1-13. Across the Equator


Logs ( 22 )

1-13. Across the Equator

Apr 30, 2005 - 0300hrs UTC

0300hrs 30 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 192

It’s just before dawn and we’ve had a great night’s run making 6-7.5 kts all in the right direction, aiming to hit the equator at 30 W. Beautiful sky at the moment all orange,pink and grey the edges of some low cloud etched in brilliant white. There is also a rainbow in the low cloud opposite to the west.

It looks like another hot one today. Yesterday the wind dropped out with the heat about noon and our boat speed sank to 2-3 kts. I just hope the wind holds today.

I just read what I have written and it could be Alex’s work. Have I caught emailspeak? Perhaps the computer has the virus. I just might do that first paragraph in the matter of fact prose of young Jim Cook. “The early sky to the east suggested a fine day with fair winds. I have ordered a flogging at noon, gross insubordination again during the night watch. Otherwise all is well on board.” Now that felt much better especially about letting the cat out of the bag.

Phil H. Thanks for your research on dogday/star, the red wine reference was interesting.

Tim. When Sarah returned from Germany she delighted in telling me that if I ever gained the title of Grand Father, in German I’d be called a ” gros farter ” doesn’t have the same ring does it.

George. I’ve replaced that aerial before, the top section broke before so the bottom bit may be on board but I doubt it. I bought it at Whitworth’s take the top piece with you to get a match. Any news yet on a berth in Lymington.

Luke thanks for the quick response all is forgiven.

Eve Keep your head high. I know you’ll make the right decision.

1-13. Across the Equator

Apr 30, 2005 - 2300hrs UTC

2300hrs 30 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 193

Just hangin’ in out here – the wind keeps threatening to drop out but we live in hope. We are just into day 36 from Stanley – half our predicted 70 days – and we’re about 200 miles short of straight line half way which is just south of 2 degrees south.

So approximately 2 days behind schedule. Not bad, considering the setbacks earlier. I’m still going for June 4 for Falmouth.

David, we will be about a day late at the equator if the wind hangs in, but we’ll have a Consultation on the day in your honour anyway.

Thanks to everyone who has filled in the Gust book – it’s a whole lot more personal for us if we can put some faces to all the people who must be out there sharing this with us and adding to the hit count. A couple of nice surprises already. Tory, course you can email us – I do remember. Please report on HGTTG movie.

Wildlife: First flying fish – Pete had it for lunch – I don’t like them much – too oily. Occasional seabirds, but they dont hang around. The hawk like feller that was around a week or so keeps coming to visit, has a look and goes away. And a couple more of those big Portuguese Men o’ War – updated description: these ones have their whole sail inflated, they seem from 5 meters or so away to have a blueish veined pattern on the clear part of the membrane and they have a curved row of pink comma shaped flecks half way up each side. The colour is perhaps more salmony pink with a touch of mauve. Delicate, lethal beauty. Never more than one and many miles apart. And Pete was frolicced by a pod of dolphins this afternoon.

Busy day – big container ship passed about a mile away going south and, for the first time since we left Sydney, I saw an aircraft this evening, very high, flying north on a line between Rio and Europe. There are other humans out here!

Otherwise, rather boring – but we are really putting in the miles – such a good feeling after our snailing along for weeks. Full main and #1, beam reach, somewhere between 18 & 25 knots giving us 6.5 to 7. Occasional rain showers pass us by, nothing fierce, and a reasonable sea. Our makeshift Dorade ventilator system is working and it’s bearable again – still very hot especially in the middle of the day. Great Bear climbing the northern sky. A few potatoes left, and an onion from the Falklands, Hobart and Falklands bacon finished, still have a couple of dozen eggs, but in this heat, they may not be coping too well. And we’re rationing Consultative medications – tonight’s G & T was sublime.

Good luck with the 2 hander, Malcolm. We’ve been thinking about the assy (assymetric spinnaker) but don’t really need it – we now have to cross the equator and go back on the wind in the NE trades which seem to be more NNE – they should take us well to the west of the Azores in a couple of thousand miles, I hope safely into the back of the Azores high with a wind all the way to Falmouth. But thats weeks away.

Another stunning night – just a bit hazy – no moon till early morning.

[ed: The following was sent half an hour after the previous one so I combined them]

I’m losing the plot – this one should have been part of the last one.

Thoughts on doing a book – most of your comments seem to favour the idea – except one, with which I tend to agree. The sheer volume of stuff and the variety of media would require an enormous quantity of work and specialised skills to get it together and it would be prohibitively expensive. Frinstance, we’re up to sailmail no 1722 that I have generated since we left Sydney, and the inbox has 662 messages. That’s without Pete’s daily journal or any of the other material. Volunteers to put it together? I can actually see how it could be combined into a big format book with most of the stuff in it, but it would be huge. Would need a ruthless editor and would almost certainly end up too expensive for your average punter.

Colin B – I think Titan Uranus would be exactly the right motto for the masthead of The BOG Paper. Interesting problem for the Royal College of Heralds – how do you put a Sphincter Couchant (Rampant? Clenche’?) Rouge into a coat of arms? Harrrumph!

We have a work-around for the ventilation problem – we’ll try it when daylight comes – basically stretching an awning acrsoo the big hatch at the correct angle – should work – had better work!

Hi Teena – look forward to the Rowers one day soon.

John C – thanks for Fitzgerald – I’ve actually seen a comparison of his 12 translations and its easy to wonder how he could start with the same text and come up with so many versions in English. Wonderful wordsmith though.

Doug & Estelle – thanks for Crozier stuff – I’d forgotten he was with Franklin – there’s an interesting book about the discovery of a couple of early graves from that expedition, with the corpses deep frozen and amazingly preserved, complete with autopsy incisions. They seem to have died of lead poisoning from the food cans which were sealed with lead.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 01, 2005 - 1020hrs UTC

1020hrs 01 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 194

Honoured Gusts, Readers and Occasional Browsers, Greetings. Those among you who have had difficulty with jokes about Golgafrinchan Telephone Sanitisers and Marvin and the like – go and see the new Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie and all will be made clear. Can’t wait to see it myself.

North of Cabo de San Roque at last. Straight line half way to Falmouth will be just after we pass Isla Fernando de Noronha sometime tomorrow if the wind holds and we should cross the equator on May 3. Another half way.

I have never spent a series of consecutive nights at sea on watch and on cloudless nights, so had not experienced the Earth’s rotation as a physical sensation. Interesting – one is suddenly a very small part of the universe in a much more intimate and personal sense. It is especially apparent here almost on the equator. THe Great Bear and the Southern Cross are each offset from the axis of rotation by about the same amount – about 20 degrees at a guess – and is is easy to see that the earth rotates between them. The Pole star in the north is on or very close to the axis and it will be interesting to watch it once it rises above the northern horizon. Probably won’t be able to see it for a few days after we cross the equator because of the atmospheric haze. I’ve been trying to find a similar point in the south but it looks pretty empty down there.

It’s getting to be an equatorial Piccadilly Circus out here – after I reported the first aircraft last night, I saw about ten more, at least, during the 0300 – 0600 watch, mostly going south. A steady stream of them – the Redeye’s into Rio and Buenos Aires and Montevideo and Punta Arenas perhaps. All just to the west of us, so we must be under the main air corridor from Europe.

