Goodbye to Cape Town

Bodacious Dream and I are set to leave Cape Town first thing tomorrow morning! I’ve got just a few more things to find at the store – a pair of fleece pants I want to purchase and some additional books that I can read. I’ve got quite a library going onboard now with the help and interest of friends. With the historic passing of Nelson Mandela, I’m thinking his book, A Long Walk to Freedom would be an appropriate read for this next leg.

Cape Town has been a marvelous place to harbor. I can honestly say, my opinions of Cape Town were forged from the 1990’s and earlier, and were much in need of updating. I can’t wait for the opportunity to return to this beautiful place and enjoy more of it. Table Mountain, the coastline, the town, the country and nearby wine growing regions all make it a great destination to put on your list. I’m afraid that if this weather window had not opened for me to leave tomorrow, I’d be one of those who contract “CapeTownitis” … the inability to leave this place! Now I just wonder when I’ll be able to return.

One trip I took was up to McClear’s Beacon on the top of Table Mountain. The beacon was used nearly 170 years ago by surveyors  to map out the coastline around Cape Town. In this video, I try to explain how that worked.

McClear’s Beacon up on Table Mountain …

The folks at the Royal Cape Yacht Club have been marvelous hosts. I can’t thank them enough for all their guidance, answers and hospitality. They have their major race coming up here after the first of the year. It’s the Cape Town to Rio Race … so they are ramping up for a very busy time, which also makes it an opportune moment for me to move on.

Here’s a shot of me up on top of BoDream’s mast, where I spent a good part of this week. You can check out the set of “Top of the Mast” photos over on our BDX Facebook page. Click here to see that album.

dave_mast_face2_550Top of the Mast to you!

Many people have asked if I’ve recovered from the trip down yet. I’d have to say that another week or so with not so much work to accomplish would really help, but at the same time, I’m pretty well recovered now from the fatigue and lack of sleep and so taking off isn’t an issue. I wonder too if another week would put me past my “edge” and then I’d have to reset all my internal gears to get back to long distance sailing. So, for now, the answer is YES, I’m ready to sail onto New Zealand though I may take a little more time in New Zealand this time through!

moon_capetown_550Moon over Cape Town …

Last night as I walked along the waterfront after dinner, I saw the still full moon in the night sky. Tucked in-between and camouflaged by the streetlights and the busy waterfront harbor, she still shone bright and I felt the draw to be back in the serenity of night on the open ocean with the bright moon and stars. With Christmas just a few days away, and the weather forecast for pleasant conditions, I’m hoping for a spectacular Christmas Eve at sea. I’m already thinking about my freeze-dried Christmas night meal! And this time, I’ll have enough cookies to make it a real holiday celebration!

As you can imagine, over the years, I’ve made friends with so many people from so many different walks of life. Each of us has our own ways of commemorating holidays. I have always enjoyed Christmas, though I know many friends who have other traditions they celebrate. I find it calming inside that we have all found common ground to tolerate and respect each other’s traditions, knowing that we all, in our own ways, are celebrating and honoring the gift of our lives on Earth. May we all discover more of those generous dreams in the coming New Year.

So, tomorrow morning, at 06:00 hrs I will head to the harbor. It will take me a couple of hours to put the final stuff away, bend on some sails, check some of the rigging and make one last check of things before I untie the lines, slip from the harbor and head out to sea, bound for Wellington, New Zealand and the continuation of my solo passage around the world.

Thank you all for coming along with me and for being there to hear the stories, share the explorations and marvel at the amazing spectacle that is life.

Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (who is really ready to get back in the swing of things.)

Arriving in Cape Town!

At the moment, I’m less than 100 miles from Cape Town, South Africa! My mind is excited and alternately entertaining the thought that I’ve been sailing for seven weeks straight now, and two months (today!) since I left Jamestown, RI … with the thought that in 24 hours, I’ll be walking the streets of a large and unknown African city!

(NOTE: Dave arrived safely in Cape Town, mid-day on Tuesday, December 3rd)

These past two months condense in my memory into a large and very wet block of time, one in which I was near constantly awake and working steadily around the clock. There’s not much to punctuate time on the open water other than sunrises and sunsets; that follow each other in a steady succession, all of which remakes your perception of time in a very singular way. With this first leg likely being the longest leg of the entire circumnavigation, some part of me worries that the other three legs will pass even quicker, and that this whole expedition will be over before I’ve had a chance to fully grasp the meaning of it all.

12.02.13So, this is what 8000 miles looks like … 

I opened the paper charts today of the North and South Atlantic oceans, to make some notes and to look things over, and I was amazed when I drew my finger across the nearly 8000 miles course that brought me to Cape Town. And to think, I’m actually just about there! If all goes well, I should arrive sometime tomorrow afternoon, hopefully in time to do a thorough rinse down of the boat, before checking into a hotel, scrubbing myself down and then catching a relaxing, fresh dinner – something with no freeze-dried chicken, please!!

I’ve been sailing the past three days through a full-spectrum mix of weather, with last night being the toughest, marked as it was by a broken halyard and a dropped jib! I’ve been trying hard to play the weather patterns to our best advantage, positioning Bodacious Dream to the south of Cape Town so as to get the best angle of approach through the heavy SE winds. There are almost constant SE storm force winds that blow up the African Coast, so in order to more easily negotiate that vein of wind; you stay as far south as you can until the wind “bends” you back into Cape Town. We were ready for that scenario, but then a rather unique thermal low pressure system slid down over Cape Town and began to cancel out much of the heavy SE winds … but not all of them … which is what we fought our way through last night.

halyard_200Imagine if you will, the impact on your psyche of a loud bang landing out of nowhere in the middle of some heavy weather sailing? It happend just before sunset, and thankfully when I was steering. BANG!! My first thought was literally, “There goes the mast!” But quickly enough, I saw the jib falling to the deck and into the water, giving me every indication that the halyard had parted. At this point, I’m thinking (or at least hoping) that it’s only the shackle that broke and that the halyard will still be intact at the top of the mast when I get into port! Otherwise, it’s a long string with weights on the end of it to fish a new halyard down the length of the mast without twisting it around something already in the mast!

