As the saying goes, it’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey.
This is nonsense.
The two are inseparably intermingled.
A journey without a destination is not a journey.
A destination without a journey lacks sweetness.
Many months ago, I had a vague notion that I was going to conquer an ocean. This was also nonsense.
If anything, the ocean conquered me. After the final storm in the roaring forties, I understood a little better.
A little boat does not conquer oceans. Big ships try to do this, succeed for a while, but the laws of entropy eventually defeat this aspiration.
Instead, I spent many days living in the ocean. Bending our will to providence. Sometimes running much sail, sometimes running little. The ocean decided, not me. In return I was given an utterly balming experience that injected the oceans into my bones.
The final 72 hours of my trip were mainly marked by little sleep as I drew closer to the main shipping lanes coming out of Long Beach.
Coastal variable winds played havoc with any ability to predict progress and I made as best as I could, whenever I could.
Finally, I drew through the breakwater and sailed the final mile into the customs dock in perfectly calm water. A joy for Perpetual Succour to be not fighting waves proportionate to the wind. The docking was a little stressful, but a lovely synchronous routine gave no issue.
Customs was not quite as smooth as I had planned (intricacies of entry requirements for private yachts). However, the customs officers bent over backwards to make it work, and make it work they did. Awesome people!
By the time everything custom-wise was sorted, it was late afternoon.
First I had to get the boat off the dock. The winds were onshore, and it’s essentially impossible to sail a boat off a dock in these circumstances, so I did the old trick of running an anchor out 30 metres in an inflatable dinghy, dropping anchor, winching boat off dock, and sailing from there.
The final leg of my journey was to head another 30 miles north and dock at the marina. I decide to run overnight, and sadly didn’t get much sleep through the shipping lanes. I watched the sun rise for the final time as the winds died and pottered down the marina channel. Friends were there, hugs were exchanged, joy was experienced.
My reception has been nothing short of amazing. People see the red ensign and homeport, and I find myself answering questions, over and over again, about my little journey. The excitement and sense of an adventure that surrounds these people is a wonderful privilege to be able to invoke.
There are many thanks involved in such a journey. I desperately hoped I have left no one out.
To the Indigenous Literacy Foundation. Your work is heroic.
To my mother Georgina – You taught me everything I know that is worth knowing. You pour out everything within to your children. Pia Pelicane!
To my sister Madeleine – You brightened every day with your messages. The link between me and the world, thank you for your daily toil in keeping the blog running!
To my brother Paul – You taught me adventure. Life must separate adventurers but know that I took you every step of the way. Thank you for your help with the engine!
To my sister Isabel – To anyone who finds themselves stuck in an ocean with a dislocated shoulder, I heartily recommend that you ring Isabel. Thank you for the daily verses.
To my brother John – Co-author of one of the most daring raids in the history of Sydney Harbour. We towed an engineless yacht the entire length of the harbour under the cover of night using a tiny power boat an eighth of its weight
To my brother William – Thanks for not dropping me!
To my sister Jean – I never got lost thanks to your frequent texts telling me where I was!
To my sister Sr Mariam – Beatus vir qui in lege Domini meditabitur die ac nocte
To Bruce – You steered the straightest line a mariner could ask for for more than 8000 miles. Unlike myself, unsleeping and unfailing.
To Perpetual Succour. My companion and my love. For 3 months your soft embrace was the only thing between me and 4kms of watery depths. I pushed you hard through the trade winds, but you loved every minute! Who needs a stinking motor anyway?
To Dr Lee – Thank you for your loan of a berth during my preparations.
To Dr Fischer. Thank you for your medical advice and antibiotics!
To Prof. Fitzpatrick – Thank you for sound advice regarding the doldrums.
To the Hobbs – Thank you for the dried fruit amongst many other fruits.
To Joshua Gereis – A most accomplished antifouler!
To Truong Vu Nguyen – The only man I know who had the guts to go ocean sailing with me twice. Thank you for your friendship and your care.
To Sam, Hadly, and Pat – Thank you for your assistance relocating Perpetual Succour from Mooloolaba to Sydney.
To Michael Plant. Thank you for your support and advice.
