Thursday, March 31, 2016

Opua: perfection interrupted; batteries; a ride; wave pilots

        I have received envious emails about my frequent references to Opua’s recent San Diego-like weather.
        Opua’s climate is more middle-California than southern.  Southern California is, after all, a desert, however pleasant near the coast.  New Zealand and Opua get ample rain and are green, more like San Luis Obispo and Monterey.
        Envy can be temporarily assuaged.  A minor front is approaching with 25 knot wind and rain.  
        Perfection may resume Sunday.


        When I went to Cater’s Marine yesterday, my new Lifeline AGM batteries were there.  I paid for them, but with 18 to 20 knots of wind the harbor was too rough to row the batteries back and get them on board.
        The wind died during the night and this morning, after a single cup of coffee, I rowed ashore in a flat calm and near slack water and fetched the batteries when Cater’s opened at 8 a.m.
        No problem getting them back, getting them on board, and getting them installed.  That I was replacing identical batteries helped.
        On all boats, but especially GANNET, sailors often have to do things from awkward and undesirable positions.  Today there was a point where scrunched over I had to lift each battery one-handed with my left hand.  My left shoulder is the torn one.  The batteries weigh fifty-five pounds/twenty-five kilos each.  I considered the situation for a while.  There was no other way.  I lifted, reached forward and lowered.  No pain.
        Sometimes things don’t go wrong.  Most of the time they go right.

        I have been told that my freeze dry order is being shipped today, which is Friday, April 1, as I just noticed, in this part of the world, and should be here probably Tuesday.  Once the meals are sorted and stowed in double trash bags, thirty to a bag, my to-do list will be down to three items, none essential, with a month to go.


        Brian has offered me a ride.  I thank him and, when and if the occasion arrises, hope to accept.
        Carol wouldn’t even have to come all this way herself, though she might like to see New Zealand again.  She could just mail me.


        Jay sent me a link to a long article about ‘wave pilots’, an almost lost navigation skill in the Marshall Islands, which also has some interesting information about how GPS is affecting our brains.
        I found the article well worth the time and thank Jay for the link.


        I happened across the photo when looking for some at a journalist’s request.  One of my favorites of GANNET, It was taken by Steve Earley in San Diego.  

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Opua: unacceptable; end of responsibility; rules; gourmet

        Yesterday afternoon I tested each solar panel individually and found that another one has failed.  This did not come as a surprise.  I was suspicious of the panel just to starboard of the mast and bought a replacement when I was back in the U.S. last year.  
        You may recall that two of my six panels failed while crossing the Pacific.  The manufacturer claims this is a known problem and blames customer installation.  If I made a product with a known problem, I’d fix it rather than blame my customers.  Aurinco did sell me replacements at cost.
        What was a 33.3% failure rate is now a 50% failure rate.
        GANNET is certainly an extreme boat doing extreme sailing.  It is quite possible that on boats with ‘normal’ usage, Aurinco panels will be satisfactory, as might Raymarine tiller pilots.  But a 50% failure rate is unacceptable and if any of my current six panels fail, I will not buy Aurinco again.


        I have written that the artist’s defining responsibility is to go to the edge of human experience and send back reports.  I have also written that the artist has no further responsibility.  
        On Tim’s classical connections site, he recently quoted a review of a performance by Jascha Heifetz in Kansas City in 1918.

The violinist did not warm to his audience. So far as he was concerned, the concert was an affair of the musical verities, as they might be expected to exist between artist and composer. The audience might enjoy if it was able. As to that, Mr. Heifetz refused to assume responsibility.’