We had a vsitor – presumably all the way from Africa, given the wind direction and strength. A dark grey bird, about as big as a small pigeon but slimmer, longish tail, thin, sharp pointed black beak sloping down at the sharp end with pearly grey markings around the face. Couldn’t see any other markings on folded wings or body. Sat on the dodger in the moonlight with surging water all around, not phased by flashlight, got dislodged and came back and sat on Pete’s head and then flew away. With us for about 6 hours. Left some depository messages.

Still have wind. Hard to believe that we’ve now been going for three days at least. Equator, 247 miles away, at this rate very late tomorrow, more likely some time on Tuesday.

Tomorrow is my brother David’s birthday – one off a biggie – have a drink with him and wish him all the happys.

Ron C – I like the ring! Mal tells me you’ve spruced up my dot points – thanks. Can’t remember whether I sent you my flying log book – there is at least one photo that includes your Caloundra Vixen in Mk 1 config. plus the actual entries for my flights in it.

Malcom, good idea – we’ll modify one of the plastic vents. Thanks. (Mal, could you please post Malcom’s suggestion –  might help others)

Malcom Castle’s suggestion on Cooling Cabins:

I assume your jury rigged ventilator provides an inlet and inflow of air to provide circulation in the cabin.

If you have suitable materials you might also construct a chimney, that doesn’t compromise the integrity of the cabin or hatch.  As hot air rises in the cabin it will rise into and through the chimney and hence out of the cabin.  Hence assisting the inflow from your ventilator.  If the parts of the chimney outside the cabin absorb heat from the sun (eg are black or metallic, the black could be from black paint, black tape or plastic) to heat up the chimney and hence the air within the chimney this that will augment the upwards convective flow velocity of the outgoing air.  Flow through cabin would also be improved.

This task is reminiscent of Apollo 13 and the jury rigging from scraps and bits of pieces that the astronauts had to do to clean up their air.

BarryD thanks for report.

Have new arrangement with Mal re posting mailcalls etc – he bleeps the satphone – saves me hours of trolling the stations. Must send this before he goes to bed.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 01, 2005 - 2345hrs UTC

2345hrs 01 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 195

Well, we had a good run but the wind has now dropped and is still dropping so we won’t make the equator tomorrow, and maybe not Tuesday either.

 A big ship appeared astern this morning – called them, no answer, but heard him talking to someone else as if he was meeting or picking them up – he turned away to the south.   Another big one a couple of hours later answered us and told us he could not see us on his radar from about 4 miles.  Bit of a worry, especially for the English Channel, but good to know.

We’ve had a busy day – finding stored food, gin, tonic, Smoothies,- John M-B, thanks for introducing us to them – nice drop. We keep a couple of cans in the outside fridge which just cools them enough to make them palatable and quenchy. Every hatch open, ventilation system forcing the 4 knots of breeze through the boat – Pete now trying to sleep.


A couple of nice emails from Leroy, who says his rehab is going well and he’s enjoying being back. Our plan to recognise his contribution to this enterprise is still germinating – a bit like Isabella’s parsley, which seems to grow at glacial speed.

Thinking about something I said recently – about the balance between elation and listless abandonment of care – firstly, I meant care as ‘concern’ – the ‘she’ll be right’ syndrome, we don’t have to do anything about that and anyway it’s too hard. Also, we’ve had it really easy for a couple of weeks now – no sail changes, no party gear, all heat, booze, sweaty tropical sultries and lassitude. And getting desperately unfit, can’t even lift a full bucket of water and would find it very hard to climb the mast. This is almost as hard – maybe harder – mentally than the constant dread and bashings further south, although I’ve no doubt which I prefer physically.

Just been out on deck for an hour – very black night – we’re under low overcast with rain showers, almost no wind and all over the place. Nice to stand in the relatively cold rain although not enough of it to wash in. This will slow us down a bit.

Will send this and maybe do another later – must keep eyes open on deck.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 02, 2005 – 0900hrs UTC

0900hrs 02 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 196

0430 on May 2 – Happy Birthday, David. Another Turner moon for you – silver crescent rising behind silhouetted black clouds low on the horizon with glittering path on the water. Unlike Turner, though, almost no wind. His pictures always seem to be windy.

No ships, no aircraft – looking at the angles, we would be north of the main air corridoor but still potentially within the shipping lane. Saw two big meteorite trails last night coming in from the south so probably not rocket junk and travelling very fast – about half the sky in about a second. One was extremely bright and seemed to go all the way down through the atmosphere. On a cloudless night with a 360 degree horizon, you get a much clearer sense of where they originate and how far they go. Certainly spectacular.

20 miles from straight line half way Stanley to Falmouth and 170 from the equator. We should pass half way in about 6 hours – the equator – who knows?

Later – 0900 – at 0229.43 South – we’re past half way and the satphone just bleeped so I’ll send this and all y’all can start the celebrations. 149 miles to the equator, so tomorrow some time it we get lucky.

[ed: I love it when a plan comes together – their calculation of how far they’ve got to go corresponds exactly with our calculations in the Sitrep list – and, no, I didn’t fudge it! Their average speed is back up to 5 knots so we’re looking at them crossing the equator at about 1500UTC Tuesday (1am Wednesday Australian Eastern Standard Time)]

1-13. Across the Equator

May 02, 2005 – 2350hrs UTC

2350hrs 02 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 197

I’m told there will be a Naval Review of ships from 40 navies to celebrate 200 years since Trafalagar sometime in June at Spithead. Back in 1953 an an 11 year old kid at boarding school I was dragged out of school for a couple of days to go to Portsmouth with my aunt and Cousin Nick, then to Spithead and out to Illustrious, where my father was Commander (Air), for the Coronation Review of the Fleet. We saw the Queen and Himself reviewing the fleet – there were about 300 ships at Spithead in long lines stretching down the Solent – and back to Portsmouth and school with quite a story. The ingenuousness of youth. I had a scrap book with all the photos but I think it’s now long gone. Nick may still have his.  I hope the theme is Nelson rather than triumphalism over a famous victory so that the French and the Spanish can attend without embarrassment.

Taking that a step further, we will have to leave England around August 20 so we should be well past Trafalgar on Oct 21. I hope down near the Cape of Good Hope. Pity in a way but we can’t delay or we will miss our own deadline. J.M-B, we’ll be wishing we were over there in Stanley with all y’all and we’ll have a Consultative moment. Or two.

And on deadlines, I’ve been idly doing the numbers – here we are, 60 odd miles from great circle half way round the world, having sailed a somewhat greater distance. We have done it in – roughly – 112 elapsed days, less 9 days in Dunedin and 10 in the Falklands so 93 days, some of them very slow sailing days indeed. Log distance from Hobart is 11513 miles plus about 900 where the log was not working. Say 12300 miles. No allowance for current etc. That is roughly comparable to the Falmouth Sydney leg for which I have allowed 110 days with a bit of a margin. Very much back of envelope, but it’s definitely doable. Watch this space all y’all – we’ll be working on it. With a bit of a surprise at the end, if we can swing it.

