1-10. South Atlantic-Going up


Logs ( 20 )

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 25, 2005 - 1400hrs UTC

1400hrs 25 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 124

All times back to GMT. We cleared Customs at 1200, departed the jetty at 1300 escorted by a couple of rigid assault boats and entered the Narrows at 1315. We are not running up the S Atlantic on 040M for a point on the equator at about 30 00W. The new generator is working perfectly – thanks everyone concerned with that exercise – and the welded turbine is working too – thanks to J M-B and the RAF.

Arlette – wonderful stay at Lafone and thanks again for everything. Very sad to leave. And to everyone else – lists are too hard – our gratitude and thanks for everything you did for us.

MalcolmR – could you please resend a list of times when the ISS [International Space Station] should be visible – we’ll continue to head 040M for as long as possible, SOG is 6.5 knots at the mo. Ta.

Brittany [Brittany is the NASA scientist co-ordinating the Berri-ISS comms], for your information, in the subject line headers for these updates, the first block of 4 digits is South latitude, the next block of 5 is West longitude, then date/time GMT, then distance to go. I will give you some more specific information tomorrow and keep updating it every day – I think we can start to play tomorrow night, and Leroy can work his own schedule around any convenient night time flypast over the next couple of weeks. With the generator back to full power, we can leave the spotlight on all night. It will be red unless you tell us otherwise. We’ll have the satphone on as well from tonight. Fun by the bucketful and I hope it all works out. When is the spacewalk?

[Brittany’s response]

The EVA (Extravehicular Activity) or spacewalk is scheduled for approx. midnight to 0700 on March 28th. Leroy has an off day on Saturday, March 26th but will probably begin sleep shifting to prepare for the EVA. Depending on when their sleep shifting begins, Saturday could possibly work for Leroy. If things do not work out on Saturday night then you will probably have to try again at the earliest on Monday night.

I have been forwarding your emails to Leroy so he knows what you guys are up to. I know he is excited to try out this experiment!

[Alex’s reply]

Thanks Brittany and Hi Leroy – we’re excited too – how cool can you get. If we can co-ordinate times, we can direct our spotlight towards the ISS if we know where it is and I have asked Malcolm to try send us some times and co-ordinates – Mal, seems we may be looking at Saturday or Monday night. All the best with the EVA, Leroy and we’re looking forward to playing with you. If you are able to call us just before you reach our horizon, we can perhaps get ourselves organised to shine directly at you. Interesting rendezvous! I will be in touch tomorrow afternoon GMT with our likely position for tomorrow night.

[back to normal transmissions]

Happy Easter, all y’all who celebrate it and enjoy the holiday.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 25, 2005 - 2140hrs UTC

2140hrs 25 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 125

We are about 50 miles NE of Stanley, close to the edge of the continental shelf so still shallow and quite a big rolling swell from the west. So good to be moving again – it was difficult in the storms on the other side of the Horn even to think about sailing north, in sunshine. But here we are WooHOO. Very special feeling. We’ve been surrounded by masses of floating kelp in all shapes and wonderful wraiths and patterns. There is a long flat version with about the thickness and consistency of the conveyor belt you put your suitcase on at check in at an airport = rubbery, elastic and almost unbreakable. It has a sibling with frilly edges. There is another version with long stringy bits with bubbles and pointed ‘leaves’ – it looks like the sea monsters on old maps when you pass it, with a series if spiky bite protruding from the water. And another like one of those candlesticks with lots of arms. Some of the longer bits are perhaps 20 metres long and some of the clumps seem to have about the volume of a small house. Not good to get tangled in. We are trailing some stringy bubble bits from the skeg. Nuisance but not a show stopper. Hope the turbine doesn’t catch any. A few fishing boats on the horizon earlier but all now astern. We have to keep a constant lookout down here, although the jiggers are lit up likeTimes Squareat Christmas and easy to see at night.

We are both pretty tired – lots of hard work, some hard parties and still a damp boat. No real chance to unload and dry it out but all will improve with every mile in this direction.

Devoncroo – thanks for satphone message and John Clark, thanks for slab of The Doctor delivered in the nasties yesterday by Mike. Very kind thought. I have to absteem as am on antibiotics for vicious throat infection, but a good incentive towards recovery.

Brittany, I don’t know whether you want to get all these or just the relevant ones for Leroy – I will copy to you unless you tell me otherwise. Here’s hoping for a cloudless sky tomorrow night and Monday.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 26, 2005 – 1040hrs UTC

1040hrs 26 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 126

The romantic view of dawn at sea seems to focus on pretty colours and reflections and thoughts of new beginnings with lots of allegory. Well it ain’t necessarily so – often bleak, cold, very damp with water running off the sails and down the neck. Today, though, has been a confirmation for the poets – huge, sharp full moon all night with an attendant star, wispy clouds very high and lots of dolphins all around us and so quiet that we could hear them breathe as they breached – a double sound like a reverse sneeze – shoo-atish – and seabirds too, visible in the moonlight. The only thing missing was phosphorescence. Dawn with cherry pink clouds on the eastern horizon and reflecting off the water, turning orange then silver as the sun met the horizon. And to the west, the moon sinking into  a deepening soft purple haze. A pair of small albatrosses swooping around us and two black crow like birds apparently trying to land amongst the hardware at the masthead. Beats watching tv. Isolated patches of kelp still around us – we are about 40 miles inside the 1000 mtr depth contour at the edge of the shelf, and our transponder has long since lost the plot. It can cope with 450 feet.

