Log Updates

Sitrep: 2215hrs 19 Feb 2005 UTC 4530S 12344W Map Ref 71 4047nm

Sitrep: 0015hrs 19 Feb 2005 UTC 4549S 12630W Map Ref 70 3930nm

Sitrep: 0353hrs 18 Feb 2005 UTC 4525S 12732W Map Ref 69 3880nm

Sitrep: 0200hrs 18 Feb 2005 UTC 4525S 12735W Map Ref 68 3878nm

Sitrep: 0141hrs 17 Feb 2005 UTC 4535S 12863W Map Ref 67 3816nm

Sitrep: 0325hrs 16 Feb 2005 UTC 4619S 13143W Map Ref 66 3639nm

Sitrep: 1317hrs 15 Feb 2005 UTC 4629S 13329W Map Ref 65 3622nm

Sitrep: 0125hrs 15 Feb 2005 UTC 4612S 13514W Map Ref 64 3548nm

Sitrep: 0627hrs 14 Feb 2005 UTC 4558S 13748W Map Ref 63 3440nm

Sitrep: 0243hrs 14 Feb 2005 UTC 4549S 13810W Map Ref 62 3422nm

Sitrep: 0339hrs 13 Feb 2005 UTC 4536S 14007W Map Ref 61 3263nm

Sitrep: 0734hrs 12 Feb 2005 UTC 4548S 14220W Map Ref 60 3169nm

Sitrep: 0054hrs 12 Feb 2005 UTC 4535S 14315W Map Ref 59 3129nm

 

Sitrep: 0054hrs 12 Feb 2005 UTC 4535S 14315W Map Ref 59 3129nm

Now past half way in all distance categories - Sydney and Hobart. Still about 1600 miles and a lot of water and time before we get to the Pacific high off the Chilean coast and can dive south to the Horn. I'm pulling in Playa Ancha Met Centre at Valparaiso Chile weather faxes now. We are still a few hundred miles off the edge of them but it's interesting to follow the trends down at the Horn. Altos and Bassos instead of highs and lows - exciting.

 

Special request - would all of you that are using our sailmail address (....@sailmail.com) to email us direct please stop doing so immediately and use the website email facility instead. Really important. Every individual message requires a separate handshake between Berri's HF radio and the sailmail computer at each end of the message. These handshakes often take several minutes and are completely wasted as far as our 10 minute station allocation goes. We are always critically close to our limit and I live for the next warning that says no more. We are currently limited to one communication per day each way with Steve plus our grib weather calls. Also, there is the real possibility of spam if our address is in your email address book and you get a virus so please delete it - if you don't know how to do this, please find out - Steve might be able to advise, via an email to berri... Spam would close us down more or less instantly. Things should improve as we close the Chilean coast and if anyone is interested, I can leave the satphone turned on for an hour a day as well.

 

Batch 3 of the bread - this time with onion flakes - gets easier each time except for the corkscrew effect - and wearing latex gloves for the kneading bit makes it easier still. Takes about 2 hours for the loaves to cook on not quite dead low heat. Next time won't open the lids for the full 2 hours: the one I opened a couple of times took about 15 minutes longer.

 

We have just changed the membrane in the watermaker - results so far seem promising, with no apparent trace of salt. Us'll see. The system sometimes gets air in the line when the boat does a big roll and won't always self prime - don't know why, and very frustrating. So, some hints for plumbing the watermaker: make sure that the through-the-hull intake valve is far enough below the waterline so that it doesn't get air in the line when the boat rolls (that's much lower than you might think - I thought we were ok..)and, if you have a sensitive disposition and low tolerance to things effluential, might be a good idea to set it up so that said intake is not directly aft of the outlet plumbing for the head (loo). One generally needs something to do while the watermaker goes about its business and a contemplative going about one's own seems to spring to mind every time. However, this may not be an option for aforesaid sensitive souls. I shall not explore this any further but there are some dreadful puns lurking around the edges.

 

And I think I should endorse Pete's fashion statement of a couple of days ago. The daggy draggy monkey suit look is definitely the go. Skin tight thermals in contact with the pointy bits of the cheeks (basically, the pressure points under the hip joints when you sit down) together with even the smallest hint of salt water are an instant recipe for torture so acute that only liberal applications of The Doctor, sufficient to cause anaesthesia and administered prone will suffice. And as soon as one comes round, it's all on again. I always wear what we used to call a woolly bull when we were survey flying at 25k feet with outside air @ about -60 - its a sleeveless neck to ankle loose overall, slightly padded with long pile fleece on the inside next to the skin. I think in the more genteel world of grenouillage, they are called salopettes. They get a bit niffy inside after a couple of weeks but never any hint of gunwale bum. I have an aged, grossly daggy set that has been to Hobart and Lord Howe and back umpteen times and still works fine, and some sexy new ones that have only been there once or twice. Got em on now.

 

Life's little mystery, continued - the turbine has a stainless shaft but the hub and blades are rather rough cast aluminium fixed to the end of the shaft. It looks as if the paint job has been skimped and has bubbles in various places,including presumably, along the leading edges of the blades, and these have been popped by the water pressure. Really hard to see that it could be caused by anything else.

