270 miles to go!

Today, I sailed 133 miles at bearing of 55°, which just so happens to be the general direction of Long Beach.

270 miles to go, and I’m hopeful I can get an even better run tomorrow. The winds will probably drop a bit tomorrow evening, but Monday Los Angeles time seems like the probable day for landfall.

The swell reached a crescendo in the mid-morning, and then started to drop as the winds swung around. By mid-afternoon we were at angle of 90 degrees to the wind on a lovely beam reach.

We are no longer fighting waves, just gliding along between the troughs. With plenty of wind still, I’m still double reefed and maintaining a comfortable six knots. One of the nice things about my new angle of wind is that my boat speed no longer contributes to the apparent wind speed, of which I have plenty.

My ship proximity alarm went off for the first time in the entire trip! I passed a few cargo ships heading north up the coast, I think they must sit about 300 miles offshore. The first two crossed in front of me, but I passed across the bows of the third which was a little nerve wracking. I have two devices telling me that I would easily clear, and in the end I crossed three miles in front of it, but they can’t appreciate how huge these behemoths appear from the cockpit of my little boat.

I broke open the last of the self-raising flour, and cooked damper for the first time in a while. The anticipation as it was cooking could have been cut with a chainsaw, and it lived up to every expectation. Utterly delicious!

Perhaps it’s just the environment, but I’ve formed the view that if I could have freshly cooked damper for lunch every remaining day of my life, I’d most likely die a content and happy man. I’ve been quite missing my daily damper as you all might reasonably suspect.

My food stores, on the whole, have worked excellently. Perhaps a few tweaks with the benefit of hindsight, but I wouldn’t change much.

It’s mostly down to my mother. In the madness of final preparations, we were only able to allocate one day to stock the boat. Mum was the brains, I was the brawn, and we pulled it off. It’s quite a feat to account for 300 meals, but Mum took it in her stride. After all, she fed 10 people every day for many years. It wasn’t much more than the equivalent of a weeks shopping for the family back in the day!

The basic formula of dinner has been tinned meat of some description combined with either potatoes, cous cous or pasta. Cous cous was Mum’s idea, I’ve not seen any other yacht website or manual mention it. Dead simple to cook, compact to store, light on water for cooking, and as tasty as they come. There were a few variety meals thrown in, mostly stir fries, and with the ability to rotate base ingredients, I never suffered for variety.

For breakfast, the plan was porridge, and we stocked sufficient oats, but I was greedy in the southern ocean and overindulged.

Lunch has been a combination of damper, pancakes, and various odds and ends. I’ve still got a bit of plain flour for pancakes, but I ran out of honey a few days ago, which takes away the joy.

I took along a single tin of rice pudding, and it’s sitting under my sink waiting for a special occasion. I think I might make that special occasion tomorrow’s desert!

Latitude: 31.300, Longitude: -122.628, Time: 05:12:16 30-06-2018 UTC

If you can read this post…

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Blue skies and sun laden seas!

We burst into blue skies and sun laden seas in the late morning. All the pretty white horses, running on the wave tops, shook their flowing manes, glorying in the reflected sparkles.

After 10 sunless days, a bit like these faded memories of bedsheets, baths and dry towels, I was beginning to question whether it really existed. Maybe I’d just constructed the memory to maintain morale. I always thought the narrative of C.S Lewis’s The Silver Chair, where, while in the underworld they were momentarily convinced that the sun was foolish and a made-up fairy tale, was a bit unlikely. But now I’m convinced.

Not wanting to be undone by the sun, the wind put on a bit of a show today as well. Mostly sitting somewhere between fifteen and twenty knots, we were graced with quite a few periods of gusts up into the mid-twenties.

Of course the waves decided to come to the party. Overlaying a fairly reasonable two or three metre seas was a cross swell from the north west. I’ve not seen waves this steep and breakersome since the roaring forties. An average height of four meters, but I saw quite a few five and six metre waves as well.

As they were broadside, poor Perpetual Succour got dumped a few times when we would arrive at the crest of a breaking wave at an inopportune moment.

In the midst of all this however, the wind came around a little as expected, and by lunchtime I was able to pull her off the wind a little and still maintain a course of 70 degrees. Los Angeles is at a bearing of around 58 degrees, but I was more than happy to get a little more speed and a little less heel in those waves.

For the first time in 16 days, we weren’t sailing fully close-hauled!!!

It’s been a hard grind sailing so close to the wind, and I hope I never have to sail into trade winds ever again!

Naturally I was down to two reefs, in fact I’ve been sitting at two reefs for the last 48 hours, but I still made excellent progress with another run of 120 miles. It just goes to show – it’s not the size of your sails that matters, but how you use them.

