1-11. South Atlantic-26°S


Logs ( 26 )

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

03 Apr 2005 - 0340hrs UTC │Somewhere mid Atlantic

[from Stephen:] As I hadn’t heard anything from the intrepid hirsute duo for over 48 hours I have been attempting to contact them via satellite phone for the last few hours. I finally made contact, waking Alex from a deep sleep, and am glad to report that all three (Alex, Pete, and Berri) are alive and well, bobbing around like a cork in the lower mid Atlantic with bugger all wind. There is the hint of a nasty storm to their north, but it seems to be bypassing them. In Alex’s words, “if we sit here quietly it may not see us”.

The respite from nasty weather is doing them all a great favour, but the usually HF radio email contact is currently out of order and/or range – a call to the Telstra technician has been made, but they object to making house calls outside their area. We are trying Satcom-C communications but that seems to be just as persnickety as HF mail at the moment. Therefore I will call Berri at regular intervals over the next few days until normal communications are restored. Anyway, Malcolm will be back in the Mission Control seat at that time, so he can fret as I go off and climb Himalayan mountains…

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

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 03, 2005 – 1100hrs UTC

1100hrs 03 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 144

We’ve just been through the eye of the storm – the relatively calm patch in the middle of a revolving low pressure system. I went into the cockpit around midnight local and it was black dark with just the faintest glow around the eastern horizon. 40+knots and low scudding overcast, sensed rather than visible. The eastern glow suddenly became a hazy quarter moon bright, pale, silver -its brightness darkening the surrounding clouds to black massy depth except for the moonlight reflected and filtered around the fluffy edges. Those who have been along for most of this ride will have read my earlier respect for Turner’s ability to capture the effect – no colour – black, silver, shades of grey, all reflected off the faces of some poor person in strife below. Me, in this case. And the wind abated and there were stars overhead with the Southern Cross almost hooked by the wildly gyrating masthead. lack silhouette of the storm jib against the glow ahead. About an hour of this and the low scud was back and the wind back to 40+ and the moon almost abruptly vanished.

This storm seems to have all the same numbers as the last one but – so far – it doesn’t seem so bad. The sun is out, small cumulus hooning across the sky from the west but apparently relatively clear behind, whence we were expecting much nastiness. Bright orange dayglo storm jib against blue sky and cloud. Fingers firmly crossed and clench in place – still significant apprehension -Michelle, that’s part of the complex answer still to come – how to deal with it.

Very hard to interpret grib weather files – they are predictions, at least a day old when we get them and putting ourselves into the picture they present is not all cakes and ale. I thought at first we were below this low but I now think the low is further south that the grib predicts so we’re now in the upper western quadrant waiting for the wind to back to the south and increase. If it does, we’re still looking at very big numbers – the low is squeezed eastwards and intensified by a high over S America and guess who’s in the middle of the sandwich.

Unlikely all y’all will get to read this for some time – still major problem with sailmail chile and can only contact them for a few minutes on 5mhz during the night. And desperately slow transmissions – tens of bytes per minute, rather than thousands so some anguished times waiting for grib files and your mail. Please keep it coming, even if we’re having difficult getting it.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 04, 2005 - 0345hrs UTC

0345hrs 04 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 145

We spoke to Leroy [ed: Commander of the International Space Station – freaky, huh?] tonight and let off a flare for him – it was very cloudy, with big thunder clouds all around which he could see and we could feel, but he did not see the flare. Sad, but he’s happy to have another go on a better night, so I will keep sending you a midnight GMT prediction. He said he’d try to call us in advance as he did tonight. And he said he would pass on our phone number to the ISS 11 crew in case they would like to give us a wave as well.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 04, 2005 - 0530hrs UTC │Rough Rough - as opposed to Just Rough

0530hrs 04 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 146

An intensely frustrating few days, mostly spent watching Montevideo not going past. And for all you members of the great unwashed, our silence is perhaps covered by my alltime favourite song title – “When the phone don’t ring, babe, you’ll know it’s me!”

Windwise, sort of reverse Ogden Nash’s Ode on Tomato Sauce (catsup, for those using spellcheck…) “Shake the bottle – none’ll come, then a lottl”. The second storm duly arrived, no way as bad as the first, and Leroy called in the middle of it to set up a lightshow on a later pass. We watched big cumulo nimbus clouds building up all around us and lots of lightning but there was a starry hole to the north so it seemed worth chancing a flare. He called back to say he did not see it, so we will try again on a clear night if there is one. Brittany, I’ll send you a prediction later when we have some idea what is behind the cu nims.

Just been out on the wildly rolling and pitching foredeck with the very bright spreader lights on in otherwise submarine blackness and wow does it make you aware of frames of reference! (Gerry – take note for SSSC!) All that is visible is white deck, shrouds, a lot of white water around the edges – no horizon, no sea surface, no sky – nowt – just black. So everything you can see is moving very rapidly in completely unpredictable directions but you can’t see the movement and there are no visual clues whatever. Something of a fairground ride and it behoves one to be tethered and holding on with prehensile eyelashes.

Michelle Crozier – When you are in rough wether and have the high waves and things are rolling around – what do you do? Do you sit there and wait it out – is there somewhere to strap yourselves in so you don’t get thrown around – or has it not gotten to that stage?

The simple answer is hang on tight to whatever is nearest and try to brace ourselves against invisible movement.

The more complex answer – my version anyway, Pete will give you his – depends on how rough. Yes, of course we hang on, bounce around a bit in bunks that have high restraining lee cloths to stop one rolling out (except in a knockdown, where they are useless and you and everything not strapped down inside them goes flying) and strap ourselves to the kitchen stove to perpetrate the great teamaking disasters of the century. For normal rough – Bass Strait in a Hobart race for instance, that’s it. Life goes on, you sometimes have to clean up other peoples’ vomit and unblock toilets while it’s all happening – always when it’s rough, the toilet blocks, usually cos someone who is seasick can’t hang around long enough to pump it out properly.

For Rough rough (R/r)  – approaching Cape Horn or the storm we had a few days ago, it’s a whole different ballgame.

If you’ve been reading this stuff from wayback, you may remember my waffling on about the grammar and syntax of the noises a boat makes in happy or stressful times. Astonishingly informative if you are sensitive to it and understand it and know your boat – the more intimately the better.