 

Wildlife - they are all super graceful, but one that stands out is a medium sized bird with very white beak, brown tops to wings with lighter brown outer ends - about 30% of wing area - there were three of them yesterday doing aerobatics around eachother and us. Painted birds, painted ships, painted ocean...and for a bit of obscure word association, I'm reading Stella Rimington's book - for the second time. I need the cryptic crossword - Araucaria, where are you?

 

Sitrep: 0734hrs 12 Feb 2005 UTC 4548S 14220W Map Ref 60 3169nm

Here I am inside this plastic tube - about Tarago sized, to pursue the old metaphor - with irregular shaped hazards and knobbly bits all around the inside walls and a sort of central aisle that is just high enough to stand upright. It's the only part of the interior that is. I can put myself anywhere in this space and reach out and find at least two handles, grabrails, or strongpoints to hang on to each of which can support my entire weight. This is a good thing because there is no other frame of reference and it's dark with a very dim glow from the LEDs in the instrument panel . And very noisy, but not all the time, although there is a sustained roar from outside the frame somewhere. Sometimes the front-of-orchestra noise is a gentle swish, at other times it is a crashing blast that shakes the tube and dies off with the sound of rushing water. This seems to be - and is - only a few centimetres from my face and I can sometimes feel the walls of the tube flexing with the impact. The tube is clearly moving but I have no way of predicting the movement or of knowing how or in which dimension it will move. The movement is often violent and were it not for those handles I would be airborne or smashed into a knobbly bit every few seconds. Sitting at the computer, I have both knees braced against the underside of the nav table and my shoulder against one or other side of the space. This has the useful effect of transmitting various kinds of vibration through my bones and I can feel and assess how the boat is going. Every boat has a unique language - syntax and grammar similar but vocabulary subtly different. And then sometimes it is still for a few moments and other noises become apparent - squeaks from the steering lines, a whirring whine as the generator line unwinds its built up torque and the bearings take the strain, Pete snoring gently, diesel sloshing around in the tank under the floor, the engine box creaking as the hull flexes around it, the desalinator motor's irregular purr. Sometimes the whole tiny world is shaken heavily as a wave throws Kevvo off his line for a few seconds and one or both the headsails in turn feather and flog, transmitted and amplified by the long lever that is the mast. The sustained roar is the wind in the rig, mostly at the top and amplified as the boat rolls and pitches. The wind lower down is turbulent and nonlaminar because of the interference from the waves and it is this wind that is driving the twin headsails which are small, high footed, narrow and pointy and reach only about two thirds up the forestay, so keeping the centre of pressure down where it is manageable. Hard downwind running in 35-40 knots and big seas at night is sometimes a thrill but always a bit tense and I can never relax or stop listening to Berrimilla talking to me while I am on watch and often when I'm supposed to be asleep.

 

Can any genius out there tell me how I can get the Guardian Weekly cryptic crossword out here? Will a data satphone handle jpeg files? Can we send a diplomatic mission to Chile and ask them to put it on their weather fax? An airdrop from a 747? I'm in deprivation mode.

 

Sitrep: 0339hrs 13 Feb 2005 UTC 4536S 14007W Map Ref 61 3263nm

This looks like being a trivia update. We're sticking to the strategy and following the tops of the lows across the ocean at somewhere between 45 & 50S whichn keeps us in manageable wind strength and waves most of the time but we lose a bit of distance as we sawtooth up and down the latitudes. It's relatively easy to do with the amount of weather data we are able to pull in from the various sources (SatcomC: free text downloads of text weather forecasts and warnings; VMC Charleville, NZ Metservice and Chilean weather faxes and Grib via sailmail) all of which complement eachother. We can also listen to Taupo Maritime Radio NZ scheduled weather broadcasts in desperation - they require a tape recorder and very fast pencil work and then some assiduous plotting but they are there as a backup. Just received a nice fax from the Armada de Chile Servicio Meteorologico showing a reasonably clear satellite image of the quarter of the southern hemisphere that includes the Chilean coast and most of the south pacific. And us. Just receiving their Carta Prognosticada - the isobaric forecast for 1200 UTC. Looks as if it is hand drawn - much nicer that the computer generated ones.

 

We are averaging about 120 miles/day overall - rather slow, but on that basis, all going more or less the same, wood touched and all other relevant superstitious practices observed, looks possible that we could be at the Horn around March 4. As in a marathon, from here is the hardest bit mentally. Half way in distance only; half way in the mind/body/stamina stakes in a marathon comes at about 36k (out of 42.2, for the deskbound) and the 15 or so k in between are where one just has to keep the mind firmly in neutral, or try and do what the coaches call constructive visualisation - imagine the finish line, the medal, all that jazz, stay positive and just headbang away at every metre, every k till it's in the bag. And at 36 k, the second half starts. Downhill all the way, Don? I reckon 36k for us will come in about two weeks time. Meantime, think hot shower, cold beer, flat water, sunshine, women, Cape Horn at dawn, an apple. Tommy Melville's ghost must be out here somewhere too - dreamed about the old bastard last night. That albatross with a ginger beard and a bandanna, perhaps? We'll have an ale with him at the Horn.

