My main site is
www.inthepresentsea.com. Starting October 1, 2013. I began duplicating my journal here. Because of inadequate Internet connections while traveling, beginning April 4, 2016 the journal is being updated only here.
The tracking page for GANNET is:
A month ago about now I was tying up to the CBP dock in San Diego.
There appears to be some confusion about my future, which is reasonable because it is uncertain, but I may be partially to blame.
First, there is no reason whatsoever that, having just completed a difficult and unparalleled circumnavigation I should know what comes next. In fact to believe I should or would is quite unreasonable.
I have written that April 29, 2019, ended the ‘being’ part of my life. Whatever value and meaning my life has is already established by what I have done and written in the past forty-four years. I expect that I will do more, but it will be incremental, not determining. I have never said, written, or even thought of giving up sailing. Which brings us to the above boat, a Gary Mull designed Chico 30 that I found in online boats ads. That I was perusing them gives an indication of my thinking.
I could sail GANNET across the Pacific to Opua and I’d rather like to, but I don’t even know what coast GANNET is going to be on at the end of this year and she is too small for both Carol and me. I could buy a boat on the West Coast and sail it to New Zealand, which isn’t a bad idea now that New Zealand permits foreign vessels to remain in the country for two years rather than one. Or I could buy a boat in New Zealand. Or I could never return to New Zealand at all, which is a definite possibility despite my desire to.
I have seen Chico 30s in the Bay of Islands. I like them, the way they look and the way I expect they sail. Gary Mull was a fine designer. Big enough for two people and the asking price is about $20,000 US.
Owning two boats did not work out for me before and my life is too unsettled to buy a second boat now. But the idea of having GANNET in Hilton Head and a boat like the Chico in the Bay of Islands to spend the too hot South Carolina summers on is appealing. Winter in the Bay of Islands is moderate and uncrowded.
When I consider it, the thing I like least is the long transoceanic flights.
For now I’m stopping looking at boats for sale and in an hour going to my ophthalmologist for a routine examination. Having to check only one eye, he should charge half, but it doesn’t work that way.
During the passage from Balboa, Panama, to San Diego I repeatedly told myself that this is the last hard thing I will ever have to do. I have been doing hard things for a very long time. Perhaps as long as anyone ever. Far longer than the four poets who envisioned Ulysses not remaining in Ithaca after his twenty year absence: Dante; Tennyson; Cavafy; Kazantzakis. They surely did not imagine a 77 year old Ulysses. Nor did I. But he has happened.
When I was off Point Loma in the pre-dawn light on Monday, April 29, 2019, I was tired, perhaps more mentally than physically, though physically I had lost more than ten pounds from my normal 154 pounds on a 6’1” frame. I profoundly wanted the ordeal to be over. Now, twenty-six days later, I am envisioning other voyages. It is too soon to know when they will begin. Where would I most like to be in the world? If you have been here any length of time you know: New Zealand’s Bay of Islands.
I am seventy-seven years old. I don’t have many years left. Why should I not spend some of them where I most want to be even if I can’t stay there permanently?
I believe I am an original experiment. I acknowledged more than forty years ago that most original experiments are failures.I expect I am a failure. But as I enter the dying part of my life I am still becoming and I am still trying to understand.
The above image of 300 climbers waiting in line to summit Mount Everest appeared on what poses as the ABC evening news. I am appalled. As far as I am aware there are no lines to sail alone around Cape Horn.
Even though I don’t agree with it completely, I thank Chris for: The mountains, the forest, and the sea, render men savage; they develop the fierce, but yet do not destroy the human. —Victor Hugo
And today at the bottom of an email from a magazine editor:In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure and the police take the place of pirates.—Michel Foucault
Even though this is a new part of my life I’m still doing what I did in the last part and buying stuff for my boat as though I’m planning to do some serious sailing. I promise you I have no such intention, though I will confess that New Zealand does cross my mind from time to time. Perhaps it is just that fifty year old habits die hard. The items in the above photo are what I am taking back to GANNET. Most are replacements for things that have worn out or died.
Two Raymarine ST2000+ tiller pilots. Naturally.
The cylinder at the top center is a Boom 2 bluetooth speaker. One of the ones on GANNET stopped working in Panama.
Beside it to the left is a CamelBak day water bottle. The sipping nozzle on the one I have been using has developed intractable mold.
In between them is an Icom M73 Plus VHF radio. Waterproof of course.
To the right of the radio are two Cablz eyeglass holders. I first came across these in Darwin, Australia, and find them more durable than Croakies. Their only drawback is that once they are on a pair of glasses they are almost impossible to remove. So I don’t.
To the right of the Cablz is a Bad Elf Bluetooth GPS. I now can use my iPad Pro as a chartplotter, despite having bought the wrong model iPad Pro.
To the left of the radio is a GoPro mount Velcro strap long enough to go around the mast.
Below the radio are three Apple lightning cables. The ends of lightning cables corrode on GANNET. USB-C charging is superior.
The two yellow discs are MPOWERD solar lights.
Carol gave me one for Christmas and I find them superior to the LuminAids I had been using. They are made better, last longer when charged, and have a USB outlet that can be used to charge phones and other devices.
The rope and blocks are a Garhauer boom vang which I will use as a preventer.
That leaves the boat shoes. Those I wore on the passage got wet and stayed wet. I suppose they may have dried out by now, but will probably be as flexible as a piece of steel. I bought everything except for the Garhauer vang from Amazon.
In San Diego I will paint and refurbish the interior. I am considering painting the wood white, but have not definitely made up my mind.
The pipe berths need to be replaced, but removing them is an ordeal, so I may just glue another layer of vinyl over the top third.
The spray hood needs replacing.
And I will have the standing rigging replaced, although it is not damaged. One circumnavigation is enough for standing rigging.
I will try to fix the forward hatch leak(s), though I have already rebedded it twice.
Wind instruments are on my list, but followed by a question mark. I am tired of replacing them, have made most of GANNET’s circumnavigation without them functioning, and don’t know if I want to bother.
If I get my work done I may do something daring, like sail to Catalina.
My main site www.inthepresentsea.com is created using iWeb which Apple has not supported for years and which I have learned will no longer work with the next Apple OS coming out this fall.
I am due for a new laptop, so it is my plan not to install the next OS on my current 12” MacBook and use it to update the main site, but be advised that the main site may become frozen in time without warning.
There is something to be said for publishing on paper.
Perhaps unbelievably these photos are of the same man, forty-four years apart. Time and chance happens to us all. In preparing for my appearance at the Richmond Yacht Club next week I came across the top photo which was taken moments before I released the line in my left hand and sailed from Harbor Island Marina in San Diego for my first attempt at Cape Horn and began the being part of my life. I was nine days short of my thirty-third birthday.
The second is a capture from a video made on April 28, 2019, about fifty miles south of where the first photo was taken, just short of six circumnavigations later, and the last full day of the being part of my life at age seventy-seven. I am going to tell you something odd: I like the way I look now more than I do how I looked then.
I fly back to San Diego and GANNET five weeks from today.
Two of the most frequently asked questions are: Why did I not use a self-steering vane on GANNET? and, Why did I truck GANNET across Panama?
I have answered them frequently, most recently in reply to comments to YouTube videos, so I am going to make it easy on myself and answer them here one last time and just refer any future questioners to this post.
When I began to plan GANNET’s circumnavigation I intended to install a self-steering vane. I have used them with success on three other boats. Aries on EGREGIOUS and RESURGAM. A Monitor on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA.
However being an ultra-light GANNET’s transom is thin and needed to be re-enforced to support the considerable strain a vane will create. Inside GANNET’s stern is an awkward dead space. I painted back there with considerable discomfort and had no desire to fiberglass there. One of the advantages of being an old man is that you can pay young ones to do what you don’t want to do. A boat yard gave me an estimate of $5,000. Add to that several thousand dollars more for the vane and I thought: I can buy a lot of tiller pilots for that. And I have. Subsequently I have seen a video of a self-steering vane mounted on a Moore 24 with the support tubes attached to the deck not the transom. Almost everything on a boat is a compromise. A vane mounted this way blocks the normal outboard bracket. Fitting an outboard while underway, even one as light as a Torqeedo, to one side would be considerably more difficult than to the centered bracket, and on GANNET the deck mounted tubes would require moving two solar panels which are essential and I don't know where else I could put them.
I have used sheet to tiller self-steering, which works from a close reach to a broad reach, for a total of more than 50,000 miles on three different boats: EGREGIOUS, a 37’ cutter; CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, an 18’ undecked yawl; and now GANNET, a 24’ ultralight sloop.
Every boat I have owed could be sailed to windward by tying down the tiller.
Sheet to tiller. Tying down the tiller. Tiller pilots. Heaving to. Lying ahull. That is all that is necessary for me to sail anywhere.
Were I planning GANNET’s voyage again, knowing what I know now, I would still not have a self-steering vane.
Of the Panama Canal, GANNET presented multiple problems. Powering fast and far enough was the easiest to solve simply by borrowing or renting a bigger outboard than the Torqeedo. But GANNET also has no enclosed head, no way to feed and sleep four line handlers, cleats too small for the hawsers used in the locks, no sun protection for the mandatory advisor. And I did not want to have five other people on the boat with me for parts of two days and one night.
I do not know if the canal authorities would have permitted another yacht to tow GANNET through the canal. No offer of a tow was forthcoming. I did not want to wait and I don’t like to seek favors, so I decided to have the little boat trucked across.
Even though the cost escalated obscenely beyond my expectation I do not regret that decision.
Though I have gained back only half of the ten pounds I lost on the passage, I am fully recovered and have been for more than a week. I am working out regularly, closing the activity circles on my Apple watch daily, and climbing at least twenty floors of stairs daily, again taking them two at a time.
However I am still a man without fingerprints.
The skin has now sloughed off all fingertips and both thumbs and what is left below is not sufficient to be recognized by the sensor on my phone. Possibly a perfect opportunity to commit a crime, but I have nothing in mind.
It was a long passage and there will probably be more than thirty videos in all. They are not mandatory and there will not be a snap quiz.
As I have written here before, one of the unanticipated consequences of my becoming a Cyclops has been that I need all my remaining vision just to function and don’t have the excess capacity to look around and see what might be interesting still photographs. That, combined with GANNET being small and that I have already photographed her extensively, has resulted in my seldom taking still photograph any longer during a passage.
Taking videos has the advantage of being able to capture a single frame such as the image above.
I did not realize that the lens on the stern pulpit mounted GoPro was wet and serendipitously got some atmospheric footage that I like. While blurry I think it expresses something of the essence of the experience.
I shot the videos on four different cameras, naturally all waterproof, a Nikon AW1 and three GoPros. My favorite of the GoPros is a Hero 5 Black, which has a touch screen that makes moving through the menus and settings easy and a linear mode that removes the curves endemic to wide GoPro views.
I have learned that on GANNET the cameras need to be in place before the action and set to start filming with the touch of one button or a voice command. If you have ever tried to fit a GoPro into a mount, you know it is a tight fit. It can’t be done when GANNET is bouncing around.
I had one GoPro mounted on the stern pulpit facing forward. For a short while I had one mounted on the mast facing aft. That mount did not stay stuck to the mast, which was unfortunate because that is a good view.
I have a mount inside the Great Cabin near the companionway facing forward, and I sometimes used a head band mount.
I just ordered a strap that is long enough to go around the mast to secure the mount there, though I don’t know how much more video I will ever take. Perhaps just habit of always being ready.
I shot the first of the ‘end of being’ videos with the Nikon AW1. When its battery died, I shot the second with the GoPro Hero 5 Black. In viewing them I am impressed by how superior the GoPro footage is.
If I do shoot more video, which presumes I will sometime go sailing again, the GoPro Hero 5 Black, or a more recent model, will be my camera of choice.
I recently learned that Drascombe Luggers are currently in production in the UK. They are being built a company with a different name than Honnor Marine, the original builder. The base price of a Lugger is £20,000 which at current exchange rates is $26,000.
I paid about $5,000 for CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE in 1978.An online calculator shows that $5,000 in 1978 is the equivalent of a little over $19,000 now. So beyond inflation, the British builder has jacked up the price of a Lugger by a third.
I was an only child and it took. Being an only child is good preparation for solo sailing.
Perhaps curiously I have never had a significant relationship with a woman who was an only child.
Something a friend wrote recently about feeling isolated after sustaining life threatening injuries has caused me to consider if we are all essentially only children, even if we have brothers, sisters, parents and children of our own.
This morning I uploaded seven more short videos, completing the uploads of the passage from Hilton Head Island to Colon, Panama.
Yesterday was the first day I have felt like myself since the passage ended. I did my full workout for the first time since New Year’s Day and don’t feel too sore today. I also did 21 floors of stairs.
My hands are a mess. I have four split fingernails and the skin is peeling from the tips of both thumbs and five fingers.
I realized yesterday that I have now completed circumnavigations in five successive decades: 70s, 80s, 90s, two in the 00s, and GANNET in the 10s.
I have just uploaded two videos to YouTube with the title, ‘the end of being’.
As I note in the description, they were recorded on the last full day of GANNET’s circumnavigation and are being presented out of order for reasons that will be apparent if you view them.
I will start uploading videos in chronological sequence tomorrow.
The above is a capture from one of those videos.
I am almost fully recovered from the passage. It is about time. And have no excuse for not doing my full workout this afternoon. I am not looking forward to that. I think it will hurt. Too bad, old man, get on with it.
I am going to speak to Moore sailors and perhaps others at Richmond Yacht Club on May 30. That is Richmond California, not Virginia.
Last night I dreamed I was still sailing GANNET. I started to get up to go on deck when I woke and found myself in bed.
I am starting to recover.
I found that I had lost more weight than I thought. On our scale, which I believe to be accurate, I weighed only 145 pounds Saturday.
I just did my age in push-ups to see if I still can. I did not do the entire workout. That will wait until later in the week.
Yesterday was an atypically beautiful day in Chicago and Carol and I walked a couple of miles.
I notified BoatUS that GANNET is now located in California, which reduced the annual premium from her being in South Carolina from $690 to $180. No hurricanes in California. Yet.
I reviewed the statistics for the circumnavigation.
I tried to upload the document with all daily runs, but it does not format properly.
As noted elsewhere the daily runs total 29989 miles.
The best noon to noon run was 185 miles between Marathon and Hilton Head last year.
The worst 14 miles between Balboa, Panama, and San Diego this year.
The best week 1002 miles between San Diego and Hilo, Hawaii in 2014.
The worst week 368 between Balboa and San Diego this year.
The longest passage: Darwin to Durban 5814 miles 55 days.