Rough rough for me is about becoming so acutely conscious of this boat talk, data stream, whatever, that it overrides everything else – sleep, eating, reading, music – the lot. It happens in ordinary rough too but it’s not leavened by fear as it is in R/r. Approaching and in R/r, I do all the normal stuff on autopilot while my brain cell analyses the change in pitch of a particular howl, or tries to find a rational explanation for that sinister clunk that penetrates the other noises at irregular intervals but with attitude and insistence. So, in a way, I become part of the boat – a rather frightened and apprehensive part with adrenal glands working overtime and the sphincter in clench overdrive. It’s essential to manage fear, but the more you know, the more you can be frightened and the harder it gets each time. And all that becomes part of your answer. I hope I never ever have to go through another 80 knot storm like the last one but if I do, then I guess I’m just a bit more educated and scared.

Hope all that makes sense – it’s probably more than you asked for but without it, the picture’s not complete.

Enough already.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 04, 2005 – 1430hrs UTC

1430hrs 04 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 147

It feels good to be moving again – we’ve just cracked 1000 miles from Stanley and back on schedule so the Guinness will be out shortly.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 04, 2005 – 2300hrs UTC

2300hrs 04 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 148

More idle nonsense. How many of you set off on a journey to somewhere new knowing exactly how to get there? Say from Randwick to Liverpool (in Sydney, for our foreign guest…) or from Chatswood to Burrumbuttock? (Look it up…) I was thinking about mud maps – mental plots – when I was describing our track for NASA to pass on to Leroy. He’s an astronaut and a pilot and it’s really very easy to do – we’re tracking parallel to the South American coast about five hundred miles out at about 5 knots, starting from Stanley on Saturday at noon. If there’s no need for precision, that’s all he will ever need. An instant mental map shimmies into the subconscious and at any time it would be possible to put a 20 mile circle around us as long as we keep to the plan. When I was a bit more mentally agile, I had to keep a mental plot of my aircraft moving any old where over the sea at 600 knots and again, the mud map oozes out between the mental toes both in advance and as one goes along. There are simple rules that help cut corners with mental arithmetic, but the trick all the time is to stay ahead of the aeroplane on the mental map. Same in a boat, but more slowly. Similarly, with my track description and some fairly basic geographical knowledge – say a simple Mercator projection of the world, I should be able to get from here to almost anywhere else without putting pencil to paper. Huge margin for error but conceptually at least, it is easy and it has been done. Obviously a very silly idea, but it illustrates the point.

So back to Chatswood. Do you make a plan – look at the street directory and the road atlas before you set off and work out the route and tick it off in your head as you go? Do you just assume that you can follow the signposts? Do you more or less ignore street names and just head south west? Or do you drive a Beemer with one of those dreadful GPS thingies that talks to you in lugubrious Californian dialect so you end up somewhere not knowing where you’ve been or how to get back? Or a combination of all of them? Or just get a taxi? Then transfer the whole exercise to a strange country and ask the same questions.


What the hell’s this got to do with passing Montevideo, do I hear you ask? Well everything actually. The planning for the actual navigation on this one was basically Times Atlas (currents, weather patterns etc on a very large scale), Admiralty Pilot, World Pilot Charts, Virtual Passage Planner (a software package that Mal is also using to create the website maps) to check great circle distances and the back of a smallish envelope. Depends on scale and distance – the shorter and more precise the journey the more detail that is required. For this one, the back of an envelope was fine – no major constraints or show stoppers at this time of year, about 27000 miles give or take a few at an average of 5 knots (That’s the hardest bit) gives so many hours of sailing. Will it fit into the time available? Seems it will, with a lot of luck – so it’s a goer. What do we need to do to do it? And that’s where the really hard bit starts. A lot of that stuff is on the website, particularly if you read between the lines. The navigational detail then just fills in the empty spaces more or less as we go.

But I’d hate to be without my 5 GPS’s and Software on Board and the chunky laptop. Of all the people who might read this, the one who travels fastest and furthest is Leroy and – as far as I know, anyway, he doesn’t have to think about it at all – it’s mostly done on the ground and fed into the ISS computers and he gets to enjoy the ride. He told me tonight that they are about 350 km above the earth and I know they are traveling at about 5 miles per second. During my, for me, sluggardly marathon in Stanley, they travelled about 84,600 miles to my 26. At the time, my mudddy brain couldn’t handle the zeros in the calculation so I cheated with a calculator later. And it was me that was sore.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 05, 2005 - 1230hrs UTC

1230hrs 05 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 149

The last one, about mental plots, was a bit of a disaster – I was very tired and should have kept it till later for a re-read instead of sending it. I think what I was getting at is really two ideas: planning is very important but don’t overdo it or you may never get started and it’s very important – or just more efficient – to have a mental picture of the journey before you start. And a mud map is not a mental plot – it’s a metaphor for a way of communicating one by drawing it in the mud with a stick.

Brittany – I don’t have today’s passes yet, but Leroy said he would call us each evening to check cloud cover and set up a time, so I think it is under control. Mal, that may save you some time ott – Thanks Leroy.

Today will be a day of improvisation – and it will test my preparation. There are a couple of fittings on Kevvo, the self steering gear, which are under significant pressure all the time but in these heavy beam sea conditions they get really worked hard and we have to get the pressure off them and at the same time if possible, fix a slight alignment problem. I have a selection of shackles, snatch blocks (pulley blocks that can be opened up and put over a line without undoing its ends) and other bits and pieces and there are other things we can cannibalise, like shock cord off a cockpit awning. My mental plan for the fix includes a couple of shackles, two small snatch blocks and some shock cord but I have not yet looked in the spares box to see whether all the bits will fit together. Waiting for daylight.

Daylight come an’ I wanna go home…It seems to have worked but I noticed while doing the fix that Kevvo’s main bearings are getting more than a bit worn – he’s done over 10000 miles, so not surprising but I hope they hold out for another couple of months. Life will be a lot harder without him as we will have to hand steer whenever the going gets too rough for the electric autopilot.

Kevin – we will need a new set of bearings when we get to England – I can’t find your diagram but we need the two bearings around the fore and aft horizontal shaft that support the paddle assembly. There is one either side of the vertical tube supporting the windvane. They appear to be different types of bearing – the forward one seems to be just a sleeve. I will send you forwarding details. Would you please confirm that you have seen and understand this with an email via the website? Thanks.

And we’ve just had a serious consultation with the Doctor to celebrate what is really only a minor fix. And that we’re now north of Green Cape again. And more than 1000 miles from Stanley. Slow going though and I hope we can crank it up a bit.

Sunny and warm – wooohooo!

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 05, 2005 - 2214hrs UTC

2214hrs 05 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 150

We finally cracked part of the rendezvous – we saw the ISS high and clear about 10 minutes ago for the first time since all this started – huge thrill – but we’d already decided it was too chancy with cloud moving over to risk wasting a flare so we didn’t in case no one was watching. But we waved with wild abandon. As one does…yeeeha! Brittany, would you please tell Leroy?