I tried to film the albatrosses for Leroy – extraordinarily difficult to keep them in frame as they disappear into troughs and i have to guess where they will emerge as the boat moves around too, but I think I snatched a reasonable sequence as long as the autofocus held out. They are smaller ones – about 2 metre span with very little anhedral curve as they glide. I’ll hang out for one of the big guys.

We’ve made good progress – 127 miles in 9.5 hours. We have been gradually headed and we will probably be a bit further east tonight than we anticipated.

Brittany, an early estimate would be 48 50S, 054 00W at 0400 tomorrow. Reasonable chance that there will be little or no cloud tonight, but Monday not looking good. We are likely to be sitting under the edge of a tight little low centred to the east of us. I will update in about 12 hours.

Malcolm. thanks for the estimates.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 26, 2005 - 1545hrs UTC

1545hrs 26 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 127

Hi Brittany, Some rough predictions for tomorrow morning GMT:

0400  50 02S 055 25W

0530  49 57S 055 21W

0700  49 52S 055 18W

We are tracking roughly 040M @ about 5 knots.

There is a low pressure system moving in from the west and things may change – I don’t have enough information to make more than an educated guess – and with it will be lots of cloud. Leroy will be in a much better position to see what is happening and decide whether it is worth continuing. No need to call us if not – we will be able to see for ourselves by then and we’ll cross our fingers for Monday.


[ed: an article from the Falkland Islands Press here]

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 27, 2005 - 0930hrs UTC

0930hrs 27 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 128

Well, all y’all, now that the Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster has had time to work it’s magic and I’m shaking off my cold and feeling a bit more like one of those primitive ape forms from Sydney, here we go again. Brain has been congealed for a couple of days so apologies if some of this is second time around. I think that this episode/series/act/movement/verse will lack some of the dramatic tension of the last one. More of a largo. Those of you who need a drama fix with your cornflakes had better jump ship now and go watch infotainment on the telly – we’ll give you a hoy for the Fastnet. We have about 70 days to Falmouth, via a waypoint on the equator somewhere about half way between Africa and S. America. We were astonishingly well looked after in Stanley and we have adequate supplies of The Doctor, Aunty Gordon’s Magic Catalyser, John Smith Smoothies and the Archer’s Tool, as well as a few spuds and onions and half a hundredweight of Arlette’s shortbread for ritual dunking ceremonies. We have saved the last two of Pete’s Dr Coopers for crossing the line or Falmouth. Or something. And we have a bit more diesel to help us through the soft bits in the low latitudes (sounds odd, but they are the ones with low numbers close to the equator).We are now just over the edge of the Falklands Escarpment, where the sea bottom shelves from 1000m to 6000m into the Argetine Abyssal.

For the wild lifers, check out the Black Browed Albatross. We have had them around us en masse all yesterday. They breed in the Falklands and there is some concern to preserve the breeding grounds. Lovely birds with black wing tops streaked with grey underneath, creamy beaks and a black line over each eye. They fly alongside us and land and look at us – perhaps 2.5 metre span for the bigger ones. They seem to know when I get out the camera, though, and I still haven’t got any video that I like.

The experiment with the ISS is still a possibility, although Leroy and Salizhan have an EVA scheduled for tomorrow and will be somewhat busy until they have completed it. We are hoping to see the ISS for the first time too – perhaps in a few hours if the cloud allows. Malcolm has sent us the relevant flypast times. Exciting.

EVA’s for us are much less painful and hazardous than a couple of weeks ago, although it is still quite cold and we will need the party gear for a week or two yet. But it IS getting warmer – yay! And we had sunshine all day yesterday – first time since leaving Sydney, I think.

Am just about to do a mini eva to shine our light skywards in case the guys are looking out of their window in their apartment block up there – they are due to pass to the north of us in a few minutes. Back inside and Yikes -it’s cold out there and there is a double layer of cloud so unlikely we’re visible. Only glimpses of the moon. I’ll have another go in 90 minutes although I don’t think it will clear.

Much later – it won’t. We’re in rain under thick cloud. Radio propagation not good, so have delayed sending this. Just boiling a couple of Easter eggs for my breakfast.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 27, 2005 - 2230hrs UTC

2230hrs 27 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 129

It is nice to be in the lee of a wall like the Andes, although today we are in thick mist, with rain and low cloud. No chance to see the ISS, sadly. These are convergence Zone conditions, but softer than across the wall. We are still getting the Chilean weather fax, but it seems the Brazilians may have stopped their service. We have over a knot of current against us, as expected, but there’s no easy way to predict where it will be so we just have to slog into it. We’re both looking forward to getting back above 40S – seems like a long time ago when we crossed going south – Dec 28 or 29,perhaps.

