Day 119 Sailing a good course 29/12/13

 Dec 29 closeupPosition:  34.25, 86.44

I’m concentrating on sailing a good course and being careful at the same time. The waves are magnificent, 5 metres and very steep, incredible to watch. The wind is supposed to go down to 15 knots this afternoon which will be very welcomed.  The new year is fast approaching and tomorrow will be New Years day for me. I am going to do some more reading this afternoon as there is little else I can do with this motion.

Two Great Albatross, one Wandering Albatross, one Storm Petrel, one Cook’s Petrel, and several Murphy’s Petrels around the boat today.

You are foremost on my mind as my day unfolds, one mile at a time. Thank you for keeping up the email M, it is the highlight of my day. 

Dec 29, 2013

Heading : 100 T Speed : 5 knots Wind : S 20 Swell : S 4 metres Cloud : 80% Bar : 1020 Temp : 17 C Distance in last 24 hrs : 116 nm Batteries : 13.2 

Day 119 Running under reduced sail 29/12/13

Dec 29, 2013Position: 34.24 S,  84.25 E

Today was a day of running before those remarkable Southern Ocean swells. Yesterday they rolled on by with there weapons holstered, and presented no real threat. Today, they were antagonized and stirred up by a 25-30 knot westerly and now their weapons, those great breaking tops are all a rage and threatening West Wind II. Their faces are steeper to the point of breaking and leaving great streaks of foam and glacier coloured smears. They also climb aboard West Wind II like some great tiger filling the cockpit with foamy champagne water that gradually drains out through the cockpit drains. They attack from the sides as well dropping white water along the gunnels  which races from stern to bow and back again before spilling over board.

Very occasionally, one comes broad side and covers WW II from port to starboard streaming down the port lights. The wind howls all day and as each hour goes by, new energy is  blown into the waves and they build even bigger and more daunting. WW II ducks and weaves before them occasionally surfing them and driving hard. I have taken down the main sail and left only a handkerchief of storm staysail to catch the wind and move us ever closer to Australia.  This will go on all night and I will not rest easy, ready at any moment to go on deck and reduce sail even more so we can stay the course.

Heading: 135 T Boat Speed: 5.5 knots Wind: W 20 -25 m Swell: W 3 – 4 m Cloud Cover: 40% Temp: 23 C Baro: 1017 Miles in last 24hrs: 90 nm Volts: 13.1 

Day 118 Humbled 28/12/13

Dec 28, 2013

Close up, showing easterly path w red sailboat icon

Position: 33.34 S, 84.04 E

I am completely overcome by the compassionate outpouring of support on the blog for the situation we have found ourselves in. I am still coming to grips with it personally myself and every hour brings different feelings and also possibilities for the future. I am two days into my voyage back to Australia to make repairs. The GPS has been set and we have 1625 nm to go. These will be cautious miles, keeping our rigging situation in mind. At the moment we are becalmed but have just finished a 24 hr run of 100 miles and just like before, we will take it one day at a time. So far, I’m pleased with the temporary repairs I have done. We had twenty knots of wind last night with 3 metre swells and it didn’t seem to compromise the rig. As a matter of fact, being becalmed is apt to do as much damage as a good blow. The death roll is constant and all over
the place.

I am very humbled by all the kind and thoughtful responses to our present situation. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I still feel a little numb, but that will pass and I will report on the beautiful world around me so MaryLou can post it to the Going Solo blog. 

Dec 28, 2013 #2

Easterly path (in red) relative to westerly (in blue)

The sun has set, I have finished dinner and had a nice cup of tea. We’re still moving along at 4-5 knots, the wind is very light, with gigantic swells, graceful, silent, majestic, moving quickly as if with purpose like they had a very important appointment somewhere. There is a kind of discipline and order about them. They barge through all the other surface waves with an unfeeling unattached military order. The scale is nothing short of awesome.

