2-1. Sydney-Equator


Logs ( 89 )

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Here we go......

Alex Blog 1
It is beginning to seem as if this burst of silliness has legs (*are we becoming a veritable centipede, infact???*). We have just bought half of Woolworths, and McQueen has spent most of the day sorting it, writing chinese (*and drawing random pictures of cows and carrots, of course*!) on each can, bagging stuff, eating all the blue snakes (t*hey are the most hyper-activating ones, for sure, but it needed to be tested!*!!) and having one of her last 100 or so fags out in the garden. About 1000% more organised than last time, but then, we’ve got Experience now and the Vogons haven’t arrived to read poetry to us yet so the brains are (relatively) clear.

Each of three laptops appears to be talking to the HF radio, the SatC, AIS, Software on Board (our nav package that took us around the world last time).
Kevvo is operational again, rubbing the grot from his eyes and peering into the future. And there’s a whizzing generator thing on a television tower over Kevvo’s head. He doesn’t like it, but at least it won’t get tangled in his delicate parts like the towed one did. And it might keep this laptop supplied with wiggly amps at least until it gets cold. 2 watermakers this time – and quite a lot of diesel to get us through the ITCZ (jazzy FLA for the Doldrums) if we need it. We have to average about 4 knots to stay on schedule.

Berri has a furler – a real Australian artefact, having come from an even more famous boat, Love and War, and we’ve got a hairdryer installed (*It must be mentioned at this point that McQ did not demand such equipment)*.
What else does a little boat need?

Well, some medicinal compound, prescribed by Drs Cooper and Gordon plus McQueen has never read Hitchiker, so we need all 5 volumes of the trilogy so that she recognises Vogon poetry when she hears it.. (*which she will read after learning the Ancient Mariner off by heart or certainly subjected AW to the first four verses of Coleridge till he can take it no longer)*

And then a bit of luck that it all stays more or less on track until Yuri’s night or perhaps a day or so earlier. Plus the capacity for intelligent improvisation, otherwise known as the ability to think and chew gum at the same time. It will be very much a work it out as we go voyage, rather like the last one.

Berri is now about 200 metres south of the ‘where is berri position’, now on the CYC marina.
3352.377S 151.958E

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Alex - update -a rather dull one

Today will be all about setting up the laptops with the latest Airmail software and, I hope, Canadian weatherfax frequencies. If all that works, some minor fixes inside Berri and we can try out a stowage plan for all the stuff. There’s a lot of it.

Then we have to start packing it – all the papers, charts, gerzillion electrical connections, chargers, gadgets, clothes, wet weather gear, tools, flags, wetsuit, first aid gear, inflatables, books, saved guardian weeklies and new scientists and on and on. Tedious. Plus buy fresh food, collect prescriptions and all the rest.

I intend to arrange for customs clearance for the morning of April 10, after which we have 24 hours to leave the country. If we make that deadline, we’ll be at sea for Yuri’s night but I have organised phone calls to Houston and Baton Rouge.

Kimbra has found us a chart supplier for the Canadian arctic and Pete’s friend Dave has put us in touch with his mates in Alaska – interesting bunch of people with huge knowledge of the area and the oceans around it. Things appear to be moving along.

I have to set up the iridium phone for emergency data downloads today as well and I will post Berrimilla’s iridium phone number before we go. We will not be making too many calls out – too expensive – but if you have deep pockets, you should be able to call us as long as we have sufficient power to keep the phone on.

Will be good to get started – I need some sleep.

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Alex - packing continues....

Marc came aboard yesterday and sorted Airmail and the HF connections for us and we did a test flight storing the diesel containers in the forepeak. Food mostly bagged and McQ has been making lists to be laminated. Can’t believe that we might actually be able to find things.

Gusts in the Gustbook! Hi everyone and welcome back to some of you! It’s 3 in the morning here – McQ is out getting her final fix of partying and I’m thinking of all the hundreds of tiny things that never made it on to lists. Eisenhower said that a plan was useless but planning was everything – and Montgomery is said to have been able to sleep immediately before a battle knowing that everything had been done that could have been. Montgomery I am not.

Today, we will wedge in the diesel containers with packed inflatables, sails, fenders – whatever fits – and perhaps fill them. Take most of the food down and load it into the starboard quarterberth. Pack the papers, books, charts, manuals…Fill the water tank…screw in the spare watermaker…find my wet weather gear…buy dental floss…

Almost time, too, to look at the weather for next week. McQ is stressing that she’s almost never got past Coffs without some sort of headbang so we’ll have to start in a southerly! She does have her HGTTG set though so when the Vogon Constructor Fleet arrives to obliterate Coffs, we will both recognise it and go for the towels. Will be fun to read it all again – Berri at the end of the universe with Marvin out in the carpark.

All very ephemeral at the mo. I remember how hard the last one was at times and I hope we can work this one out as we go along – the benefit of planning rather than a plan.

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A Blog from McQueen - Stuff

Kimbra sent an email last week where she mentioned she had ten weeks to go, well here in Sydney there is officially less than one!! Thats pretty daunting!! When customs have cleared us out we officially have to go within 24 hours so I imagine that moment will be when it really hits home! Despite Alex telling me that we are more organised than him and Peter were before their last trip, I am sitting writing this in a house, surrounded by stuff!!
I think there is more stuff to go on the boat than there is room for on wee Berri!! That said, we had a superb day yesterday. All the non-perishable food has been stowed- it is ALL down the starboard aft bunk side and the forepeak is now packed: dinghy,anchors, dinghy (yes 2) warp, fuel cannisters, sails, more rope and fenders- and it all fits! Only prob is we are going to have to unpack it all to actually fill the fuel jerry cans…
Berri is certainly sitting a bit wonky in the water with a full forepeak and a full starboard side! For me, it’s also quite strange, having spent the last year racing (and therefore taking stuff off a boat) that this time round I keep putting stuff on!!!!
I have brought some reading material with me, and have just piled it up. I think it could constitute a library. Will all the other stuff to go aboard, I may well need to consolidate. I will definitely be taking the HHGTTG though, which I am beginning to realise is something I really ought to have read!!! Hopefully this will help me interpret AW’s gobbledegook about Vogons and the like…!!!
I am getting pretty nervous about the whole venture now: I have never, ever, ever managed to leave Sydney on a boat to head north and managed to get past Coff’s Harbour without getting storm bound there. This is really, really concerning: whilst Coffs is a nice place and all the people seem lovely too, I was hoping never to have to look at that giant banana or listen to the one music DVD that was looped continuously in the yacht club, ever again.
I will be so relieved if we make it beyond there!!

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Alex - Just the ragged ends..............

Final loading today, except for last minute fresh stuff. I think it’s all going to fit too, which is astonishing. Almost room for the jacuzzi and an exercise bike.

I’ve been pondering this stuff -


It seems to me that we ought to do a bit better doing it West to East – but we’ll still need a huge amount of luck.

And it’s now tomorrow – We spent the day loading and packing more or less in the Zoo – was a serious sailing day at CYC, the beginning of the winter sailing season, and people just kept arriving to have a look and say G’day and wish us well. And looking for Consultative Advice – I have to admit that there was rather a lot of Consultation, to the point where it was clearly not even thinkable to go anywhere near the car so we spent out first night on the boat. McQ is still there in full sleep mode – I’m home getting organised for another day. Yesterday was a great day and lovely to see everyone.

Things seem to be under control – still a lot to do, but all those months of planning and thinking about it have now come together and I can see no reason why we won’t be able to leave on Thursday. Fingers and eyebrows crossed, of course and wood firmly touched. I reckon Thursday afternoon will do it – we’ll see.

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McQueen- A lot of consulting

After yesterday afternoon’s consultation, and boy was there a lot of consulting going on (til it got dark infact!!), we had a real consultation this morning with a real doctor (as opposed to Dr Cooper). We picked up some prescriptions for some pretty hardcore bits and pieces for the medical kit. This was quite trepidating since I am not a doctor and brings to the forefront of the mind the enormity of being out there, many miles from land and thus assistance. It was good for me to put a face to a name for the medically qualified person who will hopefully be able to offer some advice over the Sat-phone should it be required…

We took things, perhaps, a little slower today than we can really afford to, but the library is stowed (to starboard) the beer is stowed (to starboard)…hmmm… so tomorrow will no doubt include shuffling heavy stuff to the port side.

After all yesterday’s visitors, departure is beginning to appear imminent!!! (Though not in the nautical sense of the word- I haven’t packed my own stuff yet and that might take up a few hours and we have to give customs 48hrs notice to come and sign us out of the country)

It has been pouring and pouring and pouring with rain here today so now we are pouring (haha) over the forecast. Fortunately it’s starting to look vaguely promising!!! As we all know, I think its great fun to be drenched by waves but the prospect of starting such a long ocean crossing wet through from the start is probably a bit ridiculous, even for me!!!

Well, I must go, its time for a cigarette!! And there isn’t going to be much time for many more cigarettes- its Tuesday tomorrow- crikey!!!

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Clank and dammy in the pre dawn gloom

Trepidation builds. It’s raining. It’s 0430 and I’m packing my personal clothing which is a bit of a challenge. We will be needing tropical gear and Arctic gear and all the bits in between. Arctic gear less of a problem because if we eventually get past Coffs and up to Dutch, I can listen to the locals and buy stuff there. Or just go for the towel so as not to panic.

Thursday is the day after tomorrow. Hard to believe and it seems quite different from last time – different conceptually, different obstacles, different travellers but always the same indifferent ocean. And I’m a different person. All seems ghostly, ephemeral, ethereal – how can it be happening? Yet today I must notify Customs 48 hours in advance of departure. HGTTG says DONT PANIC but it’s not so cool and froody when the blender is about to start and you have to figure out a way of ducking the blades.

A cup of tea, perhaps – still a couple of hours before McQ will surface for coffee – the day will be more ragged ends – collecting a year’s worth of prescriptions, more ziplock bags, final shopping, maybe actually reassessing what’s on the boat and taking things off again. The tendency always is to take things if there is any doubt, but there must be a measure of ruthlessness too. And Pete will bring us some home brew Dr C – kind of odd that he’s not coming. I’ve rather grown used to having him around.

And welcome aboard to the kids at Belmore South – it was huge fun talking to you and your teachers last time and I’m looking forward to doing it again.

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Dilbert at dawn

Awake in the middle of the night again and only one more sleep to go. Cold, wet and bleak outside and makes everything seem bigger and more scary. You’re all out there and somehow we have to make it work. I’ve just been sent Dilbert’s boss failing the Turing test – I guess it is what it is! In case you have no idea what I’m talking about – which I imagine is not uncommon – here it is: comics.150m.com/comics/target50.html

Today will be a big one – masses of detail to sort, final shopping to do and load, We put about 400 litres of diesel into Berri yesterday and she’s looking fat and heavy. I think we will have to move some of the containers around to get the trim a bit less bow heavy. Hard to tell but I think the boat will be about as heavy as last time. Probaly at least a ton, maybe two, heavier than for a Sydney-Hobart start. Will be interesting to see how she sails. Forecast for tomorrow and the next few days is for SE winds 10-20 knots so should get things going.

Fingers crossed – we’re going to need lots of luck to get this one in the can. Customs coming at noon tomorrow. Thanks for all your messages in the gust book – we’ll do our best..Love youse all, as usual!

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McQ -Bloggety - blog

Well folks, things are all starting to happen quite quickly. Can you believe there is only one night of sleeping in a large flat bed left??
Wee Berri is fully laden and there is still more to go on board!!! We really will need to draw the line somewhere: but deciding between bacon/beer/computer/diesel/thermals/charts is just an impossible decision- we want it all!!!
Our navigation system is definitely in order: we have Pascals ‘map’, an inflatable globe, a really ancient book with some pictures of German Isochrones and a sextant (and fortunately, real charts, GPS, and 3 computers too!!!)
I am trying to get all my paperwork together, I must not forget my old passport with my US Visa in it!! or my Polar Bear shooting license either (which I have discovered is the only reason why Alex is taking me as crew- silly him, I may have a certificate but that doesn’t mean I would be particularly useful in a face-to-face bear situation!!!)
Its raining, still. It would have been wonderful to have left in the sunshine but it looks as though it is still going to be raining tomorrow…
I can hardly believe that over in the UK its been snowing heavily- in April- its completely mad. It really makes you consider how crazy the world weather is becoming. We can all agree that the world is getting warmer and the ice is receding rapidly over the years but, who knows what will happen if we get up to Alaska in the next few months: we may have an unusually clear passage through, but, equally this could be a year where there will be no chance of making any progress through the NW passage. Of course, this is all a long long way away, and we must take the whole trip one step at a time. (The first step, of course, is getting further north than Coffs!!!) There are so many if’s and buts and each stage of the journey will be a small achievement…
I really, really hope that luck is on our side for this one, and can’t quite believe that we are going tomorrow!!
Lots of love to all and Happy Birthday Seymour

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Fortune cookie

Yesterday we were sent a tiny slip of paper from a fortune cookie that said ‘The ship is safer in the harbour but it is not meant for that’. Today is the day that the good ship Berrimilla will become our little cradle on the ocean – the incredibly monstrously gobsmackingly huge, awesome indifferent ocean. There is always apprehension and trepidation – and this time a fair dose of both as we know from experience what the ocean can do.

It’s an ambitious project and really, we have no right to any expectations. We move today from the dream to reality and we just have to work it out as we go. Customs at noon, probably a farewell Consultation or two, a final fag for McQ and the ocean. No more Facebook! DONT PANIC!

Or maybe just the old bus shelter….a battered computer, a pile of empty cans and mcwrappers swirling amongst the scrofulous pigeons – safety and make believe.

Who knows?

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McQ: Hair Management

I can’t believe today is today, in fact I have spent a lot of time recently in utter disbelief. We really are going now- the hair management programme has started: yesterday Hilary cut my hair, so at the very least I can begin with neat bunches and move into plaits as it gets longer!! Alex watched and learned as he will have to take over the role of hairdresser as it gets long and clumpy!!!
I have just filled in my customs form to leave the country… it isn’t really geared for sailing out of here- for example, it asks for flight no. or name of ship (fine, filled in SV Berri) but then the next question is country where you will get off this flight. I guess the answer to ought to be ‘depends when the hardcore prescriptions run out!!!’ but I put ‘USA’ instead, thinking that this would be a more sensible response for the serious customs men. This, in itself is pretty trepidating…
The sun is shining at the moment, yay!!! Fingers crossed it will hold out till this afternoon. There are one or two cigarettes to finish off in between, then, all being well with customs, off to Coffs we go!!!

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So far so good………1st message from onboard

I think the last one began ‘Seems our daft venture has begun…’

We’re off Long Reef heading north. Wooohooo. Kevvo is driving away happily down the back being serenaded by Lizzie the Whizzer on her tower above his head. Lizzie is pumping wiggly amps into the battery, we’ve made a couple of litres of water and all’s well with the world.

Nice gentle departure. Customs duly arrived, cleared us and we were ready to Consult with lots of nice people who came along to see us off. Sparkling day. Slowed down so Hilary and Kimbra could get up to North Head to wave us away – and there were Fiona and Tory and Terry and assorted duckies keeping us company.

