1-24. Closing on the Barn Door


Logs ( 22 )

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 12, 2005 - 0430hrs UTC │Follow my Wallow

0430hrs 12 Oct 2005 UTC 37’04”S 008’54”W Ref 433

Follow my wallow – for the sailors. We’ve all sat in the oily swell in the Channel or the Solent or off Sydney Heads or wherever with no wind, the kite or the headsail and the main slatting and banging and tearing out their cringles and thought we were particularly unlucky. So we were, but it’s all relative. Next time it happens to you, and a ship passes, imagine that the waves are as big as the ship and about 100 to 150 metres apart, with the swell you are sitting in applied across the top. And there you are, trying to keep the boat moving with nowt on the wind indicator. Now THAT’s wallow. It is all happening right here – the wind dropped out as predicted as the high arrived and we rolled around, as above. Then a whisper – up to 8 kt, but hard to tell because of the roll – bit the bullet and rigged the pole and tried to hand steer downwind – much banging and crashing but tiny progress – a speed reading on the log – .75, 1.2….eventually cracking 4 kts in about 10 kts of ephemeral breeze and the electric autohelm is driving as I write. Still a crash or two as the main goes inside out and takes the boom with it but progress. This note will be even more disjointed than usual because I have to keep leaping up on deck to tweak the autohelm.

G’day to all the new Gusts and readers. It seems we have hit the news. We can’t get the internet or read the papers here so all we know is what Stephen is able to send us via Sailmail – he sends us your emails pasted into a single download and gives us the gust entries when he can. We get 10 minutes per day connect time over the Sailmail link, so it is all very compressed and the whole website has to be run within this constraint. Up till now, I have tried to acknowledge you all individually but this may be a bit difficult for a few days until the rush fades. Please forgive me if you don’t get a mention.

The Times (UK) – 11 Oct 2005: Two codgers and a boat: marriage made in yachtsmen’s heaven

Small concern – we seem to be using our methylated spirit rather faster that at any previous time – time for a stocktake in the morning – we may need to conserve, so no more bread or pasta, for instance. Poo! But it hasn’t happened yet. I wonder if Pete is secretly drinking the stuff – poor lad’s not blue with cold when he staggers in after a dismal night watch – perhaps it’s a metho stain.

Our ephemeral zephyr has gone and we’re back in megawallow. Gotta go.
Much tweaking later – just managing forward progress in about 5-8kts – takes a bit of concentration. Now overcast – Mars, I think, visible thro tiny gap. Real southern ocean phosphorescence again – Berri leaving smoky trail snaking through the water, turbine a bright blob as it stirs the dinos on the end if its line 40 metres behind.

Chris – love your poem, not at all fussed by the cost effective use of the singular! One sailor, like an unknown warrior, can represent us all. [ed: will seek permission to publish]

I’ve been thumpingly chastised by my sister for going public about her dental floss fetish – she’s in denial, but everyone has known for years that she sneaks out at night and fossicks in the neighbours’ dustbins for those curly knotty bits of used floss that she then obsessively ties together to re-use. We’re a strange lot. In fact, she uses rolls of the stuff to achieve spectacular effects by tie-dyeing silk and other material. I think her website is at www.isabellawhitworth.co.uk if you don’t believe me. I want her to do a spinnaker for Berri, but she hasn’t collected enough floss yet. Maybe all y’all could send her yours… Perhaps I shouldn’t joke – there’s bound to be someone out there that doesn’t do irony. If that’s what this is.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 12, 2005 - 0900hrs UTC

0900hrs 12 Oct 2005 UTC 37’12”S 008’34”W Ref 434

DB:99, 7108, gps 105 – much as expected. Its getting quite cold – to labour the joke just once, VOAI mega-squeezy.

From Peter D., Australia:

You will no doubt pass within a day or two’s sail from Isle Amsterdam,and Isle St Paul, in about a month’s time. Amsterdam used to have a French research station (may still have) on its shores. I understand St Paul is uninhabited. St Paul is like a semi submerged volcano, and I understand on a quiet day a boat can enter the lagoon (sorry – no more detail).

However within the last 5 or six years, 4 years ago approximately, the Royal Australian Air Force were involved in a rescue mission for some persons shipwrecked on St Paul. Perhaps not as interesting as Tristan, as no permanent inhabitants. It was surprising to me that our area of responsibility extended so far from our shores. Oh yes, I remember now – the Hercules I think it was, had to fly to St Paul, have a look, but then go to the closest refuelling point – South Africa, then come back and have a further search. I am interested in that outcome so have logged to call RAAF tomorrow – their history section and see if I can find out more – shall let you know if there is any outcome.

Malcom – found the islands at 7730E – almost exactly half way across – any chance you could do the research for us – would be nice to talk to them? Callsign and frequency and time if poss – ship and shore stn.

Pete not a closet metho freak – we found a hidden stash so we’ll survive. Much relief – shows the problems of stowage in a small boat and then remembering later.

Will send and do another later – fingers too cold for more.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 12, 2005 - 1615hrs UTC │Strange Sunrise Phenomena

1615hrs 12 Oct 2005 UTC 37’28”S 007’54”W Ref 435

The next few days will, I think, be wet and windy. There seems to be a tight low forming behind the high we are sitting under and tomorrow the wind will veer to the north west and north and increase over the next two days. Not the best bit of a southern ocean low to be in front of but it doesn’t look too fierce at the moment. We will be nicely in the top of it and we will go for the 5 and the trisail or perhaps 3 reefs at the first sign of nastiness and hoon along as fast as it will carry us generally eastwards. I hope. Just pottering twin poled in a zephyr awaiting todays Con with the good Dr Gordon in 45 minutes.

Pigeon like birds all departed – now have a couple of biggish brown guys flying formation around us and a much more round winged bird, about a metre span, brownish with white strip diagonally at outer end of top of wings. This guy keeps trying to land on the masthead and getting itself in a twist – it has been trying several different versions of finals but there’s nowhere up there for it to put its feet.

From Malcom Robinson:

Great to hear that the birds are back – would be very lonely without them I reckon. It was a terrific article in the Times – almost made me want to be there – but then I saw that little Low developing just behind you on the weather map and decided that I’m still not brave enough :-/

There’s a nice ISS pass coming up this Friday evening (your time). Assuming that you’re at 37S 3W it will be:
- 19:40:52 rise bearing 192
- 19:42:32 max elev of 21 degrees bearing 151
- 19:43:12 sets bearing 131
The further East you are, the higher it will be – so get a wriggle on guys!