 

We have the storm trisail up for the first time since we modified it in Hobart by adding a long strop from the head to about a metre below the masthead complete with slides, so that the length of exposed halyard and therefore its capacity to flog is minimised. Seems to work, but important not to get the strop twisted as it goes into the track. The sail is just up to balance the boat a bit and add a bit of low down power. Three reefs is just a bit too much. And the tri doesn't need a preventer to stop it banging around in the troughs like the main. The #4 is up too and we're getting 6.5 in the right direction without too much discomfort or stress on the boat. Thanks for the suggestion, James - the storm jib is so small that I dont think it would help much - Berri is just rolling off the sides of irregularly spaced big waves and cross seas so gravity rather than wind induced and even a full main doesn't do much to dampen even if we could carry it.

 

Lunch was fresh bread and a tin of oysters in olive oil - this little bit of triv only because it lets me tell you that the left over oil in the tin was poured down the loo and pumped through to lubricate the pump cylinder and the piston. Works a treat, as does sardine tin oil, tuna, or just s spoonful of cooking oil.

 

Malcom, thanks for the suggestions re turbine - we'd considered corrosion and electrolysis, an idea supported by the discovery today that 4 bolts securing the backplate of the casing of the alternator are live. They ought not be. Perhaps there's a current flowing down the towline, although the shaft doesn't seem to be zappy. And vulcanising tape to fortify the towline is a great idea, as long as we can get it to work on a wet line. We've got lots. Led me to consider electrical shrinkwrap as an alternative. Got lots of that too. Watch this space - turbine extraction scheduled for tomorrow.

 

Sitrep: 0243hrs 14 Feb 2005 UTC 4549S 13810W Map Ref 62 3422nm

We are sitting under the ridge that has been chasing us for the last couple of days. Not much wind, from the south, full main and #1, rolling and slatting a bit but some forward progress. Wind should come round to the west later. There's a huge swell rolling in from the south, as big as I've ever seen, presumably from the low that went through yesterday. The grib was forecasting 40-50 at 50S.

So we got stuck into the backlog of little jobs - Pete fixed one of the clamps on the stormboard with epoxy and screws and reinforced all the others using our 12v portable battery drill modified to run from a cigarette lighter socket or directly off the boat's battery terminals. Which leads to another little gem that has worked superbly: our 12v auxiliary portable battery pack designed for jump-starting cars and pumping tyres and rubber duckies. It has 2 cig. lighter sockets, two heavy duty terminal clamps and a little air compressor built in - and we can run the drill from it without dropping the main battery charge, and then recharge it when we have a bit of speed to drive our generator. And if all else fails, it should have enough to start the engine or run the laptop and the HF for a day or so. Needs to be kept where it is least likely to get wet and well waterproofed. Every boat should have one. Ours came from Whitworths but they are widely available.

 

And I did a bit of analysis of the desalinator problem we have been having, including reading the instructions. It has only produced water intermittently and I have always assumed that this was because it was getting air in the intake line when the boat rolled the intake valve out of the water. I checked all the lines using the big dolphin torch to monitor bubbles and water flow through them (there are three lines - sea water intake, concentrated brine output and drinking water output plus a bit of extra plumbing to allow the use of biocide and cleaning agents when doing maintenance) and I found that we had a lot of air bubbles moving along the intake line so more likely a significant air leak rather than or at least as well as periodic ingestion through the intake valve. Much headbanging later, when every joint had been checked and clamped and the Doctor consulted, we switched it on again and the bubbles in the intake line seem to have been eliminated and the thing produced 6 litres without complaint. And the new membrane produces water that tastes much better than our tank water. Big whoopeee and a further consultation to celebrate. And we pulled in the turbine - duct tape seems to have worked and the towline was not chafed - nor was there any damage to the turbine, whether caused by cavitation (thanks Don) or electrolysis or corrosion. Will give it another few days before trying self vulcanising rubber tape if necessary.

 

Am about to go out and insulate the four 'live' bolts on the generator. Which having been attempted, isn't going to be as easy as I thought. Normal insulating tape won't adhere and geometry prevents wrapping. Blobs of sikaflex perhaps?

Wildlife report - there are what look like baby bluebottles or portugese men o' war all over the ocean. Small transparent bubble sails with almost no colour in the underside. We found a full sized fully coloured one washed up on deck a few days ago. I had always thought that they are warm water dwellers.

 

Milestones - we finished Hilary's S2H cake today and we're about to unwrap the Doyles' home product version - watch this space. And tomorrow some time we should pass the half way point between NZ and the Horn. All sailmail now going through Chile - propagation improving daily as we get closer.

 

Jeanne, please pass on best wishes to Bob and Eugenie. Just cant leave some people on their own...

Gerry, did you tell the Pelagic mob that we're on our way? I think Catherine Hew is following us anyway, and we'll give them a call in a week or so. And please send co-ordinates for the anchorage down near the Horn, in case we feel like stopping or need to duck in for shelter. We are reading the 1200UTC 8164 sked quite clearly now too.