And now 6 hours later, an orange crescent moon is setting over Terrigal, Barrenjoey is astern and Norah Head is out in front. We’re drinking lime juice cordial made with freshly squeezed ocean and McQ has just constructed the BEST bacon Buttie ever. Ships anchored all along the coast, half a knot of current against us and not enough wind to push us through the swell so we have the engine ticking over to maintain some average speed – 28 miles leaves 5972 to go

Current position 3329.05.1 15128.33.4

Lets see whether this works…

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McQ:... and the motley crew!!

We made it off the dock, with minimum fuss as planned. Headed up the harbour wnd out through the Heads, where we had Hilary and Kimbra waving from North Head, SJ at South Head and one or two ribs zooming around- oh and a kayaker, who was going faster than us!!!!
Alex and I drove most of the way out of the harbour, then we handed the helm over to Kevvo. Kevvo is a wonderful gentle soul but unfortunately he hasn’t driven for a few years and was somewhat lacking in concentration in the light winds, though, to be fair he has Lizzie towering over him almost continuously whining at him, so no wonder there is potential for domestics and kevvo to be a bit stubborn!!!
I drove for a bit, and Berri is just a lovely lovely boat to drive, could sit there for hours with the wind on your face barely moving the tiller. Anyway, once the wind died so much that we turned the engine on it was Ray’s turn- Ray is pretty good, probably the best helm we have, he squeaks a bit, but we are learning to ignore him!!!
So we are now bobbing about threading our way through anchoreds ships, engine on, poor fat Berri does not llike wallowing in a big swell and no wind- but we are going in the right direction- for now!!!
A funny thing happened, Alex and I have a long running (since before I left the uk, so no we haven’t fallen out already!) debate about who makes better clothes….Alex’s corner is Gill and mine is Musto. so you can imagine my hilarity when alex went to put his nighty on and it’s Musto!!! I guess you had to be there but it’s kind of funny especially since my mid layer is Gill!!!
Must go for a snooze now as beginning to write utter drivel, and we haven’t even been away from land for 24 hrs yet!!!
lots of love

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Kimbra - Blog from Berri's shore crew

Bonvoyage Berri!
Well they’re off
Nearly 24 hours ago in fact. I’m a bit late writing this as the need for sleep finally caught up with me after Wednesday’s midnight dash across from Perth .

After casting off the lines and waving Berri off from CYCA, Hilary & I drove up to North Head to wave them off from the top of the cliff as well. Just a small white triangle moving slowly up the coast. No different to the two or three other boats out there. Looking at Berri from a distance, she could have just been another boat heading up to Pittwater . No sign from that distance of all the planning that has gone into this venture so far, not even a glimpse of all the extra gear stowed into every available space. To be honest, we could barely even see Alex and Corrie on the boat at all. And we’d only hugged them goodbye an hour before!

“Hey, see that boat down there? Yeah, that one with the sail, not the power boat. Well, they’re on their way to Alaska.”Blimey.

Today I’m sitting at a cafe in Manly enjoying a coffee and lazy late breakfast down and looking out looking over the big blue sea. It’s very benign. Flat. Gentle ripples with darker patches where the gusts touch-down. Forecast is looking gentle for the first week of passage. Maybe not quite enough wind to keep heavy-Berri skipping merrily over the waves, but a nice way to ease in to the passage ahead. I can picture them settling in to the swing and sway of their new life, developing the routines and habits that will become “real life” for the next 8 or 9 weeks until Alaska.

And now they”re on their way. What next? What will keep them busy? What funny things will happen on the way? What will they find washed-up on deck at sunrise? Will Corrie survive without ciggies? When will they get the first cold wave down the neck of their jackets? Will they throw the home brew at each other or sip it companionably at sundown?

Guess I’ll just have to read the blogs from my desk at work on Monday morning to find out like everyone else.

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The Plan – Alex

Actually there isn’t one, except in the broadest sense. We have to get to Dutch Harbour as fast as possible without breaking anything and still talking to each other. Planning requires 100 miles per day on average giving us about 60 days for a 6000 mile voyage. Or a pooptillionth over 4 knots.

We have just achieved the first 100 miles in 24 hours, if you count the distance down Sydney Harbour.
a pretty busy 24 hours with lots of almost no wind, a short burst of 15 knots under a mini front off Port Stephens and lots in between from all over the place. Big nasty sea over a NE swell of about 3 metres so heavy going too. Diesel, therefore, occasionally, and a minor contretemps with one of our diesel containers which we had to decant into another one when it started to leak. I’m covered in the stuff but all ok.

We will try to send you a noon position each day – noon our local time, as that’s easier to remember than noon UTC. Todays was 3242.32.4 15225.13.0 and we’re now about 10 miles south of Seal Rocks where, AGW – that’s a TLA for all going well – we will part company with the Oz mainland, which turns sightly left and we go straight on, trying to maintain a heading of 017 magnetic for a point SE of San Cristobal in the Solomons. About 1426 miles away. Speed over the ground at the mo is 5.5 knots.

And we’re not yet past Coffs so McQ still has the yips.

We send these emails by High Frequency radio (HF)and the best time to send (and receive your emails…)is at night so we will probably stick to that as a plan.

Loverly day, dolphins all around earlier. And it’s getting warmer.

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Off the east coast of Australia, Yuri’s Night arrived – dawned? – 12 minutes ago. To all our friends who are partying, we’re out there with you – have a good one and Consult properly with his ghost. I’m probably one of a very small percentage of party goers who actually remembers 12 April 1961 and Yuri. Mixed admiration, wonder and cold war apprehension – I was at Dartmouth, the Royal Navy training college in England and Yuri was big news. For me, 20 years later, when the Shuttle first launched, wonder and admiration there was in buckets, but the surprise was gone. And I remember when Yuri died – as an aviator, plane crashes are mind grabbing and when someone you feel you almost know as a friend dies it is close and sad and poignant.

Carla, if you read this in time, I don’t have a number to ring you but I will crank up the satphone once we get a bit of daylight and leave it on. You can SMS a number via the Iridium.com website, I think, but I’ve never tried it.

Leroy, we’ll call you at home this evening your time. Pascal, we’ll try you at work…and if it all goes pear shaped – party on!

Not really having fun here – nasty sea and swell, no wind, Berri rolling and pitching and flopping into a 2 knot current and horribly uncomfortable. I want my teddy bear. We have the engine running but not going anywhere much. At about the same speed as Cook and the early explorers must have done the same voyage.

But the sheer joy of being able to see and almost feel the sweep of the Milky Way nearly – nearly – makes up for it all.

Ships everywhere, Must have seen over 100 since Newcastle. Parked, milling around, going places, but lots of them. Must go up and look.

Happy partying – we’ll be thinking of you…


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Plodding north – we’re 30 miles NE of Crowdy Head and a smidge north of Lord Howe Island, so this is the furthest north I have ever been in Berri in the Pacific but I hope we can keep breaking that little stat. Just making 3 kts into the current – swell not so bad, lovely morning. Satphone rigged and seems to be working. Time for some coffee and a wad. I dont think today will be a hundred miler. Will now have to do complicated maths to work out what time it is in Texas and Louisiana for Yuri’s night phone calls.

Everything seems to be working so far…just a bit slow on the hoof

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Mcq – Day 3

Its the morning of Day 3 now- and I think I too might have to partake in the consulting this evening for Yuri’s night of partying. We have the satphone at the ready and various people to call later- assuming we get the time differences worked out!!

I was going to write last night but just when I was about to (we were iron sail assisted, but quite downwind at the time) the wind veered round a bit so I gybed the main across and then the wind picked up a bit too, desperate to have the sound of the engine off we unfurled the headsail, then, typically the wind changed its mind again and went back to where it started and died. This made me quite grumpy as in the time it would have taken to smoke a cigarette to wait and see whether it settled in from one direction etc it had swung round and up and back and down again… anyway you get my drift!!

Other than that and the general flopping about in no wind in big lumpety swell it was a second spectacular night… It was one of those nights where the sky looks as though someone has silver spray painted it, and we were also surrounded by a sprinkling of phosphorescence, and the odd big swirl of the stuff behind as the rudder churned up the sea… nights like these are amazing and make it all so worthwhile. There were shooting stars all over the place as well- Alex thinks that we go through some sort of dust field (him, berri and I? Australia? The World? The Galaxy?) once a year and it might be now, but maybe someone intelligent who knows c ould explain!! The moon set early and I remember noticing how bright Orion was. I also noted that he looked less warrior, with belt and sword and more splayed on his back as if someone had stabbed him!!! Maybe its just the way he is in the Southern Hemisphere at that time of night (or maybe there was too much meths in my coffee!!!)

Anyway, should prob go on deck and make sure Kevvo, whom I am coming to like very much, is happy and need to work on my tan too- It’s all really very chilled and content in our little home with all our friends and I hope Alex is too.

Oh, and is day 3 too early for a change of clothes????

Lots of love to all

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One small sip…………

One small sip for humankind, one huge sip for Yuri. We thought a Consultation in his memory at lunchtime would be appropriate and it was.

We have 3 versions of Dr Cooper’s medicinal compound this time – one brewed by Pete, one by Steve and one by Jasper – and we think that with proper abstemiousness (abstention? or maybe that’s just for the pollies)the supply will get us to Dutch. There is a small quantity of emergency rocket fuel as well, just in case.

Still headbutting the East Australian Current. About a knot here, sea temp 27 degrees, down from 28 so we might be breaking free. Mrs P @ Belmore South, Hi to the All Stars and if they need a project, the CSIRO website has lots of interesting stuff about the EAC and it’s effects. The sea surface is a metre higher and the warm water is pushed down the continental shelf from the tropics by the earth’s rotation.

Noon position 3131.34.1 15340.44.1 Not quite 100 miles I think. I’, rackint my two neurons to try to remember how I fed two positions into my Merlin calculator and it calculated the day’s run. Not necessarily velocity made good but just a distance between 2 points. Gerry, do you remember how to do it – not easily found in the instruction book. Else I’ll have to plot it and that would impinge on all the other important things

Of which more later…

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K – have been in touch with Alphonse – qi works! The place is clean and tidy. He’s even more ferocious with Olympic fervour in the backbone!

El – fantastic – probably won’t see you there but enjoy. Wow!

Izztelltales and magic installed and operational. Ta!

And once again, here we are – tiny blob in huge ocean going somewhere. Yuri’s night to come – we shall not get faceless, but the sentiment is there.

So much stuff – this time is different. Last time it just happened, this time, seems to me, there are Expectations. We’ll do our best…

Poled out – brilliant night, pointing at San Cristobal, at least 10 days away – hang in there and I’ll think of something…poor old Orion is always upside down down here but he still has a fabulous belt full of nebulae. Go look!

I’m a bit rusty with my HHGTTG but I seem to remember that Zaphod was put into The Vortex or something similar. Was intended to fry his brain and show him how infinitesimally small and insignificant he was in the gobsmackingly HUGE universe and basically just tell him to shut up and go home. Zaphod, unsurprisingly, rather enjoyed the experience and saw the universe as his gobsmackingly interesting and challenging playground. Pascal, if you’re out there, that’s for you!

We’ve just had our little Yuri celebration – wrong time zone, but what the hell, we can have another one soon.

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End of yips, perhaps, with wooden head firmly touched.

We’re now 3 miles north of Coffs and about 85 miles out. McQ asleep but will surely rejoice when she surfaces for her watch. Just gybed and now pointing directly at the San Cristobal waypoint 1255 miles ahead. We’re still banging into about 2 knots of current so our vmg is only about 4.7 kts – gloom! – 11 days to the waypoint AGW. Frustrating, but nowt to do!

Sun just rising – glowing pink contrail from the NE – looks like 4 engines, so perhaps Air France, if they still exist, from Nouvelle Caledonie. Last night I could see the commuter trails between Sydney and Brisvegas – yeeehaaa – know where I’d rather be making a trail.

Berri very fat and heavy but still hikes along remarkably well and very easy to drive. Tends to dive into the waves a bit sometimes which is to be expected but no dramas. Interesting puzzle with the AirGen wind generator. It whizzes away happily but doesn’t seem to put much charge into the battery and doesn’t actually overcome the drain from the systems. I looked at the manual and it says the thing is supposed to maintain about 12.5v in the battery, which it does but the battery was still down to about 82% this morning and I’m running the donk to fill ‘er up. We have enough diesel to run for a couple of hours each day, which we need to do to make water anyway, so again, no dramas. But it’s odd. Or the Xantrex monitor is not properly calibrated.

Nearly Yuri time in Louisiana and Texas. Satphone at the ready.

Just looked outside in full daylight – big swell from the south, perhaps 5 metres, and confused and lumpy.

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McQ: Has anyone seen the tin opener?

For us, it is a new day and the celebrations for Yuri are over- no doubt there are still parties going on in different time zones. Back in the real world out here it is a beautiful sunny day with a spatterring of fluffy clouds about. We have about 15 knots of wind behind us and we are currently poled out (no1) and stonking along at around 5-6 knots. There is still a fair swell running and occasionally the wind drops off enough for us to wallow a tad in the big seas. Unfortunately we are also bashing nearly two knots of current- we must be almost out of it by now, surely??!! But we are finally north of Coffs and pointing in the right direction, so we can’t really complain!! The ocean is a beautiful colour too, quite mesmerising, which only serves to remind that it doesn’t take much to turn it into a boiling seething angry mass of water and days like today ought to be appreciated.

On Wednesday before we left, Hilary and I did one last sweep of Woolies in case we had forgotten something- she asked if we had a tin opener and I I said that I hadn’t seen one on board. Then we joked about how funny it would be after smugly storing all those tins neatly and organised on board but then be unable to open them!!! So we bought a new tin opener- and left it behind, by mistake, we think.

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McQ: Is it time to get the sextant out?????

Poor old Alex, he isn’t very amused at Poot No1 failing. We are now using Poot 2 (of 3!!!)Unfortunately we are not IT geeky enough to know why it had a tantrum but I do know that computers and sea don’t work happily together, ever. Still, pretty unhelpful of it all round. I think I like this one better though, the keys are bigger and you don’t kwwp preddong the wrong ines in the swekk.

My first reaction was, not to worry, people have been going to sea for centuries without computers- we have the paper charts and can navigate our way no problem. Alex agreed of course but he has got himself worked up about emails etc and communicating with the outside world. It seems that Alex and Petes trip just unfolded and turned into something special for those following as it continued. I get the impression that this time round there is a certain level of expectation, even if for the most part, that is just in our mind. As we have said we haven’t achieved anything yet: we will get to where we are going when we get there!!! If for any reason we don’t get to where we aimed for, I don’t think of it as a failure, just one of those things that happen. A bit like the first Sydney Hobart race I attempted, we had to retire, I was gutted, but these things happen. (This email is obviously based at the three people who are actually following us, despite our delusions of self importance, to think there might be others!!!!)

I guess I am trying to say that if for any reason we lose our communication ability we will do our best to sort it but if we can’t you three out there will have to wait for one GIANT blog from wherever we end up!!! (bad luck!!) So if that happens, please be patient, if only so I can reassure Alex that you are being and we can stop stressing and keep trying to achieve our goals…

In the meantime we will write as much drivel as we can… and undoubtedly more than anyone wants to read!!!!

