For Berrimilla's first circumnavigation, the International Space Station
and the North West Passage, go to

Monday, November 30, 2009

More Accurate Frustration!

Posted, with apologies, by I & G in UK.

G's West and East got in a twist while doing the Google Earth
placemark. Alex does not do these Latest Position illustrations as
Berri's computer suite is a bit too limited and full of empties. The
SOF prize goes to G, definitely not to Alex or Pete.

Crash 'n bash

0700/30th position (day 60, excluding Lisbon) 3145 00721, trip 123 (but only 97 closer to Cape Town) CT 562

Meanwhile, back in the old bus shelter, Old Fart no.1 asleep on the bench, raspy breathing a sandpaper descant for the rustle of dead leaves and food wrappers in the midnight gloom, the clatter of a rolling can dislodged from the heap of empties in the corner giving the whole symphony a jagged edge. Old Fart no. 2, flaky brow creased in concentration, prodding stone age keyboard with ET contraptionery hooking it into Foxy Rupert's wifi. Here we are, prods he, middle watch, 575 miles out of Cape Town, hoist by our own gamble of two weeks age, crunching through lumpy sea in the closest we can get to a course that will get us home, wind and current and Examiner united against us and Dec 5th a desperate fingernail's grasp away from being lost in the vortex.

An iteration of Old Farts across the sleeping bench later and two more cans added to the pile - we are just crossing the continental shelf. There's what looks like a big steep seamount just ahead - my chart does not give it a name, just lots of concentric contours but I think it might be something like Velmay. Massive movement of current around it - shame it doesn't trigger the phosphorescence. The best VMG we can manage, directly into the current and big, steep headbanging swell is about 3.5 kts. Cape Town Saturday schmatterday! More like Monday. Berri fantastic in these conditions - the occasional humulomungous crash as she meets a big steep one head-on but mostly just bloody uncomfortable hobbyhorsing corkscrewing along, meeting the sea and negotiating it with minimum fuss and no pounding. Kevvo driving.

Anne, just opened your jar of honey. MMM! Tks!


Compare bottom left and bottom right positions to understand Alex and
Pete's frustration.

Posted by I & G in the UK.

The last 6 K

1900/29th position 3135 00643 with 603 to CT and going sideways

We have been trying to work our way south for the last thousand miles or so but have not been able to do so without going backwards. And so it is still. There is a fierce current, the Benguela, flowing NW from Cape Agulhas south of Cape Town and we are in it and getting knocked sideways at about 3 knots - about half our speed, so about a 45 deg knock. Getting south as far as about 35 degrees would have allowed us to manage this but from up here at 31.36 S there's nothing we can do but accept the situation and hope the wind changes as predicted by the grib in a day or so. Meantime, Namibia here we come. December 5th arrival in CT now looking very iffy indeed.

Otherwise, nothing to report except a juvenile Yellow Nosed Albatross. And a huge empty bulk carrier that altered course around us a couple of hours ago. Tricky when you can't call them up on channel 16 any more - we do have DSC on the VHF but I've never had a positive reply when we have tried to use it so no faith in it yet. With no AIS data, I have to make an 'all ships' call which is a bit less effective, perhaps, than an individual call using a ship's MMSI. Automated bridges fill me with angst. But it does seem that our new radar reflector is working.

Fenwick, ya dozy OF, hang in there for what remains of your dissolute life and the birds will sing again in the trees. Then we will come home and you can buy us a beer. Enjoy the Solomons.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Latest Position

Posted by I & G in the UK.

Another quickie

0700/29th position 3152 00525 trip 108 CT 659 - bad knock from the current and SE wind but Dec5 still possible.

Sus, tks for stormsurf data.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Quickie from ship alley

0700/28th position 3203 00321 trip 134 and 759 to CT. The equation is moving our way - but no predictions.

Wet and lumpy and hooning but - the chainplate over my bunk end has started to leak so I'm going to have to deal with wet feet, or a plastic bag, or the foetal position for the next week or so - won't be too bad as hoonery set to terminate this evening.

2 more ships - Piccadilly Circus looks like an empty parking lot compared to this bit of ocean.

No incoming for the last couple of days so nothing to respond to.

Phil G @ Fleming, if you are reading this, I have about 15 minutes of video, all rather bland, and pretty crude as I've had to work out the software as I went. It might be useful if you can get hold of a copy of Adobe Premier Elements which is the app that came with the camera and I used to download etc. Will try to post from CT - feedback please and I'll try to go one better in the southern ocean. Problem is there's a lot of stuff hanging off the back of the boat so hard to get good coverage of Kevvo doing his thing.

Hesdbanger's lament

Another of those heart-in-mouth nights when Berrimilla's passage through the ocean sets off a trail of luminous green strobe like explosions of writhing radiance in her wake and out to the sides as well - it's as if there is a pressure wave from her bow out to about 5 metres each side and while most of the fun occurs directly in her wake, there are sporadic flashes at least that far out every few seconds. At six knots, that sort of pressure wave in water must be in the nanopooptillionth range so whatever it is is extraordinarily sensitive. Whatever, it is mesmerising and lovely, our own special aurora marking our passage.

A couple of weeks with nowt but ourselves and today two ships, one a big empty tanker heading NW, the other just lights passing in the night. Unfortunately, I can't get my AIS gizmo to talk to SoB so there is no identifying data. Another of those electronoc mysteries. Ships are an indication that we are getting close - only one and a bit BUs and in the manageable range. Soon, perhaps, we will see land birds and get the local radio stations on AM and then FM instead of the hassle with short wave to pull in the BBC World Service for Africa. The SW radio is now using the whole rig as an antenna and it works rather well but I need a proper antenna jack and alligator clip to stabilise the connection instead of the split pin and clothes peg I'm using. Your frequency list worked, Carol - thanks! And then I will find out whether my Australian Telstra SIM works in South Africa, as it should - but I'm not taking bets.

It's the journey, stupid! While we look forward to a friendly face, a cold beer and a shower, arriving will be a huge anti-climax. Back to the marathon analogy - standing in the finishing chute, emaciated, knees buckling, leg muscles twitching and cramping, blisters a dull burn, before even getting the finisher's medal, months of preparation pounding the streets then 42km of graduated effort and increasing pain all done and the let down is almost something solid you can touch. Success has its buzz, which may come later, but it is for me always accompanied by atrophy and a sort of mental entropy. Perhaps that's actually the driving force that gets people back out on the streets or in their boats after vowing never again. In our case this time, we are only half way home and we can't really relax and drop the bundle - there's a very big to-do list.

And anyone who has ever been out here on a such night of swirling luminescence as tonight can't fail to yearn for the uncomplicated serenity of it all.

K in Shanghai - I doubt you are reading this but Hi anyway!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Past the brass line

073027th position 3113 00111 trip 138 and 878 to go.

We crossed Mr Maskelyne's brass line at 18.36.05 yesterday and we're in the eastern hemisphere. Wooohooo! The last Maureen's cake (Thanks, Maureen ;-)and a Murph to celebrate this morning and there's wind for a day or so in the right direction, then it gets pearshasped but these systems move very fast. Dec 5th still possible.

May not have been Maskelyne but it's a reasonable stab. Too far south, Norm, for Mercatorian status.

No ISS last night - 8/8 cloud. Poo.

From Pete

Pete writes
I've been moved to write due to a distinct lack of something to do. I'm now towards the end of my two night watches, the sun is coming up, Alex has just appeared so I'll make my way to the fridge to extract a couple of Murphy's for breakfast.
Aggahhhh much better.
We put in a good days work last Sunday. By the end of my night watch the wind had dropped to 6-8 kts and boat speed was down to 3-4 kts, this was perilously close to "turn the key time" so a suggestion was made that perhaps a kite might solve the problem of keeping boat speed above the 4.8 kts required to reach Cape Town by Sat. the 5th.
Up it went a nice new flat asymmetrical from the craft of Brian Shilland. True wind was a little aft of the beam so it wasn't long before we were getting 5-6 kts as the apparent wind increased and moved forward to about 15 to 20 degs ahead of the beam. We had a wonderful run all day but by 4 in the arvo wind was above 15 kts boat speed was mostly about 6 7 sometimes 8 and we were still up on course, as they say we were hoooooning along, with a huge grin and a "Whoooo Hooooo".
The problem with Berri and the old style deep keel mid to heavy displacement type of boat is that they have to push a lot of water out of the way to move forward. As a completely bare boat she weighs 5.5 tons, set up for a voyage of 14000 miles she probably weights in at say 7 tons. This means that she has to get 7 cubic metres of water out of her path. Of course pushing water out of the way is easy at low speed but as the speed increases it gets so much harder to displace the water quickly and eventually the boat reaches its maximum hull speed. The boat now moves in a trough created by the bow and stern waves.
If the wind now increases and the boat speed does not and you have a kite up then things start to go decidedly pear shaped very quickly.
The obvious question is how do you get the kite down with one steering and only one other to bring the sail in. How do you control the halyard drop and gather the sail at the same time.
Alex and I have competed the last 3 Fastnet races in the 2 handed division, you learn a lot from the single handers over a beer after the race. One trick we learnt was to throw the halyard in the water, first it avoids tangles as it streams out the back and a few figure 8s on the end puts just the right tension on to control the drop. The kite is then gathered in through the slot between the mainsail foot and the boom.
We had decided earlier on to pull the kite down at about 4.30 which would give enough time to repack the sail and tidy all the bits of string up before the bar opened at 5 for a G&T. The wind never got to the point where the sail was threatened and we doused it easily using the above method. I'll write more now as all the good books have been read and all the little jobs that can be done at sea are crossed off the "To do list".
A footnote to Allan. Fenwick are you OK we havn't had an abusive letter from you yet?
Woc. So you found me. Is Graeme back for Christmas and will the stock market have recovered by then?
Cheers Pete.

Ferals and other animals

An insect - appeared to be a tiny copy of a housefly - landed on the computer yesterday. It walked around a bit, climbed over the screen and disappeared - so we have company. I wonder if it has come all the way from Lisbon or even the Chain Locker or did it arrive on the wind? If so, it probably came from S America which seems like a long way for such a tiny beast.