So, after a rather difficult and physical night of sailing, we are tonight, nearly becalmed. There are very light winds from the SW nudging me along towards Cape Town. The forecasts are for the breezes to freshen up here tonight, which would give me a good final push towards the harbor. But for now, it’s a beautiful night out here … so beautiful in fact that the thought crosses my mind of not stopping, but rather of sailing on to New Zealand. I mean it’s only another 6000 miles, and probably faster miles than this trip! Should I keep going? You know … on second thought, I think I could use a break from all this constantly alert busyness, so I think it’s best to stop … not to mention the fact, that I haven’t had a cookie in weeks!

32.8112W, 0.7929S 32.8112W, 0,7929S

So, the plan is to spend a couple weeks in Cape Town making some repairs and changing some of the setups on the boat to better sail the Southern Ocean, that vast expanse of water that flows under the four major capes of the world. That’s where we are headed next! There are also many interesting natural wonders around Cape Town, and I hope to be able to bring you some learning programs on them as I visit them. Cape Town has quite a history to be explored, and it’s definitely time to pick up our learning and discovery agenda!

Also, once I can hook back up to the Internet, I’ll be downloading lots of photos and videos … so stay tuned to email and to Facebook to catch up on the fun of the past two months! Forgive me though, if it takes a couple of days to get those photos and videos uploaded … as I’ll likely to be stuck in the shower for quite some time.

Until later,

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (who is finally beginning to get the idea that we’re going all the way around the big ball!)

Sailing is Math 2!

All things being relative, the past few days have been rather uneventful. The winds have been steady and we’ve made good distance, but by a few hours after sunrise this morning, the winds had quieted down and we were just barely moving along.  As you might expect, this stirs up some feelings of frustration, especially when you’ve been out at sea for 7 weeks and there’s still 2500 miles to go!

29.67041W, 26.92078S 29.67041W, 26.92078S - Trust me, Cape Town is farther away than it looks

I don’t know what other distance sailors do, but on days like today, my mind starts to grind out math problems. I’ll spend time catching up on the navigation issues and plotting courses on the charts, but my mind can’t help but work on the overriding question of when I will get to Cape Town.

So, what I thought I’d do with today’s update is something a little different, but still very much in keeping with our overall “learning and discovery” agenda – and that is to plunge into some of these relatively simple time and distance problems that are at the heart of ocean navigation. (Also, look for these kinds of problems too, in our new BDX Explorer Guides, being worked on right now!)

Now I’m no math wizard, mind you, and I don’t have a college degree and like most kids, I often found myself asking my teachers when will I ever use this math stuff? Well, as it turns out, once I took up building homes and sailing, math quickly became THE most useful stuff to know!

roof_520

When building or renovating homes, you have to constantly calculate costs and quantities. You need to use geometry to figure out how to build square buildings, and how much plywood is needed on a slanted roof.

chart_520

With sailing, you need to know how far away something is, what angle you need to steer and if you can’t make it on that angle, how much of a “tack” you’re going to have to take to get to where you want to go. (A tack is a change of direction to sail “against” the wind in the other direction … like zig-zagging into the wind.)

So, this morning, with about 300 miles to go to the waypoint and another 2150 miles after that to Cape Town, and the weather forecast calling for a front passing through, just as I get to the waypoint, I sat back and let my internal calculator take over.

Would you like to try some of the problems I worked on? Ok, here goes. Let’s try one with the solution first.

    • It’s Monday, at 06:00 hours and I’m 300 miles from the waypoint. The weather front is predicted to arrive on Tuesday evening at about 18:00 hours and if I can arrive about that time, I can take advantage of the good winds to make additional distance toward Cape Town. I’ve been sailing at about 8.5 knots all night long, but once the sun rose, the winds died down and my speed dropped to 5.75 knots. Question then … how many hours will it take me to get to the waypoint? And can I make it before the weather front?
    • So, in this first one, the waypoint is 300 miles away – so just take the distance (300) and divide it by the speed (5.75) and that equals a bit more than 52 hours. Then time-wise, from Monday at 6:00 am until Tuesday at 18:00 (6:00 pm)  that’s 36  hours. so, 36 hours multiplied by 5.75 knots equals 207 miles, so you can see I won’t make it.

Let’s try some more!

    1. Now, if I use my engine some until the winds come back (usually just after high sun or noon) and can nudge the speed up to 6.5 knots until 12:00 hours and am then able to sail at 6.5 knots the rest of the way, how long will it take me … and can I make it to the waypoint before the front?
    2. What speed would I have to average to make it to the waypoint on time?
    3. It’s now later in the day, I just passed the 200 mark at 19:45 hours and I have 200 miles to go to the waypoint. The winds have increased nicely and with my biggest sail up, I am sailing along again at 8.5 knots. How close will I be to making the waypoint?
    4. If I can make the waypoint by 18:00 hours on Tuesday and there are still 2150 miles from there to Cape Town, and if I average 150 miles a day, what day would I get there? And how many knots per hour do I have to go, to make 150 miles a day?
    5. Usually, after a front passes, the winds are pretty fresh and I can sail at pretty good speeds. So, here’s a tougher problem for you. If I reach the waypoint and am able to sail for 60 hours at 8.5 knots before the winds ease back, and if I then sail for 5 days averaging 7 knots an hour, how many miles will be left to Cape Town? If I were able to sail them at 8 miles an hour, how would that change my arrival date in Cape Town?

