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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.

From Pete

Hi, Its Pete here this time. I've tried to write a few times this trip but for whatever reason it hasn't happened. My last attempt was about 6 hours ago when after about 5 lines of text the blue screen of death appeared.
We had an email a few days ago from an old mate Allan Fenwick who sails an S&S 34 called Morning Tide. Over the last 5 or more years he and my eldest daughter Sarah sail to Lord Howe Island about 2 weeks after the finish of the Sydney to Lord Howe Island yacht race. Sometimes they make it there sometimes they don't. Anyone who has done the LHI race will tell that this is one of the most spectacular places to finish a race and because of this there are a lot of ex racers who love the place but don't want the hassle of racing there. The solution The Lord Howe Island Cruise. A date is set for all to meet at Ned's Beach on the North side of the island for a barbeque. A lot of the old racing boats make the trip, the crew are a generous lot and money is raised for the local primary school.
A few days ago Morning Tide left Lake Macquarie about 40 miles north of Sydney heading for the island, on board were Allan Sarah and a friend of hers Jonathan. They were about 15 miles offshore when Allan saw an orange smoke flare set off from a large ship about a mile away. They altered course dropped the sails and motored towards the ship. After while they located a crewman in the water. Allan had attended one of Alex's Safety and Sea Survival courses years ago and he said that's when the information learned there kicked in. He had a MOB rescue sling on the back of the boat, it has about 50 mts. of floating line with a buoyant sling at the end. This was thrown off the stern and Allan motored in circles around the crewman till he could grab the line and get the sling under his arms. Sarah and Jon pulled the line in and heaved the man on board.
They got him below wrapped him in a Sea Rug, gave him some warm tea with sugar and Sarah talked to him to make sure he stayed conscious. Allan contacted the water police and then headed for Newcastle. Off the harbour entrance the water police met them and put a paramedic on board. Morning Tide continued up the river to a jetty where an ambulance was waiting for them.
The crewman had chest and back injuries from his 20 metre fall to the water and was suffering from shock and hypothermia.
Well, what can I say hats off to the three of you bloody well done. You have probably saved the man's life its something not many people get to do and for that reason you are now special.
Al I'm not sure but I guess the cruise is off for this year, maybe next year we can get Zoe, Berri and the S&S over there.
Best wishes Pete.

The Numbers

We are still creeping infinitesimally eastwards. The numbers are going down, more or less steadily and we are now about 10 miles east of my alteration this morning - a mininanopooptillionth of a pinprick in universal and even terrestrial distances. Way too early yet to know but just possible we have turned the corner for home. The flea trekking amongst the crevasses and gunk on the elephant's rump now gets the occasional glimpse of the ground.

And now into the bleak middle watch and it's the most glorious of nights - no cloud, stars right down to the horizon to the south and tonight we even have little prickles of phosphorescence to mirror the sky. Magic. Achernar to starboard and Canopus to port ahead, Jupiter low in the west. Orion and Sirius magnificent to port. Jupiter so bright it has its own light trail on the water. There is a whitish cloud to the west of Canopus - gas or dust? - same altitude. We're heading about 175M and it's dead ahead.

The numbers are still good, still creeping east. Plenty of swell and wind waves - enough to send the occasional blast of spray across the boat and I've just copped a faceful - eyes stinging from the salt.

Norm, you mentioned the boy on the burning deck - did you know he is supposed to be based on the son of one of the senior officers of the French flagship L'Orient in Aboukir Bay at the battle of the Nile? Apparently he'd been told to stand by the mast by his father who was subsequently killed and the boy kept standing there, unable to disobey an order. L'Orient vanished in a huge explosion taking the boy with it. The wreckage has been identified recently - probably googlable.

Groupama 3 is away - thanks Sue - they should overtake us in about a week, but probably a bit to the east and then south - more wind - but would be awesome to see them storm past - 35 knots to our 5. If anyone is following them, please let us know where they are as they get closer. Steve has our satphone number if necessary. I have their email address and can send them our position if it looks as if they will pass close.

Val and Jill - g'day from the vast Atlantic - or the old bus shelter - take your pick!

Fenwick - forgot to ask how you hoisted the survivor on board. Useful to pass on.

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Doug M - could you please send me Henry's co-ords again? His waypoint not in backup laptop and too hard to find in archive.

One for the geeks. There's clearly a problem between the Panasonic CF18 Toughbook and its version of XP and the driver for the USB to Serial device and Software on Board and possibly also Airmail. Once the usb gadget is connected it seems to obliterate all other com ports so unable to connect iridium. Sob operates sporadically and I think it may be the continuous data feed from the GPS and the instruments that the computer can't handle but something must have triggered the instability. Now crashing every 24 hours or so. Not the serial ballpoint mouse - that was disabled tho it might be back.

How do I find the missing com ports? How do I troubleshoot the thing? I now have this laptop (CF18) disconnected from the USB gadget and will try to keep it talking to Airmail and iridium. Sob on one of the backups (Aspire one netbook but also have another ancient toughbook as further backup) - has already crashed once so I'm not too sanguine. Same com port problem on that one - just doesn't show available ports in the set-up wizard for the dial up modem. Seems something is interfering with the set-up program or not releasing com ports once assigned if that makes sense.

The anguish of the ignorant plodder. Would matter less if the HF would work consistently.

Another laptop crash

Seems to happen every 24 hours or so. I've saved the bare error report by printing the screen and after I've sent these I will close the thing and try with a back-up laptop. That might not work with Iridium. Us'll see.

Frustrating just doesn't cut it.

Crabs and other ferals

Another blue in perspective - hey Norm, welcome in from the maroon hots. One for you, (for everyone else, this probably only works in 1960's Australia when I first heard it so if you don't get it, don't stress) - same flight deck, this time female first officer to make it Qantas, the usual 24+ round dials on the console, levers everywhere, not too many buttons. Daggy Captain, obviously ex Fleet Air Arm, scratching his scrofular regions: 'Hey Shirl - what's good for crabs then?' First Officer, wishing the old bastard would smarten up: 'Um - Captain - I've heard that methylated spirits does the job' 'Nah! Silly bugger! That kills 'em!'

Fenwick - dozy old fart in chief - kind words again but so much for the one operational grey cell - you forgot the first principle in the lesson. I'll quote you in full just to make the point:

Alex as you well know that at our age, we all walk around in a fog. but in
an emergency somthing from the past kicks in, in this case the lessons
learnt in yours and Jerry's course kicks in, so it's not a wast of time as
many think, and I have been putting that retrieval float on the boat now for
the last 22 years and that was the the first time it had been out of its
Pete you should be very proud of Sarah she was great in the emergency, I was
very proud of her.
Alex, remember you paid for my course I do and was much appreciated
Regards Allan.

Sarah is Pete's daughter. If you have a MOB retrieval sling on the back of your boat, it's a good idea to get it out of the bag every year just to make sure the ferals haven't eaten it and to get the kinks out. Your survivor was lucky. Pete will have something to say on this too - but actually, congratulations from this DOF to the three of you. Bloody well done. Did it make the papers?

Thanks to everyone who wrote about our Macca gig, especially some of you who found the website as a result. Really glad it worked - not easy from out here. We'll try to get on again every few weeks if his producer will have us. Keep writing - makes our day out here. SJ - perhaps invite her to call any time she has an empty slot.

This morning at 25.44.680 W ( mm) the wind had freed a bit and I tweaked Kevvo a smidge to the east to try to stop our drift westwards and perhaps take the first step towards cutting the corner between here and Tristan. We are now at 25.43.614 so SFSG. Watch this space.

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