Doug and Stephen, I've just realised that the sailmail propagation application updates itself with sunspot and solar flux data every time we connect to the sailmail computer. Clever.

 

Sitrep: 0627hrs 14 Feb 2005 UTC 4558S 13748W Map Ref 63 3440nm

Berri is quiet tonight - unlike a couple of nights ago. We're twin poling in about 15 knots dead downwind and the water is just rustling past the hull. A bit of gentle roll, all the usual background noise of squeaks and sloshes and creaks, but muted and tranquil. Pleasant feeling. Just waiting until I can log into sailmail to pick up the day's mailcall - about two hours to go. Something to look forward to. You may have noticed that we seem to have reached the transition point from which we are now looking ahead as much as behind - Chile and Cape Horn are now much closer than Australia and we're very much facing forwards and it probably comes through in these emails. Seems that until now we haven't really been able to believe that it's got some chance of actually happening.

A frivolous reflection: the South Pacific is a big ocean, at a guess about an eighth of the world's surface and it's almost landless and uninhabited. Since about 1800, it has carried a large proportion of the world's shipping, mostly along a couple of major routes - say an average of 5000 crossings per year. Before that, the Pacific Islanders sailed around its northern fringe and as far as Easter Island and Magellan, Drake, Cook and the French, Dutch, Spanish and Portugese explorers were out here as well. And there were the whalers, who sailed all over it in their thousands from the early 1800s and some of them are still here. Even so, it is so big that there must be some small parts of it that have never been crossed by a ship and perhaps Berrimilla will be the very first vessel to sail across a particular little bit of the ocean. We'll never know which bit, but it's inspiring all the same.

Enough. Stop all this soppy talk and do something useful.

 

Sitrep: 0125hrs 15 Feb 2005 UTC 4612S 13514W Map Ref 64 3548nm

More idle speculation: how good a mixer is the world's climate system? Here we plod, in one of the most remote spots on the planet, with a bit of water around us. What, for instance, is the broad statistical probability that there's a water molecule in the 6 litres squeezed out of the desalinator yesterday, that I have met before in the last 60+ years, whether in a glass of beer, the '61 Fastnet, a swimming pool, the gobby stuff the camel spat at me in 1962, a mosquito bite, Bondi, Bass Strait, any old where? And if you think there may be one, come out here and show me which one. If it's the gobby one, I want it out.

 

And to Kris, Steve and Malcolm, the three geniuses co-operating across the world who actually managed to get me a Guardian Weekly cryptic via sailmail, cool and froody, guys - thanks. I'm still stunned. Steve, no, he doesn't have an account but that might work. I've had to hand copy the crossword because my printer has gone on strike. And Croo, water is generally transubstantiated into a clue butnant I ain't got yet. Jeanne and Hilary, thanks for the lovely Valentine roses. Really uplifting gesture and we do appreciate them. You should have received some virtual watercress from our herbaceous loo garden and we ate your chocolates too.

 

For James and the BOG, as you would realise, a lot of this stuff is specific to a particular boat - Berri, for instance, doesn't have the full teak fitout and is more open than most other Brolgas. Anyway, before we left Hobart we insulated the interior between the main bulkhead and the companionway including the two middle windows with 5mm closed cell foam stuck on with velcro (mistake, sika would have been better) and it works very well. Would have been good to have covered the two big after windows as well but that would have made it altogether too pokey. No problems with condensation, warm and cosy. And you can write the contents of adjacent lockers on it. To get the full effect, it would need a curtain to close off the forepeak forward of the head (where we keep sails but some of you sleep) and perhaps also the quarterberths, ditto. And insulate the head, particularly the bulkhead where you generally have to lean and which is always cold and clammy. And toss the plastic one and make a wooden seat. As for heating, it isn't that cold down here. Yet. Making bread works up an almost unbearable fug if we can't open any vents. In Dunedin all the cruisers who go down to Stewart Island and beyond have little flued diesel burners as a matter of course and I think that's what I'd go for too - simple, no extra plumbing and they all say they are very effective. Keep it simple and elegant and it's generally much easier to manage and above all, to fix if it breaks. Bob Watt, the gentle genius who did our stainless work makes the flues for them and uses one himself - I can give you contact details. There is a lot of other stuff about what works and doesn't back in the log, James, if you have time to trawl through it, else I'll do you a list when we get back.

 

And if you plan to go anywhere remotely iffy, put in some really BIG cockpit drains. Berri has 4, one in each corner, and they are still inadequate. We have filled the cockpit to the coaming several times now and it's somewhat nailbiting waiting for a couple of tonnes of water to trickle out of the back, especially if you happen to be down below and watching it trying to get past the stormboards into your bunk. Don't assume it will be ok with the single drain most Brolgas come with. It won't. For the same reason, insulate and waterproof the engine controls, autopilot socket, ventilators and any other vital goodies in the cockpit.

Hope that helps.