To Fr Wong – I think I possess the most thoroughly blessed boat in maritime history.
To Fr O’Neill – You gifted a canoe to two young boys and thus sparked a love sufficient to cross oceans.
To those of W5A – Thank you for your warm farewell. You all brightened many a long evening shift. The watch was perfect!
To Paul, Jeremy, Anna, Grace, and Brigid – Thank you for your books.
To the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre – Such friendly voices almost made it worth dislocating a shoulder.
To the kindly staff of Chaffers Marina, Wellington – Thank you for your welcoming and caring spirit.
To fellow adventurers – May what is beyond infinity give you what you seek.
To those who have donated, too many to list – Thank you for making the world a better place.
To those who journeyed with me. Thank you for your messages, your prayers, your well wishes, and your presence.
To My Father – Requiescat in pace.
Latitude: 33.97598, Longitude: -118.4467, Time: 03:44:03 05-07-2018 UTC
For my entire trip, I’ve almost constantly had evidence of life around me.
The number of birds circling the ocean must be immense as I would always see at least one or two birds within a mile radius of me.
I’ve had sporadic dolphins, seen the luminescence of plankton, the occasional fish. One of my few disappointments has been that I’ve not seen any whales.
As we crossed over the continental shelf this morning, I was truly blown away. The first indication of something special was several flocks of birds, too many to count, sitting in the water.
As I drew closer, whales started to surface through these birds, lazily blowing spray into the air with a loud hhmmmph. The dolphins appeared next, contrasting the lazy movements of the whales with fast deliberate porpoising.
I saw another creature, only a glimpse however, that must have been a seal. For a moment I thought it was a dog in the water, but I certainly heard no barking.
As Perpetual Succour drew closer to these birds, they would take off in their hundreds. Pattering their feet and flapping their wings, they would run along the surface until they judged it was safe and slide gracefully to a stop. One would decide to flee, and it would set off the rest in a chain reaction.
The sound of so many feet slapping the surface was a tribute to the existence of life of which I’ve never witnessed before.
Presented with so much life, I was overwhelmed, and shed a tear or two I must admit.
You leave such an encounter with a firm conviction that the presence of life is beautiful, and such a beauty must proceed from a great love.
I ambled along overnight at about 3 knots, and this morning the islands off the coast of Los Angeles started to come into view. First I saw San Nicolas, and San Clemente to the right. Santa Catalina was a long time coming, finally emerging out of the haze a few hours later.
By early afternoon, I still had a dead flat sea, but the winds came up to 10 knots and the sun emerged. The rest of the afternoon was the most pleasant sail I’ve ever experienced. For the sheer joy of it, I gave Bruce a rest and hand steered for many hours as we raced along at six knots.
It is now after dusk, and I’m just passing the northern tip of Santa Catalina Island and then will turn right for the Long Beach harbour entrance which is about 30 miles away.
The lights of Los Angeles are illuminating the horizon in a way that you don’t get in Sydney or Brisbane. I think I’m about to enter a city that is bigger than what I’m accustomed to!
Latitude: 33.437, Longitude: -118.721, Time: 05:12:23 03-07-2018 UTC
“Down dropt the breeze, the sails dropt down,
‘Twas sad as sad could be;
And we did speak only to break
The silence of the sea!
Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.”
The various species of ocean birds must be very wise I think.
Days upon days of circling the waves and contemplating the vastness of the sea. No vision of port or landfalls to distract them.
I met with their wisdom today. A couple of large albatrosses, on observing the utter abandonment of the wind, simply sat on the surfaces and surveyed the flatness of the sea. No rush, no discontentment, not worries.
One of them had chosen a spot about 100m off to starboard. He decided to pay me a visit and I watched him get gradually nearer of the course of an hour. I don’t think he saw the need to rush, I certainly wasn’t going anywhere.
He stopped about 10 metres off and eyed me meaningfully as I munched my way through a tin of breakfast spam. There’s something comical about the beaks on these birds. You wouldn’t think such graceful creatures could have such ugly and disproportionately large-sized beaks.
I gave him a menacing look and eventually I capitulated and threw him a chunk. He skilfully scooped it out of the water, considered the situation for a second, and then dropped it back out into the sea.