The shortest passage: Hilo to Honolulu 197miles 2 days.
Not counting the anchorages while daysailing inside the Great Barrier Reef from Cairns to Cape York, Australia, or the side trip to St. Michaels, Maryland, we stopped only thirteen times. This is not cruising.
2014 Hilo; Honolulu; Apia; Neiafu; Opua
2016 Bundaberg; Darwin; Durban
2017 St. Helena; St. Lucia; Marathon
2018 Hilton Head
2019 Colon/Balboa; San Diego
I believe we were under sail 302 days.
My broken sleep pattern persists, but I am getting enough sleep.
Last night after martinis, Carol grilled salmon and vegetables with rice, and we finished the last of her birthday cake, followed by a sip or two of Laphroaig.
We watched the recent remake of A STAR IS BORN in the afternoon and I watched the Cubs game in the evening.
Perhaps I have earned a life of ease in the flatlands for a while.
I feel as I imagine a boxer feels after a tough fifteen round fight or NFL players feel Monday morning. For those of you in other countries substitute rugby. My shoulders and my hands ache; my back is stiff; there are other miscellaneous twinges and pains, and inertia—my body tends to freeze in whatever position it finds itself. None of this is severe.
I tell myself: What did you expect you old fool? You are seventy-seven years old. That is and is not relevant.
While I know that I am not what I once was, I like to believe it probable that anyone who just sailed GANNET or a boat like her, assuming there are any, for 45 days from Panama to San Diego in the same weather we had would ache some, whether he or she was 77 or 27.
The ocean does not give senior discounts and if it did I would refuse to accept one. Compromised the experience would not be worthwhile.
The cure is time. I know I heal more slowly than the young, but I am confident I will. During that process thanks to the generosity of others I have in the evening ample liquid to ease the pain.
I fly tomorrow to Chicago and Carol and what should be an easy life for a while. This week I have often found myself doing something as simple as making a cup of coffee and thinking: Everything is so easy here. I would not want to have lived a life of nothing but ease, but I’m happy to for a while.
I will return to GANNET in about six weeks. I am under the impression that I am caught up with email. If you wrote to me and didn't receive a response, please write again. Sometimes emails just disappear. And to Rod, in the confusion Monday morning I don't recall if I thanked you for meeting me at the dock. If I didn't, I apologize and do so now. It was appreciated.
I heard no news from when I sailed from Balboa until two days before I arrived in San Diego when I turned on my little Sony receiver and got an all news station in Los Angeles. After listening for a little while, I thought as I always have after making contact again with what calls itself ‘civilization: I’ve been gone six weeks and you people are still doing and saying the same stupid things. It is time to get your act together, people.
But I don’t expect people will.
To no one’s surprise who has been reading this for a while, I’m already packed and ready to go.
After atypical clouds and rain on my arrival, San Diego has returned to perfect weather. I do like it here.
Early this morning Lee, who arranged for me to be a guest at Silver Gate Yacht Club, and I powered GANNET from the club to the dock at Driscoll’s. Now that she is settled, I will soon be flying to be with Carol.
Here at the dock I leaned over the side with a putty knife and removed a small colony of gooseneck barnacles that had attached themselves just above the waterline near the bow. Only one was on the antifouling paint.
People frequently comment that GANNET looks good for having sailed 5,000 miles in the past few months and 30,000 in the past five years. There is work to be done on her, but none of it is compelling and I am not in a boat working mood.
Despite having slept well the past three nights, I am a little tired and creaky today. Perhaps the passage is cumulatively catching up with me.
I have also lost weight, down to 147 from my usual 153-4.
I have a lot of videos to upload, but they will have to wait until I am back in Evanston.
I viewed the one of us leaving Hilton Head back on January 25. It seems a lifetime ago.
Here is the passage log Balboa, Panama, to San Diego, California, but you may not want to read it. There is more frustration and despair than joy, more the prison of the sea than the monastery.
It was a brutal passage without any severe weather. We never had more than 25 knots of wind and perhaps not more than 20. We had little rain.
I knew that there would be light wind for the first part of the passage and that we would be beating to windward for the last 800 or 1000 miles, but the windless hole for most of the first 1500 miles was beyond my experience or even imagination and we were hard on the wind for probably the last 1500 miles, not 800.
Five of the six full weeks of the passage were five of the six slowest weeks of the entire circumnavigation. One day we had a noon to noon run of 16 miles, and I had the spinnaker up some of the time. That was the shortest daily run of the circumnavigation until ten days later we had a day’s run of only 14 miles. As you will read, if you do, there were times when if I could have ended the passage I would have, but I couldn’t, so I carried on. In an absence of joy, there is much to be said for honor and perseverance. And once completed there is the satisfaction of having gone the distance and accomplished something difficult.
Balboa, Panama to San Diego, California Passage Log
March 14, Thursday
Gulf of Panama
0740 Panama was consistent to the end.
I set an alarm for 0600, but woke at 0530, drank orange juice and waited for first light.
At 0600 I took the new tiller pilot on deck, plugged it in, attached it to the tiller, and raised the mainsail in light wind blowing directly on the bow. Wanting the bow to fall off to port toward the shipping channel and open water, I went forward and pulled on the line I had looped from the starboard bow cleat through the mooring pennant until the wind was to starboard, released one end, pulled the line on deck and made my way aft, where I had to pump the tiller a few times to keep the bow pointing toward the channel until the mainsail filled and we gained way.
I let us continue to fall off the wind and headed down channel, pleased to be gliding silently into dawn until within a minute a patrol boat came roaring toward us. It circled behind GANNET before pulling alongside, less than a boat length away. Over a megaphone a voice commanded: “You must turn off your sailing device.” I had no idea what that meant. The command was deafeningly repeated. Then: “You cannot sail here.”
I have in fact three times before sailed off moorings at the Balboa Yacht Club.
I shouted back, and I don’t like to shout but over his engine there was no choice. “I have no engine. I am cleared to leave the country.”
That silenced him for a while. Then: “You must stay out of the channel.”
“I am not in the channel and have no intention of being in it.” And I wasn’t. I was as far outside the red buoys as was the mooring we had been on.
He dropped astern, still too close, and followed me for a while. He said something I did not understand. I shouted, “I am leaving the country. “You must stay out of the channel.” And then with to his dubious credit, “Bon voyage,” he turned and sped away.
As we continued on at 3.5 to 4 knots with light wind directly behind us, my sense of relief grew with every minute Panama was falling behind.
I engaged the tiller pilot and ducked below to make a cup of air temperature instant coffee. Back on deck in the Sportaseat I noticed blood on my shorts and found its source to be a scrape on my right forearm, gained I know not where.
We are now beyond the entrance to the shipping channel and most of the fleet of countless ships anchored out here, waiting their turn in the canal. Two ships are underway ahead of us.
As we were sailing out a cruise ship of the American Holland line was heading in. Passengers were standing on the stern deck no doubt admiring GANNET.
Seven or eight pelicans and another group of cormorants were also heading in.
I’ll continue on this course a while longer until we clear offshore islands before gybing to starboard and hopefully a better wind angle,
Last evening I removed the fenders I had out for the launch, though most of the drivers were skilled at keeping just off the hull. I removed the mainsail and tiller covers. Of the two lines I had tied to the mooring, I removed the one on the port bow cleat because when I sailed off I wanted to fall off to port. That I can sail from the mooring without having to fit and then remove and stow the Torqeedo is a great advantage. I put the pedestal column for the autopilot in place.
I put the Velocitek in its mast bracket and replaced a block through which the furling line runs that I think was causing resistance.
I wanted to be off the mooring when the wind is light, as it usually is at first light.
Earlier in the day I found to my surprise and satisfaction that I have two functioning tiller pilots: the new one delivered here and the one that steered us into Colon. It sounded sick and noisy then and I expected I would find it dead when I tried to turn it on. I was wrong. Go old tiller pilot.
Once back on board for the last time, the drawbridge up, I undergo a mental change. Every sip of water, every drink of any liquid is considered. Every bit of food. There can be no indulgence. What is on GANNET has to last to San Diego.
0830 After waiting for two incoming ships to pass, I gybed to starboard and set jib. We are on a beam reach under full sail. Wind increasing. SOG 4.7.
Sunny, clear morning.
08º34’ N 079º33’ W
day’s run 22 miles COG 195º SOG 6.2
San Diego 2540 miles 310º
A pleasant morning once I got away from the land, ships and fools. Light wind from the NW, smooth seas, sailing with the forward hatch open. Mostly we made around 4 knots in 5 or 6 knots of wind. In the last few minutes, the wind has increased to 7 or 8 knots and our speed to 6+ on a broad reach under full jib and main with the new tiller pilot steering. This tiller pilot is very quiet so far.
We still have 70 miles on this course before we can turn to the west.
I have moved west of the shipping lanes and no ships are in sight.
I put in a waypoint at the mouth of San Diego Bay. It is irrelevant at present because most of the course passes over land. At present it is as shown to be 2540 miles distant bearing 310º.
1400 Surprisingly and pleasingly I have the horizon to myself. An island has faded astern as has a mountain on the mainland to the west. We are only twenty miles offshore. No ships. No people.
An hour ago the wind briefly gusted to 16-18 knots and GANNET began making 8+ knots, but she was swinging too quickly for the tiller pilot so I lowered the main. Within ten minutes the wind decreased to less than 10 knots and veered until it was coming over the stern, so I haven’t re-raised the main because it would be blocking the jib. Our SOG has dropped to 4.5. Easy sailing. A comfortable day. I don’t mind.
1900 Dinner of New Zealand venison risotto on deck, accompanied by Bach Inventions followed by a playlist of Mark Knopfler’s Privateering album, about half of which I like—the other half is too much rock and roll for me, and dolphin swimming beside GANNET almost within arm’s reach.
The wind has gone very light. We are down to 3 knots. But we have the world to ourselves which is wonderful. Sometime during the night or at dawn tomorrow, I’ll gybe and we’ll stop heading south. We want to go north,
Always before when I have passed through Panama I have sailed for the Marquesas Islands. As I sat on deck a few minutes ago I imagined doing so again and continuing on to New Zealand.
The GoPro mount has pulled off the mast. Too bad, that is a good vantage point. It needs a strap or a hose clamp, neither of which I have.
I pulled out my bottle of Laphroaig and there are three pours left. I decided that getting free of Panama is worth one. I still have a sip left. I sniff it. I hesitate and sniff again. There will no more until 20º North. And then not until San Diego. I drink.
Finally free of the land, my life is so simple: sail 3,000 miles in two months. If the mast stays up, no matter how adverse the winds and currents, I think GANNET and I can do that. We have done twice that distance in two months, but that was a mostly trade wind passage. This is not.
I love being free of the land. I love being out here. I love that life is again simple.
March 15, Friday
0700 After a night that saw small waves collapse the jib so that I got up several times to trim it flatter than it should have been and saw lights of a few ships, I was up a hour ago at first light to raise the mainsail, make the turn to the west, and change to sheet to tiller steering, which in this light wind is problematical but is working so far. With the jib partially furled for steering, we are making 5.5 knots smoothly on a close reach on course 255º.
A ship passed a few miles astern while I was on deck and a fish about the size I am leapt completely out of the water three times. It looked like a shark.
0900 Wind has gone light. Unfurled full jib for steering sail. SOG 2.2. Sunny. Clear sky.
0924 Wind has gone very light. 3-4 knots. And veered. Back to tiller pilot steering. Land in view 14 miles to the north. Hot.
07º11’N 080º20’ W
day’s run 95 miles COG 256º SOG 4.6
San Diego 2559 miles 312º
We sailed farther than the day’s run the straight line of which crosses land.
The wind has increased to 10-12 knots and veered astern. Not wanting to risk an accidental gybe, I lowered the mainsail a few minutes ago. We continue under jib alone with tiller pilot steering.
We need to sail a roughly ten mile wide corridor between land to the north and the shipping separation zone to the south for the next 80 miles and then we are free of the land.
We are presently 7 miles off Punta Mooro de Puercos. Mountains rising according to the chart to 5,000’ are visible to the northwest.
We have gone about as far south as we will. Because of shipping I want to stay above 07º S.
The breeze has cooled the Great Cabin. Comfortable sailing with the forward hatch open.
1600 Becalmed. Showing SOG of 1.5, but that must be current. No wind. Sails slatting. GANNET rolling,
1740 Slight wind returned. It seems not to be directly astern, so I raised the mainsail. We are making 2.5 knots. Occasionally seeing 3.
Several fires are burning on the land. I am only 7 miles offshore and can see and smell the smoke. I assume clearing brush.
2230 I’ve been up every hour for the past three. Wind died. Slight wind returned from dead ahead. Wind died. Presently becalmed. Sails down. Drifting east at 1 knot.
March 16, Saturday
0620 I woke a few minutes ago to find slight wind. There was none at 0400. I turned on the tiller pilot and the Velocitek and unfurled the jib. GANNET begin to move forward. From the Velocitek I was able to get us pointed west. The wind was on the beam. I raised the mainsail. We are making 1.2 knots. Still better than nothing.
I put in a waypoint last night when I took down the sails. We drifted 4.4 miles to the SSW.
It was not a pleasant night. There were sufficient undulations to rock GANNET significantly.
We are now 10 miles off the coast. The mountains are silhouetted against a peach sky preceding the rising sun. Quite petty, but I don’t want to see land.
0745 Becalmed and drifting down toward the shipping lane. We are closer than I thought. Only two miles north. I see a ship now. I’d get out of here if I could.
0900 Slight wind from the SW. Making 2 knots on a port close reach in the right direction and putting a little distance between us and the ships.
0930 We are making 4 knots in the right direction,
07º04’ N 080º59’ W
day’s run 39 miles becalmed 10 hours COG 275º SOG 5.2
San Diego 2536 312º
Lovely sailing. A smooth 5+ knots port close reach in desired direction.
I needed a haircut, but it wasn’t convenient to get one in Panama so I chopped off my hair this morning. Such as it is. Or was.
1530 A salt water bath in the cockpit this afternoon. Most shampoos and dish liquids lather in salt water. I used shampoo. Warm sea water. GANNET moving smoothly. Refreshing and pleasant.
We continue making 5 and sometimes 6 knots. This wind can last forever.
1830 Most of today was perfect sailing, but in the last hour the wind has lightened and veered, heading us and we are now close hauled on port tack and will not clear Isla Jicarita, the last obstacle between us an the open ocean. Our speed is down to 3.5 knots. I’ll tack after a while.
1930 The wind didn’t last. It weakened and headed us. We will not clear Isla Jicanita which I can see ahead. Our SOG has dropped below 2 knots. We may spend another night becalmed. Expletive deleted.