And at the other end of the scale, we sailed through a swathe of ocean perhaps 3 boat lengths by one covered in a sort of greasy film and bubbles. In the Bering Sea and north of the Arctic Circle in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, breeching whales left these trails but always with stringy bits of mucous and flakes of skin sloughing around. I did not see the stringy bits in this one but certainly the greasy residue, so perhaps we are in even larger company out here. But I did not see a spout, so could have been a giant squid having digestive problems with a wayward nuclear submarine.

No birds today - hot and cloudless so they are probably settled on the water somewhere and will come back this evening.

And half a chance of a visible ISS pass tonight - I've adjusted for our actual position and I think we might crack it. I don't think I know anyone who is up there this time but still just a bit personal to watch (probably) our closest humans go by.

Later - We crossed the Greenwich meridian at 18.36.05 UTC. We have already had one celebration today at 1000 miles to go, so we have saved the last bit of Maureen's cake to sweeten the breakfast Murphys tomorrow. All the numbers in the GPS are now counting in the same direction. Feels good. But not looking good for seeing the ISS. Big cloudbank on the front of the next system barrelling in from the west.

Dusk but I think we have an albatross back with us.

Paul - "I hear there's a video record of that erudite gathering of scholars and philosophers at the Chain Locker. Thanks - can't wait. We re-enacted our simultaneous Consultation for the camera this evening, having not thought to do so on Tuesday.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

From Pete

Pete writes
I've been moved to write due to a distinct lack of something to do. I'm now towards the end of my two night watches, the sun is coming up, Alex has just appeared so I'll make my way to the fridge to extract a couple of Murphy's for breakfast.
Aggahhhh much better.
We put in a good days work last Sunday. By the end of my night watch the wind had dropped to 6-8 kts and boat speed was down to 3-4 kts, this was perilously close to "turn the key time" so a suggestion was made that perhaps a kite might solve the problem of keeping boat speed above the 4.8 kts required to reach Cape Town by Sat. the 5th.
Up it went a nice new flat assymetrical from the craft of Brian Shilland. True wind was a little aft of the beam so it wasn't long before we were getting 5-6 kts as the apparent wind increased and moved forward to about 15 to 20 degs ahead of the beam. We had a wonderful run all day but by 4 in the arvo wind was above 15 kts boat speed was mostly about 6 7 sometimes 8 and we were still up on course, as they say we were hoooooning along, with a huge grin and a "Whoooo Hooooo".
The problem with Berri and the old style deep keel mid to heavy displacement type of boat is that they have to push a lot of water out of the way to move forward. As a completely bare boat she weighs 5.5 tons, set up for a voyage of 14000 miles she probably weights in at say 7 tons. This means that she has to get 7 cubic metres of water out of her path. Of course pushing water out of the way is easy at low speed but as the speed increases it gets so much harder to displace the water quickly and eventually the boat reaches its maximum hull speed. The boat now moves in a trough created by the bow and stern waves.
If the wind now increases and the boat speed does not and you have a kite up then things start to go decidedly pear shaped very quickly.
The obvious question is how do you get the kite down with one steering and only one other to bring the sail in. How do you control the halyard drop and gather the sail at the same time.
Alex and I have competed the last 3 Fastnet races in the 2 handed division, you learn a lot from the single handers over a beer after the race. One trick we learnt was to throw the halyard in the water, first it avoids tangles as it streams out the back and a few figure 8s on the end puts just the right tension on to control the drop. The kite is then gathered in through the slot between the mainsail foot and the boom.
We had decided earlier on to pull the kite down at about 4.30 which would give enough time to repack the sail and tidy all the bits of string up before the bar opened at 5 for a G&T. The wind never got to the point where the sail was threatened and we doused it easily using the above method. I'll write more now as all the good books have been read and all the little jobs that can be done at sea are crossed off the "To do list".
A footnote to Allan. Fenwick are you OK we havn't had an abusive letter from you yet?
Woc. So you found me. Is Graeme back for Christmas and will the stock market have recovered by then?
Cheers Pete.

Latest Position

Posted by I & G in the UK.

5 Degrees West!

Fresh from the Falmouth Photos cutting-room floor comes a sequel to
the video "Berrimilla's Journey Home to Australia."
For those who missed the first one (or can't be bothered to slog
backwards through the links) here it is:

For the second one, go here:

This second video was made as a result of the Chain Locker Crew in
Falmouth celebrating 5 Degrees West in the bar last night. You'll see
them all (still upright) at the end of the video. Cheers, me hearties,
and thanks to Paul Harry of Falmouth Photos.

Posted by Iz in the UK

Thalassarche chlororhynchos (Atlantic yellow-nosed Albatross to you)

With an avian write-up of such rapturous heights, I'm sure we readers
as one, wish to take a squizz at the Atlantic Yellow Nosed Albatross.
Trying to find a copyright-free image of the bird in flight has eluded
me but here's one of it contemplating its navel, from Wikipedia. It
is posted there courtesy of - to
whom grateful thanks.
To see the bird in flight, go to
where there are several more images, and a video sequence of its
breathtaking flight.

At opposite ends of the arc

0700/26th position 3023 00109, trip 109, 1009 to Cape Town so 9 miles to the marathon half way point and a celebratory Talisker moment.

From Gordy:
hi alex pete berri
just a quick one to let you know drinks were taken buy the crowd in the
chain at 1800 24/11 as promised good few in attendance carny paul pauline
tall paul shane tim the fish and a few from ponsarden photos to follow
sign off now ok take care guys
keep her going boys

A truly inspirational gathering of poets, philosophers and other seekers after the truth - onya chasps! We were right there with you in pious spirituosity!

Correction to my last - Fred Watson's red giant may have been only the size of earth's orbit - still no dried lentil. Idle thoughts about all this were followed by one of the longest burn up plumes from an object entering earth's atmosphere that I think I have ever seen - from our position 30.13 S 001.36 W time 0148/26th November, track roughly SE - NW, perhaps 320, altitude at the start about 30 deg and it flew almost to the NW horizon directly under Orion. Very fast, very thin trail, not a lot of light but spectacular.

Sue of the yellow piggy - erk! But thanks for storm surf info about southern ocean swells - I was close after all and they have been with us all day.

First Albatross

Oh wonder of the Universe - can there be anything so lovely anywhere between here and Squornshellous Zeta? I think it's an Atlantic Yellow Nosed albatross - black eyes, grey head, yellow line on beak, white rump, grey uppers and white underparts with black leading edges underwing. The definition and depth of colour of its markings seem closer to the Bullers which lives in the Pacific. All depends on yellow lines on the beak and subtle differences in plumage - I have some reasonable photos but the beak is indistinct, unfortunately but I don't think there's a second yellow line under the beak. Anyway, a joy to behold and I do hope that if life has evolved amongst any of the galaxies that have been around for the last 13 billion years or so, Albatrosses are part of it. Perhaps Herschel will tell us.

And we just crossed 30 S. A bunch of opportunities to listen to Vogon poetry and mother-in-law jokes coming up as we sit with our favourite medical consultant - there's the Greenwich meridian about a day away and 1000 to go in about 70 miles. Then we will pass Sydney just before we get to CT and maybe even Wollonging if we aim past it to beat the wind and current. Plus our albatross. Yay and wooohooo.

Pete saw a ship! So much excitement in a day - I am faint and trembling with whelm.

The moon has just gone down in the west and the night sky has come to life - all those potential albatrosses out there in the universal boonies - Berrimilla's own intimate 14 billion year slice of space-time. Gravity is in the eye of the beholder - s/he who first drew an outline that linked the stars into constellations. Orion's belt now satisfactorily defies its northern hemisphere creator and dangles upwards - Sirius, Castor and Pollux, Procyon and the rest of the mob in attendance and the Pleiades nebulating happily. I'd love to have a stable platform and a telescope out hers! Space is really really big and there's so much stuff to look at! Fred Watson, my favourite astronomer, told me there's a red giant out there with a diameter larger that our Solar system. Coo! Makes poor old Betelgeuese look like a dried lentil.

Carol, thanks - we'll do our best - these systems give us lots of cloud cover so iffy at best.

Scott - no chance we'll make Hobart for the post S2H shindig - most likely end January. Where are you these days?

Enough already. This is going via iridium.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vogons in the parking lot?

0700/25th position 2928 00248 trip 97 and desperately slow, mostly powered by diesel 1109 to CT
Radio dead once again.

As I write this, around 1830/24th, (yesterday) we are celebrating passing 5 deg W early this morning. I hope the Chain Locker mob is in session too, preparing for another six pints or so before dinner. Onya everyone!

We are a bit over 3000 miles from Cape Horn which is at 57 degrees south 68 west. South of the Horn is the 600 mile passage across to the Antarctic Peninsula called Drake Passage - Drake was never there (he sailed through the Strait of Magellan) but this passage spans a strip of the southern ocean that extends all the way around the world. It sits astride the westerly current and the band of fierce westerly winds that also extend around the world. Waves and swell in this band have an unlimited fetch so they can become really huge if storm conditions persist over long periods as we experienced four years ago. Here now in Berrimilla at nearly 30S, we are a long way north of this band of ferocity but I think we are just beginning to feel the big southern ocean swells that sweep up from the Horn and the intense low pressure systems down there and across the South Atlantic towards Africa. We have a SW swell with a wavelength of perhaps 150 metres, height perhaps 5 metres with the occasional wave that seems to be very much bigger. Someone will check the satellite data and tell me I'm wrong - always very difficult to estimate wave height from within. Anyway, they are not anywhere near big enough to lose a cathedral in the troughs as you could below 40S but perhaps the top edge of the influence of the maelstrom. A taste of things to come and the Examiner asserting her authority.

Much later - swell now dropped, along with what little wind there was - in serious wallow mode.
Later still - 0600/25th - the swell is still here, but smoother and so less obvious at night but can see it in daylight.

Deborah, thanks! - I'll write to you separately when the radio comes back, meantime you don't need permission!

