Monday, August 29, 2016
Darwin to Durban passage log
July 1, Friday
0800 Anchor up.
0900 The anchor came up easily. I was not sure it would after being set for two and a half weeks.
Yesterday afternoon I brought in 20’ of the 120’ of rode I had out and learned that the easiest way to clean the slime off it is with my hand. I did so again this morning, tying the rode off at 60’ and washing the accumulated slime from the deck before proceeding to bring in the rest. There was no slime on the chain and the anchor came up fairly clean. Sand and mud washed away by my raising and dipping it in the sea while I let GANNET drift, sails down, with the outgoing tide. Lots of room around us.
After lowering rode, deployment bag and anchor through the forward hatch, I went aft to the cockpit, unfurled the jib and engaged a Raymarine tiller pilot. I intend to use the Pelagic as much as possible on this passage, but found this morning that its remote is dead. This is more than an inconvenience as there is no way to control the pilot at the tiller arm itself and by the time I move from getting GANNET on course with the tiller to the control box just inside the companionway, the little boat often goes off course.
I managed to switch back to the Pelagic once clear of the anchorage and it is steering now. We are making 4 knots under jib alone with the wind aft.
I downloaded GRIBs with LuckGrib the past two days and we may have 20 knot wind once we get clear of the land.
day’s run 16 miles COG 270° SOG 3.7
Durban 5517 miles 239°
1400 G2 set. The wind and our speed kept dropping and when SOG went into the 2s, I set the G2 which brought us back to the 5s.
Hot in the cabin, even with the forward hatch open. Sweat running off me just sitting here. My battery operated fan died in Darwin.
1500 I am working too hard today.
Almost as soon as I set the G2, the wind backed and increased and the Pelagic couldn't control the G2, so down it came. Unfurled jib, raised main. SOG 5-6+.
Australian border patrol boat passed a mile ahead of us also heading west.
1600 The Pelagic has lifted the tiller pin almost out of the tiller.
I changed to sheet to tiller steering, removed the pin and took it into the cabin to consider what to do next. I had the pin in one hand and ziplock bag of adhesives in the other when GANNET rounded up and I had to drop everything to get her back under control. After I did, I found the bag of adhesives, but not the pin. It is presumably here somewhere.
I have spares, so went back on deck inserted one of them into the tiller with 5200 again.
We continue under sheet to tiller steering.
1625 Just found the missing tiller pin.
1730 Standing in the companionway, I take a deep breath. It has been a mixed day, in some ways a vexing one. But now as the sun is about to set off our starboard bow, music is playing from Megabooms, a rum and tonic is being sipped, we are sailing smoothly at six knots in the right direction.
I wanted—I still want—to give the Pelagic a real test if I can keep it from pulling the pin from the tiller—but when I went to sheet to tiller steering the quiet was, and is, lovely. Only the sound of water moving past GANNET’s hull and occasionally the jib sheet thumping through a block.
The new solar panels are effective. Even when the Pelagic was in operation they brought the ship’s batteries to full charge. That has not happened before.
1900 Fading color to the west. Faint blue. Orange. Rust. Probably Venus overhead.
The wind went light at sunset. I removed one of the shock cords from the steering and tightened the jib sheet to the tiller. Our speed has dropped to four knots and our course is higher than I wish.
I opened a bottle of Laphroaig and poured into a crystal glass. I have two bottles on board. One to drink. One for emergencies. If you have read of my being adrift after CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE pitch-poled you know that if I come to the moment I have a last drink, I want it to be something better than Coca-Cola. The first night of a long passage seems appropriate for Laphroaig. Maybe another every ten degrees of longitude.
July 2, Saturday
Light and variable wind had me up several times during the night wearing a headlamp to adjust the steering, including gybing three times.
Once we were surrounded by spectacular bioluminescence, not continuous, but flashes all around as though people were opening and closing windows in a dark city, an image I know I have used before.
And once I woke to the smell of smoke from a fire on shore, though the nearest land is sixty miles away.
This morning the wind picked up after dawn to sixteen knots and GANNET began moving too fast for the steering to keep up even after I partially furled the jib. The 5200 was dry around the tiller pin, but I thought it too soon to test it, so I cleared the port pipe berth and dug out the old tiller and fit it. I don’t recall changing tillers before while underway. Even the old can have new experiences, though this is not one I particularly recommend.
First I went bare poles. Keeping the tiller amidships so we were pointed downwind, I removed the three bolts from the carbon fiber tiller, the middle one last. Then withdrew it and slipped the old tiller in place and quickly got a bolt through. The rest was routine.
The Pelagic is presently steering. GANNET is making 5 and 6 knots under jib alone on the desired course of 250° to 255°. I am keeping an eye on the tiller pin. If the Pelagic lifts this one it is fired.
1000 The Pelagic is fired. It lifted the pin, which had been epoxied in place for two or three years, from the wood tiller within the hour. I hammered the pin back in and have replaced the Pelagic with a Raymarine. The Pelagic arm has a hole all the way through and so rides lower on the pin. The Raymarine hole only is in the underside of the arm and does not go all the way through so it rides on top of the pin. I have also tied the Raymarine arm to the tiller, so it cannot rise. In time I will probably switch back to the carbon fiber tiller, though I may try to epoxy the pin on the wood tiller while it is in place.
In trying to drive the pin back in place, I punched a hole in the palm of my right hand.
Day’s run 92 miles COG 250° SOG 5.8
Durban 5433 miles 239°
The tiller pin is staying in place. 6,000 miles with two i\. I don’t like having resources depleted so early in a passage. Had I thought the Pelagic would fail, I would have bought another Raymarine in Darwin. I’ve been thinking of how to block off the top of the hole in the Pelagic tiller arm. Perhaps epoxy putty, thought I doubt it would last. I will probably be able to use the Pelagic entering harbor if the Raymarines have died by then.
1530 Great sailing. Full main and jib, 16 knots of wind just aft of a beam reach. Despite GANNET’s load of provisions for two months, she is making 6 and 7 knots, with some 8s on waves and even an occasional 9. GANNET’s motion is so quick, I would have to reduce sail to go to sheet to tiller, so I’m letting the tiller pilot continue to steer.
The hole in my hand is a nuisance.
1830 Standing in the companionway. Pachelbel’s Canon on the Megabooms, followed by Bette Midler singing “The Rose”. GANNET making 6s and 7s, slashing to 9 and 10. I saw one 11.5. A gin and tonic at hand. A wave rises with a dolphin in it who effortlessly accelerates past GANNET’s bow. A small species. Three feet long. Brown. They glide past us for a half an hour. I wonder what they make of the huge-to-them GANNET. Do they try to communicate? What are you? Where do you come from? What are you doing? And are they disappointed at her failure to reply?
July 3, Sunday
0900 We’ve moved into a new time zone, UCT +8. Only six more to go. The day’s run at noon will be twenty-five hours.
We sailed well during the night under main and full jib until at 0200 we began rolling down waves and taking too much water through the companionway. I put on foul weather pants and went on deck where I lowered the main, but our speed, which had been seven and eight knots, dropped to only four, so I re-raised the main and partially furled the jib, which is what I should have done in the first place.
This morning I had salted oatmeal for breakfast. The oatmeal, trail mix, some added raisins were in the measuring cup on the cabin floor and I was about to add powered milk when a wave flooded in. After pouring most of the sea water from the measuring cup, I added fresh water and ate.
However that was a wave too many and after breakfast I donned foul weather pants again and went on deck and lowered the main. It has stayed down this time. We are sailing under full jib and still making 6 and 7 knots.
The land fell away after we left Darwin, but it is reaching up again with isolated offshore reefs sixty miles ahead. Sailing under jib alone we are able to be on a course that should keep us clear, but I can easily gybe if necessary.
I replaced the Pelagic with a Raymarine that did not have the cover on it. This morning I put the Raymarine on standby, untied and lifted its arm from the tiller pin and got the cover on, before retying and re-engaging the pilot.
Hot in the cabin,
day’s run 150 (25 hours) COG 250° SOG 5.9
Durban 5289 miles 240°
Going to gybe to starboard after recording this, away from reefs and land 38 miles ahead. Should be able to gybe back at sunset.
Day food bag sprung leak. Replaced with double trash bags.
1600 A lot of water has come below today, including a wave that just crashed into us from leeward and spun the stern accidentally gybing the jib.
I had just got out dry clothes and the shorts were wet before I put them on.
Wind 18 to 20 knots. Waves 5’-6’.
Sunset in new time zone will be early. Not long after 1700.
1630 Only briefly standing in the companionway.
The wind has decreased to 17 knots and we are only averaging 5. The waves are steep because here fifty miles offshore we are in shallow water, less than 100’, on Baldwing Bank. Gale Bank, Favell Bank and Van Cloon Shoal are to the north. Penguin Shoal, Combe Rock, East Holothuria Reef and other obstructions to the south. I just want to get through this without getting too much wetter. The Indian Ocean is not far ahead.
1800 Gybed to port. Waves lower and less steep. Time for a plastic of boxed wine.
July 4, Monday
0700 An easy and dry night.
I was up at first light at 0530. When I stood in the companionway a bit later, dolphin again swimming beside GANNET. The same small brown species as before. They disappeared with the sound of the jib flailing as I furled it in order to fit the carbon fiber tiller again. The pin in it is set with 5200, rather messily, and I will epoxy the pin in the wood tiller, though the Raymarine did not raise it.
Australia has a seemingly endless supply of things to run into offshore. When I sailed from Darwin to Bali I went farther north and avoided these. The next are a speck named Browse Island about ninety miles ahead and several reefs that rise straight up from 2,000’ depth between one hundred and fifty and two hundred miles offshore. These might be the last before we are in the open ocean.
0930 Gone to sheet to tiller steering, Full main and jib. SOG 6. Sunny. Hot. Border Patrol plane flew over.
day’ run 112 COG 244° SOG 5.8
Durban 5180 miles 240°
Continue sheet to tiller, full main and jib. COG and SOG are mental averages of widely varying readings.
We have excess solar charging. Even the past two days when the tiller pilot was drawing power, by mid-day the controller was showing the ship’s batteries to be fully charged, so naturally with no draw on power they are fully charged today.
If mounted with adhesive, the Solbian panels can be walked on. I do not need to walk on mine, though I will need to kneel on one of them to mount and unmount the Torqeedo. I will place a flotation cushion on it to spread the load when I do. However, the panels are extremely smooth and I think with water on them will be extremely slippery, and I wouldn’t want to walk on them anyway.
1500 I just finished reading A FAR ARENA and stood up to find a menacing grey boat like something from a James Bond movie a couple of hundred yards off our stern. After a minute or two I picked up the handheld VHF and asked if he wanted to communicate with me. He identified himself as Australian Border Protection and politely asked what boat and who I am. I told him and that I was sailing from Darwin to Durban. He wished me a safe voyage and powered off to the northeast.
The wind has decreased to eight knots and our speed to 4 and 5 knots. I am able to have the forward hatch open so it is comfortable in the Great Cabin.
1545 G2 set. Tiller pilot steering. Only making 5 knots, but doing so more quietly. Main not slatting. Jib not collapsing. Also a better course.
1715 Wind has gone very light. 5 or 6 knots. GANNET is sailing within a knot of wind speed and sometimes at wind speed itself.
Instead of standing in the companionway, I took a Sport-a-seat on deck and sat listening to music, sipping a rum and tonic, and watching the G2 float overhead and the sun set to the northwest.
Back in the Great Cabin I am waiting while Pad Thai steeps.
I hope the wind does not die completely and we keep moving tonight.
1900 After bad Pad Thai, I went back and sat on deck. The small species of dolphin were playing around GANNET, making puffing sounds as they broke the water to breathe.
The wind has gone very light. I watched the G2 collapsing and filling above me in the light from the masthead tricolor.
SOG down to 3 knots, About that much wind. With only a few exceptions, all this year I have been plagued with too little wind rather than too much.
July 5, Tuesday
0700 Drifting. I’ve been up and down all night and so has the G2. Now down.
I woke at 2230 and found the sail hanging limp. I furled, but did not lower it. At 2330 I woke and there was a little wind, so I unfurled the sail. At various times I woke and found that the slight wind had veered or backed backing the sail. I gybed it three times, finding it necessary to furl the sail and then unfurl on the other side rather than try to pull it through. At 0400 I found the sail wrapped around the forestay. I managed to sort it out by hand and lowered the sail, detached the furling gear and pushed the whole mess into the forepeak to straighten out this morning. I never got back to sleep and with daylight at 0600 did straighten out the sail, sheets and furling gear and set it. However, the wind has again died, so we drift at .8 of a knot. Not a good start to a long passage.
0800 Sailing. G2 up. Making 2.5 to 3 knots in about that much wind.
0930 Main and G2. Occasionally hitting 4 knots.
day’s run 68 miles COG 245° SOG 4.4
Durban 5112 miles 240°
Wind picked up and for a minute or two we were making 5 and 6 knots. Back to the 4s
Browse Island five miles to northwest. Not visible. Fishing boat heading west a mile or two south of us.
1430 Saw Browse Island at a distance of three miles. Flat with a navigation light.
Bathed in salt water.
Fishing boat passing to the north heading east.
1800 Wonderful sailing these past few hours. I took Megabooms, Sport-a-seat and air temperature gin and tonic on deck an hour ago and enjoyed GANNET making five and sometimes six knots smoothly in no more than six knots of wind across a sea with 1’ waves. The only white: GANNET’s bow wave and wake. The G2 is a great sail.
We have sailed all day with the forward hatch open, but I will close it for the night.