March 17, Sunday
0710 A quiet morning except for the boom rising and falling. We are sailing at 3.4 knots on a starboard broad reach in wind of less than 5 knots with sheet to tiller steering which I went to when I got up an hour ago. Course around 280º-290º. I’d prefer the former to move us farther from the coast, but we are sailing as far off the wind as possible with sheet to tiller steering. A small island, Isla Montuosa, is visible 16 miles to the north.
Last night the wind did not die away completely and backed to the southwest until at 2300 there was as abrupt a change as I ever recall under a clear sky. I was wakened by the change in GANNET’s motion and the beeping of the tiller pilot’s off course alarm. At first disoriented on deck, I turned on the Velocitek. The wind had gone from SW to NNE. I had to turn GANNET off wind, called wearing ship in the old days, to get her back on course and retrimmed the sails to the starboard broad reach we are still on.
1000 Sailing higher than I want to. No choice. Very light wind. Hot even with the hatches open. Sweat rolling off me just sitting. I am using the battery fan for some relief.
07º19’ N 082º26’ W
day’s run 87 miles COG 290º SOG 2.2
San Diego 2462 miles 313º
Sunny. Hot. Almost becalmed. I have set the G2 and gone back to tiller pilot steering without much improvement. The barometer is not high. 1010 mb. But it feels as though we are under a high.
1210 Furled the G2 which was collapsing, but left it in place to unfurl if we get wind. Now making 1.1 knot under flopping mainsail alone. Essentially becalmed and drifting.
1315 The wind has come up from the SSW. We are sailing. Making 4 knots under G2 and mainsail on port beam reach. A ship a few miles to the south of us, heading north.
1430 G2 down. 4 and 5 knots under main and jib with sheet to tiller steering. I am drinking a lot more than my standard .37 of a gallon of water today.
1730 Back to tiller steering. Wind has veered. Still light. Less than 5 knots. Close hauled port. I think the jib may have just backed.
1800 It had. I am being forced back toward the land. Close hauled port tack 330º. Maybe the wind will keep backing and I can tack during the night.
1840 I tacked. I do not want to go toward the land. I want sea room. We are sailing around 260º at 2 to 3 knots.
2000 Becalmed. Jib furled. Mainsail down. Turned off tiller pilot. Will sail again when there is wind. I worked hard today and sweated a lot for nothing.
March 18, Monday
0630 We resumed sailing at 0130 under jib alone. The wind was directly astern. I had again put in a waypoint when we were becalmed. This time we did not move at all. Ahead of us, but as I expected far beyond where we would sail before dawn, frequent lightning lit the sky. We continued under jib, making 2 and 3 knots, until I woke at about 0600 and raised the mainsail. Unfortunately the wind is now ahead of us and we are close hauled on starboard tack pointing west and again almost becalmed. Sky ahead cloud covered.
I saw several ships yesterday. Two during the night, one of which passed within a mile. The other passed to the east of us. I am trying to sail beyond the shipping lane.
0700 Becalmed. Furled jib. Turned off tiller pilot. Left mainsail up. Rolling.
0715 Sailing. 3-4 knots. Starboard beam reach. 285º. Lost most of my cup of coffee into the bilge.
0720 Becalmed. Sails up.
0725 Sailing. Sort of. 2.1 knots. 285º
0900 I am discouraged. How long will this go on? We are flopping at a knot or less. Sails up pointing generally 240º.
07º28’ N 083º14’ W
day’s run 49 miles COG 287º SOG 3.2
San Diego 2421 miles 321º
We have reached the clouds west of us. There is a layer of low and of high. I’m not sure about middle. Light wind from the north continues. The barometer is 1011. Neither high nor low and has moved only a millibar up and down for a couple of days.
I haven’t seen any ships this morning. Perhaps we have oozed our way beyond them.
96ºF/35.5ºC in the Great Cabin with both hatches open. I have the fan on,
1745 A new time zone. I just changed ship’s time. I was on deck listening to music and sipping an air temperature gin and tonic when I observed that the sun was too high for 1700 and realized that we have oozed into UCT -6, which starts at 82º30’ W. We were just short at noon yesterday.
Most of the afternoon we sailed under jib alone with the wind coming over the stern, but the wind began to veer and I set the main at 1600. It has continued to veer and is now forward of the beam. We are making 3 and 4 knots in wind not more than a knot greater. The sky ahead is cloud covered. High popcorn clouds. Low clouds like smoke. I don’t know what this portends.
I took a salt water bath in the cockpit. Briefly refreshing. The ocean water is too warm.
At the moment we are making 3.3 knots on course 291º. I am seeking to get away from the land.
March 19, Tuesday
0550 I can’ get away from the land, the nearest point of which is only 42 mies away. I want the land to be 200 or 300 hundred miles away. I don’t want to have to think of land.
The wind lasted until 0300, but it headed us and toward the end we were sailing 310º and 315º. When I felt GANNET slow and stop, I went on deck and found a dark squall ahead of us. I took down the sails, tied down the tiller to preserve the tiller pilot, put up the spray hood and the slat in the companionway, though I left the sliding part of the hatch open, It could be closed in an instant. And went back to bed
At 0530, now first light, I woke and went on deck to find the rain and lightning to the east of us. I raised sail. Engaged the old tiller pilot. And went to bed.
I had to stop writing. The off course alarm went off, We are again becalmed. I furled the jib and left the main up.
0610 Wind returned from the north. We are sailing sometimes at 5 knots on the desired 285º.
0800 Well, that didn’t last long. About 15 minutes.
I had coffee on deck—air temperature, both coffee and deck, listening to music. Chopin Nocturnes. I need music that is soothing and tranquil.
We mostly bobbed up and down on inch high wavelets. From time to time a breath of wind partially filled the sails and we made a knot. Right now our SOG is 0.6. Clouds all around. Rain and thunder to the north.
A ship passed a few miles ahead of us, heading southwest, presumably for the canal.
A handsome bird with a white body and brown wings, perhaps a species of albatross, circled us a few times.
I have no appetite and will skip breakfast. I desperately wanted a second cup of coffee, but resisted. I will want that water more later in the day. I am always thirsty. Thus far I have been drinking the extra bottles of water I brought on board. I still have two and a half gallons of that, which in normal consumption would last a week, but I have been consuming more than normal. Assuming I ever get out of here, the last thousand miles should be cooler and less thirsty. Nevertheless, when I start taking water from the jerry cans, I will limit myself to the standard .37 gallon a day.
SOG now 2.2.
day’s run 62 miles COG 334º SOG 3.4
San Diego 2361 miles 314º
High complete cloud cover is making today cooler than the past few. 87º in the Great Cabin.
I am being forced back toward the land. I can’t bring myself to sail south of 270º until I am forced to do so by land. So I sail wherever I can between 270º and 360º.
Lots of tacking this morning to no particular avail.
Eating breakfast for lunch was good. I may do it more often.
1240 I can’t get GANNET to sail any course between 270 and 360, so have settled for 250 which at least takes us away from land rather than 005.
1315 More tacks. Now making 1.7 knots north. No matter what I do I can’t get out of here. GANNET is headed for by far her slowest week ever.
1343 Becalmed. I am well and truly trapped.
1430 The jib backs, so I tack, which always means lowering the mainsail part way because the full battens catch on the backstay and then hoisting the mainsail again. In normal wind, the battens bend and slide past the backstay. I try the new tack. We hold a course far from where I want to sail. I tack back. Little improvement. We need more than 5 knots of wind from a useful angle. I wonder if we will ever get it. I’m going to have a warm beer.
2200 We have made 17 miles since noon and are becalmed. Jib furled. Mainsail still up. Tiller pilot off.
Full moon. Quite beautiful and I am indifferent.
I go on water discipline now. 1.5 liters a day/.39 gallon. This is going to make life much more painful, but must be done.
My four five gallon jerry cans are not full quite to the top, so I don’t know exactly how much water I have. Still with discipline 50 to 60 days.
I’ll inventory my cans of liquid tomorrow.
2300 Mainsail down
March 20, Wednesday
0545 Underway since 0530. Making 1 to 1.5 knots west. Sails flopping. Container ship just passed a mile away. Also heading west. Thew ship is making more than 1.5 knots.
Often I take a sip of water when I wake at night. Last night I didn’t. Savoring my morning orange juice now.
We drifted SE during the night and now have made only 10 miles since yesterday noon.
0630 A few minutes of light rain. Becalmed. Another ship. This one heading SE.
0645 I have 28 cans of beer. 6 of tonic. 3 club soda. 1 ginger ale, I will permit myself one of these each day until we break free of this windless waste.
0750 After studying the last GRIB and the pilot charts in Virtual Passage Planner, which accurately show 20% calms here, I have decided to go north even though it means closing with the land. There usually seems to be wind above 10ºN which is 116 miles north of our current position.
We are sailing at 1.9 knots about 345º.
0900 G2 set and we are still only making 1.5 knots. Setting it caused a lot of sweat I cannot replace and thirst I cannot quench.
day’s run 16 miles COG 351º SOG 2.1
San Diego 2344 miles 312º
Wind has veered forcing us almost due north.
Yesterday’s run was the slowest ever for GANNET noon to noon
1315 Wind veered to the stern. Mainsail blocking G2, so mainsail down. Making 3 knots under G2 alone.
1530 Wind continued to back. Mainsail raised an hour ago. We are sailing within a half knot of wind speed. Between 2 and 3.5.
I had a salt water bath. Pouring buckets of sea water over me was briefly refreshing.
1830 G2 down an hour ago. In this light variable wind I can not risk it getting wrapped around the forestay during the night. It didn’t matter. The wind has died and we are making less than a knot and would be even if the G2 were up. We have made 12 miles since noon. We are sailing at the speed of the wind or within a fraction of a knot. I almost never feel the wind against my skin.
While I know I need to take on fuel, I have no appetite in this heat and today have only eaten my usual breakfast at 1100. I have no desire for warm food, so dinner, in addition to two gin and tonics, was a white chocolate and cranberry cookie and a half glass of water which would normally be used for a freeze dry meal. I appreciated it more on its own,
I can go in for water, most likely at Cabo San Lucas, if I have to, but I don’t want to deal with officials, and perhaps I won’t. I would like to stay out here for the duration of the passage, but am already in survival mode. I tell myself this is the last hard thing I have to do, except die. But it is hard to see a SOG of .8 a knot as I now am and have mostly been for days.
2000 The full moon has come up on a glassy ocean. Our bow is pointing NW but iNavX shows us drifting NE. We are becalmed and well and truly trapped, Since noon even with the G2 we have made 12.78 miles which will be diminished if we remain becalmed, as I expect we will. Sails are still up, but probably won’t remain long.
2018 Sails down.
2100 I went to sleep. Woke a few minutes ago to feel slight wind. We are sailing at 1.5 knots under jib alone. Better than losing during the night the few miles we made during the day. I hope the wind lasts and veers enough to permit me to set the main as well.
2330 Becalmed. Jib down. Tiller pilot off. Drifting back SE. Even with the G2 up all day we have only made 14 miles since noon and are now losing some of that. Heat and constant thirst terrible.
March 21, Thursday
0810 An active morning.
I was awake last night from 2300 until after 0100. I finally could not endure my thirst any longer. I cannot under these abnormal conditions get by with my normal consumption of water, so I decided SW/DB. Save the water. Drink the beer. I did. I opened one and devoured it and was briefly not thirsty. It may also have helped put me to sleep.
I was awake again at 0230 when I thought we had wind and set the jib. And at 0400 when we were becalmed and I furled the jib.
At 0530 we were still becalmed under low cloud cover with rain at several spots on the horizon, including one moving toward us. Because we are out a week today, I had taken out clean clothes and didn’t want to get them wet. I went naked into the cockpit and raised sails. The rain came with wind. I hand steered and got a good fresh water rinse. That shower passed. From one ahead came loud rolling thunder. As we reached it the wind shifted dramatically and the rain was heavier. I could barely see the Velocitek through it to steer by. The rain has stopped. The sky partially clear. And the wind again light to non existent.
The frame on my clear eyeglasses broke. I am wearing a spare and have at least one more pair on hand, in addition to my prescription sunglasses.
The clutch on the main halyard is permitting slack at full hoist. Not serious, Just some sag in the luff of the main sail tack.
Sails slatting. I need to see what is happening, though I already know.
0930 Becalmed. Jib up. Main down. Sun burning away clouds. Heating up. It has been pleasantly cool, I ate breakfast and will try to east something for lunch.
08º34’ N 084º16’ W
day’s run 25 miles becalmed drifting NE at 1 knot
week’s run 373 worst ever
San Diego 2331 miles 313º
This has been by far GANNET’s slowest week ever,. The next slowest was 456 miles on the passage crossing the Doldrums on the passage from St. Helena to St. Lucia. Third slowest was 613 the first week out of Hilton Head to Colon, Panama.
I do not ever recall falling into a hole this deep and from which I am unable to extricate myself.
1300 Very light wind. from the NW, the direction we want to go. Tacked and tacked and tacked. Got no where. Sweat pouring off me. The sun is a bludgeon.
1330 Becalmed. Ocean glassy. I furled the jib. Left the main up, but it is making noise.
I am beginning to think I am going to die here, endlessly tacking, getting no where, a nautical Sisyphus. Unfortunately it is going to take a long time. A couple of months. Ships will pass, continue to their destinations, unload cargo, take on cargo, return and pass in the opposite direction, Perhaps time and again while we sit here helplessly roasting.
We may on the other hand be wrecked, A current is carrying us east toward land only 29 miles away. I can mount the Torqeedo and power a few miles back out to sea, but that is all.
I had a beer. I may have another.
1900 We are making 3 and even 4 knots on a close reach COG 300-305º . GANNET is sailing at wind speed. She doesn’t need much, but has recently has nothing. Full moon rising. Orion overhead. After midnight Scorpio will be overhead.
I have just come below after drinks—tequila and tonic—and dinner—a protein bar. Hot food has no appeal. On deck with music. A beautiful sunset and pleasant temperature.
I hope this wind lasts through the night, I dare to hope we are coming out the other side of the windless hole, but may soon be disappointed to learn otherwise.
A ship passing to the east heading SW.
March 22, Friday
0700 We are sailing. 5 and 6 knots around 290º. Just forward of a beam reach. Sheet to tiller steering.
Last evening’s wind held steady until around midnight when it began to veer. I was awake for a couple of hours adjusting course. When the jib backed at 0130. I tacked to starboard. We continued to first light with full sail up and were heeled more than 20º. At 0500 I partially furled the jib and went to sheet to tiller. Maybe we are free at last.
