Gybing from Year to Year

:: Monday, December 30, 2013

Hello to you all from the messy, cold, drippy, splashy and pounding Southern Ocean!

So, for the past 36 hours, we’ve been working our way through this weird high-pressure system that while it has moved south of me has still managed to keep me locked in a kind of “counter” wind. It’s finally starting to loosen its grip and allow the winds to swing back around (moving counter-clockwise) to my left. Once that happens, then I can adjust my course back to the left and resume sailing along Latitude 40 on a more direct course towards New Zealand.

orang_sail_550The Orange and Gray … 41.309362S, 39.09651E 

During this period, I’ve mostly been hunkering down and trying to let the boat just do her thing. I have to periodically adjust things to redirect her along the best wave angle to avoid anymore pounding than necessary when she kicks up, hops over a wave and belly flops into a trough. To further complicate things, there is this current that I can see is trying to help me, but alongside of that, there is this wind that is blowing against the current, and together they combine for a very chaotic and confusing set of waves to pick our way through. It’s alternately annoying, worrisome and aggravating. It also takes a lot of mental focus to keep your head about you … and I’ll be honest and admit that more than once in the past few days, I’ve yelled out at whomever (or whatever) is doing this, to just “CUT IT OUT!” Lotta good that does of course, but still sometimes it feels good to rail against the Fates. Big waves bring out big emotions sometimes!

To cut back on howling time, and to keep me focused, I’ve got about five books I’m reading at the present. Richard Branson’s autobiography, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, a book on sleep, Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw and another one I just finished on the brain, called Incognito. When the roll of the waves makes reading too difficult, I let my mind drift off on various thought streams; houses I’ve yet to build, trips I’ve yet to take, meals I’ve yet to eat, hikes in the mountains and just about anything else that keeps my mind awake and engaged. It’s a strange multi-dimensional game sometimes, steering the boat around waves and yourself around boredom, all the while you are stuffed inside some serious foul weather gear and needing to keep your critical electronics dry inside a tiny room with two open windows!

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Sippin’ the scene with a straw … 38.251451S, 24.799928E 

New Year’s Eve is the next big event onboard. Franklin, BoDream and I don’t have any plans at the moment, but I’m sure it will involve an interesting meal, maybe there’s a little Bailey’s Irish Cream left from my friend Joe Harris and I’ll pull off a song or two from the iPad to play. Unfortunately, I’ll have to sing Auld Lang Syne from memory, so I may miss some of the words … but I doubt many will complain!

Beyond that, we’re wishing each and every one of you a special coming year where your dreams become realities and your heart grows ever stronger.

So, back to it here … the winds are starting to move in my favor, and as soon as the waves change too, then we’ll be off hopefully on a couple day eastward run towards New Zealand!

:: Thursday, January 2, 2014

Back again after a couple good days of sailing. New Year’s is behind us and today is a great day out here in the Southern Ocean. The winds filled in from the North and that has allowed me to beam reach eastward all day long at a pretty strong clip.

As is typical of late, towards the end of the afternoon, the winds ease back some, which offers a nice respite at sunset. This has allowed me time to relax and enjoy the sunsets, sometimes with a piece of cheese, or an apple or (for me) a fancy cracker appetizer!

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Southern Ocean Cinema … 41.329132S, 49.98871E 

Each night the sunset is something pretty special. Tonight’s was especially dramatic, and as I was taking a number of photos of the sky, one of my friendly bird entourage dropped into the photo. It’s a special treat watching these guys soar back and forth across the path I’ve cut through the water, presumably searching for food that I might have freshly stirred up.

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Part of the crew at this point … 41.329783S, 49.24377E

As the sunset progressed, it became a sky full of fire and ended in one long glowing streak  against blue … pretty amazing stuff. It’s now dark and the stars are out. They hang so close to the horizon out here, I feel like I could pick them like berries off a bush. A most magnificent night it is, especially when one is sailing along at a smooth 8 knots towards lush New Zealand!

Be back soon with more … including an announcement about our all new Explorer Study Guides!

- Dave, Bodacious Dream & Franklin … (who had his first new year at sea) 

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Latest Position: January 3, 2014 – 17:20:36 UTC … 41.464783S, 52.647433E

Sunshine and Squealing Winds

Following our slow trek south, once we found the trade winds last Saturday, life took quite the dramatic turn. From days of frustration with slow going, we were suddenly thrown into days (and nights) of constant squalls and struggling with the heaving waves, quick wind changes, steady pounding as well as the squealing sounds and lack of sleep that accompany them.
November 1, 2013
A moment of “relative” calm … 44.8432W, 20.3332N

Last night, Thursday, was a night of incessant squalls, during which an analogy for them jumped into my mind. Imagine crossing a 6-lane expressway where there are a lot of bigger trucks mixed in with the cars. So, the trade winds are similar in that there are lanes of clouds (cars) right next to lanes with squalls (trucks.) And since I can’t run fast enough to go between them without getting hit, I just keep getting run over by the squalls – again and again.

Sea DragonNow that I think of it though, if this were a thousand years ago, and there were no expressway analogies, I can totally see how sea dragons would be a logical alternative. In fact, I’m finding it’s kind of hard NOT to personify the weather … especially when there’s no one else on board with whom I can commiserate.
Typically on a regular night, by midnight, the squalls have calmed down, and we only see a couple more before dawn … but last night, they never stopped. From the time the sun set, to well after dawn, they just kept coming … so, with my first mate, “Otto” auto-piloting the boat, I ran around making adjustments to the lines, as we ploughed our way through the chaos of increasing wind speeds, sudden shifts in wind direction and the constant and crazy waves.At present, we are less than 400 miles from our waypoint, which is where we will cross into  the 100-mile band of sea known as the “doldrums” (again, that’s the low-pressure area around the equator where the prevailing winds are almost always calm.) In joking with the weather gurus over at Commander’s Weather, they are assuring me that by Saturday, I’ll be complaining about not enough wind. So, it’s always something, isn’t it?
November 2, 2013Where in the Wide World We are … 37.96625W, 11.67275N

As all this action has pretty much consumed my day and nights, I haven’t seen or done much else. You can bet the local sea life knows where to go when weather’s like this. For us, with no shelter and about as far from an Irish pub as one could be, we must proceed with our regular but now increasingly difficult-to-perform tasks. Especially challenging is boiling water and pouring it into the freeze-dried dinner pouch at night; lately this is being done with great care I can assure you.candy wrappersDuring one of the bigger squalls last night, a big wind shift caused the bucket of seawater that contained my little citizen-scientist project of decomposing aluminum foil from the candy wrapper to tip over. But I can say, at this point, 50% of the foil was still intact with the balance broken into smaller pieces. In time, I suspect it would all disappear. How long? Not sure.

I’ll finish with something from the “too-beautiful-to believe” file. On Wednesday night, the winds dropped into the high teens, which made for more comfortable conditions. As I sat there in my spot in the cockpit, looking aft (backwards) out of the boat, I saw the first of what turned into a flurry of shooting stars. I was blessed with many more that night – several dozens of stars fell across the night sky. If I remember correctly, this is the time of year for the Leonid meteor shower - and I guess I had the perfect seat for it. I remember late in our sailing season back home (in Indiana,) some of the older sailors trying to get me to go out on the lake and watch the Leonid shower. I never went, thinking how cold it would be. Now I can see why they went, and why I was silly not to as well.

OK, that’s about all I can think of right now, except that it sure smells like an old sailor lives onboard this boat!

– Dave and Bodacious Dream
37.96625W, 11.67275N 

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