This bit was written as we waited, so it doesn’t really follow, but y’all may as well have it.

We’ve been sailing for about 10 days with no sign of another human being except these emails and Leroy Chiao’s evening check in. But a huge empty ocean it isn’t – for me it’s a place of ghosts – not the moaning blobs of Hollywood protoplasm but the shades and memories of all the people who have been here before us and left no mark except perhaps their stories lost in some vault somewhere. The man, for instance, who in a very early expedition to find a way to the Pacific was hit by a severe storm this side of the Horn and saved his ship and crew by beaching it on one of the islands near the Horn and wintering there before sailing back to – I think – Portugal, where his name has been lost but his report still exists. A man I would have liked to have known. And Magellan, Drake, Hawkins and many many known and unknown Portugese and Spanish explorers in tiny ships with superstitious and mutinous crews who came this way – mostly along the Brazilian coast and not this far out – plus the migrants, the tea clippers, the treasure galleons from central America and the north coast of South America, the whalers, the fishermen, the German and British battle fleets of the first and second world wars and the British task force in 1982, some of whom were friends of mine – and all the dead who remained behind, in the ocean and on the battlefields and in the settlements and, particularly poignant for me, the Argentine Army dead who are still in the Falklands. And Tommy Melville, with whom I first set out for Rio in 1982.  And all the unknown and forgotten people who have been lost trying to find the way to other lives. And the original Tierra del Fuegans who survived down there in the harshest conditions at least until Europeans arrived – they’re all here in my imagination. Without them all and their endeavours and their history, I might not have been here myself. And perhaps I will one day exist in some other memory.

Arlette – good to hear from you and glad nothing’s changed – give our regards to Jen and all – we’re still dunkin that shortbread.

And John F, thanks for the newspaper article – we cant get the internet out here, so we won’t get to read it until we get to the UK unless you have a soft copy you could send us via the website if it’s not too long. Good to meet you too and the storm is just a nasty blur now. I’m wearing the trousers you last saw me in as I sat on the big tractor tyre trying to keep Berri from getting smashed on the East jetty all covered in black rubber marks.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 06, 2005 – 0515hrs UTC

 0515hrs 06 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 151

We are nearly level with Sydney again – (just passing Wollongong, for the initiated – a standing Berri joke about having a beer off Wollngong on the return trip from Hobart and how Wollongong seems to move further south each year) – the Southern Cross is back, comfortingly, in its proper place just south of top dead centre instead of to the north of us. The water is 21+ degrees – warmer than Sydney, Pete says, but that’s bad news because it means we are in a southerly current. I’m really going to miss the night sky when we get off this ocean too. It’s a warm, balmy night – what a contrast from a few nights ago – and such a pleasure not to have to spend 15 minutes getting into wet and clammy cold party gear to go out on deck. We have the top half of the stable door open and I sit out in the cockpit at night with my headlight and a book. This week, it’s been ‘Riding the Iron Rooster’ by Paul Theroux, about travelling by train around China in 1987. I found it interesting because Katherine has travelled on a lot of the trains he talks about and it adds a bit of perspective to her laconic reports.

We are gradually being headed by the wind and we are now pointing at the coast south west of Rio. As the wind continues to back, we’ll tack out again to the north east. We have the sheets cracked a bit to keep things fast and comfortable and not spill the consultative plastic chalice.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 06, 2005 – 1130hrs UTC

1130hrs 06 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 152

Big Hi from the boot ferals, who are slowly getting used to sunshine. Fast breeders, lots of mutations, I guess. Other wildlife – a brownish black seabird, about a metre span, white beak, white ring around its eyes. Sits on the water and watches us and looks a bit like a waterhen when doing so. And small fish are washing up on deck at night. I know that’s at least ambi-ambiguous – take it any way you fancy – they seem to be baby flying fish – grey blue with two large fins either side, only about 4cm long.

This leg is going to be a long hard hack, I think. Quite slow progress – almost exactly my recent marathon pace, in fact, and about a third of the world’s best time. Paula’s best time about twice as fast. Niggly things starting to go a bit awry – Kevvo’s bearings, noisy rudder bearings with some shaft movement, nothing really serious but enough to occupy the mind of a boatminder like me – all made somewhat harder because proximity to S.Am. coast makes it all seem so slow. At least in the open Pacific, there wasn’t that constant reminder. Keep those emails coming, please – brightens each day no end.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 07, 2005 – 0530hrs UTC

0530hrs 07 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 153

I have a problem – well several actually – the which I will try to digitise for all y’all. For those people who don’t do irony and understatement, I will try to add helpful footnotes.

The problem(s) can be summarised in one word – Fenwick. Fenwick thinks he has friends, us included, who love and cherish him and who exist for his exclusive entertainment. He thinks he knows a bit about sailing, just because he went round Cape Horn once as a kid in nappies and, like all such big noters, he is happy to criticise others from deep within an armchair surrounded by a tacky pile of mouldy tissues, peanut shells, decaying pizza boxes and empty beer cans (VB of course – he has no taste either). He doesn’t shave and his armpits smell.

Helpful footnote – we kinda like this guy.

As all y’all know, we are sitting in a pretend cardboard and old corrugated iron mock up boat in Fox Studios in Sydney churning out this nonsense about gut wrenching storms and albatross aerodynamics as we guzzle copious quantities of The Doctor (we, at least, do have some taste) and dream up ever more outrageous stories for your breakfast fixes of drama and irony. And Leroy Chiao, NASA and the International Space Station are – just like the Moon landings – figments of all this outrageousness and just another mock up in a warehouse in a Hollywood studio. None of this stuff is real -just a fake sms message in the fabric of the universe to be flicked past the bored and atrophied brain cell shared by our two readers out there. At the end of it all, we don’t want you to clap, just throw money – lots of it.

Helpful footnote – so far, it’s been a bit of a headbang and it’s a real thrill to be involved with the ISS.

Enter Fenwick, who can’t read, (so one of those two readers has to move his lips and make noises as he reads), demanding yet more outrageousness from the depths of his armchair. 80 knots – pish, gimme 120 – albatrosses shmalbatrosses, where are the mermaids? – why haven’t you been smashed up by a container ship? – what’s all this crap about sunshine, Sunshine? I want storm and tempest, spouting hurricanoes, scurvy, all that stuff. And another VB. What’s the pizza delivery number?

Helpful footnote – we think he kinda likes us

So, dearest all y’all, you better hadn’t believe anything you read here. It’s all the result of late night drinking sessions and the spaghettied imaginations of a couple of spruikers on acid.

Helpful footnote – you’d better bloody believe it…else I’ll burst into tears and flounce off, centre left.