09º 11’ N 085º 21’ W
day’s run 75 miles COG 295º SOG 4.1
San Diego 2259 miles 313º
Wind continues to veer and weaken. Now on a broad reach. 75 miles is not a great day’s run, but it is compared to the past few.
1600 Wind has gone very light. I gybed to port two hours ago. SOG 2.5. COG around 260º when I want more than 270 º
An odd line of white capped waves that are not caused by wind. Presumably current.
1940 I thought I had escaped. I haven’t.
The wind died almost exactly 24 hours after it filled in, Since 1600 we have effectively been becalmed.
I gybed a couple of times and have gone to tiller pilot steering which at least is keeping the bow pointed in the right direction.
A few minutes ago the wind went from south to north, Perhaps it will fill in. At present we are drifting at 1 knot.
This calm is beyond my experience. Is there any sustained wind left in the world? I have already started to consider where I might pull in to replenish water.
I wish this passage could have been an experience of joy, but it isn’t.
2043 I went back on deck. Complete darkness before the full moon rose. The north wind filled as I expected it would. We began to make 4 knots over smooth seas beneath a starry sky. There is beauty here, but presently it does not touch me.
March 23, Saturday
0730 From 0 to reefed.
The wind stayed north and increased during the night. I partially furled the jib at midnight. Now tiller pilot steering. We took some waves and it got wet. I hope not too wet.
At 0530 I put a reef in the mainsail and went to sheet to tiller steering. Present SOG 6.5. I’ve seen bursts over 10. Trying to keep course between 270 and 290. I want to be well offshore at Tehauntepec.
09º46’ N 087º13’ W
day’s run 117 miles COG 287º SOG 6.6
San Diego 2155 miles 314º
An acceptable day’s run considering we were becalmed for several hours
We have averaged better than 6 knots since midnight.
The distance to San Diego still goes over land and is not realistic.
1345 Wind, waves and our speed all down. Waves were 6’. Now half. Our speed now 5.5 knots. It has not been a rough ride, except for a few waves that came on board and at intervals still do. The forward hatch again leaks. For a while it didn’t. Temperature in Great Cabin only 85º even with forward hatch closed and main hatch closed except for the vertical slat. No great thirst.
1645 Very pleasant. We are making 5 and 6 knots and are 115 miles offshore. This is beginning to feel like the ocean. I am sipping no name box wine and listening to LES MISERABLES. The wine is not terrible, but I can’t even tell what country it came from and the box is not up to life on GANNET. It got wet and has sprung a leak and most of the two liters is going to have to be thrown out. Cost $5.
March 24, Sunday
0715 An active night. First the wind dropped to 4 or 5 knots, so I got up and unfurled more jib and removed the reef from the mainsail. Around midnight the wind increased significantly, so I got up and reduced the size of the jib and put the reef back in the mainsail. This required rebalancing the sheet to tiller steering. The wind continued to increase and I had to go up twice more to add more shock cores to the lee side of the tiller, Not a lot of rest, but productive sailing and after the Great Calm I am not complaining.
This morning we continue on a starboard broad reach at 6+ knots. The waves are only 3’, but when we catch one, or one catches us, we quickly and briefly go above 10 knots.
I was struck last night when the wind went light how quickly the sea smooths out, From 6’ waves a few hours earlier to mere ripples.
The barometer, still in midrange, has gone up three millebars to 1013.
1020 A busy night. A busy morning.
GANNET was roaring along on the edge of control, so I put the second reef on the main, which is the equivalent of a fourth normal reef, and furled the jib down to storm jib size,
The jib sheet was pulling the carbon fiber tiller down so that it was rubbing against the deck. This has happened in the past, so I put a hose clamp around the rudder post to keep the tiller elevated. Perhaps it has slipped. I loosened and moved it higher, then retightened. I also wrapped line around the rudder post. And I took a scrap of wood from a broken paper towel holder and duck taped it to the underside of the tiller. Obviously if it comes in contact with the deck, the duck tape on the underside will wear away, Hopefully the tape on top and the forward half of the piece of wood which extends into the cockpit will keep the wood in place, I still have the old wood tiller on board, but would prefer not to switch at sea.
All this took a couple of hours, I just had breakfast.
GANNET seems presently under control,
10 º07’ N 089º28’W
day’s run 135 miles COG 283º SOG 5.4
SanDiego 2045 miles 316º
We could use more sail, but I am going to wait. I am tired from lack of sleep last night and exertion this morning.
When shaving this morning I noticed a scab on my forehead. I don’t recall the cause. There are a lot of ways to get hurt on GANNET and I frequently bump my head.
I may take a nap this afternoon.
1430 I slept for an hour. When I woke, the wind had decreased, so I removed the second reef from the mainsail,
The closest land is El Salvador, 200 mies abeam. Good.
If I were sailing across the United States from Miami to San Diego, I would presently be in New Orleans.
2000 I was standing in the companionway after dinner of roast chicken and vegetables, sipping gin—I only have three cans of tonic left and will keep them for when I am thirstier—and watching a blood red sunset when a huge pod of dolphins speed by, often crossing close across GANNET’s bow. Dolphin were around us for twenty minutes. As far forward and aft as I could see they were leaping out of waves.
Although I am losing sleep adjusting steering and sails, these are easy miles with the wind on or aft of the beam. This is the second part of the passage. The first was the windless hole off Panama and Costa Rica. The last will be when this ends and we have head winds the rest of the way.
2030 Wind has gone light as it did last night. Our speed below 4 knots. However, unlike last night, I am not going to increase sail.
I put a waypoint off Acapulco, which I don’t expect to see, as an arbitrary half way point, It is 700 miles ahead.
March 25, Monday
0607 The sun which set blood red last evening rose blood red two minutes ago.
I’ve been up since about 0400.
The wind was light most of the night, but I did not repeat my mistake of removing the reef from the mainsail. I was up there or four times to adjust the steering. About 0400 the wind increased and I have been up since. While the wind is not constant we are at times making 7 knots under the reefed main and half furled jib and that is enough.
Three albatross flying around us. Perhaps Laysan.
My back is bothering me. I’m trying to figure a way to do crunches.
1000 Hotter today. Less wind.
I repaired two worn spots in the spray hood with sail repair tape and Gorilla Super Glue and sponged a third of a bucket of water from the bilge. Debating removing reef from mainsail, but whenever I check our SOG is 5.5 or 6 knots,
I managed to dry my clothes in the cockpit this morning. From sweat and salt water they get wet almost the moment I put them on, but I can’t change every day. Depending on how long this passages takes, maybe not even every week.
1030 Tragedy has struck.
Sitting here I found myself smelling Laphroaig. Not having had a drink of Laphroaig that is odd. I decided to check the bottle and found it broken. My last two drinks were in the water I sponged from the bilge. I realize what happened. Last evening when I was replacing the bottle of gin GANNET lurched and it slipped from my fingers and fell against the bottle of Laphroaig. Sadly it was not the gin bottle that broke.
Ah, well. At least for a while I have the aroma.
10º29’ N 091º10’ W
day’s run 102 miles COG 285º SOG 5.2
San Diego 1961 miles 317º
I unfurled more jib, but left the reef in the main.
I’m getting drunk on the Laphroaig fumes. GANNET never smelled so good.
1330 Several times I have gone to the companionway intending to remove the reef from the mainsail, but each time I find us making 5.5 to 6.5 knots in the desired direction and leave GANNET as she is.
The ride today is smooth enough so that I was able to do 157 crunches on the starboard pipe berth in sets of 77 (my age) 40 and 40.
1430 I finally unreefed the main, We’ve picked up .5 to 1 knot. Fine sailing, Three birds hunting around us. Bigger than sea gulls. Brown, almost bronze bodies and wings.
The ocean water is decidedly cooler than it was when becalmed last week.
1900 Back in the Great Cabin after sipping gin and listening to music on deck. We have had pleasant sailing for the past few days. I am glad that all of this is not an ordeal.
I like the elegance and simplicity of sheet to tiller steering, The balance of forces. GANNET sailing with and being steered by the wind, with some assistance from me.
Tuesday, March 26
0615 The wind went very light at 2100 and we started sailing toward the Gulf of Tehuantepec, so after praising sheet to tiller steering I changed to tiller pilot. At Tehuantepec, the wind often blows from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific though a mountain pass that compresses and accelerates it causing dangerously strong wind in the Pacific. I want to remain at least 200 miles offshore. The tiller pilot kept us around 290º. I returned to sheet to tiller steering when I got up forty-five minutes ago.
About 0100 I was awakened by a flying fish that came through the companionway and landed on me. It is most disturbing suddenly to have a cool, wet, slimy, slippery creature flopping against your skin. I sat up, flipped the sleeping bag several times and may have launched him back on deck because I can’t find him in the cabin.
This happened to me once before. That was on RESURGAM on a passage in the Pacific.
Flying fish are smelly fish. He is still with me. I prefer the aroma of Laphroaig.
11º14’ N 093 º00’ W
day’s run 119 miles COG 285º SOG 6.3
San Diego 1854 miles 318º
1500 Continued pleasant sailing on a starboard broad reach.
Barometer up a millibar to 1011. Hazy sky.
1500 Feel asleep for an hour. Old people nap in the afternoon
Then did 157 crunches.
I am trying to bring us up to 290º-300º.
Although this feels something like an ocean passage, I am constantly referencing our position and course to the land. Even two hundred miles offshore, it is along, not across an ocean, where the land can be forgotten.
2030 I love the way GANNET sails.
I decided to open one of my three remaining cans of tonic and made a gin and tonic and took a Sportaseat on deck around 1700 and enjoyed the little boat slashing through the ocean at 6 to 9 knots.
A pod of dolphin played alongside almost within arm’s reach. I wonder how one would have reacted if I touched him, Three leapt all the way out of the water just off the bow.
I came below for dinner of venison risotto, then stood in the companionway, sipping a second gin and tonic and listening to music as we sailed into darkness.
We could lose this wind at any time, and even as I have been writing it has gone light.
March 27, Wednesday
0730 Big swells coming out of the Gulf of Tehuantepec. I conclude there is strong wind there.
In light wind last night GANNET went mostly west. I’m trying to get her to around 300º. Tightened shock cords. Reduced size of jib. Trimmed main. With some success. Though she is wandering around, she is at 293º now. Wind just forward of beam.
0930 No surprise that it is much rougher with the wind forward of the beam. Lurching and pounding and we aren’t even close hauled. We are taking waves that reach back to the companionway. I have the spray hood up, but also need to have the top of the hatch slid back which reduces the breeze coming in and makes the cabin hotter. I just transferred water from a jerry can for the first time on this passage and am sweating profusely.
Going by roughly ⅓ of a gallon of fresh water a day, the four extra gallons I took on board should have lasted twelve days and despite the great calm, they did. This is the thirteenth day. In some ways it doesn’t seem that long. Of course during the calm I also drank extra cans of fluids, but for the past several days I have been comfortably keeping within the .37 gallon per day norm.
For those freeze dry meals that call for more than one cup of water, I am tossing out some of the contents and using only one cup of water for the reminder.
1045 Heeled over 30º. Too much. Went on deck. Reefed main. Reduced jib. Trying to get us on course without much success. GANNET yawing 50-60º. We’re probably averaging 270º. We have to start getting north sometime.
11º28’ N 095º00’ W
day’s run 118 miles COG 270 ? SOG 5-6 ?
San Diego 1766 miles 320º
The question marks are after COG and SOG is because they are all over the place with GANNET sometimes heading 240, sometimes 310, and speed varying from 4 to over 7 knots.
Conditions are rough. Every task on GANNET is difficult.
1615 I put on my foul weather pants and went on deck. The sea is rough, but I already knew that. 6’ to 8’ waves. Some perhaps bigger. GANNET is making her way through them as well as possible, usually on a heading between 280 and 300. Since noon we have averaged just over 5 knots on a course of 281º.
I did not do any crunches today. I did do constant isometrics against gravity. Evening drinks and music will not be held on deck.
Clothes instantly are soaked with sweat or salt water, so generally I don’t wear any and I put on the wet ones only when necessary.
Sleeping tonight will be difficult. Perhaps wind and waves will abate,
1830 Conditions have moderated. I was prepared to sail until midnight, then heave to to get some sleep. That may not be necessary,
I could have heated water for a freeze dry, but it would have been a hassle, so dinner was a Tanaka bar of buffalo and cranberries.
1840 I just listened to ‘Everett Ruse’ sung by Dave Allen, one line of which is “You give up your dreams as you get older, but I never gave up mine.”
2103 The wind and therefore the waves have lessoned. The wind is the sculptor, the ocean the medium. I went on deck and made adjustments to the steering. More will probably be needed during the night. But my life is so simple: I get GANNET to San Diego or die trying.
March 28, Thursday
0830 An unexpectedly easy night with no adjustment to the steering and good sleep. Our course made good since noon yesterday is the desired 290º. Making about 5 knots in that direction now, taking some waves on board. Below deck everything is damp.
I went on deck earlier with just my foul weather pants on. A couple of waves got me and inside the pants. I’m going to have to start wearing the parka as well,
There is a leak around the compass which drips onto the starboard pipe berth on which I am sleeping. I replaced the compass with the same model, but the manufacturer had slightly changed the housing and I had to enlarge the cutout. I thought I had sealed it. If we ever have dry conditions again I’ll see if there is anything I can do.
12º08’ N 097º00’ W
day’s run 124 miles COG 294º SOG 5.4
week’s run 790 miles
San Diego 1659 miles 321º
Today has become almost as rough as yesterday, but sunnier and hotter. Pounding. Taking a lot of water over the deck. I have the battery fan turned on.
Our week’s run is not great, but is respectable.
We are 323 miles SSE of Acapulco, Mexico, and 234 miles offshore.
I put a waypoint at 18º00’ N 118º00’ W from where we will have about 1,000 miles to go. It is presently 726 miles distant bearing 300º.
We will enter a new time zone GMT -7 in a few hours. This is US Mountain Time. I am changing ship’s time now.
1440 Sat on deck in full foul weather gear. Good idea. A couple of waves got me. Sky hazy. Not as hot as this morning. Wind and waves decreasing slightly. GANNET sailing well. I made no adjustments. I think I can fix the compass leak but will need a day when the deck is dry and the motion moderate.
1615 Wind is definitely lighter. The shock cords took over and rounded us up into the wind. I got us back on course by reaching out and pulling on the jib sheet where it crosses to the windward side of the cockpit just outside the main hatch, then went out and adjusted the shock cords. More adjustments may be needed.