We are still very much in the shipping lane here – most of them going south – and not listening on channel 16. That’s really scary and I don’t feel safe when I cant talk to the steel wall that is approaching and I know they probably have their radar on long range so they wont see us either. At worst, all that is left is a white flare and we keep a couple in the cockpit. Normally, we have lots of time to avoid, but in the rain, ain’t so squeezy.

Time to go and look. And, sure enough, a ship about 5 miles away, and not listening. Life ain’t wot it used to be – I don’t like automated safety systems if they don’t include me!

1-13. Across the Equator

May 03, 2005 - 1730hrs UTC │Equator Going North

1730hrs 03 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 198 00’07”N 029’38”W

We seem to have changed ends. Crossed the equator at 03/14 01 27 Z +- a few seconds. WOOOHOOO! Sorry, Mal, not good enough – you were a minute and 27 seconds off. Nice feeling, very hot – 40+ – water 30+, did some repairs and went for a swim.,

Repairs: Berri’s first major structural problem and we have a work around – the port inner shroud (one of the two heaviest bits of wire in the boat) has started to strand – come apart – at the lower swage (where it is compressed inside the sleeve that attaches it to the boat) – very much a pear shaped problem and we could lose the mast if there is no backup. So – I went up the mast to have a look at all the other swages – sfsg except the forestay has seen a bit of work, and then we rigged a strop and a big bottle screw and some 8mm spectra and doubled up on the shroud. Should get us to the UK but raises doubts about the rest of the rig. We’ll get there, but may be sensible to re-rig before leaving. Not funny, financially – and will be a difficult decision.

From the water, Berri’s hull is a mess. Below the waterline is fine, prop and anode ok. Topsides covered in green and brown slime and aquatic ferals and barnacles. Very ugly. The beautifully painted name on the bow has mostly gone on the port side and the S2H numbers are a bit frayed close to the waterline, but still easily readable as 71. None of which is remotely surprising, considering where we’ve been.

John C – we have just broached your guinness with serious purpose. As one should. Thanks. Shame you can’t be here to share it but you’d melt. And I’m glad it’s me that’s the pious one!.

Fenwick – all bloody excuses – if you need a bike, give Hilary a ring and go and select one of the various recycled (!) hybrids in our garage. Just ride it away buddy and no need to bring it back.

Omnitech – Russell – we seem to be just up the road and thanks for your message. Tell us more about what you are doing.

Sal – hi and glad +XVI is going well. Hi Emma. Why chilli? Ring of fire, perhaps?

David M, – you are right about GMDSS but it is really big ship stuff – all the safety backup that we used to rely on now costs rather a lot and is not really practical for small boats – for instance, we would have to keep a radio switched on all the time and that requires constant power. Ok for short cruises but hard out here unless the sun is shining. And generally, it’s so noisy in the boat that you can’t hear it anyway.

Julita – get back to work! I’ve got 12 toothbrushes!. And your glue kit.

More numbers: The GPS says we sailed 4193 miles to the equator from Stanley. Actual distance is 3454 approx, so we sailed 639 miles sideways. Here’s hoping the North Atlantic is a bit kinder.

1-13. Across the Equator

04 May 2005 - 1015hrs UTC

1015hrs 04 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 199

‘Tis a black old night out there. No moon, low clouds, occasional gaps with starry glitter. Ships. Out there somewhere, so I have to write this in short bursts. About 15 miles away -I hope – to the north east are St Peter and St. Paul rocks – a couple of slabs of rock more or less in the middle of nowhere. They are the traditional rounding point for circumnavigators who start and finish in the southern hemisphere. We will leave them to starboard going north, as long as I have put them in the right place on the studio floor, and to port on the way back. They are not on my digital chart as solid land at all – only as a couple of circular 1000m depth contours. Always a warning though, when the ocean gets that shallow.

[ed: Note from Allan F included on Alex’s suggestion: “St Peter and Paul rocks, are white and covered in bird shit, and birds no water or vegetation at all, lots of fish and squid, we went in so close to have a look with no wind, and did some fishing but a few hours latter 40knts and rain setting us to the east an amazing sight when you first see them.”]

Nice to be counting down again. about 3200 to go. Ship time…Clear horizon and cloud clearing to the north. Cool – the Big Dipper, aka the Great Bear is up by the lower spreader now – still no pole star and may not see it until the Tropic of ?Cancer.

NASA are writing a story about our contact with Leroy and ISS 10. Ain’t that something else again. Don’t anybody tell them about the studio.

Malcolm is sending us all the Gust entries – makes it so much more personal for us, so thanks for signing the book and if you haven’t, please do!

About 4 hours later – we’ve just  had a short sharp lesson in complacency. We’ve had an easy few days – even a week or so – no sail changes, warm, dry, no dramas and none on the horizon. We had a relaxed day yesterday, put up the assym kite for a bit, had another consultation, dinner and into the night. I started this update in the 9-midnight watch and handed over just as a line of cloud was beginning to shut out the stars in the west. Usually, these just have a few rain showers with gusts to about 25 kt – easy to deal with with full main and # 1 just by running down with them (turning away from the wind a bit to reduce the pressure on the sails) So Pete on watch, me deep asleep, St P & St P rocks 15 miles to starboard and upwind. The wind rises to 30+ and stays up. Pete ran the boat way downwind, but too much to handle, and I’d already been woken by the change in feel and noise so was expecting Pete to need help. We had a speedy drop of the headsail and two reefs in the main – easy, but we’d left all the kite gear in the cockpit plus lots of other clutter and the solar panel at the back instead of properly stowed and the main topping lift was stowed on the mast instead of attached to the end of the boom so it became much more of a hassle than necessary. And if we’d been to windward of the rocks, potentially very dangerous.

There was an interesting glow from their position too, underneath the very black silhouetted clouds – I’m sure there isn’t a light on them, so perhaps a squid boat or some other fishing vessel. No ships either, which might have been a lucky strike too. Lots of serious lightning around too. We’re in the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) where N. Hemisphere winds meet S hemi. winds and nothing much is locally predictable except by looking out. Now daylight, awaiting Mal’s satphone bleep signalling your emails on the way – big cumulo nimbus all around, but our bit of ocean seems reasonably clear for the mo. The go from here is to get north, north, more north at every opportunity. We are steering right up the longitudes but this will change as we get into the NE trades and have to turn west a bit to cope with them.

Have just put Falmouth into the main GPS – 3144 to go. Good feeling.

[ed: Either they’ve found a short cut to Falmouth or I’ve picked the wrong point as their final destination – I make it 3183 miles. Will check and update the Sitrep list as appropriate]

1-13. Across the Equator

May 04, 2005 – 2100hrs UTC

2100hrs 04 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 200

The Examiner has arrived back in the bus shelter. Her latest ploy is getting us to dodge tropical rainstorms. I was looking at an angry rain cloud earlier today – small, dark grey, thick, with spiky bits and visible rain falling from it and thinking that’s coming our way. 10 minutes later it was twice as big and really thick and ugly and in half an our the whole horizon was a mass of developing Cu-nim with angry rainsqualls, thick walls of rain ten miles across and moving our way. We tacked to miss the worst and really spent the afternoon dodging up the eastern edge of the nasties. Incredible haw fast it all develops. Very trying – and so hot! No shade – Berri is not fitted for the tropics and doesn’t have a sexy bimini cover and a sundeck so we swelter under whatever we can drape over ourselves. One ship – going south – seems we may be clearing the shipping lane at last.