I listened to various American artists today. Janis Joplin, Billy Joel, and Leonard Cohen to mention a few. It’s strange how many songs mention US cities. Suddenly all the names are real and I have to pinch myself that I’m nearly on these shores. The abstract becomes tangible. If they’re all worth making a song and dance about, then they must be worth seeing as well!

I’m exactly 400 miles from Long Beach and closing fast. I might get light winds on Sunday, but I’m hopeful I can put in 130 mile runs for Friday and Saturday. I haven’t seen the latest forecast yet, but the previous forecast predicted more of fifteen to twenty knots winds, but swinging around to the north west, which means they’ll be on my beam.

Latitude: 30.083, Longitude: -124.663, Time: 05:49:44 29-06-2018 UTC

They say all in life is about timing

Nature, as it often does, gently called my name this evening. The call had a certain solidity, and, being an obliging kind of chap, I proceeded to dialog over the side.

There is a lovely passage from the psalms that goes something like this: “Your torrents and all your waves washed over me”.

I digress.

I’m now shivering in the cabin, awaiting the kettle.

But spirits are high nonetheless, we had another 120 miles of goodness today. Mostly east and a few miles south. The winds naturally shift from east to north as I approach the coastline, so a bit of southwardness can be tolerated!

Latitude: 29.760, Longitude: -126.879, Time: 06:00:07 28-06-2018 UTC

Excellent winds!

It’s the patronal feast of my beautiful boat (Feast of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour), and we celebrated with our best run since the doldrums. 120 miles and not an inch of it was west!!!

The best thing about timezones is that I celebrated it in my home timezone, but I’ve still got another twenty eight hours left of feast day in my own timezone, so tomorrow looks to be a good run as well.

With this run, and a more promising forecasts, my ETA is probably much better than the pessimism of yesterday’s update. But let us see!

I just had the cargo ship ‘Hamburg’ pass about two miles to my rear and screaming along at 15 knots. I’m not sure if he altered course or not, but I didn’t have to do do anything but watch his pretty lights go by.

We had a lot of water wash over the decks overnight, and my storm sail broke free from it’s lashings. So I had to do a bit of work on the foredeck to gather it in. There was still a lot of water washing over and it’s a bit chilly, so I got fully dressed up!!

You might remember “space invaders ala Pacific Ocean” – a game I programmed when I had to start rationing my book reading

Well my game got a facelift yesterday and a new name – Shark invaders!!

Latitude: 30.002, Longitude: -129.168, Time: 05:48:08 27-06-2018 UTC

It’s been a real grind for the last ten days

Poor Daniel has been downgraded to a lowly tropical depression and remains well south.

I’m now trying to make my way east, but the winds haven’t been too kindly and the best I could do was north.

I suspect the next few days will be similar, but eventually I’ll get far enough north to come around, or the winds will change.

I think the best case scenario is landfall early next week, but more likely mid week. Maybe Wednesday morning LA time.

After all the excitement over the last few days, things have quietened down. I’m just focusing on not pushing the boat too hard.

The dreary weather continues with 3 metre swell, 15 knot winds, and overcast skies. However, the moon came out through the clouds for about an hour last night. It was wonderfully bright with that lovely softness that moonlight brings!

In a roundabout way, it’s nice to not have use of the engine. I’d probably be using it now to push my way east. Think of all that noise and bother.

Latitude: 27.962, Longitude: -129.112, Time: 05:30:31 26-06-2018 UTC

A full night of sleep at last!

The hole remains plugged and the water remains properly situated!

I tacked back west today. Tropical cyclone ‘Daniel’ is in full swing 750 miles to my south east, and I can make more progress north on this tack.

At this stage, there’s no cause for alarm – at worst it should pass 400 miles south of me.

I suspect all the inclement weather I’ve had for the last week is somewhat related to the formation of the tropical low, but who knows.

I’m still not getting a lot of sun, but I had steady winds all night, and rather happily, got a full nights sleep.

I finally did my washing up. Since the impromptu swim, I’ve been avoiding going near water, but this evening I got the motivation to dip my bucket and get to it. Only 24 hours and the fry pan was starting to look like a Petri dish.

Latitude: 26.711, Longitude: -129.189, Time: 05:09:53 25-06-2018 UTC

When you discover you have a screw loose

One of the nice things about sailing is that there are set fundamental precepts that all agree with.

I can think of a couple.

  • The propeller should be attached to the boat.
  • The water should be on the outside of the boat, not the inside.
  • The mariner should be in the boat, not in the water.

Etc.

Sadly many of these precepts were broken today.

My propeller is attached to a shaft. This shaft runs through the bottom of the boat, via sealing box, to the engine. It spins. The boat moves forward. Excellent stuff.

There is a small lug screw that holds the shaft to the engine coupling.

This failed today, and the whole shaft exited and descended some four kilometres to adorn Davy Jones locker.

I was alerted to this by, despite fundamental precepts, the ingress of water through the cavity through which the late departed shaft ran.