1645 Another adjustment to the steering.
We have about 20 degrees of latitude and 20 degrees of longitude still to sail. A degree of latitude is always 60 nautical miles, but a degree of longitude is 60 nautical miles only at the Equator and becomes ever less as you move north or south, so we have more north to sail than west.
1930 It all changes so quickly.
For two days waves have been crashing into and over GANNET and sweeping the deck. I just stood in the companionway, gazed at the stars, tumbler of tequila at hand, Chico and the Gypsies playing ‘Pachelbel Gypsy’ with no danger of getting wet. We need more sail. I will deal with that at dawn.
March 29, Friday
0530 In a new time zone, first light is again at 0500. I was up then to remove the reef from the mainsail. The wind died almost completely at 2130 last night. I unfurled the jib and engaged the tiller pilot to keep us pointed in the right direction, but we were effectively becalmed and made only a knot or sometimes two. I didn’t unreef the main then because it would have just flopped about. This morning there is still just light wind from the northeast. The ocean shows only small ripples, but at irregular intervals 6’ swells come through form the southeast. We are making 3 knots on a course of 300º with the wind on the beam.
0800 LifeSeal applied to compass and forward hatch. Foul weather gear and shoes drying in cockpit.
12º38’ N 098º09’ W
day’s run 74 miles COG 295º SOG 1.7
San Diego 1594 miles 322º
All but becalmed. Looks like high pressure, but isn’t. Barometer up a little, but only a moderate 1011. At least we are moving, if at less than 2 knots.
A good drying day. Foul weather gear. Shoes. Sponge. Towels. Sportaseat. Cushions. Pillow. Sleeping bag. All had their turn on deck.
I inventoried juice. I have enough for 35 more breakfasts.
1630 We have made 5 miles since noon. Fortunately with the slight wind from the east, the sails provide shade for the deck during the afternoon and after a salt water bath—the ocean is again warmer—I sat in the shade and read comfortably through the afternoon and am about to go back there to sip tequila and listen to music.
1830 I have just come below after dinner of Smoked Three Bean Chili on deck. While there I watched bubbles created by GANNET slide slowly past. We have had no more than four knots of wind today. More often two or three.
GANNET’s flopping often inverts the mainsail. The full battens present a convex surface to the wind rather than concave. Not a desirable sail shape. But when you are only making one knot it doesn’t actually make much difference.
I am not sure if I will leave the sails up tonight. It depends on if they are making too much noise for me to sleep. If I can’t sail, I might as well sleep.
I just checked GANNET’s daily runs. We have not had a six knot day since the passage from Marathon to Hilton Head Island in January of last year, that is now more than 4,000 miles.
Warning! State of the ass report. If this offends your sensibilities—and it offends mine, but this is a relevant part of going to the edge of human experience and sending back reports. Fortunately it is not illustrated.
My ass is sore. Not yet as severe as on the passage from Hilton Head to Colon, but definitely the most painful part of my body and effects my behavior, how and when I move. I am only comfortable when horizontal sleeping or when standing in the companionway. I have lotion which helps, but the only cure is a couple of weeks ashore. On this passage it has been sweat more than ocean water. I am almost always sitting in a puddle of sweat. As we move farther north, assuming we ever do, temperature will moderate and that should be less of a problem, but we will likely be beating to windward and ocean water will take the place of sweat. It isn’t all epic or heroic. Sometimes a legendary life is a pain in the ass.
1745 Lowered mainsail.
March 30, Saturday
0530 Becalmed. I furled jib at 0400. Since noon yesterday we have made 14 miles and appear presently to be losing some of them, drifting back SE. I assume I have died and gone to sailing Hell,
12º43’ N 098º23’ W
day’s run 14 miles becalmed no SOG or COG
San Diego 1582 miles 322º
Becalmed. Slowest day ever.
1830 This is really terrible.
We had some slight wind this afternoon from the NW and sailed west at 2 and sometimes even 3 knots. I didn’t want to go west, but I want to go somewhere other than here.
That slight wind has almost vanished and we are again effectively becalmed. The sails are up but flapping. I will probably lower and furl them soon.
We have made 10 miles since noon.
A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind, but with no wind he has no art and is a fly trapped in amber as I am now.
Some of you have said you want Webb Chiles straight up, but you are not going to get him. I will not share my deepest despair. Your life is hard enough. My present frustration and despair go far too deep and is more than you need.
I had hoped this final passage would bring joy. Thus far, except for a few hours one afternoon, it has not.
I note that I instinctively want to be on the side of joy rather than despair without being able to defend that logically.
I have not had a good day’s run for more than a year. I have not entered the monastery of the sea for for longer than that.
So I continue because I have to. There is no way out of here except by sail. For honor. For duty. A few of you may recall that the first words of STORM PASSAGE are “I was born for this.”
So I was. It is unfortunate that my last passage is not joyful, for I have known much joy out here. But instead it is a version of Hell. I hope I can sail through Hell.
March 31, Sunday
0715 Becalmed. Sea glassy. Sails down.
0930 Sailing. 2-3 knots. 280-290º Close hauled starboard.
12º28’ N 098º38’ W
day’s run 22 miles COG 299º SOG 2.6
San Diego 1585 miles 323º
We continue close hauled starboard in 3 or 4 knots of wind and smooth undulating ocean.
Our day’s run was mostly drift while becalmed. We are 15 miles farther south than yesterday noon and only 30 miles from our noon position two days ago. I have managed to stretch two day’s water into three.
1730 We have sailed at 3 and sometimes 4 knots through the afternoon. The wind has lightened near sunset and our speed is down to 2.6 knots. I hope the wind holds and that we are not becalmed tonight.
I did my crunches this afternoon. My back has bothered me less since I resumed doing them when I can.
I found the flying fish who landed on me the other night. He ended up caught beside the floorboards.
1900 Wind weakened more and has slightly headed us. Speed less than 2 knots.
April 1, Monday
0530 We sailed—sort of—through the night at 1 or 2 knots in 2 or 3 knots of wind that backed from bow to stern. I was up many times trimming sails and when the wind went well aft, brought us up to 330º.
In the predawn the sails are up. We are making 1.1 knot, but almost becalmed. We have come 41 miles since noon yesterday. Better than 14.
If I could end this passage at this moment I would. I can’t. So we ooze on.
0715 G2 set. Still making less than 2 knots. Sweat pouring off me.
I am running an experiment to see if I can stretch a small box of juice to two mornings.
1015 Wind too far forward, G2 down.
13º03’ N 099º26’ N
day’s run 58 miles COG 310º SOG 4.4
San Diego 1530 miles 323º
We are actually sailing. Close hauled starboard. Full jib and main.
We are also finally above 13º N. We had been stuck in 12º for four days. We have come only 78 miles since noon Friday.
Acapulco is 200 miles north of us. I’ve thought of going in, but have no real need to yet. Maybe Cabo San Lucas, if we ever get that far and are running out of supplies. It is 839 miles ahead.
1420 We are making 5 knots. Close hauled starboard. Smooth seas. I hope it lasts,
I did my crunches and charged the Yellowbrick back to 100%. It had dropped to 66%.
1830 Fine sailing this afternoon. Dinner on deck, making 5 and sometimes even 6 smooth knots. A lovely sunset, though the wind has softened some with it, I hope we keep moving well through the night, We need to put miles behind us.
April 2, Tuesday
0130 Becalmed. Sails down. Not even 24 hours of wind,
0530 Becalmed. Preternaturally quiet. Very disappointing. I wish this passage were over.
0645 Sailing. Starboard close reach 3 knots. 305º.
0900 For the past two hours GANNET has been sailing at or within a fraction of a knot of wind speed, between 1 and 4 knots, mostly 3. She needs so little, but has too often had nothing.
Sunny day. Smooth, undulating dark blue ocean. Part glassy. Part rippled. Hazy, powder blue sky with scattered low almost trade-wind like clouds.
My experiment with saving half a box of orange juice worked in that the remaining portion was still drinkable this morning, but there wasn’t much of it. I will wait a few more weeks before doing that routinely.
I had my air temperature instant coffee on deck, listening to Haydn string quartets.
13º38’ N 100º32’ W
day’s run 74 miles COG 300º SOG 3.4
San Diego 1463 miles 324º
We continue to ooze slowly and unevenly on. We may well be in a new slowest week ever, having completed only 242 in five days.
1820 Wind has headed us and is dying at sunset. We have made 23 miles since noon. This passage has been almost intolerably frustrating. No. It has been intolerable, I just have no choice but to tolerate the intolerable.
April 3, Wednesday
0700 We sailed, sort of, throughout the night. Usually at only 1 or 2 knots, but that is better than being becalmed. The wind first backed and headed us, then veered and moved aft of the starboard beam. I was up often adjusting sails and course and am tired this morning.
We are presently making 3-4 knots on a course of 310º-315º under full main and jib.
0940 Set G2. Had us moving at 5 knots briefly. Now back to 4. Wind aft of beam. Not more than 5 knots. Maybe only 3 or 4.
14º16’ N 101º31’ W
day’s run 69 miles COG 300º SOG 4.5
San Diego 1399 miles 325º
In the last few minutes the wind has backed from aft of the beam to forward and the G2 is probably soon have to come down. Too bad. We were often making 5 knots with it up in about that much wind.
1220 G2 down. 4 knots. 315º. Main and jib. Close reach.
1500 Making 5 knots close hauled starboard. I have even seen an occasional 6. I tried tying the tiller down, but the wind is not steady enough.
I did my crunches and took a salt water bath.
It would be nice if this wind lasts.
1730 Wind softening near sunset as it has the past several days.
In late afternoon we have good sailing. Today 5 and even 6 knots smoothly to windward. I sat on deck and drank the last of the tonic with gin, listening to music, enjoying GANNET making her way across the sea. A sea bird, perhaps a shearwater, glided around us. His wings are sails, though he could flap them and I can’t GANNET’s. Still we are both using the wind. There is, however, an inexorable equation: take in at least as much energy as you expend or die and I don’t see these birds catching fish, though I suppose they must.
This passage is beyond my experience.
In light winds, GANNET can sail within a fraction of the wind speed, yet for days and weeks, she has not often had even four knots of sustained wind, and I don’t expect she will tonight either.
As I have written before, joy needs no justification. It is complete in itself. But we want our suffering to have meaning, or at least seem to even if it doesn’t. So on a passage in GANNET I am willing to suffer, but I want progress toward the next port. On this passage progress has been deplorably slow.
Time for chicken stew which has been steeping.
Our speed is down to 3.7. That I should be happy if we sustain that through the night is proof of how far the scale of my aspirations has changed.
1820 I feel us slowing. I stand in the companionway and see the ocean become glassy. We are still trapped and I am filled with despair.
1840 When you have sailed as much as I have—though few have—you truly can become one with your boat, and I feel GANNET stalling out. The diminished angle of heel. The reduced sound of her moving through the water. Collapsing sails. I hate this helplessness.
I so wished that this final passage of the being part of my life would be one of joy. It is not and I find myself becoming angry, Despite what the insentient winds bring, I will get GANNET to San Diego even without joy or die trying.
Loreena McKinnett sings “Skellig” and I sip gin. One of us is in a life or death edge. As you will have noticed I am already planning how to stay alive as long as I can, but when you are repeatedly becalmed there is no way of knowing how long that must be and I, who have almost died of thirst twice, fear thirst. Hunger is nothing. We need sleep and water every day. Food is a weeks distant third.
The sails are collapsing and filing. We are coming to a stop.
1930 Becalmed. I hate this. I will prevail over this windless waste.
April 4, Thursday
0545 Sunrise. Still becalmed.
0700 Sailing. Sort of. 1.8 knots in about that much wind.
0850 Sailing. 2 knots. 310º.
14º46’ N 102º20’ W
day’s run 57 miles COG 293º SOG 3.5
week’s run 368 miles
San Diego 1,346 miles 325º
The week’s run is a new record low. 5 miles less than that set during the first week of this abominable passage.
1600 Sailing with tiller tied down close hauled starboard, though I don’t know how much longer that will last. Wind has headed us. COG around 280º. SOG 4 knots. I took a nap this afternoon.
1830 Still sailing with tiller tied down. As usual the wind has weakened with sunset, but we are still making 3.3 knots. I wish this wind would last and veer 30º. I just wish this wind would last.
April 5, Friday
0500 Becalmed. It keeps on. Day after day after day. Night after night after night. There is no end. The disappointment and frustration are terrible. Not the monastery, but the prison of the sea.
We sailed with the tiller tied down until 2130 last night when the wind went very weak and balance was lost. I went out and engaged the tiller pilot. By 2330 there was almost no wind and we were effectively becalmed. I let the tiller pilot keep us pointed in the right direction until 0200 when it could no longer do so and the off course alarm came on. I turned it off and lowered the sails and we drift, having made 36 miles since noon yesterday.
0630 Sailing west. 2.5 knots.
0700 Took my air temperature coffee to the cockpit where I got us sailing with the tiller tied down at 3 knots between 260º and 275º. What I assume are mold spores are floating in my daily water bottle. I also assume they will not kill me. I am certainly drinking the water.
As one would expect in this windless waste, the barometer has been steady in the middle range, moving only two millibars in the past week, from 1011 to the current 1013.
0830 The wind has veered and we are now up to 290º-300º.
Today is transfer water from jerry can day. I did this last nine days ago, That amount of water is intended to last 8 days. It did last 9½
days. This was the end of the first jerry can. I moved the empty forward and moved a full one aft to just forward of the main bulkhead on the port side.
While they are not full to the very top, each of the three remaining jerry cans of water should last at least 16 days, meaning we still have 48 days of water. That better be enough.
I used to have bleach on board. I checked and don’t anymore. A drop or two would take care of the mold spores in the water.
15º01’ N 103º12’ W
day’s run 52 miles COG 266º SOG 3.0
San Diego 1307 miles 327º
So this week begins as a continuation of last.
Tiller pilot steering now. I had the tiller tied down a few times, but the wind is too light and inconsistent.
1730 More wind this afternoon than we have had for a while. Enough to bury GANNET’s lee rail from time to time and enough so that if it lasts I will partially furl the jib to smooth out the ride tonight. That it will last remains to be seen. Unfortunately the wind is coming from the NW, the direction we want to go, so we are sailing west. If it is taking us into a region where the wind does not die at night, good.
My evening drink standing in the companionway. We were heeled too far to sit on deck.
The sky is somewhat different. High clouds, Mares tails which often mean an approaching low. The barometer has dropped two millibars in the past twenty-four hours. I can work with wind. Becalmed I am helpless, and I hate being helpless.