        A different Tim wrote asking about the planning and expense of clearing into various countries.
        While it varies from country to country, there are many more rules and greater fees than there were forty years ago.  Increasingly countries want advance notification prior to arrival.  Australia was one of the first to do this, but now New Zealand does too.  Failure to provide such notice can result in fines of thousands of dollars.  
        However, it is not difficult to give such notice, usually required at least 72 hours prior to arrival.  
        When I sailed from New Zealand to Australia at the beginning of my fourth circumnavigation I emailed the required information to Australian Customs and received an immediate acknowledgement.  Fortunately I printed out that acknowledgement, because Canberra, the Australian capital, did not notify Cairns, my port of entry, of my arrival, which proves that the whole thing is a waste of time.
        U.S. citizens also are required to have an ETA, Electronic Travel Authority, before arriving in Australia by any means of transportation.  That can be obtained online for a fee of about $15 U.S.  Americans do not need an ETA before entering New Zealand.
        Most countries give visitors three months.  Sometimes this can easily be extended.  Sometimes it can’t.
        As to fees, I’ve never kept track of them.  I think it is going to cost a few hundred dollars in Australia.
        A good source of information is
        But it is also wise to check each government’s immigration and customs sites.
        Failure to get it right will result in serious grief.


        I emailed Back Country Cuisine, New Zealand’s freeze dry food company, for an online order form and received two:  one for Back Country and another for their new line, Outdoor Gourmet.      
        Gourmet is more expensive, about $8 U.S. per meal, twice the price of Backcountry, but that is for a serving nominally for two people.  However, liking Back Country Cuisine very much, and with the descriptions of the Outdoor Gourmet offerings being  so enticing, I broke my rule of testing before I buy and ordered ten each of seven of the Gourmet meals, as well as a lot of Backcountry.  
        I should be sorting through a cockpit full of food next week.


        When I mentioned in the previous post that I have gone over every inch of GANNET from keel to deck, I should have added that I have had everything above the deck professionally inspected by Rob of Northland Rigging.
        GANNET is ready from keel to masthead.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Opua: pristine; Blackguard Beach; listened

        After last week’s storm, the weather has been perfect.  Well, perhaps not for sailing with little wind, but sunny and warm and dry.
        I finished painting.  Touching up the rub rail one morning and the areas near cleats where lines rub the next, and an irregular spot of non-skid near the companionway. 
        I don’t know that GANNET looks much different in the above photo taken this morning than she did in the past, but I have now been over every inch of her from the bottom of the keel to the deck.  Despite some signs of wear and hard usage, she is close to being pristine and we are close to being ready to sail on, though we won’t for another month.
        During the three days last week I was boat bound and yesterday while listening to the NCAA basketball games on Internet radio, I went through a waterproof duffle bag and managed to dispose of a computer case and various cables, batteries for cameras I no longer own, and owner’s manuals, some for products that have long since died, some duplicates.  Not surprisingly I had a lot of Raymarine tiller pilot manuals.  Much of this was by way of making room for the plastic sextant, which now has a place.
        Last year you may recall I managed to dispose of an entire watertight duffle bag.  
        I am not as fanatical about weight as those who race, but I do take pleasure in getting rid of stuff and simplifying .


        Russell, the small town on the east side of the bay, three and a half miles north of here, is one of my favorite Bay of Islands anchorages.  It is a pretty little town, living on tourism, but it was not always so.
        Russell was, very briefly, the first capital of New Zealand,  a whaling port, and once one of the hell-holes of the Pacific.
        Steve Earley came across this in THE WAKE OF MADNESS:

        Charles Wilkes, who visited the Bay of Islands with the U.S. Exploring Expedition in 1840, described a slum town made up of “about twenty houses, scarcely deserving the name, and many shanties, besides tents. It is chiefly inhabited by the lowest order of vagabonds, mostly runaway sailors and convicts,” he went on, “and is appropriately named ’Blackguard Beach.’ “


        Easter was yesterday here.
         I listened to the first two parts of Handel’s MESSIAH in the morning before the basketball games, and the third part on deck at 6 p.m. with an iceless tequila and tonic at hand, watching birds and boats, Including another one named GANNET, comfortable in t-shirt and shorts, before coming down below to feast on the traditional freeze dry sweet and sour lamb. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Opua: eerie