I further rearranged stowage this afternoon. A trash bag with crackers, cookies and snacks was lost, but has been found. It had been pushed into the stern with the trash bags of freeze dry meals. Venison and rice noodle stir fry for dinner tonight.
July 6, Wednesday
0700 I’m not sure I’m in the Indian Ocean yet, but that is written on the chart a hundred miles away, so I’m close enough.
A quiet night during which I woke often, but got some needed sleep. GANNET kept moving in imperceptible wind, after midnight under mainsail alone. The wind was astern and it was blanketing the G2. I did not want to risk it getting wrapped around the forestay again, so furled it. I put a preventer on the boom, but in such light wind an accidental gybe would not have been serious.
When I got up at first light around 0530, the wind had veered to the southeast and I unfurled the G2. But then it soon backed, so I lowered the main. It continued to back to ENE, so gybed the G2 and we are now on a starboard reach with the sun shining in my eyes.
0930 Sunny. Clear blue sky. Steady high pressure. SOG 1.8 knots under G2. Pleasant, but far, far too slow. I am using up resources and not getting anywhere.
1100 Not even enough wind to fill the G2. I furled it. We are drifting. Very hot.
Day’s run 85 miles COG 241° SOG 2.0
Durban 5027 miles 241°
Australia is falling away from us. Though it will still be there for five or six hundred miles, only open ocean is ahead.
I am one hundred miles north of Western Australia’s King Sound which includes evocative names: Goodenough Bay; Disaster Bay; Repulse Point; and Point Torment.
1225 G2 furled.
1310 G2 set. SOG 3.1.
1530 Had a salt water bath.
Making 4 knots under G2.
1600 Trade wind clouds moving from the east into what was a perfectly clear sky. I think and hope they mean wind.
1800 A beautiful hour on deck. I was sitting on the port side of the deck. Pastel colors there. Peach and cream, lavender and light blue, white and gray. No sharp boundaries. All blending into one another. The water black and pewter, constantly changing facets. My world is all change. To starboard under the G2 is more drama. A vivid sunset. For tonight I prefer the more subtle and gentle.
The ocean has small cross seas, coming from I know not where.
GANNET is making five knots in no more wind than that. She needs so little, but recently has been given even less. I really like this little boat. GANNET and I are one.
The music: SCREENPLAYING, an album of selections from Mark Knopfler’s movie scores.
The drink: air temperature gin and tonic.
1830 I stood in the companionway and found the first sliver of the new moon to the north. The Southern Cross is visible to the south.
The sunset and perhaps the Australian desert has eaten our wind the past few nights. I hope it holds tonight.
July 7, Thursday
0700 This morning GANNET sits right on top of the ‘I’ in Indian Ocean, so there is no doubt.
Wind continued through the night and the G2 pulled us along at 3 and 4 knots. Now, just after dawn, we are making 5.3. Low puffs of trade wind clouds dot the sky. The wind is on the beam and I’ll set the main after I finish my first cup of coffee.
If the wind holds, I will lower the G2 and go to jib and main and sheet to tiller steering to conserve the tiller pilot.
The nearest part of the Australian mainland is 125 miles ESE, but due south of us the land is 250 miles away. I’d like to keep it that way until we pass the western end of the continent still 550 miles ahead.
0800 Second cup of coffee sitting on deck enjoying GANNET sailing smoothly at 5 and 6 knots in that much wind. In slight decreases of wind her speed dropped to 4. In slight increases above 7. The breeze cool against my skin. The ocean so close. GANNET’s bow wave and wake the only sounds.
1100 G2 lowered. Sailing under main and jib with sheet to tiller steering. Making 4.5 knots in 6 knots of wind on beam reach.
I only lowered the G2 to rest the tiller pilot. It was doing a fine job and if I thought it would last the distance, I would have kept on using it.
Tiller pilot steering is necessary to use the G2 and to sail under headsail alone in strong wind, unless I’m willing to steer myself which I am not for long except in unusual circumstances.
day’s run 96 COG 257° SOG 4.3
Durban 4,932 miles 241°
1800 I was on deck most of the past two hours, first sitting in the pleasantly cool shade of the mainsail and listening to music, then standing in the companionway, coming below just after sunset to heat water for chicken gumbo, one of the remaining U.S. meals bought before I left San Diego more than two years ago.
We are only making 3 knots, but seem to be sailing faster. We frequently pass clumps of drifting sea weed and I went aft to see if we are dragging anything. We aren’t.
July 8, Friday
0630 A miserable night continuing into a miserable, though beautiful dawn
I woke at 2330 to find us off course and adjusted the steering . I woke at 0130 to find us off course and again adjusted the steering, going down to a single shock cord. I woke at 0330 to find us sailing slowly due south. On deck I saw that the wind had backed to the northeast and we had to gybe. I did and then re-engaged the tiller pilot to keep us pointed in the right direction. The wind was very light and the sea swell big enough to roll the wind out of the sails several times a minute. I lowered the mainsail to keep the boom from slamming the boat apart.
I am not sure I got any more sleep before getting up an hour ago.
We continue under jib alone. Rolling, Lurching. All but becalmed. Maybe making a knot. I’ll set the G2 when there is enough wind to fill it.
0800 G2 and mainsail set. SOG 2.5. Sweat pouring off me. At least our motion is steadier. Time for my second cup of coffee.
day’s run 75 COG 254° SOG 2.1
week’s run 678
Durban 4,858 241°
A very disappointing first week. Only eleven degrees of longitude. Eighty-nine to go.
I fell asleep this morning sitting at Central.
1530 We have a trade wind sky. We have a three foot swell from the northeast which is quite effectively rolling the wind out of the G2. We have 5,000 miles to go. What we don’t have is wind.
1800 I’ve been sitting on deck listening to music, sipping boxed wine, and watching the G2 collapse. For weeks and thousands of miles we have been sailing around a great desert. This ocean is a desert of wind. Before I go to sleep, under these conditions I’ll have to furl the G2 and let us drift, which will not noticeably reduce our speed. I wish I could go to sleep and not wake until there is solid wind,
We have passed ten degrees of longitude and we are a week out, so I am doubly entitled to some Laphroaig, I need it. I’ll pour and take it back on deck and watch unimaginably distant stars come into view,
1900 G2 furled. We are drifting. I no longer believe in wind. A proof is that I am not closing the forward hatch tonight. That wind will appear and cause GANNET to dash forward and take water over the bow is not possible. Wind is a distant and suspect memory. Wind is a delusion and its absence is going to cause me suffering. I’m going to pour another Laphroaig.
2030 A silver reflection on the water from the first crescent moon. The northeast swell has vanished. The water is glass.
July 9, Saturday
0600 The water is still glass. Some clouds on the eastern horizon. GANNET motionless. Complete silence.
day’s run 28 miles becalmed no COG or SOG
Durban 4832 miles 241°
By far GANNET’s slowest day’s run ever. The previous low was 47 miles.
Sea still glass to all horizons.
1300 I went for a swim and startled a small fish that was living under GANNET.
I took a brush with me to clean the waterline and was disappointed to find many barnacles on the hull and rudder. I knocked off all I could, including diving to the keel. This antifouling paint, International’s Ultra, was applied in March. I expected it to protect better longer.
The water is clear and warm.
1630 Sailing. Sort of. What light wind has returned is heading us. After hand steering and trimming sails for an hour we are present making two knots on course 210°, which is only slightly better than drifting and still not getting the job done.
1830 Making five knots 270°-280° close hauled port tack across glassy water.
July 10, Sunday
0900 We went from no wind and a perfectly clear sky to too much wind and complete cloud cover in a few hours last night.
Lots of water in the cabin, partially because when I lowered the bagged G2 through the forward hatch, I neglected to tighten both latches.
I was caught by two waves while in the companionway during the night, once to partially furl the jib.
After first light I put on foul weather gear and went on deck to reef the main. I went directly to the deeper reef, confident that we would still be sailing at 6 and 7 knots. The problem with the lower part of the Tides Marine track pulling from the mast when a reef is in the mainsail wasn’t as easily solved as I thought. I tied a double line of Dyneema around it and the mast to keep the track in place.
I noticed while on deck the masthead light flickering on and off.
Also the Solar Boost 2000e regulator got some water on it and was providing odd readings. I dried it and sprayed with WD40. I also moved stuff off the v-berth and took a direct reading on the ship’s batteries, which was 12.78. The light on the Solar Boost showing charging came on in daylight, though the sun was behind clouds, and has now changed to show that the batteries are fully charged. I think it is working. If not, I have only to switch wires to the back-up solid-state regulator which is now permanently mounted.
Wind 25-28 knots from the south. We’re sailing about 280° to try to reduce waves coming on board. I’d rather be at 240°-250°.
Every action difficult.
Day’s run 105 miles COG 264° SOG 6.2
Durban 4747miles 242°
Sky clearing to east. After spending some time in the cockpit, I brought us up 10° so that the waves are less often catching us on the beam.
1330 Wind and seas may be slightly abating.
A lot of water still coming below. I have left a sponge on the port pipe berth and mop up the puddle from time to time.
1600 Another Raymarine just died. Gone to sheet to tiller. Four shock cords. Small amount of jib. Not on the course I want. I thought the Raymarine would last this out and then I would go to sheet to tiller.
I’ve been thinking of how to solve the Pelagic problem. GANNET has no plumbing system so I have no hose clamps on board, but I do have plastic wire ties. Maybe I can tie something on top of the Pelagic arm that will prevent it from going down to the base of the pin,
1700 Cloud cover again complete. Rain to the north.
I have to be careful when I use the computer.
1830 Conditions have definitely eased. Wind probably 17-18. Only a few waves coming on board.
July 11, Monday
1000 Complete low cloud cover. Wind down to 16 knots. Barometer has only moved a couple of millebars in all this. Now back where it started.
Sheet to tiller steering held throughout the night. I didn’t think it would as the wind decreased.
This morning I attached a pencil to the Pelagic arm with electrical ties and duct tape to block the hole at the top. I then plugged it in and tied it to the tiller pin so it couldn’t lift. This worked for less than an hour. The Pelagic made very big corrections, seemingly misinterpreting changes in angle of heel as changes in direction. After twice causing accidental gybes from a course that was intended to be a close reach, I turned it off and went back to sheet to tiller. Also it is decidedly noisier than the Raymarines, which of course make no sound at all when they are dead.
Day’s run 121 COG 244° SOG 5.7
Durban 4636 miles 242°
This is our tenth day out and we still haven’t sailed a thousand miles. 948 to noon. I never would have believed it.
1500 Much cooler. 78° in Great Cabin.
We are moving relatively smoothly with reefed main and deeply furled jib, but whenever I stick my head out contemplating increasing sail I find us sailing faster than I expect and know that to go faster will only bring more water on deck and down below.
1900 The sea has flattened out considerably and I was able for the first time in a while to stand in the companionway and watch the little sloop make her way across the water without having that water make its way across me.
Day and night are about equal here, with night presently being, or at least seeming longer. I’m not sure these conditions will last until dawn and may have to increase sail and adjust the self-steering during the night.
I checked the wiring on the masthead light today and found a loose connection. I tightened it and the masthead tricolor is again working.
July 12, Tuesday
0730 I donned foul weather gear in case of an errant wave and went on deck a few minutes ago to remove the reef from the mainsail, but found us moving along easily at 5 to 7 knots, so I didn’t. I did add a third shock cord to the tiller to bring us a bit higher.
The sky overhead is clear this morning, but there is a bank of clouds to the east that looks ominous, but perhaps only because the clouds are back lit. I have three barometers on board, two in watches. The readings have not changed by more than a millibar in the past twenty-four hours.
day’s run 130 COG 250° SOG 6.3
Durban 4516 miles 243 °
High clouds have overrun us, but are not solid. Wind has increased to 20-22 knots.
Within the next hour Australia will no longer be south of us. Shark Bay, the westernmost edge of the continent, is 500 miles due south now.
We will also be entering a new time zone this afternoon, UCT +7. I am changing ship’s time now. Tomorrow’s day’s run will be 25 hours.
1324 Just on deck—foul weather gear can be taken for granted until further notice. Exhilarating sailing. GANNET slicing across a deep blue white-capped ocean, sliding down 6’ to 8’ waves at 8 and 10 knots. I went up to adjust our course a bit further off the wind. Too many of those waves have been coming down below.
Sky has mostly cleared. Powder blue with bands of white cloud. Wind 20 to 22 knots. That reef has been in a long time. We certainly don’t want more sail.
July 13, Wednesday
Wind has decreased to 17-18 knots, though I am seeing some readings of 20 and 21. Also it is warmer than the past few days.
I am missing not having tiller pilot steering in these conditions when we could be sailing under jib alone, faster, safer and drier than with sheet to tiller, but I am not going to risk my remaining Raymarine, assuming the one I have not yet used works.
Despite sailing as broad a reach as possible with our present COG 274°, we keep moving south each day more than I want to. I may eventually have to gybe to keep us in the trades for as long as possible. I am already 4° further south than Cocos/Keeling from where I last sailed to Durban.
Nothing has dried these past several days. I can’t put anything in the cockpit. Shoes and a hat are soaked. I threw the pair of shorts I was wearing overboard. In addition to their being soaking wet, I had worn through the seat.
This morning I moved a bag of freeze dry meals from the stern and stowed the contents in the food bag tied directly behind where I sit at Central.
The reef may come out of the main later today. Or not.
day’s run 142 (25 hours) COG 270° SOG 5.7
Durban 4380 miles 243°
Continues the same. Main remains reefed.