April 6, Saturday
0800 Last night around 2300 GANNET seemed to be laboring. I got up and found the wind was backing and heading us. I adjusted our course several times in the next hour and finally just after midnight tacked to port. I did not want to sail south of 270 º. Immediately GANNET came alive and we gained a knot. Perhaps a current holding us back on the other tack. I have frequently thought we were sailing faster than the SOG shown on the phone and Velocitek.
I then had to gybe the stuff on the pipe berths and move to the port one. I’ve been sleeping on starboard a long time.
The wind did not die during the night, but was light. This morning we continue sailing almost due north at 3 knots.
The main halyard clutch is slipping, leaving a scallop on the luff at the tack. When the jib sheet is not on the starboard winch I can run the main halyard to it and get proper luff tension, but when the wind comes from port, as it presently is, the jib sheet is on the winch and we have to live with the defect.
15º34’ N 103º51’ W
day’s run 50 miles COG 260º SOG 3.8
San Diego 1257 miles 327º
We were headed north on port tack until an hour ago the jib backed. I have been tacking back and forth ever since trying to find a favored tack. In this wind I can’t tack GANNET in less than 110º. At the moment we can get closer to west than north.
1700 Making 4 knots around 280º, tiller tied down, hough I don’t expect that to last. Jib partially furled. We were heeled over too far, burying lee rail with full sail set. Napped this afternoon. I was awake 2300 to at least 0200 last night.
1730 As has become customary, the wind is weakening at sunset. Back to tiller pilot steering and full jib set.
April 7, Sunday
0515 Every afternoon I hope that the wind will last and every night it doesn’t. At 2200 last night the jib backed. I went on deck and got us on sailing again. At 2300 it baked again. The wind was heading us. When it backed at 0100, I tacked to the north. When it backed again at 0300 I didn’t want to deal with it and reached up and turned the tiller pilot off and let us drift, sails up, until I got up a few minutes ago and got us sailing again. This time west. I noted that at 2200 we had made 40 miles since noon. We have now made 51.
0900 I tried to tie down the tiller, but the wind is too uneven, so back to tiller pilot.
The wind has continued to veer and we are now making 4 knots on 290º and sometimes even 300º. The desired course is 320º.
15º49’ N 105º08’ W
day’s run 75 miles COG 281º SOG 3.8
San Diego 1206 miles 329º
Wind has backed, heading us again.
The sailing distance to San Diego is probably about 1300 miles, but most, and perhaps all of it will be to windward so we will have to sail much farther.
1800 The wind is not waiting until 2200 to die. It is dying now. Making 1 to 2 knots, If I had a soul, this passage would be soul destroying. Days have become weeks which are becoming the slowest month in 45 years and six circumnavigations. Sometimes the unendurable must be endured.
I took a nap this afternoon and did my crunches.
1900 First sliver of the new moon above the western horizon orange after the setting sun.
I try to live in the moment, to enjoy the beauty that is here, but on this abominable passage I don’t quite succeed.
I have long acknowledged that we do not conquer mountains or oceans, we merely transit them, which is often difficult enough, and my resources are limited and diminishing and I have a long way to go. We are crawling. That this last passage should be hard may be appropriate. Go out hard. But I would rather be destroyed by a hurricane than worn down by a Chinese water torture of drip by drip endless calms and light winds. I long to sail. I am sick of crawling.
April 8, Monday
0800 The wind did not die last night. Otherwise conditions the same. We are sailing at 3 and 4 knots between 270º and 290º. Tiller pilot steering. I tried tying the tiller down. Wind too light and variable.
16º23’ N 106º28’ W
day’s run 84 miles COG 300º SOG 4.4
San Diego 1138 miles 331º
Our best day’s run in more than a week. That I have become pleased with 84 miles is pathetic.
I inventoried the remaining lunches which number 31, not counting 4 buffalo/cranberry bars and 7 protein bars.
I also moved a bag of freeze dry meals from the stern to the forepeak. I still have more than 60 dinners.
I have thought of going into Cabo San Lucas which is 434 miles NNW of us. I’ll decide if I ever get close.
1600 The best wind we’ve had for a long time. Really the only wind worthy of the name. Perhaps 10-12 knots earlier, but has just weakened. I hope only briefly. We’ve been averaging almost 5 knots on 310º-320º.
1800 Confused seas. 2’ waves spiking up from different directions.
I’ve just come below from my evening drink—beer tonight. Spirits, too, are rationed. The wind has died to 5 knots and less. I did see an occasional 6 knots on the Velocitek. Now I can die happy. Well, maybe not. I also saw some 2 knots. The wind is very uneven. Spaghetti steeping. Meatloaf singing, “I would do anything for love”. A song you never suspected I would have.
1830 Becalmed. Sails down. I hate this. When we were sailing at 5 knots this afternoon I found myself hoping the wind would last, as I have hoped before. All we need for a few 100 mile days, which are nothing for GANNET, including impossible,
2000 Still no wind. I watched the last half of Bach’s ST.JOHN PASSION, which I have on my phone. GANNET rolling on the confused leftover waves. I am going to try to go to sleep. Very disappointing. We had made 28 miles since noon before the wind died.
2130 Sailing. 280º. 2 knots. Better than being becalmed.
April 9, Tuesday
0700 The wind held and I woke an hour ago to find us sailing west, but that the wind had veered and we could come higher. I partially furled the jib because we were heeled over too far, then went to the tiller and after bringing us hard on the wind, disengaged the tiller pilot and tied the tiller down. We were sailing around 310º at 4 and 5 knots. This held most of an hour before there was a hole in the wind and we fell off and I had to go out and rebalance the steering. I’ve had to do so two or three more times. We are presently sailing 300º at 4 knots.
A lot of activity while I was on deck at dawn. Dolphin swimming across the bow and ten or twelve birds soaring overhead.
0930 I unfurled the jib and then had my coffee on deck, listening to music—George Winston’s AUTUMN album—and trying to get GANNET to sail with the tiller tied down. I was only marginally successful. With wind of only 5 knots, a change in strength of 1 or 2 knots is more significant than it would be in 10 or 12 knots of wind. So we are back to the tiller pilot and at the moment making 4 knots on a course of 300º.
17º00’ N 107º56’ W
day’s run 93 miles COG 291º SOG 3.2
San Diego 1066 miles 334º
Wind light and very variable. I am having trouble keeping any course even with the tiller pilot. Our speed varies from 5 knots to 1, usually about 3, and our course from 260º to 320º, for the past hour usually around 290º
If we hadn’t been becalmed for those few hours last night, we might have had a 100 mile day. Whoopie!
1500 Tacked to port. No longer able to sail 270º. Now headed north 4 knots.
1800 We are at least briefly, and certainly rarely, getting it done. Sailing north at 4.5 to 5 knots at sunset. I wish this wind would last a couple of days. Or at least hours.
2000 It didn’t. The wind veered, heading us and forcing us to the NE, so I tacked and we are again heading west
April 10, Wednesday
0800 Again the wind did not die last night, but it did go very light and fluky at 0100 and I was awake an hour adjusting our course. We had to fall off to 260º, but we kept moving. At 0530 I got up, looked around and found conditions the same, then atypically got back in my sleeping bag and slept util 0730. Since then I have been able to bring us up to around 290º-300º 3.5 knots, full sail. That the sky is clear except for a few wisps of high cloud, the sea sight, the wind light, the barometer steady—1013 mb—are givens.
0930 A variation on the theme. Instead of being becalmed last night, we are becalmed this morning. Sails up. Drifting.
17º19’ N 109º15’ W
day’s run 77 miles COG 250º SOG 3.2
San Diego 1017 miles 336º
We started sailing, sort of, by 1000. At present we can’t sail west or north. I tacked and tried north. Maybe the wind, which isn’t worthy of the name, will fill in and shift one direction or the other.
1330 Very discouraging. We can’t sail west or north. I tacked back and forth. Current pushing us south both tacks. We can sail closer to west. I’d rather go north. This is not getting it done.
1400 Sailing south of west. Doing no good at all. Tacked to port. Now sailing 030º at 3 knots. Probably doing little good.
1800 Nothing I do today works. No matter which way I try to sail, we are headed and stalled. A cloudless powder blue sky. An ocean with inch high waves. Wind less than 5 knots. It looks and feels like high pressure, but isn’t. Only medium invariable pressure to infinity.
While on deck for my evening drink and music, I tacked to port and we are sailing around 030º at 3 to 4 knots in that much wind. White caps appear at 7 knots. I am so tired of seeing a white-capless ocean.
I am considering putting in at Cabo San Lucas, now 329 miles due north, to rest, regroup, reprovision, and perhaps see Carol.
April 11, Thursday
0830 The wind held and we continued close hauled port tack on a course of about 030º through the night. The jib backed once and I had to go on deck and get us back on course.
I am going to go into Cabo San Lucas, now 270 miles distant on a bearing of 249º. I don’t know what the regulations are in Mexico. Hopefully the officials will be reasonable.
18º41’ N 108º47’ W
day’s run 87 miles COG 030º SOG 4.0
week’s run 518 miles
San Diego 954 miles 333º
Cabo San Lucas 259 miles 346º
The week’s run, while an improvement on 368 and 373, is GANNET’s fourth slowest ever.
We are four weeks out today. GANNET’s daily runs total 2071 miles. We have about 1000 miles to San Diego, probably all to windwqrd.
We have been sailing with the tiller tied down since early morning. We were taking heavy water over the bow and some was reaching the tiller pilot. The wind has decreased in the past hour and spray is no longer reaching aft. I had to go out once to readjust the tiller line.
1530 Wind headed us. Tacked to starboard. Sailing about 300º-305º. Tiller tied down, but may go to tiller pilot.
I enjoyed drinking my last can of soda water this afternoon without worrying about rationing.
1715 Choppy 1’ to 3’ waves. GANNET pounding some.
I checked to see what day we left Balboa. It was March 14, which happens to be the day two years earlier I sailed from St. Helena for St. Lucia.
1845 The wind is weakening. I stand in the companionway and see no white-caps. I am surprised that we continue with the tiller tied down in this lessor wind. I may yet go to the tiller pilot tonight, but we can’t do better than we are now.
April 12, Friday
0600 Although the wind decreased last night, the tied down tiller steered us without needing adjustment. We are sailing around 315 º at 3.5 knots.
Cooler here in the predawn. I need to get out Levis and long sleeved shirts. Presently wearing foul weather gear.
19º28’ N 109º34’ W
day’s run 65 miles COG 040º SOG 4.2
Cabo San Lucas 205 miles 355º
San Diego 892 mikes 334º
Sunny. Light wind and sea. I tacked several times trying to find the better tack. Not much to choose between them. Presently on port. Full sail. Tiller pilot steering.
Ocean water colder. Perhaps the California Current.
1730 We have gotten a rare break from the wind, which has backed so that we are now sailing 020º and sometimes even higher. A little lurching. No pounding.
I was sitting on deck, but came below because the glare of the sun on the water was too intense. Sipping gin. Listening to Christopher Parkening playing the guitar. Presently Satie’s Gymnopedie No. 1.
1900 I have just come from standing in the companionway. GANNET is sailing beautifully. She is such a good boat. And the wind is exactly what I want, and how often on this passage have you heard that?
The music now is Phil Collins singing “Against All Odds” which is the title a magazine long ago gave to one of my articles. i certainly have pushed the odds, but I turned them my way as much as I could by planning and preparation. Still at 77 I am out here hard on the wind.
April 13, Saturday
0945 At 0500 the jib backed and I went on deck to get us back on course. It was completely dark then. I returned to my berth, but a half hour later, the jib backed again. Now it was light enough to see. The wind had increased and we were taking heavy water over the bow some of which was reaching the cockpit and the tiller pilot. I deeply furled the jib, put a reef in the mainsail, disengaged the tiller pilot and got us steering with the tiller tied down. Below deck I dried off the tiller pilot and stowed it.
The wind angle is good. We are sailing at 4 and 5 knots roughly 015º. The sky is a hazy powder blue and clear. The barometer is down a millibar to 1011, not much changed in a week or for that matter since we left Balboa.
Although it is 74º in the Great Cabin, I was feeling cool and put on a long sleeved shirt. I am wearing foul weather pants.
21º11’ N 109º08’ W
day’s run 105 miles COG 015º SOG 4.6
Cabo San Lucas 110 miles 338º
San Diego 813 miles 330º
We continue with tiller tied down. We are occasionally leaping off waves. I may furl the jib deeper.
First 100 mile day in 16 days.
1715 Wind has decreased and headed us. I tacked to starboard and had to let out more jib to power through the leftover waves. The balance is precarious. I may go back to the tiller pilot. Lots of water over the bow, I was on deck for quite a while and none of it reached me at the tiller.
We are 95 miles from Cabo San Lucas. Maybe Monday morning.
1830 Tiller pilot steering.
1950 Unreefed main. Jib unfurled. Under full sail. I may not stop at Cabo San Lucas. San Diego is less than 800 miles away. I have enough water to sail that. I will decide tomorrow.
April 14, Sunday
0700 One month at sea today.
I’ve been up a couple of hours.
The wind went light and headed us during the night. I was awake often adjusting the tiller pilot, which I usually did with the remote without leaving my berth, but had to dress in foul weather gear and go on deck twice when the jib backed. I tacked at first light, but found the wind was veering and tacked back. We are now sailing around 315º with the tiller tied down and are not going into Cabo San Lucas, which is 60 miles due north of us. If I could just go in, I might, but I don’t feel like dealing with officials. And this wind is favorable for San Diego. I don’t want to waste it,
22º02’ N 110º04’ W
day’s run 74 miles COG 005º SOG 1.6
San Diego 743 miles 331º
Naturally the wind did not hold, has gone very light and backed toward the NW. I tacked to port and am using the tiller pilot to keep the bow more or less pointed in the right direction. A bright, sunny day. We are barely moving. I thought we had entered a region of better wind. I was wrong.
Forward hatch open. Drying foul weather gear and towels in cockpit.
1730 Making a smooth 4 and 5 knots on a course of 335º. I would be glad if this lasted through the night, but I’ve been there too many times before. I saw a ship this afternoon, several miles to the west and heading north.
Sipping tequila while listening to Sona Jobarteh’s soundtrack to MOTHERLAND. Soon to decide on this evening’s freeze dry feast.
This is the last bottle of tequila. I have a bottle of Botanist gin and two pours of Glenfiddich. As I probably have noted, I couldn’t find Laphroaig in Panama. And twelve cans of Heineken. Sail faster, damnit.
We are at 22º22’ N and have ten degrees of latitude to go. We also have seven degrees of longitude to sail, but west will take care of itself.