 

Sitrep: 1317hrs 15 Feb 2005 UTC 4629S 13329W Map Ref 65 3622nm

Reflections on a month at sea part 2:

The big event was the roll so lets talk about that. After about a week from Hobart we passed the bottom of NZ between Stewart Island and the Snares we then had bad winds and seas for the next 2 days. the wind wouldn't settle going from 15 -50 kts with big following seas. we had done many sail changes finally settling on poled out #5 and storm jib on the 2 forestays. this worked well with rain squalls about every half hour gusting to 50 and sometimes 60kts. at night we ran under bare poles at 4.5 -5.5kts with the self steering handling this ok. next day with wind and seas increasing we ran under poled out storm jib doing 6-8 kts. during the day the jib halyard shackle let go and we sent it up the mast and the self steering lines broke twice due to chafe caused by slight misalignment and the huge tension put on them by the following seas. we settled down for the night under bare poles. when off watch, sleep was hard to get due to the violent motion. alex was sleeping on the floor to lessen the movement.

Next morning the skies had cleared the wind had settled to a steady 35-40kts the seas still big we decided to set the storm jib on the inner forestay and head east again Alex was at the mast having just set the jib i was in the cockpit adjusting the sheet the boat was self steering, both harnessed to the boat, all openings sealed I was watching the big seas coming through. I was watching this really big one come up to us, the boat lifted to it and it slid away from us. I casually looked behind there was a big void where the back of the wave should have been. immediately behind was another wave it had been slowed down by the one in front and was now sucking back and hollowed out. i yelled to alex to hold on he was sitting on the coachroof at the shrouds he later said that he looked up when i called and saw the wave just about to break above the first set of spreaders the sun was shining through it and it had that eerie ice blue colour.

Meanwhile in the cockpit i was glad i'd recently changed into my brown corduroy trousers. i knew we would be hit and i tried to disengage the self steering. i felt the boat start to roll so i crossed my legs around the base of the tiller and held on to the top. this was completely instinctive i have often thought that if a really big one came into the cockpit you would be thrown onto the winches. the roll was gentle the wave didn't hit me i just rode the tiller through the inversion. while under water having expected havoc it was all quiet and gentle I thought well that wasn't too bad I think i had a smile on my face then we were back upright in a bathtub full to the cockpit coaming. the whole event from sighting trouble to back upright was perhaps 30 seconds its very hard to tell. time becomes very elastic. alex had been thrown overboard in the initial tip, holding on to the shrouds. he remembers being violently tossed around in white water but not for long. he was dragged back to the boat still holding on and his chest hitting a stanchion and bending it badly. he managed to scramble back on board. I got up from the cockpit and saw alex standing by the shrouds he asked if i was ok and returned to the cockpit still full of water but down to the seats. it was then he told me he thought he may have broken some ribs. pert 3 to follow. Cheers Pete.

 

Sitrep: 0325hrs 16 Feb 2005 UTC 4619S 13143W Map Ref 66 3696nm

I've been asked what the weather is like down here. We are in the South Pacific Convergence Zone (SPCZ) where warm moist air out of the highs to the north mixes with much colder air coming from the lows down south - where the tropics meet the westerlies just above the roaring forties. This means cloud all the time, mist most of the time, light rain occasionally and everything always damp and dripping. Not really very pleasant and we haven't seen the full sun for days although, as now, it is sometimes visible up there behind a layer of cloud and Pete is out trying to get a sight. Water temp about 12 deg, outside air temp at a guess about 17. Mild and pleasant today, but probably won't last long. If we were to go further south, it would be colder, the wind would be generally much stronger, the seas would be much bigger and we might still not see the sun. There is another CZ circling the tropics where the cyclones occur and the Antarctic CZ at about 55 south. The ACZ is where cold polar water meets the warmer current from the north, and warm and cold airstreams mix to give much more pronounced effects than here. We may meet this one down near the Horn in a couple of weeks, along with some ice, perhaps.

The continuous damp semi-gloom is a bit depressing and we look forward to those glimpses of the sun. I'm sure the Devoncroo would understand. It's important, too, to manage the physical effects that go with the conditions; for instance my fingers go white and soft and start to peel, particularly around the nails, every time they get wet because they never get a chance to dry out completely. I wear gloves on deck and change into polyprop glove liners below to try to keep the fingers warm and to wick the damp out of them and it helps, as does the occasional dose of industrial grade lanolin that we use to lubricate shackles and other equipment. And I always wear latex gloves to sponge out the bilge, which is generally a bit talkative. The alternative to all this is nasty cracks around the nails which become infected very easily. Same deal with feet- I always wear boots on deck with a set of thick sox inside, sometimes with the waterproof Sealskinz sox on top and keep a pair of woolly norwegian ski sox below to wear with my Blundstone sandals (which insulate the feet from clammy deck) and to sleep in. Very important to keep the sleeping kit scrupulously dry too. We have sleeping bags inside lightweight waterproof bivvy bags and a set of dry clothes to sleep in. The whole lot gets zipped into the bivvy bag when not in use. All relatively easy to do here because we aren't being bashed so our deck gear stays reasonably dry and there is little chance of water getting inside. And the wet weather gear dries very quickly too when it does get wet.

