FROM 1-7. Near the Horn

Mar 05, 2005 - 1430hrs UTC

Sitrep: 1430hrs 05 Mar 2005 UTC 54’48”S 088’52”W Map Rf 100

There’s something wrong with our sailmail connection. We seem to be able to connect to chile but there is no traffic and no grib files. I spoke to Steve on the satphone and he confirmed that there is mail in the queue for us. We haven’t had a warning about station time so assume it is not a time problem. And the satcomC is not getting sufficient signal to send messages either. Seems we are now within the East Atlantic zone for satcomC. Awful to contemplate being almost completely out of touch. This link has been our lifeline – mine particularly, because it gives me something to do. Don’t panic! Marvin will arrive.

I have just been on the Patagonian yachties’ sked – really good value and very friendly and co-operative and on the ball, as they have to be – and learned that our sailmail problem is not uncommon and, for that reason most of the sailors who are down here permanently now use satellite phones and data links instead of sailmail and HF radio. Anyway, comforting to know that the breakdown is ashore and not out here. I’ll just keep churning these out and saving them in case we get back on line again.

I have a small lament which I will try to put into words. It’s personal and a bit self serving but worth having a go. Exploration and technical advance in any field enlightens us and undermines myth and superstition but it also helps to turn the uncommon or outstanding into the commonplace. The edges are pushed outwards and in the process the work of getting there is devalued. This idea has been thrust at me in the last month or so, but has been dormant inside my head for at least as long as I’ve been sailing to Hobart. It’s not new – and there have been a number of others who have said it better than I can – but, to take the S2H example, where the emphasis used to be on the achievement of getting out there, basically surviving and getting safely into Constitution Dock, now it’s focussed only on the spectacle. Those of us who, by choice or general penury, do it in unspectacular little boats and often have a pretty hard time are just not noticed – almost despised in fact. As the newspaper article said, we’re just a couple of old plodders. It’s a bit the same out here, where once simple survival was uncommon, we are now , it seems in the middle of a grand prix race track with wonderful technological masterpieces swishing past us at 35 knots at about a thousand dollars for every mile covered. Clearly, this is a huge achievement and to be applauded but it’s difficult not to feel that we are rather in the way and I find it really hard to appreciate any more the intrinsic value of what we ourselves are doing. It makes me very sad – the dream has been dashed and there ain’t no more inner glow. Why do we do it? It seems rather silly really. End of self-indulgent lament – I shall now go and weep into a coldie from the good Doctor and cheer myself up.

First, though, a little grump from Marvin – Chile is still off line and it’s raining.

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