Leroy and Salizhan will be preparing to open the door in a few hours. We’ll be up there with you in spirit, guys and all the best. Makes Berri’s foredeck seem like a kiddies sandpit. It’s a shame we can’t wave from under the cloud.

From John

The Clark family wish you both all the best for the next leg. Keep up the dialog if you can – we are right there with you. Great to talk to Peter at the “”Bash””. Anything we can do? Glad the Dr arrived. Hope you get to play with the ISS and your candle works – maybe they have an answer for throat infections and rampant foot ferals!

Leroy & Salizhan would have travelled 84,559 miles, 48 yds, 2 ft and 8 ins during your marathon at the reported speed of the ISS. Could you have not slowed down a tad so as to make it 50 yds or even a round 84,560 miles?

John C, I agree with your numbers – I’d got about as far as an estimate of 90K miles in my head as I was running and I checked it later. I couldn’t have gone much slower.

Caroline, if you ever get to read this, we’d both love to know who else is under your table – and please keep us updated with your news. Sorry we couldn’t manage a sail-past on the way out but conditions were deteriorating and we thought we’d better just go for the Narrows.

[Ed: article in the Sydney Morning Herald today here]

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 28, 2005 - 0500hrs UTC

0500hrs 28 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 130

Brittany, I will send you some predictions later today for tonight and tomorrow just in case Leroy still wants to play. Perhaps you could tell him that as long as there is no shipping around us, we could ignite a white flare during one of their passes as well as our spotlight. A white flare is not a distress signal and can be used at any time. I’m sure it would be visible. Please, if you have time, keep us informed about the EVA and their preparations for crew change – it has become kind of personal and important – family stuff in a way and an association that would never have flicked past even my rather busy imagination before this little journey.

From Brittany

Below is an article about the EVA that was performed by Leroy and Salizhan early this morning.  After forwarding your emails to Leroy he mentioned that he would not be able to conduct the lighting experiment until after the EVA. Since he will have to sleep shift again after the EVA I suggest that the best time to start the experiment would be Wednesday evening.  Of course this all depends on the visibility, weather, etc.  I’ll have more information once I hear back from Leroy.

Spacewalking Astronauts Outfit ISS For New Cargo Ship (www.space.com)

Malcolm, could you please keep the flypast times coming at least until we know there will be no more playing. Thanks – I know it’s a hassle.

Berrimilla is running along NNE behind the Wall, still in  the clank and dammies with everything dripping wet. We could easily get enough water to survive on here with a small bucket under the troughs we added to the old main before leavingSydney. The wind is taking us closer toArgentinathan planned but is set to free us again later today. We will run along the coast as far out as possible to avoid the coastal shipping until we get to the corner ofBrazil. Then we will take off towards the middle. Anyway, that’s the plan and it will last at least until the next wind change.

We still have some adverse current. There is an anti-clockwise circulation in theS. Atlantic, as our Times Atlas shows quite clearly. The traditional square riggers’ route to Europe from the Horn actually crossed the ocean to pick up the northerly Benguela current up the coast ofAfricabut we will just head north east along the western side and headbang it.

There’s a wonderful institution around the bottom ofS. Americaknown as the Patagonian Cruise Net. I think I mentioned it several times in PH (pre Horn) updates when we were trying to establish contact with The Other Side. It operates on 8164 khz at 1200UTC every day and it is run by – it seems – any one of several boats that may be more or less central and can talk to others way down south in Antarctica, out in the Pacific and theSouth Atlanticand in the Chilean Channels. Very friendly and helpful, very talkative, with lots of trivia so one needs a bit of patience, essentially a daily link between all the boats within range and there are lots of them, of many nationalities. Much of it is conducted in German or French with helpful translations when needed and often using other boats to relay messages to those out of range. A lot of effort goes into ensuring that everyone is contacted and their position recorded, and everyone is given an opportunity to ask questions and contact other boats. It’s a bit like neighbours talking across several back fences. There are a lot of boats listening in, including some very well known yachts. We clock in every day, but I would go bananas if I had to sit through the whole chat show to get a call in at the end, so we are only peripherally in their vision on this side of the wall and we can drop out at any time without causing concern.


[ed: Times of Malta article here – thanks Natalino Fenech]

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 28, 2005 - 2000hrs UTC

2000hrs 28 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 131

After a traditional Berri breakfast of a bacon sando, tabasco and a talk with the Doctor,(yeah, I know I’m absteeming but nothing brown can possibly be alcoholic or fattening so the Doctor and chocolate are ok. I read it in New Scientist..), I have just felt a gentle brush of warm air down through a hatch. Can this be happening – for the first time since leaving Hobart on Jan 10? The sun is out, we’re doing 7 knots, VMG 7. Pete is in shorts – silly old poot has just spent half an hour looking for his glasses and you know the rest. And just about level with Dunedin again – it’s all ticking along. Hobart, then 40S…

We are surrounded by birds – I’ll have a go at three of the more distinctive ones.

