuitive.  Some, not by any means all, of the old can cope with change better than the young because they have seen so much of it and the young haven’t. 

1914  I was standing in the companionway, listening to the swosh of GANNET moving though the water and from the cabin the Dubliners singing “The Rocky Road to Dublin.”
The only light stars and flashes of pale foam from GANNET’s wake.  Almost right, almost the monastery of the sea, but not quite.  I have not been there for a long time.  I wonder if I ever will again.

1927  I stood again in the companionway and saw to the west the lights of another vessel.  Expletive deleted.  I want this place to myself.


February 7, Thursday
Caribbean Sea

0845  An easy night with almost level sailing and a pleasant morning.  Sunny with hazy trade wind clouds.  The wind has veered to the east and we are now sailing the rhumb line.

1200

16º08’N   076º05’W
day’s run  110 miles   COG  190º   SOG  4.5
Panama  461 miles   210º

Two ships passed west of us this morning, so I’ve come up higher than the rhumb line to put some distance between us and that shipping route and to give us leeway to fall off if the wind continues to veer.

Continues fine, but getting hot in the Great Cabin.  I was sailing with the forward hatch open until a wave flopped through.

1630  I took the reef out of the mainsail two hours ago.  I have struggled all afternoon to get GANNET to settle on a course around 190º-205º, but she keeps yawing from 170º -225º, maybe averaging about the desired course, but unsatisfactory.  At 170º we take a lot of unnecessary water over the deck.

I have seen two more ships to the west and probably more have passed that I haven’t seen.

1900  A clear night sky.  The first sliver of a new moon to the west.  Lights of a ship far to the north.  GANNET sailing pretty much as I wish her around 180º-190º at 5 to 7 knots.

Our essential function is problem solving.

A passage is a problem to be solved with intelligence, planning, preparation, imagination, will, and our bodies.

A passage is not ambiguous.  You leave point A for point B and you either get there or you don’t.  Clear cut.  I love that.

However on this passage, as those I made last year, I feel constrained.  Land.  Ships.  This is part of one of my jobs.  I accept that.  I like to believe I am good at my crafts.  But this is grind it out work with a rotting ass, not joy.  I don’t mean to be indelicate by my ass is indeed rotting.  No matter how careful I am, new pants have wet seats within hours.  I have lotion, but am not quite as prepared as I was on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE when I carried baby rash ointment, and when I am not vertical or horizontal I am in pain.  The trials of the sea are not always obvious.

I long for the open ocean.  Perhaps I will find joy again in the Pacific if I can get across Panama.  Sometimes you just have to grind it out in the hope of future joy.

GANNET speeds into the uncertain night.


February 8, Friday
Caribbean Sea

0815  After a night that was rougher than it needed to be because we often were sailing too high, I was up in pre-dawn light and on deck where I put a reef back in the main, reduced the size of the jib and more or less got us sailng in the right direction.  Though we are still swinging through 50º, we are not turning as far up into the wind.

1200

14º17’N   076º37’W
day’s run  115 miles     COG  200º   SOG  4.6
Panama  350 miles  214º

Another fine day during which I can’t settle GANNET on the course I’d like.  We were falling too far off to the west, so in foul weather gear I went on deck an hour ago, reduced the size of the jib, added a shock cord and now we are sailing too far to the east, but relatively smoothly.  Sailing now under jib alone with tiller pilot steering would be efficient and pleasant, bu I’d like not to use a tiller pilot again until we are within 100 miles.

We are two weeks out of Hilton Head.  Daily runs total only 1183 miles.  Though we have sailed farther, it has been far slower than I expected.

A wave just slammed into the beam and I had to swing the MacBook from where I am typing at Central out of the way as water trickled below.  The spray hood is up by not all snaps secured and the hatch slid aft, but the vertical slat not in place to try to keep the Great Cabin from getting excessively hot.

1630  Conditions more settled and GANNET sailing close to the desired course without much fuss.

No ships sited today and I have been on deck a lot trying to balance the steering.

1840  A lovely orange after sunset glow to the west.  Early crescent moon lying on its back.  GANNET sailing smoothly across grey/black faceted waves.  Ludovico Einaudi’s LE ONDE on the Boom 2 speakers.  Amber Laphroaig in a crystal glass wedged in place on floorboards and soon to be raised to my lips.  



February 9, Saturday
Caribbean Sea

0730  What I expected to be a quiet night wasn’t.

At 2330 increased wind gybed the mainsail.  I had  preventer on the boom, so it did not swing across, only backed the sail.  I went on deck and got us back on course.  

Not long after I returned to the port pipe berth a wave crashed on board and as we rocked back poured on me.

