About Berrimilla’s Logs

How it started, by Alex Whitworth

When I bought Berrimilla in 1993, she had an old 6 channel Wagner HF radio which at the time was the minimum acceptable for the Sydney – Hobart race. It worked fine but was limited to the 6 channels. One could carry additional crystals but by then such limitations were a bit stone age. We used the Wagner for a year or two and then upgraded to a second hand Barrett with a much greater range of pre-programmed frequencies and the possibility of dialling others.

While thinking about the first circumnavigation, I did some research and discovered the digital age in HF radio. With a lot of help from Marc Robinson, in whose hands wiggly amps, square waves, bits and bytes, frequencies, propagation and squelch are just threads in a Bayeux circuit diagram of the universe, we replaced the Barrett with an ICOM M802 HF with a Pactor lll digital modem. This was linked to a Panasonic CF 18 Toughbook laptop and Sailmail. (More on the technical stuff: Planning the 1st voyage: Electronics, Communications and Software)

Eureka! Email from the boat.

Steve Jackson – the geek for all seasons – had generously offered to run a website for us and he became our postman, spam filter and unstinting resource person ashore. Steve went off occasionally to do silly things of his own (like parachuting from a Russian aircraft on to the North Pole) and Malcolm Robinson – another multi seasonal geek – filled the gap and fielded our emails and kept us posted as well as running the website and initiating the Gust Book and the ISS contact. Coincidentally or not, the four of us are left handed.

The 4 Lefties: Alex Whitworth, Steve Jackson, Peter Crozier and Malcom Robinson

The plan was simple. We just wanted to be able to let our families know where we were and how we were going and perhaps to talk to Customs and other authorities from time to time. The logs began as upbeat reports to assure people we were coping. This changed 120 miles or so south of Dunedin when things went pearshaped for the first time.

By then I had discovered that it was fun composing the reports and it filled in the time on long watches. Steve and Malcolm collected them and put them on the website along with lots of interesting stuff of their own and people seemed to latch on to it all. The Gust Book thrived and people seemed to get hooked on their daily dose of Berri trivia.

Like Topsy, it just growed. With a bit of help from Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy, Marvin the Paranoid Android arrived after parking cars somewhere for a gerzillion years and we were invaded by the Boot Ferals , my favourite evolutionary experiment – and Malcolm set up the ISS contact with NASA and suddenly we had a conspiracy theory festering amongst the blowing leaves and Macca debris in the old bus shelter. We weren’t really getting wet out there at all.

And so it went. I am still meeting people who never quite got it: “What was all that bus shelter stuff Alex?” to which I can only reply that it was the equivalent of the Hollywood studio where NASA created all those grainy pictures of men on the moon. They still mostly don’t get it. Ah, Marvin – where’s my towel?


What they are saying

Their logs provide amusement and insight into how these sailing veterans are fairing on the high seas… whether it be about their windvaneKevvo’, supply of ‘The Doctor'(Guinness) or the best way to drink a cup of tea in a rocking boat!
— Yachting World

It is full of wonderful, unique stuff, about the journey, the mechanics and gadgets, the weather, the environment, wild-life, your analogies to the Hitchhikers’ guide and the Space Shuttle… these all make extraordinary reading
— Chris xx

Fabulous quality of the log
“One of the most fabulous elements of this trip, apart from the scale of it, your tenacity and the simply mind-boggling conditions you have been through, is the quality of the log and the writing. I love both your styles. You allow us to share your experiences in a way that I have never come across before. I don’t know either of you but through the writing I have built a picture of two people that I feel I know well. You are clearly well read, you have enquiring minds and are able to converse comfortably at the cutting edge of communications technology. But what I love most is the depth of the writing combined with the modern idiom and of course the humour. Sharing the ‘clench’ is key to involving the reader in the journey.”
— Duncan Wells

“I think that the biggest reason [why we are all so intrigued and inspired by your journey] is that you’ve demonstrated one watch at a time that it is possible to achieve something really big. And, you’ve let us all be virtual flies on the wall during those watches. You’ve reached your goal with will and perserverance, not superhuman ability or by throwing money at the problem. You’ve shown us all that if we want to do so, we can work towards something really big. At the same time, your perserverance is indeed admirable.”
— Kristen C.