First, a very small black and white version of the little flappy bird from the south pacific. Wingspan about 25cm, fast, irregular flapping with darting flight amongst the waves and troughs – occasionally has to do a massive evade as a breaking crest threatens to smother it. A foil to the Albatrosses which are still around – wingspan about the same as Berri’s beam.

Second, an albatross shaped bird but all very dark grey/brown/black – not an easy colour to describe – including beak and feet. Perhaps 2 metre span.

Third – my favourite amongst the small birds, a lovely graceful bird with lustrous grey tops to its wings, each wing having a diagonal dark grey stripe from the trailing edge at the join with the body out and forward to the elbow bend. The overall effect is a gleaming grey chevron across about half the span. It flaps, rather than glides. White underside, other detail too hard to see.

The albatrosses are coming so close the individual feathers are visible in the black wingtips.

A why is it so? question The Atlantic is definitely greenish grey. The Pacific was deep almost indigo blue. The water here seems to be as clear and free of sediment as across the wall – but perhaps it isn’t. Why the difference?

From Malcom

Hi matelots,

A French woman arrived at Noumea today having westwards rowed across the South Pacific in 70 days.

I don’t think anyone has rowed the Atlantic from South to North.  A new record to be created.  Not too late to start, take down those sails and paddle or scull

Malcom, we heard the french rower on the cruise net on the other side and nearly had to relay for her – she had only a few miles to go at the time. There may be another one out there too – my french is too rusty. And I think it’s just eyeballs for the ISS although I’m sure there are all sorts of goodies for precise imaging.

[ed: link to full marathon article – thanks Penguin News – it is a PDF so it is a little big]

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 29, 2005 - 1115hrs UTC

1115hrs 29 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 132

I’m having an idle speculation day. It seems to me that Berrimilla and her scruffy crew are a bit like an ant being given a ride in the sunlight on the back of an elephant called NASA. There may be mutual benefit but the elephant, in evolutionary terms, is hardly likely to gain much from the presence of a little blob of subintelligent formic acid on its back while the ant is completely absorbed in the experience. I am reminded of the story of the chicken and the pig discussing their favourite breakfasts. The chicken said what about bacon, eggs and black coffee and the pig thought about it a bit and said that actually, it preferred porridge, because for the chicken, bacon and eggs requires only a contribution while for the pig it would be total commitment. Not an exact analogy, but I’ve always liked the story.

And April is set to be a month of transitions and change. The ISS will get a new crew in a couple of weeks and there will be 5 of them sharing the space for a week. Berri in racing trim can just manage six but it gets awfully crowded and even in their apartment block up there, I imagine it’s much the same. That must be one of the more interesting watch changes that have ever taken place on a regular basis. Then for Leroy and Salizhan, it’s back to Khazhakhstan, debriefing, weight training and their families. And perhaps another ride in the future. We’ll still be down here when the next crew goes home too.

Berri will change from being cold, clammy, mouldy, dank, damp and relatively unpleasant to being warm, dry, still mouldy but that’s fixable in the dry, and a tube that we spent a lot of time outside instead of inside. And I will have a birthday on the 22nd. and become Even More Venerable. So get ready to venerate, you lot, with copious ale and party hats. April is also Berri’s birthday month – not sure of the date – she will be 28, not quite half my age and twice as clever.

If we get lucky, it will be the month when the three of us cross the Equator. First time for Berri, umpteenth for the other two although for me, the first time to the west of Africa in a boat.

devoncroo, I can relate to wallpaper paste. Mal, glad you caught up with Chris. Report, please, on the experience.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 29, 2005 – 2000hrs UTC

2000hrs 29 Mar 2005 UTC 46’27”S 050’35”W Map Ref 133

Those of us who thought things would get easier this side of the wall couldn’t have been wronger. Lots of wind this morning, then none and now we’re in a ferocious little storm that we were sort of expecting but at much lower strength. Quite scary at the mo  – wind screaming at different levels in different bits of the rig, big waves building up, boat bare poled, wind on quarter as much as possible 60 – 80 knots in gusts, waves crashing against and across the boat. Impossible to sleep – tension and noise too big – so really really nice to get your emails in the mail call a few minutes ago. Sorry you’re confused, Mal. Put new skippers hat on!. Peter cox, thanks, Derek, Hi, biskit dunkin lady, g’day – they’re going well. Just finished the spagbog.

Brittany- nice to hear a friendly voice answer the phone. This is very nasty indeed, and quite scary. All we can do is sit it out, hope nothing breaks and try again tomorrow. It’s gusting 80 and the waves are crashing over the boat – she’s only little. Grey knuckles till it abates, and no sign of that at the mo.

If/when we do get to play with Leroy, we’ll let off a white parachute rocket first, which will rise to about 300m and burn for about a minute and light the place up a bit,then well turn on the red spotlight.