This is all a bit serious so I should mention the weird weird clouds that were about today- first of all the sky was covered in long thin wisps, like jellyfish tentacles, then these turned into one giant cauliflower, that exploded!!! Little bits of cauliflower all over the sky!!! (its true, its true!!!) and left behind a big strawberry wearing sunglasses. Bonkers!!! (the clouds, not me)

Thanks and lots of love

Ps Kimbra, which bag do I open for the in-house IT technician????

2-1. Sydney-Equator

I don’t believe this…

Only just out of the paper bag and the first laptop has crashed, as far as I can see, irretrievably. And I don’t know why. It has lost everything, including profiles, applications, the works, and it runs about as fast as I do these days. Frustration, anger, general pissedoffedness abounds. I have lost all previous messages, trip data and charts and all my stored email addresses. Almost raided the goodies bag, Kimbra!

So I’m up and running on the backup as long as this one keeps going.

Otherwise, a good day except for the East Coast current. I thought that we would be clear of the worst of it this far out, but we’re still bashing into a couple of knots. Malcom, if you are out there, could you please work your magic and tell us how far out we have to go? It has cost us about 60 miles so far – the alternative would have been a rock hop to Brisbane and then out but I guess you cop what you sow.

I will keep a rough vmg going between noon positions, based on DTD – distance to Dutch. Starting DTD was 5819nm. Noon pos today was 2956.39.9 15455.26.3 DTD 5520nm, so vmg 299 and we’re barely on schedule, but it does tell us that without the current we’d be way ahead, which is encouraging. Poled out all day, lovely sailing, almost no seabirds.

We spoke on the satphone to Leroy and Karen for Yuri’s night. Interesting change of circumstances – when Pete and I first spoke to Leroy, he was up there hurtling around in his concatenation of tin cans and plumbers tubing and we were on a speaker phone in the Falklands, at Arlette Betts’ house. This time, we were in the vee-hicle, by no means hurtling though, and Leroy and Karen were on the speaker phone.

I had a much more interesting set of ideas for this blog but the computer crash has rather fried my brain. Will work on unfrying it.

And we found the tin opener – had three others but tedious to leave the Rolls behind…

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Sunrise. We’ve been motoring all night at about 4 knots. We seem to be out of the current – just a tiny remnant. Still no wind but the grib says this afternoon…Lovely morning, stoked to be alive stuff – the sky is misty blue with a layer of angel dust ice crystals way up high, then a bit of fluffy altoCu, intricately patterned like the wonderful silk lace the old Maltese women used too make as they sat in their dooorway, cirrussy marestails with wind blown hair trailing behind, mid level puffs of Cu and ordinary cu in cottonballs everywhere. And, best of all, for a few minutes as the sun rose I could see shadows spearing off to the west, cast against the ice crystals by each cloud – rather like being in the sun’s cage for a while as I had a contemplative McVities dunk.

Tried a restore of the dead laptop and thought we were winning as it chunnered away to itself for half an hour or so but in the end it sent us an error message saying it could not restore because there had been an improper shutdown. I don’t recall shutting it down, but there ya go! I think it will become bait for the next Krikkit robot that tries to barge in on us.

We’re settling in. Berri less cluttered as we gradually find space for the last minute load stuff and this little bit of driving will use some diesel too so we will be able to drop some out of the big bag on the cockpit floor into the main tank. Will be bliss for a while when we can get rid of that bag. But we’re still packed like I imagine a Progress module must be. We must eat our way through a lot of it.

I saved my Guardian Weekly and New Scientist for the last couple of months, still in their plastic wrappers and I’ve just retrieved the earliest of them – crosswords and brainfood. Rationed to one of each per week. Today perhaps, the BBC world service on the short wave radio. Michael’s CD’s and even Ipods too. More on Ipods later perhaps, but, K, thanks for the playlist and I see exactly what you mean.

Time to walk around and make sure nothing is falling off.

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Idiom and old boots – noon 2823.17 15546.06

I have explained to McQ that in our rich and idiomatic Australian version of Hitchiker English, the concept of a freckle just might- might – be Something Completely Different and the idea of amalgamating them could be a contortion in all sorts of ways. Or just an interesting problem for a geneticist. Ho Hum! I’m working on the crossword clue – something along the lines of ‘Transition on the green?’ (3,2,3) perhaps, although that’s just too easy. Speedy, a prize for the first correct entry?

And I’ve just re-read an article by Ian McEwan in which he shows how difficult it will be to get the world population to even agree, let alone act in any sort of cohesive way, to do anything about climate change and global warming. Followed by another by George Monbiot in the Guardian Weekly in which he has the UK government equating the lives of poor people in Africa according to a ‘shadow price of carbon’ at around $50 a tonne. Grim.

But I like McEwan’s metaphor for the problem. He chose to spend some time in an icebound ship with some other concerned people. To get dressed to go out on the ice, they had to pass through the ‘boot room’ where all the protective clothing was kept. Each person had their own storage space, but some were more careful – or just less irresponsible – than others. McEwan shows how just one irresponsible ‘borrowing’ by one person of another’s boots can lead to chaos, even amongst people who are highly intelligent, concerned and motivated. Individual actions can be enormously destructive.

So the boot room it is.

Noon position 2823.17 15546.06 DTD 5413 so distance made good 107 nm. Perhaps not the best use of diesel, but hanging on to it is not necessarily the right decision either.

The current now appears to be taking us west, so we are in the top of the loop. I hope.

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McQ: Bacon Butties for Breakkie

A beautiful day out here in the Ocean… In fact today would be the perfect day for lying on a beach and getting a sun tan, that is to say there isn’t a zephyr of a breeze… the donk is on, and has been for some time now… every feasible container has been filled with freshly squeezed pacific and I don’t think we are going to go thirsty for the time being!!!

It is a particularly special day today, for various reasons… firstly, we have broken out the first of the saved Guardian Crosswords and New Scientists… secondly, I am going to begin HHGTTG and thirdly today might just be included as a hair management day (so I need to find my hairbrush!!!)

All this we marked with large bacon butties for breakfast.

It doesn’t look as though there is going to be much wind for most of today but I think it seems that it will fill in later, 20-30 knots from behind us… yee ha!!! We seem to be just skirting with the edge of the current too- finally!!!!

Oh and the freckles are beginning to amalgamate…
lots of love

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McQ Do we need to appoint a Snickers Liaison Officer?

What a disaster- we are halfway through our entire snickers supply for the whole trip and this is only, day 5 or something… What a terrible terrible oversight… we both like lime juice, we both like cheese, mustard, dark chocolate,snakes etc all this got taken into account!! but we never thought to mention to each other that we both like snickers quite a lot and now look whats happened?? What are we going to do??? If anyone would like to commandeer a Mars confectionary ship crossing the Pacific, that would be much obliged and we can rendevous at a mutually convenient time and location. Any help on this matter would be much appreciated.

The Donk is off, finally. Whilst its nice to have a bit of cockpit back (that was previously devoted to the big black diesel tank) it probably wasn’t considered that we would be motoring this much this early on in the trip and it might prove in our interests not to consume too much just now… though Berri’s diet is beginning to work and she is starting to feel a wee bit more spritely and less heffalumpy!!!! I was watching the wind come and go this afternoon and everytime it looked set to stay I would go sort the foredeck and pole out and come back ready for some headsail and the wind would die off completely and so I would go forward and put everything away. This happened about 3 times and I could feel the wind gods chuckling to themselves up in the sky as I yo-yo’ed about!! Eventually, thought, thats it, put the headsail up anyway and turned the engine off- peace at last!!!

There is still a fair swell form the SE, which can be a wee bit disconcerting, when the sea state is fairly calm on top of that. A big swell means that somewhere something is brewing and with the grib files (apparently the rule of grib here is: direction accurate, but double the strength!!) showing nearly 30knots tomorrow, we could be in for a wild ole’ ride!!!

Oh, I nearly forgot, I nearly forgot- we saw three whales this afternoon. I have seen one or two whales ion my time, from various boats and distances but from the deck of wee Berri these three were enormous. Absolutely mesmerisingly gargantuan, just off our starboard beam heading south. We don’t have our RCG (TLA for remedial cetation guide) but we think they might have been fin whales. We watched for a while, certainly I was in awe of being so close to these amazing creatures that look so big and unwieldly stuck on a beach or hanging from a museum roof but just so incredibly beautiful and graceful in the (their) ocean. Reminding us, too, just how small and insignificant we really are in this world…

Wind is just starting to fill in and I can feel the momentum picking up, might be time for a drive… Finished the first of the trilogy of four… am now an expert on vogons and their pooetry and thoroughly looking forward to seeing Kimbra on the dock woith Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters waiting for us… cool!!!! As most of my friends will know when I pick up a good book I don’t tend to do anything else sensible (like sleep) until I am finished it, so a drive will be a good distraction!!! and then I can head off to the Restaurant at the End of the Universe after dinner this evening, as it were…

Lots of love

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Alex 2723.24 15625.16

The moon has just gone down and the universe is spread in all its magnificence across the sky – indescribable experience which you tend to forget about in the big city. Or maybe the whole shebang is really a small segment of the tiny brain of a little dog on a smoky planet in a parallel universe not very far from here and all our activity is just the energising of an idle thought that it needs to find a convenient tree.

Cetaceans – the three we saw were olive greenish brown, very big, with a long smooth gliding motion, no tails visible and a small triangular fin a long way back towards the tail. Not like the usual humpbacks at all. I looked for the CSIRO recognition chart before we left, I really did. And a good bird book.

Stephen, we’re abeam Brisvegas now and about 160 miles out – probably too late to deliver a slab of the Dublin Doctor but thanks for the thought.

Irwin, thanks again and all seems ok out here, so far.

Hi to Belmore South – G’day Funsters, Yo the Wunderbars, Hi again to the AllStars. Hope you all get something interesting out of this and it’s good to have you along.

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Well I never

Second and third reefs in quick succession – 25 knots up the proverbial and a very nasty sea behind us. Orange sun just disappearing, Berri stonking along nice and snug at about 6.5 Time to Consult with Dr Pete, I think.

Happy commute, everyone down south!

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Noon 2627.21 15859.14 and our first reef in the main

DTD 5275 so vmg 137. Not bad. Signs of real progress – we’ve made good 554 miles from Sydney, and 621 through the water, so we’ve lost a bit in the current. Still, nearly 10% of the journey and on schedule.

About to pull in a weather fax from Charleville. Really getting a good push north from the big high over mainland Oz but there’s a little low forming just ahead of us that might become interesting. Today, 15 – 20 kts, occasional showers with gusty blasts underneath. Put a reef in the main for the first one, just in case, but no dramas. Took it out, wind came in a bit, put it back. no point in boring you with this.

Empty bit of sea. Wonder who has been here before us. Somewhere north of here, more or less on a line from Tahiti to Cape York, we will cross William Bligh’s track to Kupang in the Bounty’s jollyboat. Poignant in all sorts of ways.

Wxfax in – low doesn’t look too threatening yet but – things can change very fast and we’ll watch it.

Great cake Jeanne – thanks. Pete, had a contemplative drop of The Brew for lunch – rather noice. Ta. Do you remember how many you put in?

Time to sleep.

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A quickie while I pullo in a grib 2642.39 15651.14

Lots of stuff: had our first big splash over the cockpit coaming a few minutes ago so the Cone of Silence is now down – for the uninitiated new gusts, that’s a heavy plastic curtain that protects the nav station and the pointy bits of all the electronics without which all y’all would not be able to follow us. And the bottom stormboard – a half door that fits into the access ‘doorway’ from outside to inside the boat. When the cockpit fills with water, the stormboard keeps it as a swimming pool at the back rather than a flood inside. We hope.

Power – the airgen is not staying ahead of the output, so we have to run the engine for an hour every morning and evening to top up the batteries. We are clearly using more power than last time and I think it is probably the new instruments. We have to keep the autopilot in standby to get course and speed data which is an extra. This has other effects – it means that we can only make about 4.5 litres of water per day and we must monitor diesel use much more carefully. Pete and I went around the world on about 3.5 – 4 ltrs of water per day. I think we are using a lot more that that this time, so we will try to monitor use and work out how long we can keep going with what is in the tank and what we can make. Should be no problem but important to check.

Stonking along at the mo – broad reach and 6 – 7 knots vmg. Again, sparkling day, deep deep blue ocean that glows back at you when you peer into it.

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Diamond moments

Wind blasting in from the port quarter, Berri corkscrewing in the breaking surf of each wave – brilliant moon, almost cloudless, Orion clear to the west, a couple of bright stars next to the moon. A breaking wave crashes against the side behind me as I sit in the cockpit and I look up at the mast. The moon is just behind the headsail, which is in silhouette, and there’s a tiny tiny string of pearls streaming from the top of the forestay – a wisp of spiders web released who knows where and come to rest in the moonlight 170 miles out to sea. For this we are alive!

Love youse all but I wish there was a bit less wind – very uncomfortable and messy. McQ off watch asleep and missing it all. The wind now howling through Lizzie’s tv tower at the back and the airgen actually ahead of the current drain. It’s only about 25 – 30 kts so basically still on the edge of benign, so I shouldn’t complain.

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2452.20 15746.34 Around 07.30 Berri time

Short messages for the mo – quite difficult conditions, Berri rolling and pitching all over the place and makes it hard to do anything – even making water needs stable containers.

Theres a reef ahead, about half way between New Cal and the Gt Barrier reef with Chesterfield Island at the north end which we’d rather like to miss. Not a lot of choice about where you go in these conditions and I suspect that the 5 -6 metre seas we’ve got here will be much bigger in shallower water. I think the wise thing from here is to aim to go to the west, rather than through the middle so I’m trying to head down there. Almost dead downwind and very not easy.

Carla, sorry we missed you for Yuri – I’m still trying to get an answer from Xsatusa about how to set up the satphone to receive messages so if you left one we didn’t get it.

The milk in my tea curdled this morning – not once but three times. I’ve given up and will rehydrate in consultation with Dr Pete later.

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McQ: Hooning along in a washing machine, pos: 2427.48s 15750.1e

Hello Everybody…Its pretty difficult to find a moment to sit still and write a blog in these conditions!! The Cone of Silence is up/down/in use and to even dare to try and get past in wet weather clothes would be enough to get you keel hauled (understandably so, though!!!) and to take your lifejacket followed by about a gazillion wet layers off to come and writ e a blog means that invevitably something will happen on deck, kevvo will have a moment or whatever and you find yourself needing to leap back up with not nearly enough wet protection!!!

As expected the wind and the sea picked up yesterday and soon enough we were down to three reefs and a wee hankerchief of headsail!!! The good thing (in theory) about a furler is that you don’t need to go to the foredeck to change the amount of sail. So the furthest forward we need to go fo r manouvres is the mast for reefing- that said the bow is only about another two steps forward of the mast on wee Berri!!!

I have seen some bigs seas in my time and I have likened the Pacific Ocean, last time I was here, to like being on a giant 3D roller coaster, for days!!! But that was on a boat nearly twice the length of Berri and if I thought that was a roller coaster- well this is something else.