The big rain clouds here seem to rotate clockwise still. ITCZ conditions and nothing’s predictable.

We are only able to head NW or NE for the time being – the indications from the grib file are that a dig NE out into the Atlantic towards the Cape Verdes would be a good tactic for the next few days. The NE trades are almost North – hardly any east in them so might be very difficult to go north from here.

Later – we are back on north – goody. There seems to be about a knot of current setting us west, as expected. Lovely calm evening, Venus high in the east, Sirius in the south west, Canopus and Pollux out there too. Glow from the setting sun still in the sky. I’m a bit weary – haven’t had a lot of sleep in the last 48 hours and it’s beginning to show. Get the irrits occasionally – not good. Still too hot to sleep during the day even with makeshift ventilation system and we’ve had a couple of busy nights.

Kris, sorry you missed Conor and thanks for thoughts on potential for a book. I agree with you – no one would buy it. I don’t see a report on the medicinal properties of Murphy’s – where’s your sense of scientific experiment?

Brian and Jen in Dunedin – woohoo – still out there! Look for an older version of a Cav 27 – Kay Cottee’s boat. You probably need something a bit bigger than a Brolga and anyway who’d sell you one these days? Tell me how Toastmasters goes – I’m interested in how you use the stuff.

Roger, thanks very much for contacting Don. I hope we can keep the mast up for another month. Leads to the obvious question, which I’m going to pursue in the UK – why don’t we use spectra instead of s/s for all except the fore- and backstays? Perhaps Don would advise. Easy to replace, light, doesn’t need swaging, and just as strong.   Even the forestay, if no hanked sails and an aerial could be incorporated in a spactra backstay.

Fenwick, thanks for the offer of your wages to help us get home. You’re on, buddy, so get to work!

1-13. Across the Equator

May 05, 2005 – 0600hrs UTC

0600hrs 05 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 201

Is there no end to this guy spouting on about the night sky? do I hear all y’all moaning into your cornies/ Well, here’s a bit more – on these clear moonless nights the Bowl of Night is so intensely beautiful that it can’t be ignored. Sometimes when dolphins play around the boat at night, they spear through the water in brilliant trails of phosphorescence which linger for a few seconds as softly glowing faintly spiralling vortices. Lovely. And when the Dolphins arrived one Sunday afternoon to take over the world from the Mice, they came spearing in through the atmosphere leaving trails of glowing stellar phosphorescence which still linger as the Milky Way. Also lovely – it has two distinct branches directly above us, closely packed with stars and dust and gas and looking just like a dolphin’s trail.

And meteorites – there have been several big ones during the last week or so, coming from the south and leaving long trails across the sky. Tonight, though, I have been watching a series of very bright apparently smaller ones coming in from the south east high in the sky. One in particular was very bright – almost like a whits parachute rocket flare way up there. Is it the time for Oort showers and all that?

[ed: This is a message received from Barry D that Alex thought would be of interest to all:

Through the hole in the studio roof you have been watching the meteor shower known as Eta Aquarids, which is visible from April 21 – May 12. The peak was May 5.

We missed that show. What channel was it on?

I just looked up the program and the next strong meteor shower is not until we all pass through the South Delta Aquarids, July 12 – Aug 19. Peak July 28.]

Clear nights – haze around the horizon, so still Polaris not visible, Big Dipper now appreciably higher than the Cross. Slight hardening of the haze to the north east – becomes black and lumpy with arms – closer, bigger, better defined and with a hard black line beneath and a hint of grey rain. Blacker still, the arms hard and low and clearly defined against the glowing Bowl and just a bit ominous. Then seriously ominous with attitude – close the hatches, party jacket on, put cushion below and take the tiller away from Kevvo. The wind softens to 10 kts, the black line is intense, hard and darkly threatening almost overhead and then whammo! the wind backs in an instant through about 50 degrees and rises to 30 knots and it’s on – drop the traveller to feather the main, steer down wherever the wind wants to go to keep it at 60 degrees off the bow and WOOHOO what a ride. More phosphorescence, spray, black black black above but the far edge visible and stars appearing again. And the wind slowly veers again and back to 18 kts. The black cloud is away to the west and the stars are twinkling and back to kevvo. They arms are generally about a mile wide but if we go through the middle of the depression, it gets very wet and takes a bit longer.

Been thinking about how we can second guess the potential for rig failure – I’m looking at the possibility of going up the mast and attaching 8mm spectra at the cap tangs and at the intermediates and taking it round the spreaders and down to a block so that if another swage goes, we have backup already in place. Already have the main topping lift set up as backup backstay and we have an outer forestay that should buy us time if either main wire goes. Anyone care to comment?

Just been up to do a shipcheck – there’s a little Leunig quarter moon just arisen above the horizon. We are waiting for a potentially highly visible ISS pass at 0700Z – we don’t get clear skies too often when they are around and we’ve only managed one good sighting. They can’t see us when we can see them, because they are in full sunlight – so we get the reflection down here.

Debra – how could I forget? Glad you’re along for the ride. Are you still being a paramedic? When do B & J get back? And all boats do sail a bit sideways – it’s called leeway and it is the result of the sideways pressure of the wind on the sails and hull. Really efficient hulls make less leeway – Berri is pretty good. But I agree – 639 miles takes immense skill and concentration and you should certainly celebrate the achievement with medicinal potions. As often as you like.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 05, 2005 - 1100hrs UTC

1100hrs 05 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 202

Spectacular ISS pass this morning. Came up right on time and passed almost directly overhead from NW to SE. Very bright when overhead – it’s a huge conglomeration of modules and solar panels so there’s probably a couple of football fields of reflective area up there. We made one up from empty beer cans in the studio and shine our torches on it for inspiration. When in doubt, we just add another can. Pete has written to all y’all and I’m a bit soggy and short on inspiration, so just a little one this time.

Continued thanks to all the Gusts who have signed on. Interesting that you are all, with only a couple of exceptions, people we know. And what an interesting mob too. Judging from the hit count, there are probably about a hundred regulars out there and some occasionals. You will all get an invitation to the coming home party.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 06, 2005 - 0445hrs UTC

0445hrs 06 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 203

This will be a bit of a Q&A session. Writing it at night with Pete on watch. Not as easy to write long emails on  this side of the Wall because of the shipping. On the other side, I could sit happily at the laptop for a full three hours if I wanted, knowing that there would be no ships. Here, with the possible closing speeds of modern ships, we have between 12 and 15 minutes to sight, take bearings to establish whether risk of collision, try and call and alter course to get out of the way on the assumption that we have not been seen. Easy to get too involved at the keyboard and be here for 20 minutes – essential to be disciplined, so I tend not to write in my watch any more.

AlexL, we are in international waters so international maritime law applies, particularly the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (Col.Regs). I’m not a lawyer, but as designated master of the vessel, I have duties and responsibilities plus significant authority. I must read it all one day. I think we can distil our own alcohol, but I’m sure there are National laws just about everywhere we might visit that would prevent us from landing the stuff.

I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember who asked me this one [ed: Graham H] – I forgot to answer it and it is now buried in the logs somewhere. The question was which actor would I like to play myself in the movie of this venture. If there has to be a movie, I’d rather have nothing to do with it, but as for the actor, whoever it is that plays Marvin in the new HGTTG movie will do. My kind of guy, Marvin.