So to the actual problem – It’s relatively easy to churn out this stuff when things are hard and getting worse. I was most eagerly looking forward to the challenge of that knot of tight little lows near the Horn so as the challenge developed, the words just flowed. In the next few weeks, it may not be so squeezy but I’ll do my best.

Helpful footnote – growing fear promotes verbal diarrhoea, as it recedes, the stream dries up, so to speak.

So – I’ve asked all y’all before – is there a question, like Michelle’s, that you’ve always wanted to ask…no promises, of course.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

April 07, 2005 – 1100hrs UTC

Sat phone call from Alex:

Have been having problems with self-steering gear but advice from manufacturer sounds like it will work.

Currently tracking WNW with wind of 40 knots from NNE.

Their forecast indicates deepening low to the south so they are aiming to get away from the worst of the weather.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 07, 2005 – 1636hrs UTC

1636hrs 07 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 154

Well here we go again. Another 50+ blast and increasing. We’ve been waiting for it for a couple of days and it’s just as unpleasant and nasty as I expected. The only difference from previous ones is that this one isn’t building on an existing swell so it’s not – yet – as vicious. Seems the cycle is two days of balmy sunshine followed by at least three of truly foul nastiness. And it’s the waiting that gets to me every time – we just have to sit them out, cant do anything except fret and watch the boat going backwards eating up great chunks of our previous gains. I havent got any feel for the scaleto these things yet in meteorological terms and I cant apply any of the usual rules. And I feel personally every crash and shudder and blast. We’ve worked down thro the sails and are now running abeam wiyth the storm jib at about 4 kts SW. SPBF.

I thought the RYA were stern examiners (you out there anywhere, Simon and Cloughy? Say G’day if you are, please –  it all helps) but whoever has set us this little test is a pure sadist. Looking at the grib, it seems this one is centred about 300 miles south just where we copped the really nasty one a week or so ago – its all a blur – and the centre is getting an AVERAGE 50+ so work that out.

I feel a Consultation coming on, then Pete wants a go.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 07, 2005 – 1830hrs UTC

1830hrs 07 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 155

Just sitting it out down here as the waves get bigger and our insulation gradually peels off the inside of the boat. Too warm and sticky for the glue. At least 12 hours more, as far as I can see, before things will ease. Cant even get pissed as an anaesthetic – too dodgy if we get pearshaped. But things could be worse.

Kim – we can talk to Leroy on the satphone – he has an IP phone up there in his shiny tin can and I don’t know at this stage who is paying the bills. But its a heap of fun. As for 5 GPS’s I have one feeding into the laptop and a backup, both on the boat’s 12v system, a couple of toy handhelds and a USB version that will plug into the laptop if I need to take it on deck and can get the laptop to find the right comm port to talk to it. somewhat haphazard.

James – we don’t get many emails – about 4 or 5 a day and from the same group of regulars with the occasional oncer and some nice surprises too. Very happy to get more, specially in conditions like these. ‘Orrible!

Don – you’re absolutely right about the marathon – only a fool etc. But if a headbanger such as I is presented with an opportunity like that it is axiomatic that heads will be banged. Can’t receive photos, unfortunately but thanks – it was described to me. As far as I know, rhe new ISS crew, ISS 11, join the ISS in about ten days on a Russian rocket and Leroy and Salizhan return on April 25. No mention of Shuttle – perhaps a cargo trip. What’s an NDE issue? [ed: Don advises that it’s a nondestructive evaluation]

Croo – good luck with the parsley – I’ve go a crop of cress under way. Growing much faster than down south in the cold.

Ian N and the Pendo mob – g’day. Good to hear from you.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 08, 2005 – 1200hrs UTC

1200hrs 08 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 156

Another awful night and it’s still not over – I don’t remember a longer, blacker,h busier night. You nay have got the feel from the short update at the beginning of it. The 50+ blew for hours, howling in the rig and building a short very steep really uncomfortable sea wit Berri rolling and pitching so violently that I’m covered in bruises, sleepless and very tired. The wind eventually dropped to about 30 but we were then in the biggest, scariest thunderstorms ever – mostly sheet lightning in the 500ft overcast lighting the whole world with eerie grey green flickering light but some big strikes into the sea quite close to us. Actual visibility about 500 metres in crashing rain for most of the time. Eventually dispersed and there was a ship close to us, unable to contact but seemed to be aware of us and standing by. Followed by more wind from dead ahead that has gradually backed to astern. We’re motoring  at just above idle to keep us moving through the slop – big effort to get out of this area and up north before the next one inevitably rolls in.

Now daylight, grey, heavily overcast,humid, barometer creeping up and we’ve got the 5 and the storm jib poled out for about 5 kts normal 7 in the gusts. Really glad that night is past – I know real sailors don’t ever get scared, but this one was – that sort of howl in the rig induces a kind of numb inability to focus beyond the moment along with a churning stomach and the lightning was something else again. I sat out in the cockpit in the rain monitoring the vital signs as it were, and the ship, and the power of the thunderstorm was just a bit overwhelming and up close for my sensitive nature. Like the Vortex – and JJ referred to me as Ford Prefect the other day, so at least there’s someone out there who understands why I look after my towel so carefully. A settling and calming Consultation has been scheduled for after sleep.

Anyway, really need some sleep. See yez later

Later still – slept and Consulted –  propagation not good so will try again to send this now.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 08, 2005 – 2000hrs UTC

2000hrs 08 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 157

Sorry, not everybody’s here, but I’m working on it. Fenwick, glad you’ve learned a bit of humility at last. Tell Gorde he doesn’t get his name in lights until e writes to us himself. Pass him the chivas.

Hugh and the Swordfish mob – g’day and thanks for kind words.  Really chuffing to know that there are people out there who actually take us seriously  – seems the corrugated mock up we drink in to get inspiration out at Fox is a good investment! Glad to know you did the Tassie trip – where next? I’ve lost Swordfish amongst all the other stuff that clogs my memory cell – please remind me.

WJR&J – have a great holiday – and a toasted mozzarella and mushroom sando for me. And we’d love to hear from Debra – one of my other most favourite people – take over from His Eminence please and keep the fires lit.

Doug and Estelle – if you want to know more about that bloke and the girl he married, you could try the Archivist in Stanley – I think her name is Jane Cameron, very well respected and you can find her thro the FI govt website. Interesting story, thanks. I’d love the old AGB to come swanning out here with a case of coldies, but they’d have a problem in this swell – even Catalinas had their limits…

Don – fascinating stuff – I knew about the foam problems but didn’t know you are working on it. Do those guys know about our dalliance with the sharp end of the enterprise or is it just something that happens in the wings, so to speak?

Michelle – Pete can answer that one!