Better stop – last wave dumped lots of stuff on the floor and dont want to lose laptop.

Hi again – I’m taking a punt that it’s decided to abate a bit – and I need a distraction – steady 65 – 70 knots but the really big gusts seem to be further apart. You know things are really bad when the wind is so strong it flattens the tops off the waves and – surprise – the boat has stopped rolling. Was going to ask you about the ‘Hail Mary’ pass mentioned in the EVA article – would that be when the quarterback has run out of options and throws the ball into space, Hail Mary on his lips, hoping that divine intervention will land it in the arms of one of his team?  Or have I lost the plot?

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 30, 2005 - 0228hrs UTC │Clench-Inducing Sequences I

0228hrs 30 Mar 2005 UTC 46’06”S 050’27”W Map Ref 134

[ed: Sat phone call from Alex]

Wind is abating from 80kts.

Several knockdowns.

Liferaft was washed overboard, is being towed behind and they may lose it.

They may be able to retrieve it in the morning.

If they lose it we may need to report a drifting liferaft bearing Berri’s registration near the above coordinates.

They have been unable to contact SailMail – suspect poor propagation.

They will leave the SatPhone on as long as there is any concern and while batteries hold out.

Just about to make a cup of tea!

[ed: Sat phone call from Alex an hour later]

Liferaft has gone.

Wind is still strong but continuing to abate.

Seas still high.

Some water in the boat but bucketfuls rather than large quantities.

Uncomfortable but not dangerous.

Consultation in progress :-)

[ed: note of contact with AMSA at 1409 AEST 30 Mar 2005]

Just confirming that I have advised Australian Maritime Safety Authority about the drifting liferaft. After a bit of a hiccup over the unexpected longitude, they said that they would pass details on to the relevant authorities.


1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 30, 2005 - 0400hrs UTC │Clench-Inducing Sequences II

0400hrs 30 Mar 2005 UTC 45’58”S 050’27”W Map Ref 135

[ed: back on email an hour later]

2 more knockdowns. Liferaft carried away – inflated, full of wazter, towing behnind for time being, wioll try to recover if abates. 7 hours to daylight. just had a cup of tea. will update re liferaft – may need you to inform authorities. pls contact sysops@sailmail.com asap tell them we have potential emergency, ask they not limit connect time tfn.

4458 04927 30/0400 Unable to contact sailmail chile to send that bit so phoned Malcolm on satphone with position and sitrep.

Liferaft has since broken painter and carried away, so aksed Mal to report lost and drifting liferaft to AMSA. Liferafts now have rego numbers and can be linked to yacht so important to allay concern.

We’e both ok, no injuries this time, knockdowns far less severe. boat seems ok except for damaged stanchion, probably by liferaft casing but daylight will tell – 5 long hours to go. Back to watches, Pete resting (after soothing consultation..) till 0600. Bit messy and damp below but fixable. No letup in wind – still steady 60 -70 – we do pick em dont we?

Brittany, we should be ok for this evening, but I don’t think the cloud will have cleared. Will send est. posn. later if comms hold out. If not, perhaps you or Leroy could call close to relevant time and we can report by satphone. Drill as per last email if ok with L.


[ed: brief Sat phone call from Alex at 1000hrs 30 Mar 2005 UTC]

Conditions still very wild – high seas and strong wind.

Barometer is rising as the low moves slowly away to the south-east.

Just had another knockdown that sent the laptop flying. Not sure what damage it might have sustained and will probably not try getting it going again until things settle down a bit – so don’t be concerned if you don’t hear anything for a while.

Sat phone is working well.

Both fit and well but admit to being a bit tired.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 30, 2005 - 1100hrs UTC │Clench-Inducing Sequences III

1100hrs 30 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 136

[ed: Laptop’s working again!]

I’ve been in some pretty bad storms but I think that was the worst bashing so far and quite clench inducing. Went down to about 990hp, so well out from the centre, up to 50kts very early – we took all sail off sometime yesterday afternoon – then up to steady 65 – 70 and I saw lots of 80 with one at 86. Waves moderate to start with, earlier this morning they were as big as off Cape Horn. covered in flying foam and spray moving at the speed of the wind. When we went outside in the middle of the night to try to retrieve liferaft, no way we could look to windward. Really dangerous in the cockpit and clearly stupid to try to retrieve raft in those conditions so decided to leaved attached to winch for as long as it lasted. Not long – I think it may have been cause of next knockdown but lost fairly quickly – v heavy, full of water, big stabiliser waterbags under, so forlorn hope really. Loose painter got tangled with turbine towline, so have that inside to be untangled. Engine started first go – little darling – so battery now charging. Seemed likely we might exceed sailmail time so sent satphone message via Mal and Sue at Sailmail fixed – thanks Sue.