Clearly albatrosses dislike spam even more than I do.
I completely lost my wind early last night and drifted about ten miles overnight. This morning, I’ve never seen an ocean so flat and still. Not the wispiest of wispy wind.
It would be foolish to get all hot and bothered about this, what’s another day when you’re amongst friends, so I took a cue from the albatrosses and spent the day relaxing. There were also a few pre-landfall jobs that I got out of the way!
The anchor was retrieved from the bottom of a stern storage locker and is back at its place of pride on the bow roller.
Anchor ropes and chains are all untangled and marked ready for instant deployment.
Some of the mould that has adorned my cabin interior since the tropics was cleaned.
Extraneous water mopped out of lockers.
By mid-afternoon I had drifted another five miles towards Long Beach, when wisps of ripples started to adorn the oily surface.
I’ve developed a habit of whenever I contemplate making major sail adjustments, I first make a cup of tea. Then, if by the end of the cup of tea, I’m still of the same mind, then I proceed as planned. You might guess that days with variable wind play havoc upon the bladder, but it stops you chasing your tail excessively.
For a few hours the breeze came and went, and I accordingly adjusted sail until I got a steady gentle tailwind a few hours ago. I set up goose-wing and pole and we’ve been sliding along at three or four knots since.
This leaves me with 120 odd miles to Long Beach and a noble day’s run on of 30 miles. I’m sure I’ll get there one day!
About 10 miles to my port is a dotted line on the chart, and it tells me that it marks the boundary of the ‘Pacific Missile Range, Military Practice area’. I wasn’t aware that such things existed. I’ve decided to stay well clear!
Latitude: 32.512, Longitude: -120.068, Time: 05:09:37 02-07-2018 UTC
We scooted along in the morning, maintaining similar speeds to yesterday, when suddenly, it was time to shake out a reef.
An hour later I was showing full sail and we ambled along very happily.
I thought the winds might hold until late in the evening, but alas, it was not to be. By mid-afternoon things slowed down a fair bit.
The wind couldn’t quite figure whether it wanted to blow, and if so, in what direction. Nonetheless, most of it has been somewhere on the beam in various in fits and starts, and with lots of adjustments, I managed to eek out 4 knots for much of it.
I was on track for 135 miles, which turned ended up as just shy of 120 miles, putting me 150 miles from land!
My ship proximity alarm went off again today. The Mokhiata (or something like that) was 10 miles away, going at 22 knots, bound for Hawaii, and headed straight for my guts.
Not long after I saw it, they altered course to starboard and ended up passing me a mile or so to my port. As it went by, a friendly lady with a dulcet American accent called me up on VHF to say that even a few miles out they couldn’t see me, and that I was a smart cookie for running AIS.
Feeling a little chuffed that a ship 5000 times larger altered course for my little Perpetual Succour, I thanked them very kindly for altering course and letting me know about visibility. Perpetual Succour turned her pretty nose into the wind and proudly danced across the waves for the next few miles to show her appreciation.
With all my honey consumed, and in a fit of desperation, I tried vegemite on my pancakes this morning. I entered into the venture as a confirmed skeptic. But now I will just say, don’t knock it until you try it!
It’s been bitterly cold today. You might be thinking that it’s just because I’ve spent the last few weeks in the tropics, and you’d be right. However the cabin temperature dropped to 17 degrees and my mother taught me on her knee – anything less than 20 degrees is jumper weather. I shivered all day before I remembered the solution and dug out my woollen jumper and ugg boots. So much for Sunny California!
I’ve decided that I’m not going to make any predictions about what future winds hold in store for me. I will just observe what is given to me, and sail accordingly!
Latitude: 32.331, Longitude: -120.649, Time: 05:23:08 01-07-2018 UTC
Today, I sailed 133 miles at bearing of 55°, which just so happens to be the general direction of Long Beach.
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 then you are ahead of the game, but how would you feel if you were not able to read your medical script, an ATM screen, a job application or a road sign? This is the case for many Indigenous people in remote Australia. ALL children deserve the same opportunities, and literacy is the pathway to choice.
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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
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’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
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