Caro – good to get your news – we only do it to keep you lot amused and fooled…

Colin B. – so glad to hear that we’re doing something for you guys – Mostly, that’s why we went for the website. Next, you’ll be cruising South Georgia – to be recommended mightily, as far as we can see, at the right time of the year. Have a look at Antarctic Oasis, Tim & Pauline Carr, Norton, NY, 1998 – big coffee table book but gobsmacking. A future project for me, perhaps in two projects’ time…

Brian and Jen – glad you guys are still there – it means a lot to us and it’s great to get the occasional update from Dunedin. Closing for the winter, huh? What’s with you Kiwis – seems to me you should at least keep the bar open – and Bert – how was your trip to Stewart all those weeks ago?

Kim Q – he’s tough – pulls em out with the multi’s. Nice pic isn’t it?

Croo – I suppose you’d be interested in the saga of the toenail clippings then? Breathtaking stuff. Free the Dog!

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 08, 2005 – 2030hrs UTC

2030hrs 08 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 158


Phew, this was what the punters wanted – a bit of biff. The ref has had to move in now and send Fenwick and Whitworth to their neutral corners I’m sitting ringside with some of the sporting scribes.

The consensus seems to be that maybe Whitworth went in a bit too hard too early. He managed to land many telling jabs to Fenwicks body but Fenwick is s seasoned bare knuckled brawler and can absorb much more punishment than that. I noted that he had a smile on his face as he moved to his corner.

Now there’s something -I see that Fenwick has had his full reclining armchair set up in the corner – I heard him say to his seconds at the end of the first round, ‘Get rid of that pissy little stool’. He must have some clout with the WBA if they let him bring this in – and what’s more a stack of pizza boxes and two slabs of beer have been set up alongside. I think he’s on board for the full ride. I say this is a bit upmarket too – I wonder who’s promoting this event. A rather scantily clad young lady wearing gold stiletto heels has entered the ring and is now parading a large board with the number 3 held above her head.

I can also tell you that looks like a gold Rolex watch on her wrist.

The ref has finished marking his card and I think we’re nearly ready for round 3.

Whoo – that was close – the young lady in stilettos just tried to exit the ring by hurdling the ropes. Unfortunately the stilettos provided a poor launching platform and she landed in the lap of a corpulent chap with a grey beard two seats down and he seems to be having trouble getting her back on her feet.

I’m looking at Whitworth now and I hope the recent marathon hasn’t sapped his stamina. Fenwick meanwhile is giving him a cold brutal stare. We await the bell


1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 09, 2005 - 1900hrs UTC │Boredom I

1900hrs 09 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 159

Greetings fro an area with calm seas and soft warm breeze – for the moment.

To answer some questions:

  • Ian Nursey – why no fishing?
    Normally I’m the first to get a line over the side but in the southern ocean things were different. There was a lot of bird life and I wouldn’t want to snare a young albatross. Also, you feel extremely fragile down there, its a very hard environment, it’s isolated and you feel empathy for all other living creatures down there, but the short answer is that I wasn’t hungry and I didn’t want to disturb the neighbours. Things will probably change as we get warmer and more comfortable in the calmer environment.
  • Michelle, you ask some good provocative questions.
    Do you get bored – do you get annoyed with eachother? The boat is so small, how do you cope with being so restricted?

    Bored? Bloody well bored – I’m so looking forward to being bored. I’ve been beaten, bruised, battered, brutalised bloodied but never bored. In the southern ocean, we were always living on the edge. We were small and vulnerable. A 33 foot boat is not the boat of choice for down there. But you can make it if you are careful and make no mistake. With these parameters, boredom doesn’t exist. Since leaving Stanley, we seem to be in 3 day cycles of good and bad weather. By the time you recover in the good times, its all on again. Boredom will become a problem in a month’s time when we are north of the equator and the horse latitudes. I’m looking forward to it.

    To the next question – of course we get annoyed with eachother – we wouldnt be human if we didn’t get annoyed in such close confinement. But for us to complete this little adventure, we must trust and help eachother and not be concerned with the trivial crap that sours many friendships. It’s Alex’s boat – we consult about things, i have as much input as I likebut the final call is his. We both agree on the important things that affect the safety of the boat. we have sailed enough together and been in enough situations to have confidence in eachother’s abilities.
    When oyur’e tired and exhausted, it’s easy to get annoyed but we give sufficient latitude to eachother to get over this. There have been no arguments, no shouting matches. There have been many disagreements but at the end of the day over perhaps a Gin and tonic, alex will agree that i was right and i will agree that he was right. The weather must have something to do with it – on a day like today, I don’t think even alan Jones could annoy me. I’ll leave your question on close confinement till later.

  • Michelle is my niece – her sister Karyn has just become engaged to her best friend Fernando. If any of you have a bottle nearby, pull the cork, pour a tipple and wish them a long and wonderful life together. Our best wishes go out to you both.
  • Mr Judd, try Noel Garnett on 9546 7229 – he is good on period skirtings and architraves. He amy not be up and running at the moment as he recently had a hip replaced.

I’ll get out of your way now – cheers o all – Pete.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 10, 2005 - 0430hrs UTC │Dog Bowls : a Short Dissertation

0430hrs 10 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 160

Once again in good weather – balmy and warm, water 24 degrees. 20 – 25 knots from the east and looks ok for a day or two more. Fingers crossed. Berri now further north than she has ever been with me – we are north of the lagoon entrance at Lord Howe Island which is about as far north as we have been together. Another small milestone. Passing Rio will, I hope, be the next. Then NE Brazil and the equator in about three weeks AGW. We are three days behind schedule though, after all the storms.

On elegant solutions to intractable problems: Episode 1 (it may turn out to be the only one)

Boats, especially little ones like Berrimilla, tend to crash around a lot and move in 3 dimensions. Everything has to be tied down or otherwise restrained. Every horizontal flat surface has a “fiddle” around its edge – a little wooden wall to stop things sliding off and there are special fittings for holding mugs and glasses. (Always plastic ‘glasses’ and bottles and containers – gin, olive oil etc decanted from glass into labelled plastic – broken glass in a boat is a dreadful health hazard and completely avoidable). In particularly violent pitching and rolling, ordinary plates, cups, spoons, books, spectacles laptops etc simply launch over their fiddles and fly across the boat to crash into something on the other side like my head. A normal plate or bowl is exactly the right shape to assist such a launch and they are diverted upward by fiddles. Unpleasant and dangerous but if the plate is full of hot food, even more so, to say nothing of the wasted effort cooking and required later to clean up the mess. And if the plate is actually stopped or slowed by the fiddle, the food it contains will continue on its own. Yet to survive out here, or to remain functional in a fully crewed race over several days, hot food is essential.

