FROM 1-5. Mid Pacific to Heading South

Feb 19, 2005 - 2215hrs UTC

2215hrs 19 Feb 2005 UTC 45’30”S 123’44”W Map Ref 71


What a dreadful night, punctuated by a series of little tragedies all related to the loss of precious liquids. The front duly arrived, as usual at dinner time and, again as usual, the grib had the wind direction pretty much spot on but once again as usual, underestimated the strength by 100% so instead of 20 gusting 25, we get 40 going on 50. Two sail changes during the night as it increased, each requiring one of us to surface from warm bunk and dreams of Ingrid (was that her name, Kees?) and go through the Mr Bean routine and get wet and cold as well.

Tragedy no. one has been developing since NZ – we felt it time to broach our last 3ltr box of Sir James’ plonk for dinner only to find the box wet and mouldy with salt water and spilt plonk. The inner skin had chafed a biggish pinhole through itself and the wine tastes of the mould. We have coped with worse recently and just added a bit of imaginary mould to the chilli beans to balance things up.

However, tragedy no 2 – we needed plastic bottles to decant our new vintage mould into and we emptied two bottles of desalinated water into the main desal reservoir. Except that, as we discovered later one of them was a quarter full of carefully conserved tonic water, so – down on tonic and up on quinine and iodine in the desal. Goes well with tea.

So to tragedy no 3, from which I’m just recovering. Pete woke me at 1200 UTC, about 0400 local, still black and noisy and I made myself a cup of tea with attitude – big mug, 2 bags, 3 sugar lumps – as a sort of compensation for the night’s nasties. We usually keep an empty pot on the stove with a cloth over the inside base to put cups of tea etc into so that the stove gimbals help to keep them from spilling but we had some leftovers from the mouldy chilli beans so the pot was otherwise occupied and I put the cup in the sink while I disengaged myself from the strap that makes cooking of any sort possible and I’m sure you can guess what happened on the next big roll. I’d been so looking forward to dunking a few biscuits. But as I cast my eyes into the outer darkness, ready to weep copious tears of grief and rage, I saw a little pink glimmer of dawn light between the southern horizon and the clouds so perhaps not quite a silver lining but uplifting anyway.

Night for me is always that little bit more tense than daytime because, I suppose, it’s easier to judge what is likely to become a problem if you can actually look at the source of the concern – rather than relying on the quality and feel of the vibration or whatever to decide whether to be scared or not. Also something to do with knowing the boat so intimately and being very conscious of her weaknesses and discounting her strength. And everything always seems more violent, faster, noisier and nastier in the cold gyrating darkness, especially in the hour or so before dawn. I am always that bit more alert and it’s hard to sleep. This is a very fragile enterprise we’ve got going here and it needs constant vigilance. The forces acting on us are potentially overwhelming and we have to optimise and minimise all the time. There’s nothing sentient out there trying to destroy us, as some early sailors believed, but the force is just there, all the time and we have to accommodate it incrementally with all the gear and experience we’ve got with us. Often better to be in the cockpit than below, although the grammar and vocab are better enunciated and much less fuzzy inside our little drum.

Pulled in the VMC MSLP analysis for the south pacific last night on the weather fax – rather distorted because of the range but still quite readable and it looks as if the highs to the north are gradually dispersing and the lows are moving up. We’re in the top of one now and there’s another rather fierce one a couple of hundred miles behind it. Not a pleasant prospect – still 2200 miles to the Horn, or abut 17 days at our present rate. Brian and Jen, we have just clicked over 3000 miles from Dunedin. Maybe the 10k mark in a marathon. I’ve been standing in the wet and windy cockpit amongst the big quartering seas that come up and slide under us, turning the boat sideways and pitching it at the same time to produce the rather violent corkscrewing that makes life so difficult below and watching the boat lengths tick over as every one of them takes us closer to Chile.
Devoncroo – we drank an appropriate toast on the 17th. Please pass on if ok so to do.

Pete: Hello to all out there.

Is there anyone out there still using celestial navigation? 30 years ago I used it almost daily for about 7 months at sea. It was part of the boat routine, a couple of sun sights during the day, worked and plotted late afternoon with a shared libation to celebrate the days run. If closing land, then star sights would be used at morning and evening twilight to confirm things. At 45 – 50 south, twilight and stars are not a couple. You get the sun at times during the day but generally the horizon is misty so you basically guess the sight.

Yesterday was different we took the sails down the night before as there was no wind and slept. This was the first sleep longer than 2.5 hours in the last 3 weeks. I woke to a calm sea and a clear sky. it was time for a sight. This was the first time I could hold the sun in the telescope and not have it disappear in a second as the boat lurched from another wave. I took 2 good sights and averaged them, later about noon I got another, not as good as the seas by now were getting large and oh joy another late afternoon 3 sights in one day unbelievable. Last night I did the calculations and plotted the results. It looks like a classic textbook example. a small triangle of the position lines with the GPS position of the boat at the time of the first sight right in the centre of the triangle. I moved the later sights’lines of position back to the first sight allowing for course and distance travelled because I considered the first sight the most reliable.

When crossing the Pacific all those years ago there was a reef marked on the chart between Fiji and Noumea as our course was going to pass close by, we decided to find it. When we were a couple of days out we cranked up the navigation. 2 of us were taking sights at the same time and comparing results. We took both sun and star sights and were confident. As predicted one morning, the reef appeared it could only be seen from a few miles off and then only when the odd wave broke over it. we sailed over to it and noticed the rusting wreck of a small ship on the bottom inside the reef we decided not to go inside.

Anyway, this result was very pleasing and I’m hooked – cant wait for the next calm sunny day. Cheers Pete.

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