1700 The main is still reefed.
I have mostly been cabin confined, but it is less wet on deck today, though some waves are still coming on board and below, so I just dared to stand in the companionway for a few minutes without foul weather gear and watched the sunset.
Earlier I put my shoes in the cockpit to dry. They did until a wave filled them. I have other shoes and two pairs of sea boots. If you wonder that I even wear them in the Tropics, I stopped going barefoot on deck when I went forward to let the anchor go on RESURGAM and broke a toe on a chainplate.
July 14, Thursday
0800 I woke at 0445 to rain and it looks as though we are going to get more. It did not rain hard or long, but that was the first rain since showers at the Great Barrier Reef more than a month ago. Perhaps it washed some of the salt off GANNET.
After coffee I put on my foul weather gear including sea boots which I got from a duffle bag in the bow and went on deck intending to unreef the main, but once there I found GANNET going well enough and let out a little more jib instead which required the addition of a length of surgical tubing to the two shock cords on the lee side of the tiller and adjustment of the jib sheet.
I brought the boom inboard to check that the reef lines weren’t chaffing the sail and to add a sail tie; then eased the sheet again to a broad reach.
A big dead flying fish on the foredeck was buried at sea.
day’s run 133 miles COG 235° SOG 5.3
Durban 4248 miles 244°
Conditions the same. Complete low cloud cover. Light rain to the southeast.
We moved more than one degree of latitude south since noon yesterday.
1400 Afternoon exercise on deck. I unreefed then re-reefed the mainsail. The full sail gave us another knot and a half of speed, but the sheet to tiller couldn’t keep up; so all is as it was.
1500 More deck exercise and with the same result: all is as it was. We were heading too far south, so I gybed and, as I expected, we were heading too far north, so I gybed back.
1800 For the first evening in a while I was able to stand in the companionway and sip wine and listen to music, until misty rain drove me below. I have not stood much this week.
There wasn’t a sunset, just a fading of light behind clouds.
July 15, Friday
0630 We are under full sail.
I unreefed the main at 0200 when I went on deck to adjust the steering because the jib was making noise.
I just completely unfurled the jib.
We are making 5 or 6 knots generally SW. I want to sail west, but can’t. Eventually I’ll gybe and sail NW.
The sun is just coming up. Clouds to the east. Might be a nice day.
0830 Tired of sailing toward Antarctica, where it is winter and probably cold, I gybed to starboard broad reach. We’re presently making 5.6 knots around 287°. I’m going to sail whatever course I can closest to 270° rather than whatever is closest to the bearing for Durban.
day’s run 114 COG 285° SOG 5.5
Durban 4134 miles 244°
week’s run 773
Out two weeks today. Frustratingly slow. This week was marred by the becalmed start.
I emptied the first fifteen liter water container this morning. I only expected them to be good for eight days. I also had a couple of 1.5 liter bottles on board when we left Darwin.
I came to the end of two boxes of wine in the past two days. They are 2 liter boxes and I have one of red and one of white opened. I am going to run out of wine and spirits. Carrying a barrel of wine and one of Laphroaig on the foredeck was considered, but regretfully deemed excessive.
Sky has cleared from the east. Sun out. Caps and shoes and other gear drying in the cockpit. Forward hatch open. Wind ten knots. Seas 2’-3’.
1530 Gybed Avon, daily food bag, and sail bag of food to port, sleeping bag and pillow to starboard. This will be the first night of the passage I sleep to starboard.
Rinsed salty body with a cup of fresh water.
2030 Fine sailing. There hasn’t been much this passage, this year.
I stand in the companionway, looking down at GANNET’s pale bow wave against black sea. GANNET cuts through the sea with the sound of tearing cloth.
A waxing gibbous moon high astern.
July 16, Saturday
0800 An odd sky. A low narrow strip of blue behind us on the eastern horizon and all the rest dark gray. A strange nacreous dawn. Perhaps sunlight diffused by moisture in clouds.
The wind continues at ten knots from the north and we continue west on a beam reach at about five knots. Every few minutes a big swell comes through from the northeast.
day’s run 122 no COG, SOG becalmed
Durban 4019 miles 245°
Moderate rain. No wind. Sails rumbling.
1430 I’ve been on deck in torrential rain, 25-30 knot gusts of wind, for most of the past two hours. We are presently hove to with a scrap of jib backed. Another variation on not getting this passage done. The wind is from the west heading us. We are being pushed north at two or three knots, which is better than being pushed east, our other option.
When the wind changes, I’ll see if the Pelagic can steer with jib alone. No sign that is going to happen soon.
At noon I thought that we would cross the 4,000 miles to Durban threshold this afternoon.
1630 The Pelagic steered well for a little while, then made a huge unnecessary correction and backed the jib.
I have us sailing west under triple reefed main and a tiny bit of jib, sheet to tiller steering. Close reach. 20-24 knots of wind. I tied the tiller down while raising and reefing the main. GANNET continued sailing on a consistent course, otherwise I would have had to heave to. Somehow the upper reef line has gotten twisted. I know it was not that way before. It is not important and I can sort it out when I unreef, but I don’t understand how it happened.
Even with foul weather gear, the dry clothes I put on yesterday are no longer dry.
Wind from the SSW. I’ll be moving back to the port pipe berth.
1830 Here the Great Cabin is relatively quiet, although waves are coming on board and below, but I just stuck my head through the companionway into a raw, rough, windy world. More than twenty knots forward of the beam always is. At least we are not close-hauled.
2030 Wind increasing. I just saw a reading of 27 knots.
2045 Durban 3,996 miles.
July 17, Sunday
0900 I was reluctant to leave my sleeping bag this morning. It, like everything else, is wet, but my body had dried the interior. I finally pulled myself from the pipe berth, put on wet clothes and went about the day, starting with pumping the bilge which was full. On GANNET that is not a lot of water, but more than I wish was there.
Wind remains at 20-25 knots from the south. I’m trying to keep us on a broad reach, but the wind often brings us up to a beam reach. I went out once during the night and removed one shock cord from the tiller as the wind backed. That leaves two shock cords and a length of surgical tubing.
I noticed the red charging light lit on the Yellowbrick and knew that water has somehow gotten into the USB charging port on the bottom. This happened on the passage from Tonga to New Zealand when it was mounted on the stern pulpit, which was why I moved the unit to the interior. I dried the charging port and sprayed it with WD40 and am charging the Yellowbrick now. It was at 73%. There is waterproof and there is GANNETproof, which is a much higher standard exceeded only by submarines which GANNET sometimes imitates.
An inventory of injuries: a sore spot on my head that I can’t see. I don’t remember bumping it, but obviously did. A rubbed left elbow where heeled to starboard it is usually pressed against a cushion. My left shoulder, the torn one, aches, also from almost constantly taking my heeled weight.
A wave just exploded over us. I am not at Central, but sitting on the port pipe berth perpendicular to the centerline, bracing myself with my feet on the starboard pipe berth. I could feel the wave flex the hull behind my shoulders as it struck.
To continue the thought: Also the easiest sleeping position on the port pipe berth is on that shoulder.
Most painful are my buttocks which have salt water sores that I treat with lotion, but will not go away until they are salt free and dry for several days, which isn’t going to happen any time soon.
day’s run 116 COG 290° SOG 6.4
Durban 3927 miles 245°
A wet, rough, uncomfortable, dangerous day. Two waves picked us up and carried us in foaming walls of water sideways a long way. Imagine the room in which you are reading this picked up, tilted so far that you fear it will be turned upside down, and thrown as casually as dice. The animal in you will tense, as the animal in me often has today.
The wind is increasing. More readings 25+ knots. Maximum I’ve seen is 30. The barometer has been steadily rising, but you certainly would not know it by looking outside.
The day’s run isn’t bad considering that we were driven back east in the heaviest rain yesterday afternoon.
The Yellowbrick appears to have charged properly and is now 100%. Corrosion could still set in. I’ve moved the mounting bracket to the center of the bulkhead, where it may be in the way, but will not be in the direct path of water flooding through the closed hatch.
1430 Sky clearing. Wind back in the 20-25 knot range. Although I would hate to waste another day, we are taking too many of these waves on the beam and one of them might roll us, so I’ve started to consider heaving to until it blows itself out. Perhaps it is already doing so and heaving to will not be necessary. We’re also being forced back north more than I want, but I’m not about to harden up and take more water over the deck. Not being able to sail off under head sail alone is a big disadvantage.
1530 Despite a temperature in the Great Cabin of 75°F, I’ve been cold today. Goes with always being wet. I did put on a dry t-shirt and am using the last one as a towel. I’ve only stuck my head through the companionway a few times and then for only seconds at a time.
1800 Dinner of roast lamb and vegetables.
The wind is still in the 20s, but the waves have diminished and fewer are coming on board. CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE must have been wetter than GANNET. I keep telling myself.
July 18, Monday
Four or five waves that rolled us almost masthead in the water and threw things across the cabin had me sitting at Central at 0530 waiting for first light. When it came I removed my wet clothes and got into foul weather gear as wet inside as out. It really wasn’t so bad after the first skin contact.
On deck I found a near gale, which has since then become one, and a mess of lines, the ends of some of which had washed overboard and were trailing astern. Whitecaps everywhere. Perpendicular breaking ten foot waves. To continue sailing was to invite capsize. I lowered the main, tied the tiller amidships, furled the jib to a tiny triangle, which I backed. However it wouldn’t stay backed, so I completely furled it and went to bare poles. I then straightened out the snarled lines and stowed them in sheet bags. And I set up both running backstays. Hanging on frequently to keep from being swept overboard myself, all this took most of an hour.
We continue being under bare poles and being pushed to the northeast. GANNET is heeled 15° just from the wind on her mast and hull. A few waves are slamming into her, but she rides over most like the proverbial cork.
The sky is sunny. The barometer up another millibar. The wind 28-30 knots, gusting gale force. I’ve seen readings of 34 and 35 knots. And sometimes howling, thought mostly GANNET’s cabin is quiet.
There is no place of refuge in that cabin. It is wet from bow to stern.
We had a good day’s run going until I had to take down the sails. I really miss having a self-steering vane or a reliable tiller pilot because GANNET could still be sailing down wind under deeply furled jib alone.
day’s run 121 no COG, SOG lying ahull
Durban 3845 miles 245°
No change. Wind 32 knots. Sunny.
1500 I went on deck to see if I could get us sailing before nightfall. A couple of breaking waves provided a quick answer. Another lost day.
I checked our progress since noon. We are being blown north at 1.66 knots.
1600 Sailing. Faster in fact than I wish. I saw 12 knots down one wave, but generally we are doing 6 and 7. Wind 20 to 25 knots. Hasn’t been 30 for a while. I hope it goes down into the teens.
1715 I am so glad to get sailing again before sunset. The wind is 21 knots and the waves lower. We only lost nine hours.
The reef I have in the mainsail is supposed to be at the third reef level. I’m not sure it is, but even if so, I need a deeper reef, particularly for sheet to tiller. In strong wind GANNET doesn’t need much sail to drive her.
July 19, Tuesday
0900 First thing this morning I got into my saturated foul weather gear and went on deck to change our course. In the pipe berth I could feel that we were sailing too high. In the cockpit I found that waves had swept the tail of the jib sheet through the cockpit drain and in the process untied the slippery hitch I use to tie it to the tiller. I make several wraps around the tiller and fortunately the friction of the wet line kept it in place. After letting out a little more jib and adjusting the sheet, I added a half hitch to the slippery hitch and stuffed the tail of the sheet in a sheet bag.
The wind has dropped into the teens. 17-18 now, though it does venture back to 20-21. Waves down to 4’ and only occasionally bashing us. We need a sunny drying day, but I don’t think today will be it. I have been sailing for most of the last week with the companionway slat in place, causing condensation on the overhead and sides of the hull. Hopefully I’ll be able to remove it and air out the Great Cabin later.
day’s run 116 COG 255° SOG 6.1
Durban 3735 miles 245°
A nice day. Wind from 15 to 21 knots. Sunny. Some drying in cabin, but the occasional wave coming on board prevents me from spreading wet things in the cockpit.
We have finally crossed 100°E longitude and should move into a new time zone tomorrow.
1500 Wind down to 15-16 knots. Set more jib and readjusted steering. Clouds with a few drops of rain an hour ago, but again sunny. Big swell from the south.
1700 I was hoping for a few days of easy, productive and dry sailing. I was able to remove the slat from the companionway most of today and stalactites are no longer forming on the overhead, but the barometer is down two millibars and the sky to the south is dark and ominous.
July 20, Wednesday
0730 We entered a new time zone last night UCT+6. I’ve changed ship’s time. Today’s run will be 25 hours.
The unpleasantness to the south vanished with the setting sun and we had a dry, comfortable, productive night. The ride was so smooth I woke this morning expecting to unreef the mainsail, but found the wind was blowing 16 to 21 knots, so I didn’t. I was able to leave the companionway slat out throughout the night and the Great Cabin is drier this morning.
As I was having my second cup of coffee this morning, a wave caught us at just the wrong instant and pushed the stern around causing an accidental gybe. Coffee into the bilge. I instantly on deck. I was able to muscle us through a return gybe without getting soaked. After moving one of the shock cords a notch tighter, I returned below and made another cup of coffee.
The wind is from the south and we yawing between a beam and broad reach.
day’s run 140 (25 hours) COG 261° SOG 6.0
Durban 3608 miles 245°
We are just past the longitude of the Cocos Islands, 350 miles north of us. In 2008 I sailed Cocos to Durban in 29 days, August 11 to September 9.