Mal, thanks for the ISS pass details – I think we might still be under the low by Friday and we wont get to see it even though we should be well to the east in line for a nice high one. Poo! Do you know when the ISS 11 crew are due to land? And who is on ISS 12?

From Jeff F.

I spent 38 years at sea and have crossed between SA and OZ on numerous occasions.  Read about your exploits in today’s Times–as a n ex professional seafarer the considered opinion is that all yaghtsmen are to be avoided at all costs. However let me wish you all the best for the remainder of your voyage–and may the wind be always at your back.

Jeff F., thanks for your good wishes. I’m pleased to be able to report that your erstwhile colleagues seem to have the same opinion of yachties as you do – they’ve all managed to avoid us so far.

From Mark R., UK:

The Times newspaper has done you proud today with a double page spread of your amazing journey.  It did, however, get me worried that my wife (who, when aged 40, took up sailing for the first time and now, four years later, has her own small dinghy) might become so addicted to water, that at some point in the next 20 years she might abandon English suburbia and try to accomplish something significantly more adventurous than a Sunday morning pursuit race on our local sailing lake.  Thankfully, I have just read her your hilarious daily log regarding VoA, which has quashed all such aspirations she may have had! Every best wish for continued success in your astonishing adventure.

Mark R, please tell your wife to ignore us old farts and to follow her dreams – out here is not as bad as it seems and, VoA notwithstanding, I wouldn’t have missed it for all those tea bags. Just watching the birds and the dolphins yesterday was better than a bus trip to work.

We are approaching the Greenwich meridian for my fourth time this year, after standing astride the official Meridian marker outside Flamsteed’s house at the Royal Observatory at Greenwich and a couple of times en route to Malta and back from LHR, which don’t really count. We crossed 180 degrees at about 40 S at the Antipodes Islands east of NZ back in February almost directly opposite our likely crossing in a couple of days. The milestones are piling up – good feeling.

Baldy D, I think I may have sent you on a bit of a wild goose chase – apologies if so, but I have a feeling we did not post Brian’s story about his Qantas flight over Antarctica talking about the various sunrises he saw because we couldn’t contact him for permission, but Brian, if you are reading this, and it’s ok with you, could you please let Stephen know at berri@berrimilla.com that is’s ok to post it. Baldy is a BA 747 jockey who flies over the Canadian Arctic. Thanks. Stephen I think it was before NZ – don’t remember exactly.

[Ed: here ‘tis…]

Hi Al,

I’ve been following your adventures with great interest and thanking my lucky stars it’s you and not me out there. Huge admiration on my part…! The CSIRO wiz was talking thru his bum re your course and heading; you are obviously on an accurate course with your GPS. However, I agree with him about where and when the sun rises, as I worked it out on a Buenos Aires to Auckland leg I flew at this time of the year a couple of years back. We took off at 2200, in the dark, and headed about 190 past Cape Horn to 60S, then turned right and followed 60S to stay out of the Westerly at 35000 feet. Then at about 150W steered northwest up to Auckland.

What happened sunwise was this; as we got down to 60S, the sun appeared to the South. (At our altitude, we were looking at it ‘beneath’ the globe) The sun then remained on our port side till we turned Northwest some hours later, when it disappeared and we were in darkness again. About two hours after that, we had the normal slow sunrise behind us in the East. All this caused some alarm among the sisterhood down the back of the aeroplane. (“Darrel, I TOLD you that Captain Maher couldn’t be trusted. We’re all going to DIE because of him….”)

I”m sure the foregoing has been of absolutely no use to you atall, but I thought I’d tell you anyway. Keep up the good work and don’t talk to any strange icebergs.

All the best, Brian and M.C.

PeterB – further to bird description – they have darker wingtips on top and a diagonal dark band on each wing top from mid leading edge back inwards to wing root at the body, undersides of wing leading edges dark, otherwise white. Lovely to look at – soft greyish brown and crisp white.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 12, 2005 - 2100hrs UTC

2100hrs 12 Oct 2005 UTC 37’41”S 007’33”W Ref 436

We now have a copy of the Times article. That Ed Gorman must have a mind like mine, poor bastard. My deepest sympathy. But it’s going to be a hard act to follow. How the hell am I going to be able to go on churning out this codswallop for another two months in imitation of myself? Can’t be done. But We Shall Overcome – just have to forget I read it. And who wrote that Big Wave headline? Groan. Could’a been me. Thanks Ed.

The Times (UK) – 11 Oct 2005: Two codgers and a boat: marriage made in yachtsmen’s heaven

I’m amazed by the number of people who have stuck up their hands after my VoA gig and said that they have the same affliction – we must be a nation of silent sufferers – takes me back to the Titan Uranus episodes way back in this log – in fact I use the stuff as a prophylactic rather than a remedy – it keeps the working parts meshing smoothly, so to speak, as I go about my daily tasks and helps to retain my sense of humour. Groan again.

From Chris P.:

Meant to mention earlier – my mooring neighbour recently surprised me with the gift of a 1971 ‘Australian Seacraft’ magazine with a road test(?) of a Brolga.  Interesting.  Cost was $22k then.  Also seemed to have different rig as the mainsheet traveller was at the aft end of the cockpit.  Maybe later versions were altered for handicap reasons.  Not being a racer I know nothing about this stuff.

Hope to catch you in Hobart early Dec.  If not, definitely after S2H.  Maybe you could visit our new straw bale house (assuming we have moved in by then) at Kettering and sample some of my duty-free single malts and barbecue skills.

Re the small dissertation on Anusol - I was communing with the vitreous enamel this morning and idly glanced at my horoscope in the Age Weekend Magazine.  It started – “”Problems with Uranus, I’m afraid””.  How did they know that?  Almost enough to make you believe.

Chris P, I’m right there with you…How could the bastards know?? But thanks everyone, for sharing your experiences and favourite remedies. I have them all in my little black book for future reference.