Both pretty stuffed – need urgent Consultation with The Doctor – but ok and undamaged. Have not yet dared go out on deck – still blowing mostly 55 but occasional 35 – yay! – but from cockpit Berri looks ok too except for massively bent stanchion, bent inwards, so probably liferaft container (44 kilos) launched from cabin top and crashed back into stanchion before inflating. Someone please tell Danny at RFD Sydney that as far as we could see in the dark, light was on, everything attached but canopy had been torn off.

Sad and expensive loss – well the wrong side of insurance excess below 40S (Good one Richard – Someone there knows his/her maritime actuarials!) so now we have the rubber ducky and Berri – Think I’d prefer Berri.

Analytical update follows when i get my head together.

Brittany, if it’s clear tonight and not too dangerous to be in cockpit, we can play tonight but I no longer have flypast times – all ot a bit wet – so could you please liaise with Leroy and let me know when he might be up there? Satphone works and is on. Same drill (white para flare, then red spot) unless you change it. Thanks.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Noises off...

This is just noise – about 15 seconds of it. I turned the camera on by mistake in the middle of the liferaft storm at night off Montevideo and the time stamp puts it at a time when the wind was between 60 and 75 knots. I can hear several different sounds embedded in it but it doesn’t grab the entrails like the real thing. Turn it up as loud as you can – it should shreik at you.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 30, 2005 - 1600hrs UTC │Clench-Inducing Sequences IV

1600hrs 30 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 137

So much to say. Things we know: Liferaft lost because pelican clip came undone. Shouldn’t have and dont know why.

Have not been able to get close to it yet to examine. Too dangerous to recover raft last night but was able to winch raft close to hull by timing waves. Once in lee, would have ridden out the night but I was not prepared to leave cockpit to secure it to foredeck so decided to try short tow. Also couldnt get close enough to salvage any contents. Poo – could have used the survival biscuits. But very very sad to lose it. Rubber ducky in package next to raft on coachroof lashed to grabrail hasn’t moved – in future, I’m going to lash the raft too, with sharp knife attached.

Plodders motto: Planning, Practice, Prudence, Patience and Perseverance. And a Pee bucket for our far too agile bladders, but that’s another story. We’re in the patient persevering stage right now. Wind has dropped from 80’s down to 30-50’s in squalls and waves dropping too. Still too much for even poled storm jibs so using engine at idle to give a bit more bite for Kevvo.

Waves were huge – Peter B, if you’re out there, I’ve now seen and surfed them all in HWS except Moitessier’s 1000 metre breaking southern ocean swell, the which I’d fervently like to avoid. When I was lashed to the back of the cockpit at first light, wind still steady 70s, I was pulling the turbine line directly out of a vertical wall of frothy grey water about 15 feet from my face, and as Berri rose up it, the line rotated downwards to be almost vertical. Had to do it else we might have lost self steering gear. Very difficult to judge height at that order of magnitude but easily over the mast and some of them seemed to be at lease two masts – nearly 30 metres. Pointy and breaking. Mostly all white with foam and wind lines all over. Sadly, no good photos -far too wet for non waterproof video cam although got some a bit later after things got a bit calmer.

Huge lid dip to Kevin Fleming – once again the self steering gear kept us alive. Thanks Kev – still have a couple of mods to discuss tho. Kept the wind and swell more or less on the quarter. Knockdowns happen when the boat gets beam on to big rolling breakers – there were lots – thousands – of these, and Kevvo only really lost it once – second time may have been because of towed liferaft. But wearing my instructor’s hat, I should stress that quartering wind and sea works for Berri but may not work for other designs – practice going down smaller waves when things aren’t critical and you’ll find out what works.

Best thing I did in the Falkland was to buy a new satphone – thanks to Derek and Cable and Wireless for bending their rules re billing and for their help setting it up. Enormous relief last night when unable to raise Chile sailmail station to be able to get on the satphone and within seconds be talking to Malcolm Robinson, who notified authorities about raft and spoke to hilary and jeanne and Sailmail.  I was also able to speak directly to NASA when email iffy early in storm to tell her we were in a spot of bother under some clouds and couldn’t play with the ISS. Worth the cost just for those few calls yesterday.

There will be more as I think about things. Still bloody blowing 50 – never ever thought I’d be glad to read 50 on the anemometer but I sure am. Rather it was 20 though. Occasional remnant monsterwave still threatening to engulf.

James, had read about Cone – amazing – and boats are for purposes – Cone is brilliant while she hangs together and I’d like a go sometime, but I’d rather be in Berri down here. Glad you like this nonsense. Hi Virginia, and thanks; youtoocroo; and, of course, Kim in his michelin suit – go bees! Fenwick, we’re still your friends even if all your others have deserted you – where are you?

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 31, 2005 - 1230hrs UTC

[ed: Mainly admin stuff with a few tidbits that he said would be in a subsequent, long message. Watch this space!]