        Eerily quiet this morning after three days of noise and motion.
        Little sleep was had aboard GANNET last night until about 3 a.m.  I might have dosed off briefly from time to time, but was soon awokened by a wave slamming into us or a gust of wind heeling the little boat far over.  Sleeping in the bow, the sound and fury was extreme.  
        Two days ago the gusts were in the 20s and the lulls in the teens,  Yesterday during the day I had the TackTick wind unit on and the gusts were in the low gale range, 34+ knots, with the lulls in the 20s.  Winds were officially recorded last night in the North Island up to 64 knots, which is the start of Force 12, hurricane force.  They weren't that high here, but I estimate the gusts last night were 45 to 50 knots, possibly slightly more.
        At 3 a.m. the wind and waves began to decrease and I got some sleep.  I woke at 7:30 to complete stillness.
        Later in the morning I rowed ashore to shower and dispose of trash, and to walk around a bit.  I’d been sitting down in the Great Cabin with hatches closed for too long.  However, I didn’t need anything else.  I still had some cheese and a half bottle of wine and was good for another day.
        We didn’t have a lot of rain.  I’ve seen the dinghy much fuller.  As I have pointed out before, one of the advantages of not having an outboard is that you can just flip the dinghy over to empty it.
        The storm revealed a few minor leaks.  GANNET is never going to be dry.  But the forward hatch did not leak.  I wonder how long that will last once we return to sea and the hull starts to flex,
        After eating the last of the Brie on crackers for lunch, I finished the lifelines and got in the dinghy and went around the hull, sanding spots on the rub rail that need touching up.  I may do that tomorrow.
        I look up from my laptop and see some blue sky through the companionway.  GANNET is moving ever so slightly and gently.  It is completely still.  I’m glad.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Opua: good for the duration

       The sun is shining, but GANNET is bouncing up and down and to and fro and back and forth and several other ways in chop caused by twenty knot wind.  
I did manage to fit new lifelines yesterday, but have a few details to complete the job.  The boat is moving far too much to work on deck.
The rub rail remains un-touched up.  Maybe Friday or Saturday.
I rowed ashore this morning before breakfast to shower, fill a jerry can with water, and buy needed supplies, i.e. two bottles of wine, so I am good for the duration.  I did also buy a lime, Brie cheese, Kleenex, a bottle of tonic and a package of mint cookies.
The stern just leapt up and came down with a loud hollow thump.  I may need to start wearing my safety harness inside The Great Cabin.
To my surprise I realized that in a couple of months I will have owned GANNET for five years.  As I have often noted, time is an uneven medium, and it does not seem that long.  However, one consequence is that the ship’s batteries, two Lifeline AGM Group 24Ts, are also five years old.  They appear still to be charging and holding charge normally and might be good for a few more years; but their failure at sea or at some remote anchorage along the way is unacceptable and I am going to replace them here.
In looking for a photo I knew I had run in the journal, I chanced upon the above example of modern art which I had forgotten.  It is watery reflections of the kayak storage rack at Driscoll’s Mission Bay Marina,
Two unrelated observations:  the carbon fiber tiller is so smooth in my hand.  The Dover White bottom paint is becoming whiter in the water.  I’ll take a photo, but not soon.
The sun has disappeared.
        The wind just gusted 25

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Opua: the wet and the dry; a new coat