There are various ways of dealing with this – simply ignoring the problem and grimly hanging on to plate, mug or whatever the unfortunate cook has managed to fill is one option, but it’s not easy to hold a fairly shallow plate with one hand, moving it in harmony with the boat, and using the other hand to hold on and eat with at the same time. Or just cooking instant noodles in those prepacked plastic bowls works works quite well but you cant live for ever on those.

Or consider the humble dogbowl. It is conical, usually with a turned out lip or flange around the base. The cone  contains a deep ‘crater’ with vertical sides and a flat bottom. This is an inherently stable shape and if placed inside a fiddle, it will not jump over it in any but the most severe conditions. It can be placed on the floor in reasonable conditions without tipping, sliding or spilling. Food in the crater is effectively contained by the vertical sides as long as the bowl is not filled too full

Several of them can be stacked in almost the same space as one alone and the top one can be filled by the cook without having to hold on to the stack as with normal plates and bowls. The dogbowl is easy to hold with one hand folded around the base and flange either palm up or, if sitting braced on the floor or in a bunk, with the near flange resting on ones collarbone and the thumb of one hand inside the outer part of the flange and the fingers on the outside. This is a particularly effective way of using it because it gets the food very close to the mouth with the bowl below to catch spillage and avoids long travel with a spoon, spilling greasy stew on ones trousers and shirt on the way. And they are easy to clean and stow as well.

Berrimilla has a set of 6 stainless steel dogbowls with 200mm craters purchased from Woolworths for the 1998 S2H and invaluable ever since.


1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 10, 2005 – 1900hrs UTC

1900hrs 10 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 161

Northward, ever northward, with enough easting to leave Cabo Frio, east of Rio, well to port. We saw a couple of fishing boats two nights ago further out than we expected, so we’re being much more systematic about keeping a regular lookout. It would be really nice to sail close in up the Brazilian coast, but far too much hassle avoiding other boats, probably fishing gear and just about every big ship that comes down this way.

Don’t want to bore you with dull weather reports, although they are anything but dull for us. Classic high pressure system conditions here, warm, humid, rain and showers, easterly wind – all indicating we are at the top of a high with its anticlockwise circulation bringing warm moist air from further out to sea. Getting quite close to the tropics – about 400 miles to go to Capricorn, roughly the latitude of Rio – and lovely Rockhampton too. We can’t get any weather faxes from Brazil – they do not seem to be transmitting them – so we rely on the grib files and what it looks like out of the window. Hoping fervently that we are past the worst but not yet relaxed by any means.

We have been talking to people I met some years ago in Sydney – Tom and Vicky Jackson, an English couple with a boat called Sunstone – quite famous – try www.sunstonesailing.com/ if you are interested. They are following us up from Stanley where they arrived the day after we left, unfortunately, on their way to Rio. they are about a thousand miles behind, but their boat is bigger and faster. We will keep a radio sked with them and stay in email contact for as long as possible.

Lots of interesting reaction to my admitting to being a scaredy cat in the various storms – I think there is a point up to which a bit of fear and adrenaline is helpful and evolutionarily advantageous (how about that for a mouthful?) but I have seen people in storms way past that point – foetal position, thumb sucking scared – and that’s often a challenge for the skipper who has to try to care for the person and run the boat shorthanded. Luckily, Pete doesn’t suck his thumb and I don’t think I do either.

Now that things have eased a bit for really the first time since leaving Hobart, I find I can sit down and read a book. Trouble is, i read so fast, I now have to start rationing them. In Stanley, I bought almost the entire second hand book stock from the Church store, including about 10 National Geographics – perhaps 20 books, everything except the bodice rippers. We have some others all the way from Oz as well – perhaps another 20 – so just might last until we get far enough north to be distracted by other things.

And to those who keep asking, Fenwick is a real person – doddering old fart who drinks and scratches and thinks he’s funny. Well, we do laugh at him a lot. Perhaps Mal should post both sides of the conversation. But he is allowed to piss into wind, having been around the Horn. So he does, but he’s too silly to work out why his knees suddenly get warm. Owns a famous old Sydney Hobart veteran called Morning Tide, which he used to be able to sail before he started drinking. An S&S 34, as anyone who knows about the ‘Morning …’ boats will know. Ted Heath, ex British PM, – those of you old enough to remember him, take a bow – won the 1965 (I think) Sydney Hobart in his Morning Cloud. I expect Fenwick has to sail with Morning Sickness a fair bit these days.

If I keep rambling like this I will run out of things to talk about before we get to the equator – questions answered tomoz. See yez.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 11, 2005 – 1530hrs UTC

1530hrs 11 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 162

This looks like being long and gossipy. I saw a flying fish today – we must be getting close to the tropics – its about 28 -30 degrees, humid, hazy – tough going. Not really enough wind and heading us badly, so may still end up climbing the Brazilian coast from Cabo Frio. The last bad storm messed up the early plan by taking us way further inshore that we wanted to go and now we can’t easily get back out. We would have liked to be where we could meet the SE trade winds at about 25S 30W but not to be.

We are still hoping to rendezvous with the ISS, but they must now be very busy getting ready for the ISS 11 crew, due up there in a week or so. Just needs a clear night and a high pass and some accurate timing, but all together quite difficult to achieve.

We also had a visitor today – a tiny fluffy finch-like bird – greenish brown, yellow flashes on top of wings, short pointy beak – came aboard, rested below for a bit, made some deposits and left again. Noice!
And we have a big problem – the cans of The Doctor are corroding in the iceboxes and losing their contents. Panic – we have instituted a regime of more frequent consultations while we decide whether there is any remedy.
Leo – good to hear from you – The Doctor is Guinness, Pete’s home brew, now gone but for two bottles, was Dr Cooper’s, and we also have Smoothies and The Archers Tool. Go figure!.

Big tanker went past on th horizon this morning probably towards Cape Town from somewhere south of Rio.

Those of you who were around west of Cape Horn may remember that we broke a blade off the fine pitch turbine we tow to drive our auxiliary generator. It’s a stainless shaft about a metre long with a rather rough cast aluminium hub at the end with two blades sticking out. Someone kindly welded a new bit of blade back on in Port Stanley but the weld failed not long into the stormy bit. We have been using the spare, coarse pitch turbine but we’re not going fast enough for it to work properly. I have suggested a solution to the suppliers which would eliminate such hassles – we shall see. Meantime, the BP Solar panel is pushing 4 amps into the batteries every time the sun comes out and we are just making do. There’s always diesel.