We are also now more than 2,000 miles from Darwin.
Still sunny, but rougher. The wind is west of south keeping us on a beam reach. A few waves have come on board. Too many for me to stand in the companionway, which I haven’t been able to do for a long while and I miss.
I went on a chocolate hunt this morning. I knew I bought five or six chocolate bars. I’ve eaten one, but had no idea where the others were. I crawled into the bow and found them in the third bag I opened.
I have also found water in several trash bags, so the most vulnerable stores are now in ziplock bags inside double trash bags.
Chocolate retrieved, I ate two squares.
1600 A moderate day. Wind 17 to 20 knots. But three waves hammered us in the past hour. Make that four. These are only small waves. Three to five feet. Yet they strike with great force. Fortunately without much water coming below.
I cleaned mold from the overhead and sides of the hull this afternoon,
1830 Full moon astern. GANNET sails a black ocean down a column of moonlight.
On the next full moon I should be close to Africa.
1700 I’ve been listening to my Requiem playlist.
When I die I expect a few people around the world will raise a glass that evening to my memory. I don’t expect that anyone will actually take a couple of hours to listen to my Requiem, so from time to time I do and consider my life.
Beyond that I chanced on the three songs I most like from when I was in my twenties and thirties. Bette Midler: The Rose. Simon and Garfunkel: The Boxer. Don McLean: Vincent. Accompanied by boxed white wine. The music is better than the wine.
July 21, Thursday
0830 A wild night with GANNET hissing too fast across a smooth sea. Too fast because on the edge of sheet to tiller control and because we were too frequently hammered by waves. I checked the wind and it was in the low 20s, as it is now,
I so regret not having a usable tiller pilot in such conditions. I even find myself again considering a self-steering vane, but it would block fitting the Torqeedo which I don't need to do often but need to do sometimes, require strengthening the transom, moving the new solar panels, and prevent using the emergency rudder.
Passing showers this morning. Looking aft through the companionway, I see another moving up on us.
day’s run 142 COG 284° SOG 6.0
Durban 3503 miles 245°
We are being forced north more than I wish, but I expect the wind will let us get south again sometime in the next three thousand miles.
July 22, Friday
0830 Two strong accidental gybes last night, one at 2230, the other about an hour later announced a new gale.
I was able to gybe GANNET back again, but the second time, after going below and putting on foul weather gear which reduced wind chill—my body was already drenched—I tried to heave to. GANNET doesn’t do this well, no matter what combination I try: main and backed jib; both singly; a tiny bit of jib sheeted amidships. So I went to bare poles and we have been lying ahull ever since. With a full moon I didn’t need to use my headlamp.
0100 Saw me sitting in my foul weather pants on the starboard pipe berth with a tumbler of red wine listening to Bach Partitas.
Squalls of rain continue to come through. Between them the wind sometimes drops to the low 20s and we could sail. But as the squalls approach the wind gusts to 38 knots and sheet to tiller can’t handle that on GANNET.
We had a 140+ mile day going and a respectable week before the gybes. Presently we are being pushed north at 2.5 knots.
The waves are only 6’ and not many of them are bashing us.
While these are not survival conditions—I hope—I have considered setting the Jordan drogue. If I knew this will last two or three days, I probably would. The hassle of retrieving the drogue and getting it back in its deployment bag makes me reluctant.
I want us not to sustain damage, for this gale to end, and for us to be on our way again.
day’s run 80 COG 255° SOG 4.5
week’s run 861
Durban 3450 miles 245°
For the past hour the Pelagic has been steering. I decided to give it another try. It has been doing a pretty good job under what are rough conditions. Wind still 28-30 knots. It has backed the jib a few times, but I have so little set it brought us back. If it can keep it up, it will have earned its keep. Much better than lying ahull.
July 23, Saturday
1100 Sky partially blue. Wave just flooded below. I wonder if this computer is going to survive the passage. I wonder if I am. Another wave broke. Water floods in around the companionway ten or twelve times every minute. Minute after minute. Too wet to continue. Laptop back in Pelican case.
1120 Try again. Wind 20 to 25. And we for the past hour back on sheet to tiller self-steering. We owe the Pelagic the last eighty miles. Otherwise we would have been lying ahull until this morning. That was the first time the Pelagic was in use overnight and it did not draw the batteries down. I went back to sheet to tiller because the Pelagic is noisy and it engages in odd behavior. Several times after gybing the scrap of jib, it turned us all the way east before reversing back to our course of 250°.
Everything that was wet, which is everything, is wetter. Every surface I touch. My foul weather gear inside and out. My sleeping bag. Pillow. The floorboards are slimy and slippery.
When the present is intolerable, the mind escapes elsewhere. Mine has turned to my 75th birthday, which if I make it is less than four months away. I checked. It will be a Friday. If Carol can take the day off, I hope she will. A day for just the two of us. Weather permitting, we will walk down to the lake. Perhaps she will grill a piece of fish or a lobster tail for dinner. An exceptional bottle of wine. And, of course, Laphroaig afterwards. That gentle peace will have more meaning because I have endured this. That I of all people survived for seventy-five years. Assuming I do. On GANNET eternity is only a wave away.
I’ve considered stopping at Mauritius. I hope I won’t, but this is harsh. It depends on how much I’m hurting.
I wonder if there will ever be pleasant standing in the companionway, sitting on deck sailing again.
day’s run 100 COG 270° SOG 6.2
Durban 3354 miles 245°
1630 An hour ago we took a masthead in the water knockdown. Proof being that the Windex at the masthead is bent. The Raymarine masthead unit is still there and functioning. The tricolor light is still there and I will see if it works after sunset.
An overwhelming force picked us up, threw us sideways and pressed us down. After a pause it relented and GANNET came upright.
In the cabin everything not tied down flew to starboard. I held myself in place. A bottle of hydrogen peroxide went from a compartment in the top of a storage bag to port to a compartment in the top of a storage bag to starboard. Many other objets moved as dramatically. I don’t recall that much water came below, but that was not my focus.
After I moved things somewhat back in place, I went on deck where I found the bent masthead Windex and a sheet bag washed away. Also a lost piss pot. I have a spare.
The wind is only 20 knots and the waves 6’. One of them caught us just right. Or just wrong.
I need a respite. Some fine weather and easy sailing. No reason to think that is going to happen.
1715 I’m sitting on the port pipe berth. Music from a scrambled nonclassical playlist on the Megabooms. A tumbler of gin just enjoyed. A plastic survival blanket wrapped around me. Reflective on one side, rescue orange on the other. I am in neither survival nor rescue mode. The blanket keeps me warm and water off. It is not cold here. Temperature in the 70s. But I am constantly wet and chilled by evaporation. The overhead is crossed with paths of water and droplets. Time to decide on my evening freeze dry feast.
1830 The feast was beef stew.
The masthead tricolor works.
2000 I am reluctant to get into my sleeping bag. As with my foul weather gear it is the initial shock. Once past that my body warms and dries it.
This is now the fourth boat whose masthead I have put in the water: EGREGIOUS, CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, THE HAWKE OF TUONELA, and now GANNET. Not a distinction I sought. I don’t recall that RESURGAM’s masthead ever went in the water.
July 24, Sunday
0845 A quiet night until waves started slamming us a couple of hours before dawn. I’ve gone on deck and adjusted the steering and the ride is better now. Wind in the low 20s.
day’s run 142 COG 260° SOG 6.2
Durban 3215 miles 245 °
Not a bad day after I got us turned a little further off the wind. I was even able to stand in the companionway briefly, while wearing foul weather gear of course.
Re-stowed more stuff thrown about in yesterday’s knockdown. I think we are pretty much as we were prior, though wetter.
1430 Wind 18-20 knots. In foul weather gear I stood in the companionway and let out more jib. Two waves immediately swept GANNET. Jib back in. Waves bigger than I expected. Some 10’. Powerful pyramids.
1900 Not a bad day. We made some miles without suffering, but I must admit I am not looking forward to crawling into that wet sleeping bag.
1915 Few waves have come onboard these past few hours. Suddenly one came and soaked me. A second hit and spilled a tumbler of red wine, a diminishing resource,
2000 A wave just came from darkness and threw me across the cabin. Smashed my left elbow. It can happen at any time.
July 25, Monday
0900 A hard night. Two accidental gybes. I readjusted the shock cords and jib sheet and seem to have gotten it right the second time.
Water splashed onto my face while in the pipe berth. I didn’t even bother to wipe it off.
During one of my rushes to the deck I knocked the Yellowbrick and mounting bracket from the bulkhead. I sent up a couple of manual position reports and have the Yellowbrick back in place. If it happens again, I may just send up manual reports three times a day.
Painful salt water rash spreading over my body. Worse on elbows, hips, thighs and buttocks.
Ever since the masthead in the water knockdown, the Solar Boost regular has had the charging light on constantly, even at night. I will switch to the other regulator.
I used the last of the second of the three fifteen liter water containers I brought as extra. Fifteen liters is about four U.S. gallons, which I would expect to be eight days use. I did have two or three 1.5 liter bottles at the start of the passage as well, but so far the water supply is good,
day’s run 146 COG 250 ° SOG 6.2
Durban 3080 miles 245°
A good day’s run but brutal. We have been pounded and tossed by endless waves and still are.
I crawled onto the bags in the forward berth and switched solar regulators. This requires only moving four wires from one to the other, but the screws securing those wires are tiny and with GANNET regularly being thrown sideways, it took a while,
Following Steve Earley’s lead I bought a bivy. I searched for it today from bow to stern without success. I don’t recall disposing of it, but I may have. The sleeping bag is so sodden, I’m not sure I can sleep in it any longer. I have another on board, but it is heavier and would just get wet, too. I may try to sleep wrapped in the foil survival blanket.
July 26, Tuesday
0945 Not a bad night. Only one accidental gybe and that was oddly in moderate wind. Perhaps a wave caught GANNET at the wrong instant. On deck I found light rain and no moon. I could see enough to gybe us back.
My foil blanket sleeping arrangement worked last night. The sleeping bag is untenably saturated. It would be like trying to sleep inside a wet sponge. I could sleep in my other suit of foul weather gear or the dry suit. I’m not sure how comfortable the dry suit would be overnight.
The wind is in the mid-teens and the waves smaller. I’ve just came from on deck trying to get us to a beam reach to make some useful miles to the southwest without being pounded.
The light on the solar regulator showed the batteries to be low this morning, but then changed when charging began. Possibly all the water has caused a short circuit somewhere, but I don’t know where and have no good way to dry anything out. Also all the stuff in the bow makes it difficult to trace wiring.
day’s run 142 COG 245° SOG 6.1
Durban 2943 miles 246°
Wind back up to 20 knots, but we are having a relatively smooth ride. Only a few waves are coming on board, but enough to prevent me from standing long in the companionway. The sun briefly felt good on my miserable skin.
Prior to lunch I removed some bags from the v-berth and checked the batteries directly. They were fully charged. Then I checked the wiring of each solar panel to the busses. I felt a slight shock with the positive wires, but it did not ever cease when I disconnected the wires one at a time.
I then disconnected the positive wire from the bus to the solar regulator and again checked the batteries. They still showed a full charge. I dried and WD40ed and reconnected all the wires. For the moment the lights on the regulator show that solar charging is taking place and the batteries are charged.
1700 A decent day during which I sailed with the companionway slat out and was able to stand for several minutes in the companionway, wearing foul weather gear, before a couple of waves got me. I wish I could have stayed there longer.
With dusk I became slightly chilly and dug out a pair of Levis. I wonder how long they will last.
1800 Well, they have lasted at least an hour, which recently clothes often haven’t. These are easy and relatively painless miles. I’ll gladly take them.
1900 I am so enjoying sitting here in dry clothes.
July 27, Wednesday
0630 We entered a new time zone last night, UCT+5, and I have changed ship’s time. Today’s run will be twenty-five hours.
Respite at last. A peaceful, uneventful night. The wind is down to 14-15 knots and the seas slight. I may set more sail or I may let us continue as we are and try to dry foul weather gear and cushions in the cockpit.
I slept below the foil blanket last night. It will certainly keep water out, but condensation forms on the inside.
I am still in dry clothes and guarding them carefully, though I know the inevitable.
day’s run 129 (25 hours) COG 250° SOG 5.0
Durban 2815 miles 246°
Sun trying to break though overcast, but hasn’t quite. Not really a drying day, but I tried. Spray came into the cockpit and left my foul weather gear at least as wet as it was before.
Still sailing with reefed main and deeply furled jib. I may increase sail this afternoon.
1600 I was able to stand in the companionway for a while, getting only a little spray on my no longer completely dry shirt.
The sun broke through the clouds this afternoon and I put the Sport-a-seat and a cushion outside. They are a little drier.
I adjusted the steering, but haven’t added sail area. If it is like still like this tomorrow, I will, but another easy night would be welcomed.
July 28, Thursday
0800 I got the easy night I wanted. Our motion was smooth enough that I expected to increase sail first thing this morning, but when I got up a couple of hours ago I found the wind to be 18 knots and the seas increasing, so I didn’t. I am sailing defensively rather than aggressively. If by going a bit slower I can avoid living under a waterfall, I will.
day’s run 126 COG 263° SOG 5.5
Durban 2692 miles 246°
Three or four waves have slammed us in the past hour. None came below. Sun shining through high overcast, but I can’t put anything in the cockpit to dry. Wind 16-19 knots.
Pleasant sitting here on the pipe berth this morning, drinking coffee, listening to music—MASTERPIECES IN MINIATURE performed by the San Francisco Symphony and then the score to MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA, and watching the ocean speed past below.