        Last night was both wet and dry.  
        The dry came first.  I had a dry evening in that I drank no wine or spirits, only club soda with a slice of lemon.  I prefer lime, but limes are hard to come by in the Bay of Islands.  
        There is no pattern to my dry nights.  They are random, unplanned and infrequent.  Something of an experiment to see if I feel any differently after not drinking.  I don’t.  I do observe that I sleep a little less well after them.
        The wet came from intermittent rain, some heavy, causing me to have the forward hatch closed most of the night.
        Today GANNET has been in constant motion.  Almost as much as if she were at sea.  The wind is not all that strong.  Eighteen knots is the highest I’ve seen; but blowing across the tide, it is creating mini-overfalls.  We are sometimes rolling enough for objects on the two small counter tops beside me to slide off, and actions have to be planned.
        I have managed to get some work done.
        Soon after I woke up, I climbed into the dinghy with rag and wax and polished two small areas on each side of the hull that I couldn’t reach when GANNET was in the cradle.  When I rowed to and from the little boat, their dullness offended me.
        I would like to touch up the white rub rail, but the dinghy was moving far too much for that, and if the forecast is correct, I wouldn’t be able to for almost a week.  Wind the next few days, then a near gale with heavy rain Tuesday night through Thursday.  I was fortunate to have perfect weather when hauled out.
        I rowed ashore to shower and buy a bottle of red wine, half of which will accompany my evening feast of freeze dry spaghetti Bolognaise.  I also bought a short length of line to use as a secondary tether to the mooring.  The mooring line itself is far too big for GANNET’s cleats, and since returning from the haul-out I’ve only been secured to it by a single line, which is more than strong enough to hold GANNET.  But with a gale coming and the marina breakwater only fifteen yards/meters away, I’d like a back-up.
        Returning to GANNET, I tied the tether in place, tied down the tiller, moved the running backstays from where they have been near the mast since we went to Russell back into their normal position.
        After lunch I cleaned the bilge which desperately needed it after grime and grit fell there during the haul-out.  This was a full remove the floor boards and use most of a roll of paper towels cleaning.  The bilge is again white rather than black.
        Yesterday I slithered aft and dragged three bags of freeze dry food forward to inventory.  I was pleased to find that one of them contains thirty-two meals I put aboard before leaving San Diego.  The New Zealand Back Country Cuisine remains my favorite brand, but it will be nice to mix the U.S meals in for added variety.
        While hauled out I took one of the Raymarine tiller pilots to Opua Canvas to have them make a cover.  It came out even better than I hoped.
       It is my belief that my tiller pilots failed because water entered the housing around the tiller rod.  There is no way that opening can be water tight and still permit the rod to move as it must.  On GANNET the tiller pilot is mounted to starboard of the tiller.  When heeled to starboard, any water that strikes the tiller rod is carried by gravity to, and often into, the housing.

        The Pelagic tiller pilot attempts to solve this in two ways:  all of the electronics are housed below deck, and, I believe, the motor drive is housed in a separate cylinder above that enclosing the tiller rod.  
        The new cover is not water tight, but it will certainly keep a lot of water off the unit.  It is long enough to accordion in and out with the rod.  I intend to attempt to seal the end around the rod with duct tape.
        I plan to use the Pelagic as my primary tiller pilot on coming passages, but spending a hundred dollars to protect the Raymarines seems reasonable.

        The top photo is GANNET from shore.  She’s near the center.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Opua: A Failed Power Boater or My Neighbor has a Helicopter