Does anyone know why the latitudes close to the equator are called the Horse latitudes – and which/where are they?
[ed: Responses now here]

And the big news: last night was reasonably clear – the usual gigazz of stars – Milky Way looks almost solid – and I saw Ursa Major for the first time – not all of it, but we’re getting there. For those who don’t know, the defining constellation in the southern hemisphere is the Southern Cross and its two pointers, Rigil Kent and Hadar. In the Northern hemisphere, it is Ursa Major, The Great Bear, also known as The Plough and The Saucepan, both of which it resembles more than a bear. The two western stars in the constellation point directly to the Pole Star above the North Pole. We won’t see the Pole Star this side of the equator and I’m not sure when we will on the other side but it’s all happening out here. And the Southern Cross is now significantly below top dead centre too.

Devncroo – I knew about Viking wool sails – I think they actually found one in an old ship or a tomb, but the mind does boggle a bit about water and weight. There might be something via google?

Brian and Jen – oops! And Yay! for the bar – work on it.

John C, Malcom, Hi.

Stephen C, thanks for your note – Gordo seems to be under the baleful influence of one Fenwick and we don’t hear from him any more.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 12, 2005 - 1500hrs UTC

1500hrs 12 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 163

In the horse latitudes – looking for the Trades

A little diatribe. Ever since I’ve been sailing, I’ve been aware of the dangers of working on deck with bare feet and I’ve seen some nasty injuries. It was forbidden in the boats I grew up in, before and at Dartmouth. There are two reasons – wet waterlogged feet lose their grip before good deck shoes (perhaps those with prehensile toes will shout at me, but it’s generally true) and wet soft skin and unprotected toes are especially vulnerable to cuts, splits and breaks.

So what does Muggins do this morning – yup, a sail change with soft bare feet. Nice warm water, no probs.

Boat gyrating a bit, lost grip coming back into the cockpit and sliced open the side of my foot near the big toe on heaven knows what. Stupid stupid stupid. I think I was lucky – clean cut, flap still intact, lots of salt water to keep it clean, just this side of needing stitches. Steri strips won’t stick and we have a surgical staple gun in the kit but no thanks! So to the next problem – what to do with it. Skin soft and waterlogged, no dressing will stick, bandages absorb water. Decided on a compromise – band aid along the length of the cut, big Primapore dressing over the top and the whole lot compressed by a couple of turns of duct tape all around the ball of the foot. Seems to be working and can put deck shoe over the top. Fingers crossed. Duct tape doesn’t let air in, but the ends are open and will have to change daily.

Pete goes barefoot and has survived a lifetime without injury – he’s grown up that way but I still think he’s been lucky. And there are others out there with leather feet who have done the same and will scoff at me for being a wimp. No problem – there are exceptions but for the rest of you, it’s an unnecessary risk and you take the consequences. I’ll never do it again. Those of you who have done the safety and sea survival course will know about duty of care.

Banging into 30 knot NE wind trying to get north about another 300 miles into the SE trades. Slow, battering slog into short steep lumpy sea with no let up in sight for a couple of days. Nice that we are on an enhanced consultation regime! Lots of small flying fish in the scuppers all night – too small to eat but a sign that we are nearly there. Passed a brightly lit vessel during the night – probably fishing and may not have seen us at all through his own glare.

Nice new moon – brilliant sky last night.

Looked at the large scale CMap chart of the Brazilian coast from Isla Catherina past Rio – bloody hell – there are ‘fish aggregation devices’, yellow special navigation buoys and lots of other potential show stoppers all along and there’s no way we’ll go close in unless we have no alternative.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 13, 2005 - 1010hrs UTC

1010hrs 13 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 164

It’s the middle of the night and I’m sweating – send me down my silver threaded T shirt, Noreen! – it’s hot and humid, which, it seems to me, is a better reason for sweat than the dull fear that comes in a storm at night. But I am constantly reminded about why in Berrimilla I never go North of Lord Howe in Australia. Tropical sailing isn’t necessarily all it’s cracked up to be. Don’t mind being paid for teaching up there though – a bloke’s got to eat.

Big thank you to everyone who sent us information about the horse latitudes, which, I have learned. we were in when I asked the question, but horseless and far from becalmed. And the range of sources was surprising too. Perhaps Malcolm could anonymise all the responses and post them as a little archive?  [See here: Answers to Horse Latitudes questions] Two interesting details – the very sad song by Doors and the suggestion that there may have been a derivation from the Spanish ‘golfo de las yeguas mares’.

Simon, couldn’t find bowditch on the laptop – must get it next time…and every sail change and storm and hiccup shows up clearly on the log files – interesting – would it be possible, for instance, to publish it as a cd referenced to log incidents?

Noreen – thanks for article about sweaty astronauts – NASA can probably afford to experiment with silver thread – fascinating bit of chemistry buried in there somewhere! – but it’s way beyond our micro budget. I expect, though, that like lots of other innovations such as teflon, a bit of silver thread to subdue the armpit and crutch ferals may well be the new trend in cool yachting underdags spun off (ugh) the space program. Can’t wait – Leroy, if you’re reading this, keep me a cast off and we’ll test it in the maritime environment!

And Jenny S – I did get your Cape Horn email and BOG details but in the euphoria of the moment, I probably didn’t do it justice. Thanks and we’re both looking forward to appearing in the first issue of The BOG Paper. Don’t know anything about Crossbow.

Croo – I must have read the same article about woollen Viking ship sails in New Scientist – I remember the bit about keeping the wool sails in the church towers and finding a fragment. Clever bit of lateral thinking there too. [See New Scientist article: The sheep that launched 1000 ships)

Kris, you got a separate answer, to alum address.

Wildlife report: haven’t seen a seabird foe a couple of days. Where do they all go, or is it some sort of portent, like the departure of rats? Flying fish, still small, in abundance, but Pete saw one big enough to eat. Lovely to watch them skittering across the surface with the sun flashing off sides and ‘wings’.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 13, 2005 - 2330hrs UTC

2330hrs 13 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 165

Today has been, like the Curate’s egg, good in parts. Started in high good humour as the wind swung round to the south east and seemed to be settling in – we thought we had managed to hook into the SE Trades a bit early. Sadly, not so – hopes evaporated when I pulled in the grib file and found that we are once again on the back of another high and due to be headed again severely over the next two days. Patience and perseverance recalled to duty and here we sit, rolling less than wildly with the #4 and the trisail (great rig – balanced and not too powerful for the short beam seas) galloping us ENE to get as far across as possible before the wind starts to back and we go round with it. We are into day 19 out of Stanley and a bout 1700 miles north, so we are about two days behind schedule for a 70 day trip. All back of envelope stuff and we should catch up  bit once we get above this stream of highs and headers.