Ron C and perhaps Carla - an odd sighting: position 29.18 S 003.01 W @ 01.56.30 UTC Nov 25th altitude about 45 deg, azimuth roughly south - a single white strobe, flashing every second or so without the usual flickering red and green and secondary strobes that usually go with passing aircraft. I saw about 10 flashes then it stopped - possibly a patch of high cloud - and did not reappear. It had the feel of being very high or distant and I could not discern movement against the background stars but it was really a fleeting glimpse anyway. Vogon mothership perhaps - do Vogons have mothers?

Malcom - many thanks. Warning noted - just like the Falklands, where kelp rafts are like solid islands, some of them anchored to the bottom and marked on the charts.

Sue - Pinkbok says Hi and what were you thinking of when you sent me out with these idiots? Hope the lurgy dissipating.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Latest Position

Posted by I & G in the UK.

The sound of one ball drifting...

0630/24th position 2859 00428, trip 130 and 1202 to CT required VMG for Dec 5th now about 4.5kt. It's a bit like limited over cricket - balls left, runs to get, wickets to fall. Drip feed instant gratification, to coin an oxymoron.

We crossed 5 deg West at 0045 this morning - We are now east of Falmouth and 4750nm south after 6314 miles! Gordy notified four hours in advance and we will celebrate this evening. Dank, drizzly, overcast, windless - just trickling along.

I've been checking Berri's systems prior to CT so that we can get recalcitrant gizmos fixed. Have just cranked up the SatCom C - an Inmarsat C device. The equipment seems to work and it logs in to the East Atlantic region but will not transmit messages via the Land Earth Stations predefined in the software so I assume there must have been some sort of amendment since I last used it (probably at least 18 months ago as it is power hungry so only used as emergency backup). Would appreciate advice if anyone knows - else will get on-line latest version of Easymail software from CT to check for changes.

Steve sent us a list of howlers from the current crop of higher school certificate exam papers in English. I rather like this one: 'The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.'
Shades of a softly Taoist Sei Shonagon and her list of things near yet distant - in her case 'The course of a boat'.

Nostalgia 3

Me. I seem to be the serious one, as usual. We actually had to go to about 75N to get around a big ice field in Lancaster Sound - sadly, freezing rain and big icebergs meant we were just not able to make it to Beechey Island and the NASA HMP Camp. At the time I wrote this one it seemed that the really hard bit was behind us and so it was, but there was still a lot of nastiness to come, especially dark nights and ice in Davis Strait (but overwhelmed by swimming polar bears and the most glorious auroras) and the Atlantic crossing which destroyed the old engine. It's all there on if you can be bothered to wade back past the spammers' desecrations.


Kimbra's watch and we are almost as far north as we need to go to round the northernmost point of Somerset Island, just east of Cunningham Bay. So - in an hour or so we should be able to head east, then south east. No more ice visible, Cornwallis just there on the N. horizon and a lighter patch of cloud where Beechey should be, about 45 miles away. Worth just a tiny wooohooo! Pascal's dotted line is ok so far - we can't test the Beechey bit but we'll pick it up again soon.

As for clothing I thought a detailed list might be interesting. On deck, I wear my brown fisherman's super tough wellies, aka Sitka Slippers, with sock liners and fleece socks. Glove liners and insulated industrial rubber gloves. From the skin out, a thermal vest with long sleeves, T shirt, no knickers or thermals over the nethers (because they promote the most agonising gunwale bum) so a fleece mid layer known as salopettes, with a fleece hoodie on top. Sometimes a balaclava and neck tube. On top of all that, a Mustang survival suit or a float coat and Henri pants if it's not too cold. Goggles if it's snowing or windy.

And it has come to pass - at 1750 UTC Sunday August 17 we turned east, then south east at Half way Consultation is occurring. Slightly bigger Wooohooo!

And keep 'em crossed please. Looong way to go yet.

Nostalgia 2

This is McQ feeling cold


oh how I wish the oreo cookie monster would leave me alone!!! he hangs out shivering at the end of my bunk while I am off watch, desperately trying to ignore him, though its hard as he looks so blue and fluffy and unmonsterlike and pathetic, then when I come on watch he sort of attaches himself to me and won't leave me alone, till I relent and eat cookies, despite my constant protesting!!!

To jump on the clothing bandwagon too, which i think I just win, I have on:
1 pair thermal socks
1 pair thick fluffy socks
1 pair ziploc bags (yes these count, they might be the most important items infact!!)
1 pair leaky boots
1 set of underwear, actually bikini top and bottoms\
1 pair thermal legs
1 thermal top
1 midlayer salopettes
1 fleece top
2 midlayer jackets
1 oilie bottoms
1 oilie smock top
1 pair fluffy gloves
1 pair sealskinz gloves
1 pair waterproof outer shell gloves
1 neck warmer
1 thermal balaclava
1 hobart beanie
1 windstopper balaclava
1 fleece hat with ear warmer bits
1 pair ski goggles
so thats 29 individual items...yes, 2 pairs socks, 3 pairs gloves and four hats... its making me cold thinking about it!!!

Oh how I sometimes wish the oreo cookie monster was a heater instead, then he could hang on to me all day and night long, and I wouldn't mind at all!!

Hope everyone well and warm
Lots of love

Nostalgia, part 1

I have just cranked up the incredibly ancient and scarred old Toughbook from the first voyage and the Bass Strait roll and found some old blogs from the critical bit of our North West Passage transit last year. I think they are worth putting up again here. All from 17/18 Aug 2008

Kimbra's post

You've heard of gorillas in the mist, but today we've had belugas and snow! I've never seen a beluga whale before, but I have to say it was love at first sight. To me, these small whales are superficially more like oversize, white, friendly dolphins. As Alex said, we saw a small, loose pod of about 6 belugas around brekkie-o'clock this morning. One appeared to be stalking us, so maybe word has got around the whale-world about Corrie's close encounter off Barrow and they're out for revenge? Anyway, most cool!

The weather is also (still) most cool. So far, it's snowed on 3 separate occasions today. My Alaska keychain thermometer is still telling me it's 10 deg C, but I'm rapidly losing faith in it. My cold-toe-ometer is telling me that it's probably a little less than that. Cold enough to break out the hot porridge with dried apricots and maple syrup for breakfast. Yum.

While I hate fog, I'm really kinda fond of snow. There's not enough of it (yet!) for it to settle, and we're definitely not talking snowmen either, but it's very peaceful. And makes a nice change from the rain. It's starting to settle on the hills bordering Peel Sound, and dusting parts of them a light grey against the dark blue-brown rock.

Nearly around the top of Peel Sound. Another 50 NM until we hang right and turn east along Barrow Strait and Lancaster Sound towards Greenland. So 50 NM to go to my mental halfway point, where we stop heading away from the edge of the world and start heading back to civilisation.

Anyway, my fingers are too cold to hit the right keys on this miniature keyboard, so I'm heading for my bunk. Wake me for dinner in bed in an hour or so...wonder what Corrie's cooking tonight?

Night all! K.

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Almost back to where we started

0630/23rd position 2822 00644 trip 143 and 1327nm to Cape Town. Closing on the half way point at 36 k in the marathon.

Still hooning - genoa poled out, pointing at CT, averaging about 6kts. Soft spot due later today and much bigger one tomorrow. Dec 5th arrival still on the cards. Will depend on the behaviour of the high behind the one we're about to enter. Big to-do list for Cape Town.

Lots of birds following us - I have so many floaters in my eyes these days that looking at the horizon or trying to focus on a bird is a bit like reading newsprint - takes time and concentration, so a bit of jizzery later.

We should cross 5 degrees west tomorrow so we will have completed the huge arc to the west to get around West Africa and the South Atlantic weather systems and be back due south of where we started. We shall celebrate - if you're reading this Gordy, I'll blip your mobile with the satphone. The journey will start to become very different from here. There ain't no 'Beam me up Scotty!' once you get down into the southern ocean below Africa.

Wimping along

I'm a wimp when it comes to flying kites out here - potential for big and unnecessary stress on the rig if things go pearshaped and all the other complications of bits of string everywhere. But Pete was persuasive and we've had our racing assymetric kite up for the last 3 hours and we are hooning - trying really hard to stay in a line of wind that I think will die with a line of cloud to the west of us. Last time we flew it was from the Fastnet Rock back past The Lizard in the Fastnet where it picked us up about 100 places (luck as well, of course, with a massive wind change as we rounded Pantaenius)- so, Mr Shilland, a good little engine and just right for these conditions. Still more or less on target for Dec 5th arrival with 1436 miles to go. Kevvo is driving - I'm watching him because there is still some swell and if a big one catches the stern, it throws us sideways and gives poor Kevvo a completely false apparent wind which gives him the hiccups.

Later - since I started writing this, I've been hand steering for a couple of hours because it's too much for the electric autopilot as well. The wind is strengthening and I think freeing us and we may have to drop the kite soon. I saw our first Portuguese Man 'o War (Bluebottle for the Australians) quite a big one, deep blue sac with crenellated fringe on the top edge and half moon curve so they drift with the prevailing wind. And a white bird settled on the water - unusual as most of them here are brown or black - orange beak, white head, black slashes around the eyes, grey flecks on top of the body and wings and two long straight white tail feathers - hard to judge their length but at least as long as the body. Not in the albatross book but somebody will know what it is.

Later still - we dropped it in time for a relaxed meeting with the Grindy - was building a nice fat quarter wave so time to douse and get the boat upright again - lost perhaps half a knot but the knuckles no longer grey.

Norm - thanks! Wish we had one of those machines.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Will i? Won't it?

0630/22nd position 2740 00918 trip 130 and 1470 to Cape Town. Required VMG still 4.8 for AM Dec 5th.

G'day to the Crosshaven RNLI mob and RNLI crews everywhere. I decided that today's breakfast Murph which I'm quietly savouring as I prod the keyboard, would be in your honour, especially as in the conditions we're told you are getting up there, you have probably been very busy.

Gerry Fitz - give the Fenwick a call - if he's not totally stupefied, dozy old fart that he is, he's got a really good story to tell you and you can use it immediately to edify your punters. Buy him a beer - he earned it and someone orta give him a gong.