On a boat this size everthing is heightened an d magnified, so the sheer scale of the walls of water that pile upon from behind seem gigantic. The wind is still blowing, gusting 30, from the starboard quarter so a great fast reach for us. The swell is from the SE but is topped with a short steep confused sea, so every so often, the swell will pick up our stern and we’ll feel as if we are ploughing vertically downward and at the same time the crest of a breaking wave will break beam on, drenching us and really ensuring that we are thrown around violently as if in an open topped washing machine!!!! But it’s great fun!!!!

Not just once have I turned and looked behind to see what is coming next and thanked our luckiy stars that (for the moment) we aren’t going the other way- that really would be a cold, wet, miserable and grumpy ride!!!

Hope everyone is well, lots of love and Happy Birthday Carie McQ x

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1130 position 2425.32 15750.20 – there wont be a noon one

DTD 5140 so VMG 135. This seems to be due to stay with us for at least another day, then it gets a bit confused.

Those of you who were tuned in to the B1 log may remember the VoA temperature indicator. The VoA number is getting very low, so the temperature must be rising. On the assumption, that is, that a high number means high viscosity. If you are completely lost, the hitchikers guide to berriland on the previous website might be of assistance…

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Every weather event must end sometime…2350.34 15751.26

Mixed feelings about this one. It’s pushing us north way ahead of schedule but it’s bordering on the iffy as far as sea state goes. 25 – 30 kts in the harbour is relatively trivial but out here, with 1000 miles or so of fetch along which the sea builds into short, vicious steep 5 – 8 metre waves with occasional bigger ones (always difficult to judge wave height from the boat) it is nasty and just a bit extreme. We have 3 reefs in the main and most of the furler in and McQ is hand steering. Kevvo get thrown off line and we’re all over the place if we leave him in charge. Next step, if it gets any worse, will be to drop the main. Trisail a possibility but may not be too easy to get at at the mo. Mistake, of course.

Just found some more chocolate. Sun already gone, moon up somewhere tho I cant see it from here. Steely blue sky going grey with long black shadows behind us as the rain squalls build. Would be – no is – magnificent and indifferent, but also threatening. We’re aiming for the west – leeward – side of the reef and Chesterfield Island. Should be up there tomorrow evening AGW.

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Midnight in the boonies 2310.54 15747.39

Just pulled in Speedy’s midnight special – thanks to everyone for your messages. H, hope you arrived safely in the ‘Jing.

Seems our wild surf is slowing – I was standing on the cockpit seats hanging on to the dodger knees slightly bent riding this violently rolling, pitching, yawing corkscrew of a 7 ton surfboat with the moon ahead gyrating in the sky and the flashing white surf whooshing past the boat – Ben Hur in his chariot, a bareback rider standing on her horse in a circus – whatever the image, the power of the wind and the sea and the boat’s ability to grab it and hoon with a bit of help from Kevvo was the stuff that brings a surge of happys to the heart. And now the wind has abated just a little, brilliant moon still up there, big waves still chasing us and we’re 727 miles from Sydney. Wooohooo.

And I’m not exactly sure what the line on the chart actually means but I think we have left Oz and crossed the border into New Caledonia. Progress of a sort!

Just lost half my scalding cup of tea over my hand and the floor. Oww! Sat on the floor and dunked a little tower of McVities one by one. Way to go. Biskit dunking lessons in the last gig’s logs somewhere – slight change to technique though as we now have a couple of huge mugs we bought in Falmouth last time and the whole biscuit fits in the nozzle so to speak and instant floppiness arrives if care not taken in timing dunk with boat’s roll – total loss of biscuit and sludgy tea…Nice though and can be taken with a spoon later.

Airgen now keeping the batteries fully charged – makes life much easier. Must be the wind strength.

Kimbra – had memory gadget plugged into laptop when it crashed and suspect that’s dead too, so I’ve lost your files unless I saved a copy on the home laptop which I daren’t open in these conditions. Might need some advice as we go north of the border. Also lost your email address

And, Eleanor, yours too – email Speedy and let me know how The Plan progresses.

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McQ: New Knickers Noon Pos: 2203.17s 157 45. 12 E

I can’t believe we have been at sea for almost exactly one week!!! A whole week ago since everyone waved us off, a whole week since Carolyn came down to the CYC with last minute supplies of snakes and she had even located a bottle of diet Irn Bru in central Sydney. Its been a while since I drank any In Bru- you can tell cause my hair is less orange these days but I am sure saving that bottle ofor an emergency.

Thats also a whole week with no cigarettes, none on board so no choice!!! No nicotine patches used and no grumps I don’t think!!! We’ll make a non-smoker out of me yet!!!!

I put new knickers on this morning to celebrate all this and minutes after going on deck a huge wave come crashing over the top of me and I now have wet hair, wet top, wet back, wet shorts, wet NEW KNICKERS and boots filled with water. You can almost guarantee that had I not entertained the idea of clean knickers I would still be dry now. So I spent the rest of the watch trying to dry my boots out, accepting that dry knickers were a thing of the past. Just towards the end of the watch I felt I had succeeded on the boot front, using a cunning combination of sunshine, paper towel and rags as I watched them visibly dessicate before my eyes… Even the sea in my shorts, if not the knickers, had begun to evaporate and I began the clamber down below feeling a wee bit pleased with myself… but no, damn you Murphy and your Laws, just as I was about to through the companionway hatch, another wave came over the top again, soaking me through once more and re-filling my boots with sea!!!!! Oh how Alex laughed!!!!

We had better keep the pace on as I certainly don’t have enough underwear supplies to change my knickers twice daily…

Lots of love to all
Ps thanks for all the messages: Geri & Luke, as soon as the weather eases enough to make reading a feasible possibility once again, and I have finished the HH’s, Papillion is next on my list and I am v v looking forward to it.

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From Alex:

dtd 5006, dmg 134, distance made good from Sydney in first week 795nm and that’s after ploughing through the east coast current – distance through the water is 907nm all give or take a mile or two. So knickers to the schedule – so far so good!

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2124.32 15742.39 – Alex

Well and truly on the way – we were visited today by one of these long tailed terns – brilliant white, long pointy tail, razor wings and they dive spectacularly for fish. But also a sure sign we’re close to land. About 100 miles from Chesterfield island in fact, sailing along the south western edge of the reef and about 50 miles out. We should get around the corner in a couple of days.

A day of sweat and effort for the old geezer spent in the bowels of the vee-hicle unpacking and repacking the insides and then putting sponge rubber under the diesel containers in the cabin as they were moving around a lot and we don’t want them to wear through. ‘Er outside spent the time getting used to Kevvo’s idiosyncrasies – he takes a bit of practice and getting used to. And, as she told you, getting her knickers wet.

Repacking because we decided we needed a second bunk to sleep in rather than as a storage bin. We’d been hot bunking one bunk but because Berri is so tiny inside and everywhere is knobby or sharp or generally uncomfortable in some way, there is nowhere for the person on watch to sit or rest the aching back except – in our case – a bunk full of boxes, bags and stuff. So it’s all repacked and we got two bunks just like Pete and I had all them years ago. So it seems anyway.

Definition: hot bunking is two or more people taking turns to use the same bunk – you come off watch, peel off the wetties and party gear and hop into a nice warm bunk your oppo has just hopped out of. Except it’s often wet and soggy and you curse said oppo just as s/he curses you at the other end of the watch.

Ann, you asked about phosphorescence – isnt any here, though a couple of nights ago I looked over the stern at our wake and there was a glowing trail with lots of bigger sparkles – more or less instantaneous. Very like looking at the milky way on a clear moonless night except its stars are static.

We’ve been up and down the reefing system all day – from 3 and postage stamp jib to full everything and now 1 and about half the furklwe – how did ha happen? – meant to be furler. Always exhilaration in these conditions, with the constant grey knuckle twinge in the hairier bits. The sail works well, Brian – thanks. Different though, and needs different techniques.

Time to scrape ze teef. Another blog soonish on Consultation and our complement of medicinal compounds. Very different from last time.

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Alex – April 18th

Land birds around – not many – and we’re still hooning, though the wind has died a bit for the mo. Huge fun, but I’m knackered. Months of planning and a full on week has been a bit wearying. But I’m in the routine again and actually getting some sleep. Berri still talks to me all the time but there’s new vocab – Lizzie out the back has her own distinctive voice and grammar and the furler is a quite different dialect as well. Still have the normal creaks and groans and tiny sighs that all have meaning and importance and taken together, keep the running score ticking along in my head.

Kevvo having real trouble with these big waves that throw him off and the sideways motion gives him false apparents as well. Constantly up and down sorting him, but he does a great job. Easily the most important bit of kit if this thing is going to work.

Love yez.

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McQ: Sweet Dreams indeed…

What a phenomenal day!!! Its still blowing a hooley out here and looks as though it might for a bit yet- imagine that, hooning along on a broad reach with 25-30+ knots from behind for days on end. Thats got to be unheard of!!!! We’re quite near a reef and we have a very confused sea- properly all over the place, a big undulating blue scape of hills and valleys and the odd Munro and Cheddar Gorge thrown in for effect, so have been driving for a bit (kevvo frustrates me so when his mind wanders and we end up pointing at Geneva, or somewhere equally inconsequential on a voyage such as this) and listening to my new ipod, can’t really beat a bit of Eurythmics, as loud as MY ear drums can handle, Sweet Dreams indeed, and the lyrics are pretty apt all round- AMAZING!!! Ginney, if you are reading any of this, thank you for all my ipod music. Its ace!!!

This is just such a great trip and some fantastic sailing, we really are charging along at the moment on wee Berri.

Oh Crikey, I have just experienced the Cone of Silence, working, and it works, fortunately!! A huge wavd has just come crashing in!!! It’s nice to be off watch for a change!!!!! I have stopped asking ‘Teflon Al’ as he is now known, for a dress code before coming up on deck as he invariably says its dry and shorts and T-shirts are fine and invariably I end up drenched… I might stick my head up just now and ask if he would like his wet weather gear passed up… but knowing Teflon Al that last big wave may well just have missed him completely!!!!

Lots of love

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Listen up - Alex

Right you lot – listen up and you can shout at me later. Some rather crudely potted philosophy – don’t know whether I can get this into words that I like but it seems worth a go. I think I’m speaking for McQ here too, but she’s asleep so can’t ask her.

Lots of people have asked me why we do this. Are we mad, foolhardy, plain self indulgent or what are we trying to prove?? Lots and lots more people – more than I could count, if I ever cared – have said to me and Pete that they found the last one truly inspirational, fascinating, life changing – all that really good stuff, and they meant it. And there have been lots of people utterly gobsmacked by this one – totally uncomprehending yet fully with it and with us. So yes – at one level, it is completely hedonistically self indulgent but at all the other levels, it does things for other people too. Hardened crusty old achievers from all over the place along with them. The idea seemed like fun in the bar in Baton Rouge and Pascal and Pete and I could see immediately its power to involve and inspire, particularly kids. We are being followed by several schools, especially our old mates at Belmore South – onya guys! – and if just one of those kids grabs an idea from this and follows it and becomes a scientist or an astronaut or just finishes school we’ve achieved. If we can demonstrate that by starting small and without massive resources you can do things that are way out in left field (could one of you Americans please tell me what exactly that means?) then maybe there’s a chance that other messages will stick as well.

As for something to prove – yesss! Absolutely we want to prove it can be done – small, unsponsored, individually powered and with our due amount of luck, we can make this happen. People have said that we are brave – perhaps, a bit, but by being brave you sometimes make your own luck. And if it goes pearshaped, some of those people will say we are just foolhardy. Perhaps that too. But it’s all about preparation – the more prepared you are, the luckier you get!

Some of you will have heard about Francis (I think – might be Francois) Joyon. If you haven’t, Belmore South, google him. A remarkable man who also did something much more spectacular than this but in the same spirit. Our hero for the day.

Must go and pull in the weatherfax for today. Hope that isnt all too pompous and presumptuous.

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Further to my last

My weatherfax alarm rather caught me mid stride – I had intended to say that all of you out there are our motive and our inspiration. We don’t have an army of therapists and motivators to keep us in the groove and creatively visualising – you are that army. You, and a lot of people who have contributed directly or indirectly to getting us here – thank you all. And special thanks to David Speed who is our link with you and without whom a lot of the interest would be lost. We discovered last time that the impact of what we were doing derived largely from the fact that people could read about it in real time and the vicarious experience was a whole lot more powerful for them as a result.

So thanks, all y’all and hang in there and ride the razor with us. I hope it’s worth the effort. In the Tao the best leader is described as the one to whom, at the end of the enterprise, his followers can say ‘We did it ourselves’. Would be great if you all feel some real involvement in this silliness however it turns out.

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Goldfish, protocol and crackers

The problem with having done this once before is the Goldfish problem. The goldfish has no short term memory, so every time it swims around its bowl, past the plastic mermaid, it sees the mermaid effectively for the first time ‘Hi mermaid!’…’Hi mermaid!’…’Hi mermaid…’ I want to tell you all about the proper protocol for cheese crackers but I think I have done it before somewhere. If I start to get repetitive, Isabella, just shout ‘Hi mermaid!’ at me.

Anyway – cheese crackers. Anyone who went to state school in the UK or Oz will remember lunch boxes and cream crackers (UK), Saos (Oz) or Ryvita and all the other proprietary names for hardened gritty cardboard. I don’t remember them because I’m too old and anyway, I went to a slightly posher boarding school where lunch boxes were only for the other lot. Can’t you feel me blushing with shame already? Well anyway, yer average cracker has a pattern of tiny holes in it – (why I dunno, does anyone? – research project for Belmore South perhaps?) – and the only way to pack a pair of crackers with cheese, tomato, devon (bleah!)salami, marmite or vegemite or some kind of dead fish or bird was with so much butter on each cracker that when you squeezed them together with your teeth as you struggled to bite into them and at the same time keep it all together, little worms of butter were extruded through the holes and ended up all over your nose, exercise book or wherever. This had a secondary purpose, in that all that butter tended to hold the broken bits of cracker to the filling as you tried desperately to wind your tongue around every little greasy crumb. Marmite and vegemite ones were specially good because the worms were stripey brown and yellow – true culinary art forms!

I’ve just been there – ryvita type crackers, essentially soggy cheese that all the oil has run out of and into the plastic pack and several millimetres of again almost melted olive oil margarine. And worms all over my nose, fingers, chin – everywhere. Yum!

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A day in the life of...

From things you have said to me, I know that some of you out there are minutely interested in the daily life of a boot room rat, so here goes:

We are working 3 hour watches. If I tell you that I do the midnight to 0300 watch, you can work out the rest. Night watches are loong and really quite arduous because we have to stay awake and at least minimally on the ball, monitoring everything that goes on in the boat – battery levels, Kevvo, lizzie, sail trim, heading and vmg, all the different and important noises and vibrations that tell us how Berri is travelling, plus the speed at which our toenails are growing and, I guess, for McQ, counting the hours until the next hair management session. (It’s not too bad at the mo, but fully salty…) All this through the din of an ipod faffing away. More on this later.