Timezones are tricky. We are continuously moving east so never in a constant relationship with youse all out there. We are about 3.5 hours ahead of the dateline here, so about 6.5 hours ahead of east coast Australia and a day behind. We have our evening meal around lunchtime tomorrow in Sydney and very early morning in England. As for China, Taiwan, North and South America, too hard. Is it your today or yesterday...

 

Gerry, thanks for info - yes, do have a chart. Hi Nick and Penny - missed you a week or so ago, and I think Keith would have approved. Michael, think about the hassle of getting eyedrops in - great fun, and I'm getting to be quite good at picking the moment to let go with both hands and squeeze the bottle while I hold a light so that I can see it.

 

Sitrep: 0141hrs 17 Feb 2005 UTC 4535S 12863W Map Ref 67 3816nm

I made a silly mistake requesting grib files yesterday and well and truly exceeded my daily connect time so this will be a shortie. Also had a minor laptop crash - dont know what happened but discovered after rebooting that Airmail, the sailmail application, seems to have lost all my saved messages from its 'saved' folders. Beware, youse all and save stuff to USB memory or cd or the hard drive - not to Airmail folders. So I have lost everything more than about a week old - I hope Steve has backups but he won't have the early messages sent direct to and from individuals. Damn.

 

We did a sailchange at about 4am local time - I was off watch and had to climb out of nice warm bag - think hellfire and roses, this is hard, guys - then think again about what the people out here in square riggers and especially Cook's crew at 71 south had to go through and decide that it's really soft and cushy by comparison and get just on with it. Laurie Lawrence on pain, perhaps, for a different motivational image. Gordon Liddy even? Anyway, the usual dark and clammy night out there, did sailchange and sat in the cockpit to feel the elements a bit while Pete got out of his party gear below and - behold, a little patch of stars directly above and the gentle glow of what must have been the setting moon lighting the rim of soft cloud to the south. Like sitting in a grey fluffy bowl - piled misty grey darkness all around, black to the north and luminous ceiling. Then think 35 kts blowing across the top with noise and spray and you get close. Worth all the aggravation of getting into party gear and I sat up there till the cloud closed in again. Was then a great excuse to visit Dr Cooper.

Now in 40-50 knots again. Poo. But the sun is out, which may mean we have moved out of the CZ, which in turn may be bad news.

Mike F, where did you spring from and thanks heaps for the crossword - I've never started out with an empty grid before and it makes for a nice diversion. Have it mostly worked and most of the answers I think, but need the final breakhrough. Using some laminated graphpaper prepared for sextant sight reduction and non perm felt pen for trial and error grid construction. Will take photo if I get it finished. Kris - don't know whether I've got all your emails - was looking for the last one when I discovered result of crash. Keep em coming tho - don't think there's any chance of getting the password from here. Doyles - great cake - thanks - just got to it in time and ate it rather quickly and drank your collective health with every slice. H, E, K & V, G'day - hope all's well and lotsa.

 

Sitrep: 0200hrs 18 Feb 2005 UTC 4525S 12735W Map Ref 68 3878nm

Small drama last night. We have not been changing the plastic aerofoil on the self steering unit from large to small as often as perhaps we should (Kevin Fleming recommends whenever the apparent wind hits 20 kts) and we have had the big one on since we left Dunedin. Slack and negligent, but it was working fine. Anyway, there was a crash in the middle of my watch in the blackest part of the night and I jumped into my party gear - nimble as always and it only took about 15 minutes and it always reminds me of Mr Bean changing in his Mini as he drives to work - and took out the stormboard and uncoiled through the hole to investigate. The boat had gybed and was heading for Sydney with everything crossed up and the jib backed. Hand steered it back through the return gybe towards Chile and looked for the cause to find that the aerofoil was broken off along the line of the bracket that holds it. Serves us right...So poor Pete had to climb out of a deep sleep and snuggly sack, into his party gear and bring up and fit one of the spares while I hand steered. We are using a plywood spare with holes cut through it to reduce weight and duct tape across the holes. Anyway, we now know that there's a limit to what we can get away with.

It's getting cold out there, especially in the middle of the night with a bit of spray and the wind from the south. Looks as if the weather is about to get worse too - we're now in the top of the lows rather than the bottom of the big high that has been with us since NZ.

 

Very tedious day so far. wind all over the place @ 1 - 2 kt so generator wont turn and solar panel in cloudy light only does about 1.5 - 2 amps, half what we need, and we're going nowhere. My lunch has just been cheese on vita wheat with cress from the vegie garden topped off with Bev's mango pickle from far off Rocky. Yummy. Haven't been paying the boot ferals much attention recently and they've been thriving. Some interesting new colonies, talkative as ever. Giving them an outing now in the dismal excuse for sunlight - most of them scream a lot and hide but there's one set of mutants in one small area of insole that seem to be able to make chlorophyll - well, they are green and they grow towards the light - so maybe with some selective breeding we have a new vegie garden and a killer patent.

 

Michael G, thanks for offer of co-ordination and by all means display as long as we don't have to clean up our act; original photos at home: if you need one, contact Hilary. This must be the true measure of fame - in competition with National Geographic. Did you check the Adastra site? Olivia, Hi - and yuk! Kim - just what I need, another useless bit of gear please consign 4000 sterile once-onlies to Port Stanley. Sherryl & JG, you're a pair of bloody sadists.