Getting warmer and more humid every day. I’m sweating gently as I sit at the nav table at around 8pm local time. Cant open any hatches except the top of the storm boards as there’s lots of water and spray over the decks so quite uncomfortable. We are approaching the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) around the equator, and the cloud cover is growing and the cloudbase descending – just like in the southern ocean on the other side of the wall, but WARM! I hope we can cobble together one clear night, a high pass and a bit of luck in the next week or so to crack the R/V with the ISS. NASA sent Leroy our video last week – we haven’t seen it ourselves so I hope it was worth the effort and he found it interesting. He is due to return to Khazakstan on April 25.

My foot seems to be healing – thanks John re superglue advice – we have some in the kit but I had completely forgotten. The Doctor clearly slipped up during the Consultation.

We had intended to empty out the boat in Stanley, dry it out, clean all the spaces and then restow, but the weather and the difficult berth we were on made that impossible. Consequently, there is stuff stashed away in wet and mouldy hollows that’s been there since Hobart. Erk! I started on one bit today and – wonder of wonders – found the knife I lost way the other side of the Horn – must have been thrown across the boat in some big roll and buried itself in a daggy heap of wet plastic bags. Nice to have it back. And yesterday Pete found a bag of my clothes – shorts particularly, that had been stowed for resurrection in Stanley. But we cant find the half litre of Betadine, taken from the heavy kit for Pete’s hands in the pacific and carefully put somewhere so we could get it easily…using metho as temporary antiseptic.

John and Sherryl, good to hear from you – State Champions hey, John! Congratulations and well done. And don’t be fooled – all the expensive gear only makes the boat go as fast as the skills of the crew can drive it – you guys must be pretty good. Berri training helped, we hope!

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 14, 2005 - 2215hrs UTC

2215hrs 14 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 166

Here we still are, looking at Rio from afar. The wind is from the north east, where we want to go, so we’re doing long tacks to get around Cabo Frio, or, more precisely, what seem to be a series of oil rigs on the edge of the continental shelf to the east of Frio. I will be very glad indeed when we eventually get round that corner and happier still when we get into the trades. We can see them, tantalisingly close, on the grib, but lots of work to get there. Once we do, they should take us most of the way to the equator. And a long way out to sea, about 700 miles from here to the north east is Martin Vaz Island – tiny inhabited island belonging to Brazil.

Last night,  a very large ship came out of the east. swung around our stern and ‘parked’ about a mile away on our beam. Disconcerting. I called them and discovered it was the Orient Constellation and they were just making sure we were ok. Very short conversation – perhaps I should have asked them more – looked like a tanker. Once we had spoken they altered course again and disappeared very quickly.

Fiona, we did hear about the Skiff episode from Fenwick – doesn’t hurt to rub it in a bit though.

Arlette, keep on truckin’ and have a birthday bash for me on the 22nd. We’re still dunking shortbread and jammy thingies.

Jenna, thanks for lovely note – I’ll write you a separate reply but I’ll answer your questions here – yes, it’s generally heaps scarier at night – not sure why, but it may be the haunted house effect – just another house in daylight but comes alive at night. Also, the noise and the spray and everything seem to be magnified and I get that numb feeling that it’s all going to happen…everything tightens up and I sit (when possible – often not) and listen and fret. Different kind of scary when you cant see something too – the imagination at work.

Ocean waves are physically just the same as beach waves except that they don’t have a sloping beach under them. They are often much bigger – in the southern ocean they can build up over a fetch that goes right around the world, so each wave has enormous energy but the water itself is not moving forwards – only up and down. But when the wave gets to a sloping shore, the lower part of it is deflected – slowed down – causing the wave form to collapse at the top and the water starts to surge forward – this is the breaking wave on a beach. The same breaking effect is caused by the wind actually moving the water in the tops of ocean waves forwards, causing it to break – huge and very frightening if you are under it. Oceanographers may quibble with this description, but it’s more or less what happens.

We don’t do any fishing although we might – and we are towing a turbine on a 40 metre line too, which complicates things. We hope to get some flying fish on board at night as we go north.

Wildlife – the Dinos are back – phosphorescence all around, big sparkly flashes along with rather misty greenish ligt in the water. And one solitary seabird – a tern perhaps, with a split tail. The first one for several days, surprising this close to land.

1-11. South Atlantic-26°S

Apr 15, 2005 - 1130hrs UTC

1130hrs 15 Apr 2005 UTC Map Ref 167

And still here, in a very uncomfortable headbutt into a 30kt North easter which is due to blow for at least two more days. Very frustrating. The trades are just over the horizon to the north and we can’t get there yet. Boat on the port tack, bashing into short steep sea and I’m wedged into the nav table space, knees braced under the table and just about every other muscle working to keep me in keyboard contact. Not fun. May be a bit short on updates if it continues but I’ll persevere if possible.

The laptop is on permanent charge and seems to be running quite hot – I know they generate a lot of heat but should I be concerned? I suspect it is normal, and I just haven’t noticed in the colder south.

Not much to report – Supplies of The Doctor are being depleted according to a corrosion fudge factor and so far we haven’t lost any more. Once the iceboxes are empty, we can slow down again and work on the various other stashes that should be less corroded.

Size of flying fish is increasing – I saw one this morning that I first thought was a seabird. Perhaps we’ll get one for breakfast soon. No seabirds, lots of phosphorescent dinos. Water now iridescent blue and 27+ degrees. Why was it grey further south?

Leroy Chiao told me that he can’t photograph Cape Horn for us because it is always in darkness when their orbit takes the over the top, and it will be so for some weeks yet. I had not considered the trigonometry of their orbit – assuming. I suppose, that they go so fast and orbit so often that they would see everywhere in daylight at least every few days or so. Interesting and I will have to look at the predictor on the internet when we get to England. (Malcolm has the URL if anyone else is interested) [ed http://spaceflight.nasa.gov/realdata/sightings/] . There must be big areas they don’t see for weeks at a time and it makes our rendezvous even trickier than I imagined. Not long to go for ISS 10 – they leave for Khazakstan in 10 days. We are hoping that John Phillips in ISS 11 will be interested in continuing the contact.

2 more ships last night – one very big one crossed our stern at about a mile. Called them but no answer. Interesting course – came from the west and turned south just behind us. The other one came from the south east and passed astern. quite a long way off.

Croo – keep up the patter please – sometimes hard to respond to them all but v much appreciated. Desperately awaiting exciting news about parsley.

Jenna – I’ll get to it – maybe not today and yes, I’d like to read your article please – send it to the website as an attachment and ask Malcolm to paste it into one or more emails  – Thanks Mal, in advance :-) and please include Jenna’s address in your next – ta.

David – Neptune r/v unpredictable from here but at least 16 days and no, we won’t be swimming at least until the doldrums = dangerous and difficult.