If this is a short one, the HF radio is back - I never know from email to email whether it will turn itself on when I press the switch. It came back last night for long enough to send the grey rainbow thingy so let's see now..

A rainbow in grey

We are as remote as it is possible to be in this huge ocean. Last ship a week ago, before that, another eight days to the previous one. Not an aircraft, not a space station, nothing human. Macca for ten minutes a tribute to technology and a welcome interlude.

How can I describe this night to someone sitting in front of a bright computer screen at home or in the office? It's as if we are inside a huge faintly luminous grey sock. Shapeless, untouchable gaseous void filler in thin foggy grey. We're sailing on soft grey-black velvet, invisible, shapeless but substantial, with the loveliest of phosphorescent twinkles in a rolling greenish halo of disturbed water flowing past. You feel the motion - it's experienced, without the usual frame of horizon and clouds to mark the boat's passage. The sails a darker mass in the void. Swooshing surging burbling water noise and the swish of the wind generator with its gentle undulating whine as it fires wiggly amps at the batteries, its tiny red LED glowing in the shapeless grey. Instrument lights at their dimmest grey - juuust readable but even with the acutest night vision there's only the feel of the change in density between velvet and gas at the horizon. Masthead lights brilliant arcs of pinpoint colour leaving painted trails on the retina - green light reflected off a masthead aerial making a surface patch in the velvet out to starboard. Sometimes it catches a ripple and turns it into glowing life for a second or two. The usual clunks and creaks that are the atmospheric noises off in any sailing boat. Gentle breeze on the face - tonight a caress but always out here with the hint of

Or just a dank and dismold overcast night if you'd rather do without the hype...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Freaks of the airwaves

Just possible there may be another Macca gig sometime after 0700 Sydney time Nov 22, 2000 UTC Nov 21. ABC Radio Australia, program Australia All Over.

SJ - instructions not followed! So much for reinforcement - and the HF died again just as I'd downloaded the 3 liner with the half page of unnecessary crud attached. Grateful if you could advise no more emails possible unless relayed through you but phone ok. Iridium too precious for extraneous garbage. Murphyalatermate.

Quickie to catch the propagation window

0630/21st position 2700 01132 trip 110 (all over the place...) and 1596 to CT

SJ - thanks mate and assumed as much - but never any harm in a bit of reinforcement!
Izz 'n'G Kool and gluey doods - thanks too.

Another trawl through the wheelie bin.

In a Eureka! moment, while engaging the neuronic trio in an explanation of the difference between magnetic and true courses I discovered (stumbled across) the origin of phosphorescence. Nothing to do with dinoflagellates, just the detritus of sloppy navigators. Everyone knows that Einstein hated the idea of entanglement in which one of a pair of particles can be shown to be 'known' to the other no matter how far across spacetime they may be separated. He called it spooky and kept trying to find an explanation because it appears to defy his general theory of relativity. Navigators have known about it since Prince Henry set up shop at Sagres - if you draw a line on a chart, all those entangled particles on the chart have their spin established by your pencil and all their partners out here on the ocean fire up and make a glowing line on the water that corresponds to the line on the chart. Then you come out in your ship and sail along it and before you can say dinoflagellisticexpiallidocious you have got to where you were going! Good, conscientious navigators always switch off the excited particles on the ocean as they pass so as not to confuse us lot who follow but we're not all so punctilious and phosphorescence is the result - terazillions of those excitedly spinning particles left behind by sloppy navigators higgledy-piggledy all over the ocean.

The difference between magnatic and true will have to wait - not half such fun.

One for the mythbusters if they haven't done it already, or any competent mathematician who can find the numbers. I have heard it said that there is a significant chance that in any day you breathe air that has been circulated so comprehensively by the world's meteorological systems to the extent that any breath might contain a molecule from Nelson's dying breath, or one of Henry VIII's belches (or worse) or Nefertiti's sneeze or a dinosaur's bellow. Presumably, the further back in time the more likely. So what are the chances that a molecule in the air I'm breathing now was once breathed by a slave building the Sphinx?

Or in similar mode, the human body is mostly water, which is circulated in the same way - what chance any part of me was once in the bilge of Leif Ericsson's Viking ship on the Greenland coast? Or of the puddle that Raleigh spread his cloak over for Elizabeth 1? Or even part of Raleigh before she had him shortened by a head for being presumptuous?

Enough already!

On ignoring the oblate shape of our spheroid

The GPS has two sets of numbers upon which we gaze with hopeful yearning - our latitude and longitude co-ordinates. Each reads degrees and decimal minutes & right now our latitude is 26.07.897 S read as twenty six degrees seven point eight nine seven minutes south. For the navigationally challenged, one minute of latitude is equal to one nautical mile so we are roughly 7.9 miles south of 26 degrees. The last digit (the 7 of .897) is one thousandth of a nautical mile or about 2 metres so as we sail along, the numbers increase or decrease depending on our direction. We are heading south west, so the latitude numbers (degrees and minutes south) are increasing by roughly 0.005 for every boat length we sail. The longitude numbers (now 012.38.023 W) are decreasing by roughly the same amount. Only roughly because a degree of longitude at 26 south is less that a nautical mile. Purists, please ignore the problems raised by diagonals and oblate spheroids for this little exposition. For the first time for what seems days, both sets of numbers are counting in their respectively correct directions. South is increasing and west is decreasing. YAY!

Another concept is Velocity Made Good or VMG. This is a calculated number based on our course and speed over the ground relative to where we are going. It is almost always different from our speed through the water and our speed over the ground but it is the best indicator of how efficiently we are sailing the boat and choosing our courses. On the last tack, our VMG for Cape Town was about 1 knot - then came the wind change we have been crossing all the appendages for and we tacked and now VMG for CT is 4.2 knots - much better but still not good enough to get us there by Dec 5th. We need a constant VMG of about 4.8 for that. Our speed through the water is about 6.2 knots and speed over the ground is 5.4 knots so we are in an adverse current of about 0.8 knots. Our required course over the ground for CT is 130M and we are actually making 167M which explains some of the discrepancies. Perhaps another burst on the difference between Magnetic course (M) and True course (T) and variation in another post.

Deborah, thanks for ISS and Atlantis info. As you can imagine, a big news hole out here - can't even get the Beeb world service without major hassle. I'm about to try using the mast as an antenna. Big Hi to Andrew - the Needles in 90+ knots I can only imagine.

Another word of explanation: Our ISS viewing times are roughly the 20 minute periods before sunrise and after sunset - while the ISS can see the sun and reflect its light towards us if they are anywhere near us bur as the sun is below our horizon the sky is dark enough for us to see the reflection quite easily.

Norm - thanks - jeers and ribald laughter from the crowd is what gets one foot out in front of the other again and again in those last 6km.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Latest Position

Posted by I & G in the UK.

Not a lot to talk about

0700/20th position 2609 01259 trip 109 and as you can see, we are north east of yesterdays position. The high seems to have slowed or stopped and we are in a variable and undecided SE wind rather than the easterly we were expecting so the best we can do is about 080M at about 4.5 kts over the ground which is about 055T. The centre of the high is still south west of us and what happens next may decide whether we make CT by Dec 5th or even this year! Still in a 2ish knot NW current which really kills progress when your top speed in only around 5 knots. Our VMG is still positive but not healthy. End of marathon pain and suffering! With the benefit of the clarity of hindsight, we might have been better to have followed a similar track to Groupama - much longer, with big risk of nastiness but overall better wind.

Making today's 5 litres of water, slurping coffee having dunked and waiting and watching. The brownish 'albatross' was back yesterday evening - airy, imperious swoops and soars either side of our track, disappearing into the troughs, changing direction apparently without effort, steep banked turns out to about half a mile either side and very occasionally crossing diagonally from astern to ahead.

Will try to grab remaining smidge of propagation window and HF this.


A pair of Spectacled Petricals

Well, that's how it comes out sometimes - try repeating Spectacled Petrel fast. There are now two of them and I have photos of one which might be sharp enough for the blog - very difficult to get focus right with long lens, moving boat and fast moving bird. They are about 700 miles from home on Tristan da Cunha.

Sitting on the front of the high, VMG for Cape Town lousy but we are hoping that it will improve significantly as we get further knocked and tack. Just as the Pacific Ocean was trying all the way from Sydney to Adak in the Aleutians last year to push us back into our box, so it seems that the whole of this huge stretch of the South Atlantic is moving North West at about 2 knots - the North West flowing Benguela current is supposed to be much closer to the African coast. So we've done a lot of sailing, tried some tacks to see where the best VMG happens and there ain't no good combination of wind and current out here just now. The Examiner being snaky.

Malcom, thanks re isinglass - we've always used vaseline which works just as well but the trick is to make sure there's lots of it evenly spread on the shell and doesn't always happen. We only chucked two out of 4 dozen so not bad - so to speak.

Duncan - you've been busy! Red jacket out of hiding and operational. Needs design tweak - I shall write to Henri Lloyd and see whether they are interested.

Latest Position

Thursday, November 19, 2009

another quickie

0700/19 position 26.23 01433 trip 120 CT 1765nm
CT now less than 3 BU - Berrimilla units or 630 miles/U or 1 Sydney-Hobart race/U - seems much more do-able than 1765 miles. Given about 21 BU from Falmouth to Sydney and we've done about 9 of them - only 12 to go! Woooohooo! This bit from Falmouth has been a bit of a headbang.

Another avian visitor - bigger, just as graceful, light brown - just possibly our first albatross.