Short of battery - gotta go.

 

Sitrep: 0353hrs 18 Feb 2005 UTC 4525S 12732W Map Ref 69 3880nm

A day of chasing zephyrs - going nowhere, rolling around, getting little jobs done and now it's evening and we've dropped the sails and we're going to get some serious sleep. The silence, the almost indigo blue of the water, an albatross and a petrel swishing past, long menacing line of cloud that turned into puffy rain, still hasn't reached us. When it does, it won't arrive, it'll just muffle us in feathery mist. The water is so clear and it seems to impart its own glow to anything in it - the towline looks silvery - I dropped a roll of tape as I was re-tying it and I could see it glowing for ever as it sank. Hard to believe - I must have only read the stories of the storms and never looked beyond.

I'm making bread, the cabin is warm, smells like a bakery, Pete is writing his journal and then we'll make dinner and switch off until the noise starts again. We're due for a front tomorrow and it will actually be nice to be moving again. Looks like my early estimate of March 4 at the Horn has gone overboard. Will send this when I pull in the mail call from Steve later.

Pete has part three to put in as well. Maybe later. Bread just out - hot slice with butter - yay!

 

Sitrep: 0015hrs 19 Feb 2005 UTC 4549S 12630W Map Ref 70 3930nm

And so it came to pass. Calm windless silence that pounds your ears, then fluffy darkness, muffled rain, slight roll, plus all the usual little noises in Berri's vocab, mostly irritants like a Sikaflex tube rolling in its shelf and banging irregularly against the side - impossible to sleep through and essential to get up, identify and fix. But sleep we did, punctuated by the periodic satcom urgency alarm when a couple of hurricane warnings about TC Olaf up north arrived and no alternative but to get up and cancel the beep and read the messages. The beep must have been designed to be impossible to ignore - really malevolent noise. Never ever happens in co-ordination with the demands of the bladder either, just to get one on one's toes a bit more often.

And I heard the moan of breeze in the rig just as the coachroof hatch showed its outline in the dim grey light at about 3am. Coffee, set the poles, sails up and we're away again. Calm sea, bright sunlight, 5 kts direct for the Horn. And last night's bread for breakfast. Beats queuing for a bus, but we did miss out on about 100 miles of easting.

 

Right now we are possibly the most isolated people on the planet, but it's all relative. We have been looking at the logistics of getting some minor spares from the UK the Falklands and it reminds me of how easy it is to take the usual fripp of Oz daily life for granted. Freight delivery to Port Stanley is by sea - a couple of months - airmail is courtesy of the RAF and presumably subject to load limitations, courier service might be available at significant cost via Argentina. The islanders are a long way out of town too.

For, I think, only the second time since Hobart, we have the solar panel facing the sun and producing wiggly amps. When I bought the panel in Sydney, I thought about making a frame for it over the stern, but decided not to because after testing its output, I felt that it would not be possible to orient the panel effectively on a frame. We keep the panel stowed on the coachroof, permanently connected to its regulator but usually not contributing much. Today it is in the cockpit catching as many of the 42 photons per hour we get down here and delivering the transmogrified product to the battery. But the angle of orientation is absolutely critical - it needs to be perpendicular to the sun and even a small change can halve its output. The daily routine will have to include rotating it through 15 deg every hour whenever it is out of storage.

The expected front should arrive later today, with the wind backing round to the south and increasing to about 30kt. Not too serious and we should continue to make progress. The sea is just starting to rise and the rolling has increased. No main, so no slatting and banging and the twins and Kevvo are doing a mighty job. Lunch about to happen - basmati rice with the very last of the Dunedin carrots, onion, raw garlic and vegie garden mung beans stirred in.

Mung Beans - an enterprise not without its downside. Ok if they all sprout evenly, but this lot at least haven't done so and I've chipped all the leading edge fillings off my front teeth on the little rocky ones that didn't germinate. Essential to eat them very carefully. Filed off the sharper bits and its back to the hacksaw smile. Another job for Julita. The cress is thriving and I now have a rotating system where one half of the tray gets eaten as the other half sprouts and grows. Fenugreek still to be tried. The simple pleasures of extended isolation. And Alan Bennet's Talking Heads on a BBC CD - done Alan on 'A chip in the sugar' and about to listen to Patricia Routledge as A Woman of Letters. When did I ever have time for such idle dissipation in the real world? In the aggravation a couple of days ago, I lost Mike's crossword grid I'd been working on - it got wet and ran off the laminate - so that's out there to be reworked too.

