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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

Squall after squall

A pretty little boat, floating under darkened skies, scantily clad in storm sails, and not a breath of wind!

That’s right folks, the orange sails came out today.

I’ve had squall after squall since last night, I may have jinxed myself a little by suggesting that we were nearly clear!

Unlike the confusion of the southerly squalls, the narrative has been mostly consistent. Dark clouds, strengthening winds, breaking point, dead calm, moderate winds.

This afternoon, getting closer to a squall, the wind was strong enough to overwhelm double reefed sails, and it was either hoist storm sails or heave-to. Not having any inclination to examine these waters any closer than necessary, I chose the former. Sadly, by the time I had storm sails presented to the weather, the weather was absent.

Not to worry, I’ve not hoisted them since 40 degrees south, so a little practice doesn’t go amiss.

I discovered a few days ago that I had an unread book on board. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins! I’ve been jealously hoarding it since and finally started on it today. It’s an engrossing read, but I keep having to reluctantly put it down to modify sails. Which is a good thing, it will last longer.

My book selection was a little more haphazard and rushed than I would have liked, as I tried to do a million things before I left. I’m not sure which I regret more. Not taking more rum or not taking more books!

Latitude: 20.993, Longitude: -127.127, Time: 05:23:03 21-06-2018 UTC

Opposite day

Fear is a funny thing. I know that the worst a squall can do is give you a good soaking as you take in sails. However, when the meanest and toughest looking squall in the East Pacific is in front of your mast, it takes your breath away a little.

It was a day of opposites. The morning gave squally confused seas with comparatively bitterly cold winds. For the first time in many weeks I wore a jumper and pants.

By noon we had a baking sun on top of steady winds, which, by evening gave way to a patch of nasty squalls. I’ve been threading in and out of them for the last few hours, and I think I’m nearly clear!

I’ve maintained good boat speed nonetheless, with 120 miles, my best run this side of the doldrums.

I’ve been reading Jessica Watson’s book True Spirit to get some last minute tips. Apparently the report following her collision with the cargo ship Silver Yang, criticised her for not having a written fatigue management plan.

I had to have a little chuckle.

Now don’t get me wrong, systemic approaches to problems are often life saving, you just have to look at the medical field or aviation to see this. It seems that human nature, once given an effective tool, wants to apply it to everything.

My fatigue management plan goes something like this:

h Do I think, taking into account current circumstances, that I should be sleeping?
Yes – go to sleep. No – don’t go to sleep.

h Is it unsafe or otherwise unwise, taking into account current circumstances, that I sleep until I wake up?
Yes – set an alarm. No – don’t set an alarm

h Am I supposed to be sleeping, but am unable to due to various external factors such as noise or extraneous movement?
Yes – Small quantity of alcohol, soothing music and reading of book by bedside until asleep.

My point is that common sense extrapolates to small scale operations much more effectively than systems management.

And this, is the most satisfying aspect of solo ocean sailing.

Latitude: 19.475, Longitude: -126.499, Time: 05:17:11 20-06-2018 UTC

It never rains but it pours

Well it’s not raining, but I’ve had 20 knot winds for the last six hours. Almost as if the sea, repenting of her poor showing of the last week has dumped everything she’s got into my double reefed sails. If memory serves me correctly, these are the strongest winds I’ve had since leaving the southern ocean.

Of course 20 knots is not that much wind, but the fact that I’m sailing close hauled into them, makes for a rough and wet ride.

It’s difficult to maintain an accepting philosophical view of the matter as it’s all self inflicted. I could just shove the tiller across, stall the boat, and have a lovely evening out on the water. However, I am in cyclone infested waters, and best to go while the going is good!

In all honesty, it’s not that bad, weeks of tropical winds have softened me and a little bracing blow will serve well to add a bit of salt to my vitals.

At least this is what I tell myself.

The forecast promises a lovely 10 knots on my beam tomorrow, so I shall hang on until then.