My skin is improved by a couple of days of not being constantly wet. Yesterday was the first day in recent memory that I did not put on foul weather gear.
I study the companionway and once again consider a dodger. Conditions on GANNET were unbearable and endured only because I had no choice. They may well be again before we reach Durban. Maybe there I’ll see if an acceptable compromise dodger can be made.
1330 First wave in a couple of days just came below.
1600 Blue sky. Deep blue white-capped sea. But the wind is back up to 20 knots and has backed west of south. We sail comfortably along until suddenly a wave crashes on board and below or heels us far over and surfs GANNET sideways. I put the slat in the companionway, but have taken it out again in favor of fresh air. Too much water and I’ll have to give up the air.
1630 Beautiful outside. GANNET sailing well. Though as on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE I don’t want to get soaked just before sunset, I stood in the companionway for a few minutes. As long as I dared. I doubt I have stood for an hour total in the past week. Maybe two weeks. And I don’t recall when the full mainsail was set.
1900 A wave just caught and threw us.
I’ve stood in the companionway, briefly, several times during the past few hours. It is great sailing. But these are not big waves. Even small ones can skip GANNET
like a pebble across a pond.
July 29, Friday
0845 Last night was good. Waves stayed off and out of GANNET. We sailed well, but due west. We need to make distance to the southwest. This morning the wind is in the low 20s and from the south. A few waves are catching us and if we harden up, many more assuredly will. I am shying away from that as long as possible, hoping for the wind to back southeast.
day’s run 151 COG 256° SOG 6.4
week’s run 936
Durban 2550 miles 246°
Four weeks out today. A decent week’s run and some of it not even uncomfortable, though this afternoon will be.
I put on my foul weather gear and went on deck to bring us closer to a beam reach with the expected outcome of more water coming below.
July 30, Saturday
0900 A hard night. Not because of waves coming on board and below. Few did, though one caught me a little while ago while I was heating coffee water. These Levis are not yet saturated, but close.
An accidental gybe caused me to go on deck about 2100. I had two shock cords and a length of surgical tubing on the lee side of the tiller and one of the shock cords had come off. This has happened before. I suppose when there is slack in the cords. I tied it in place, though I’m not sure that is going to work. I over compensated when I adjusted the system and GANNET was sailing too high, so I had to go back on deck and adjust again.
An hour later I woke to the sound of something hitting against the hull near the bow. I extricated myself from the foil blanket and crawled forward. The sound was coming from outside the hull on the starboard side. I could not imagine what it might be and got into foul weather gear again, with head lamp, and went out to see.
GANNET was sailing fast on a beam reach and heeled well over. Waves constantly over the foredeck. I crawled forward from handhold to handhold, looking for something loose. Hanging on to a stanchion, leaning over white water of the bow wave, acutely aware that eternity was inches away, I examined the hull as it rose and dipped beneath the waves. Nothing. The atypical sound was of the waves themselves rebounding against the hull. I crawled back aft and made my way below. After a while the sound stopped.
Wet again. Difficult to find a comfortable sitting position.
day’s run 138 COG 247° SOG 5.7
Durban 2413 miles 247°
Sun shining through high overcast. Not a bad day, despite the occasional wave catching us and compelling me to sail with companionway slat in. Wiped lots of mold off overhead. Still lots there.
Temptation: Rodriguez Island, part of Mauritius, 600 miles ahead. Mauritius itself 900 miles ahead. And I’m out of gin.
July 31, Sunday
0845 An easy night for which I am grateful.
Morning coffee drunk standing in companionway.
The wind has dropped to 14 knots and backed. We are now headed more south than I want, but I will continue on. Gybing would take us more north than I want. I’d like to stay in the trades as long as I can.
I was about to remove the eternal reef from the mainsail, but there is an odd line of clouds to the east, so I’ll wait.
day’s run 126 COG 260° SOG 5.5
Durban 2292 miles 248°
I’ve left the main reefed and am trying to dry sea boots and Sport-a-seat, the bottom of which is slimed, in the cockpit. As is the bilge. I’ve wiped as much slime up as I can.
I’ve adjusted the steering to get us heading more west than south, but we are close to accidentally gybing and I don’t think I can leave it as it is tonight.
Stuffed grape leaves for lunch. I even used a fork rather than a spoon for the first time this passage.
Rinsed myself off with a cup of fresh water.
1630 Sun earlier felt good against my moist skin. Now misty rain.
I moved the dinghy from the starboard pipe berth and wiped down both berth and dinghy. I will probably have to sleep over there again one of these nights.
Easy miles today, though not fast. Easy miles are accepted.
1815 Raining again, but I was able to stand in the companionway, sipping wine and listening to music for a few minutes at sunset.
August 1, Monday
0115 I woke at 2330 to find us sailing due south at 4.5 knots. I couldn’t live with that until dawn. So I got up, put on my foul weather gear to protect dry clothes from dampness on deck. I dug out what I thought was my remaining good Raymarine tiller pilot. Went on deck and found that it wasn’t. Returned below and got the right one. Set it to steer. Lowered the main. Fully unfurled and gybed the jib. The wind is northeast. Came below. Opened a beer. Turned on music. Am listening to Anton Pärt’s FUR ALINA accompanied by slatting jib while drinking the beer.
GANNET is making 3 knots in the right direction, which is better than 4 in the wrong. If conditions are the same at dawn, the G2 goes up.
I have not gybed my bedding and will remain on the port pipe berth, now to leeward.
0900 G2 up since 0700. Moving us at four knots in about that much wind. I drank both cups of coffee standing in the companionway and even have the forward hatch open. Who knew four knots could be this pleasing?
day’s run 93 COG 260° SOG 4.6
Durban 2200 249°
Sunny. Have foul weather gear, Sport-a-seat, shoes, cushions, in cockpit drying. Forward hatch still open.
Continuing under G2 with tiller pilot steering. Wind is from the north and I may soon go back to sheet to tiller to conserve the tiller pilot.
1400 Back to sheet to tiller. Full main—and I don’t recall when that was last up—and jib. Making 5+ knots west.
1800 What a pleasure to be on deck, to stand in the companionway, without being struck by a wave. The companionway hatch is open now. I only closed the forward hatch a few minutes ago for the night. Many things are drier, if not dry. The wind is light. The sky completely cloud covered. I may be up at midnight again. If I thought the Raymarine could last 2200 miles, I’d let it steer, but I don’t, and I must admit that I like solving the balance of sheet to tiller. There is a purity there: experience, intelligence, endurance channeling natural forces toward a destination.
August 2, Tuesday
1000 If you looked around on deck, all would be as it was yesterday, but the wind has made a full circle in the past twelve hours.
For the second successive night, I woke to find GANNET happily sailing south through a night of absolute blackness. I went on deck with flashlight and head lamp and tried to get us close to west. I did, but as I expected it didn’t last.
I brought us up to close hauled on starboard tack in light rain. When the wind increased and solid water started sweeping the deck, I deeply furled the jib and reefed the main, before going below where I sat reading in foul weather gear awaiting further developments. They soon came with the wind backing rapidly to the south when the rain ended. I went back out and got us sailing west with sheet to tiller steering. I finally got back in my berth at 0200.
I woke this morning to find us again sailing south. The wind had continued to back and was again in the northeast. I gybed and got us heading more or less west again. Unreefed the main, let out more jib.
A sunny morning, but the wind is light and GANNET is rolling and wallowing at 2 knots.
day’s run 78 COG 286° SOG 4.4
Durban 2122 miles 250°
Becalmed for almost an hour. Light rain now. Wind has veered to southeast and I gybed GANNET to a port broad reach.
1600 Heavy rain and veering wind forced us northwest for a while. Rain is still around the horizon. Dark clouds seem to touch the ocean. The wind has returned south GANNET is making her way through lumpy seas.
1530 The sea has sorted itself out and GANNET is sailing beautifully. She just seems to want to go and revels in doing so.
The view at the companionway is not as ominous as it was earlier.
I am out of gin and just learned that I am down to my last six rolls of paper towels. Things are getting critical.
1800 I stood for a while in the companionway. The wind is so pure it almost seems sweet. It is only 15 or 16 knots. The waves 3’ to 4’. They will be here long after I am not. Enjoy them, old man, I told myself, until one of them climbed on board and got me. Joy usually has a price.
August 3, Wednesday
0830 An easy night followed by a beautiful morning.
I was up three times to adjust the steering as the wind decreased and increased slightly. Once in light rain. The nights are new moon black. GANNET sailed smoothly and no waves came aboard.
This morning has a trade wind sky with extras. Looking aft now the extras may come together and rain, but they are back lit and perhaps look darker than they are. I drank both cups of coffee happily standing in the companionway.
Big swell from the south. Ten to fifteen feet. The slopes are gradual, so they are not dangerous, but while standing I could see them looming on the horizon, and when in the trough directly in front to them it was like looking up at a house coming at me. We are a little more than a thousand miles north of the Southern Ocean. Obviously something is happening down there.
1000 I had to dig out my belt. I’ve lost weight. Now that I can again stand up, my pants fall down.
day’s run 127 COG 272° SOG 6.4
Durban 2004 250°
The clouds behind us this morning did bring rain, but it passed to the north of us. More clouds astern might mean something. At the moment a beautiful day. GANNET reaching well across a dark blue white-capped ocean beneath a light blue sky.
Within the hour we will enter a new time zone, UCT+4, and have less than 2,000 miles to go to Durban. We started at UCT +9. I think this calls for a sip of Laphroaig tonight.
Our daily runs so far add up to 3826 miles.
1600 GANNET was spinning too fast for the steering so I put a reef in the main, but it slowed us too much, so I took it out, reduced the size of the jib and moved shock cords a notch. We’re good at present.
While I was working at the mast, a bird was hunting off the bow and a rainbow was off the stern.
I just finished reading THE KINGDOM OF ICE, a well written account of a failed 19th Century American expedition to reach the North Pole. The HENRIETTA was trapped in the ice for two years before she was crushed and sunk several hundred miles north of Siberia. Her crew struggled to reach land by sled and boat. Most died.
The descriptions of being constantly wet and crawling into sodden sleeping bags resonated with me; but being constantly wet in 70°F and a warm ocean, while unpleasant, is nothing compared to being so in the Arctic.
Particularly poignant were the never received letters from the loving wife of the expedition’s leader.
New time zone means early sunsets. I’m about to fill a tumbler with diminishing wine. The decision not to carry a barrel on the foredeck now seems somewhat hasty. What I really need is a case of tiller pilots and a case of Laphroaig.
1800 The sun has set. I turn on the LuminAid and reach down and lift the bottle of Laphroaig. Next the ziplock bag containing a bubble wrapped crystal glass. Glass removed, I lift the cork from the bottle and pour. I raise the glass to my face and sniff. Iodine. Salt. Peat. Kelp. Sea mist. I sip. Ambrosia. Too good for the nonexistent gods. But surely I have earned it.
1830 GANNET’s motion much less frenetic than earlier. Removing the reef was the right decision even if I have to put it back in the middle of the night. That is my job.
1900 I raise the glass. It is perfectly smooth in my hand. An illusion of solidly in my fluid world of constant change. Only a last sip remains. I lower the glass. I’ll wait.
1930 Again I raise the glass. I drink.
I strand in the companionway. Almost total darkness broken by a few stars. GANNET speeds on controlled by forces I have balanced but cannot see.
August 4, Thursday
0730 A pleasant night until 0300 when it wasn’t.
On deck around midnight to adjust the steering I was surprised to notice the running lights of a ship a few miles to the north, the first evidence that others of our species are still on the planet since the last Australia Border Protection plane flew over me several weeks ago. The ship was heading east.
Evidence of our species reminds me that I have not seen any plastic since moving beyond Australia’s west coast and not much earlier except for one day when I was near some fishing boats. The southern Indian Ocean is an empty place.
I have not tried to listen to the radio at night and so have heard no news. Sometimes no news is good news.
At 0300 the wind got out of synch with the waves and GANNET began stumbling and lurching. She still is, but less than earlier. Some of those waves bashed on board and came below. One splashed onto my face and I was saved from another by the survival blanket. I felt the weight of the water outside it. I’m not sure I got any sleep after 0300.
Other than the swell from the south, which is not as big as yesterday, the seas are only 3’ and 4’ and the wind around 15 knots. To the south low clouds and rain. To the north, a mix of blue sky and cloud. In the east the sun is shining brightly.
1030 Alternating sun and rain. Rain now. I’ve been wearing foul weather gear, which is pleasantly dry, all morning in case I have to go on deck quickly. I have taken off the parka because it is too hot. I’ve been up a couple of times to adjust the steering.
day’s run 151 COG 245° SOG 6.0
Durban 1855 miles 250°
I reefed the mainsail an hour ago, which again slowed us more than I expected, but I’m leaving the reef in for now.
Great sailing earlier, but GANNET was going too fast for sheet to tiller steering. I believe GANNET is capable of a 200 mile day, which is an 8.33 knot average, but she is not likely to do it with me unless someday I want to hand steer for hours. The limitation is the speed which can be controlled by self steering. This was true on my other boats as well. When they started going too fast for the wind vanes I had to reduce sail. The only 200 mile days I’ve had were on RESURGAM.
Sunny now with blue sky overhead, but more clouds to the east. Barometer high and steady.
We are only seventeen miles from the Tropic of Capricorn and will likely leave the tropics today.