I decided despite my intention not to use a tiller pilot this far out to do so and sail under jib alone.  I took the Raymarine I used a few days ago in the Windward Passage on deck and it failed.  It was working properly when i disengaged it and hadn’t even gotten wet.  One to go.

I put the second reef in the mainsail with some difficulty because the sail was backed and got us sailing again more or less in the right direction under sheet to tiller, though with a rather squirrelly balance.   At times GANNET feels as though she is skating on ice.

Still no more accidental gybes so far and we are headed more or less in the right direction. 

1200
12º25’N   077º36’W
day’s run  126 miles   COG  219º   SOG  5.8
Panama   225 miles  218º

Between when I typed COG AND 219º a wave caught the stern and caused the first accidental gybe in twelve hours.  I  don’t know what I will do tonight.  I’ll see what conditions are at 1700.

This morning I transferred water from the jerry cans to the day bottles and the now empty one gallon tea/lemonade jugs.  In doing so I emptied the first of the 5 gallon jerry cans, moved it forward and one of the full ones aft.

I also moved the one possibly still functional tiller pilot aft and sponged a little water from the bilge.

Hot today as of course it is twelve degrees from the Equator.

1730  On deck several times this afternoon rebalancing the steering.  We are presently sailing high of the rhumb line.  Wind and waves have decreased, though a wave just thudded into us without coming on board.

I have not had much appetite these past few days.  Lunch was a Tanka bar, buffalo meat with cranberries made by American Indians in South Dakota.  I learned of these through Steve Earley.  I like the taste.  They only have 70 calories and are a snack not a meal, except today for me.

Bach Interventions playing.  I try to listen to some Bach every day.  A tumbler of boxed white wine being held in place on the floorboards by my foot.  

Hopefully our penultimate night on this passage.

1830   No longer sailing on the ragged edge.  Can there be an easy night ahead?


February 10, Sunday
Caribbean Sea

0830  It was an easy night, but the wind backed and when i got up this morning at 0630 I found us sailing 180º and the course to the entrance of the harbor was 231º and 124 miles distant.  Having to gybe, I decided to change to tiller steering, assuming the last tiller pilot worked.  It does, though it is noisy.  We are now sailing under deeply furled jib alone.  Steep 6’ waves rolling us about.

1200
10º29’N   078º36’W
day’s run   129 miles    COG  233º   SOG  5.1
Panama   100 miles   231º

Barometer has dropped gradually from 1015 to 1012 in past twenty-four hours..

Waves have diminished to 4-5’ and aren’t rolling us as extremely as they were.

1330  I just noticed that the port pipe berth is breaking away from the hull.  The pop rivets have corroded away.

1730  Nearing sunset. 

Four waves at widely scattered and unpredictable intervals smashed abeam today. sometimes sending significant water below.  I went on deck once and wiped down the tiller pilot.  I hope it makes it through the night.

We are 75 miles from a waypoint a mile off the breakwater entrance.  I don’t want to get too close too early.  There will be ships circling around there.  I’ve set an alarm for midnight to see if I need then to increase sail or continue on under the deeply furled jib.

Loreena McKennitt singing, Leonardo da Fettuccine steeping, boxed white wine being sipped.

1830  Our speed dropped below 4 knots, so I let out more jib.  Back to 5+.


February 11, Monday
Caribbean Sea

0530  14 miles from waypoint.  Making 5 knots.  I just had to gybe.  A current carried us along the coast during the night, which was uneventful.  I saw a few ships.  None close.  Lights on one visible to the SE.   I set alarms but woke before they went off.  Tiller pilot so noisy I used earplugs.   

Still dark.  Light due soon.

1000 In slip at Shelter Cove Marina.

With light by 0600 I could see a dozen or more ships mostly anchored outside the breakwater.  Two passed me outward bound.

I stayed on deck, gybing the jib a couple of times.  The wind was 15 to 18 behind me and the waves naturally steepened as the water shallowed.  They were breaking hard on the breakwater, sending spray over the top.

I hand steered through the entrance then turned to starboard and the Shelter Cove Marina.  Two ships were anchored along the way.  When I was clear of them, I furled the jib, tied down the tiller and brought the Torqeedo on deck and mounted it.  It started at the push of a button and I called the marina on the VHF.  They couldn’t hear me though I was within two miles, but someone on another boat did and acted as relay.  I was in Shelter Cove with THE HAWKE OF TUONELA ten years ago, so was prepared for the narrow entrance.  A marina worker was on the end of the first dock and directed me to the far end of the marina where another was standing in the slip to take my lines as I rounded up into the wind.  This is the shallow end of the marina and I am here surrounded by 40’-50’ cruising catamarans.

Day’s run  104 miles


Passage over