G’day to all the new Gusts and correspondents – again. I’m perilously close to my Sailmail connection limit, so won’t list you all, but thanks for your good wishes and for your comments on what we are doing. So many people out there dream about this – it’s uncanny. Martin, thanks for your thoughts re book – I’m still trying to work out how to do it. And Peter D, likewise. Paul R. is it ok if we post your calculation suggestion? Hope you enjoy your little drift and the mud bath.

Still pottering along waiting for the change. Cold overcast night, occasional moon and indeterminate stars in the gaps, long rolling swell, flat grey reflections, the poled out headies silhouetted as darker shapes hardening the gloom, their edges sometimes caught by the masthead light. Tiller lines squeaking – it’s so quiet I can hear them – and the water rustling past and gently stirring the barnacles. Ampair whirring away in spasmodic activity. It has a different note when it is charging from when just idling.

Compressed our garbage today into big plastic bag and then into supermarket tray. We’re doing well – there’s only a very small cube of it, now lashed on deck instead of festering in the lazarette.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 13, 2005 – 0613hrs UTC

0613hrs 13 Oct 2005 UTC 38’05”S 006’47”W Ref 437

Ladies and gents – we have just really turned left. We are running along roughly the 38th parallel-  a significant boundary further north as well. A Consultation is occurring and then I need some sleep. Will do DB update later. Tasmania, here we come. Keep them fingers crossed for us and get out the calculators. WOOOOHOOOO!

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 13, 2005 - 1200hrs UTC

1200hrs 13 Oct 2005 UTC 38’06”S 006’00”W Ref 438

DB:117, 6954 gps 123, 54/56

About a week to the barn door.

Reading Ed’s article has rattled the marbles a bit. I’ve been trying to pin down what it was that started all this and I think it may have been as far back as the day my parents gave me Joshua Slocum’s book to read. I must have been about 10, but that book as it were lit the candle and set a standard for what is possible and that standard underpins this venture as well. When I first had the idea, long before I met Pete and perhaps as far back as the 1977 Hobart, it was a fantasy but with definite attitude. I can remember it sitting out there as a sort of whimsical dare that I used to play with and I think some decisions since then have been influenced by the harder edge of that fantasy.

The Sydney -Rio start in Jacqui was one of these and there’s always been that unfinished 1961 Fastnet out there stage left. When it became possible for me to buy a boat this size, I had a tiny budget. I was looking for a seaworthy go-anywhere boat at the right price, but with the 50th Sydney-Hobart race in the front of my mind rather that a jaunt across the ocean to play at Fastnets. But always, down there lurking in the subconscious was old Joshua, putting tintacks in front of my bare feet to send me generally in this direction.

For instance, I had decided that an S&S 34 was the way to go, but the S&S tag meant that they were all – I thought – significantly overpriced for what was on offer. Berrimilla eventually cost me a bit over half the lower end S&S’s and has proved to be at least their equal. When this project finally surfaced as an idea with some substance, the boat was there and was partly prepared. Thanks Joshua.

I did one longish two handed trip in 1994, from Eden to Sydney with Flop and we may have talked about it then, but it was when Pete and I two handed Berrimilla back from Hobart in January 2000 that the idea really eased into the frame. Even then, it needed a lot of other lucky breaks, like a modest redundancy cheque and tolerant families, but here we are. And – most astonishingly of all, there you all are.

Ed says I’m an unabashed traditionalist. Sounds a bit wooden headed to me. I don’t think so, unless that means that I try not to repeat past mistakes – mine or other peoples’. Berrimilla may be a traditional boat but she’s full of some very non traditional gear – this laptop, for instance. And while I’m now a bit too decrepit to do it myself, I applaud those who push the envelope with courage and stamina and persistence – Ellen MacArthur and Pete Goss and Kay Cottee, the many French men and women and all the others. But these people take calculated risks in sponsored boats that are designed for the purpose – mostly anyway. As an aside, who remembers the photo of one of the single handers’ boats floating upside down somewhere south of here with its keel still on and him sitting on the upturned hull waiting for rescue? Well, at least the keel stayed on, which I suppose earns some brownie points, but that lesson has been learned the hard way because people do push the edge. At the same time it is possible to have a great deal of respect for the early pioneers like Columbus and the later Corinthians like Slocum, who do this sort of thing without engines, radios, watermakers or any of the modern goodies, and often do it without seeking the coverage that we have been lucky enough to have been given. A Frenchman did it quite recently, I think, and wrote a book about it, but no-one knew he was out here and there’s a single hander from Slovenia toiling along behind us as I write, doing it very hard indeed.

On the other hand, I would think very carefully and take a lot of care picking my crew before I would set off for Hobart in a boat that was engineered for going round the buoys and short inshore races followed by an evening in the bar. Not the same exercise at all. Pounding to windward in 45 knots across Bass Strait in one of those is not my idea of common sense – the boat ought to be able to protect the crew rather than the other way around, so it needs a special crew. Furthermore, it can put other people at risk, in rescue helicopters and lifeboats, so I would have to be prepared to go for the nearest bolt hole before or at least as soon as the conditions deteriorated. Today it is no longer seen to be wimpish to pull out of long races and that has to be a change for the better. Anyway, that may be a Luddite viewpoint, but I don’t think it is wooden headed.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 14, 2005 - 0550hrs UTC

0550hrs 14 Oct 2005 UTC 38’16”S 003’44”W Ref 439

The sheer wonder of all this has just poked me firmly in the eye. Here we are in our little plastic bathtub home with all its talky toys, barrelling across the South Atlantic towards the barn door south of Africa. I have just written to a couple of teachers and their classes in Sydney about Turner’s paintings and my daughter’s higher school certificate art project, which included a copy of a Turner painting on an old kitchen door. One of those teachers may just possibly be a descendant of Henry Knight’s father. There’s an inspirational sunrise going on in front of us and the moon set an hour or so ago directly astern – a great glowing orange ball behind some wispy cloud. And tonight, if we get lucky, we should be able to wave once again to the International Space Station as it passes overhead. And, most gobsmackerooningly of all, I can report it to all y’all in purple prose. To misquote myself – sorry Ed! – Scupper me Dingbats All Over! Isn’t technology wonderful? I can feel a Consultation and a bacon sando coming on. Time to wake Pete. Ed G. If you are still reading this, send us your email address and we’ll give you exclusives on VoAI and the like.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 14, 2005 - 0900hrs UTC

0900hrs 14 Oct 2005 UTC 38’23”S 003’17”W Ref 440

DB 148, 6803. gps 150 55/55 HALf WAY on the Dec 11 sked. Wooohooo. And we’ve sailed at least 6520 miles by the GPS so close on distance too.