Latitude: 17.618, Longitude: -125.807, Time: 05:21:56 19-06-2018 UTC

Antibiotics and my 200th flask of tea

After a sedate night, the winds were rather benevolent this morning and we raced along into a steady 10 knots as Perpetual Succour did what she does best! By early-afternoon, the wind was rather too kindly and the first reef in a while was set.

My heel gives me a little grief, but fortunately there are no marathons to be run out here so I cope just fine! It is probably a little overkill, but I administered a dose of intravenous antibiotics and am following this with a course of orals. It went in a fair way, and the thought of doing an exploration, debridement, and washout at some later date didn’t seem like something to be risked.

On the other hand, it bled a fair bit, and that should help with the cleanliness of the wound. I just hope CSI never examine the cabin floor!

My main water tank was close to empty this morning, so one of my jobs today was to fill it from the water jerry cans. The tank sits in a locker under my bunk, and I made the mistake of letting the plastic lid of the tank slide down the gap between the tank and the bottom of the hull.

After fishing about for an hour with every long thin implement at hand, while water sloshed everywhere, I eventually decided my only option was to remove the tank from the locker. It wasn’t the easiest job, it’s a tight fit and the tank is about 120L, although fortunately only had about 40 litres.

Despite the slow start, we still managed 112 miles! The first time I’ve cracked the 100 mile barrier since entering the doldrums. I celebrated with my 200th flask of tea. My flask contains 500ml, so that puts me at 100 litres of tea for the trip so far. Well over an average of a litre a day!

Latitude: 15.690, Longitude: -124.691, Time: 05:12:38 18-06-2018 UTC

Every good medical kit includes a screwdriver

It seems curious that, in our age of scientific discovery and progress, there remain deep imponderable, seemingly unanswerable, questions.

Does tinned spam taste like cat food, or does cat food taste like tinned spam.

Perhaps, like the age old questions, what shape is yellow, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, the deficiency is in the question rather than the answer.

The situation on Perpetual Succour becomes a little dire. The oats are gone, the rum is gone, the honey grows short. Happily, I’m well endowed with with the aforementioned spam and I shan’t entirely starve. There also remains a third of a bottle of whisky, which I’m saving for any future difficult times.

Some have asked what my plans are upon reaching my destination. I have had much time to ponder this, and I have formulated a basic plan of assault.

Step 1: Eat entire block of chocolate.

Step 2: Find largest possible bathtub. Fill said bathtub with sufficient warm water and immerse myself in it for a goodly portion of time, leaving only my nose surfaced.

Step 3: Find satisfactory purveyor of cooked fresh meat and indulge upon at least half a kilo of said substance.

Step 4: Find nearest substitute for cold Australian beer and consume at least a pint. I have heard terrible rumours about our neighbours across the Pacific understanding of what correctly formulates beer, however my hope rejects such terrible libel.

Step 5: Ice cream.

As many of you are aware, my sister belongs to a Carmelite Monastery in Pennsylvania. She has asked me to spend a some time there assisting in the construction of a their new establishment. They are using the traditional technique of drystone construction, a rarity in these times, and the opportunity to learn from the masters is quite exciting.

I’ve not seen my sister since she departed Australia seven years ago, so I’m looking forward to it to say the least! (The vicious rumours claiming that I’m deathly afraid of air travel, and that this trip was the only means I could find to visit her, are quite false.)

I realised this morning that, in the period of calmness, my wind turbine generator had developed a stiff base and thus was not turning into the wind. I attacked it with WD-40, and now it faces the wind and spins happily!

When you start on a new tack, often objects emerge out of the ether as as your world is tilted from one side to another. A self-tapping screw appeared on my floor this afternoon, and eagerly embedded itself into my heel. Curiously, it had no objections to entering with a non-twisting trajectory, but insisted on requiring a screwdriver for the extraction. My over-elaborate medical kit came into play, and it’s all cleaned and bandaged – I decided to not use local lest I need the sensation!

Latitude: 14.272, Longitude: -123.905, Time: 05:10:05 17-06-2018 UTC