Izz, somewhere in the BBC archive there is the Mike Morpurgo program – woonderful stuff and relevant – all about the concept of ‘home’ down the ages to us and Leroy in our respective vehicles…a link from the website perhaps?
[Link to “Something Understood (BBC4)”  is here]

Watch changes are when we speak to each other – usually shorthand communication – kevvo behaving, kettle’s on, ‘night…

I’m generally awake during the day and I tend to do the boat chores because I know Berri so well. For instance, I’ve just adjusted kevvo and the inner forestay and opened a beer. The Consultation process this time is quite different because McQ very sensibly doesn’t drink alcohol on boats so we don’t have the evening happy hour. I usually have a contemplative Consult with Dr Pete – or Drs Steve or Jasper – though Dr Jasper hasn’t quite come of age – during the noon – 1500 watch. Stinking hot today and I’m wondering where we put the cockpit shade cover. I think we have just enough medicinal compound to last the course.

We take it in turns to cook the evening meal around 1800. Yesterday’s was buttered vegies – home grown pumpkin with carrots, onion, red cabbage, spuds lightly boiled with lots of bacon, then drained and given a bit of oil and heat and served with melted olive oil marg and parmesan. Veg au beurre a la Boot Room Cinq Etoiles. I had the remains for brekkie.

Starting to ramble. Wind dying and code zero up and just moving us – sea still to high and rolling too much to work properly. The Examiner is back…next time, a burst on her new patent leathers.

Sadly, the programme to which Alex refers is no longer listed in the
BBC archive. It was from the “Something Understood” series and was
presented by Michael Morpurgo in July 2005. Michael’s children’s book
“Alone on a Wide Wide Sea” was initially inspired by Berrimilla’s first
voyage. Izzy

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The shuffling crowd

So – out here under the tropic moon, we have The Team. A Senile Old Fart, too gaga to realise when someone is kidding, plus The Bollinger Chick – a mixture of Fenchurch and Pollyanna on speed perhaps and, just to make it mildly tricky, The Examiner, who lurks about the place in technicolour virtual reality. The Examiner goes in for polka dot pink patent leather, diamond studded stockwhips and a nasty line of evil tests for aforesaid SOF and BK. Right now, she’s taken away all our wind except the memory of what it was once like to have any (she’s also into homeopathy and snake oil)and told us we have to move this old barge in a generally north northeasterly direction and we’re trying – wow are we trying. Little kite up and flopping, kevvo straining every stainless sinew and SOF and BK sweating in turn on getting the kite to work just on the memory of wind. It doesn’t, but that doesn’t stop Herself in pink polka dots from declaring that it absolutely does. And the tropic moon just sits up there and laughs at us as we roll and flop and slat.

The fourth member of The Team – Mr. Speed Himself – is down at the pub in one or another of the Chalfonts beset by another Miss Whiplash as he tries to keep his pint from spilling on his laptop and cutting us all off. But that’s another story.

As you will gather, we have slowed down more than a bit. Barely moving is the go. Frustrating, but what would life be without challenges?? Fiona, I guess it was a bit of a cliche’d rant – serves me right!

Kris – no 3 letter words in today’s cryptic but an interesting puzzle. Any chance you could send me Lincoln’s Gettysburg address? [link here] I think it’s only about 350 words. I’ve been listening to famous speeches on the ipod but no Abe. One of the all timers in wordsmithery and I miss him.

Some of you will know the feeling at the start of a big marathon or a fun run like the City to Surf in Sydney. There are 25+ thousand of you, all packed tight together shuffling forward to get past the start gate and into the race proper. You’ve started, but you haven’t. That’s the feeling for me – that twanging, apprehensive, adrenaline flushed excitement, dampened by the knowledge of everything that can go wrong. We’re only just out on the course, although we are already 1000 miles closer to Dutch. Our world is fragile – our links with all of you depending on so many implausible wormholes in space and all the planning. So I retreat into my head and work my way through the possibilities. I don’t think I will feel we have really got over the start line until we can hear the polar bears barking. Or whatever they do.

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As soon as I got the SOF head out of the immediate, I realised that I’d ignored the fact that the fifth member of The Team, Kimbra from Hobart, is slaving away in the west Oz boonies and doing some really useful analysis for us from the NOAA website. Sorry K! The memory gadget survived the crash, so I do still have the files and I’ve backed them up on the spare laptop. Assuming we ever get out of this hole andthin audio range of the polar bears, Kimbra will fly into Dutch to help us get through the Examiners Arctic nasties.


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McQ: Pootling along… anyone seen Mo????

Hi Everyone,

Pootling along, not very fast, not much wind, its sweltering hot already (0900) though it has been pretty warm all last night. Kite flopping about a bit in the sea, which is vastly more calm than it has been, amazing- it abated so much in about four hours yesterday… I find that quite fascinating, that the sea can build and recede so rapidly. still the occasional chop though that catches us out.

I remember having various classroom sessions on racing yachts and tactics and weather and trim etc… The guy doing the talking was mildly bonkers and always had a picture of a man frowning in the top left hand corner of the whiteboard and in the top right was a happy smiley face, then there was wind, tide, boats, arrows for this and that etc, but anyway, the guy on the top left was ‘the accountant’ who is ‘always there’ and the one on the top right was Mo(mentum) ‘our friend’ Now on this trip there may well be an accountant in the background but we are not bound to his whims and right now we are desperately trying to find Mo….!!!! SHe’s a bit like a plot, not good to lose but once she’s with you, you don’t want rid of her…

Kevvo a wee bit unreactive on the hunt for Mo Mentum, so Teflon Al currently hand steering trying to find her…

Last night was wicked… there was a full moon so it didn’t really get dark all night, the moon just arced over the top of us and was just setting this morning as the sun was rising, It was very cool, look left and in the distance this bright orange huge moon was just dropping down behind dark shadowy clouds,(the shape of the clouds made the moon look like it had wings and appeared to be a giant snitch from Harry Potter. Look right and the sun was rising, the horizon bright yellow all across and fading into that early morning bright blue cloudless sky… it was brilliant… only lasted a minute or so together but great sight to behold!!!

Right must stop chattering and go take my turn trying to make wee berri go faster…

Lots of love to all

PS younger, less wise sibling, I need your email address, I have to ask you something, can you let me know. hope all is good at the photocopier, lots of love, older wiser sibling. x

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Idle perspectives

I bet none of you were thinking, as you chomped your breakfast muesli or sucked on your Guinness and bacon sando that today is the anniversary of Oliver Cromwell’s sacking of the Rump Parliament, in about 1653. What the hell does that have to do with the price of fish, you may well ask, but it was one of the series of decisive events that resulted, after the Interregnum, in England’s becoming a parliamentary democracy with a titular and more or less powerless monarch . Whose birthday it is tomorrow. Onya Maam.

And the day after is the day the Boot Room Rat, the Senile Old Fart, gets another number carved into his tombstone. I guess around about here in peoples’ lives, the perspective turns from looking forward to remembering the past. Maybe it’s to stave off that moment, as well as all the stuff in my cliche’d rant the other day, that I do these things. Brings the short term into sharp focus and fuzzies the longer. Noice – I like it.

We’re still pretty much stopped out here. Hot and tedious, kite and main slatting and Berri just making way. Reluctant to burn too much diesel while we’re still in the starting gate – ITCZ still to go and we may really need it. Kimbra – any idea where it may be at the mo? Gribs indicate that we ought to have breeze here but…Email me direct if it’s easier. A bit Monty Python – I’ve lost me ITCZ – anyone know where its gone?

Anyway, today’s Consultation will be dedicated to Cromwell, warts and all.

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Bath Time

DTD 4545 so dmg 117 total dmg from start 1274 – almost 25% Prob at 25% thursday. Time for arrival time prediction contest. My prediction is June 3rd, late evening – only because that will be the third anniversary of our arrival in Falmouth last time. Any other takers? Prize to be decided depending on location of winner.

We’ve been going, stopping, motoring, flopping for the last couple of days. Hot and tedious and hard work. Water temperature 34.5 deg. Just been through a rain squall – a bath for free! Got it all off and rinsed the salt and accumulated boot room grime, scroff, parrot feathers and the rest from the bod and rinsed the clothes I’ve been wearing since Sydney. No knicker changes here – no knickers actually. Motoring/flopping at the mo. No wind, nasty chop, hoping for breakout into easterly airflow later tonight or tomoz. Cloudy, 8/8 low Cu with rain squalls – ITCZ stuff – very humid.

We’ve been followed by 4 gannet like birds – 4 ft ish wingspan, long thin body, tail pointy in flight but a tight fan when used as an airbrake. Mostly light brown/creamy grey, one much darker on top of wings, one lighter all over and speckeld over wings, beaks long and pointed, more or less the same colour. One looks to be a younger one, has darker stripe around chest. They have been with us since Chesterfield several days ago.

Still trying to get the Xsatusa satphone working. Speed will call them Monday, meantime, you should be able to leave SMS messages via iridium.com on the other phone, 00881621440078 if you want to. I’ll check it once a day. Again, a limit to how many we can receive at once.

I’m behind the Cone and sweaty. Need to break out for a bit. Kimbra, could you please send me your email address? Also Kris.


The Boot Room Rat

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McQ: hmmmm

Just coming towards the end of a tedious and painful watch, which followed on from Alex’s equally grim sounding watch!! For the first 36 minutes it poured torrentially and every time I tried to olook forward to see what was happening ahead i woulod get blinded by rain, even if i could see past the rain it wouldn’t have made much difference, just murky gloom and the odd flash of orange lightning in the distance. We were motoring at this stage and the wind picked up to 14 knots then went back to zero. The rain finally died out and the wind fiolled in at around 10knots from the NW, random and somewhat unexpected direction so gave it 3minutes 21 seconds to make uop its mind that that was definitely the direction it wanted to blow from.
So set the sails and Kevvo and engine off, nice. We stonked along at 6.5 knots for about 6 and a half minutes then the wind died and kevvo went loop so stuck it out hand steering for a bit till wind was zero a nd boat speed zero. grrrrrr. Donk back on then off, then on etc etc and now the sky has gone crazy again- no moon in sight tonight!!! It looks as though, if the sky was a giant bit of paper then someone has gone mad scribbling all over it with charcol and realised they over did it so tried to rub it all out with a really squidgy eraser and has just left huge blobs of smudgy grey mess across the sky. Sea inky black too. not so nice. And the end of watch downpour is going on again so i might just stay down here, warm and dry, tucked behind the Cone of silence, seeing if I can talk enough drivelo to you guys to last till the end of the watch with out having to get soaking wet on deck again!!!!

Actually, should probably go check we’re ok up top, at least we are going in the right direction!!!

Oooh its someones birthday tomorrow, I wonder if there will be any presents????

Lots of love

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DTD 4468 so dmg 77.

Birthday personals:

Ethel and Alec – onya!

H & K in the ‘Jing and E in Melb, thinking of you. H, thanks for Horatio telescope and clocks – counting seconds is where it’s at!

Kimbra – that was the cake to build the Opera House on! Yea – went well with The Paddo Quack’s best brew. Which actually came out of a round the world recycled bottle that we must have used for gin at some time in its history. Way to go. And the pink balloons too – Michelle C, if you’re out there, we had two very elegant pink boobs in the rig, just like your kites, spreading the message to the dolphins and Bligh’s ghost. Hope you are going well.

And The Paddo Quack, OTK Pete – great brew mate. Thanks. Second consultation for the day has just occurred. This is a very long and tedious leg – big hole in the middle and not a lot of wind.

And some stuff for the fixers – if anyone (in Oz) is in touch with Paul Fisher and/or Marty Andersen at RPA, could you please pass on that the manufacturers instructions and the base fitting for mounting the Airgen tower are nowhere near adequate. Was down the back in bumpy sea doing the usual and nudged one of the tower supports and the whole tower came off the rubber compressed fitting at the base and fell forwards. Potentially dire consequences, luckily avoided, but at the very least there should be some sort of through bolt arrangement to anchor the thing to the rubber base. I now have it lashed down to the windvane bracket and have devised a more permanent fix with hose clips and a couple of shackles through them at the base of the tower to allow the base to be tied down firmly to the windvane bracket.

Meantime, we’re just headbanging away at this rather difficult stretch Hotblack Desiato diving into the sun we are not! We need an infinite improbability event to shift us into the wind 200 miles ahead.

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Where to start?

So – first, thanks Malcom and a mile or so to go till we cross Bligh’s longboat track. Would’ve been a Dr from Dublin job in the old days.
Second – best EVER birthday present – WIND and 4.5 knots in the right direction. AGW, we should be a quarter of the way tomorrow.
Thanks for all the birthday/buffday wishes – glad you’re back Caroline! – and Hey Carla! AstroAlmostAssymetric! Don’t suppose you’re left handed as well?
Last night, 1800 – 2100 and 12 -3 probably rate high amongst the most miserable and unpleasant watches I’ve ever spent and that’s saying something. Hugh, you bastard, you wished it on me. May your parts shrivel and your pansies die! We sailed into a small circular system – probably a low, but no gradient – just as it got dark. Grey, fluffy amorphous sky – no shape, no structure except every different softly textured grey had its own ominous black line along its lower edge and everywhere you looked, solid grey/black walls – rain – much softer once you get past the frontier, but soft miserable dripping rain – runs down the main, along the boom, rivers down any crevice in the party gear. Massive lightning flashes all around and there ain’t much that’s more scary for this little black duck than lightning. And all windless except in little bursts from everywhere, mostly associated with thickening of grey texture. So – unroll furler, get it all sheeted on, re-run main preventers, trim, turn off engine, perhaps 10 minutes of really hard work and humid, sweaty and aforesaid rivers not helping and Berri starts to come alive again. For about 3 minutes and then you feel the first little lift of the headsail luff and the main starts to soften and it’s gone. Roll and slat and curse. I guess the examiner is in a dirty mood – so undo it all again, restart the engine….

Jennie, you have to include your email address in the text or ask Speedy to forward it – which he’ll probably do when he reads this anyway. Isn’t like normal email – everything goes through the squeezer and shredder before it gets sent to us and all the crap that hangs off office emails ‘This email is for addressee only…’ etc gets assigned to where it should have been in the first place.

Have just transferred remaining diesel from cockpit to tank so we now have floor to stand on again out there in the garden. Yay. The equation – we have about 300 litres left, @ 2 ltrs/hour @ about 4 knots = about 600 miles of motoring. We will have to cross the ITCZ (doldrums) which will be about that distance on its own, so there will have to be some wallowing waiting for wind somewhere up there.

Just crossed Bligh’s track.

The Boot Room Birthday Rat.

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McQ: The BVS

This blog is dedicated to my friend Ali, who would be designated Chief Viciousness Rater should she accompany me on a future voyage.

For those who were lucky enough to receive the regular installments from ‘The Arctic Adventure’ Chronicles from my trip to Spitsbergen in 2006, you will be fully up to speed on the Bollinger Viciousness Scale, for everyone else, here is a quick guide…


The Bollinger Viciousness Scale is a scientifically proven method of rating, well, just about anything really, according to ferocity. It was first developed in 2006 in order to convey in simple terms just how ferocious a variety of Arctic wildlife can be. For example, at the top of the scale is the Polar Bear (very vicious when hungry)and at the other end, the Beluga Whale, totally un-vicious. Every other aspect of arctic wildlife can be included in the scale inbetween- Afurther example: the Walrus: appears vicious but is really big and cuddly and smelly.

Recently the usage of the scale has been increased and now an official Southern Hemisphere section has been developed. This can be used as an independent rating system or still with integrity as part of the original BVS.