So, all of the above are time and distance problems, that apply to long distance sailing. Racing and particularly inshore racing around buoys and markers raise other types of math problems. In this case, you need to apply math skills to plan your strategic maneuvers. Let’s try one of those.

      • If I know I’m going to need to change sails at a particular mark rounding and I know it will take me 4 minutes to set up the boat to make the sail change, I need to know at what distance we will be at with 4 minutes left to reach the mark. Let’s say we are sailing at 6 knots. We know then that a mile takes 10 minutes to sail. What would my GPS tell me the distance is to the mark at four minutes before we reach it?

Interesting stuff, huh?  I think so, but more than that, it’s an essential part of sailing that people who don’t sail, may not fully appreciate.

Well, there you have it from the ocean … straight from the skipper’s notepad. For so many things, where accuracy is important, math is a necessity to figure out how to do the things you need to do. Once I get to Cape Town, I’ll have to start figuring out all sorts of things for my next leg: the amounts of food to take, fuel, etc. And I aim to do better job of calculating out cookies, so I don’t run out so quickly!

So, until later … from the cookie-less South Atlantic …

-Dave, Bodacious Dream and the always studious Franklin
29.67041W, 26.92078S

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Breezy Angles and Inner Debates

Catching up with you all on the weekend out here in the watery world. Decent breezes and good angles kept us averaging around 9 and 10 knots for most of the last few days – just the right speed for providing you that sense of forward progress! At the moment, as dawn rises on Saturday after the full moon sets, I’m closing in on the waypoint where I’ll start to make the big turn east and set up the final 2200 mile run to Cape Town.

http://goo.gl/maps/V5eeM26.92078W, 29.67041S

After consulting with our weather gurus at Commander’s Weather this morning, it’s looking like I should arrive at the waypoint just about the same time as a passing front that may give me some weather issues, but they don’t look to be really bad ones. The winds will be from the North (by northwest) and then switch to the southwest, but either of those directions should push me towards Cape Town, so that’s good. I may have to endure another day or two of squalls and higher winds, but the results should prove all positive. We’ll see how it all plays out by the beginning of the week. The thing about weather that you have to get used to out here is that it never stops! It just changes either slowly or quickly from one state to another, from weaker to stronger and back again … and those changes may proceed as predicted, or they might not. There’s never a guarantee that nature will play nice with your human plans.

Friday was a great day for drying out things, and I’ve got lots of foul weather gear and clothes strewn around the cockpit to give them a chance to fully dry out.  Regardless of what they say, nothing out here is water-proof and breathable … you’re either sweating faster than it can breathe or the water inevitably works its way through whatever material is covering you. I expect my pants could stand up by themselves with all the salt dried into the weave!!

A toastThe photo on the right here, that’s from last weekend, on the evening after we crossed the equator … when I opened the bottle of Irish Cream that my friend Joe Harris had thoughtfully provided. You can see the splash there … as tradition requires … a little onto the deck as a toast to Neptune, to the good ship that bears you and to this newbie equatorial crosser.

The other night, a visit from a bird initiated what would be a long night’s encounter. It hovered around the high corner of the stern for a while, then flew to the bow and jumped out in front and led us on for a while. Then it circled around a few times before trying once again to land on my head! I got some great photos of him flying by, but I can’t upload them (perhaps) until I get to Cape Town, as our KVH satellite system is out of range this far south of the Equator. Nonetheless, he did land and settled into a spot on the sail that is sitting on the weather rail trying to block some of the water that comes into the cockpit. Not more than 20 minutes later, another bird arrived and did the same thing, this time settling in on the edge of the splash guard where he could check out the first bird. From time to time all night long, they’d get up, fly around, dart in and out of the rigging and then settle back down and rest. Not sure where they might be headed or coming from, but it was nice to have some company through the dark and windy night. I thought all the spray might drive them away, but it never seemed to phase them. We are all clearly a bunch of tough old birds out here.

32.7234W, 1.8690S
Not exactly the bird in the story … similar but different … This one at 32.7234W, 1.8690S

Some days keep you busy, other days, you spend the extra time doing battle with your own mind. Yesterday, I was experiencing frustration with the wind and the instability of the boat, not to mention my desire to just point the bow to Cape Town. A lot of arguments ensued with both sides of the argument being vigorously debated by me, and all of which I won handily. I’ve learned that when frustrations arise, it usually means I’m either tired, hungry or in need of a break in the routine. Last night, I did my best to shut down my thoughts and I spent the night napping in my standard 15-20 minute intervals. I didn’t even try to do any writing, reading or other work, just tried to relax and rest … and this morning, I felt a lot better and pretty refreshed!

Today, Saturday … has been a good day and I’ve only a couple of hours left until sunset. These middle of the day hours, it’s necessary to get out of the cockpit and out of the sun. The cockpit is just too hot, because the sun is behind the boat and the cockpit coverings block the breeze. I generally spend a few hours below doing some work, thinking, napping, reading or writing.

Today has included a bit of everything, not to mention coaxing the wind to increase some, so I don’t have to change sails! If I were racing, I’d be changing sails without question, but today, the sail options all fell into the “overlapping” part of the chart, meaning I could go with any of three different sails. However, if the wind lets up even a knot or two, I really should have the spinnaker up, but if it increases a knot or two, jib and main would be best. I was feeling like I wanted a day off, and as it was almost Sunday, I did my best to talk the wind up a few knots which meant we stayed with what we had up.

Having wiggled my way out of that chore, I did add some water to the ballast tanks to help offset the wind. There are two ballast tanks on each side of the boat – the bigger one is 480 liters and the smaller one 270 liters, which makes for 750 liters total on each side. This ballast water weight makes the boat more stable and faster, and helps balance out the boat against the force of wind in the sails. At capacity then, the weight is roughly equivalent to having 10 guys sitting on the rail.