Ian W asked us to talk about all the stuff we take for granted like our watch system. Most of that stuff is actually there in the logs if you care to trawl through them – perhaps I should go through them myself when I have access again and make lists of things that worked, and didn’t, things we learned, what we should have taken/left behind – all that stuff, and post them for anyone who follows. As for watches, we do three hours on and three off with no dogs so we do the same four watches each day. – saves confusion and it’s amazing how the body adapts and wakes itself at five minutes to the appointed hour. Most day watches out here are pretty desperate because of the heat – can’t sleep, can’t really do anything much.

It was so hot this afternoon when I gave up soggy and sent you a shortie, that my glasses were slipping off my face as I leaned forward over the keyboard. Happy memories of the old Grey Funnel line and what it was like before air conditioning – and still is like for most of the world’s population. No wonder there were mutinies in the days of sail. Go for the biggest Dorades you can fit if you are serious, but make sure they work – they absolutely must keep the water out under any conditions and angle of heel and they must be completely sealable for the pear shaped days – talk to someone who has them? And you really need shade over the cockpit, but it must scoop the breeze as well (ours doesn’t, but we’ve modified it). Ideally, the shade equipment must be easily removable for those times when there’s a bit of action, and you have to be able to get around it to get in and out of the cockpit. These things are boat-specific but you do need to work it out.

And something else that has worked well is dried fruit. We have lots of it – sultanas, dates, prunes, cranberries, apricots, apples, figs, strawberries – and I chop up a mixture of all of them every three days or so and soak it in water. Takes a day and there’s a very tasty addition to the rolled oats or muesli (leave it for three days, Alex, and it starts to ferment…). We’d prefer to stick to the rolled oats too – just as good to eat as muesli mix and you can add nuts and other goodies if needed. And for an interesting variation on the standard Consultation – perhaps this one is with the Specialist – you can soak your dried fruit in rum. Or anything, really.

John Witchard – the engine is still going – terriffic little donk and everyone should have one. Have bunged up the fuel primer pump (grot in aged jerry cans, I think) and don’t want to disassemble out here, but it still starts. Those little valves in the pump are difficult to extract in a bumpy sea – perhaps we could design a little extractor for the toolkit.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 07, 2005 – 0430hrs UTC

0430hrs 07 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 204

This one will be a bit themeless – inspiration is tatty when bashing into a short steep sea – one second my nose is smudging the laptop  screen the next my back and shoulders are banging into some very hard bits of Berri and her equipment stowed behind me. ‘orrible. We’re buack in the bus shelter, but going almost in the right direction tracking around 340T when we need North. We have a reef and the #2 to try to nurse the rig as much as possible – an added tension that personally I could do without.  I hope, though that we just might be out of the ITCZ and into the trades – with our luck and the Examiner hovering, I’m not too confident but it is looking promising. It is much cooler, indicating that the wind is coming from the north, which is a good sign as well.

And, on the subject of bus shelters, I notice that Fenwick has not signed the gust book – probably a bit of an effort for him and he’d have to chew his pencil very hard – therefore, just so that all y’all don’t think that we use the old dero that lives in the studio bus shelter as the model for some fictional Fenwick twerp I think it’s time for some acknowledgement. Allan Fenwick is a real person, a fine upstanding figure of a bloke of some 60+ summers. He is one of the very very few sailors around who can claim to have rounded Cape Horn the hard way, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, against the prevailing wind and current, in the years before GPS, effective communications and high technology boats. That dates him a bit doesn’t it? Our effort looks a bit wimpish by comparison. And he used to be able to sail quite well before he started drinking. Get off the piss, Fenwick, and get back to work. We’re going to need your wages to keep this show on the road once we get to the UK.

The UK. We’re trying now to work out how to manage our resources and time – we know when, more or less, we should arrive if the rig stays up and we have a fix list and a purchase lst and we hope soon to have a Fastnet to-do list from the Royal Ocean Racing Club (RORC). We have been told that just parking the boat will cost us 20 pounds a day so we will need to find a way around that one and somewhere to stow all the extra gear that we won’t need for the race. To get our safety certificate renewed, we need a new liferaft which is being organised for us and we will have to slip Berri and do a few other major jobs like hucking out all the green and slimy ferals that are now living in every damp corner, not just my boots. We will have to leave again as soon as possible after the Fastnet as well, so everything will need to be ready beforehand to pack into the boat again after the finish.

Clouds – there’s clouds and Clouds. clouds are those fluffy white thingies that float around in the sky and inspire poets and make rain. But Clouds are different – they inspire awe, fear, joy, and a sense of doom. We have just gone from clouds to Clouds this evening – happens sometimes as night falls, the pretty fluffy thingies stop reflecting nice pink sunlight and become black silhouetted threatening monsters out to get us. The effect is enhanced by moonlight, as Turner’s paintings show so brilliantly. Looking at cClouds can tell sailors just about everything they need to know about the weather – just ahead out to perhaps a week in some places where there are predictable local cycles. The really nasty ones are cmulo-nimbus, or thunder clouds. These also come in grades with the really desperately nasty ones usually occurring along tropical coastlines. They are huge, greenish ferocious maelstroms of power, energy and destruction. Good to avoid these guys. I might extend this a bit as we go along but I need a break from the bus shelter effect and I must do a ship check.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 06, 2005 - 0800hrs UTC

0800hrs 07 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 205

Yesterday one ship, today none, we may be back in the exclusion zone.

Wind has been steady at 15-20 kts from NE. We have been hard on the wind all day, sheets slightly eased to help Berri get through a rather short lumpy sea, making a little west of north at 4-5 knots. No strong squalls today,s good sun and speed so used the desalinator to make water with the excess electricity and did some washing.

Yesterday I started to reply to some of your emails but got only as far as Allan F. Somebody (I think it was Isabella} asked if Fenwick was real. Of course he’s real, he is also one of nature’s gentlemen. I gave him a bit of a rev up, in his last emails he has sounded a bit down as some bastard had stolen his bike.

Woc.   Had meeting of the Swim in the boll Club on the equator at about 30 west. Only two events 50 m. and 100 m. sprints. Not a large entry list either, one per event. It was a little lonely up on the podium for the trophy presentation but when the flag was raised and the anthem played I behaved like a true podium professional. A small amount of salt to the back of the hand does the trick wait for the camera to come in on close up then a quiver to the bottom jaw and the hand is wiped across the eye the eyelid flutters and on cue the tear. I even used the rugby players ploy, singing the first verse of Waltzing Matilda, four lines out of sync with the anthem. The trophy of course was two cans of the Dublin Doctor with the tops pulled.

 To get Cam up to speed for his big event in Germany buy a copy of our book   “The Podium ….How to get the best result once you get there”, I think its still available at most good bookstores.

Heggie  Hope all is well with Brenda, I have a fair amount of info on the wildlife we have seen, yesterday saw a mass of translucent blobs in the water they were everywhere by the time I got a bucket to obtain a sample they were gone. Cooked up a flying fish for breakfast a few days ago they are like tailor oily but quite dry.

Barry D  The computer lives on the chart table. It has stops to keep it in place and when not in use is held down with a strap. Thanks for the good info on the meteors.