A tired analogy

Tomorrow is sailing day 49 out of Falmouth (not counting the Lisbon stop). We have at least 18 to go. I know I have used this metaphor all through these voyages but it works for me and it has a real significance. A marathon is 42.2 kilometres less a metre or so. I've run a few - lost count but perhaps 26 or 27 - and for me the half way point psychologically and often physically as well comes at about 36km. At 36 k I know I will finish and I can almost feel the buzz notwithstanding the fact that my body has started to eat itself and every white line painted on the road feels as if it's a foot high, potholes are like volcanic craters and my eyes no longer focus and my legs are starting to cramp. The three neurons have long since given up trying to engage with sludgy synapse and talk to each other. Those last 6km seem to take as long as the first 36 and every metre is an effort that has to be made, one after the other. I reckon we're closing on half way to Cape Town on that basis - not quite there yet, I think that may really come at the Greenwich meridian - but close. As a compressed analogy a marathon, over a bit under 3 hours, says it all, though with a much higher intensity, for a sea voyage of 60+ days.

We have just been visited by a Spectacled Petrel - yesterday's prelim jizz said it seemed to have white round the eyes but unable to get my decrepit eyes into gear so not sure but today it came back and no doubt whatever. I bet there aren't too many people who have seen one - they are endemic to Tristan da Cunha. Stocky bird but with the most graceful soaring swooping flight, just like an albatross.

Apart from that bit of wonder and joy, it's been an ornery day. Things have conspired - the laptop dropped it's iridium settings again so had to restore it to yesterday meantime big wind change so out on deck to adjust, come back to laptop and spill Grindy's Medical Elixir carefully saved in unspillable spot even in these conditions. Or so I thought. And that series was just one of several so somewhat frazzly, without gruntle, po faced and surrounded on all sides by irk.

Later, a photo I would have loved to have been able to take. Sunset about an hour ago, sky still deep luminous silver blue, fluffy dark grey castellations of Cu along the western horizon, radiant new moon above. Enter, stage right, Spectacled Petrel, black silhouette soaring across the sky and the moon in full 90 degree bank and swoop directly towards me - silhouette changes to tiny circle with razor slash curved enhedral wings. Another steep bank and he's gone. Serene, lovely sight and suddenly I'm unirked, fully gruntled and happy.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Quickie - I need a cuppa.

0700/18th position 2603 01640 trip 129 CT 1877

I'd forgotten what it is like to be cold and wet and complacency was in the air - last night's little fracas was a useful reminder and I'm now properly waterproofed. Big tidy up just finished and we're back pointing at CT at about 4.5kts. Wind easing, barometer rising. Will probably get softer during the day.

And then it all went pearshaped

Enter, stage left, the Examiner in her hot pink leathers. We've been twin poling happily for a couple of days riding the top of the low down hill towards Cape Town but all good things etc. First a rapid change in wind direction NW back to SW along with barometer bottoming and starting to rise. Here beginneth the High, it seems. Then rain and squally gusts and time to roll in the red sail - Black murky night, Pete coming off watch, Old Fart no 2 goes out to do it - no prob - roll it in and tie it off, unroll a bit more genoa and adjust the pole, back below to get dry and make cuppa. Not so Fast, says Herself, all softly snarly like. Another gust and the top half of the red sail unrolls and starts to flog itself out if its little knickers. O.F. no 2 back out to sort - no easy way so try easing the halyard right off which does ease the flogging so OF2 to the foredeck in driving cold rain, naked except for skinny shorts to gather in flogging sail - all ok until mostly gathered in and - wouldn't ya know? - didn't ease enough halyard so can't get it all and now cant get back to ease more without losing control of the sail. Pete comes out and we eventually get it under control, squeeze it down the little ventilation hatch, put the pole away, tidy the string and get the genoa rolled in as well, remove the pole, tidy up and back below. OF2 by now shaking with cold and needing lukewarm cuppa from half an hour ago. Unseamanlike, you may well say - correctly - but things seldom happen according to Hoyle and you sometimes have to muddle through.
So now we're bare poling to the NE in pitch black night, both stormboards in to keep out cold rain in gusts, waiting for daylight when we will go out properly clad, make sure all the bits of string are properly sorted and get some sail up again. Meantime, write and send this, get another GRIB to see what's in store and make another cuppa.


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West of the Chain Locker

If you sit in Gordy's usual spot on the corner of the bar in the Chain Locker (Waterside pub in Falmouth, for the Australians and other Oddlanders) with your back to the fireplace, you would be looking more or less south with a smidge of west. That's where we are now but in a week or so - AGW - you will have to stand with your back to the fire as we pass you to the south, range 5000 nm as near as makes no difference, straight down the meridian. Celebrate with us - how about a nominal time of 1800 UTC on Nov 24th - a week today? Somebody please tell Dave Carne - we'll assume he might be in the top office - and Oz and Tall Paul and Adi and Lara and anyone else who might be around. Teleport us some ice for the G&Ts.

Today I used the last 4 slices of bacon to make onion, garlic, bacon, olives and parmesan rat to go with pasta and ok it was too. Paul and Pauline, please send our compliments to your butcher - bloody good bacon despite the oozy water, beautifully packed and it has lasted since about September 7th. Finished the eggs last week.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Things you learn and random rewards

Another occasion for a Random Reward - soon, DV & WP, we will cross 5 degrees West, the longitude of Falmouth, so we will have sailed the massive arc of ocean necessary to get around West Africa and we will really be heading for home. Then there's 1.15W, the longitude of Cowes, the furthest East we have been. Then there's the Greenwich Meridian. Each a potential cause for celebration should one be needed. The GPS trip reads 5478nm - roughly the distance we have sailed from Falmouth, but still 13 degrees of longitude to go to complete the arc.

Just surfed off a breaking wave at 10 knots - twin poling in these conditions is such an easy way to go - stable and mostly fail-safe. But we have the lower stormboard in and the cone of silence down. For those who don't know Berri, the cockpit is unusual in that it has no sill or barrier between it and the inside of the boat so if a breaking wave crashes over the top, the cock[it will fill and the water - a couple of cubic metres or two tonnes of water - could all do a Niagara straight into the boat, all over the electronics here at the nav table and potentially into our bunks, the engine, even, in a real disaster, the fuel tank if we happen to be filling it. So, we have stormboards, lower and upper - very substantial shutters that fit exactly into the 'doorway' or companionway and seal the inside of the boat from the possible deluge. The lower one is sufficient for these conditions but we often need both in the southern ocean. As backup, there is the Cone of Silence, a curtain of thick plastic sheet that hangs down across the navigation and electronics space when needed. This has saved our bacon countless times when random and unexpected water sloshes through the companionway. But it's airless and sticky and 'orrible inside it prodding the keyboard.

And - most notably crossing the Atlantic from Greenland last year - in these following seas we have twice flooded the engine with water backflowing up the exhaust hose even though we put a stopper in the outer end and there's a one way silencer box that should prevent this but after some agonising, I concluded that cooling water in the exhaust must pool in the box and in a steep and violent pitch, this water flows back into the engine, so we - Gordy did most of it - fitted a big valve between the box and the exhaust manifold. If we feel it necessary to close this, we take the key out of the ignition first and hang it over the GPS. Then - and only then - we close the valve. The key stays there until after the valve is reopened.

Time for the breakfast ritual.

A bit of ritual - part 3?

Nice one from Carla in Baton Rouge:
Watched the movie Serenity and thought of you and Berri. The lead character
tells the first rule of flying (a spaceship): "You can learn all the math in
the 'verse, but you take a boat in the air that you don't love, she'll shake
you off just as sure as the turning of worlds. Love keeps her in the air
when she oughtta fall down, tells ya she's hurtin' 'fore she keens, makes
her a home." Fair winds and lots of love, Carla.

Reminds me a bit of Arthur's instructions to Fenchurch about flying - I've lost the exact words...

Barometer still falling but I think we're about to reach the bottom of this one. Hoping to get to CT by Dec 5th for special invitation to friend's post Fastnet meeting. Just do-able if we can negotiate the high behind this little blast. We are due to meet it tomorrow near the top where there are easterly winds - adverse, for the nautically challenged - but I'm hoping we've finessed it so that we can head just east of south for a day or so until we see what's behind it. Big following sea at the mo - perhaps 3 - 4 metres and breaking where it is amplified over the swell - and Berri is rolling horribly. Sometimes in the really big ones we go through gunwale to gunwale with a bit of corkscrew as well. Very much one hand for the boat, one for yourself and don't you forget it. Pete wedged into his bunk with beanie and airline face mask oblivious. Cone if silence down and lower stormboard in, making water with the engine charging the battery. In these following winds, the Whizzer can't keep up with the discharge so we have to supplement its efforts.

Ritual: Every Wednesday, Pete collects bucket, soap, fresh water and towel and goes to foredeck, gets naked - pimply wrinkled old fart that he is - and throws sea water over himself, then washes the flakes off with soap and fresh. I tend to do the APC deal - uses less fresh and much quicker but each to his own. We don't really smell!

Random rewards - any time there is cause for celebration - passing 10 degrees, El Pinko reappearing, talking to a ship, whatever - we celebrate. Usually a somewhat stiffer Consultation with the good man from Cork.

And we also have Regular Rewards, the most obvious being every thousand miles knocked off the tally - a bit of a hiatus here because I switched measurement from Falmouth distance to Cape Town distance but today's the day thanks to Pete Goss and his 18 year old bottle.

Andrew and Sue - Hi

Love yez all


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0700/17th position 2518 01845 trip 130 2000 to Cape Town so a Talisker moment later perhaps.

Sorry to hear about Groupama but glad they are all safe.
We're in mini hoon mode twin poled sitting in the NW flow at the top of the low and pointing more or less at CT. Perhaps another day then into the high and we'll slow down big time. Cold enough now for a blanket at night. Been running along the same roll of squally cloud for about 24 hours.

Saw what looked like a small yellowfin tuna swimming alongside us for quite a while.

Carol G - Forgot to include thanks for book offer yesterday sorry. Got out the recliner and put it on the grassy lawn on the afterdeck but too cloudy for Leonids. Thanks and G'day to everyone else - Good propagation so will try to send this by HF.

Things you learn: Part the Umpteenth:

Baked beans ferment once you open the can. Without going into the enormously long winded and engrossing possibilities of this interesting fact (just think Blazing Saddles with fermentation..Slim Pickens on rocket fuel...Always appreciated Slim Pickens - such a nice self deprecatory name for a no bull actor) I have eaten more than a small gerzillion baked beans cold from the can with a teaspoon in the last 5 years or so but I've never managed a whole can even when conditions have been particularly adverse and peary. So - always buy your beans in half cans unless you really really like them or you have more nefarious purposes for the left overs.