As I write this, I’m now sailing at about 9 knots which should translate into about 225 miles for the day, which is just what I need to make that waypoint by Monday and still stay ahead of the front! Typically, the winds ease up about sunset, and then come back a couple of hours later. Maybe I’ll have an easy night of it and not have to work so hard. If so, think I’ll go out for a movie and a pizza! (LOL!)

So, on we go…. sailing through the South Atlantic on our way to the southern tip of Africa!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream and the especially convivial Franklin
26.92078W, 29.67041S

Endless Summer … Minus the Beans

The last 24 hours have provided us some mighty beautiful sailing. Late yesterday, the winds began to ease up, which caused the churning seas to settle down some. The night was beautiful, a crisp 3/4 moon, lots of stars, easy winds and gentle sailing in the direction I’ve plotted to get us to Cape Town.

sunset5_550

On a night when things go right like that, your anxious and vigilant mind settles down and you find yourself actually relaxing. I read some and wrote some, and then settled into a nice dinner of chicken fajitas. This time however, feeling unrushed, I took the time to pick out the beans! Yup, truth be told, I’ve never been too partial to beans. I’ve eaten so many of them over the years, as they are right up there as the main staple in adventurers’ lives, but I just don’t like them. So, yesterday afternoon, as I sat there, I picked beans out of the freeze-dried mix and tossed them to the fish (never realized how many beans were in that mix!) But minus the legumes, those were the best chicken fajitas I’ve had on this trip! I followed that main course with a Frango mint chocolate for dessert, after which I settled down for some extended napping. The Thursday sunrise brought with it a beautiful morning and we’ve continued sailing this great weather all day long.

So, with more than six weeks passed since leaving Rhode Island, four weeks since leaving Bermuda and a bit more than two weeks until Cape Town, we’ve so far had a good and unforgettable trip.

Screen shot 2013-11-14 at 4.03.48 PMTo get mundane for a moment, I understocked on cookies, which I’ve been ok with ( … mostly) though I really miss them come midnight. On the other hand, I overstocked with chocolate, and still have 20 pounds onboard – including 10 pounds of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses donated to the Expedition by Hershey’s themselves! In other pantry-related news, I’m down to six apples, my oranges are all gone but I’ve still got a dozen apple juice boxes. And, I still have a generous supply of freeze-dried entrees, so I won’t be going hungry. As you quickly learn out here, there is a part of your mind that builds up a wish list of cravings. In my case those would be … ice cream, Pepsi-Cola, orange juice, fresh vegetables, pancakes and maple syrup, bacon and eggs, maybe a burger and a cold beer! Oh, but I’d probably trade all of that for a long hot fresh-water shower!

So, I played with the navigation today, and by just about any course I mark to Cape Town from here, it’s just less than 3000 miles. That’s a fun milestone. I’ve sailed 5000 miles so far from Newport/Jamestown, Rhode Island. Crossing the North Atlantic last year in the Quebec – St. Malo race was 3600 miles, and crossing back from Portugal to the Caribbean was nearly 3200 miles. So, considering all that, it feels like Cape Town is just around the corner, which as you can see from the track that our SPOT Adventure is putting out, it is. We’ve begun to make our slow turn east, but we still need to keep heading south to stay under the South Atlantic high – so look for us to be turning more easterly by the end of the weekend.

Screen-shot-2013-11-14-at-2.48.49-PM32.30789W, 17.756756S 

bird_275I’m surprised I haven’t seen more wild life so far. I’ve only had a couple visits from dolphins. A giant sea turtle passed by (more on that later). Birds are more frequent visitors. (One actually landed on my head last week for a brief second. Don’t know WHAT he mistook me for!) Though I haven’t mentioned it before now, we’ve also harvested tons of flying fish on this trip. Each time I hear them land and flop about frantically on the deck, I try to get them back into the water as quickly as I can, but often in the morning there are a few on deck that didn’t make it. I’d say we’ve had a few dozen at least come onboard over the past few weeks.

I mentioned this yesterday in a short Facebook post, but as we head south, we are moving towards the Tropic of Capricorn and the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere on December 21st, which of course coincides with the beginning of winter in the Northern Hemisphere. The sun’s been beating down from such a straight overhead angle that I have to take cover below decks some afternoons. My realization on this though was that I’m sailing the endless summer! How lucky am I?

I thought I’d finish here with a longer-than-usual video post that I shot last weekend. It’s a kind of summary of things up to this point. It may not be for everyone, but if you hang in there till the end, there are a few thoughts worth sharing … namely my appreciation for those who have made it possible for me to do this and to have the experiences I’m having, for the changes in me that result from these experiences … and of course, for having you all out there to share it with. Thank you.

More soon,

- Dave, Bodacious Dream (and the always sporty Franklin)
32.30789W, 17.756756S

Equatorial Transitions and Brazilian Bulges

I’ve been receiving a lot of notes lately from people telling me how much they’re enjoying the updates and to keep them coming. That’s great to hear … but I wonder sometimes … cause out here there is a pretty mundane side to things … day after day, sailing in the same direction, dodging the same weather squalls, adjusting sails to the same patterns, etc. But I guess, that’s not necessarily mundane, if you’re not the one doing it! Anyway, thanks for following along … it lifts my spirits big time knowing you’re out there … and keep those notes coming in too!

Equatorial SquallView with squall approaching  … a pretty frequent view of late. 44.0007W, 18.7773N

Bodacious Dream and I are in a bit of a transition zone these days – on a number of fronts. Monday morning marked the longest period of time I’ve ever been out at sea without pulling into harbor. Last year, on the Trans-Atlantic crossing, the trip from Madeira on the Cape Verde Islands to Antigua, in the Virgin Islands took 18 days. Not counting the four days it took me to get from Cascais, Portugal to Madeira (and I was only in Madeira for about 4 hours) – this new marker is a personal record of sorts … and part of the trip log.