Eve   My daughter is working on an oil rig (jack up type) off the coast of WA near Barrow Island. She is about halfway through a 28 day shift doing the midnight to midday watch. Don’t worry things start to move quickly once you get past half way.

Gerry W  Your talk of times in the Med reminded me I wonder whatever happened to Lutine. How’s life in Clunes.

Michael and Julie good to have you on board.

Dave off Sylvara hope to meet up with you in England a check of the web should find  us.

Kees thanks for thinking of J H and K  would love to be with you for the dinner dried food gets to you after a while.

James and Elaine keep an eye on Barry if you are at Jamberoo this weekend I’m sure he could handle a full workload now. Annie and Karl I can smell the curries from here.

Isabella  Alex has been complaining about how fat and unfit he is at the moment could you  devise some landscape labouring to bring him back to peak for the return journey. I hear that he has had some experience in this field.

The sun just came up. No ships again last night….Whooooo…Hoooooo…..

I’ve used up my space so I’ll get out of your way now      cheers   Pete.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 07, 2005 - 2115hrs UTC

2115hrs 07 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 206

Somewhere in Australian literature there’s a book or story called “Call me when the Cross turns over”. This would be obscure today to most Australians, I expect, because to appreciate just how the Cross does turn over, you need a horizon and a clear view of most of the sky. It’s very obvious from here – the Cross is low on our southern horizon and it climbs up out of the south east trailing its pointers, loops through the horizontal at about 15 degrees over the south pole and dives down into the south western horizon wrong side up, so to speak. It turns over round about midnight here at this time of year. Where I live in Sydney, you can only see it for a short period each night because of surrounding buildings and trees and there’s no sense of movement at all.

Another one for the astronomers and physicists, who didn’t answer my last, about the dark patch next to the Cross. If the Milky Way is our view of part of our own galaxy, are the first and second magnitude stars (and therefore the constellations) we use to navigate also part of our galaxy? They certainly seem to be from here. And is our galaxy 100 million light years across or have I got the wrong end of the scale somewhere? And if the dark patch near the Cross is a hole in the Milky Way, how come? It seems almost without visible ‘content’. What sort of force would cause that to happen? Um – if Stephen Hawking has already written all there is to say about all that, sorry I asked, but from here, they seem to be obvious questions.

Clouds – as weather forecasters – useful on their own but much more so if you understand how weather systems develop and what they bring with them. Cold and warm fronts, highs and lows, monsoons, tropical revolving storms – all have their particular characteristics and their signature cloud patterns and sequences. And each system has its own local effects, so around Sydney you get southerly busters, seemingly out of nowhere but predictable if you have been following the trends in cloud patterns and wind direction and you know the local conditions. There are several PhD’s to be written around all of this and there’s no way I could pretend to know it all or get it all into one of these updates. I faffed on about lows and TRS’s on the other side of the Horn, so that’s in the logs somewhere. What we are waiting for here is the series of fronts that signal the end of the trades and the beginning of the next convergence zone and which we hope will lift us around to the north east and Falmouth from somewhere close to the Azores. I think they will be cold fronts – I’m not sure, but working from first principles, as long as I have those right, indicates they will be. Hot air rises above the equator, (so low pressure) moves north or south, is cooled in the upper atmosphere and sinks again in the mid latitudes (high pressure). So what we will have is essentially a wedge of colder air from the clockwise rotating high to the north forcing itself under the warmer moister air we are in here and pushing the warm moist air upwards. What we will see will be the fluffy little cumulus clouds we’re under now becoming a line of developing cumulo-nimbus clouds along the front, as the warm moist air rises, cools and the water condenses out of it. The earth’s rotation causes vortices between the two converging air masses along the convergence zone which make the big clouds spin and there’s the beginning of the beast. All of which could be complete nonsense – but I’m sure to be corrected if it is and we will post the correction.

Things that have worked really well # 47: Mung beans, apart from an early disaster in the very much colder southern ocean where some of them didn’t germinate and made a mess of my smile. I soak a handful every day and the little darlings germinate, root, swell and give us crunchy fresh protein for our evening meal. Cress works just as well but really needs bread and margarine etc. to be fully appreciated, so I’m not growing it here.

And we are now into the Linear Method of Consultation (LMC) as opposed to the Parallel Method (PMC). Where once we were able to Consult regularly and often, we now must absteem so we entertain the Doctor in the morning, again in the afternoon, both times sharing a can of Consulting Oil and then again in the evening, but this time as an Either/Or event. Either we talk to the good Dr. Gordon and apply his Tonic to the system, or we commune with the excellent Chilean Anaesthetist, Dr. Plonk. Once, we might have held Joint Consultations, but no longer. Pain is said to be character building.

I think we can now see the Pole Star, Polaris. WOOHOO!

1-13. Across the Equator

May 08, 2005 - 1030hrs UTC

1030hrs 08 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 207

We are almost exactly half way between Africa and South America, about 1200 miles NE of the mouth of the Amazon. Too far for any noticeable change in the colour of the water. Going just west of North which is as good as we could hope for in the NE Trades. Low overcast with rain showers – unexpected and indicates a warm front somewhere close, probably coming up from the south.

Apologies for the tedium of these updates – the old bus shelter is still rattling around the studio floor and we’re still throwing more cans at the mock up ISS but that’s not news any more and I’m reluctant to make jokes about nothing much happening – even this old grizzlehead has some tendrils of superstition somewhere between its ears. So we sit and luxuriate in the fact that we are going north and it’s cool(ish) and we haven’t yet lost the capacity to Consult albeit by LMC.

One of the most difficult things to contend with – I’ve found anyway – is that to get even the smallest non-routine fix or job done, it is usually necessary to unpack half the boat to get at the part or tool that is needed. We lost the pin from the autopilot some weeks ago somewhere in the saloon and I improvised with a shackle pin but today I decided it was time to find the proper pin and stop the thing from jumping around in its slot. This meant untying our plastic drawers full of dried food which sit on the jerry cans, moving them to a bunk (quite heavy – about 20 kilos) unlashing 4 of our 6 jerrycans from their stowage between the bunks, unlashing and moving a 20 litre water container from the base of the mast, removing all the padding, shifting all the bits and pieces that had jammed themselves in the available spaces – spare nav lights, coils of string, bubble wrap, deck shoes (pongy with ferals) – moving 15 metres of spare anchor chain out of the bilge forward of the mast, – bringing the big lantern from the cockpit and finding nothing, so removing the floorboard aft of the mast, pumping a few inches of water from the bilge and whoopee there it is, right at the deepest part of the boat. So, having found it, all that stuff had to be repacked, lashed in again and tidied up. Then I had to find the tools to actually replace the pin in the autopilot arm. Perhaps an hour’s work for a five minute fix. So the tendency is to put off non-essential fixes.