We've got Kevvo set up on the back of the old barge with turning blocks and bungy cord for the tiller lines - several years of playing with it all and there don't seem to be any improvements left. Except - we have always used 6mm sheathed braided line for the tiller lines and these have always chafed in two places and they tend to jump out of the sheaves on the actuating arm when there is violent movement. This time we are using 3mm unsheathed plaited spectra and it works beautifully. Minimal chafe and because it is so skinny it doesn't jump out of the sheaves as long as the bungys are properly set. Found a roll of the stuff in Dave Carne's back office in Falmouth and thought it worth a go. Breaking load about 600 kg - easily enough for the old Kev.

The first half cup of water from the watermaker each time we use it is always brackish from the back pressure in its guts. Read the instructions! I'm sure they shows the proper set up with bypass valve etc but we haven't got room for all that stuff so fill a cup before putting the tube in the first bottle. It's taken us years to work that one out.

Salad oil, cooking oil or even yer extra virgin is great for keeping the marine version of the old one hole dunny working smoothly - if you have a can of sardines in olive oil, pour the oil into the porcelain and next time you go, you will feel the difference in the pump action. Otherwise, a tablespoon every few days keeps the pump barrel slidey.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Significant moments

The HF radio is back but flaky and the Pactor modem drops out sometimes mid connection - don't know why. So this will be interesting. I'll send it now with our 0615 position 2342 02012 trip 5337 and CT 2107 to go

At 01.54.56 UTC November 16th we left the Tropics. Wooohooo! I wonder whether Berri will ever be back.

When we set off on the first of these silly extravaganzas in January 2005, we were using the Firefly New South Wales sailmail station run by Derek and Jeanine Barnard and remained in contact about half way across the southern ocean to the Horn. Then we transferred to the Chile station and held it around the corner up into the Atlantic until it went off line for repair. I have just re-established contact with Chile and sent the last message through the station. Full circle, in a way. In between, we have been in contact with all but a couple of the 20 stations around the world - more, I suspect, than most people.

It's all happening - except wind.

Hornswoggle - the HF radio just came on - must be something loose or a dry connection somewhere. I'll try to send this before it dies again. 1330/15th position 2309 02103. No send - no propagation.

The world hasn't stopped out there - our first ship for what seems weeks crossed astern of us at about 0730 - I turned on the VHF and he actually called us - a first, I think - to check whether all was well. I asked him to report seeing us and watched him sail away. bound from Africa to Buenos Aires. Another first - there are fish all around us - about 2 ft long, jumping occasionally and rather more oval in silhouette than small tuna. And a bird at sunrise - could have been our noddy of some days ago - small, brownish, flapping, wedge tail.

Heaps of mail - Steve back from the bush: Carol G - yep, I've read as much as I could stand but frankly, I think most of it is nonsense - the evidence just doesn't stand up and I remember being highly critical of some of his sources years ago at uni while doing a paper on Cheng Ho. Duyvendak for a start. Happy to take it all apart but not via iridium! Cheng Ho one of the people I would have liked to have been able to meet for dinner, Babelfish engaged for the translation. Fiona - so there really is a universe! Gerry & Donna - g'day! Carol R & the Richmond Julia Creek mob - g'day and glad Macca reaches even the Queensland boonies! Brian and Jen - Yay! Good to hear you are still with us. Sue - thanks for Groupama and news of UK, Norm, Blue nosed and in order out here! Agree re Mercator. Would love to know exactly what was destroyed in Lisbon in 1755 - someone will have been to MC first - and anyway, its significance is a human construct.

In case you are wondering, stuff-all wind here, big hole as predicted, hot, humid and not pleasant but we are carrying enough spare diesel to motor for a couple of days and we're giving ourselves a little carefully rationed slingshot of our own. Should get some wind off the top of the low tomorrow if we are far enough south.

Later - 1730/15th with Dr Grindy standing by to assist with any medical emergency - there's wind. And fog!! In the distance, cold air over warm ocean under biggish cloud - wooohooo! Right at this moment, 6 knots directly down the rhumb line. GC just a bit too tricky to play with for minimal gain. Won't last anyway and there's still that businesslike low below us that should be through tomorrow and a high behind it.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Fingernails - in at least 2 episodes

0700/15th position 2255 02129 trip 5247=87/24 Cape Town 2190 This post started yesterday afternoon.

Seems we might just have hooked our fingernails into the top of the low hoofing east below us and we're hanging on as best we can - wind dropping and fickle, twin poled and rolling in the swell. If we can hold on to it - lucky - and we look good for tomorrow as well, then a bloody great hole for a day and then the next low. They are further north than I expected which seems to be a bit of a helping hand. We'll see - we still have to get ourselves 600 miles south across their paths and the second one has attitude.

Hot and tedious out here. Another 45 miles south and we're out of the tropics - hoooley doooley. Then the difficult bit starts. But those 45 miles are not going to be easy either.

We've been playing with the sextant - or Pete has and I've done the Merlin bit - but at civil twilight I'm going out to see whether I can grab Jupiter to add to Pete's earlier sun sight. Lots of fluffy cu so may be difficult.

Later - Jupiter was difficult - but got something else yet to identify. Possibly Achernar but the sight may not be good enough to decide. And then remembered that we need a current almanac to reduce planet sights so no Jupiter anyway. Cape Town perhaps.

Later still - middle watch again - I can't remember ever seeing stars in the night sky from horizon to horizon - there's always a layer of haze low down and cloud somewhere. Tonight is almost Khayyam's Bowl of Night - a little thickening of the density to the north and the stars don't quite make it through but a soft transition from the reflected starlight and phosphorescent twinkles on the water to the real thing above everywhere else - Jupiter in the west with a brilliant trail over the water like one of those christmas cards of the three kings following their star. I sit in the cockpit, chin resting on a winch, Berri in gentle shooshle with the gap between the big dark triangles of the poled out headsails rolling its arc from Rigel through Sirius past Canopus. The gas cloud is a bright fuzz almost to Achernar. The Cross just above the horizon. I will remember these nights as long as my three neurons continue to converse through their torpid synapse. Clear, awesome, overpowering wonder at the beauty of it all and my own insignificance. I'm just a few gerzillion organic molecules soon to be dispersed again along with their momentary cohesion of consciousness, my track through spacetime infinitesimally tiny and irrelevant.

We're not really in the complicated system to the south - the fingernails scraped along the turbulence and lost it so we're just trickling along in the swirls of soft breeze stirred up by its passage. Tomorrow will be a hole but there's a chance that the next low - the serious one - will give us a boost as it rolls past us. It has at least 50 knots close to its centre about 900 miles to the south. I hope Groupama hooked into it and are riding their slingshot eastwards.

I'll send this with the 0700 position to save on iridium. Steve W has gone bush for the w/e probably with no mobile signal so we won't get any mail until at least then anyway.

Henry's Place; Berri's position

Posted by I and G in the UK

Henry Knight

For those new to Berrimilla's voyages, here is an explanation about Henry Knight. In the 2005 round-the-world trip, Alex and Pete passed close to where a young boy called Henry Knight died in 1853 and was buried at sea. He was emigrating to Australia from England with his family.

The co-ordinates for the sea burial were given as 2835 S, 02609 W. The story about the Knight family was passed to Alex by a friend who was a descendant of Henry's father.  This friend gave permission to quote online from the diary of the voyage, which is now housed in the Mitchell Library in Sydney. I read a transcript of the diary when Alex was in the UK back in 2005 and it was a harrowing and moving account of a most appalling journey.  Many passengers died on the voyage due to illness, malnutrition or starvation. If I remember correctly this was in part due to the fact that the provisions they had paid for were not made available to them on board. 

The extract copied below was publshed in the 2005 blog on 29th September as entry 392.   You can access it in its proper context here:

5th February 1853

 5Fine day very Hot Calm Henry very/ Ill could not take but very little Susan A little better betwixed 8 and 9 O'Clock/ Henry went down stair's took A Counterpane down with him that he had/ been laying on all day previous to this he had been to the Closet but once all day/ as soon as he got down to our Berth he started to the Closet I followed after him was/ in the Closet with him we talked together a good bit I then went up on the upper/ Deck same time Henry went down I stayed a short time up on Deck because my/  wife was washing the children and she could do better with the little Girl when I was/ out of sight as she used to cry after me, mean time Henry had gone to the Closet/ again and for the last time he was heard to groan but no one it appears Knew what/ it was or who it was he had fasten himself in the Closet with the Hasp as was the / way of most of the  Emigrants and therefore could not be got at under 15 or/ 20 Minutes no one had  suspected a death had taken place untill the Door was opened/ but so it was poor fellow he was quite dead sitting on the seat & perhaps my/ friends can be a better judge what my feelings were than I can express I took/ George to see him after he had been carried into the Hospital which was the place/ where all the Dead were taken poor fellow he wept over him most bitterly nor/ was he the only one that wept for none of us expected/ all this
Posted by Iz in the UK

Saturday, November 14, 2009


At 0905 UTC we launched Henry's little box at 22.26.1 S 022.44.5 W with instructions to the hairy old fart with the trident to ensure that it gets delivered by his favourite mermaid. Jelly snakes, jelly beans and chocolate tied with red and green ribbon from Isbella and sealed with gaffer tape. As you do. Onya Henry!

Then I put my pot of contemplating Murph on the cockpit seat and Berri rolled and wallowed and - SPBF - another dent in the pot and only a mouthful of the stuff left. Serves me right - how long have I been out here??

Still in wallow mode, giving the red sail its first southern hemisphere outing. Twin poled at about 2.5 knots dragging our barnacle colony along for the ride and to get fat. Maybe not for long. If the wind drops, we're over the side with a knife.