1700 Variations of gray. Gray boat. Gray sea. Gray sky. Solid low clouds with intermittent light rain. Wind 15 to 18 knots. We are going fast enough with the reefed main. I spent some time in the cockpit balancing the steering. GANNET wanted to go too high or too low. She is good for the moment.
1930 Complete undifferentiated darkness. Sea and sky are one. GANNET sails upon and through the invisible.
I checked the fifth circle passage log. I was 2° farther north at this longitude when I sailed this way in 2008 on THE HAWKE OF TUONELA and had a similar day’s run of 153 miles.
August 5, Friday
0630 A worrisome night with GANNET speeding through blackness on the edge of an accidental gybe. I slept in my foul weather pants and boat shoes—sea boots too bulky—so I could get on deck quickly. The foul weather gear now being dry, that was actually pretty comfortable. I slept lightly. But the gybe didn't come until 0500. I was on deck quickly and muscled GANNET to gybe back. I made minor adjustments to the steering, but we had another gybe a half hour later. Wind now 18-20 knots. Complete overcast, but no rain.
We did leave the tropics last night and are now ten miles south of the Tropic of Capricorn.
day’s run 130 COG 233° SOG 5.6
week’s run 843
Durban 1725 251°
Mostly sunny this morning. Tropical wave has passed. Barometer remains high.
1250 The wind has decreased to 12-14 knots and backed forcing us more to the south than I want, so I gybed to starboard a few minutes ago. Now we’re going too far north. I’m considering whether this is a day to let the tiller pilot steer with jib alone. I’ll see how the afternoon progresses.
I did an inventory of lunches. I have forty-four left. That better be enough.
We are five weeks out of Darwin today and adding up day’s runs have sailed 4107 miles.
1830 We may return to the tropics.
Late this afternoon I tried sailing under jib alone with the tiller pilot steering, but we were only making three knots, so I went back to sheet to tiller after removing the reef from the mainsail. We’re making five knots, but at 290°-300°. The wind ten knots. The seas lumpy.
GANNET’s bilge has not been completely dry for a long time and is beginning to smell. I pumped it out. Then sponged out the remainder. Wiped slime. Sprayed with ExitMold.
First sliver of moon to the west above a celestial body so bright it must be Venus.
August 6, Saturday
0930 The wind went light last night. The mainsail was collapsing and refilling with a crash. So I went on deck, set up the tiller pilot and lowered the main. We continued more quietly under jib alone. At first light this morning I set the G2 which is pulling us along at 5 and 6 knots in perhaps 7 or 8 knots of wind. A sunny morning with scattered high clouds. When I rinse my measuring cup in the ocean, the water is decidedly cooler than it has been.
day’s run 106 COG 255° SOG 4.0
Durban 1627 miles 251°
Beautiful sunny day, but wind from the north continues to lighten. I doubt we are averaging 5 knots. I’ve dried stuff in the cockpit this morning and gave myself a fresh water rinse and dried myself in the sun. Both felt good.
1500 Winds keeps getting lighter. The G2 is collapsed as much as it is filled. Our SOG down to 2.5 to 3 knots.
I sponged out and cleaned the bilge again this afternoon and removed and restowed everything between the pipe berths which was massively disarranged by the masthead knock down. Among other things the Jordan drogue was forced all the way under the starboard pipe berth.
I’m going to sit on deck in a little while, watch the sunset, listen to music and drink the last of the rum, which is the last of the spirits on GANNET except for a still unopened bottle of Laphroaig.
1745 Beautiful sunset colors. Lavender, gray, cream, peach to the east. To the west an orange dash across the sky like a neon sign.
Almost no wind. Unless some wind comes up before I go to bed, I will furl the G2 so that it doesn’t get wrapped around the forestay, and let us drift.
August 7, Sunday
0645 Becalmed at dawn.
I did furl the G2 when I retired to the starboard pipe berth at 2100, but when I woke at 2230 there was a slight wind and I unfurled it and it moved us through the night mostly at three knots until 0500 this morning when such wind as there was headed us. I furled the sail and raised the main. The G2 has now been lowered and stowed on the v-berth. The main is up. Even though the tiller pilot is keeping our bow pointed west, iNavX shows us drifting northeast at .6 knot.
0810 Sailing. Close hauled. Port tack. Making 3 to 4 knots 290° which isn't really much good. About that much wind. Tiller pilot still steering. If the wind gets a little stronger I will try tying down the tiller. Almost complete low overcast. Barometer still high.
day’s run 58 COG 258° SOG 3.8
Durban 1569 251°
Wind light and backing. I tacked a couple of times. Again close hauled port. Tiller pilot steering. I had the tiller tied down for a while, but GANNET kept wandering off course.
A patch of rain to the northeast stayed there all morning until it finally disappeared. A lovely day, just not for sailing to Durban, with mostly blue sky sprinkled with small fuzzy clouds.
The wind unit is increasingly failing to display wind speed. Looking up I can see that the anemometer cups are not rotating. Maybe with stronger wind.
1600 The wind has continued to back. We’re now on a close reach and making 5+ knots. No whitecaps. 7 knots of wind. Undulations in the sea with a swell coming from behind us.
1800 Beautiful, easy sailing. GANNET is making a smooth six knots into the sunset. I sat on deck for a while, stood in the companionway for a while, listening to music, sipping wine, of which I have another night or two left, and enjoyed watching and feeling the little boat go.
I’m going to let the tiller pilot continue to steer. I expect the wind to back during the night and it will be simpler just to adjust sail trim knowing we are on course than both sail trim and sheet to tiller.
August 8, Monday
0830 A beautiful morning. We are close to the southern edge of the trade winds. With yesterday’s wind I thought we might have already left them, but today’s is a trade wind sky. I drank both cups of coffee standing in the companionway. Even moved the Megabooms to the cockpit. There were days when I wondered if we would ever know pleasant sailing again. We have and I am enjoying them, knowing their days are numbered.
The wind backed as I expected and by first light was on the beam. I adjusted the sails several times during the night. Once getting it wrong and letting them too far out and had to go back on deck to tighten sheets.
As soon as I got up at 0530 I went on deck and changed to sheet to tiller steering. The transition was easy. It isn't always. The tiller pilot did well. The Raymarines do until they die. I’m saving it for when it is more essential.
The masthead wind unit is presently sending what I believe to be accurate wind speed of 11 knots. The problems developed after the masthead knockdown which would have left salt crystals up there that might be causing friction. If so, I can’t fault Raymarine for not expecting masthead units to be dunked in the ocean. All it may need is a fresh water rinse. I’ll go right up and do it. Well, maybe not.
The last several days I have noticed that the ocean has been colder. When I leaned over to rinse my measuring cup and spoon this morning, I found it to be decidedly warmer again.
day’s run 122 COG 248° SOG 4.8
Durban 1447 miles 252°
Wind just aft of the beam at 9-10 knots. A sunny day which amazingly seems to have dried my sodden sleeping bag. I will try it tonight.
I came to the end of my first jerry can of water and switched to a new one. I don’t fill the five gallon cans to the brim, so figuring 4.5 gallons per can, I have 13.5 gallons still on board, plus one 15 liter/4 gallon container of water on board.
So far I have used one jerry can/4.5 gallons. Two fifteen liter water containers/8 gallons. And two or three 1.5 liter water bottles. Call that another gallon. For a total of 13.5 gallons of fresh water for thirty-nine days. That is only about ⅓ gallon a day. I have also had other liquids. A small box of orange juice in the mooring. Wine, beer, spirits, tonic water. I have not rationed water and have lived easily and comfortably with this amount.
I also inventoried my small boxes of orange juice and have 13 remaining.
I am being confronted by a new sailing peril: running out of Apple Lightning charging cables. I began the passage with four and am down to one and a half. The half is a cable that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. None have gotten wet, but have obviously been exposed to moist salt air. My iPhone, iPad mini and iTouch, all use Lightning cables to charge. If my final cables fail, I can turn to my iPad which uses the older pin cable or even navigate with the C-Map 93 charts in my MacBook.
While we will remain in the Indian Ocean all the way to Africa, this is the beginning of the third part of the passage, counting sailing along the north coast of Australia as the first, and the Indian Ocean trade winds the second. From here on the wind can come from any direction and there is a possibility of severe storms. Probably the worst storm I have been in other than in the Southern Ocean and Cyclone Colin in the Tasman occurred a few hundred miles east of Durban on the passage from Mauritius in RESURGAM in 1987. And that was in spring, not winter. So from here on is unpredictable. I hope it will not be an ordeal.
I have decided to permit myself a drink of Laphroaig at the 1500 mile to go mark, which we have just conveniently passed, 1000, and 500.
1845 There is such pleasure in watching this little boat cutting through the sea, perhaps particularly knowing she is doing it being steered by her jib sheet and some shock cords.
Sunset came and I stripped the foil from the cork of the bottle of Laphroaig and poured into a crystal glass. I wanted only to relax and enjoy, but the wind increased just then, throwing GANNET out of balance and off course, so I put the glass on the floorboards and went on deck to be met by only the second wave to come on board all day. I got the steering sorted out and returned to the Great Cabin where fortunately my glass had not spilled.
I finished my glass, heated water and ate my dinner of venison and rice noodle stir fry. Then poured a second glass of Laphroaig, which I enjoyed at leisure.
I lingered over the last sip. The next is 411 miles away.
August 9, Tuesday
0900 Just back below from reefing the main. When I woke at first light around 0615 there was an ominous cloud bank to our south, but the sky was clear in the east. A few minutes ago the cloud cover became complete, light rain began falling and the wind increased from 15 knots to 20 and GANNET began racing along almost out of control. I was already wearing my foul weather pants. I sail by the seat of my pants: I try to keep it dry. Put on my parka and went on deck, where I first reduced the size of the jib and then put in the reef. I no longer bother with the first reef and go immediately to the second. The clouds are still around. The rain has stopped and the wind back to 17 knots. GANNET is making 5.5 to 6 in the right direction.
Madagascar is 450 miles ahead. We are already on the same latitude as its southernmost point, but it is a big island, 900 miles long, and will affect the wind, so I would like to pass a couple of hundred miles off.
Sleeping in my sleeping bag last night was a pleasure. Soft, warm and comfortable. As sodden as it was earlier I never expected to sleep in it again on this passage, but the sun dried it effectively in only a few hours. I’ll try to protect it with the survival blanket if copious water again starts to come below.
day’s run 130 COG 256° SOG 6.6
Durban 1317 miles 253°
Unsettled morning. Some light rain. Shifting wind from 3 knots to 25. COG from 180° to 290°. Barometer the highest of the passage and steady. Difficult for self-steering. I’ve been wearing my foul weather gear all morning and still am. I was often on
deck making adjustments. Sometimes one shock cord. Sometimes three.
1615 Sky clearing from the east. Blue and white sky and sea. Wind 18-20 knots. Might be able to watch the sunset standing in the companionway.
August 10, Wednesday
0830 Last night GANNET began sliding around as though on ice repeatedly approaching an accident gybe. About midnight I got up, got the working Raymarine, put its cover on and went on deck where I set it to steering while I lowered the mainsail.
I don’t keep the cover on the Raymarine constantly, only when I think it likely to get wet. On hot, sunny days I am concerned it might cause overheating.
GANNET continued on more comfortably until 0400 when a brief blast of heavy rain was followed by an abrupt wind shift to the NNE which backed the jib and would have been much worse if the main had still been up. The wind proceeded to swing back and forth across our stern, backing the jib no matter which side I trimmed it a half dozen times in the next ten minutes and another half dozen more in the next hour, even though I changed course by 20° and had a wind angle that should have been stable. I did not go back to sleep, but sat in my foul weather gear at Central waiting for first light which wasn’t until 0615 when I saw that the wind was out of synch with short steep waves that were pushing the stern back into it. I had already partially furled the jib and now furled it more deeply. Wind 20-25 knots.
We’re headed west. If there is no change by sunset, I’ll gybe and head southwest.
Rolling, but otherwise relatively comfortable. Two waves have come on board and down below.
The barometer has fallen quickly from the unusually high readings to what can be considered average. If it keeps on going, I will worry. Sky now half blue, half cloud, and not threatening.
day’s run 131 COG 276° SOG 6.0
Durban 1185 miles 254°
Sky now threatening. Barometer has dropped two more millibars this morning. This is a very fast and deep decline and may presage serious weather. Bands of rain continue to pass. The wind increases to 25 to 28 knots as they approach, then drops back to 18 to 20.
The tiller pilot is doing exactly what I want it to do, keeping us moving ahead of the waves, but I am concerned that it will die in the middle of the night. I may experiment with sheet to tiller while there is still daylight this afternoon, but I expect that many more waves will come aboard that way.
I was going to change into dry clothes today, but will wait until this passes. I’ll sleep in foul weather gear tonight.
We will enter a new time zone this afternoon, UCT+3. Only one more to go. I’ll change ship’s time. Tomorrow’s day’s run with be 25 hours.
Also if we keep moving and don't have to lie ahull, we should pass the 1000 mile to go mark tomorrow.
1530 The sky has cleared some. Patches of blue may just be a break before the next wave of rain.
The wind is 25 to 30 knots. I decided to furl the jib down to a scrap and it got away from me. A flogging mess until I regained control. We are in damage avoidance mode and moving ahead of steep, sometimes toppling ten foot waves, few of which are coming on board. I hope the tiller pilot keeps working. The alternative now would be to lie ahull.
If there was residual salt on the masthead anemometer, it has been subject to a good fresh water rinse. The unit seems to be functioning properly at present.
THE LAST OF THE WINE is the title of one of many excellent novels of Ancient Greece by Mary Renault. I have read it and have an ebook version that I will read again. It is also what will be drunk on GANNET this evening. Not standing in the companionway.