Secondly, we are presently transitioning between the North Atlantic and the South Atlantic, and soon to be crossing the equator. I’ve flown over the equator, as I’m sure some of you have, but I’ve never crossed it by surface before, so that will be a first for me as well. In addition to that, we are progressing through the remaining trade winds of the Northern Atlantic and entering those of the Southern Atlantic. So, in that sense, there is a lot going on, even though none of it is happening at a very fast pace.

The equator is about 450 miles south of me at the time I am writing this on Monday the 4th … and between here and there lay the final bands of North Atlantic trade winds we have to cross. We are figuring most of it will be decent sailing, but the actual degree of difficulty will depend on the direction of those winds.

Here’s a video I had to wait a few days to upload that has me explaining how the squalls we’ve been experiencing so many of and the trade winds work together to both hasten and slow down our progress.

Here I go talking those squall and trade winds blues again … 

So, moving forwards, here’s the thinking. We’re sailing now down around the bulge on Brazil and we don’t want to end up too far west and “pinned” against the Brazilian coast and so have to work too hard to push away from it. So, we’ll be doing what we can at the front-end here to stay as far east as we can, and so sail past the bulge and pick up the Southern Atlantic trade winds, which we’re hoping will shift direction in our favor.

November 6, 2013Here’s where we are … as of today, Nov. 6, 2013

The course we are plotting to get to Cape Town will cover over 5000 more miles. Typically, a sailing boat will head down the South American coast to take advantage of the better winds and favorable current until they reach a point about 40 degrees south of the Equator, before they turn for Cape Town and hook into the westerly prevailing winds in the Southern Atlantic. Cape Town is actually at 34 degrees south, so you end up sailing a bit northeast to get to Cape Town once you’ve made that turn. I know it sounds a bit odd, but actually, it’s faster sailing the 5000 miles that way than the shorter more direct course of 3800 miles, which is mostly upwind.

While I’m working through these trade winds and keeping a constant eye on the weather forecasts and the horizon, sometimes I just have to sleep. Last night, I was particularly tired and had fallen into a deep dream where I and someone else I didn’t know were on the coast of Maine right above the water and we were trying hard to climb to higher ground as a storm tide was threatening to wash us both off a cliff. At that point, I suddenly woke up to serious rain falling on me. I had fallen asleep on the cockpit floor and was getting soaked. Coming out of a deep sleep like that had me confused, as well as wet and scrambling, for a few moments trying to figure out which wet was the real one and which wasn’t. A little “imaginary” excitement there – all good fun, once I settled back into my senses and felt the fresh water rain (the obviously preferred form of wet) fall on my tired body.

Dave sleepin'So, if I’m sleeping, who took the photo? 42.1396W, 16.3378N 

Well, as happens everyday around this time … it’s dinnertime here at Chez Dave! A little less of a milestone than days at sea, is the fact that I’ve now sampled all my freeze-dried dinners … and I have decided on my favorites. Now I know THIS is mundane stuff … but for the next 25 nights, I will be rotating the selection, so that when I get down or especially tired or worried about weather and routes, I can save one of my favorites for that night. Tonight the menu is one of my favs … rice with chicken. No really, it’s actually pretty good. Thankfully, I did bring a bottle of Worcestershire sauce! Now, let me tell you … THAT was thinking ahead.

So, I gotta get that water boiling, so I’ll close it up here.

Again, thanks so much for following along, and those of you who are forwarding and “sharing” our stories on Facebook or Twitter, a special thanks. From my perspective – contemplating this rehydrating rice with chicken, more sounds a whole lot merrier!|

- Dave and Bodacious Dream
33.12411W, 4.50334N

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The Reality is a Little Wetter

10.31.13 - afternoonIt’s been a tough few days out here. We reached the trade winds on Saturday evening, at about the time we expected to. So while we are now in steady winds, all the finagling we did with those sparse winds east of Bermuda cost us extra time and fuel. The idea was to get a better angle on the trade winds, so we could sail them to our waypoint at the beginning of the doldrums. That wasn’t bad as far as ideas go. The reality however is a little wetter – LOTS of wave action, lots of pounding and lots of spray … everywhere. Fortunately, it’s all warm air and warm water, but still a challenge in that it makes sailing and life onboard more difficult.

With winds gusting up to 30 knots, squalls through the night and morning, waves coming at us from three directions, it’s a constant game of adjustment to keep Bodacious Dream sailing forward in the direction we want to go. Needless to say, it also increases the difficulty of typing these updates.

For those of you who were following us last year, these are the same trade winds I sailed through coming back from Portugal. However, last year, I was sailing WITH them instead of ACROSS them, so the sailing was a lot smoother.

Blue Blue
As I have no photos of current conditions, try this one … Ahh!  50.4951W, 28.6556N

The current situation wouldn’t be so bad if the wave sets were more consistent. There are three different angles to the waves, one driven by the force of the trade winds, and the other two created by squall wind shifts and an erratic low-pressure system. On the main wave, we slide along as if we were parallel to it – which isn’t so bad, and if that were all that was happening, we’d be looking good. The second set though comes in threes and at irregular intervals. Also, it’s more directly face on to us, so it throws the bow straight up and then in the trough behind the wave; the bow comes crashing down … with a ridiculously huge boom! This happens about three times in a row, before Bo can get back to sailing again – and at anytime during the sequence, the third wave can show up (pretty much out of nowhere) and throw a frothing gusher of water into the cockpit along with a head-banging slap upside the boat.