1230hrs 31 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 139

Leroy Chiao called us from the ISS around midnight to say he could see a light but as we didn’t have ours on, it can’t have been us. We sent him a white flare anyway but I think he was way past by then. Connection was not super and we lost it, I think, before he intended. I hope he has time to try again – thanks Leroy for an absorbing distraction from the froth and bother of the last few days :-). We will be visible all night from tonight – I have finally disentangled the turbine line from defunct liferaft painter and got the kinks out of it and the generator is again pushing lots of wiggly amps back into the batteries. This means we have enough reserve power to burn the spotlight all night and we can do flares if we know where the ISS will be. Malcolm is sending more flypast times.

And for those – most of us, probably – who have never seen one, white flares are more orange than white and the effect on a windy and rough night is quite eerie. I’ll try and film the next one. Happily, under my instructor’s hat again, I can now say from real experience that it is quite easy to fire a parachute rocket flare in the dark in a hurry entirely by feel. Grooovy and I hope we get to do it again. See remarks below about drill.

More on storms and stuff and contrasts in another episode.

Have just seen a new albatross – big, not huge, say 3 metres, snowy white with black upper leading edges at the outer ends of its wings and black polka dots in a triangle back and inwards from these. Breathtaking – it was with us for only one pass, sadly.

Alan laptop type is Panasonic Toughbook CF18 details in preparations doc on website. Has now saved our bacon twice after knockdowns. Yesterday, I was sitting braced on the floor when we collected a small knockdown, the laptop launched from the nav table and crashed into the galley bulkhead  next to my head. It pulled out the USB connector so I had to switch everything off and reboot and it came up unscathed – great piece of gizmology. Every journo should have one.

Which leads me to a discourse on drill – very important to have drills and checklists for critical operations so that the operation becomes instinctive – man overboard, heavy weather kite drops, igniting flares etc, and also for leaving the laptop while doing other things. Drills help to eliminate mistakes in moments of stress – like forgetting to tie down the laptop. Unforgiveable really and any other laptop would almost certainly have karked.

Thorry, thanks for your support – and for info about Peter Joubert – please pass on our congratulations re award.

And big thanks to the people on the Patagonian cruise net – very helpful and really reassuring to have them all out there when needed.

From Allan Fenwick

Well a bit of real adventure at last, I thought I was reading a book instead of real life stuff, I bet you two don’t want to go through that again. I know at the twilite of my life I don’t want to go through 80 knots and 30 meter seas. your right again, after Easter weekend I think I have done it again, no friends at all, but on the bright side I’m allways meeting new people who don’t know me. I will leave it to Sarah to dob me in on my Easter capers. When you climb up to 35 I will start to have a go at you two old farts. ps. don’t worry about the life raft, you pair of pricks don’t need one, your both full of hot air to start with. you two should get a life and take up lawn bowles.

Fenwick – glad your’e back on song. Pity about the friends tho.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Mar 31, 2005 - 2000hrs UTC

2000hrs 31 Mar 2005 UTC Map Ref 140

Contrast – howling crashing storm to balmy warm sunny day, gentle 20 knot breeze, poled out headsail. Huge cleanup day – everything that moves out on deck, all the hatches open, drying and mending sails and clothes, finding summer clothes in the bearpit that is our stowage, massive protest movement from bootferals, now in considerable strength but out in the sunlight. Also spent some time removing damaged stanchion – we kept a few of the old ones, so when we next get that far down under the bunks, we can pull one out and replace it. We also lost a spinnaker turning block but that seems to be the sum total of the damage. Pretty lucky really. The liferaft pelican clip was open but with the locking slide in the closed position. A real mystery – I’d been checking it regularly and I’m certain it was properly closed. Lashing for the next one, although I hope it doesn’t ever get to see the froth and bubble that destroyed the last one.

From Richard & all at Fastnet

Sorry to hear about the liferaft, but glad you both & BERRI got through 80k otherwise okay. Nice to know that it inflated okay, you never know sometimes. If you want to carry out an inventory of items like the dinghy, outboard & personal effects on board (i.e. things that would not be sold with the boat) and put values against each, I may be able to negotiate a lower excess for each – a bit “”shutting the gate after the horse has bolted””, but there we go.

Richard and the crew at Fastnet Insurance, thanks for offer, but I think hardly worth it for the minimal value of the stuff that isn’t part of the boat – smelly clothes, wet weather gear, a couple of laptops and some cameras and other computer peripherals – there will have to be another liferaft too. What do you think? We don’t have to go below 40S again from here until the Hobart race, as long as we don’t mind a bit of a small circle detour across the Indian Ocean on the way back.

Best possible estimate for Falmouth is around mid May, more likely early June. But still 6k+ miles to go.

From Gerry and Donna

Gidday Alex and Pete,following your progress with great interest on my return to Brisvagas today 31/3,gripping reading,Godspeed ya’ll to sunshine,very best wishes

Gerry and Donna – good to hear from you. Back in shorts and working on Doctoral theses on EVA. Much nicer. And I can recommend The Archers’ Tool as a summer quench.

