FROM 1-27. Indian Ocean Examiner

Nov 04, 2005 – 0415hrs UTC

0415hrs 04 Nov 2005 UTC 38’40”S 037’08”E Ref 517

It seems the Vogon Constructor Fleet has found someone else to chuck around for a time. The little bus shelter has been relatively stable, the studio is not in motion, although there is a virtual swell out there, coming in from the SW  that is so big that when we are at the bottom of a trough, Berri loses the 15 kt or so breeze she’s headbutting into and stands up with flapping sails for a few moments. That’s big.

With no weather info, we are much more on the alert fro changes – monitoring the barometer every few hours and looking out of the window much more. There is the beginning of s new system coming across from the west and north that we  will need towatch. Big high cloud with depth and attitude.

We have a Xantrex battery monitor – wonderful gizmo, except that in the various bits of electrical surgery we have performed during the year, we must have left off a connection somewhere and the monitor no longer measures the battery level, but it does give a very accurate indication of current draw – we know, for instance, that the backlight on the GPS uses 0.1 amps, as does the computer screen. It allows us to be very careful in conservation mode, and it nitpicks at me when I want to sit here and provide you all with goat fodder. I’ve got so used to being able to mess around with idle whimsy that it is a bit of a restriction. You may well notice a change in style – I think I can feel the difference already.

Today’s dmg is going to look very ordinary and unimpressive – we have only been able to make about 050M in a headwind and tack through about 120 degrees in the slop and dying wind. Every day seems to require a drastic change in ETA  – I don’t really have any sort of feel for what is ahead, but it does not look immediately promising. I’m pretty certain that we will have to go via Albany unless we get some more usable wind than we have over the last couple of weeks.

Chris, I like the idea of Homer’s position, but it’s way beyond my limited talents. There will be some ace navigators out there – are you there Brooksie? – who could give it a whirl. In fact I would be surprised if it hasn’t been done somewhere already.

[ed: Based on the star information in the quote, work out Odysseus’ position and course direction. Bear in mind the precession of the equinoxes and assume a date in the summer of 1250 BCE. You may ask a classics scholar where people think the ‘Phaiakian land’ was.”

Maybe see what Aelx thinks.

Best regards

Chris Nailer (Canberra)

Glorious Odysseus, happy with the wind, spread sails
and taking his seat artfully with the steering oar he held her
on her course, nor did sleep ever descend on his eyelids
as he kept his eye on the Pleiades and late-setting Bootes,
and the Bear, to whom men give also the name of the Wagon,
who turns about in a fixed place and looks at Orion,
and she alone is never plunged in the wash of the Ocean.
For so Kalypso, bright among goddesses, had told him
to make his way over the sea, keeping the Bear on his left hand.
Seventeen days he sailed, making his way over the water,
and on the eighteenth day there showed the shadowy mountains
of the Phaiakian land where it stood out nearest to him,
and it looked like a shield lying on the misty face of the water.
Coming back from the Aithiopians the strong Earthshaker (Poseidon)
saw him from far on the mountains of the Solymoi. He was visible
sailing over the sea. Poseidon was the more angered
with him, and shook his head, and spoke to his own spirit:

11 hours to today’s Consultation. My how the days drag from Con to Con! It will be nice to once again inhabit a freely libatory bus shelter one day soon.

Big boats and small boats – Berrimilla is a very small boat for the conditions out here in the studio. Even a pile of dead leaves tends to get in the way and the starlings make a right mess. Ellen MacArthur’s trimaran was more that twice as long and about 5 times as wide, and the new Volvo boats are similarly huge by comparison. They can outrun the waves and swell, surfing at 30 knots, go hunting for weather and fly huge reaching sails deep in the southern ocean. We can’t do any of this. Full stop. It’s a bit like being in a small car with small wheels on a corrugated Australian outback road, or an English road full of potholes. The corrugations and potholes match the wheel diameter so every tiny bump is transmitted via the suspension to the chassis. A truck with huge wheels and lots of mass can more or less ignore them. In the same way, Berrimilla, at about 10 metres, often matches the wavelength of some of these short steep seas and stops every time she hits one, without time to get going again before the next one. Exactly what’s happening as I write – on Sydney harbour in this wind, we’d be doing 6 knots – we are lucky to get 3 in this slop, but the water T is low and it could mean that there is wind against current and we are getting a boost. (Can’t tell without instruments or proper plot on chart. Too big a rearrangement needed for chart unless essential). Also, Berri can be completely enveloped by big breaking crests. Although we are driving the boat as hard as we dare, realistically we have to sail very conservatively – almost timidly, sometimes, to preserve the boat and get her home, in conditions in which the Volvo boats are designed to excel. They would romp through this.

I’ve been watching our flock of black petrels – about 20 of them, with a little grey one along for the ride and the occasional albatross or two. They are aggressive scavengers – drop anything over the side and they are onto it instantly – the one that happens to be in the right position on their incessant orbits around our stern just drops on to it and the others all close in. Sometimes they fly formation, usually with an albatross, perhaps trying to shoo it away and when they can’t see anyone on deck, they come in very close, although I have noticed that they seem to be getting used to us and now often fly over the cockpit. Perhaps just getting hungrier. If we have a camera out, they seem to know and stay away. They are quite big birds, body about the size of a wild duck, but they chitter and squeak like sparrows. Quite disconcerting. I’m sure they are the same birds that have followed us for as long as I can remember – Tristan maybe. Just like us, they are out there more or less in survival mode all the time and I have a feeling of some sort of empathy – they seem to be doing it very hard, because we are not the source of food they might have expected.

The last 50 odd days of this venture are going to be the hardest 10k at the end of a marathon that I have ever run. Sheer, stoical headbanging patience and dogged persistence required. All day, every day, especially when the gin dries up and the Vogons are around.!

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