1730 I did in fact stand in the companionway around sunset. ‘Around’ because the sun was not visible and there was no sunset. The barometer has only fallen another .1 of a millibar.
From a decline of ten millibars in little over twenty-four hours I would have expected more wind than we have thus far had.
I didn’t feel like freeze dry. Dinner of a protein bar, nuts and dried figs and goji berries, washed down by the last of the wine, while listening to John Luther Adams’ BECOME OCEAN, where else better.
August 11, Thursday
0920 Becalmed and being relentlessly tossed around by leftover waves.
The wind decreased during the night during which the tiller pilot kept us moving without waves coming on board. If I were confident it would last the next 1100 miles, I would have let it continue steering, but I am not and switched to sheet to tiller at first light. On the eastern edge of this new time zone first light is 0515. The wind then was ten knots. The sky complete low overcast. The barometer back up 1.5 millibars.
About an hour later a band of rain reached us accompanied by a brief gust of 27 knots, then leaving in its wake this calm.
The rain was cold. When I came below I put a fleece on under my foul weather gear. Good decision not to change into dry clothes yesterday.
Wind will return in time. But I don't know from what direction or strength. In the meantime we are stalled 1106 miles from Durban and this slow endless voyage remains endless.
day’s run 83 (25 hours) COG 266° SOG 4.0
Durban 1003 miles 254°
We started sailing again about a half hour ago. Wind light and from the north, often being rolled out of the sails by vestigial waves.
Sky still complete overcast, but high cloud instead of low. No rain for past two hours.
I note that we made 3 miles good toward Durban all morning.
1515 Dismal day without even the compensation of getting anywhere. Overcast again low. Clouds touching waves. Rain at various points around the horizon. GANNET flops more or less west at two and three knots.
I wiped myself down with wipes. They are good on boats. And changed into dry clothes, even though this low is still with us. The others had become too wet.
1700 Rain and wind. Sailing again.
2030 Distant lightning both north and south of us.
August 12, Friday
0900 When I woke and stood in the companionway at 2300 last night I was surprised to find a clear starry sky, GANNET sailing toward a first quarter moon, and a ship a few miles south of us.
At 0130 this morning I saw several flashes of lightning to the south.
GANNET continued to sail easily through the night. I woke again at first light this morning, just after 0500, but then went back to sleep for another hour. When I finally did get up, the first thing I did was remove the reef from the mainsail; and the second was to gybe to a port broad reach. On starboard we were heading toward Madagascar, only 160 miles away. On port we are headed too far south. I may later let the tiller pilot steer so we can sail close to the rhumb line to Durban.
Some high clouds, including odd ones in the direction of Madagascar. Sunshine. Wind 10 to 12 knots. Barometer back up a millibar.
day’s run 102 COG 270° SOG 3.7
week’s run 732
total since Darwin 4839
Durban 1003 miles 254°
Six weeks out today.
We have less than 19° of longitude to cross and less than 1000 miles within the hour.
Gybed back to starboard. Wind light. Sunny. Drying stuff in cockpit. Barometer continues to climb. Will set G2 after lunch.
1245 G2 set. SOG 4.5 COG 258°.
1530 Another of the infinite variations of not getting it done. The wind is almost imperceptible and there are swells sufficient to roll it out of the G2 which is more often collapsed than full. We’ve made ten miles since noon. Many things have been sunning in the cockpit and are drier than they were, but we aren’t much closer to Durban.
We are, however, close enough for me to be entitled to my 1000 mile Laphroaig this evening, probably drunk sitting on deck.
1830 My Laphroaig is by my side, sipped in part standing in the companionway, but not sitting on deck.
Just before sunset the wind made a 180° shift as quickly as I ever recall seeing and I was rather busy for a while. Mainsail up. G2 down. Jib unfurled. Tiller pilot disengaged. Sheet to tiller set up. Dinghy and daily food bag shifted to starboard. Sleeping bag, pillow, survival blanket. Trash bag of semi-dry clothes. Shifted to port. Then I poured and listened to Loreena McKennitt.
A starry night. Quarter moon. Very light wind. GANNET maybe making three knots. Mozart’s REQUIEM on Megabooms. I’m dry and reasonably comfortable. I’m ready for whatever happens next. But I would like to be sailing faster and am looking forward to reaching port. Sometime.
August 13, Saturday
0815 A pleasant sunny morning. GANNET making 5 and sometimes 6 knots before 8 to 10 knot wind, though 15° to 20° further south than I want to go. The sheet to tiller kept us going more or less in the right direction all night in very light wind. Forward hatch open.
day’s run 105 COG 230° SOG 4.7
Durban 899 miles 256°
Conditions the same. Drying stuff in cockpit.
Rigging a preventer on the boom to keep it from going all the was across during an accidental gybe is difficult on GANNET. I thought I had one, but a snap shackle broke during a gybe. A different version has been in place since yesterday. It also helps keep the boom from lifting and slamming in light winds. In a gybe this morning, it held.
While looking for something else I serendipitously came across a hose clamp just the right size to go around the deck rudder collar and prevent the tiller from being lowered and dragged against the deck. I have no idea why it was on board.
1600 Cloudless sky. Wind around 10 knots continues from the east and we continue to sail 225° to 235° at 4 and 5 knots with both hatches open. Easy miles but not quite in the right direction. The southeast corner of Madagascar is 140 miles north of us.
I’m going on deck to listen to music, watch the sunset, and remember the taste of gin.
1900 A very nice day and evening.
I was just standing in the companionway watching GANNET sail in moonlight. A waxing gibbous moon high over head. Water sparkling in its reflections. Venus close to the western horizon.
August 14, Sunday
0930 I had a full workout this morning before my first cup of coffee.
Last evening we were unable with sheet to tiller to sail close enough to the rhumb line to Durban, so I switched to tiller pilot, lowered the mainsail, and sailed through the night under jib alone.
The wind backed to the north during the night and this morning I returned to sheet to tiller.
It had to happen sometime. Just as I opened the main halyard shackle securing it to the end of the boom, GANNET rolled and the halyard slipped from my hand and flew far out over the ocean. When it inevitably rolled back, I grabbed and missed it, but then it caught in the jib sheet and was recaptured.
When I raised the main, GANNET took off too fast, so I put in a reef, disengaged the tiller pilot and set up sheet to tiller.
The barometer is down a minibar, but the sky is cloudless and the wind 12 knots.
As I refilled the trail mix and oatmeal canisters this morning, I had the pleasing, and hopefully true, thought that this would be the last time I did so on this passage.
day’s run 124 COG 270° SOG 4.0
Durban 777 miles 258°
The wind has been steadily dying. I removed the reef from the main at 1100, and in the few minutes since noon it has died almost completely. We are presently being rolled violently by 6’ waves and getting no where. Sunny, but hazy. Cloudless.
1600 We began sort of sailing again at 1230 and are staggering west at 3 and 4 knots, continually being thrown around by waves far out of proportion to the light wind.
1630 Becalmed. Rolling terribly. I am really tired of this and want it to be over.
1715 Tiller pilot keeping bow pointed west. Mainsail down. Slamming around too much. Jib collapsing and filling several times a minute, shaking rig and boat. Too unstable to set the G2. Making 2 or 3 unpleasant knots. Some high clouds to north and east. Sun setting right now. I’m not interested.
August 15, Monday
0745 I am down to two pair of eyeglasses, neither of which have my near prescription in them. I started the passage with four. I’ve used Superglue to try to repair the wireless frame I broke last night. So maybe I have 2.5 pair. Although I am legally blind without glasses, I usually read without them and can see well enough to sail without them if absolutely necessary, though it would really be Mr. MaGoo goes to sea.
The swell diminished after dark, and has increased again after dawn. The tiller pilot steered us through the night. At about 0300 I woke to find the wind gusting above 20 knots and partially furled the jib, but that did not last long and first thing this morning I unfurled it.
The wind is light. The sky almost completely covered by low cloud, with a layer of high cloud sometimes visible through it. The barometer is up two millibars. I can’t decide whether to set the G2 or go to sheet to tiller and so am making a second cup of coffee and waiting to see what happens.
0900 G2 set. It has gained us 1.5 knots from 3.8 to 5.3.
The sun burned away most of the low clouds.
day’s run 99 COG 263° SOG 3.0
Durban 680 miles 258 °
I lowered the G2 a half hour ago. Although the wind is only 8 to 10 knots, the tiller pilot was having difficulty keeping up with the sail. Perhaps because of disproportionate waves. I was just about to stand to go on deck when we rounded up and a wave poured down the companionway. Only a minute earlier I had closed the forward hatch.
With the jib, as with the G2, we are sailing a knot faster than our SOG, causing me to postulate an adverse current.
Sunny, mostly blue sky. Barometer rising.
We have not had a really good day’s run, defined as 140 miles or better, for almost two weeks.
1330 Barely moving, except for being rolled by swells up to 6’. Almost no wind. Jib collapsing ten or twenty times a minute.
1630 A partially redeemed afternoon. G2 back up an hour ago. Wind five knots. Seas somewhat diminished. Under jib we were making only 2.5. The G2 has increased that to a blazing 4+. I sat on deck for a while and listened to music early. Saw a ship pass south of us, heading east.
1900 G2 down. Wind swinging back and forth across the stern. I gybed it twice. Can’t be doing that all night.
Starry sky. Bright moonlight. Very pretty. Very slow.
August 16, Tuesday
0840 Wind continued to swing. I woke a couple of times to find the jib backed. Better it than the G2. I gybed the sail back and forth, but not my bedding. We were sailing almost flat, so being on the lee side didn’t make any difference.
I lost a winch handle during the night. Presumably I removed it from a winch while gybing and set it on the deck and forgot it. Gone this morning. I have a spare.
This morning there is a little more wind. Perhaps 8 knots. Tired of sailing at 3 knots, I raised the main, went to sheet to tiller steering and have been sailing at 4 and sometimes even 5 knots around 280°. Unless the wind is from the southwest, I want to close the coast north of Durban because of the south setting Agulhas Current. We are still a long way off.
Today is our twenty-second wedding anniversary. A long time ago, I thought I might be in Durban by now and able to Skype with Carol. I regret not being with her today and will endeavor not to miss another anniversary with her.
1030 An hour ago the wind went soft and backed. I gybed and we are again making 3 knots, now under full sail.
day’s run 72 COG 270° SOG 3.3
Durban 609 miles 257°
1600 Wind has backed to the southeast at ten knots and we are actually sailing. 5 and 6 knots. I’ve even seen a few seen a few 7s.
2045 Wind above 20 knots. Just back from reefing mainsail and partially furling jib. Other than the increase in wind, conditions seem the same in bright moonlight.
My torn shoulder has been painful and I wasn’t certain how much I could use that arm, but it functioned well on deck and seems fine now. Perhaps something was pinched and the activity freed it.
Or perhaps it was the medicinally properties of the anniversary taste of Laphroaig.
August 17, Wednesday
I woke this morning expecting to have to go on deck and adjust the steering, but when I turned on the iPhone and Velocitek I found us heading on the right course at 6 knots. Perfect. It won’t be a great day’s run because of the slow afternoon, but this is getting it done.
More clouds around than there have been. Barometer still high. Waves 4’. Four or five made it below deck last night. I used the survival blanket as a cover for my sleeping bag.
0800 I just noticed that the Raymarine display is showing neither wind speed nor angle. It was working a few minutes ago. I looked up from the companionway and the masthead unit is no longer there. Presumably a delayed consequence of the in the water knockdown. I don’t think this is going to be covered under warranty. Back to yarn on the shrouds.
day’s run 133 COG 256° SOG 6.2
Durban 478 miles 257°
1730 Wind has backed and slightly weakened, turning us too far south.
For the first time I have postulated an arrival date: Sunday, August 21. We are 449 miles out at sunset. Five knots will do it easily. If we don’t fall into a calm. If we don’t encounter headwinds. If there isn’t a gale. If. If. If.
I went on deck and unreefed the mainsail.
August 18, Thursday
0845 A fine morning. Wind 8 or 9 knots. GANNET making her way at 5 and 6 a little south of the desired course, but close enough.
I was up last night from 2300 to 0100 tying to get the little boat to point toward Durban. I even lowered the mainsail and tried with jib alone and tiller pilot steering. Too slow. So I went back to sheet to tiller and heading too far south.
Cabin temperature 66°F when I got up, the coolest I’ve seen in months.
Ocean temperature warmer again.
370 miles to go.
day’s run 128 COG 235° SOG 5.0
Durban 352 miles 262°
We’re heading too far south. Going to gybe after lunch. Sunny, pleasant day. Wind 8 or 9 knots, directly behind us.
In a display of confidence I removed the Torqeedo battery from the area aft of the pipe berths. It showed 99% charge. I hooked it up to the charger and it went to 100% but continued charging. Too many things loose in the cabin, so I put them all away before gybing.
We will be entering a new time zone this afternoon, South Africa’s, UCT +2. I am changing ship’s time now. Tomorrow’s run will be 25 hours.
This is written an hour later, but because of the time change, still 1200.
I gybed. No good. Heading too far north. So I set the G2 which is more or less taking us in the right direction, averaging 4 to 5 knots. Tiller pilot steering. I would have like to have kept it for the last two hundred miles, but need it now. When it dies, it dies.
1800 Full moon emerging above a cloud astern. Mostly clear, starry sky G2 remains up. Though I can envision a mess if the tiller pilot dies during the night, the wind is only five or six knots and no other sail would keep us moving at more than two knots. With the G2 we are making four and five knots. We had 330 miles to go at sunset. Whether we will make it in Sunday, I do not know.