Small challenge, courtesy Paul Reid in a mudhole on Pulau Tiga:

I’ve noticed you have a penchant for meaningless calculations. The horizontal distance traveled is all well and good, but have you estimated your vertical distance traveled? i.e. the total of average wave height x frequency for each day, and how does your height travelled relate to the height above the earth of the ISS? Maybe another prize competition for the nearest estimate!!

(Sounds ok to me – any takers??)

(5/6 at Belmore South – can you find Pulau Tiga? You will need a really good atlas and then you can plot it on Google Earth, below)

And a toy for when Steve is up in the mountains and you aren’t getting these, also from Paul:

Something to look forward to when you two finally stop moving is a website called Google Earth. Good fun for armchair circumnavigators. It’s a 3D globe where you can pinpoint the exact location of Berrimilla (or anything else) by lat/long and scroll around, pan up and down, zoom in & out and do all sorts of wonderful things. You can fly down the Hoover Dam, or the Grand Canyon, I was able to plot and insert a pushpin at your position north of TdC (Top Dead Centre?) and pan down to the island in 3D to see ‘you’ come over the horizon. Oh and of course, major cities are visible in high definition. I can see my brother-in-laws car parked outside his house in Hong-Kong.

“Who’d sail in the tropics?”

 Thanks Paul.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 14, 2005 - 1530hrs UTC

1530hrs 14 Oct 2005 UTC 38’31”S 002’27”W Ref 441

Another discourse on heavy weather sailing for the ocean sailors. We have just dropped from the #4 and two reefs to the storm jib and trisail. Setting the trisail is a major dockyard job in Berrimilla, yet it ought to be – really must be – one of the easiest sails to set. It is always set when things are getting bad, the boat is often moving quite violently, the wind tends to be at the shriek stage and there’s water flying everywhere. In Berri, both of us have to get up to the mast to drop the main, still in its track, loosely tie it and then drop it out of its track and lash it properly. Then we have to feed the trisail halyard tape slugs into the track followed by the sail, run the sheets (which is often quite difficult) and then haul it up and trim it. Ludicrous when you think about it – that lot is the last project you would want to undertake as things get nasty. This time we set it really early in expectation that things will get worse – the correct way to do it.

So what’s the answer? The best one I have seen was a set up on a boat in Hobart – Gerry Fitzgerald has photos if he’s out there – where the trisail has a separate track going right down to the deck and the sail is permanently rigged in this track, snugged down under a cover at deck level when not needed. Dead easy to set – just drop the main and lash it and haul up the tri. There isn’t room to do this on Berri and probably on a lot of other boats – we can’t get another track on to the mast and there isn’t anywhere to stow the sail at deck level – at least, there isn’t now. A compromise would be a gate in the track above the level of the lowered main so that the tri can be fed into it without taking the main out of the track. I tried to get this done in Falmouth but the rigger ran out if time and we opted to go without. Big mistake.

So there it is. The trisail is a get you out of trouble sail – very effective if used properly – and it must be ruthlessly easy to get it up or you will delay putting it up until it is too late, as we did a couple of times approaching and leaving Cape Horn. Bad Karma.

Having said all of which, we are now snug and happy having dropped from a rather dizzy and stressful 7+ knots in a nasty beam sea to a positively Bishoplike 4 – 5. Noice. Consultation with Dr Gordon in 90 minutes and it’s a special half way milestone Con. Sadly, it’s 100% overcast and yet again we’re not going to see the ISS go over – it is not an easy one to crack.

And someone tried to phone us at about 0930 UTC this morning. The first two rings came in then we lost the satellite signal – actually, the coax aerial cable pulled out of its socket – they don’t make these toys for boats, sorry. I fixed it and there was a single ring about 10 minutes later. If something does go wrong, always have another go in say fifteen minutes.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 15, 2005 – 0915hrs UTC

0915hrs 15 Oct 2005 UTC 38’53”S 000’48”W Ref 442

DB: 120, 6663 gps 127, 56/54 and isn’t that a nice ratio?

Pete has been messing with the entrails and other grot amongst the boot ferals and has asked me to post his ETA at SE Cape so: Da-Daah! intro with fanfare on Aida trumpets – he reckons 1700 on December 5th. I do so hope he’s right! That’s about 139 miles per day. Certainly possible down here. Are there any challengers out there – we have 1700, Dec 5 and Dec 11 (say midday) on the table.

Trisail discourse part 2: Having got the thing up – all nice and colourful – and the hatch closed and the boat snug and warm and the wind noise muted and the water still  rushing past the hull – you can sleep. And – having slept, the wind noise still muted and the water still rushing past, but the conditions having improved significantly, the temptation is to leave it up a bit longer (while you contemplate the feel of wet party gear and wet socks against nice warm dry skin), rather than having to reverse the dockyard job to get it off and reset the main. No problem if you are cruising – a couple of knots off the top for half a day doesn’t amount to much. If you are racing, you’ve lost it right there. We went well in the Fastnet because we sailed the boat metre by metre all the way around and it paid off, especially at the end when it would have been really easy to have stayed down with the #1 instead of setting the assy across the bay from Mevagissey.

For the nautically challenged, my apologies – a trisail is a tiny storm sail that is set on the mast instead of the mainsail (the big one at the back). It has two sheets or controlling lines and it is not set on the boom so it has a loose foot and can be tweaked all over the place if needed. Berrimilla’s is dayglo orange and white – mostly today they are all dayglo in orange or pink. As an ex aviator who has spent quite a lot of time in helicopters looking for people and wreckage in the water, I can confirm that those two colours are the easiest to see against a frothy grey background. The sail is about as big as half a king size bed sheet cut diagonally. The full mainsail, by comparison, is about 12 metres by 3.5, with a curved trailing edge. When the wind increases, it can be reefed or made smaller, three times, each time reducing the bit that is left by about a quarter and the bit that is left after the third reef is about twice as big as the trisail. I hope that’s not too technical.