So picture this … I’m dressed in my foul weather gear, looking like the guy on the box of frozen fish sticks, trying to squeeze out a short nap on the deck, when I feel the boat lurch upward and I know the next movement it’s coming straight back down and landing with a big BOOM! And right when that’s over with, and I’m sitting back, ready to nod off again, a new wave comes pouring over me! This process repeats about 10 times a night and about 5 or 6 times in the morning. Fortunately, the afternoons and generally after midnight, things settle down and the skies clear up some. Maybe the sea needs to get some rest as well -though I know that’s wishful thinking.

It’s all good fun really … nothing that we didn’t sign up for … though to be honest, I’d be fine if these conditions were to change. As it turned out, today the wind speeds slowed for a good length of time. Projections are for them to come back into the low 20’s for the remainder of the 750 miles to the waypoint, which means that hopefully I can arrive there by Sunday or Monday. From there on, the strategy changes for entering the doldrums and the South Atlantic.

SunsetJust a memory to me now … but a sweet one … 50.4136W, 28.4363N

So, life onboard has been limited to eating what I can, resting when I can and keeping track of things and navigation … oh, and waiting out the clock. Back home, I can never slow the clock down enough to get through my lists. Out here, I can hardly get the minutes to pass! Time is such an elastic dimension. Soon it will be sunset, and we’ll head into another dark night, as the moon is down to just a sliver now and doesn’t come up until just before sunrise. With a gentler night of winds, perhaps the sleeping will be easier with fewer of Neptune’s rude poundings.

Extended situations like the one I’m describing here put your body to the test … and force you to manage it with some caution and care. There are three things I need to keep aware of … 1) hydration, 2) nutrition and 3) fatigue. Each of those factors takes a conscious effort to govern, especially in more demanding conditions such as these.

First off, I have to keep a steady flow of water in me. Even though it doesn’t seem like I sweat it out or eliminate it, I am. So, constant note to self … “Drink more water!”

TeakettleBy dinnertime tonight, I was feeling tired and pretty uninterested in food. If I was that tired back home, I’d have just gone to bed and had a big breakfast when I got up, but out here, I knew I needed to put some calories into my body in order to stay warm at night and to have the energy I might need if in the middle of the night, something happened that required my going into overdrive. Believe me, boiling water to make lasagna isn’t so easy in a rolling and pitching kitchen. So, while it would have been easier to just forget about it, I pushed through – at which point, the seas calmed for a time, allowing me to have a nice meal under the stars. Ahhh!

Now the third factor, sleep, is something that simply amazes me. I often wonder why and how it works the way it does. When I am busy or stimulated by something, I rarely can sleep. With all the sounds the boat is making lately and with all the motion of the sea, I am having a hard time sleeping, even though I know I am fully tired. Still, I have to keep trying, even if only to lay my head down and rest. Eventually, my body decides that the stimulation isn’t as important as sleep is … and I nod off.

In my 15-20 minute nap intervals, I often have great dreams, and I regularly come back to the same one once I’ve been up and checked things out and gone back for another nap. I guess dreams are like an old well pump; once you prime it, it keeps pumping out a steady stream. Once I get into a sleep groove, I can keep returning to the naps for quite some time. But once I stop, I have to go through the whole start-up process all over again. It’s pretty fascinating this play between the conscious and unconscious mind and between the physical world without and the one within. I know there are a lot of brilliant people who study and write about sleep, and could probably explain it all to me, but for now I will have to trust my own internal sleep scientist.

Well, that’s it for now. I’ll send more as the weather allows.

Until then, we remain … soggy and sailing,



- Dave and Bodacious Dream
41.67044W, 15.54240N
Our Spot Adventure Page

Fast Sailing and Star Walking

It’s Thursday night … almost midnight, and we’re 6 days out from Bermuda. Once the winds filled back in about 04:00 am this morning, today provided us a beautiful day of sailing. Under the A3 (the big spinnaker sail) we advanced all day down the rhumb line (the direct line to my waypoint) at a steady speed between 8 and 10 knots. Once the sun set, (as miraculously happens each day) – the winds began to ease up some and now the wind speeds are slower, but I’m still making very nice progress.

Here’s a short video from earlier today, as we sailed along the last vestiges of the Tropical Storm Lorenzo.

Sailing a Cold Front along the Rhumb Line Towards the Trade Winds 

The winds are forecast to shut down Friday afternoon, and so my goal by then is to get as close as I can to 26 degrees N Latitude, which is where the trade winds begin. Between wherever I am when the wind drops off and where the trade winds begin, I’ll probably have to motor sail the difference. This of course causes me concern as to my fuel supply … and how I will manage over what I predict is still 40 days of sailing to Cape Town. I also need to factor in how much fuel I’ll need just to charge batteries during that time.

Hydro GeneratorToday eased my worries somewhat as the hydro generator (in the photo) has been working like a charm all day, and so while I was sailing at the 7 to 10 knot range; it provided all electrical power onboard and recharged the batteries as well! That could mean great things for the next 40 days … but I also need to be prepared to charge batteries with the engine if there’s no wind or if the hydro generator develops a problem.

The end of the day is a special time for me. As the sun sets lower, the air cools off and the heat of the sun dissipates. Once the sun drops out of sight, the glow slowly loses it color and the stars grow visible. When I departed from Bermuda, and for a few days after, the full moon rose just as the sun was setting. Sailing under a full moon is a pretty magical experience – especially when you are the speeding along in the arms of the wind.

Here is a little video I took of moonrise on the weekend.

Moonrise leaving Bermuda

The other night when I was sailing through squalls, the moon illuminated the clouds and allowed me to know when the worst of the squall was going to pass. Each night that passes now, the moon rises a bit later, and tonight it didn’t rise until about 4 hours after sunset … but it will remain visible all night.

The best part about the moon rising later is it gives me a few hours of complete darkness to enjoy the wonders of the night sky, as well as the amazing phosphorescent plankton, which illuminates each ripple of wave from the boat as if it were touched by a gently flaming feather – a spectacular phenomenon to be experienced if you can ever get out on the ocean at night.