Here are some examples relating to wildlife which we have seen so far. Items annotated with an asterisk and ‘not seen’ indicate that we have not seen any examples and thus can not accurately rate them on the viciousness scale, but merely speculate where they might lie. Certain items, therefore, have been included for the benefit of Mrs McQ who was asking for statistics on things we have seen (other than clouds, which incidentally are a BVS phenomenon in that they can lie anywhere- yes, anywhere, on the scale!!!)

*Cruise Ships: not seen, impossible to rate at this stage in Southern Hemisphere, could speculate relative to Arctic
Dolphins: not vicious at all, saw about 10 the other day who hung around for ages in a tight knit group- we think they might have been babies at dolphin how to swim school Fin Whales: potentially vicious, purely due to their size, but probably not. 3 seen All manner of birds so far: none seem to have any vicious tendencies Bits of floating polystyrene: 3, one with a weedy beard growing from it. Not vicious towards people but extremely vicious to the environment Flying Fish: vicious in a gory horror movie sort of way with their bony wings flapping about, but harmless really (unless they get stuck in the drain holes. 4 seen so far on deck, more in the water.
Other flotsam/jetsam: one white plastic buoy: not rated on the vicious scale. too inert.
*Other yachts/ tuna. none sighted but presumably equally un-vicious *Fishing boats, none so far, potentially vicious, (From prior knowledge: especially those with spears when you drive near their nets (from a previous experience in the south china sea))

Now that everyone is equipped with a basic understanding of how this works, we will update the scale on a regular basis as we encounter more and more new things.

It is the middle of the night and there is no wind McQ x

ps j’nie thanks for message but no email address???? is it just your full name at gmail.com??????????? x

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More thanks everyone for birthday wishes. Get ‘em in while you can!
Kimbra, Speedy suggests we go through website unless super urgent. I’m not logging in much during the day now anyway as we only get one download from Speed Central.
Kris, thanks for Mr Lincoln. Shame we seem to have departed so far from those principles and doesn’t learning by heart spoil the experience? Snow in April – wonder if that has any significance for the ice further north. I remember that beer too!

Planning failures – can’t believe, for instance, that I didn’t put in the cockpit floor. No dramas there except wet feet tramping through the cabbage patch in the boot room. Or find and put on board the sextant plotting sheets or even graph paper so we could make one. Means we are entirely reliant on the calculator if we ever need to use it.

Things that are both near and distant – the course of a boat – time to resurrect 1000 years in a day from the Berri cd archive. Stone age technology already – I remember buying my first cd player in 1984. A Sony brick, but then an amazing bit of gizmology. And Andy, who helped design it.

Grand birthday – wind all day, more or less right direction, 2 Consultations and Thai curry with pumpkin and noodles courtesy of McQ for dinner. And presents. And boobs in the rig for Michelle. A cornucopia for an old git.

We’ve had the place to ourselves since leaving the Oz coast at Port Stephens except for one light astern a few nights ago. And we hit something earlier this evening – big soft double bump but dark and could not see anything.

VoA now so low it almost needs a spoon. Water temp 35.

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McQ: It’s a beautiful thing

What a glorious day!! We motored much of last night through barely any wind and at some point we discussed that if the wind hadn’t filled in by dawn we would put the Donk off and probably wallow for the day, diesel being the resource that it is. But just before sunrise the breeze started to fill in on a flat calm sea. Before long we were sailing, in the right direction, slicing through the ocean at 4.5 knots… not a bad start to a birthday!!
The wind stayed in all day and now,the following evening/day (0400) it is still there. We are sailing upwind in around 10/11 apparent, mostly. Full sail up and storming along at nearly five knots on starboard tack. For the most part we were being pushed a bit left but this afternoon the wind gently gently veered for us and our little black outline of a boat with a big black arrow at the front was pointing to the the little red dot that is our waypoint on the computer screen. sweet!!! Wind backed a touch again now though and we’re pointing left again… good birthday wishes and vibes etc from the wind gods, can’t last forever, and it is no longer birthday!!! At least we are moving and have been all day, especially considering we were gearing up for a wallowing!! Its a beautiful thing!! Kevvo was in charge most of the day, though we did have a wee moment when his concentration waned and we tacked by accident…. I wrestled the tiller from him but by the time I unlashed him, it was too late, we were fully hove to, so the only solution was a donut… hmmm.

Saw one of the more spectacular sunsets ever this evening. the whole sky was yellow and orange and faded pink and blue behnd some clouds, but it was the sea behind us, it started off pale pink and as the sun went further down, the pink turned into a silvery lilac and by the time the sun had almost set the sea was a bright vivid violet colour- awesome!!!

Made a birthday thai red curry for dinner this evening, which wasn’t bad if I don’t say so myself- though i would suggest pumpkin and chickpeas (garbanzo beans, garbanzo beans!) offer an unusual texture sensation, but the pumpkin was going mouldy and needed eating and chick peas were the first tin to hand!!!! Lots left for breakfast!!! I even partook in the days birthdya consulting too!!!!

Soundtrack for the day has been ‘scribbled in chalk’ and ‘screamadelica’ (yep, indeed I am on ‘s’ on the ipod!!!)

BVS additions:
Lightning: the most vicious thing that has been discovered- needless to say I hope never to have to compare face to face the viciousness of lightning versus polar bears to find out just which has superiority in the vicious scale.
Consulting: not vicious unless it involves lots of gin

not much else to report at moment.
lots of love

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Creeping forwards

It’s like walking around the world only slower at the mo. Sparkling day, little fluffy clouds around and – wonder of wonders – just had a little shower of pearly iridescent rain out of an apparently clear patch of sky – not a cloud anywhere close. All sorts of ideas come to mind, but not for a website that’s read by kiddies!

I’m seething, boiling, incandescent with frustration about our flaky piecemeal satphone service and trying to be the gentle restrained understated inoffensive boot room rat cos I expect there’s another side to the story somewhere. I have a 500 minute voucher from Xsatusa that was activated a week or so before we left, to make sure it worked. I detected a problem then and thought they’d fixed it and did not have time to check. They hadn’t. Seems I was given – or mistakenly used – the wrong number or SIM card (I have two SIMS, one for the Arctic) and about 30 emails later, I think I know what the problem is but no one over there in Peachtree City Georgia seems to be getting the message and doing something about it. I will publish the whole series of emails if/when we ever get back into post stone age comms again as a case study in how not to run a service desk. Partly, admittedly, caused by my inability to use their support system properly from out here, but that ought not be a show stopper.

Anyway, it’s taken a lot of emotional energy and the creativity quotient for these bloggy things is a bit down. Midday Con should help.

Found Robin Williams’ 1000 years in a day ABC production broadcast on Dec 31 1999 – when Berri was holed up in Skeleton Bay trying to dry out – and given to me by H on mp3 cd before we left last time. So can’t Ipod it as far as I can see and using Keycorp’s mps cd player departure present to listen to it. Wonderful stuff – starting with Sei Shonagon in the Japanese Empress’s court in about 1002 – her lists and observations waspishly relevant today. I’ve always liked ‘Things near but distant: paradise – the course of a boat – relations between a man and a woman’. And then another fascination – the migration of the Polynesians from the western pacific across to Easter Island, possibly Chile if the recent chicken bone can be believed, and down to NZ, the last place they are believed to have settled, in about 1100.

More on this later – the questions it raises for me as a sailor are profound and more that just technically significant.

Love yez all.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Comms getting flaky

dtd 4359 so dmg 109 and we’re past the first quarter in straight line distance. Wooohooo. Consult we shall, shortly.

Comms getting flaky as we get further from Oz sailmail base station so may become a bit more irregular. Next in line is Hawaii base stn, but too far out for at least a week.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

A little bit more….

In about 68 miles we’ll be north of the australian mainland – Berri for the second time – first time in the South Alantic. and through the Solomons Gate and out onto the course proper. In Marathon terms, 42185 metres to go, one at a time. Out here, 4315 miles – the numbers have a sort of symmetry! Also one at a time.

balmy day, wind all day. Lovely. Moon now up, stars dimmed and the sea getting a bit lumpy. Just had another bath in the cockpit – days really sweaty.

More on the Polynesian migration later. Stuff to do on deck.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Blerg-Noon 1050.51 16300.01

DTD 4246 so dmg 113 and total distance made good 1573 in 14 days (I think…)

Lots to tell – 1st BVS 10 was the bucket or so of water that came through the open hatch above my bunk as I was deeply asleep last night. Followed by several more soakings in rain showers and just plain sweat in the Cone – a really evil place in the tropics – no breeze and HOT. Can’t stay here for too long this time either.

Small drama with the furler – it came off a much bigger boat and the furling line is all wrong for Berri – both diameter and length, because our sail is much bigger than Simon’s so more line needs to be on the drum. So we devised evil plan – roll it all up, add some extra turns to ensure all the sail can be furled and still leave turns on the drum, then cut the old line and tie in another, thinner one. All went fine except that I forgot to make sure that the new one was long enough for the job and – thank you mr murphy, – it’s about 2 metres too short, so McQ has sewn and whipped a tail on to it for the time being, then we’ll replace the whole thing on a calmer day.

A series of warm blasting rain showers with their own little wind systems one after the other all morning but we seem to be away again in a clear patch heading for the equator near Nauru.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: Carrick Bends

Hey folks,
I am so frustrated!!! Earlier I tried to tie a Carrick Bend but, no, I had forgotten!!! Can you believe it??? It would have been the perfect knot for what we were trying to do but we ended up using a double sheet bend instead- anyhooo, you know how I like to acquire knowledge and learn new stuff (and relearn old stuff that I ought to know!!, well I was wondering if anyone coud explain how to tie one for me- I have a red bit of string in my left hand, with which I make a bight and then use the tail to make a loop, with the tail towards me- should the tail be over or under the loop?? then I have yellow string in my right hand which I think goes fover under over under, anticlockwise, but it doesn’t seem to work!!! can someone explain properly please???

I saw a tree today,about half the size of the boat…berrimilla ii not mirabella v (that would be a giant sequoia!) and it properly had a branch hanging out that was about as thiick as a winch (on berrimilla not mirabella, again that would be a giant sequoia!!) and its mangled dangling branch made it look like azombie sea monster!!! Fortunately we didn’t hit it.

Anyway not much else to report just now and its far too sweltering hot and sauna like here behind the Cone of Silince to think really, must go find inspiration for some carrots for dinner and check on deck for stray sequoias…

lots of love

2-1. Sydney-Equator


Grey – thick grey, like rabbits’ fur that you feel, that you can touch, that its wrapped around you. No form, no structure, just dark grey and the boat is flying and the rush of water you can feel but not see and then it goes dark. Really dark. And the boat leans further and the noise of the wind starts to howl and the rain crashes against the tiny Berri dodger you are trying to shelter under and the generator goes into overdrive and the headsail leech starts to flutter then roar and you’re in a tunnel of dim light and reflected sheets of rain – all around is noise and confusion but you can only feel it and the windspeed goes up – only 25 knots but the effect is magnified by the blackness and the noise. Your knuckles go a bit grey too.

And then the lightning starts and the cold green clammy fingers squeeze your heart and your guts churn….

Just been there and there will be more of them before tomorrow. But the phosphorescence is back – subdued but intense to leeward and barely visible astern. Wonderful.

Trouble is, the wind it now taking us way way left of where we want to go – local effect of the last squall or a change in the gradient? Don’t know and to tack would be premature. We’re only sailing at about 55 – 60 degrees off the wind because we don’t want to pound into the seas and potentially break something so a tack would not help much anyway. Early days but might be a need to think about staying west until we get above the ITCZ. Kimbra is checking for us.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: Grrrr

Grrrr, rubbish, rubbish, rubbish, grrr. We pop out of a squall, the wind dies, we bob and bob a bit more, it is very dark, nothing to distinguish sea from sky. in the murky gloom, though, is the definite shadow of the next squall line, so we bob a bit more, waiting, nothing happens, get tired of bobbing, dare we unfurl some headsail???? Unfurl some headsail, stop bobbing so much, squall hits, 30knots, over on our ear, get rid of headsail. grrrr, get very wet- this is huge big blobs of wet rain that gathers at your neck and creeps down your back to make your almost dry knickers wet again, grrr. more rain- a torrent from the skies, feels and sounds like god has dropped all his marbles and pebbles on top of us. yellow lightning that was in the distance now strobe lights up the near surroundings and thunder sounds ominously close. grrr. this is so painful as the whole process keeps repeating itself continously. to top it all off we are going in completely the wrong directoion- for those who aren’t sailors it is impossible to sail directly towards where the wind is coming from (in this instance, and often, where you want to go!!!) So we have to zig zag our way there- so whilst we are making progress, slowly but surely, it looks and feels like we are not. grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

Some good news: Alex meticulously set the fan up from the 12v charger and now we have air circulating inside… awesome!!!

hopefully we’ll have stopped lurching around and I’ll be less grrrrrrrr next time, till then,

lots of love

2-1. Sydney-Equator

noon 0935.20 16305.45

dtd 4172 so dmg 74. Poo

Pretty much what she said, basically. We’re stuck here in the bottom of the ITCZ with 870 miles or so to go to get back into the trades at about 5 deg N. Almost no wind between squalls and whar there is is too soft to push us through very lumpy short sea. Hot, humid generally not cool and froody. All you followers of Zarquon out there, if Mr Quordlepleen will permit, a wind dance on the tables please.

870 miles is just about exactly all our diesel so can’t motor all the way. We are trickling north, the shortest distance to get out of it, at about 4 knots with main sheeted to windward and the engine at about half revs.

Was going to bang on a bit about the Polynesian settlement of the South Pacific – from the 8th to the 11th centuries they moved from Samoa right across to Easter Island and possibly Chile, as far north as Hawaii and south to Rapahiti only 1400 miles or so from the Antarctic. They used big double canoes 60 – 70 ft with probably several families plus crop plants, livestock and water and it is thought they could sustain voyages of several months. But – fascinating, this – they used the prevailing winds to get out to each new chain of islands but there was an oral tradition with specific route information based on stars and swell patterns so some of them must have been able to go back the other way. How did they do this, and be able to remember and pass on the information? And they settled an empty New Zealand last of all, probably by following the SE trades back from somewhere to the NE. Imagine putting yourselves, your uncles and your cousins and your aunts, plus your pig, your pet chihuahua, aunty’s parrot, breadfruit and other plants perhaps and just setting off more or less downhill. And discovering NZ?

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Berri to Mission Control

Hi Pascal – laconic as ever! Will we need an insertion Consultation before we turn right? Tks for talking to El.

And Keith too – bet you thought we were kidding as well. If you still have those shirts, could you please keep one for Pete?

Some silly questions – just because:
1. Was Xanthippe a) a Brazilian footballers girlfriend b)a horse c) a universally hated Vogon poet or d) none of these?
2. Why did Xerxes’ men shout ‘Thalassa thalassa!’ or wasn’t it Xerxes’ mob at all?
3. What, under almost identical circumstances, did Hernan Cortes’ men shout and where?
4. Why am I asking these silly questions?