As I write, we are 34 miles west of the Greenwich meridian so we should cross in about 6 hours. We crossed the equator at 2617 W, or nearly 1600 miles west – that’s a long diversion to stay in favourable winds but essential. The great circle from Greenwich to Cape Agulhas just about follows the meridian, so it’s a long way around. And another meaningless statistic – at 3911S in about 17 miles, we will be south of Wilson’s Promontory, the southernmost point of mainland Oz, so at least in theory, we will be as far south as we need to go to get back to Sydney

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 15, 2005 - 1640hrs UTC

1640hrs 15 Oct 2005 UTC 39’03”S 000’05”W Ref 443

I’ve just started to read Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (the paperback Virago edition, 1978), a special favourite, which I’ve been carefully saving until things started to get really hard. I found it on a shelf for book swapping in the marina laundry in Lymington and feel guilty that I took it without leaving anything in return. All Berrimilla’s outward books went to a charity shop in Falmouth. It’s the second time I have read it, the first being inspired by the BBC TV series based on it about 20 years ago. There’s a line in it that I remember from the first time in which she says (p. 20) ‘…a family’s estimate of its intrinsic importance is not always associated with qualifications which immediately convert the outsider to the same view’. Austen or Wilde couldn’t have said it better.

This echoes, for me, something I was trying to say in an earlier note, about not getting hooked on my own hype and there’s aother mirror somewhere reflecting Douglas Adams’ Man Who Ruled the Universe, whose lack of any passionate conviction except perhaps to self doubt was his chief qualification. Having read Ed’s article, it seems to me that I can go on churning out this stuff only as long as I can see no intrinsic value in it except that which each individual one of you chooses to instil into it. As soon as I cross that line, I’ve lost the plot and you should drag in Pelagia’s goat immediately. But then, perhaps this rather self indulgent bleat is exactly what should be fed to the goat and appropriately reduced to its proper state. Stuffed if I know.

We are about to cross the Greenwich meridian. Big milestone but we are still 900 miles from the barn door and the Indian Ocean. It’s bleak, blue-grey, wild, with misty rain, it’s cold and the 30kt wind is playing its muted howl in the rig. Halyards banging against the mast. Berri is rolling and gyrating along at about 6kt under tri and #4 and I’ve just been up into the cockpit to have a quick squizz. Mistake! I took a risk and didn’t put on the party gear, having not heard a greenie for some time and, of course, temerity got it’s just reward. I just managed to duck under the dodger and avoid most of it but I’m wet and cross with myself. Greenies, incidentally, are seldom really green – they mostly arrive as about a carload of horizontally crashing white water. It’s an expression indicating more or less solid water arriving as a moving wall. I’m now sitting wedged at the nav table on the port side and I can look across out of the starboard window and see sky – no texture, no form, just translucent light. I know the boat is rolling, but can’t tell which way except by the movement of the Cone of Silence, the heavy plastic curtain now permanently down to keep water off the electronics and the sky teeters up there for an age and suddenly there is angry grey water and rushing froth as Berri shoves aside tons of south Atlantic. And then more sky. And so the day goes on!

I’ve just tried to send a lot of stuff which has banked up – seems the Africa sailmail station has gone to sleep – and had another USB crash with attendant blue screen of death ……desperately desperately frustrating and every time it happens I lose about ten miles of recorded GPS track and forty two of the last remaining hairs on my head. Only about another hundred of them to go – hairs and crashes – before we get home.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 15, 2005 - 1648hrs UTC

1648hrs 15 Oct 2005 UTC 39’04”S 000’00”X Ref 444

10 minutes and yet another crash later, we’ve crossed Greenwich but missed it on the SoB record because of the crash. I wish I could convey to you the level of impotent fury this rouses in me – Why does it happen? What can I do to stop it? And the awful tension each time I recover it through the destroyed active desktop and all the rest because it isn’t consistent and I never know whether it will actually recover.

Anyway, we crossed Greenwich for the first time ever in Berrimilla at 15/16.48.53 and the Easterly numbers are climbing. I’d like to send you a wooohooo but I’m too angry. Yet I know that the thing isn’t doing it to me intentionally and I just have to live with it. So bloody well woooohooo!

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 16, 2005 – 0900hrs UTC

0900hrs 16 Oct 2005 UTC 39’20”S 001’57”X Ref 445

DB: 131, 6515, GPS 137, 57/53 or 57/47 on Pete’s ETA. Will stick to mine for consistency.

A huge G’day to all y’all who have jumped on since the Times article – Big G, Colin, Peter J, Vince, Ian, Pikey – and everyone else – your emails and Gust book entries inspiring and sustaining – please keep them coming.

This has to be a short one – I’ve used up my connect time with some very slow downloads – would everyone please use the berri@berrimilla.com address from here – Simon & Caro too please. Were having big trouble getting ok sailmail via Africa stn so may be off air occasionally. May also have to turnoff satphone – crappy motorola aerial fittings not made for boats.

Trisail, part three – we’ve had it up for about 3 days now and it seems to do more that its fair share of balancing the boat and moving it forward. It is happily balancing the #4 with the wind just aft of the beam at the mo. I think I’ve worked out why – the sail is sheeted through the spinnaker turning blocks which I have attached to the mooring cleats on each quarter so it is a small force acting through a very long lever (as opposed to the main, which is a huge force, but acting through a short lever at the traveller on the coachroof). And it acts low down and doesn’t stress the rig.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 16, 2005 - 1630hrs UTC

1630hrs 16 Oct 2005 UTC 39’36”S 002’42”E Ref 446

[ed: disappointing news I am afraid. It seems that the marvellous sailmail.com system has not had much use in the African region past 3 or 4 months and so is not as reliable as in other parts of the world. They are working on it. Berri is only getting communications randomly and in small chunks, so updates will be sparse for a while. This flows on to the editing and sending of emails and gust book entries to Berri. Unfortunately the alternative means of communications, SatcommC and the satphone are horrendously expensive, so will be used very sparingly. However, don’t let that stop you emailing or gusting the boys – the (sail)mail will get through, and they thrive on it!]