        Because the Torqeedo was already out, I powered most of the way to Russell yesterday.  There was no wind at 11:00 a.m. and the tide was against me.  If the Torqeedo had been stowed in the stern, I would have waited, but I wanted The Duke of Marlborough’s calamari for lunch, so I whirred north on glassy water beneath a sunny sky
        The distance is about 3.5 nautical miles from mooring to the Russell anchorage.
        About halfway there a few knots of wind ruffled the water, but it was coming from ahead.  I had checked the Torqeedo readout not long after I dropped the mooring and it said I had a range of 5 miles at the 2.5 knot speed I was making against the tide.  I’ve never powered that far in GANNET, so I thought, why not?
        The ‘Why, not?’ appeared in a beeping alarm from the Torqeedo about a quarter mile from where I wanted to drop anchor.  I thought an alarm sounded when the battery charge dropped below 30%.  If so, I didn’t hear it.  When I leaned back to check the charge, it was only 5%.  And two hundred yards/meters later the Torqeedo ceased whirring.
        I raised the mainsail in maybe three knots of wind and anchored under sail behind the above vessel.  We were the only two boats anchored beyond the moorings:  The Big and The Great.  GANNET is The Great.
        Fortunately they did not use the helicopter while I was near.
        I pumped up the Avon, rowed in, calamaried, had a red current and blackberry ice cream cone, shopped, and rowed back to the very pretty small sloop.  Since I anti-fouled and polished her, I  spin the dinghy around as I approach and row stern first the last few yards/meters so I can admire her.
        This morning a few knots of wind came up around 10:30 and I raised anchor.  Under mainsail I sailed toward Pahia, preparing the new asymmetrical and ProFurl furling gear.
        The primary difference between the older Facnor furler and the top down ProFurl is that Facnor includes only a head swivel and a drum at the tack.  The sail furls up on its own luff.  The ProFurl has a torsion line covered with small black rotating plastic balls, about 2”/5cm in diameter, and the sail furls onto it.  I thought that I could hoist the furled sail and the ProFurl.  Unfurl the sail.  Then furl it onto the ProFurl.  I was wrong.  Everything hoisted, the sail wouldn’t unfurl.  Everything lowered to deck and stuffed through the forward hatch to be sorted out back at the mooring.
        We pretty much rode the tide back to the mooring.  Our speed never reached three knots.  And GANNET is a fast boat with a clean bottom.
        My concern as we approached the mooring was that I would misjudge—lightweight GANNET carries little forward momentum—and that we would be swept past the mooring and be unable to sail back.  That didn’t happen.
        After lunch of chorizo salami and crackers, I began to re-stow.  I had a lot to do.  The Torqeedo shaft and recharged battery to the stern, its tiller arm to a bag forward; the anchor and rode from the v-berth to the bow; and removing the G2 asymmetrical from the ProFurl, unfurling it by hand, then re-attaching its head and tack to the ProFurl; and squeezing sail and furler into sail bag.
        The G2 is a big sail for GANNET.  Standing in the companionway, I had a lot of sail cloth in the cabin and a lot more in the cockpit.  Eventually I got it unwrapped from itself and hope I have reattached it to the ProFurl without twists.  We’ll see next time it goes up, which might be here on the mooring on a calm mornng.


        Forty years ago this afternoon:

        At dawn I turned us back toward Auckland and we slowly limped past Rangitoto Island and into the harbor on a bright, warm day.
        My first impression was how quiet it was for a commercial port on a working day. I was surprised at how many sailboats were swinging at moorings in coves along the shore. I shouted at a man aboard a yacht powering by, asking where I should go to clear with Customs. My voice sounded strange to me. He was the first person I had spoken to in 150 days. He directed me to wharves at the foot of office buildings in the center of the city.
        In San Digeo I routinely sailed the engineless Egregious in and out of her marina slip, but I had not tried to stop her for months. The space between the wharves was wide enough, but the wind was patchy. I sailed back and forth twice, looking the situation over. Several sailboats were rafted up to the wharves. I lowered what was left of the mainsail and sailed in under jib alone, made a U-turn back into the wind, and came gently alongside a big ketch.
        It was a few minutes before 2:00 P.M. Some office workers watched me. I asked one of them to notify Customs of my arrival.
        A city and a nation in which I knew no one. Within three hours, fate began to bring me to Suzanne.
        I swarmed up the wharf pilings and stood on land. The transition from five months of sea and solitude was that quick and that easy. No cultural shock. No earth moving beneath my feet, as some people claim after voyages, but I have myself never experienced. (With GANNET, I have.)

       I believe that calls for a sip of Laphroaig this evening.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Opua: floating; an anniversary

       GANNET went back into the water a few minutes after 2 p.m. on another sunny, lovely day in Opua.  She was on her mooring a few minutes later.  Anti-fouled, waxed, polished and with a dirty deck and an even dirtier dinghy.  I left the dinghy on the mooring and, as I feared, in my absence birds found it.  
I scrubbed the deck.  I scrubbed the dinghy.  And then, because I smelled like bird droppings, I rowed ashore and scrubbed myself.
I’m going to confuse the birds by bringing the dingy on board this evening and deflating it.  Tomorrow I am planning to sail to Russell to shop and partake of the salt and pepper calamari at the Duke of Marlborough, and as many of you know, I don’t tow dinghies.
The haul-out was a complete success.  I accomplished everything I wanted to.  GANNET has been restored to the respectable beauty she deserves.
Among the many virtues of small boats is that they have small surface areas.  A coat of anti-fouling takes little more than an hour.  Polishing and waxing the hull two hours.  And being a tall man with a short boat means that I can reach most of the topsides without a ladder. I have still to touch up a few spots of paint near the deck cleats and the white rub rail, too much of which was unreachable in the cradle.
Another virtue of small boats is, relatively, small bills.  Particularly if you do your own work, something increasingly not permitted in the U.S.  The total cost of the haul out, including in and out of the water, pressure wash, five days standing, a four-liter can of anti-fouling paint, rollers, tape, brushes, paint tray, and a few other minor items:  $400 U.S.
Small is beautiful.