So, tonight as I watched the sky drain its sunset colors, I could make out the bright planets. My knowledge of the night sky and stars is quite limited, I’m sorry to say … actually limited primarily to the Big Dipper and Orion the Hunter, which hung over our home on Lake Michigan. I remember my father and grandfather pointing them out to me when out on a 4th of July waiting for fireworks. But, now, out here in the ocean, far from any urban glow, I am surrounded by endless stars and constellations, and I have no idea what is what or which is which! I may know where I am at sea, but I am completely lost in the stars. So to help me out, just before I left, I purchased an application for the iPad called “SkyWalk” – and I’m here to tell you, it’s an amazing little tool! Here’s what you see.

Starwalk Screen 1The Constellation Cassiopeia – 10.24.13

It shows the sky and all the planets and stars and it plots your position as you move the iPad across the sky. It uses the GPS to locate me and then software to track which way I’m facing. So, just like a telescope, I can pass from one star to another through a few constellations and back again … mirroring on the iPad screen what I’m seeing in the sky, but also adding labels and imagery to help you identify what’s going on up there. And there’s even this sweet-sounding space music playing in the background. So, as you can imagine … now I have to ask the hydro generator to charge my iPad too. This is cool technology even an ol’ greybeard can enjoy. If it sounds like something you’d like to try, it’s only $2.99 and there are versions for iPad and iPhone. Android has a similar app called Sky Map, but I haven’t tried that.

So, it’s back to sailing and a late night dinner for me. The warm, salty air makes for beautiful nights napping out on deck.

And another reminder to sign up for the email list to work around the sometimes sketchy way that Facebook posts to your newsfeed.

Thanks for following along. More to come soon.

- Dave and Bodacious Dream
051.1117W, 29.2461N
715 Nautical Miles South East of Bermuda
1219 Nautical Miles from starting point, Jamestown, RI

Storm-Riding, Rain Squalls and Science

The last 36 hours or so have been a bit frustrating and a bit exciting too. On one hand, we’ve had little or no wind which has made the going slow and with little cloud cover, the days have been quite hot. On the other hand, we’ve been monitoring a growing tropical depression, which has developed into a storm called Lorenzo. Presently, Lorenzo is south and east of me, and the interesting recommendation this morning from our online naval guidance system, Commanders Weather is … “Let’s go try to catch it!”

Weather _LorenzoLorenzo appears to the right there …

STORM-RIDING: Now, I know that may not sound too smart … and in most cases it wouldn’t be. But in our particular case, and at this particular time, we are trying to get to a point where I can pick up the NE trade winds and ride them down to the waypoint where we will enter and cross the “doldrums.” (The doldrums, being the term for that low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are almost always calm.) So, in order to move forward, we need whatever wind we can get, and if I can use the cold front that is supposed to pass through today to push me in that direction, and so catch the outside bands of Lorenzo, then it can help pull me east, which is just what we want to do.

With tropical storms and hurricanes, there is never a truly good side to them, but what is considered the generally navigable quadrant is the forward left corner. So if the storm is moving, as Lorenzo is to the North and East, then the left forward corner is where Bodacious Dream and I can hitch a ride around the underside to the East. Guess we’ll have to see if this works or not. Right now, the winds from the cold front, which began to pass over us just an hour ago, are still less than 8 knots, but we expect them to build to 15 and maybe 20 later this afternoon. If that happens, I’ll sail those winds to the Southeast, and hopefully catch those outer bands of Lorenzo.

sunset1_550Sunset Passing …

WATER CONSERVATION: Yesterday, as the day went on, we had a squall pass over us. What a grand and refreshing thing it is to stand in the middle of the ocean in a fresh water rain! It’s easy to lose track of how important the little things in life are, until you don’t have them.

I have not discussed this before, but Bodacious Dream has no onboard freshwater shower, so cleaning up (or “bathing” – if you want to get real liberal with the term) involves using a bit of saltwater, followed by just a bit of fresh water on the face. I don’t want to use up too much fresh water for such purposes … as I’m never sure how much I’ll need for drinking on the trip to Cape Town. I also have to keep in mind, that I’m only into Day 6 from Bermuda of what is likely going to be a 40-day trip to Cape Town. So, the 60 gallons of fresh water I have will be pretty close to gone by then. I plan to drink or use up to 1 gallon a day, but we always want to take precautions in case something were to go wrong. What if one of the jugs springs a leak? What if I get a cut and have to wash it regularly … or who knows? What if the mast breaks and I had to drift across the ocean? What if? What if? What if? This is the song of the sea, and it is why the art of careful preparation is so important for extended adventures like this.

sail1_400
What I see when my eyes drift up …

CITIZEN SCIENCE: In my role as a fledgling citizen scientist, we’re taking regular readings for Earthwatch Institute. These include filtering water, observing debris in the ocean, watching for wild life, taking readings with the “Secchi Disc,” as well as using these updates to help educate people on the interesting ways of the ocean.

citizen_science_200

As far as debris goes, I’ve only seen two pieces of plastic so far. One looked like a storage box or container, the other some ort of plastic cylinder. I’m sure neither were buoys marking fishing nets. I’ve taken pictures of them with the geo-tagging camera, so they can be logged onto the iPad and when I’m next in port, I’ll upload the information to the research sites.

Take a look at our CITIZEN SCIENCE PAGE … it’s chock full of great resources, put together for us by our Earthwatch ocean scientist, Tegan Mortimer.

In fact, I heard from Tegan the other day, about that Yellow Rump Warbler that joined me onboard a couple hundred miles off the coast of New Jersey. Here’s what she had to say.