Derek P, thanks for details for satphone. Have installed service number and tried to send you a message but no go – will check the instructions again.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Apr 02, 2005 - 1100hrs UTC

[ed: some back dated updates retrieved from cyber black holes…]

1100hrs 02 Apr 2005 UTC

Brittany, thanks for message – will try to get back into sailmail but depends on signal – Malcolm is sending pass times – all seem to be early AM GMT and we will do our thing with spotlight whenever we have a clear sky. Will save flares for prearranged pass if feasible. For Leroy, we are tracking NE about 500 miles off and parallel with the S American coast at about 4 knots. I doubt he needs an exact position for every pass but I will try to send you at least one prediction each day. We’ll crack this r/v sometime, with a bit of perseverance. Presumptuous, but please ask him to pass on our phone number to the new crew if they want something silly to do in those idle hours. We’ll be down here somewhere till January if all goes to plan.

We’ve been in a propagation hole unable to connect with sailmail chile for more that 24 hours – I managed to connect using their 5mhz frequency last night – very slow and the frequency doesn’t work – keeps sending error messages and very frustrating – so decided to download entire backlog from all y’all in one hit – took about 35 minutes of nail biting tension watching it all come in, desperate byte by desperate byte. Should be about 2 minutes’ worth in good conditions. Anyway, will have to be a bit conservative with connects this week. But thanks everyone for messages – Is, glad you’re not pushing xit uphill and using normal pump against head, just like us. Thanks for doing DVD for NASA.

Yesterday we passed two fishing floats about 500 miles from Montevideo – they seemed to be attached to something underwater – a real worry for us as they are not visible at night and if there are long lines out here, we have a problem big time. A day of sunshine and frustration – no wind, no contact. And an adverse current of about 1.5 knots – more than 30% of our speed thro the water, so headbanging in earnest. Can one headbang out of earnest??

We have a big supply of dried fruit – see provisions list for detail – and we actually got down to the bin it is all stored in a day or so ago when we were drying out after the storm. I am chopping up a mix of everything and soaking it in water overnight for next days breakfast. Goes well with muesli and I guess we could always ferment it if things get pearshaped.

The solar panel has now come out of storage and gets pointed at the sun whenever possible – really effective contribution to battery charge and gives about 4+ amps in full sun correctly oriented.

Seabird species are different – smaller, more flappy, generally browner. Some flotsam – Pete saw a fluorescent neon tube float past – and we’re getting ready to have our 40 South party. It seems to have been just over the horizon for days and days but now quite close.

Michelle, you asked us what we do when things get rough – like most simple questions, there are both simple and complex answers. I’ll try to give you my version of both next episode as long as we can keep talking to chile. Pete can do his.

And there will be a discourse on mental plots – if I can get my head around it.

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Apr 02, 2005 - 1630hrs UTC

1630hrs 02 Apr 2005 UTC 40’43”S 047’20”W Map Ref 141 853nm (2676nm to Equator)

We/re heading into another low – grib says 36 kts so think 70+ probably about 48 hours worth. Currently storm jib and heading way below course to stay comfortable.  Kills the VMG tho. Unlikely to be as bad as last one, touch wood.Chilesailmail still unreachable. Please tell the troops we’re likely to be a bit quiet again for a while.. Have a couple of updates in Q will use SatcomC if problem persists. Better do a whip around to stave off bankruptcy.

Brittany, unlikely we’ll be playing for at least a couple of days. Can’t win at the moment but the time will come.. Please say Hi to Leroy. He’ll be able to see the reflected starlight off our storm. but ain’t no way we’ll see him. 

1-10. South Atlantic-Going up

Apr 02, 2005 - 1800hrs UTC

1800hrs 02 Apr 2005 UTC 40’40”S 047’24”W Map Ref 142 857nm (2675nm to Equator)

Small speculative update as we sit and wait for the messy bits of the next storm to get to us.

 I’ve been involved for a lot of my life with people who do clever and skilful things often at some risk to themselves – Naval aviators, test pilots, a world champ motorcyclist who was also a superb pilot,  and more recently search and rescue people who drop into the sea from choppers to fish out other people like me who get into trouble, as well as a lot of the people who race impossibly fast sailing boats around the world.

But I never ever thought the list would one day include a NASA astronaut actually at work – so far away from the imaginable that it would have seemed foolish even a couple of months ago in the middle of the South Pacific when I was whimsying on about isolation and close neighbours. 

Yet Leroy Chiao was interested enough to talk to us, send us photos and perhaps even give us a wave one day soon as we light up a bit of ocean for him. He too could see the point, I guess, in terms of the  similarity between the things we all four us us are doing – and, of course, the obvious differences. So I’m now passionately involved  with what the ISS is all about and I will certainly follow Leroy’s future travels with intense interest. I hope that, if his schedule allows him to look down through the refected starlight at the top of our storm in the next few days, he will feel just a bit involved with a couple of geriatrics toiling through it.

We’ll be thinking of him and rather wishing, I think, that we could see his apartment block flying past up there instead of the murk we’ll actually see. Go, Leroy.!

[ed: resuming normal transmissions – we hope!]