I expect to sail back to the mooring on Wednesday, but just in case I am not here in time to post an entry, I first stepped ashore in New Zealand forty years ago from this Wednesday,on March 16, 1976.
Forgive the repetition:  I love being here.  Right here on a mooring in Opua.  And I am fortunate enough to realize that.  I lack only Carol.  And permission to remain indefinitely from New Zealand Immigration.  But I could and would sail these waters from Whangaroa to Whangamumu, leaving only to maintain my series of completing a circumnavigation every decade since the 70s.  Two in the 00s.
Well, that is not going to happen.  And when I sail away this time, considering where I am heading and my age, I might not ever be back.
      Most, perhaps all of you are going to die on land.  I don’t know where I am going to die.  If at sea, it is a self-solving problem.  If on land, Carol knows that I want to be cremated.  For a long time I thought that I’d like those ashes to be tossed into the sea off Cape Horn.  But I have known such beauty, serenity and grace here, that it might well be more appropriate for someone to row out--row, not power--and scatter my ashes half way between the Opua Cruising Club dinghy dock and Pine Tree Island near the site of my former mooring, being considerate, of course, of boats down wind.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Opua: worked

        Mike, who runs YachtCare here and looks after GANNET in my absence, did a good job when he dove and cleaned GANNET’s bottom last month. She came from the water barnacle free with only slime that was easily removed by the boat yard’s pressure wash.

        I got the first coat of anti-fouling on yesterday and the second before breakfast this morning.  Another advantage of small boats.  A few minutes ago I touched up the topsides.  This morning I did the laundry.  On Wednesday Rob the rigger came by and sorted out the ProFurl Spinex gennaker furling gear, among the best $40 U.S. I have ever spent.  The task was easier with two people, particularly when one of them knew what he was doing.  Tomorrow and Sunday I will polish the topsides.  Monday we go back in the water.
        The anti-fouling paint is the same hard finish International Ultra I used before.  This time in Dover White, which was not available when I last anti-fouled in San Diego almost two years ago.  Also International now calls it Ultra 2.  Dover White in International’s Micron paints, which I have also used, goes on gray and turns whiter once it is in the water.
        I prefer light colored bottoms because they are easier to see and inspect in the water.  Black is not.
        The ProFurl Spinex has small plastic balls around the central torsion cable and looks something like a giant octopus tentacle.  At the moment it is curled awkwardly with the asymmetrical in the sail’s fortunately generous bag.  The sail is furled from having been set on the older Facnor furler.  Once I can set it and furl it onto the ProFurl cable, they should take up less room.  Maybe  next week.
         I’m going to walk over to the Opua Cruising Club this evening and reward myself with an iced gin and tonic, or two, and dinner.