Plan B – here we are, stuck, sort of, in the first hundred metres of the course not having fun. Original proposal was to go east of Nauru through the Marshall Islands and then north to Dutch. The quickest way out of here is straight north so perhaps now, west of the Marshalls, around the back of the N Pacific high and thence to Dutch. Just to keep you all in the loop. We are trying to get every metre we can under sail but not much joy. Using the motor when there just isnt enough wind to give the autopilot steerage way. Was hoping to use Midway for emerg refuelling stop but it’s now part of a National Monument and visitors are not allowed without a permit from Honolulu. Pity. Osaka? Sakhalin? or just conserve the stuff.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Noon 0813.24 16316.16

DTD 4091 so dmg 81. Amazing and bloody hard work!

This will probably (did!) morph into the noon position. All rather knackering out here. Tiny breezes, 4 – 6 kts, between rainsqualls so lots of messing around and concentration in the soft bits and a real rollercoaster in the squalls – flying along at 7+ knots, phosphorescence at night spectacular – the dinos, not the algal bloom that sets the sea surface on blue green fire, so sparkly and bright and they are in the toilet water at night too. Fun.

Every mile in the can has been earned – and I wouldn’t dream of predicting an equator time – could be a month. Running the engine for 3 hours every other day to charge and make water so we get 12 miles or so ever couple of days at least.

Small drama this morning. Coming on watch at 0600. I noticed another vessel on the horizon to starboard. Steady bearing, and we were the give way vessel according to Colregs. I watched it for a bit then altered to starboard. No apparent change in bearing, so perhaps he’s altered towards. Another alteration to stbd, again no change. This is always a matter for concern. Watched some more and by this time he was in binocular range – just. Odd looking silhouette – seemed to have 2 masts and some sort of sail but turned out to be large fishing vessel with big crane over stern scoop and huge net hanging from it. Still coming straight towards us and I then noticed small boat in the water. Serious concern at this stage – maybe he’s friendly, maybe not. When they got to within about a mile, I phoned AMSA and left a message just to leave a report somewhere in case anything got pearshaped. They turned away at about half a mile. Phoned AMSA again to clear the report. Now they’ve disappeared into the grand daddy of a rainsquall to the NE which we will get into shortly.

Gerry, I thought the AMSA number I have is the duty officer’s but it isn’t. Could you give them a call, explain the need and get me a number that is permanently staffed? Just in case. Their 1800 number doesn’t work from the satphone.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Bleeeeaah! 0800.58 16310.39

No wind. None. Rolling, glassy, humid calm. Hot, no generator so no fan, sweat running in little Niagaras inside the Cone here. This will be a short one.

Motoring – diesel now the most precious resource – at about 4 kts. North. O great Zarquon, where are ya? Philandering with Gallumbits on Kakrafoon, no doubt. Get back down here and preach at us – harangue us – blast us with your orotund loquacity so the wind blows us along. We don’t have to listen, after all.

We were surrounded by fish before starting the engine. 15cm ish, flat, silver, seemed to be spiny. No birds. And, ominously, I saw little purple jellyfish in the water, so no swimming either.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: Oh when, when will this bobbety bobbing end???

Oh when will this end??? 5 degrees north apparently…anyone advance on that??? weather gods/gurus??? anyone??? If I wasn’t so superstitious I might think about whistling!!! Actually its not that bad whilst we are moving and there is something to be said for gently lolling along at 2-3knots, lots of time to contemplate life and stuff in general. bit like slow food maybe, gotta be good for you somewhere along the line. Its when we stop that it is soooo painful and in this precariously fragile balance between just the edge of enough apparent wind to move and not that all it takes is one slop of a wave in the wrong direction and one lull or gust in the wrong direction at the same time to bring us to a standstill. And then its just the thwack thwack thwack sound of the dacron sail material flogging about, which is just torturous, and if that’s not bad enough, you become acutely aware that every flog of the sail is a potential rip….

Well, I guess if we had wanted to magically get There in no time at all we would have gone in an aeroplane, or on a magic carpet. I always wanted a magic carpet- mine will be red and blue with silver tassles to hang on to on the corners. It will be big enough for two people and the back edge will curl over our heads to keep us dry if it starts raining… oh and we will travel almost as fast as time itself…

Sorry, reality, reality, many thanks Duncan and Carla for CB instructions- both made perfect sense, to me anyway,!!! I’ll be practising in daylight!!! Wholly agree that a double sheet bend infinitely more useful but thought a CB good as ends can be siezed making it flat. Anyway, totally irrelevant now, just nice to have refreshed the memory on such matters.

Time for a snooze and must get outta here (from behind the Cone) before I drown in my own sweat… sounds kinda drastic that, but that’s how it feels!!!!

Lots of love

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Tropical storms 101 0730.09 16313.14

We’re down to 2 hour night watches – not really survival mode but an acknowledgement that 3 hours of concentration at night is too hard to sustain. Hallucination, green monkeys, out of focus compass readings sending the remaining neuron into a dozy spin.

Filtered moonlight. Vague silhouetted shapes of cloud. Lightning all around, actual flashes or the glow as it plays around inside a big black fuzzy ball. In the flashes, the shape and form of the cloud is clear and often conducive to some serious foreboding. So, you sit there and watch the one in front getting – first of all – just thicker and darker. Then you can make out the filligree proscenium that defines the leading edge and suddenly your brain snaps into focus as you realise that the long – horizon to horizon – curved soft grey line is the squall line and it’s curving towards you. Rather exclusively so. No lightning, but you hear the first, musical roll of thunder – a gentle Gene Krupa riff mixed with a bass steel drum – and then the rain and wind hit as you go underneath the now very hard curve. 25 knots and horizontal rain. The wind has backed 60 – 90 degrees over the last few minutes. And whammy – the roar starts, the boat leaps ahead – headsail only and about a third rolled in – 7 knots and surge and dinos flashing past in glittering cascades. And the lightning – flat flickering blasts of yellow green inestimably bright light followed about 5 seconds later by a much more positively heroic riff from Mr.K and his accompanist. Never thought I’d hear the music in thunder but you bet it’s there. The drum roll at the gallows, perhaps, but with its own beauty…Lightning in the S Atlantic was more purple mauve than this – anyone know why?

And gradually it folds – the wind abates, the rain just drenches instead of sandblasting, and your back to the same old 2 – 3 knots generally north, dropping to nowt too often for comfort. And no airgen in the light stuff. Too early to speculate but I think we may find making enough water in the light stuff could be a problem especially if we run short of diesel.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: The foredeck witch dances no more…

Today has been brilliant, so far, except for a wee blip which I shall mention in due course. We are currently storming along at 6knots in the right direction too!!

I think the two hour night watches might have something to do with my general level of chirpiness this afternoon!!! Three hours in not much wind in the squalls and pitch black is a loong time on deck on your own and its definitely the third hour that does it- thats the hour when you hallucinate (more than normal) and go loopy (loopier than normal) and the foredeck witch comes out for a dance, and if you are really really tired she might start cackling too… (she is harmless so long as you can distinguish that she only exists in the mind)

Now, these squalls that I complain about so often, well actually when there is zilch wind in general a squall that picks us up and shunts us along (in the right direction) for a few miles at 7knots is quite useful, despite the misery of rain and lightning that comes too!!! but this morning was different, whilst chugging along at 4/5 knots with the gradient wind, we don’t really need or want any squall assistance/ setbacks and this morning all the squalls around us just kept missing us and we just stonked on through at a goood steady pace, perfect!!!… our navigation at the moment is ‘head north’ pretty simple really!!

Then we had our wee blip at lunchtime when Berri sailed into her own personal wind hole at the same time A discovered oil leaking from somewhere in Katie the engine. hmmm, not good. Can’t find the prob but tomorrow is a school day so we will try and summon the engine-oil-leak-expert-man to shed some light. I guess we just monitor in the meantime and if we really can’t use her in the long term, it will negate the diesel woes but we won’t be able to use the watermaker, if we can’t charge the batts and might be a wee bit thirsty at t’other end, after a looooong trip!!!!

fingers crossed…

lots of love

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Some catastrophising 0642.00 16310.04

Pace the examiner and Vlad the Impaler, who I can hear in the distance sharpening his stake.

We have a smidge over 4000 miles to Dutch. The next 700 or so of that is potentially windless. We may or may not have an engine. We have about 300 litres of diesel and 5 litres of oil. We need about 3.5 amps to run the computer and instruments. The airgen can carry that – mostly – when we have wind.

So – lets say 40 days to Dutch. We desperately need wind – to motor 700 miles would use all our diesel but we can work the little breeze there is and squeak along. Yesterday we did 60 miles – so perhaps 11 – 12 days to the trades.

Seems to me that the best bet is to monitor the engine very carefully and use it as necessary to get through the holes and up to 5 deg N and – I hope – some real wind. We need to keep about 80 – 100 litres of diesel for the N pacific, so we have perhaps 200 litres or 100+ hours of motoring @ about 4 knots = about 400 miles of the 700.

Really skinny but manageable as long as the engine lasts. If the engine really has the dickies, then it’s a long sail with very limited comms and whatever the airgen will give us to run the systems. Water will definitely be a problem.

David, your polarity lecture worked. Silly really in the light of the rest of this note, but we now have the fan in the system with the lights, so I can use the cig lighter socket for other things like charging the mp3 player. Yay!

2-1. Sydney-Equator

noon and potential disaster 0708.15 16314.54

Please note this post is from yesterday – DS

dtd 4029 so dmg 62

And the engine appears to be leaking oil. For a day that started rather well, things have deteriorated. Can’t find the source, so maybe old oil but unlikely. We only have 5 litres spare, so we have a problem if it is a real leak. Will call John W on monday.

Cross yer fingers, eyelashes, testicles, the lot…

2-1. Sydney-Equator

stuff 0524.20 16310.16

Izz – Cortes’ men would have said the same, but in spanish, unless I’ve got him mixed with one of the others – pizzaro perhaps. One of them slogged across the isthmus from the carribean to the pacific midst much hardship. didn’t some DWM like tennyson write a poem ‘alone on a peak in darien’ or something similar?
Malcom – tks for purse seiner – that’s what it was for sure. But I thought they hunted in pairs for some reason. Also for colour of lightning. Question – we’ve had a 25 deg difference between hdg and course over grnd as if east current 2-3 kts – is it so?
Mind games 1: played this in the atlantic too – if every ship that had ever been in this patch were here now, all around us, what would we see? Lots of WW2 warships, including Jack Kennedy in PT 109 perhaps, some early explorers – chinese junks, portugese carracks, other SE asian craft…not much modern shipping passes here, I expect, and, of course, the fishermen. A bit out of the way for the polynesians too.

mind games 2: I sometimes occupy the neuron with silly sums in the small hours, just to keep it awake and not hallucinating. My best marathon time was a bit under 2.42, or about 9 knots in round terms if I’ve done the conversion right. That means i was running about 30% faster than we’re sailing now. Looked at at night, the water rushing past always seems to go faster but it still seems awful fast. Today, of course, I’d find it hard to keep up with berri.

We’ve been moving all night – about 6 kts in 12-13 kts easterly with occasional softish squalls. Havent run the engine significantly yet so no news there. more sums – there should be about 150 ltrs of water in the tank – so if no watermaker, we’re on 2 ltrs/day each to Dutch. Grim. Am going to practise – mug of tea for breakfast, powdered milk, 4 sugar lumps, perhaps half a litre. 750ml Con at noon with liferaft rations, and a litre of water at night with more rations. Already feeling thirsty.

Huge squall just took my entire day’s sweat ration to get sail in, reefs done etc. Furlers are great but they do have their idiosyncrasies.

And we have another purse seiner with us. This one has a helicopter on the upper deck.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: 04o52’45S 163o03’35E Nearing the Pink Neon Sign…

Hey everyone… not far to go now to the equator- less than 300miles, so thats 3 days, at least, but not far in the big scheme of things!!! Then another 300 after that to some steady trades apparently- thats only one hobart/fastnet, which of course is a good way of measuring ocean distances (unless of course you are doing the hobart or fastnet!!!)

I have completely forgotten what I was about to say, oh yes, this will be my fifth equator crossing (at sea level) 3 by sail and one crossing we swam cause there was no wind!!! mental!! In alex’s case there have been two by sail and (nonchalantly) ‘4 or 5 by aircraft carrier’ so fortunately neither of us will need to be subjected to a Neptune ceremony… been there done that. Of course though, we must not forget neptune and as is traditional we must give him a gift or two as we pass. I wonder too whether the pink neon sign that lights up and says in giant letters ‘you are now crossing the equator’ will still be there??? It has always always been up in the past (Its true!!!), but funnily enough, just won’t seem to photograph!!!

So we must think of a pressie for Neptune… It is supposed to be something important to you, so the remains of that last pack of cigs that I left in Sydney would have been ideal, except they probably would have got smoked by now or gone to Neptune by way of water damage by now!!! So, what else? we finished the gin already. We could give him a beer but we might not have been abstemious enough for that!!! Diesel, is pretty precious but I don’t think the idea is to assist in polluting all his wee fish and their friends!!! Water now, perhaps, but that might just be silly, as would passports. I have no money so can’t give him dollars!!! I think I am going to have to settle for a few snakes and a tim tam- lets hope Neptune has a sweet tooth, indeed!!! Any other suggestions welcome!!!

Am marginally distracted cause can see big momma of a squall out the window so will be back in a bit but best go standby on deck ready for some activity (and prepare to get very wet too!!!)…

Lots of love
ps. If anyone wants to write directly (via our web dude)to us but not to be posted on website that is fine; click on the contact link but please keep it to text only and 5ish lines max as that is all our system can really cope with. much appreciated, cheers.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

noon 0510.37 16307.20

dtd 3920 dmg 109 so McQ wins today’s sweepstake.

DMG since we started about 1900 miles, so about a third of the way.

Thanks Kimbra – spot on so far. Could you please do a series of potential waypoints from the equator to Dutch starting at about 164 E using your wx files? I’ll stick them into the laptop and we can chase them.

Wind has just died. Damn!

Some news from the waterfront, so to speak. I swapped watermakers after expenditure of buckets of sweat and the backup seems to have the correct output – close to 4 ltrs/hr – so will give us more water for the bang. Or the buck. Or the diesel. And Whizzy Lizzie will actually cover the watermaker’s 4-5 amps as long as we have breeze, so no need for the engine. Wood firmly touched, of course.

Caroline – cool and froody – glad you like HHGTTG. The Vortex is THE place to be – Berri’s cockpit to a T. And isn’t ‘smalls’ a knicker euphemism?

Carla – yay! thanks for both messages – prob too much crap around to see the ISS this time but you never know. The best passes are the high elevation ones – gets a bit murky towards the horizon. And I LOVED the delicate irony of ‘applicable’. Keep em crossed! Wind just hanging in at the mo, and 600 to go to the trades – minimum 6 days of keepin’ ‘em crossed. Cd get uncomfortable but -hey! its in a good cause. Don’t know how to sms you back and anyway v expensive, so we’ll keep going this way? Perhaps you could let Speed know about the passes as well and perhaps put the link to the predictor on the website? Love ya too!(Speed having a think about this – Ed)

Later – was transmitting this very slowly and hit by huge squall, unexpected. Rushed on deck, 40 minutes of intense sweaty work dousing furler, re running preventers, tweaking main, hand steering, slowly abated and back down again. Tx aborted so time to add a bit. Been an interesting day. 2 reefs early to accommodate big squall, left them in. Mod to furler to sort drum problem, tweaker on the jib sheet to avoid having to move the car every time we take a bit on or out, watermakers swapped, first attempt at starvation rations (not really, but reduced anyway) indicates that if, as a survivor, I work this hard, I’ll be the first to be eaten when the others get hungry. Raging thirst already and made a cup of tea. Think I’ve earned it.