Norm wrote about all the named corners in Australia where the State boundaries meet - Doeppels, Surveyor Generals etc. - and noted that there is no name for the point where the Greenwich Meridian crosses the equator and did I have any suggestions? Best I can do Norm is Pi for Primary Intersection, AntiPi on the Date Line? Or perhaps Mercator Central which it wasn't when he was alive but now is on most Mercator world charts. Pathetic really, but the best I can do.

Latest Position

Posted by I & G in the UK.

Henry's day abd a big thank you

0700/19th position 2221 02252 trip 98/24 Little bit of breeze and creeping along.

Whoever might have been out there during the night isn't there now. We will send Henry's box off downwind at 0900 and contemplate over a refrigerated Murph. We are 400 miles from him this time but it will get there - why else do we placate the old fart with a trident?

Cloud to the SW could be the top of the first low - hope so but we are still a bit far to the north. Watch and wait seems to be the go.

C. - Isabella told us about your very generous donation towards the iridium bill. Thank you! Very much appreciated.

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Middle watch - Berri rolling gently in the swell - quiet shhsssh sshoossshh of the water slipping past the substantial colony of barnacles along the starboard side - stars, planets, galaxies and nebulae in their gigazillions in an almost luminescent sky - poled out on the port tack in wallow mode, main slatting uncomfortably and may have to drop it and get the red sail out, just shooshling (Kimbra's NE Passage word?) along at about 3 knots - NE swell and about 8 knots of breeze. Will be a couple of days before we know whether yesterday's punt will work out or not - we are at the top of a complex series if swirling high and low pressure systems and the grib predicts that there are a couple of dominant lows to the SW. I think Groupama will be further down on the second one going like the clappers eastwards - I hope so - keep stoking the boilers guys! If we are lucky we will just sneak into the top of the first one and it might carry us into the second. But there are big holes all around so it's anybody's guess. At 0140 on the 14th, we're pointing directly at Cape Town with 2292 to go.

Meantime, sometime today we will reach our closest point to young Henry Knight who will be about 400 miles to the south. I am preparing a little box of jelly snakes and chocolate tied with Isabella's red and green ribbon to send down to him. It'll be a week or so before it gets there, Henry, and 156 years too late but it's a small tribute to you and all the others who have died out here.

Otherwise - ennui. Hot shadeless days, no other signs that humans live on the planet. And suddenly not so. I've just been up to have a squizz and there was a light on the starboard quarter. I watched it for a bit and it vanished. That doesn't happen unless the light was switched off - why? Scary these days and I'll keep the satphone handy. Time 0215/14th position 22.16.3 S 023.07.5 W COG 120M @ 3kts

SJ tks for Groupama post. G'day John McC - I remember and glad you found us again.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Colder pints or general relativity

0700/13th 2141 02432 trip 132/24 2378 to CT These positions almost always come at the end of the blog, which gets stitched together in the middle watch and sent around 0700.

We've passed the 5000 mile mark on the GPS. We haven't seen a ship, aircraft, bird or heffalump for days and days and days. Port tack since about 4 deg N.

Another of those nights in which it it impossible not to feel that one is part of the universe. Not a very big part. As I peer myopically into spacetime, there seems to be depth and perspective in the huge slice that is 'now' under an almost clear night's sky. In the hazy clarity you can see how densely packed the place is - so many tiny stars in the gaps between the big ones - Orion, for instance, could be spangles on a cobweb across the lights of a city - other galaxies, other lives? Through the binoculars just gobsmacking. And we have dinoflagellatious twinkles all around us to echo the sky. Quietly wonderful.

We've passed east of Martin Vaz - also known as Trinidade I think, though my chart doesn't say so - and we are nearly level with Rio. 2 degrees or so north of the Tropic of Capricorn - and therefore Rockhampton. About 420 miles north of where Henry Knight was buried at sea in February 1853. We will pass closer to him and we'll send him some jelly snakes in the next couple of days. 2400 to the Cape. Crossing the Atlantic Trench.

And Donald Crowhurst spent some time sailing up and down out here and is believed to have landed on Trinidade as he constructed his fictitious log in that first single handed race.

I pulled in a big grib file a few hours ago to try to get a feel for the uncoiling mess of high and low pressure systems just to the south of us and we decided to believe the predictions and take a punt. At 25.07 west, around 1900 yesterday evening we altered course towards the SE to try to stay in favourable winds and cut the corner to the Cape. We are making about 145M at the mo, so heading between Tristan and Africa. If we've got it right and it all hangs together, about three weeks to Cape Town.

We hardboiled the last of the eggs yesterday. 12 slices of bacon left - quite talkative it is too and starting to de-laminate but not at all green.

Hey Gordy - and the other seekers after the truth in the Chain Locker - sounds a bit bleak over there. Our refrigerated Murphs would be a lot warmer than a pint of Doom from the tap.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


0630/12th position 1947 02454, trip 137/24, CT 2453nm.

Norm - yep, 3 x 3. Doubt whether there's a ghost but possible. Would fit with commercial aspects.
Brian, thanks - I like it too. I watched him go past at Charing X. Feb 1966 I think.
Izz - gotcha and tks for BoLpost
Hilary - good to hear. Pse tell Hillross to go ahead as per your note. SJ sent us SMH extract. Pre China hug for K. More later.

The Burning of the Leaves

Now is the time for the burning of the leaves,
They go to the fire; the nostrils prick with smoke
Wandering slowly into the weeping mist.
Brittle and blotched, ragged and rotten sheaves!
A flame seizes the smouldering ruin, and bites
On stubborn stalks that crackle as they resist.
The last hollyhock's fallen tower is dust:
All the spices of June are a bitter reek,
All the extravagant riches spent and mean.
All burns! the reddest rose is a ghost.
Spark whirl up, to expire in the mist: the wild
Fingers of fire are making corruption clean.
Now is the time for stripping the spirit bare,
Time for the burning of days ended and done,
Idle solace of things that have gone before,
Rootless hope and fruitless desire are there:
Let them go to the fire with never a look behind.
That world that was ours is a world that is ours no more.
They will come again, the leaf and the flower, to arise
From squalor of rottenness into the old splendour,
And magical scents to a wondering memory bring;
The same glory, to shine upon different eyes.
Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.
Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.

Laurence Binyon

posted by Iz - who didn't know the poem before Alex quoted it today

Ritual again.

2000/11th 1850 02454

Armistice Day - a day of significant ritual for some. For me, it is Laurence Binyon's poetry -' and they shall not grow old as we who remember them grow old ' - hope I've got it right - and the memory of my father, who survived WW2, as a man who could not reinvent himself in his middle age and who, I now think, was sad and disillusioned. I wish I had known him better. And Dave and Mike who was in my seat and all the others I knew and trained and flew with long gone and still young in my memory.

And renewal and rebirth - Binyon again and his poem 'The burning of the leaves' - Prof, I owe you for that one. And too, your namesake and his heritage, scarred into history outside Bailliol College.

To the mundane - daily ritual list for Berri: The Murphy Consultation at breakfast, the Priming of the Fridge three times a day, the 0700 report to the blog and the expectation that there might be mail waiting as I send it, watch changes every three hours, the 1700 Consultation with Dr Grindy and dinner together. The daily walk around the deck, the routine of day after day slogging it out and watching the miles go by. Sticking ones head up and looking around the horizon for ships - and cloud formations. Gourmet cup-a-soup in the night. And just living inside ones head and remembering that, like storms, long days pass and each is its own notch in time, its half kilometre in the marathon, one that is done, gone, scored on the scratch pad of life out here.

And we're getting close to the shipping lanes out of Rio.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Highs and lows part 2

0700/11th position 1733 02456 trip 131/24 and 2524 to CT

From the cloud patterns it looks as if we are dropping into the top of the S Atlantic high. The barometer is rising and the grib, while still showing us as in the trades, has the high below us at about 25 S
As I said in the last one, below thr high you get down into the line of lows - depressions - that march across the world all year round and go all the way down to the ice at times. To be avoided unless you are deliberately looking for a slingshot into the next dimension, as Groupama will be when they get down there in a few days. Then they will start to go very fast indeed and will sustain those speeds for thousands of miles as they follow the great circle to the Horn as far down towards the ice as their data tells them is safe.
I have been in 4 really severe storms and the '98 Hobart with winds over 60 kts and at least 2 of them gusting over 80. Two were approaching Cape Horn 4 years ago and the other two were in the S Atlantic, off Montevideo and just a bit further along our current track towards Cape Town. All but the '98 Hobart (where we were just behind it) found us in the dangerous (left front) segment of one of these depressions and if you haven't experienced the ferocity of an even relatively mild 60 knot southern ocean storm it is very hard to describe - a combination of wind and huge breaking waves, gut wrenching knockdowns, the screaming of the wind in the rig, violent movement with no frame of reference and the crashing of water against, around and over the boat. Plus your own fear. Grown men have been reduced to tears - and at least one has been brave enough afterwards to make his videos public. You sustain yourself from wave to wave, knockdown to knockdown by remembering that no storm lasts for ever - they just seem to - and you have to outlast them and hope the boat is strong enough to last that long too. I seem to remember that the one we went through over here had winds over 45 knots for 9 days and we were bare poled (no sail up, trying to keep the wind and waves on the quarter and sometimes surfing at 10+ knots) for most of the time. While there's never nothing you can do, you are pretty much helpless and it feels that way. Not funny. I hope the Examiner is kinder to us this time.

David - interested. We may be in touch shortly.
Allan - more interesting than ever. I guess you have to ask how often it happens around the world and never gets reported.