A bit more purple stuff about night sailing: last night, very dark, no moon, as I was sitting in the cockpit contemplating the sound of one hand clapping, I noticed from the corner of my eye strange lights astern. At first, I thought they were just reflections from the very bright stern light at the masthead, but they were greenish and all over the place. I went and stood right at the stern and wow! quite uncanny – little explosions of phosphorescence, as bright as a strobe light under water, about half a metre wide, going off in our wake and all around the boat, far enough away from it not to have been caused by its passage and even 20 -30 metres ahead. Never seen anything like it before, perhaps caused by fish – not dolphins, which leave long trails – and quite wonderful. It lasted for about an hour.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 09, 2005 - 0445hrs UTC

Sitrep: 0445hrs 09 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 208

The Examiner has jumped back into the bus shelter. We’re down to the #5 and 3 reefs in 30+ knots and a rising sea, still nursing the rig. Probably not necessary but I’d hate it to fall down this close to home. Or, put another way, if it’s going to fall down, the closer to home the better. A bit violent, rolling and pitching, tough on the bum and other pointy bits and I think we’ve got about 600 miles of it to get through. Definitely not in the brochure for the trip. Back to Patience, Persistence Perseverance and Titan Uranus.

Another milestone today – I was able to pull in a weather fax from Northwood in the UK, showing western europe and the north east Atlantic, but not down as far as here. Really getting close.

We’ve been reminded – by Fenwick, of course – of that other well known Australian Consultant, the good Pastor Flagon, who surely has a place in medical history for soothing the nerves of desperate yachties when all recognized forms of alcohol have been depleted, His Yachtmasters book titled DT’s and the Desperate has often played it’s part in the marine emergency with no landfall in sight.

Sadly, we are unable to undergo his Ministration as we forgot to invite him but maybe he’s waiting for us in Falmouth.

More phosphorescent strobes in the wake again this evening. It’s as if all the dinos in a cubic foot of water go off at once making an intense green flash. Must be caused by some kind of fish – cant think of any other explanation. Perhaps flying fish taking off and landing.

Tori – I think you’re right about Slarty – fun looking for his signature on Cape Horn. See if you can spot it in the photos. And we know all about Gordon and the Boat Incident. Silly person.

From Malcom C and Phil Y

Here is the good oil on the black patch near the Southern Cross. It is actually called the Coal Sack and is well known. It is a region where foreground dust obscures the stars behind it. It is dark matter but not dark matter in the sense that astronomers talk about dark matter.

Dark Matter, as astronomers know it, is non-luminous material between the stars in a galaxy that outweighs all stars in a galaxy by a factor of 10 times.

There are other patches of dust throughout the Milky Way but their total mass is small, small even compared to the total mass of the stars alone. There are other famous patches of dust. The most famous is the one in Orion that causes the so-called Horsehead Nebula. You should be able to see that soon.

Another intrepid navigator, Ferdinand Magellan, in an idle moment on the quarter deck, discovered the Magellanic Clouds a few hundred years ago.

I guess Peter Crozier (cross bearer) is already partly immortalised in the name of the Southern Cross. Alex, keep looking at the skies you may yet see an unnamed comet, asteroid, or super nova that someone might name after you. If its an asteroid and it begins to fill your field of vision, duck.

Many thanks to Phil Y for the facts.

Malcom – thanks for directing the big guns at my very unscientific questions – can you see the dark patch from Sydney or is there too much ambient light? If Phil replies, could you ask him if it’s ok to post his answer? Malcolm takes all the addresses and other guff off our webmail so I don’t have his address. And a Kiwi in the Smithsonian – bastards are everywhere these days.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 10, 2005 – 0410hrs UTC

0410hrs 10 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 209

Its about local noon now, plenty of sun not much boat speed but the charging devices are ahead of the discharging devices so I’m making water with the excess electrons and preparing a curry for this evening’s repast. The curry is significant in that it has some potatoes which are the last of the fresh food from the Falklands. A good effort considering we’re now 46 days out and a lot of that time was in the tropics.

Yesterday afternoon we changed down sails as the wind and sea state progressively increased. We went from #3 and full main to #3 and one reef then #4 and two reefs and finally for the night #5 and three reefs. By this stage sea was large and lumpy and tops for the wind was 30-35 kts. Through the night sailed 50-60 degs. off the breeze, feathering the main as the wind got to 30+. Generally it stayed in the 20-25 range and we were getting about 4+ kts and 340 deg T which was good considering the conditions and our need to be gentle on the rig.

At the end of my watch just after dawn this morning had a largish nip of Glenfiddich (I’m not sure how to spell it but I know I like it, many thanks Tim) to celebrate passing 10 deg North. It was very beneficial to consult with the Scots specialist and it was further decided that we must do the same again to celebrate the passing of each decade North.

Looks like this wind wont go away its dropped to 20-25 earlier and we change up to #4 and two reefs but as the afternoon progresses its now in the 25-30 range again ….ahhh…well. Have just put the third reef in the main.

Its about midnight now and it seems tonight will be the same as last night. I’ve just been hand steering for the last 90 mins as wind has varied a lot in strength and direction. Direction seems to have settled now so I’m down for a cup of tea. Have had a lot of water over the deck and waves hitting the hull then picked up by the wind occasionally hit you, I suppose you can’t duck every one and it only takes one hit to soak you. My shorts were soaked and I’ve just changed into my lounge pair but not looking forward to getting back into the damp model to go back on deck again. The bum has been rasping away on the hard cockpit seat using the wet shorts as an abrasive device have to watch that as I’ve just about recovered from the last bout of gunwale bum.

Alex has just taken over for the next 3 hrs. The wind has moderated and veered about 10-20 degs. in our favour. I’ll sign off now so I can catch the early post. It’s good to have you with us.

Cheers for now Pete.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 10, 2005 – 0530hrs UTC

0530hrs 10 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 210

As Pete says, its gunwale bum conditions again – the hard bits of the bus shelter grinding away at the body’s outer works from the outside and the bony bits of the body squishing away at them from the inside. And there does not seem to be any end to the process in sight. The Examiner, (whose name is Promethea Gallumbits of that Ilk, Eccentrica’s sister from Eroticon and who gets off on maximising the contrast between happiness and depression. She arrived here 5 months ago as a result of an infinitely improbable event close to the Iron Pot) has set us a doozy for the final run home. We are 2700 odd miles directly downwind from Falmouth, as hard on the wind as we can manage, now 30 – 35 knots, which has been building a short, steep sea for the last three days and unless we get a big lift, there’s no way out. We are pointing roughly at Bermuda about 2000 miles ahead and that’s about where we would have to tack to make Falmouth if nothing changes. So it’s going to be a bit of a slog, perhaps 4000 miles instead of 2700. At about 4 knots. Tedious. We do expect a change as we get closer to the Azores but it isn’t necessarily going to help much as the wind is likely to drop right out. My ETA entry is looking a bit sick – the later ones are in with a chance.

To survive the conditions and look after the rig as best we can, we have to keep Berri moving slowly enough so that she rides the waves rather that leaps between them and crashes into the oncoming wall. When this happens, the hull wants to stop and the rig wants to keep going and there’s a big impact load on the shrouds. As it is, Berri thinks she’s a submarine, sedately burying her bows, back to the hatch sometimes, and lifting a ton or two of water back down the deck so there is always a small ocean sloshing around. Occasionally, there comes a shorter one and she crashes into it and flings blue water and spray half a boatlength outwards and back on the wind. That’s when you have to be grateful for the dodger (the little canvas awning at the front of the cockpit that you can duck your head under.