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 17, 2005 – 0400hrs UTC

0400hrs 17 Oct 2005 UTC 40’03”S 003’57”E Ref 447

The roaring forties are doing their thing. Barometer has dropped 12 mb in 18 hours, mostly in last 12. We’ve got a gusty 35 – 40 kt NW with very nasty quartering sea that occasionally – quite often – catches Berri unawares and throws her 60 degrees around and everything slats for a bit till Kevvo gets his wind back and sorts it out. Disconcerting though. Storm Jib and tri and going too fast most of the time. Will go up and ease the tri to see whether it helps. Into party gear. …

Now done – still in full PG – tri eased so that forward half flat against shrouds and only small aft corner curling back and pulling. Seems to have helped tho wind has dropped too – short lull between squalls. Wish I could have filmed the scene – spreader lights on, orange storm jib quivering under the load, tri taut and rigid, big steam trains of waves roaring in from std qtr with tops breaking and luminous from spreader lights – sometimes crashing against the side and exploding into flying diamonds of solid spray three metres high across the whole front half of the boat – sometimes just sliding underneath pussy cat like – Berri slewing and pitching violently with each one, storm jib occasionally stalling and shaking.

Wonderful sight and experience, but always that grab of fear as the violence unleashes. So have made a cup of tea with 2 T bags – strong enough so, as the Scots say, ye could trot a mouse on it. Lots more to tell you about – the wriggle,shimmy and slide can perhaps wait – have contacted Justice, who runs the Maputo sailmail station and we are conducting tests for his aerials and reception. A good thing – gives me something to do and will leave something behind for those that follow. The sail mail people have been wonderfully helpful the whole way around – more on this later too, but thanks guys.

We are also trying to establish contact with Juri, the single hander from Slovenia, 800 miles astern heading for Cape Town. So far no go.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 17, 2005 - 0900hrs UTC

0900hrs 17 Oct 2005 UTC 40’09”S 004’18”E Ref 448

DB 118, 6366 gps 124 58/52

Not pleasant out here. We’ve been bare poling in 45+ -nothing serious except for savage short breaking seas -had to slow right down. Now have storm jib back up – 35kt. We’ve been cooped up inside for over three days – wet nasty ‘orrible. No real prospect of let up either. I’ve just spent my sleeping watch dismantling half the inside stowage to get at the two earth fittings for the radio at Justice’s suggestion – cleaned them but seems to have made no difference. Just cant raise Africa and we don’t know why. And the usb as crashed 8 times so far while I’ve been trying to talk to him so I’m not a happy little black duck. If I cant get Chile later, this may never get sent.

Seabirds everywhere in the storm – big black petrels, I think, and an albatross to soothe my battered psyche.

Now have to wait till 0930 to try to talk to Juri in his boat Lunatic, 800 miles astern. He sounds a bit like us.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 17, 2005 - 1515hrs UTC │Sleeping and dressing

1515hrs 17 Oct 2005 UTC 40’08”S 004’55”E Ref 449

Wriggle, shimmy and glide – people ask us how we live in our little bus shelter.

I sleep in the port (left) bunk – in which it is physically impossible to sleep straight or comfortable because the chain plate (big metal strip that ties the mast to the keel under the shrouds) goes down through the middle of it at about shin level. I’ve got an el cheapo sleeping bag – zipped across the foot and up one side and on top of it I have a dayglo orange sea rug – a sort of marine doona. I’ve just put the sleeping bag into its bivvy bag because everything is now wet – either soaked or damp – unless it has been protected. Quite tricky to get into all that. Getting out is harder because it’s always snug and warm and party gear is not snug and warm. I sleep in my day top of two layers of thermals, plus a pair of fleece pants which live inside the sleeping bag when not in use. I keep my norwegian knitted boot feral comforters between the bag and the searug when not in use to try to dry them out. I have got used to the chummy pond and the noisy chatter of the ferals as they breed and fester. So the wriggle – hook thumbs into elastic waist of pants behind hips, raise mid section on heels and shoulders and wriggle bott out from elastic. Shimmy fleece pants down to ankles and remove, put in bag beside now rapidly cooling rump and untangle woolly overalls and glide first one raised leg, then the other into overalls, shimmy waist bit of overalls over hips and wriggle bott into place. All this in supine position. Slide norwegian comforters over feet – easy if both are dry…and execute exquisitely timed luuurch upwards or the grab rail. Contact made, right leg over the lee cloth and pole. pull body into approx vertical stance and again, time the move from there to somewhere convenient to wedge self and pee bucket – and so the watch gets under way.

Simon asked about the boat – there’s lots of stuff on the website including photos – you have to dig a bit – and Pete composed a paean on Brolgas which is in the logs somewhere. [ed: I will dig around and put some links here… soon]

This one’s a catch up – Gerry glad you’re back – send us some short bursts.

From Doug M.

Interesting that such a coincidence has arisen but I really think that is all that it is. However as I have no details of Henry Knight the mayor of Erskineville I cannot confirm things at this time. Henry Knight (the father and diarist) was born1817 Leigh Kent and buried Rookwood Sydney 1902 – he was the landscape gardener for Sir Thomas Walker at the Yaralla Estate, Concord Sydney. He was later an orchardist nearby

    I have no problem letting you have access to any of my Henry Knight diary transcriptions if you wish to mention things, or a copy of the original slip of paper by the Capt of the JAVA with co-ords of Henry Juniors 1853 burial at sea.

Doug, thanks for offer of access to Henry K material – yes please – maybe Belmore South kids would be interested too, especially if there is a relationship.

For Belmore South – good to have you back on the job. Have you found Pulau Tiga? I think it is very small. Pulau is the Indonesian and Malaysian word for ‘Island’. When you do find it, I would like a report on how it looks on Google Earth please!

From Adrian, Belmouth South School, in Australia:

Did any part of your ship break near Cape Horn?

Adrian, we were very lucky and we didn’t break anything important near Cape Horn, but we did lose our liferaft in a big storm near Montevideo just after leaving the Falkland Islands. It was hit by a huge wave and the lashings broke. The liferaft had a gas bottle and it inflated and was pulled along behind the boat until it filled with water and the painter (the line attaching it to Berrimilla) broke under the strain. It was too heavy and there was too much wind and rough water for us to get it back again. The liferaft had a number on it like a car registration, so that the rescue authorities know which boat it belongs to. Luckily, we have a satellite phone, so I was able to call the Australian Maritime Safety Authority in Canberra to tell them that we had lost the raft so if anyone found it and reported it they would know that we were ok. I don’t know whether anyone did. Perhaps it is still drifting towards Uruguay!.