Love yez all.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Comms 0411.26 16250.25

A Rubaiyat night. Fluffies, 1st mag stars, halfish moon, dinos going off with abandon. Sooooo nice to be free of the freckleclenching anticipation of the next joust with Vlad the Impaler – for a short time anyway.

A word or two of explanation to reinforce McQ. We do not use satellite communications from the boat for this blog. Way way beyond my tiny budget. Instead we use a fantastic, almost free system called sailmail – www.sailmail.com and worth a look – that uses stone age technology (HF radio)and some sophisticated digitals to transmit to and from earth stations, which then put our messages into the email system on the internet. At the ranges we are working, transmissions can be desperately desperately slow – 200 characters per minute sometimes – and we are only allowed 10 minutes connect time each day as it is a shared system. If we time transmissions to the best radio propagation times we can just manage the volumes we need to send and receive but, of course, other people are trying to use the same frequencies at the same time and it’s not always easy. Our last download took me 4 tries and used almost all our daily allowance. Fortunately, it is averaged.

The purpose of the exercise is to get our stuff on to the website. Receiving your stuff is a privilege but not essential. Both depend absolutely on a clever and gentle soul called David Speed, our web dude as McQ calls him. He volunteered to do what he is doing, which he does as well as having to feed his cat, run a business, cut his lawn and get harassed by his bank manager, so we have to look after him too. Among other things, he edits and pastes your stuff into a single message that he sends us each day.

So – the golden rules – please keep it short, about 5 lines max, and not every day – around once or twice a week as a guide. I know that’s a dismally long time for facebookers, but hey, that’s how this thing works. If you must go longer, Speedy will be the arbiter of what we actually get to see. At this end, we have to limit what we write as well – about half a screen is our guide at the mo.

All of which said, it’s always great to get your messages.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

0339.37 16243.16 On the Upside of Wallow – for a change

As you can see, we’re being pushed west by some pretty solid current, but there’s lots of north there too, thanks to Carla. Carla, so sorry I forgot your birthday – was in my mind the day before, but perhaps Vlad and the drums got in the way. Anyway, you got your birthday wish and we got our wind which we’ve still got. I have teleported you virtual 6 pack Dr Coopers finest. If my aim as bad as for Keith’s, it will have smashed your petunias, but I hope it lands softly close to or in your fridge.

Some good news – wood again firmly touched – donk has been running for nearly 3 hours and no sign of oil. Not yet convinced and will examine carefully when cooled. Also watermaker has made nearly 12 litres in that time. I have put 4 directly into the tank, after tasting it, of course. Sooo…we’re aboout 200 from the equator and I think we’ll have enough diesel and water should not be a problem unless we really get slowed down. And I forgot – I can dismantle a watermaker and put a handle on it for manual operation – so there’s backup. And about 800 to half way.
Later: donk looks ok – small seepage around oil filter, but definitely not enough for concern. Everything to remain crossed please – for the duration.

McQ’s Dad – make her do some real work for the thing! A few poems! Pshaw! If you happen to be in London on June 4, Peter is launching his latest HWS – 6, I think – at Royal Thames YC at lunchtime. Berri has her very own chapter.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

noon 0321.32 16243.25

DTD 3822 so dmg 98

Of Magic, Superstition, Female Sailors
Sailors have – I think – always been superstitious. Probably because we’re out here completely powerless in an indifferent magnificence that ignores us completely and it’s comforting to feel that there’s something however insubstantial going for us. In 1998, before the Sydney – Hobart that ended in tragedy for some of my friends, Gordon Smith, one of Berri’s crew, brought on board a recently minted Oz 50c coin showing George Bass and Matthew Flinders and commemorating their discovery of Bass Strait. We stuck it on a little bulkhead where it’s been ever since – now black with corrosion and almost unrecognisable even as a coin. We won our half of that race…And now, on our Magic Bulkhead, we have one of the ISS Expedition 10 badges with Leroy and Salizan’s own design for their mission. Plus Isabella’s little Magic patch of RTW Berri sail and her tellales that went half way. And her new telltales are operational on the shrouds.

All seems to be working so far! For some that didn’t, google H. L. Hunley submarine – first ever to sink another ship, the Housatonic (American civil war) but the crew drowned shortly after when the sub foundered. The skipper, whose name I have forgotten, had survived an earlier battle because a silver dollar had diverted a bullet. They recently raised the sub and found the coin on his body. Sad.

Soo, if you think like I do, you’ll go along with it, but know full well that it’s all the luck of the draw and planning…

Jennie – some fantastic female sailors have written books – try Kay Cottee, Adrienne Cahalan, Naomi James, Clare Francis…Don’t know whether Annie Gash did, but worth a look.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: Inspired by Chichester...

Another day, another night, and another change of accessories: as it gets dark and you swap your hat and sunnies for headtorch and feet (boots)… all good out here, still hooning along in the right direction and less than 200nm to the equator and present opening time from Kimbras goodie bag!!!! YAY, how exciting!!!!

You know what I was saying yesterday bout pressies for Neptune, well since nine this morning he is the proud owner of a fantastic slam floppy sun hat… a bit of bad luck for me!!! but a pre-emptive gift for the Boss of the Sea, perhaps???
At least my fave hat has gone to a good cause- I am now down to the old faithful Royal Honkers yacht club and my new UK mcWilliams cap from Larkey… which I have been firmly attaching to myself!!!

J’nie-AMAZING to hear from you, don’t worry about your reply being long, we are just so far from radio signal in Oz now that its hard to send and receive and we aren’t quite quite in full Hawaii range yet. not too fussed re FB, unless wee cashie had anything of interest to say???? send to Speed if any news. Also, think Alex messaged you with suggestions but for your friend- Victoria, Hi, some more books by female sailors: Claire Francis’s book, must read, Dee Caffari- Against the Flow, is out, not read but Dee is great so should be good; Emma Richards, might be called Around Alone, not read but there is definitely a copy at RAv D, Adrienne Cahalan, Around the Buoys- just read this, good and Ado is a lawyer AND a sailor- Imagine that!!! Lots more will spring to mind I am sure but if there is one round the world book that ought to be read, and I know he is not female but you can’t beat Chichester’s book Gipsy Moth Circles the World. Brilliant!!!!

At this end, we are learning the Ancient Mariner….!!

lots of love to all

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Tiny blog – AW

first almost clear night since we left. Universe in full spreading magnificence – gerzillions and gerzillions of little twinklies and – wonder of wonders – N hemisphere stars – Great Bear, upside down ahead at about 15 deg, Orion out to port and the Southern Cross astern. Real sign of progress. Cant see the Pole Star yet…

2-1. Sydney-Equator

Moments in the maelstrom

Some things stand out in the memory. We have a masthead tricolour light (red, green and white,for the nautically challenged). In the middle of one of the really severe squalls sometime in the last few nights, I was hand steering, Berri was surging and crashing along at nearly 8 knots, rain in sheets, spray rushing past, all reflecting both the cockpit instrument lights and the tricolour and surrounding us in a glowing pulsating cocoon. All together, freckle clenched exhilaration. I looked up, eyes slitted against the rain, to check the wind indicator at the masthead and there, streaming away from the masthead and away into the blasting night, was a lovely string of ruby jewelled water reflecting the red sector of the tri. Living moments.

Tonight is almost clear – Omar’s bowl of night in all it’s gorgeous magnificence. Old old cliche, but it really does bring home how infinitesimally, gobsmackingly tiny we are in the scheme of things.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

On the hoof…..

We’re still very much on the hoof, making up lost ground to the East to give us some height once we get headed by the trades. MJC, water T has been 35 deg since pre Solomons – down to 34 in last 24 hrs. Another fishing boat a couple of hours ago – as before, steady bearing…these guys are lit up like PuDong for Chinese New Year and it’s impossible to find their nav lights and so work out who is give way vessel. We assumed we were and kept well clear.

Keith Cowing has just given me an acute attack of the stage fright willies by telling us where he is sending all this nonsense. Hi everyone who’s aboard via Mr C. In case you are not familiar with why – the story begins early 2005, way down at 45 S half way across the southern ocean to Cape Horn. Lovely clear night – unusual down there – and I was idly considering that we were probably the two people on earth who were furthest from any other human. And it occurred to me that perhaps once or twice a day, our actual nearest neighbours were the ISS 10 crew, 320 clicks or so above. I asked the question ‘Anyone know anyone at NASA?’ and the rest is history. We had huge fun trying to do simple science with Leroy going up the Atlantic. This gig is a direct result.

102 miles to the equator. I am now reasonably confident that we have enough diesel and water and it’s just a matter of grinding out the metres, one by one – we’re at about 6k in my version of the marathon.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

noon 0123.18 16316.42

dtd 3697 dmg 125
Too hot for bloggery. VoA 0.01. If you know what packaged cheese looks like when it’s been in the sun – that’s my brain. All the oil has leached out and I’m left with the crumbly bits. Imagination on slow time. I might try to fly this out later by satphone to test the system.

We will cross the equator around 0400 tomorrow Sydney time – 1800 UTC today if cheese brain is correct – unless we break something. I have just done a stocktake of the medicinal compounds available to sustain my addled soul – there’s enough, but only if I’m careful. I can have one consultation with one of my physicians daily, with a long Con thrown in at times of extreme stress. Physicians are Dr Pete, the Barber Surgeon (Google Mary Rose) who makes it in his bath, Drs. Jasper, the Apothecary, who makes it in his boat Antares (waarisantares.com I think, but you have to be able to read Dutch) and Dr Steve, the Alchemist, who turns water into gold in his lab. I think they all use Cooper Pete’s interesting equation Sparkling Ale: - according to Alex: “brewed in the bottle, so a bit of sludge comes with it - best beer on the planet - beats a Pan Galactic Gargleblaster hands down”. Also a home brew from a Cooper’s Kit, perfected by onboard master-brewer Pete. See Pete’s interesting equation ’s home brew kits as their base and it’s remarkable how close each comes to perfection! But then, any juice in a storm…

Today, I consulted Dr J for the first time – his brew is the youngest – and I pronounce it Good. I think Kimbra may have another little treat lined up for us for the equator in the goody bag. Yeeehaaa!

Many thanks to Steve L at AMSA and to Gerry for prompt response and follow up.

Every day, I try to do a job for the boat and one for me. Todays for the boat was to try to fix the cheap and nasty 12v fan so that it directs air in the right direction. For me – I put the arse back into a pair of shorts with sticky back and sailmakers needle, and I had a go at getting my mp3 player to charge – limited success. And I will try to crank up iridium for this message when it gets a bit cooler.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

McQ: Feta Brain

I came in here to write a blog, but was immediately consumed by blasting heat that stagnates behind the Cone, so now I too have Feta Brain and am completely incapable of thinking of anything interesting and sensible to write. Instead, here are a selection of random thoughts that have passed between Left Ear and Right Ear recently:

Will we wobble when we step off the boat? I haven’t wobbled since Portugal ’02

The last time I was in a boot room (a real boot room in the arctic, but on land) there were lots of nice boots and a cabinet too. On the cabinet was a sign that said ‘This establishment prides itself on being a bear free zone, therefore please leave all firearms in the cabinet’

Can an onion, bacon, sweetcorn and a tin of tomatoes be used to concoct a semi interesting pasta sauce?
Can we assume that a tin labelled ‘Tom’ contains tomatoes? (No, of course for I labelled the cans!!!)

What was Hemi really afraid of and since there was one in the North and one in the South, was he stuck and unable to go anywhere?

Southern Hemisphere McQ Out…xxx

2-1. Sydney-Equator

50 miles from the Equator 0050.22 16329.25

50 miles to the Equator, but the Examiner is poncing around with her stockwhip and slashing away at our tiny gradient so things have slowed a bit. Maybe another 12 hours. We’re almost abeam Nauru and about 200 miles west.

Life’s little mystery for tonight – I looked up towards the masthead and, just to the east of us, elevation about 80 deg. I saw a flashing light. Only about 4 or 5 flashes, seemed to be moving very fast just south of east, did not look like an aircraft strobe. Probably was, but could it have been anything else?

now 40 to go. will try to send this via iridium.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

0013.18 16337.11

Instant return – just received an sms from Carla suggesting that my flashing light yesterday evening was an Iridium satellite. The timing fits – but the satellites I know I have seen don’t usually flash. So still a bit odd. This one’s even odder – the Rat finally loses it – was looking forwards past the forestay at the bank of murk that is always down there on the horizon and wondering whether it was solid or just fluff. I saw a flash – strobe like – just above the murk – say about 5 degrees elev – more or less dead ahead. It was so fast I’m still not absolutely certain I saw it. Bright white light, seemed to have area like, say, a parachute flare, not a pinpoint. Not lightning – just possible a freak reflection off some part of the boat – or what?

14 miles to go. Examiner has removed our wind, so motoring at 4.5 kts. About here, we can start to gauge the standard of planning. We are approaching half way and by looking at the various heaps and containers I can see how we are going. Medicinal Compound will be marginal but that was deliberate. We will have lots of food to spare, enough diesel as long as we don’t for instance, lost the mast, ordinary bog paper ok, elephant’s b.p. ok, McVitie’s digestives marginal, toothpaste, sailmakers’ twine and so on. This, of course, ignores the contingency factor – like loss of mast – and assumes progress more or less as we’ve been making.

Talking of elephant’s, must resurrect Alison Chadwick’s lovely descriptive metaphor for our sort of progress. Next blog perhaps.

Hi Matt – yep, McGyvery would be good to have around. I’m not bad at it, but there are some things that defeat me. All sailors need that capacity for intelligent improvisation based on planning and experience and lateral thinking and we generally do ok on Berri. Unlikely we’ll get to Devon before the eclipse – more like mid august – but, AGW, it will be quite a reunion!

Chris – definitely harder, but in subtle ways.

2-1. Sydney-Equator

0002.27N 16340.26 DownunderMars becomes TopsiderMars

We crossed the equator at 20.25.53 UTC at 16339.931E on what, my diary tells me coincidentally, is Ascension Day, National Day of Prayer and Workers Day. That seems to cover quite a lot of us. Neptune was properly placated with a couple of tots from Brian Shilland’s little plastic bottle of S2H Bundy and we opened Kimbra’s goody bag to find a tiny bott of pink champagne, a party hat and a party whistle each. Yeeeehaa! McQ put a message in one of the little bottles and off we go again.

We toasted all y’all and moved on to thinking about half way. This leg of the journey covers almost exactly 90 degrees of latitude – a quarter of the earth’s surface – so I have arbitrarily decided that 11 N, 660 miles away, will be half way. Actually, great circles, tacks, island groups and all the other complications of navigation will conspire to move it all around.

Just had a lovely call from Speedy. Onya mate! He’s sent us a crossword – Kris, you’ve got competition! – so I’ll try and pull it in.

Anyway, Milestone no. 1, about 10k in the marathon – just warmed up!

Love yez all.