Monday, March 7, 2016

Opua: the passing of the baton; hauling

As you can see above, Mark English’s old carbon fiber tiller is now on GANNET.  In preparing his Moore 24, MAS!, for this years double-handed race from San Francisco to Hawaii, Mark has done a significant refit, including I expect cutting out the transom which necessitates a different tiller.
The tiller went in place quite easily.
One of the three holes at the aft end lined up with the holes in the side plates and the other two required only slight re-drilling.  There is G-10 reenforcement inside the tiller there and at the forward end for the tiller extension bracket.  Mark must use the same kind of tiller extension I do, a Ronstan BattleStick—I don’t make up these names— because the existing screw holes matched my fitting perfectly.
To install the tiller pilot pin, I drilled a ⅜” hole through the top of the tiller and the foam core.  I filled this hole with epoxy.  Let it harden overnight and then drilled a ¼” hole in the epoxy for the pin, which I bedded with 5200.  Today the pin feels as solid as the proverbial rock.
GANNET is now probably the only Moore 24 with three tillers on board.  The third is attached to the emergency rudder.
She also has two tiller covers, and I’m not sure she needs even one.  I will dispose of one in any case.
When I was ashore yesterday I walked down to the boat yard with the intention of arranging to haul out next week if possible.  However, they offered to lift GANNET at 10:30 tomorrow morning, Wednesday here, providing I guaranteed that GANNET won’t break the travel lift. I did.  Out Wednesday, back in next Monday, should give me ample time to anti-foul, touch-up the topsides, and sort out the new gennaker furling gear.
In the above photo you can also see the new flag pole, the old Avon, and the top of the Torqeedo, the various components of which I slithered aft and recovered, along with the outboard mount, from where they are stowed in the stern out of sight and mind.  Once assembled, the battery showed 99% charge, and the motor started at the first push of the button.  Almost an engine to be liked.
        I have little to do this afternoon, which is just as well, because I an equal amount of ambition.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Opua: admirable

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

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

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

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

        In his second:

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, March 4, 2016

Opua: bagged; jibed; scrubbed; almost flagged; warned

        While I am unaccustomed to praising airlines, Air New Zealand did exactly what they said they would.  At 9 a.m. yesterday I received a telephone call from them saying that my bag was in Auckland, had cleared Customs, and would be in KeriKeri on a midday flight from which it would be driven to the Opua Marina office.  When I called the marina office at 2 p.m. it had just arrived.  I rowed it and fetched it.
        Back on GANNET I unpacked and made a new mess of the only recently organized cabin.  Everything that should have been in the bag still was, and nothing was damaged.
        It took two hours to sort and stow everything, but I was pleased that everything, even the dry suit which rolled up smaller than I expected, fit in existing bags, duffle or waterproof.
        The photo is of last evening’s twilight, taken while I was standing in the companionway, listening to music and sipping the last half of the good bottle of red wine I had started the evening before.
        Today has been the nicest so far.  In fact it has been perfect.
        With only slight wind from the south, I was able to bend on the furling jib and scrub the waterline.  It will need a second scrubbing with the waterline cleaning liquid sold in chandleries here.  I was skeptical before I tried it last year, but it works almost effortlessly.
        This afternoon I glued a patch on the duffle bag that just arrived.  It sustained a small tear somewhere along the way, but overall is better made and stronger than some of the bags on board and I may replace one of them with it.
        I also installed the flag pole mount near the stern.  You may recall that tying the flag to the backstay causes the whole rig to shake in strong wind.  I’m letting the sealant cure overnight and will set the U.S. and N.Z. flags tomorrow.
        While working on deck I noticed an intricate spider web in one of the cockpit sheet bags.  Not a good sign on a sailboat, but she is coming back to life. 
        While I am pretty much over my cold as far as coughing and sneezing, a lingering effect may be my getting tired after only moderate exertion.  Or it could be because I am really old.  Nah.


        I have probably sold a few bottles of Laphroaig for those fine people over the years.  Not always successfully.
        In an email mostly about other topics, Art wrote:  ‘One last thing—I was able to try Laphroaig a while back.  I have to say that it is the quintessential acquired taste!’
        Every time I read that, I smile.