April 15, Monday
0730 The wind veered and headed us—where have I heard that before?—last night and at midnight with lights on the shore visible 16 miles away and on a course that would converge with the coast before dawn, I tacked back out to sea. The wind had also increased and we were heeled over too far, so I partially furled the jib and put a reef in the main. I tried briefly and unsuccessfully to steer with the tiller tied down. Some spray had made it back to the tiller pilot earlier. With the reduced sail tying down the tiller didn’t work, so I left the tiller pilot steering.
When I woke an hour ago, I found us making 3 knots toward a low cloud bank to the west. I unreefed the main, added more jib, and got us sailing with the tiller tied down. Making 3 and 4 knots in light wind around 300º. Land is now 40 miles distant and not visible.
Barometer has risen 2 millibars to 1015
1030 Wind went light. Back to tiller pilot steering. Making 3 and 4 knots under full sail. Not able to sail higher than 260º. I may tack after seeing what the wind is going to do, but I don’t want to remain close to land and get in a land breeze/sea breeze pattern. Sun burning off cloud bank.
22º50’ N 110º59’ W
day’s run 70 miles COG 020º SOG 2.7
San Diego 676 miles 332º
The wind went very light a half hour ago and the jib backed, so I tacked to port.
The sun lost to the low clouds which now completely cover the sky.
1500 The sun has made a come back and burned through the clouds enough to be leaving shadows.
A tuna boat passed within a mile of us an hour ago. Big, white hull with blue trim, looking new, heading south.
The wind has been uneven. For a while we were almost becalmed. Presently making 4.4 knots 009º.
1800 Had I not lived this I would not have believed it possible. More than a month and more than 2,000 miles with almost no wind. While I do not have an accurate analysis, I believe that since leaving Balboa we have had 5 knots of wind or less at least 80% of the time, perhaps 90%. This has been a truly pacific ocean.
I have just come below from sitting on deck, sipping tequila and listening to music while GANNET crawls forward at 2 and sometimes 3 knots in that much wind. With each slow mile I tell myself that is one I will never have to do again.
Clouds to the west. I do not know what if anything they portend.
1930 I would not wish this on anyone.
I stand in the companionway and can’t feel any wind. There is some. We are making 1.7 knots. A half moon is reflecting on glassy water.
GANNET’s hull and sails respond to any increase in wind. There is none.
April 16, Tuesday
0800 We were on a converging course with the land last night and i tacked when we were 20 miles off at midnight.
This morning we are sailing 3 and 4 knots about 290 º with tiller tied down, full main, partially furled jib, pounding into small waves. Low clouds, but not as solid as yesterday.
We are just north of the Tropic of Cancer.
23º30’ N 111 º44’ W
day’s run 57 miles COG 278º SOG 3.9
San Diego 622 miles 333º
Tacking we sailed more than 57 miles
I had to go on deck several times this morning to rebalance the steering, but the wind has been more settled in the past hour. I am trying to preserve the tiller pilot, but may use it tonight if conditions are dry enough and the wind unsteady. Cloud bank to the north. The barometer is rising. Now 1018.
1420 Just spent time on deck. GANNET is making 4 knots on about 290.º 3’waves. She launches off some, which sounds worse in the cabin than on deck. I set up the running backstay. The wind and water are cool. I was comfortable in Levis, long sleeve shirt, and foul weather gear. We are taking heavy water over the bow, but it is not reaching the companionway or cockpit. Temperature in Great Cabin 74ºF.
1600 Wind suddenly dropped to zero, but is now returning though weaker. Back to tiller pilot steering. Only making 2.7 knots. 290º.
April 17, Wednesday
0530 We entered a new time zone last night, GMT -8, the one in which we began this voyage. We’ve now sailed all twenty-four. I know that San Diego is on daylight time, but at sea I prefer geographical time and early sunrises.
I noticed the new time zone at 0100 when I was up because conditions had become rough. I deeply furled the jib and put a reef in the mainsail. We were still taking water over the deck, some of which was reaching the tiller pilot. I wasn’t sure tying down the tiller would work, but it did and still is. For a while I tired to sleep in my foul weather gear with the sleeping bag over me as a blanket so I could go back on deck quickly, but when I didn’t have to I undressed and got in the bag. At that point I needed sleep and had we gone off course, I would have let GANNET remain hove to until dawn.
The wind is about 20 knots. Steep waves 4’-5’. We are making 3 and 4 knots on a course around 300º and still crashing off some waves. I may put in the second reef. I’ll see what the day brings
23º44’ N 113 º15’ W
day’s run 85 miles
San Diego 576 miles 339º
I’ve just came below from putting the second reef in the mainsail, but with it we could only sail about 250º, so I took it out and furled the jib to tee-shirt size. There is some improvement, but we are still pounding off waves. I may have to heave to tonight to get any sleep if this doesn’t moderate.
A few days ago I was commenting on no white-caps. I now have white-caps in excess. I am seeking Goldilocks wind. Not too little, not too much. Just right.
1520 The wind has moderated and I’ve been on deck for the past hour trying to balance the steering, which is difficult in leftover waves and inconsistent wind.
1800 The line just came untied from the tiller, so on deck to regain control. I have been wearing my foul weather pants all day because every other pants or shorts I wear instantly have a wet seat, but I realized once on deck I did not have my foul weather parka on. Fortunately no wave washed over me.
We’re back under control heading west, but a little rougher than it has been for the past couple of hours.
Full moon astern.
1830 Wind has increased again. Furled jib more deeply, but am sliding off to SW. I would like a quiet night, but don’t expect one.
April 18, Thursday
0630 Rough most of last night. I considered heaving to, but let GANNET smash on. About 0300 the motion eased. I did not bother to get up and when I did at 0500 I found the wind below 10 knots and GANNET drifting SW at a knot. I unfurled more jib, brought us up to the wind and got the little boat sailing around 310º at 3.5 to 4 knots. I haven’t unreefed the main yet. I don’t want to go any faster because GANNET is still occasionally leaping off 5’ left over waves.
Cooler each morning when I first get up. 65º this morning.
0815 Full mainsail set. Jib still slightly furled. Wind has veered and we are sailing 325º which is almost perfect.
0940 Full sail. Unfurling jib completely gives us another .5 to 1 knot. Some waves still big enough to sail up one side and down the other. Just leapt off one. If that continues I will have to reduce jib again.
24º08’ N 114º47’ W
day’s run 88 miles COG 310º SOG 4.2
week’s run 544
San Diego 528 miles 346º
The week’s run is GANNET’s fifth slowest ever. This passage now has the dubious honor of having four of the five slowest weeks of the voyage. 1,2,4 and 5.
For the first time the rhumb line to San Diego does not cross any land and the distance to San Diego is accurate, though San Diego being to windward we will have to sail much farther.
We were crashing off too many waves so I partially furled the jib.
1700 Wind has headed us. With the tiller tied down, GANNET keeping wind angle follows it. Now able to sail only 290º-300º, relatively smoothly, though pounding in a 2’ chop. But easy miles. An easy day. Sky covered with high hazy clouds. Barometer down a couple of millibars to 1013. Still in the middle range it has been since we left Balboa.
1815 I stood in the companionway. A full moon astern casting a narrow silver triangle reaching toward us. Clouds rose colored by the already set sun to the west. GANNET sailing gracefully to windward. There was a sense of sailing to the horizon and beyond into the unknown as I have for decades but have not felt before on this passage.
April 19, Friday
0830 Heeled over too far and pounding too much, I reefed the mainsail. Earlier looking out from where I am sitting on the starboard pipe berth, perpendicular to the centerline, the ocean appeared so smooth that I was considering unfurling more of the jib, but when I stood in the companionway the view forward was much rougher than I expected. I did tighten the jib sheet a couple of inches which gave us another half knot.
I will tack this afternoon or wait until tomorrow morning. I’ll decide later.
24º31’ N 116º16’ W
day’s run 84 miles COG 025º SOG 4.4
San Diego 491 miles 354º
I tacked to port an hour ago. Also furled the jib deeper. Time to get north.
1420 On deck for a while. GANNET is making her way through the waves as well as possible, 16-18 knots of wind. 4’-5’ waves. Mostly blue sky. If we were going in the opposite direction it would be great sailing.
1645 Furled the jib deeper for the night. We were pounding too much for sleep. Sleep is worth half a knot, and slower is easier on GANNET.
Put on my long underwear beneath the foul weather pants in which my legs were clammy. I don’t know how long the underwear will remain dry. Not a lot of water has come below, but every surface is moist. I bring water below on my foul weather gear after being on deck. Drips routinely fall from the forward hatch. I live in a wet cave.
Opened the bottle of Botanist, the last bottle of spirits on GANNET. It will not last the duration. I noticed that although the bottle appears to be normal 750 milliliter size, it contains only 700 milliliters. Sneaky. I am already out of chocolate and down to the last box of cookies. I will tough it out.
1900 I stood in the companionway briefly to see how GANNET was sailing and got a bit of spray in the face for my effort. She is doing well.
I am counting the miles and want the passage to be over, but that is just what the British call Channel Fever. I want to be with Carol. I want to be dry and clean. To have a hot shower and cold drinks and fresh food. Not to have to plan every move and handhold, Not to have to wake up in the middle of the night and rebalance the steering. But I accept all of these, This is not remotely similar to wanting the passage to be over during the helpless frustration of the calms in the windless waste. This is just part of making a passage.
April 20, Saturday
0640 The wind has weakened, which is good, and headed us, which is bad. We are no longer getting north as well as we were yesterday. Today sailing around 040º or 045º, however not pounding or leaping off waves as much. I added a little more jib when I got up at 0500 and may add more.
0715 Wind has increased and we are pointing higher. Around 025º.
0945 I was on deck to see how GANNET is doing. She is moving as well as possible,. Sunny sky with scattered low white clouds. The ocean is blue-black to the west, slate to the east, with many white-caps. Most waves are 4’-5’, but some 8’ with toppling crests.
April 21, Sunday
0700 Inexplicably the entire passage log disappeared. I have been able to recover all of the above, but not all of yesterday’s entries. From the waypoint in iNavX our noon position was 25º51’ N 115º24’ W and our day’s run was 94 miles.
We continued to sail close hauled on port tack during the afternoon and the wind backed so that at times we were heading due north. At 1720 I checked the distance to San Diego and found it to be exactly 400 miles. It is now 360 miles.
We are still on port tack and I can see land ahead. iNavX tells me it is 25 miles distant and to the east of Punta Eugenia. There is a good small natural harbor there, Bahia de Tortugas, of which I did not know.
Complete low overcast. Barometer up to 1017. 61º in the Great Cabin. GANNET sailing smoothly at 4 knots. No water coming over the bow. I will tack before noon.
0930 Tacked to starboard. Unreefed main and let out more jib. Heading into 2’ chop on this tack at 4 knots.
2707º N 115º 01’ W
day’s run 79 miles COG 280º SOG 3.1
San Diego 352 miles 341º
Pounding some on this tack despite slow speed.
I transferred water from the third jerry can this morning. Hopefully we will reach San Diego before it is empty.
1315 Reef back in mainsail.
A cruise ship passed several miles to the east, heading north.
Overcast gray day. Barometer up to 1017.
This has become GANNET’s second longest passage in duration. We have now been out 38 days. Daily runs through today total 2872 miles.
The longest was Darwin to Durban 55 days. 5914 miles.
Third longest was St. Helena to St. Lucia 35 days. 3859 miles.
1715 It has been difficult to balance the steering today. Lighter, inconsistent wind earlier with leftover seas pushing GANNET too far off the wind. The wind is stronger now and I haven’t had to make any adjustments for an hour.
It has been a cool day. Complete low cloud cover continues.
In a probably futile effort to have a dry ass, I got out my second pair of foul weather pants which I am going to wear only in the cabin.
I also exchanged the lighter sleeping bag for the heavier one and snapped it into the water resistant shell. Maximum temperature in the Great Cabin today was 65º. A decent temperature if you are not wet.
April 22, Monday
0700 Very rough last night until the jib backed at around midnight. These waves are not big, mostly only 3’-4’, but they are steep and GANNET was taking off on too many of them and landing with sickening crashes. I had not had much sleep, if any, and was considering heaving to when the jib backed and suddenly everything was quiet and peaceful. I went on deck and got us hove to pointing west and went below and slept well.
At 0500 first light I put on my cold and clammy foul weather gear and got us underway again. We had made 5 miles to the west while hove to.
Balancing the helm wax difficult and when I thought I had done it with GANNET on port tack heading north at 030º and went below to make a cup of coffee, the wind died completely. So back on deck where I decided this is as good a time as any to sacrifice a tiller pilot. I brought the old, noisy one on deck. It started and is steering. Not much spray is coming aft. We’ll see how long it lasts.
Meanwhile I am having a second cup of coffee.
61º in the Great Cabin this morning.
Complete cloud cover. Barometer down a millibar to 1016.
I am still in full foul weather gear in case I have to go quickly on deck.
27º31’ N 115º46’ W
day’s run 47 miles COG 015º SOG 5.2
San Diego 318 miles 347º
The day’s run included tacking and being hove to for five hours.
Our average speed this morning has been around 4.5 knots, but at times I have seen SOG higher than I think we are sailing, in the 6+ knot range. No explanation.
We are sailing toward Cedros Island 39 miles ahead. I’ll decide what to do at sunset.
Still complete cloud cover but a little brighter than yesterday.
1420 Sun has broken through. Yesterday was grim.
1730 300 miles to go.
We are probably going to sail tonight between Cedros Island and the San Benito Islands. The channel between them is 13 miles wide, but I am going to have to set alarms and pay attention tonight. Assuming this wind holds.
April 23, Tuesday
0430 San Benito Islands visible 3 miles abeam to port. This is the closest I’ve been to land since we left Balboa. There are three small rocky islands. The largest, a mile long, has a lighthouse whose light I can see. The one closest to us is desolate. I don’t know if any of the islands are inhabited. Much bigger Cedros Island, 22 mies long, is partially hidden by low clouds 10 miles to the east.
Last night just after I settled into the port pipe berth, the wind backed and weakened. I reluctantly left my warm sleeping bag and got into cold foul weather gear and went on deck. In that unreliable wind I decided not to approach the islands and turned us west to the open ocean.
At 2220 the jib backed again and I went on deck where I found the wind steadier and the tack north favored, so I turned toward the islands again.
I set several alarms and woke before all of them except the last at 0400. I’ve been awake since.
We are making 4 knots on a port close reach. In a few more miles, I bring us up close hauled again.
Just before sunset last night I switched from the old tiller pilot to the new one, which is much quieter for sleeping.
28º 42’ N 115º 19’ W
day’s run 75 miles COG 354º SOG 4.3
San Diego 257 miles 338º
The wind has backed, making port tack favored. I’ll hold it as long as I can.