Just had to hurtle out and sort out a bit of a blast from under a cloud – the autohelm is set to follow the windvane (and so the apparent wind, not the compass course) and sometimes the combined roll and rise in wind confuses it by giving it a completely false apparent wind so it goes completely ape. Kevvo has exactly the same problem in these conditions and we tend to use the electric version because it’s easier to keep adjusting. So we must put the autohelm into standby, put Berri back on course and reset the autohelm and then sit and watch it for a bit. Not made easier if I’m using the computer when it happens because the screen is so bright, even when fully dimmed, that I’m completely blind when I get out into the cockpit and it takes several minutes for my eyes to adjust to the very black night. Moon tomorrow, I think.

Polaris, the North Star, now clearly visible on our starboard bow and getting higher every night. Cool.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 10, 2005 – 2200hrs UTC

2200hrs 10 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 211

A humdrum day. We continue to ride the bus shelter as it bucks and corkscrews its way across the ocean – I’ve now got a bedsore in the small of my back from bracing against its side wall which is not a barrel of laughs – but we did get a lift and instead of pointing at Bermuda, we are now looking at Newfoundland – hooley dooley thank you Promethea! One more like that and we’re heading for the back of the Azores which on a normal trip would be just where we want to be going. It looks a bit different up there now though and I’m not so sure – Mal, where’s the Azores high centred and what’s between us and its back edge?? Seems all wrong to have a couple of lows in the way.

Our thoughts are now very much towards Falmouth and the big to-do list we have when we get there. And we are on a very strict Consultation regime with half a can of Medicinal Potion each at lunchtime (ish) and a Dr Gordon or Dr Plonk each in the evening. Doing it very tough indeed.

New moon in the sky as I write – tiny silver sliver just visible between clouds across most of the sky. Great Bear now above the lower spreader – real progress. Pole star lost in the haze.

George, thanks for berthing info – I have made provisional booking with Kerry A at the Berthon – dont worry about storage, we’ll leave it all in Falmouth.

Fenwick, Andy M has a bike for you – contact Malcolm.

And Malcom, please thank Phil Yock for dark matter and the Coal Sack. We can see Orion and the nebulae in his belt too – and almost right side up from here.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 11, 2005 – 1400hrs UTC

1400hrs 11 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 212

Once again, not lot to report. The wind is now 30 – 35 knots, very lumpy sea, hugely uncomfortable in every respect. #4 and 3 reefs with the traveller eased way down to feather the main most of the time. Not much fun but we are moving north at 5+ knots which is the sustaining factor in what is now an examination in stamina and endurance. I reckon this feels like about 18k in a really difficult marathon. Occasionally, we get a big wave side on that dumps tons of water over the boat and half fills the cockpit, but mainly just mild water over the deck in submarine mode. Humid below, but not as bad as before. Still on the starboard tack, so we hope the dud shroud is not stressed and the others are holding out. Short of stopping, there’s not much we can do.

We have about 700 miles – say six days – to go before we can, on present information, expect any real change. JJ, this is a situation where we have to get as far north as possible with as little west as possible – no question of giving anything away in the hope that there will be a favourable change – westerlies – up there. Doesn’t look as if they are there at this moment. So it’s headbang all the way. We’re abeam the southern Cape Verdes way over to the east – the jumping off spot for sailors going to the West Indies from Europe. May see other yachts further north. And somewhere out behind us is the Global Challenge fleet.

My sister says Mal has put some photos on the website. Really weird feeling to be at the sharpish end of this enterprise and yet in a way not be part of it at all. Pete and I have not seen any of the photos, nor have we read any of the press articles or seen the website except briefly while we were in Port Stanley. So we know less about ourselves than you know about us. But it’s really nice to get the daily pair of mailcalls with all your messages and to know that there seems to be something in what we are doing that has come to mean something to a lot of other people too. Chuffing and sustaining and enabling.

These updates may become a bit repetitive over the six days, so I’ll keep them short – it’s pretty hard just to sit here and grind them out – but I will try and give you a comparison between a Hobart and a Fastnet race as we go along.

Malcom, thanks for both messages  Mal, – I think we should post the one about phosphorescence. Thanks for High info. If correct, looks promising but still a long way to go.

From Malcom C on Phosphorescence and Fish:

When I was at sea a few decades ago, one of the top fishing skippers I used to work with, a Spanish Moroccan, used to command trawlers out of Walvis bay, Namibia.

When fishing for pilchards at night, which school in vast numbers off SW Africa, as the trawlers didn’t have sonar at that time they used to darken the ship so that they could see the phosphorescence given off by the plankton and small criturs as they were disturbed by the schools of swirling feeding fish and hence they knew where to shoot their nets.

It’s possible that you sailed through or over a large school of small fish that were actively feeding.  It may be that there was also a sharp temperature gradient at a water mass boundary in the ocean (think current boundaries and warm core eddies) where plankton, small fish and larger pelagic predators congregate.

1-13. Across the Equator

May 12, 2005 - 1100hrs UTC

1100hrs 12 May 2005 UTC Map Ref 213

These are getting harder to write – I used to be able to grind them out during my night watches in the southern ocean and further south off South America out of the shipping lanes, but that’s not so easy here. Because of the general crash and bash and spray flying around, being in the cockpit requires full party gear so not easy to duck up and down every ten minutes or s to dash off another few lines.

Back in the Hobart race logs, I think I wittered on a bit about the race and its sectors and relevant tactics, so I wont repeat all that here. There is a general requirement in the Racing Rules of Sailing (RRS) that all competitors sail safely and obey the rules – both RRS as between vessels racing and the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea (Colregs) as between a vessel racing and one not racing, and all vessels, whether racing or not, at night. Second only to this requirement is the bottom line – to sail the shortest possible distance over the course at maximum speed for the conditions. How any competitor sets about this is governed to some extent by the boat he or she is sailing and the competence of the crew.

In a long race like a Fastnet or S2H, other factors arise too, especially for the slower boats – stamina, adequate rest, food, warmth and so on. These things are common to all races. I think the big difference between the S2H and the Fastnet is the need to understand and work the tides and avoid all the potentially disastrous opportunities to go aground that exist along the south coast of England and, indeed, at the Fastnet Rock itself. Tidal ‘gates’ occur at every change of tide and missing one could make the difference between winning and coming last.

More on this later.

Bill and Joan, good to hear you survived the broken traffic lights. If your musings on sponsorship were any more than just musings, we’d be very interested. The ‘getting home’ fund is looking very thin and emaciated, what with new liferaft and potentially new rigging and all the other stuff. Fenwick has offered us $10 – thanks Allan – set up a trust fund and do some soliciting! So I might be prepared to jump through a sponsor’s hoops if necessary.

Doug and Estelle – I’ve seen the Malta DC3 – not much of it left and I thought it might have been a DC2 at first sight. May get a chance for another look in a few weeks when we go and visit my Mum after we get to Falmouth.

And for the ETA competition – running out of time to put in an entry or amend an early one – rien ne va plus after we cross 35N in a couple of weeks or so. I will leave mine on the table as a guide only. At this stage, i see no need to amend it – look at our progress and the impending changes in the weather pattern…We may be able to offer an elegant “Berrimilla Around” T shirt designed by my sister and signed by the crew if the winner would prefer one to the other goodies on offer.

[ed: The ETA guessing calendar is here – there are still some good dates left!]