I have a bunch of variably sized tapered wooden plugs for this very occasion. The cavity was promptly plugged, water pumped out, and peace reigned once again.

Well almost, I had a vague optimistic vision of the shaft hanging on by a thread, invisible from the inside, but retrievable from the outside.

I removed a suitable quantity of sail, and descended into the murky depths to find out if this was the case.

It was after dark, there was a 10 knot wind and 2.5 metre seas. I made the mistake a few years ago of watching Jaws. There are also the fundamental precepts to consider.

I can honestly say that getting into the water was the second hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I made my peace with the Almighty and dived to find the other side of the hole and an absent propeller.

It is not the end of the world, but it is quite a nuisance. I’m now entirely reliant on sail and entering Los Angeles will be a pain.

Such is life and all that.

Latitude: 25.251, Longitude: -128.165, Time: 07:00:18 24-06-2018 UTC

It’s been a tough 72 hours

“Higher and higher every day ’till over the mast at noon”

At least it would have been if I was able to see it. There was no sun, so the mast didn’t cast a shadow, but if there was, it still wouldn’t have!

The nautical almanac tells me that the sun’s declination today was 23°26 north, which was quite similar to my latitude at noon.

Declination is simply the angle of the sun’s position in relation to the earth. As it is summer in the northern hemisphere summer, the angle is to the north of the equator.

Coincidently, the sun reached its highest declination yesterday and is now headed back south. It would’ve been quite something to have been under it then, but no such luck.

So, I’m the closest I’ve ever been to the sun and I haven’t seen it for 3 days. It’s also bloody freezing!

The weather has been quite unique over the last 72 hours. The sky is dominated by extremely low lying dark clouds which lighten and extend to each other, almost like mildly skewed chess board.

Each cloud seems to have its own weather system and thus the weather changes every couple of miles. The clouds don’t seem to bring much rain. However, the wind and waves tend to increase quite significantly at each cloud, although this change is quite varied. On the whole, the wind tends to be comparatively frigid.

All this means that the last 72 hours has been rather mentally and physically challenging. I’m forever reefing and unreefing sails, I’ve not managed more than an hour of unbroken sleep over this time. A week of a close hauled upwind course doesn’t help one relax either!

Nonetheless, I’ve managed to maintain reasonable boat speed over this time, averaging about 110 miles a day.

It’s very nearly time to tack towards the east and Los Angeles. It might even be tonight if the overnight forecast is promising, although I suspect tomorrow is more likely!

Latitude: 24.409, Longitude: -128.515, Time: 05:24:26 23-06-2018 UTC

“That’s enough for now, ay lads”

When I was a speck in the south west Pacific, a run of 115 miles had little meaning outside of the rather obvious fact that I’d sailed a good day’s run. There doesn’t seem to be much tangible difference between 7,825 miles to Los Angeles and 7,710 miles to Los Angeles.

Now I’m a speck in the north east Pacific, 115 miles reduces my distance to destination by more than ten percent! Suddenly, in the bigger scheme of things, 115 miles is a big deal.

But 115 miles is 115 necessary miles. No matter where they are sailed, they have to be sailed. Is the delusion in the south west? Is the delusion in the north west? Maybe they are both delusions.

Back before I was old and decrepit, I would run many kilometres a week. Aspirations of medals and glory can coax a young innocent lad to many acts of stupidity. Naturally, as the kilometres tick over, that little voice inside you starts annunciating little messages.

“That’s enough for now ay lads”.

“It would be quite pleasant to have a break now”.

“Running is a fool’s game anyway”

Saying no is a great way to make these voices argue back. So I used to play a little game of delusion.

I would look at an object in the distance and say: “You’re right little voice. See that old white gumtree? It’ll make a perfect spot to stop.”

Naturally, when you arrive at the tree, you look for the next mark in the distance and say: “Actually I’ve changed my mind, let’s stop at that lovely rock.”

Before I became old and decrepit

Both you and the little voice knew all along that this was going to happen, nobody was fooled. But a little delusion allows for a little balming of spirit.

I guess the 115 mile delusion is just seeing the positive aspect of the situation. You would become weary of getting excited at the difference between 7,265 and 7,150 miles quite quickly. It’s certainly not an activity one could keep at for 80 days. Instead a focus on the intrinsic aspect of the run is a good path to satisfaction.

The natural consequence of this is to live day to day without looking too hard into the future. The days blend into each other quite effectively and pass by quickly.

Suddenly, drawing close to my destination, I find myself awakening from this trance. Ten days ago feels like a heartbeat away, but in ten days, God willing, I’ll be on dry land.

Relying on a distorted reference, suddenly my destination feels closer than it is. Very strange!

Latitude: 22.760, Longitude: -127.710, Time: 05:08:06 22-06-2018 UTC