 

Sitrep: 2215hrs 19 Feb 2005 UTC 4530S 12344W Map Ref 71

Alex: What a dreadful night, punctuated by a series of little tragedies all related to the loss of precious liquids. The front duly arrived, as usual at dinner time and, again as usual, the grib had the wind direction pretty much spot on but once again as usual, underestimated the strength by 100% so instead of 20 gusting 25, we get 40 going on 50. Two sail changes during the night as it increased, each requiring one of us to surface from warm bunk and dreams of Ingrid (was that her name, Kees?) and go through the Mr Bean routine and get wet and cold as well. Tragedy no. one has been developing since NZ - we felt it time to broach our last 3ltr box of Sir James' plonk for dinner only to find the box wet and mouldy with salt water and spilt plonk. The inner skin had chafed a biggish pinhole through itself and the wine tastes of the mould. We have coped with worse recently and just added a bit of imaginary mould to the chilli beans to balance things up. However, tragedy no 2 - we needed plastic bottles to decant our new vintage mould into and we emptied two bottles of desalinated water into the main desal reservoir. Except that, as we discovered later one of them was a quarter full of carefully conserved tonic water, so - down on tonic and up on quinine and iodine in the desal. Goes well with tea. So to tragedy no 3, from which I'm just recovering. Pete woke me at 1200 UTC, about 0400 local, still black and noisy and I made myself a cup of tea with attitude - big mug, 2 bags, 3 sugar lumps - as a sort of compensation for the night's nasties. We usually keep an empty pot on the stove with a cloth over the inside base to put cups of tea etc into so that the stove gimbals help to keep them from spilling but we had some leftovers from the mouldy chilli beans so the pot was otherwise occupied and I put the cup in the sink while I disengaged myself from the strap that makes cooking of any sort possible and I'm sure you can guess what happened on the next big roll. I'd been so looking forward to dunking a few biscuits. But as I cast my eyes into the outer darkness, ready to weep copious tears of grief and rage, I saw a little pink glimmer of dawn light between the southern horizon and the clouds so perhaps not quite a silver lining but uplifting anyway.

 

Night for me is always that little bit more tense than daytime because, I suppose, it's easier to judge what is likely to become a problem if you can actually look at the source of the concern - rather than relying on the quality and feel of the vibration or whatever to decide whether to be scared or not. Also something to do with knowing the boat so intimately and being very conscious of her weaknesses and discounting her strength. And everything always seems more violent, faster, noisier and nastier in the cold gyrating darkness, especially in the hour or so before dawn. I am always that bit more alert and it's hard to sleep. This is a very fragile enterprise we've got going here and it needs constant vigilance. The forces acting on us are potentially overwhelming and we have to optimise and minimise all the time. There's nothing sentient out there trying to destroy us, as some early sailors believed, but the force is just there, all the time and we have to accommodate it incrementally with all the gear and experience we've got with us. Often better to be in the cockpit than below, although the grammar and vocab are better enunciated and much less fuzzy inside our little drum.

 

Pulled in the VMC MSLP analysis for the south pacific last night on the weather fax - rather distorted because of the range but still quite readable and it looks as if the highs to the north are gradually dispersing and the lows are moving up. We're in the top of one now and there's another rather fierce one a couple of hundred miles behind it. Not a pleasant prospect - still 2200 miles to the Horn, or abut 17 days at our present rate. Brian and Jen, we have just clicked over 3000 miles from Dunedin. Maybe the 10k mark in a marathon. I've been standing in the wet and windy cockpit amongst the big quartering seas that come up and slide under us, turning the boat sideways and pitching it at the same time to produce the rather violent corkscrewing that makes life so difficult below and watching the boat lengths tick over as every one of them takes us closer to Chile.

Devoncroo - we drank an appropriate toast on the 17th. Please pass on if ok so to do.

 

Pete: Hello to all out there.

Is there anyone out there still using celestial navigation? 30 years ago I used it almost daily for about 7 months at sea. It was part of the boat routine, a couple of sun sights during the day, worked and plotted late afternoon with a shared libation to celebrate the days run. If closing land, then star sights would be used at morning and evening twilight to confirm things. At 45 - 50 south, twilight and stars are not a couple. You get the sun at times during the day but generally the horizon is misty so you basically guess the sight.

Yesterday was different we took the sails down the night before as there was no wind and slept. This was the first sleep longer than 2.5 hours in the last 3 weeks. I woke to a calm sea and a clear sky. it was time for a sight. This was the first time I could hold the sun in the telescope and not have it disappear in a second as the boat lurched from another wave. I took 2 good sights and averaged them, later about noon I got another, not as good as the seas by now were getting large and oh joy another late afternoon 3 sights in one day unbelievable. Last night I did the calculations and plotted the results. It looks like a classic textbook example. a small triangle of the position lines with the GPS position of the boat at the time of the first sight right in the centre of the triangle. I moved the later sights'lines of position back to the first sight allowing for course and distance travelled because I considered the first sight the most reliable.

When crossing the Pacific all those years ago there was a reef marked on the chart between Fiji and Noumea as our course was going to pass close by, we decided to find it. When we were a couple of days out we cranked up the navigation. 2 of us were taking sights at the same time and comparing results. We took both sun and star sights and were confident. As predicted one morning, the reef appeared it could only be seen from a few miles off and then only when the odd wave broke over it. we sailed over to it and noticed the rusting wreck of a small ship on the bottom inside the reef we decided not to go inside.

Anyway, this result was very pleasing and I'm hooked - cant wait for the next calm sunny day. Cheers Pete.