August 19, Friday
0830 This is the beginning of our eighth week at sea, so must be the fiftieth day since we sailed from Darwin.
I knew that conditions were not stable enough to leave the G2 up last night, but in my desire to reach port did so anyway. At 2200 I got up and found the sail backed against the mast and forestay. I changed course to fill it again and then attempted to furl it. Ultimately I succeeded, but for too long the endless line simply slipped around the furling drum while the sail flogged. That line, which I used on the Facnor furler, has slipped before. I need a slightly larger line and/or one with a less smooth surface that will better grip the furling drum.
We continued under jib alone with the tiller pilot steering through the night.
By dawn the wind had increased to 14-16 knots and backed and was on the beam. I raised the mainsail and partially furled the jib and went to sheet to tiller steering.
Also the barometer has fallen three millibars in the past eighteen hours.
This morning is mostly cloudy, but with some sunshine. We are making 6 knots more or less in the right direction with 258 miles to go. Some spray and waves reaching the companionway and occasionally coming below. I don’t have the slat in.
day’s run 111 COG 277° SOG 4.2
week’s run 772
Durban 242° 261°
Wind is 20+ knots forward of the beam. For past two hours sailing with tiller tied down. Lots of waves slowing us and sweeping the deck and making their way below. Companionway slat in place. I’ve kept my foul weather pants and sea boots on. Barometer down another millibar, but wind seems to have eased slightly in past half hour.
1530 Continued rough and wet.
I’ve gone back to sheet to tiller steering.
Despite all the wind we’re only making good 4.5 knots. Being slowed smashing into waves.
Barometer continues down. Two more millibars.
I’ll sleep tonight in foul weather gear under the survival blanket.
1900 Wind weakened an hour ago and GANNET started wandering all over, so I’ve gone to the tiller pilot wearing its cover. Waves not presently reaching the companionway.
Moon rose blood red before disappearing behind a cloud.
August 20, Saturday
0730 Forget Sunday. The latest ETA projected by iNavX is 6:43 a.m. September 10.
Wind too strong, wind too light, head wind, no wind. We’ve had them all in the past eighteen hours.
The wind continued to diminish last night until at 2200 I decided I could get out of my foul weather gear and wet clothes and into my sleeping bag, which was moist, as am I, but a pleasure.
At 0200 the off course alarm went off. I went on deck and found that the now very light wind had headed us. Showing wind angle at night was one of the advantages of the wind instrument. I tried to get us sailing, but couldn’t, and then the wind died completely, I told the universe what I thought of it, turned off the tiller pilot and, leaving the sails up, went to bed.
At 0300 I sensed some wind and went on deck to turn us to the west. I set my iPhone on the cockpit sole and used the compass app to see direction. I managed to get us moving at 1 knot west and went back to bed.
The tiller pilot kept us pointed in the right direction until I got up an hour ago. I’ve unfurled the jib, which made no difference in our speed, but have left the main reefed until I see what the day brings. We are 186 miles from Durban. At our present speed that will take more than a week.
The barometer has stopped falling and is back up a millibar.
The off course alarm just sounded. We are becalmed.
0930 I was wise not to unreef the main. The wind returned with a rush from the southwest, not quite close-hauled but almost. Far too wet on deck for the tiller pilot, which I took below. I hand steered for a while and was then able to set up sheet to tiller. We’re making five knots almost in the right direction and now have an ETA of 9:25 tomorrow night.
Sunny with hazy sky.
day’s run 71 COG 265° SOG 4.5
Durban 172 miles 258°
Wind has continued to back SE. Sailing reasonably smoothly on beam to broad reach. Sunny. Barometer continues to rise. It would be nice if it were easy the rest of the way.
1730 143 miles to go. Six knots would do it, but I expect I will wait until Monday morning. We are presently doing 6.5 under a completely overcast sky. I assume the sun has set.
August 21, Sunday
0800 Under bare poles we are being driven off to the southeast at three knots by a gale or something close. At the moment it doesn’t look as though we will reach port tomorrow. I can’t believe it and can hardly stand it.
We’ve had spells of heavy rain since midnight. Shortly before they began, I went on deck and went to tiller pilot steering under jib alone. The wind was behind us and collapsing the sails. I put the cover on the tiller pilot and it was still reasonably dry when I brought it in an hour ago. The tiller is tied amidships. The rain was accompanied by distant lightning and thunder.
The jib continued to back and fill all night, no matter what course I tried. I changed 30° and largely furled it and it still backed. I got little sleep.
This morning, not long after first light at 0600, conditions got much worse. Rain became torrential and was accompanied by the wind increasing to at least 30 knots and heading us. Thus we are being blown away.
Rain is still falling, but not as heavily. The wind is still howling. The barometer is down.
I’m sitting here in full foul weather gear. The cabin is wet, but with fresh water. Depending on how long this lasts we may be blown past Durban and have to go on to East London or Port Elizabeth.
I was so counting on reaching port tomorrow. We were 72 miles away an hour ago. Now we are 74.
1000 Sailing with scrap of jib and tiller tied down, making 2 or 3 knots 280°-300°. At least we are not losing distance. Wind has decreased slightly and may be backing. If this continues, I’ll try to get the reefed main up.
1115 Again lying ahull after I hand steered for an hour with jib and reefed main up. Ahull now because of no wind. Again drifting southeast. Distance to Durban breakwater 73.5. My hour steering gained us a half mile.
day’s run 97 no COG SOG becalmed
Durban 74 miles 259°
Three days ago we needed only to average 5 knots to be in Durban now. We presently need only 3 knots to be in by this time tomorrow, but are not making them. We are slowly drifting away and aren’t going to get anywhere until wind returns, hopefully from a useful direction.
1400 Sailing. Reefed main, partially furled jib. Close reach. 4 knots west. Tiller pilot steering. Lumpy seas. Inconsistent wind. Rain to the north.
1520 In an act of optimism, I crawled aft and retrieved dock lines and fenders from the stern.
The barometer is still at it lowest, but the sky has partially cleared and we continue to sail toward Durban at 5 and even 6 knots. 64 miles to waypoint a half mile off the breakwater.
August 22, Monday
1030 45 knots of wind blowing directly from Durban Harbor. We got within seven miles of the breakwater and are now being blown back offshore.
This gale is not quite as strong as the one we had the last day into New Zealand, but that one was on the beam, this one on the nose.
We had fine sailing last evening. I lowered the mainsail and continued under partial jib alone. We were showing SOG of 7 and 8 knots, but were only sailing 5 or 6. The Agulhas Current, which should have been pushing us south, was obviously giving us a boost west.
Fifteen miles offshore at midnight with lights on land visible, I backed the jib and tied the tiller to leeward. At 0300 I started sailing in. At 0500 the wind died. The sea was almost flat, so I put the Torqeedo on the stern. It started at the touch of the button. I then removed what is called the tiller arm and tilted it out of the water.
A few minutes later wind came with a rush directly from Durban. I raised the reefed main and largely furled the jib. The wind continued to build and build. Had I not so wanted to get in, I would have stopped sailing by 0600. But I do and I didn’t. GANNET was heeled 40°. Lee rail buried. Activity below was impossible. Trying to heat water for a second cup of coffee, I was thrown across the cabin and skinned and smashed my elbow. I drank the coffee with air temperature water and ate a protein bar for breakfast.
With the wind coming partially from the land, I thought it possible that the sea would be smoother closer to the coast. I was wrong. I came to within a mile of the shore. The wind was as strong and the waves steeper in shallow water. I turned and hand steered back through the half dozen anchored ships. To the south I could see the entrance to Durban Harbor.
Once clear of anchored ships, I lowered the main, but couldn't immediately secure it. Waves were sweeping over GANNET and me. The sail flailed like a wild animal. The jib sheets tied themselves in a Gordian knot that I had to go forward to untangle. All brutal and dangerous.
Now under bare poles and heading away from our objective wetter than ever, GANNET seems safer and less likely to be rolled. She has taken a terrible beating. We both have. And it seems it will never end.
I called on the handheld radio to the anchored ships, asking for a weather forecast and wind speed. One answered, giving wind speed as 45 knots, forecast to go to 50 with 6 meter/20’ waves, easing in 24 hours.
6790day’s run 62 COG 071° SOG 2.3
Durban 14 miles 236°
Being driven offshore under bare poles in gale.
Barometer continues to rise steeply. Four millibars in past twelve hours. That’s this wind.
Big lump on my elbow. I can still use the arm.
1540 Still a gale. GANNET still being driven away from Durban, now 25 miles distant. A patch of blue sky visible through companionway hatch.
Amazing that I was so confident this morning that I fit the Torqeedo on the transom. With all the water that has washed over it, I will not be surprised if it does not start next time.
1630 I stuck my head out to determine if we could sail back toward Durban. We can’t. Storms are less in the cabin than on deck. I saw the hills of Africa retreating behind us.
1700 I am bouncing off my limits. I like to believe that my limits are the species’s limits, but that may just be ego. For much of my life, all I’ve had was my own belief in myself and the willingness to put that belief to the test and quantify it. I am not looking for a senior discount here. Webb Chiles at 74 is not Webb Chiles at 30 or 40 or 50, but he is still formidable. Or likes to think he is.
I have bounced off my limits before: on EGREGIOUS and on CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE and each time I have done so I pushed those limits a bit farther. I have thought: I can’t take any more, waited a bit because I had put myself in situations where, as now, I had no choice, then pushed again, until I sometimes gave a primordial scream of rage and pain, backed off for a bit, then pushed those limits again. I gave such a primordial scream this morning when I turned GANNET’s bow back out to sea. Reaching Durban has become Sisyphean.
I’ll go on deck soon and see if I can turn us toward Durban.
1800 We are headed west or northwest. Toward Africa rather than away from it under a few feet of backed jib in the hope that the night will bring a favorable wind change.
Dinner will be another protein bar.
2000 Sitting on the port pipe berth in tossing darkness I drank the last of my Laphroaig.
August 23, Tuesday
0745 Gale continues and the barometer continues to rise. Now fourteen millibars higher in past thirty-six hours. Sun is shining. I think, or at least hope this is going to end today.
We are forty miles from Durban. We continued west last night until at 0200 when we were six miles from the coast, I turned back out to sea.
We can’t do much until the wind changes strength and/or direction. Preferably both.
Conditions are slightly better and I had hot coffee this morning and my usual oatmeal.
The temperature was—two waves just slammed into us—in the low 60s last night and I was cold. I have on layers, but most of them are wet. I will probably switch to my other set of foul weather gear today.
The cabin is a wet, clammy catastrophe. We are in survival mode.
1000 A ship, OLYMPIC LOYALTY II, heading south, came close to GANNET and slowed almost to a stop. When I turned on the VHF to call her, I found her calling me. I explained that I am fine, which is not exactly true, and waiting out the wind to sail to Durban. He was also in contact wth Durban Port Control, who wanted to know my last port and next port and ETA.
I told them my ETA is dependent on the wind, but I may be there tomorrow. I asked for a forecast and got one about winds to 50 knots from the south changing to 15 to 25 from the east to northeast, which would be perfect, but I’m not sure covers these specific waters.
day’s run 28 COG 134° SOG 1.1
Durban 43 miles 241°
Still lying ahull. Though the wind has decreased significantly, it has not changed direction and is still from the south. I’m not yet sure when I’ll get underway.
Sunny. Barometer contines to rise.
1315 Sailing. Full main and jib. Close hauled port tack. Tiller tied down. Wind still south. We’re sailing around 270°. I can see the land ahead of us. It would be wonderful if the wind backed east before we have to tack.
Both tiller pilot and Torqeedo started.
1600 Becalmed. The 1827th variation on how not to get to Durban, 33.54 miles away.
Sky blue and cloudless. Sea almost flat. Amazing how quickly waves go up and down with the wind.
I saw the spouts of two whales a few whale lengths from GANNET this afternoon and several albatrosses glided overhead.
1645 Very light wind has returned and has backed to the southeast. We are sailing, slowly, the rhumb line to Durban Harbor on a close reach.
I am drying my sleeping bag and pillow in the cockpit, but I will sleep fully dressed in foul weather gear tonight in case I have to go on deck. A lot of ships around.
1900 A clear starry night. Lights line the shore. We’re 26.5 miles out, sailing with partially furled jib to reduce speed with light wind directly behind us. Standing in the companionway, sipping a glass of tonic (alas, only tonic), I watched the sun set behind Africa. The companionway hatch is still open. I’ll leave the slat out. Quite a contrast with last night.
August 24, Wednesday
0900 Becalmed 3.52 miles from breakwater. Sunny morning. Six ships slowly circling. Tide ebbing until 1338.
1200 Tied to International Jetty Point Yacht Club.
The wind remained very light and behind me all the way in.
About a mile out I lowered the Torqeedo in the water and made certain it would start. It did.
Durban Harbor is busy and big. The distance from the outer end of the breakwater to the Point Yacht Club is two miles. I wasn’t sure I could power that far. Durban Port Control told me to come in as quickly as I could. I told them I would, but it wouldn’t be very quick. Against the outgoing tide I transited the channel at 1.5 to 1.8 knots. Once in, I turned toward the marina in the corner of the harbor with ships, tugs and tour boats around me. A half mile from the marina, I furled the jib and used the Torqeedo for the second time since leaving Opua.
A number of sailors who had been following the YellowBrick track were waiting on the dock. I made a U turn and they took my lines as GANNET came alongside.