I stood in the cockpit for ages completely spellbound at the sight of West Wind literally climbing the face of these behemoths and sliding down the other side. These were not the animated melodramatic Hollywood version, these are real. They are born in the vicious lows of the great southern ocean hundreds of miles away and driven by the power left in them to travel unchallenged to the shores of continents thousands of miles away.  At this stage they are graceful and somewhat benign. Lost is the legendary breaking “rogue” wave of their earlier form. Tamed by the loss of the wind that gave birth to them in the beginning. They fill the horizon like an army surging across the land in battalions. Strong and unyielding passing under West Wind as if she were a toy boat in a bath tub. I stand in my usual spot one foot on either side of the cockpit holding onto the aft edge of the dodger, swaying with WW II as we let them pass beneath us. The sky is bright blue with huge bleached white cotton batten clouds floating silently above these dark green undulations.

Once again I am a lone witness, humbled by this great spectacle of nature. My heart soars and I feel a rush that fills my body and soul. I shall miss being here to witness these forces of nature.



Day 117 Hand steering 27/12/13

Dec 27, 2013Position: 33.00 S, 83.16 E

I am hand steering this morning. Rig feels good. Swell is 3-4 metres, waves 1 metre, wind 5-10 knots from the south. I am able to steer around 90 degrees. But the vane doesn’t work so well in big seas with no wind so I have been hand steering for the last few hours. Whatever it takes, we will make it. Looks like food bars for breakfast, lunch and dinner today. 

Thanks for all the words of support. I need it and feel it.

Heading : 110 T Speed : 2.5 knots Wind : S 5 – 10 Swell : S 3 metres Cloud : 60% Temp : 20 C Baro : 1026 Distance in last 22 hrs : 100 nm Batteries : 13.1 

Day 116 Rigging failure 26/12/13

Dec 26, 2013Position: 32.55 S, 80 17 E

The weather forecast was for calm. I had time on my hands, so decided to take advantage of it and do a thorough inspection of the rigging and sails. I started with the standing rigging upper and lower shrouds and mast head shrouds. First I removed the protective tape that stops chafe of the sails against the turnbuckle cotter pins. I had only done the port aft lower shroud when I noticed that one of the wire strands had separated from the swaging, commonly known as rigging failure. I was very taken aback and quickly removed the rest of the tape and inspected the remaining five shrouds. To my horror, I found one more wire strand had broken loose, this time on the port forward shroud. I had made the decision to leave on my circumnavigation with the shrouds I had in place on WW II, hoping it would see me through to the end of my voyage. 

My mind started to work on solutions. I came up with temporary ones that satisfied me and that I thought would work, but for how long I don’t know. I started to realize that this had to be repaired before I could go any further. Lots of questions. Could I go on to Africa and make repairs there? How many more cyclones could I expect in getting there?  Australia is 1700 miles back to the east. Africa is a thousand miles further away than Australia. What would I do if I lost my mast? Could I still use the radio? What about the sat phone? I still had a connection as far away as 400 miles from Australia. That may help if the radio would not work.

I emailed my rigger Brent Jacobi from Blackline Marine for his expert opinion of what to do to fix the rig temporarily so I could carry on and he provided a very good solution. I then emailed MaryLou to keep her informed and give me her thoughts. My very good friend Tony Gooch got an email for his take on the situation, and then I emailed Ron Kolody my weather master and informed him of the problem and his thoughts about the weather if I turned back. I heard from most of them within the hour. Then I had to make a very difficult decision. Which way to go? The afternoon wore on and I had my ham sked and asked them to comment on the situation.

The more I thought about it, the more it made sense to go back to Australia and make repairs there. It should take about three weeks, 1775 nm.

I couldn’t see myself making it to Cape Horn early enough to make a safe rounding this season. It means the end of my goal, my dream.  I am not happy about it, but nor do I want to be caught out again and have to ask for help. I will go slowly and make my way back and then see from there. 

As the days go by, I will see how it feels to let go of something I have worked hard towards for ten years.

Course: Speed: 5 knots Waves 2 metres, liquid mercury Wind NE 5 – 10 knots Cloud 20% Temp 25 C Baro 1022 Miles in last 24 hrs: 55 nm Volts 13.3