 From Fatima, Belmouth South School, in Australia:

What do you eat and drink, (apart from tea, haha!)

Fatima, there’s a long list of our ‘rations’ – our food stores – on the website. Most of it is canned – meat, vegies, fruit – or dried, like soup, dried fruit, pasta and rice and specially prepared dried meals in plastic packs – just add water and heat! Dried food is ok as long as we can carry or make enough water to cook it and we have a water maker that I told you about in another answer. We also take as much fresh fruit, eggs, vegetables and bacon as we think we can eat before it goes bad. We still have some eggs and some bacon and some garlic left. And we always have lots of chocolate.

From Allan Fenwick:

I lost the plot years ago, so I can recognize others who are so afflicted, and believe me you two have no plot to lose, it went a few decades ago. My studies show all sailors carry this gene, academics put it cruelly by the label IDIOT. As academics also carry this gene in a greater proportion to sailors, we really know who the idiots are, so the real label for sailors are, adventurers, explorers, and challengers of convention,and know when we are having fun in an environment that lets our minds expand, so the real meaning of life is expressed by those who choose to sail.
this life is no dress rehearsal, its the real thing, and those who wait for a better one will be disappointed because there is none to be had. And just incase i’m wrong at least sailors have will have lived this one to the full and enjoyed it.

Fenwick – you can be quite erudite at times! I think your last should be set in lights on the website somewhere!

Mal – thanks for ISS passes but I doubt whether we will see the sun, let alone the ISS for the next 50 days or so. Very gloomy thought. How goes Wildfire?

Huge thank you yet again to everyone who has signed on and sent us encouraging and often very personal messages. We are stuck in a long timewarp out here and it is enormously sustaining when things ain’t going so good to get your thoughts and good wishes and to share your dreams. When we get back, it would be fantastic if we could somehow keep this going and get your continuing stories – so many of you are clearly on the way to doing interesting things. Any suggestions? And we are avidly looking forward to meeting as many of you as possible.

I think we may have made some progress in contacting the African sailmail station – I’ve now just got to cope with USB crashes. The sailmail people are great. I think I told you that we are trying to contact the single hander behind us – so far no luck, but we know he’s there and wants to talk to us because he is talking on a ham radio net.

Everything is damp, cold, clammy and dismal – so we had a special Consultation with Dave G’s bottle of Bundy this morning. Thanks Dave – just what we needed, especially me after a dreadfully frustrating headbang of a morning. Not a good day so far – I’ve had 40 minutes sleep since 0300. Just grinding out the miles and the numbers and hoping that we can keep transmitting. I can’t afford to use the SatComC again – it’s heaps too expensive for this sort of volume. Just had another go at SM Africa after a reasonable send last time and once again back in oblivion. I don’t know what’s going on – we’ve been able to talk to everyone else and can still get Chile when propagation allows.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 17, 2005 - 2230hrs UTC │Power problem

2230hrs 17 Oct 2005 UTC ??’??”S ???’??”E Ref 450

[ed: feast then famine.  Just as the sailmail problems were sorted we have a huge problem.  Read on….] disaster. generator has failed – prob. bearings. no spare. have approx 80 ltrs usable diesel + v. limited sunlight for solar. will assess over 48 hours – meantime hf only for grib. will send 1 short satcom update daily. power 4 watermaker + instruments only.. diversion capetown not feasible within orig project – may aim for fremantle.. will report in next 12 hours. bummer. love to all.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 18, 2005 - 0430hrs UTC

0430hrs 18 Oct 2005 UTC ??’??”S ???’??”E Ref 451

[ed: as you can see, we are down to satcom transmissions only. Very expensive, so unless someone knows someone who knows someone who can get some sponsorship for the satcom we are stuffed. Sorry all]

1. divert to c.town 4 new generator would add at least 12 days to journey snd slmost certainly kill any chance of making start line.

2. continue, in strict conserve mode and aim for fremantle to refuel. we are about 42 days from freo and should have enough fuel to charge battery daily and supplement with solar when available. a 5 cape circ would still – just – be possible if we make good time, start line certainly possible via bass st. no choice really. we will have to assess our power consumption, fuel etc over next few days. meantime, 1 satcom update daily – steve, pse suggest best time for you so that we can collect short mail call at same time. use satcom 4 time being – will assess hf as we go. pse check whether jg getting these.

from damp wet cold gloom to brilliant, sparkling almost full moon. cold. poled, 1 + 2, just moving. ampair still putting in some wigglies but too slow to assess fully. sounds as if bearings dry and about to collapse. serves me right for single point of failure – altho we do have some backup. we’ll see. may be a bit short on whimsy for a few days. malcom, any chance of diesel from french? pete grad unsw 1969 bsc dip ed.

[Ed: Don Price asked a fair and reasonable question about the power issue.

How much does the Satcom cost? Is connection cost the only issue, or is power going to be a problem if it’s used more? (Apologies for my ignorance about these things).

My response explains it a bit more:

The laptop and HF transmission gear consume much wattage. The Satcom is a handheld unit and hence quite low power consumption. The generator kept input comfortably in front of output, but with lousy sunshine for the solar panels and limited diesel for the motor, the output required o run laptop and HF will kill the batteries pretty quickly. Priority has to be given to the nav and running gear, so Satcom it is.

Satcomm cost is about 1c per character! It adds up awfully quickly.]

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 18, 2005 – 0900hrs UTC

0900hrs 18 Oct 2005 UTC 40’19”S 006’15”E Ref 452

[ed: decision is to head for Fremantle – the sun is currently shining]

DB: 91 gps 101 6294 (SECape) 5292 (Freo) Yesterday and the preceeding few days were pretty awful, especially yesterday, for radio and generator reasons as well as general convergence slime. Today, we have bright sparkling sunshine, thousands of birds again, mostly a variant of the ones near TdC but some bigger beautifully patterned guys – all soft greys and flecked bands – plus the black topsided guys with the white splodges – these are magnificent in the sunlight – the white parts glisten and reflect.

We have the solar panel feeding the battery so I’m going to risk that and ask for the next grib as well. Will send one whenever we can, else shorties by satcom.