Getting up at 0400 makes for a long day.
Sun trying to come out, but not yet succeeding.
1730 Hove to.
We got just above 29º N, but will lose some of that.
If the wind decreases I’ll try to get us sailing. If not we’ll lose the night and distance. At the moment San Diego is 239 miles distant and we are on the same latitude as Guadalupe Island to which I sailed GANNET on a shakedown passage before starting this voyage.
1830 Sailing again, with the tiller tied down, but I’m not sure how long it will last. I expect that the first time I have to go out because balance has been lost, I’ll heave to again. We just leapt off a wave, so I may heave to even sooner.
April 24, Wednesday
0600 We continued sailing slowly a little south of west through the night, only losing 12 miles of latitude, which could have been worse.
An hour ago I got up and increased the jib. For a while I had us steering with the tiller tied down, but the wind went light and I engaged the tiller pilot. I was pleased to see it start. It got wet yesterday.
Complete low overcast. I’d enjoy a warm sunny day.
We are sailing 280º-290º at 4 knots. I’ll keep going west until tomorrow or a significant wind shift.
0800 An albatross gliding around GANNET this morning.
Almost everything in the Great Cabin is wet and clammy.
When I go on deck I put on foul weather gear over foul weather gear.
I am presently wearing Columbia Onmi-heat pants and fleece jacket under my dry foul weather pants. I have a long sleeved Gill sailing jersey under the fleece. When I take these off at night, I stow them in a plastic bag to keep them dry. I wear the Gill shirt while sleeping.
I am wearing sea boots because my boat shoes are soaked. I have other pairs of boat shoes, but the sea boots are dry on the inside.
When I go on deck I put on the wet foul weather pants over the dry ones and the wet foul weather jacket over everything. I am not sure the wet gear is wet on the inside, but it is cold and clammy and this prevents feeling that against my skin.
Somehow my sleeping bag has become damp on the inside, despite the water resistant outer shell. My body heat dries it, but the initial entry is unpleasant.
My pillow is a wet sponge.
28º53’ N 116º12’ W
day’s run 48 miles COG 009º SOG 4.0
San Diego 233 miles 347º
The wind went light and headed us an hour go, so I fully unfurled the jib and tacked. I am reluctant to unreef the main because every time I do I just have to reef it again a few hours later.
I would like to get well offshore, but I don’t want to go south of 270º to do so.
The sun is shining through low, coastal clouds. I was able to partially dry my wet foul weather gear in the cockpit. At least it is not as wet as it was.
1400 The wind has continued to back and we are presently sailing the rhumb line to San Diego. Excellent while it lasts.
1615 A good decision not to remove the reef from the main. I was just on deck reducing the size of the jib and would have had to put the reef back in the main. GANNET was crashing off waves.
The nicest day for a while. The sun has burned off all the clouds except for a few around the horizon. Overhead clear powder blue sky.
GANNET almost sailed over an albatross who was resting on the water. He took flight a GANNET length away.
1700 That didn’t last long. The wind has veered and headed us. We are no longer sailing the rhumb line, but again on a converging course with land. If it doesn’t veer too much more, we will be good on this tack through the night.
In the past hour I also had two minor repair jobs. One electrical outlet wasn’t working. I found the loose wire probably disconnected by one of GANNET’s crash landings in a wave trough and reconnected it,
Then when I removed the Velocitek from its mast fitting to replace the batteries, one of the battery cover hinges fell off and overboard. Gorilla duct tape seems to be a satisfactory jury rig.
About to have my evening drink, which from here on will be a beer. My liver is going to wonder what has happened. I do wish I had a bottle of Laphroaig. Or a case.
April 25, Thursday
0645 The new ST 2000 tiller pilot died at 0030 this morning. It lasted far longer than I expected and steered more than 1500 miles, though mostly in very light wind and dry conditions. I switched the old tiller pilot in for the night, then went to the tiller tied down when I got up an hour ago. The balance is tenuous and I am still in my full foul weather gear and sea boots ready to go back on deck. We are only 10 miles off the coast, which I can’t yet see. This tack is favored. I’ll tack sometime this morning.
The tiller pilot I used at the very beginning of this voyage lasted an incredible 4,000 miles before it was inundated by a wave in a knockdown, giving me a false sense of what can be expected from the Raymarines which was soon and repeatedly corrected.
I knew that DHL failing to deliver the second tiller pilot in Panama would cause me grief.
The good news is that sometime during the nigh the distance to San Diego became less than 200 miles. Currently 190.
My sleeping bag was less damp when I squirmed into it last night. I put a plastic bag over the sodden pillow.
I am listening to Tchaikovsky’s Sixth Symphony and treating myself to a second cup of coffee this morning.
Just before sunset last night I switched from the old tiller pilot to the new one, which is much quieter.
We are at sea six weeks today.
0820 I see two hills off the starboard bow which from the chart I conclude are probably Punta Baja, 12 miles distant.
0900 Steering lost balance a few minutes ago so I tacked to starboard, heading out to sea on about 260º. We are at 29º47’ N and San Diego 186 miles distant.
1030 Unreefed mainsail to balance steering. It seems to have worked, at least temporarily. We’re sailing about 260º at 5 knots in 8 knots of wind.
29º44’ N 116º09’ W
day’s run 51 miles COG 260º SOG 4.6
week’s run 478 miles
San Diego 184 miles 343º
The week’s run is the fourth slowest ever, but deceptive in that we have been tacking and have sailed farther then the daily runs indicate, Still of the six weeks of this passage so far, five have been among the six slowest GANNET has ever made. Now, 1, 2, 4, 5 and 6.
Pleasant sailing. Wind about 8 knots. Low seas. GANNET moving smoothly. The sun has not yet burned off the coastal clouds.
While I was on deck unreefing the mainsail, a 35’-40’ sailboat passed a mile or so astern motor sailing north with mainsail up. First sail boat I’ve seen since Balboa.
1730 A ship just passed a mile west of us, heading south.
The day has remained cloudy and gray.
We’ve been sailing with the tiller tied down without needing adjustment and without our losing much latitude. I hope it continues through the night.
April 26, Friday
0700 The jib backed at 2130, 2345, and 0400. The first two times I got up and got us sailing again. The third I left us hove to until 0600 when I got up for good and GANNET sailing on a port tack.
At 2330 there was light misty rain.
I wanted to make it to 117º W and we did without losing latitude. We are presently 170 miles due south of San Diego and sailing directly toward it under a gray sky of low clouds almost touching the surface of the sea.
0730 Rain at scattered spots around the horizon. The barometer is up a millibar to 1017.
1030 I am a jack-in-the-box today. Repeatedly up and down to adjust the tiller line. I just fully unfurled the jib, so GANNET is under full sail, though only making 3.5 knots.
Apple Lightning cables do not like life on board GANNET. Even without getting wet, they corrode and fail,
Touch screens also do not like GANNET’s wet atmosphere and become—-
I had to stop and go on deck. The wind has gone light. Less than 5 knots and our SOG less than 3. We have the cold California current against us.—-
As I was saying, moist touch screens become unresponsive. Kleenexes go quickly wiping my phone and eyeglasses.
30º05’ N 117º08’ W
day’s run 55 miles COG 350º SOG 2.5
San Diego 155 miles 358º
Wind continues light and inconsistent. I will keep after it during the day, but may have to go to tiller pilot tonight, although I had hoped to save it for the last hundred miles.
Still mostly low clouds, but directly over us the sun has broken through. Drying sleeping bag and foul weather gear in cockpit.
1400 After having to go on deck every five minutes for the past half hour, I’ve engaged the tillerpilot. It either lasts or it doesn’t.
1630Back to tying down the tiller though I don’t know for how long.
Slightly furled the jib. Just to the point where the clew is forward of the shrouds. I have found that is a good size to balance steering.
1845 Tied tiller has steered without adjustment for more than an hour.
A ship passed a few miles to the east, heading south
136 miles to go. An easy day’s run, except on this passage. We’ve had a favorable wind angle today, if not consistent wind. We might be in Sunday, but I hope at least Monday.
1930 Wind went weak. We gybed. Tiller pilot now steering.
April 27, Saturday
0630 I was up for about an hour around midnight when the wind was changing direction and strength and then again briefly at 0230 to reduce the size of jib. I woke then because we were heeled over too far and I thought I might need to reef the main, but deeply furling the jib was enough and the wind soon again became light.
I woke again at 0415. GANNET was moving well, so I went back to sleep until a half hour ago, when after donning my layers I went on deck and was pleased to find us making 4.5 knots and the tiller pilot dry. I tied down the tiller and took the pilot below.
Under a solid layer of low gray cloud we are making 3.5-4.5 knots on about 020º which will bring us to land in 30 miles. San Diego is 96 miles distant, but we can no longer sail the rhumb line and will have to tack.
0940 The sun has burned off most of the coastal cloud. Pleasant, smooth sailing at 4-5 knots. Our course varies with the wind, but it looks as though we will make landfall south of Ensenada. Land is 15 miles away, but I don’t see it yet.
I transferred water from the jerry can this morning. That should be the last time.
31º26’ N 116º47’ W
day’s run 84 miles COG 000º SOG 3.7
San Diego 77 miles 343º
The wind has backed NW, the direction from which it usually blows here, and we are sailing due north, not as smoothly as earlier. Now pounding a bit. Land is in view 8 miles abeam. High land that might be Bluff Peak. If the wind remains as it is we can continue on for another 15 to 18 miles.
I’m hungry these days and there isn’t much tempting left on board. I have lost weight. When I was wearing shorts I had to use a belt to keep them from falling down, and I had to buckle the belt at the last notch.
1330 Tacked at 1300, 5 miles offshore and 20 miles south of Ensenada, Mexico. Despite short, steep waves, GANNET tacked in 80º
I doubt that we can reach San Diego, which is now 72 miles away to windward, before sunset tomorrow, but I may tack again at midnight, depending on wind and our position.
1530 I fell asleep reading at Central and woke to find that the wind had continued to back and we were sailing 245º. I put on my foul weather parka—I was already wearing two pairs of foul weather pants and my sea boots—and went on deck where I tacked and we are now sailing the rhumb line to San Diego. We’ll see how long this lasts.
While on deck I reduced the size of the jib. GANNET was pounding too much.
1830 The wind veered and headed us so that we would not clear the Todos Santos Islands off Ensenada 9 miles ahead, so I tacked. We are headed offshore at about 275º at 4 knots . At last light San Diego is 63 miles away.
The wind is a little lighter, so I increased the jib, but we are pounding so I may have to furl deeper again.
April 28, Sunday
0530 I set an alarm for 2300 last night and woke two minutes earlier to find the wind had veered and we were sailing 300º. Tacking would only take us back to land. I woke several times later only to find that the wind had gone light and not changed direction. I was surprised to see that the tied down tiller continued to steer despite the change in wind speed.
At 0430 as I was lying in my sleeping bag thinking of getting up, the jib slowly backed and decided the matter for me
On deck I unfurled the jib completely and got us sailing directly for San Diego, still 62 miles away as it had been at sunset, at 4 and 5 knots in about that much wind and smooth seas. We are about 40 miles off Baja. At first I tied the tiller down, but we wandered off course so I have gone to the tiler pilot.
While on deck a whale about the size of GANNET came quietly to the surface a GANNET or two lengths away. I said, “Good morning.” The whale didn’t say anything.
32º08’ N 117º19’ W
day’s run 50 miles COG 008º SOG 5.5
San Diego 32 miles 008º
A pleasant morning. Smooth seas. Light wind.
I don’t know if we will make it in today or not. The Coronado Islands, which are 15 miles off Point Loma, are visible about that distance ahead. iNavX currently gives our ETA as 18:17. We have light until about 1900 and most of an hour after the waypoint before we reach the clearance dock. I have seen speeds of 6 knots this morning. I don’t recall the last previous 6 knot reading. This has been a passage of 3s and 4s and much less.
1300 We were making 6 knots and I was beginning to think we were going to get in today, but ten minutes ago the wind died completely and we are now becalmed.
1345 Wind returned from NNE heading us. Now on starboard tack 330º. We are definitely not getting in today.
1415 Sailing again. 335º. 4 knots.
The barometer has dropped 5 millibars to1009 in the past 24 hours. Obviously a low is approaching. I tried to get weather on my handheld VHF, but found the battery dead and it won’t charge.
On AM radio I caught a disturbing fragment of a forecast for winds of 20-30 MPH, gusting 40, but I don’t know where or when.
1640 We are a mile west of North Coronado Island. 14 miles from Point Loma which I can see. I had just about decided to go in, but the wind is weakening, so I am heading northwest and will heave to about 10 miles offshore for the night.
The barometer has remained at 1009 for the past three hours.
1930 Hove to 9 miles west of Point Loma. Bow pointing west. Lights all along the shore, many of which I recognize. GANNET has been here before. She has sailed around the world.
The wind has died. The sea is smooth. GANNET is rocking, but no more than she has in many anchorages. I hope for a peaceful night.
April 29, Monday
0030 I woke a few minutes ago to find a dark sky, light rain and GANNET being blown west at 2 knots. I got into my foul weather gear and turned us to head in. Wind is light and from the south. The jib is still deeply furled. I could go faster, but our current ETA for Point Loma is 0421. If nothing changes I’ll continue as is and then slow or turn around to delay until first light which is about 0500. I will, if necessary, go in in the dark. There is no problem in entering San Diego Harbor, just a lot of regulations about where you can anchor once inside.
0345 We are 3 miles off the waypoint at the entrance to the harbor, making 1.3 rolly knots under a scrap of jib. I dozed at Central for a while, having set an alarm for 0300. As usual I was awake before it went off. I lowered the mainsail at 0300. Lights from a couple of presumably fishing boats are heading in. That fishing boats are out I consider a good sign. Wind still from the south, which it would be on the forward side of a low in this hemisphere, and moderate.
0800 I trimmed and retrimmed the sails to put us just off Point Loma at first light at 4:30 and we were.
There was a quiet sense of satisfaction as we rounded Point Loma and entered the bay. I have not lived in San Diego for years, but I have history here going back to the early 1950s and it felt that I was home. As we glided up the harbor I was pleased with the symmetry of this part of my life ending where it began forty-four years earlier.
In smoother water I fit the Torqeedo, which started as it should, dock lines, and fenders.
I thought it odd that several sailboats passed us heading out, motorsailing with mains up, until I reached the Customs dock and found it almost full of boats returning from the Ensenada Race.
I also found on the dock a small unexpected welcoming party of friends who had seen our Yellowbrick position. They waved and took GANNET’s lines as we came alongside.