The butterfly flapping

Port tack, my bunk elevated. I'm lying on my left side, elongated S shaped, back pressed into a long roll of clothing and bunny rug, itself filling the curve of the lee cloth under its aluminium support bar. My head is pillowed on my double thickness Finisterre fleece jacket on top of a scrunched pillow, locking it in place so that my neck muscles can relax, arms bent away from me trying to keep circulation unchecked. Dozy, having just come off watch in the dark and drooping for sleep. Woolworths pyjama pants (yes! and they are perfect for sleeping in the tropics) and a T shirt. Boat gently rolling and pitching. I'm conscious that - well, I'm conscious that I'm conscious, awake, and Berri, as always, is talking to me in her own special language, grammatically and syntactically unique and so dense with implied and nuanced self confirming cross reference. Tiny, irregular 'click' 'click click' continuous, barely audible yet also transmitted through the fabric around me. Sleep denied - what is it? Brain surfaces through dozy daze - first, there's none of the usual roar and clatter of Berri's passage through the Atlantic moguls - just the music of water burbling past the hull a few inches from my ear. And the undulating pitch of the wind generator in the back of the orchestra. The wind has dropped and the seas have subsided. Nice!. So...what is it? Audit and inventory of everything around me, reluctant to wake properly and find head torch. The boat feels balanced and happy, no longer thudding through the swell - so for the first time, perhaps since we left, I'm able to hear this click? Careful mental review of everything around me capable of making the sound - doesn't seem very important but I must identify it and file it so that when I hear it in future it's part of the natural background. Ahhh! There's a fire extinguisher above my feet on the bulkhead and it has a little metal label with the date of last service that is usually captured by the strap holding the extinguished into its bracket - could it have come out? I sit up, feel for the label and yep - that's it. So is the extinguisher secure? Seems ok. Uncoil back into sleeping S and let the dozy daze envelop the swede.

I think it is this flow of the subconscious, a subliminal sensing of the unfolding pattern of things that makes it so difficult for me to listen to music or to read anything more demanding than escapist whodunnitry. Each requires a level of concentration that drowns the subconscious and the subconscious keeps fighting back. It's a form of obsession but it has saved our bacon several times that were obvious and I'm absolutely sure umpteen times before they became obvious. It is aural, visual and tactile - like the aircraft pilot whose eyes see broken patterns on her instruments or who feels that tiny buzz of resonance and is instantly warned, I hear and see and feel the boat. Today the click, yesterday the tweaker on the wrong side of the sheet, years ago the feel of the almost broken forestay. Makes me highly unpopular sometimes! I remember getting cross with McQ last year for being so absorbed in whatever her ipod was doing to the inside of her head that she had not noticed the leech flutter or something equally trivial in itself but part of a larger pattern - the butterfly's wing on the other side of the world.

And I still miss heaps - the disconnected windvane when Pete went overboard 4 years ago, for instance. Complacency sucks but it's so easy!

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Berri ritual part 1

Just had a hard boiled egg for lunch that I certainly wouldn't have looked at at home! Big air cavity, black yolk end and sort of flaky - very hard to peel. Interesting pong. Disguised it with mayo - the real thing, not the insipid goo that passes for it these days - and some pickled beetroot. Loverly! I could eat beetroot all day - smashing veggie! And it makes peeing into our little plastic bucket such fun.

Norm - one for you - I think it was Helena Rubinstein who said that her product represented the triumph of hope over reality. Or words to that effect.

Daily rituals: very important for marking the passing of time and ensuring, for instance, that things don't get forgotten.
0900 - I'm coming off watch and Pete is coming on. 'You awake, Pete?' 'aarghmpfh yes' ' It's time' So he gets out of his pit and I work my way around the dodger -tricky in these conditions - with a bucket containing 2 cans of Dr Murphy's excellent medicinal compound all the way from Crosshaven. I work my way forward to Berri's fridge - Coolgardie variety, milk crate with wet towel wrapped around 2 Murphy's similarly delivered yesterday and exchange the warm for the cold. Surprisingly effective fridge if you keep it primed - see below - and in the shade and the breeze. The evaporation of the water from the towel requires heat and this is extracted from the cans. Great care required on return journey so as not to shake cold cans and exacerbate widgetary effusion - see below. Pete gets out special tankards from the sliding cupboard, carefully deals out small handful from last bag of molto toothsome crisps from Lisbon. Then the careful positioning of can - for me, inside the tankard - so that the instant widgetary effusion at the moment of unzipping goes mainly in the pot and then I pour it and - sweet nectar of the gods, it slips away with gentle fluid caress of the olfactories and the other thingies on the tongue.

Then I go to bed and last about an hour before the pee bucket calls. Bugger decrepitude!

Fridge priming - at least three times a day it is necessary to pour sea water over the towels to keep them damp. Pete usually does the final one in his 2100-midnight watch. There is also a bottle of tonic cooking quietly in the fridge awaiting its fate at 1700 - see part 2.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Lots of acknowledgements: Maureen, your cake has been deployed to great effect - thanks!. It will sustain us most of the way to the Cape.
Doug, thanks for Henry. He has a new waypoint and we'll get the jelly snakes out in a few days. Morro - thanks for work-around for USB thing - we use similar technique to start and try to disable or kill the serial ballpoint mouse as well - the real problem arises when the thing crashes without warning or explanation having apparently been running perfectly for days. CF18 now disconnected from USB and just running Airmail and iridium and SFSG. Daren't fiddle with it in case I destroy iridium set up and can't restore. Will be interesting to monitor success or otherwise of toy netbook which is now doing the USB and SoB. Basic problem there is that netbook has truncated screen and cant get Bottom edge of SoB screen with important cursor info. But a work around for the time being. Only using it because have separate 12v charger for it - have three toughbooks of different vintage but all have to share same charger.
Norm - tks for kind words and the other bit. I think you may have read correctly between my lines. Would appreciate your keeping posts a bit shorter - half a page or so - as sailmail can only cope with 11kb at a time and Steve has to break up his sends to us. Haven't turned left yet - won't be for about a week somewhere down between 25 & 30 S
Allan - ok - you redeemed yourself! But you're still a DOF! Glad the engine works - sounds a bit like a bigger version of mine.
Chris J - Andy? Actually, I hope we don't get anywhere close enough to Tristan for VHF but good to have your info - thanks.
Sue - Berri doing fine - El Pinko behaving - now getting cooler so not so scratchy under fur.

Lows and highs part 1

0700/10th position 1526 02456 trip 133/24 2595 to Cape Town

Still a'hooning, heading south along longitude 24.58 W to get down to where we hope the back of the high will be. To continue yesterday's explanation for the non-sailors, south of about 35 degrees the westerly winds begin - you're in the top of the roaring forties. in the forties, a line of low pressure systems tramps around the globe at various intensities and frequency. A southern hemisphere low rotates clockwise and draws air in towards the centre - think water going down a plughole - and the closer you are to the left front quadrant of the system you are the stronger the wind. The combination of the anticlockwise high to the north and the clockwise low to the south tends to promote and intensify the westerly winds where the two meet and the trick for us is to trek along the bottom of the high and the top of the low.

More on this later - must send it and get on with ritual. Post on ritual to follow too.

Latest Position

A distant barn door - perhaps

For the non-sailors and the meteorologically challenged: the weather in the central South Atlantic tends to be dominated at this time of year by a high pressure system that is centred broadly south of St. Helena. It stretches across from the S. American coast almost to Africa and sometimes down to about 35 south at its biggest. We won't go into why it's there and definitely not into coriolis force but a high in the southern hemisphere is a system in which air descends from the upper atmosphere and radiates outward from the centre in an anti-clockwise direction. There is always a soft windless patch in the centre. That means that the wind on the western side of it blows down the S American coast from the north or north east and on the other side, up the African coast from the south. Along the southern edge, it blows from the west, roughly along latitudes 25-30 south.

It follows that to get from the NE corner of Brazil(where we were a week or so ago) across to Cape Town, it is much easier to head south or SSE down the western edge of the high and turn left or east as you get towards the southern edge, taking advantage of favourable winds all the way. If you try to take the straight line you are likely to be heading into the southerly wind on the eastern side - and also the Benguela current which flows north up the African coast. We are now trying to smooch the best course from here to the Cape by cutting the corner around the south western edge of the high but not losing the wind by getting too close to the centre. This big arc is also closer to the great circle or shortest distance across.

Sailing to Australia by this route has its inherent penance. A bit like an out and back marathon, where the entire first half is sheer brain and tissue damage just getting you to the turn around point, you set out from Falmouth for Australia by going south west to get around West Africa and the effective turning point as you pass west of the Cape Verdes at about 27 W. And then you have to go a long way east to get the best angle to cross the convergence zone and the SE trades - a zig and a zag so far, plus another zig to get across and down to the base of the S Atlantic high which is what we are doing now. But - big but - yesterday morning I now think it safe to say, grabbing the nearest bit of wood, we made the final turn for home and we are heading SE towards Tristan da Cunha and the base of the high. Yeeebloodyhaaa! And so far, nothing difficult - just 'orrible in the CZ and uncomfortable for the arse bone down here. We may still have to trek a bit west on the way, to adjust our course around the high but I think we're looking towards a very distant barn door south of Hobart.

Appendages please, everyone!

Monday, November 9, 2009

A risky post.

0700/09 position 1318 02524 trip 133/24 so a good run and still east of yesterday's position.

Falmouth is 3970 miles away but that is now pretty meaningless. We have sailed 4528 miles to get here and we have 2690 miles to Cape Town in a straight line. In 30 miles, we will have a Pete Goss moment with the Talisker to celebrate 4000 miles in a straight line and then I will start looking the other way and measuring progress towards rather than away.

I've been thinking about the nature of risk since Macca asked my opinion about the Jessica phenomenon. I'm sure there is a raging debate in Australia about whether she should have been 'allowed' to go or even 'encouraged'. I don't want to buy into that one and anyway it will all have been said by someone else. Instead, I think we could play with a new word - jessication (n) to jessicate (v) - meaning the taking of potentially lethal risk for the thrill of it, or to prove one's heroism, or to break a record that perhaps does not merit the breaking. And a jessicateur might be one who encourages such endeavours. Pete and I are probably at one end of the scale - we are experienced, have been there before and can handle most of what Murphy and the Examiner toss at us. At the other end - I understand that statistically, for instance, attempts at the deepest under water dive on a single lungful of air are at about even money and the record is held by someone who died in a subsequent attempt. Not sure about base jumping but it must out there somewhere too.

Purely scientific risk in the same broad context but where the benefits are to humanity, not just to the risk taker don't count. For example, injecting oneself with a new vaccine to test its effect or the man who believed in his new invention sufficiently to jump from a balloon with it so giving us the parachute.