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 18, 2005 - 1245hrs UTC

1245hrs 18 Oct 2005 UTC 40’19”S 006’38”E Ref 453

will try to keep sending these – they may be written over more than one day so perhaps even more disjointed and ungrammatical than usual. Date stamp is start time.

Have just cranked up the Satcom again – French Indian Ocean forecasts for Ile Amsterdam, Crozet and Kerguelen (Area ACK) are comprehensive and they give the area co-ordinates so they are usable without an area chart. Eureka!. They are sent from Reunion. May be able to get away without grib even. Rain and snow forecast for WH and CH Crozet! – I don’t know what WH and CH mean but it looks a bit rugged over there – We will pass through Am South and Crozet in about three weeks. Find the thermals!

We now have a nice little spider’s nest of dental floss to help Isabella wrap a spinnaker – I think it will need about 95 kilometres of the stuff!

Taking advantage of sunshine to dry out boat, esp. festering sox from boot feral lairs – I’ve been wondering whether each colony has developed a different set of pheromones – trouble is, can’t tell sox apart in dark and so can’t control experiment. Also, pong so intense, might be difficult to detect subtle differences in sexual come-ons without specially evolved nose. I keep the sox in bed with me to try to dry them out, so may even evolve nose.

We’re in huge swells – big ship sized, short wavelength, coming in from the SW. No appreciable wind waves on top, so can see whole vast sloping expanse and deep valley across to next crest as we go up the sides. Something big going on down there somewhere!

I have a list of sailmail stations in the propagation engine in Airmail. Ther are in order of distance – it goes Africa, Chile, Red Sea, Belgium, Panama,  Firefly NSW (@6054 miles) followed by 10 others. Big milestone when we get our first connection with them – the station is run by Penta Comstat.

Have just pulled in latest grib – 2 v nasty looking lows behind us – calm patch in the middle. Making most of interlude. Still reading Vera Brittain – marvellous book – when I think of myself at 23, inarticulate, completely uninterested in learning, no perception of myself as a living human being, more a conforming and frightened actor in a sea of other peoples’ expectations, Brittain’s letters and ideas and sheer scholarship – as a woman in 1915! – seem so absolutely awe inspiring – and her ability to express her feelings to her fiance in the awful times that surrounded them – her lingering love and their despair as he left for France – evocative, heroic, inspiring and ultimately sustaining. I remember her as an old lady in the front line of ban the bomb marches. I also remember my great Aunt, of  about the same age and background but without the ambition or scholarship, who,I think, may have lived through the same experience – when she died, we found similar letters and military insignia. She never married or ever talked about those times.

We’re making water as fast as we can to build a reserve in case we can’t make more each day. Solar panel sustaining watermaker and battery level. Just. We will not be so lucky with sunshine in the next few days.

Will try to send this…

1-24. Closing on the Barn Door

Oct 18, 2005 – 1700hrs UTC

1700hrs 18 Oct 2005 UTC 40’29”S 007’07”E Ref 454

Interim report. We’ve had a good day’s sunshine, made water, collected a grib and Steve’s mailcall over sailmail and the generator is still putting in some charge. We don’t know how much because the Xantrex monitor died and we haven’t been able to resurrect it. Every day it goes on working is a day’s fuel saved. It looks as if there is some really nasty weather behind us, so there’s that flutter of trepidation clutching my inners. It’s moving very fast – perhaps at 40 kt, so will go through fast and the next one will arrive. The grib says 40 and that generally means a lot more.

From Mark A.

I am in WA.  I sailed back from Hobart with Alex many years ago?  1998? If you get this, I can assist with the required Freo stop; organising repairs, etc in advance.  Let me know their ETA.  I make it about 28 November?

Would a Bunbury or Port Geographe stop be better? There is a good marina now in Port Geographe, just east of Busselton and far less distance to travel north.  I take it they will be just fixing the generator and moving on asap?


From John G.

Just read that Berri is coming to Freo for spares\repairs\provisions. Can you let Alex know that I  would be available and glad to help in any way possible. We would have a car available, but I should be able to arrange a day or two off work. Hard to run around a strange town in a hurry! A dry bed and a warm shower,a roast dinner, a guinness or two??  I do understand they will probably be in a hurry. Anyway, glad to help. Sorry to hear of the generator problem – and the sailmail problem.

Mark A and John G, both in Perth, thanks for offers of help – we will stay in touch on that one but I like Mark’s suggestion that we go to Port Geographe instead of Freo. Mark, I don’t think I have pilotage details for PG and it’s not on the level of CMap that is currently loaded, so perhaps you could give me a set of coordinates please. I have Busselton and surrounding lights etc. If we do call in, we will have to clear customs, refuel, restock the medicine chest and move right on out – same day if possible. We will not repair the generator, (they need specialised facilities) but if anyone over there has a second hand Ampair 100 going for a song, we’d be very interested.

I had intended to continue my salutes to people who have helped us – starting a few weeks ago with Brian Shilland. Perhaps one a week till we get over there – this one is to Kevin Fleming, who I have never met but who has become a friend over sailmail, email, the phone and by snailmail.

So,to all the cruisers and short handed racers out there looking for self steering gear and Brian and Jen in Dunedin and those like them whose dream it is to follow us and to anyone who cares about customer service as it should be, please join us in a salute to Kevin Fleming. Kevin’s wind vane self steering unit, affectionately known as Kevvo, has performed superbly so far, through the worst storms and the nastiest seas that I ever hope to see. Not surprising when you consider that Kevin has been down in the southern ocean crash testing his own gear and he listens to his customers and actually modifies things that don’t work perfectly. Kevvo’s bearings got a bit worn on the way over and we had had some trivial problems aligning steering lines that are boat specific rather than built into the unit and I wrote and asked Kevin for a set of spares. Kevin not only agreed instantly to put one together, but also made modified versions of some of the fittings and sent it all to the UK free of charge – entirely at his own expense. Astonishing in 2005 on its own but he also included some Australian cash to cover the cost of a qualified engineer fitting the bearings properly. It was waiting for us when we got there, everything fitted properly and the mods are working away out there behind me as I write. Beat that if you can!

Onya Kevin. Great gear and an unbelievable service. You can find him at info@flemingselfsteer.com and his factory is near Adelaide. See if you can make it to the coming home party. Kevin – we owe you a Considerable Consultative thanks