Thursday, March 3, 2016


        6:30 PM, Thursday, March 3.
        I’ve  been listening to music. Random selections from Bach and Bartok to Jia Peng Fang, the Eagles, Beethoven, Ismael Lo, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Linda Ronstadt.  Linked Megabooms are wonderful in this small space and on deck.  Better than the five surround sound speakers we have in the condo.  On GANNET I am truly immersed in the music.
        I discovered that some of the albums I recently bought aren’t actually on my iPhone.  I hope they are on my laptop.  Apparently people at Apple can’t conceive of a life that is not constantly connected; but many, perhaps all of the essential moments of my life, except for whatever your response might be to my words, have occurred in isolation and privacy.  Fortunately none of the missing music is Bach.
        I’m sitting at Central in the Great Cabin, looking east at a small white cloud and a blue sky.  The sun has dropped below the Opua hill behind me.
        I stop to blow my nose.
        Carol has had two colds in succession.  I avoided the first, but caught the second the day before I was to fly.  This turned out to have an advantage:  I took a night time Contact on the flight from San Francisco to Auckland, which in combination with two glasses of red wine provided by Air New Zealand, knocked me out, resulting in more sleep than I usually get on such flights.  
        Assuming that I stay alive, I may give up sailing because of flying.  For years I have said and thought that it couldn’t get any worse.  And yet it always does.
        This time United Airlines required passengers to do even more of their work and managed to lose my bag.
        The temperature is in the 70sF/22C now.  When I left Chicago yesterday it was freezing with snow and ice.  Our pilot announced that two planes had slid off runways.  We were delayed an hour waiting for de-icing.
        We landed in Auckland just before dawn on a lovely day.  
        All would have been well if my duffle bag had appeared on the carousel, but it didn’t.  I finally learned that it was still in Chicago.   I know that ‘why?’ is not a good question.  I am told that the bag will appear at the Opua Marina Office tomorrow.  It only contains stuff, but somewhat expensive stuff—I had no reason to consider it earlier, but I calculate that is a $3000 duffle bag.  As Billy Pilgrim said in SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE, ‘so it goes.’
        Almost calm now.  Ripples trickling against the hull.  But much of the day has been windy and choppy. 
        Although it isn’t, I think of Opua as home.  Riding the shuttle from the airport in KeriKeri for possibly the last time, I knew every turn in the road.
        There are two moments on the return that are more important than others:  coming over the Opua hill and seeing boats below: and the moment I push away from the dock in the dinghy and am free of the land.
        Today I did seek to see if I could get a ride out to GANNET at the two dingy docks, but no one was there, so I pumped up my old locked up inflatable and rowed out myself, as I should. 
        The wind was blowing twenty knots from the east, creating a rebound chop off the marina breakwater very much like overfalls with small wavelets leaping up and down from all directions.  I managed to reach GANNET without getting too wet.
        The two parts of my life have only one connection:  me,  A nice condo in Evanston, Illinois, and a small boat in Opua, New Zealand, are two entirely different worlds,  Perhaps understandably it takes me a while to make the transition.  
        I reached GANNET and rowed around her, even in the chop, to check for damage.  She is expectedly dirty around the waterline.  
        I precariously climbed aboard, more acrobatic in the chop than you might imagine.  The bilge is dry.  The ship’s batteries fully charged.
        I turned on the wind display.  The wind is gusting 20+.  I turned on the depthfinder.  We are in 19’ of water.  I charged the two Megabooms and found one far more discharged than the other
        I tried to charge the YellowBrick and found it dead and thus far unresponsive to any combination of charging cables or connections.  I am willing to keep trying; but the Yellowbrick is not essential.  I have never planned to use it to call for help.  It is a courtesy.  And the solution for aggravating nonessentials is to eliminate them and move on.  We will see,
        I discovered other technology glitches.
        The Bear Extender I used to amplify the Wi-Fi signal from shore does not work with the most recent Mac OS.  Without it, Internet on the mooring is extremely slow.  I may have to take my laptop ashore to post this.
        That doesn’t matter.  I will share this with you when I can.  What really matters is that I am again on the water.

Friday morning

        Taking another night time Contact, I slept well last night, waking for a while at 2:30 a.m. and gazing up at stars through the hatch above me, but then falling back to sleep until around dawn at 6:30.
        I changed the Yellowbrick to another charging combination last night and was pleased to find it 100% this morning.  I turned it on and successfully transmitted a position.
        Lovely here this morning.  Cool and quiet with the hatches open.  
        The wind decreased enough so that I rowed ashore late yesterday afternoon to shower and buy some things at the General Store, including a bottle of wine and a piece of quiche for dinner. 
         I have things to do:  bend on the jib, move the bow sprit back on deck, straighten out the cabin, clean the waterline if the wind remains light, but at the moment I’m happy just sitting here, feeling the light breeze and peace.