Screen shot 2013-10-22 at 2.58.11 PM“I’m happy to report that Dave’s bird sighting has been uploaded to iNaturalist and has had the species id confirmed which makes it a “research grade” observation. This means that it will be included in a global biodiversity database, which provides scientists and managers information about the distribution and movement of animals. So very exciting!

As unusual as this sighting seems, it’s actually probably a bird, which was on its fall migration from Canada down to the Caribbean, maybe got a little tired and caught a little ride with Dave to get a rest! Bird migrations are pretty interesting (and migration in general) so I’m writing up a little piece for some educational background on it.”

Thanks Tegan, we look forward to reading the piece!

So, enough for now. I have to get back to business here … and catch up on our gusty “friend” Lorenzo. Be back soon to tell you what happens.

We all know how spotty Facebook can be, so make sure you’re getting the major updates by signing up for the email list here! Thx!

- Dave & Bodacious Dream

Coordinates as of 12:30 UTC (06:30 CDT)
054.5947W, 33.3195N 
Our Speed Over Ground (SOG) – 5.5 knots.
Our Course Over Ground (COG) – 130 Wind speed – 8 knots.
Cookies left- Not enough!

Deliverance – Story of an Early English Ship

(I have a story to tell here, but before I do, a quick weather and departure update, in case you missed it on Facebook yesterday. While the weather here in Bermuda is inviting; mostly sunny and breezy, for us, its not entirely what it seems. Those breezes are quite brisk at the moment and coming directly FROM where we need to be heading. In order to properly time our departure from Bermuda, we must wait for south or southwesterly winds, which it looks like we’ll have later in the week. We’re ready to go, but, sometimes, this is just what sailing is like … and what properly responding to your environment requires. Thanks. – DR)

Now, as I am discovering, the Islands of Bermuda have quite a colorful history. The first European vessel that landed on its shores was in 1505; a Spanish ship captained by Juan de Bermudez. Unlike many of the nearby Caribbean Islands, the island had no indigenous population at that time. In 1515, de Bermudez returned to the island that would eventually bear his name, landing a dozen pigs and sows for any unlucky mariners who might later be castaway there.

Of somewhat more relevance to the history of Bermuda is the early 17th century English ship named Deliverance. A replica of the Deliverance stands here in St. George, and I visited her the other day. I’d like to share her amazing story with you.

Deliverance in Bermuda
A replica of the English Ship Deliverance … 1609

In 1609, a convoy of nine ships, led by Sir George Sommers, left England bound for Jamestown, Virginia, to bring supplies to the new colony that had been established a few years earlier. Long before the days of weather forecasting and National Hurricane Prediction Centers, there were no ways to predict weather changes. So, it was that these ships were caught up in a hurricane. One of the ships, Sea Venture fell behind and ran aground on the treacherous reefs of Bermuda, amazingly with no loss of life. The crew and passengers spent 10 months salvaging equipment and supplies from the wrecked ship and with wood harvested from the local trees built two new ships. One was called Deliverance and the other called Patience. As the ships were small in size, the second ship was needed to haul the additional provisions and supplies they had gathered.

Once the ships were completed and ready to sail for Jamestown, they were stocked with all sorts of bounty from the local environment – live animals, pigs, fruits, vegetables and many other goods the shipwrecked survivors found valuable to their survival.

Deliverance in Bermuda

After an approximately two week sail, Deliverance arrived in Jamestown to a rousing welcome from the settlers there. Not only had they been presumed lost at sea, but the settlers in the intervening time had once again taken to suffering from starvation and such serious health issues, that their number had dwindled from the original 200 settlers down to just 60. The new supplies were critical to the colony’s survival and thus to the success of the longer term colonial experiment.

Deliverance in Bermuda

As sea-traffic between Europe and the American colonies grew in the 1700s, pirating and smuggling along the eastern seaboard of the Americas made Bermuda a welcome hideout for those who practiced such activities. From its calm natural harbors, these outlaw ships preyed on ships from Europe and the Americas right through the American war of independence, and the buildup of a dedicated U.S. Navy … which grew rather slowly out of the Continental Navy, which had come into existence when George Washington commissioned seven cruisers to intercept and capture British supply vessels.

Deliverance in BremudaHalyards at the base of the mast

It was an incredibly exciting period in sea travel, as ships of different nations fought each other and pirates too … both for their sovereignty and for the right to transport the abundant resources that the “new” world possessed.

In any case, to get back to Deliverance, it was only 40 feet long (curiously enough, the very same length as Bodacious Dream.) As you can see from many of the pictures, it was of a very different design of boat than Bodacious Dream, and even different from other boats of the period. Boats of this type sailed very seldom to windward (sailing into the wind) and mostly sailed the “trade wind routes.” Such routes were typically downwind and cleaved closely to the major weather routes.

Deliverance in BermudaAft, (in the rear of the ship) there was a large cabin for the Captain, which also held the navigation table and from which control of the ship was managed. In those days, there was a captain, navigator and a sailing crew, as well as the passengers and supplies.

To the left here, is a capstan of the period, a vertical-axled winch to apply force to ropes, cables, and hawsers.

In those days too, the tiller, which is the long arm that is used to steer the boat, was controlled by a whipstaff, a vertical pole extending to the top deck and pushed or pulled from side to side – similar to a modern-day tillers, but in the vertical orientation rather than the horizontal orientation.

Somehow, 100 passengers crowded onboard Deliverance along with all the supplies! Below, the space was divided into two decks – each with less than 5 feet of headroom! Squatting and crawling were the main means of maneuvering around the boat.

Walking around that boat the other day, and picturing what it might have been like for those 100 intrepid people, filled me with admiration for the raw courage and deep skill that those adventurous sailors of that earlier era possessed.

We may have advanced technologically, but there is still something in the encounter between humans and the sea that remains remarkably unchanged over the centuries.

- Dave and Bodacious Dream

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