A Short Delay Before We Get Away!

Well, as sometimes happens … things get a little sticky when the time comes round to depart!

The wizardly Jonathan Pond was visiting here with me over the weekend and we went through a checklist of our various electronic issues to make sure that everything was in order with the satellite communications, computers, Iridium phones and all that electronics magic that is sometimes my arch-nemesis.

Well, as you might guess, we ran into some issues – this time with the Iridium phone, its charger and connecting devices. The Iridium is our fall-back communications system. The connection is supported by 66 low-Earth orbiting (LEO) cross-linked satellites, which operate as a fully meshed network … which basically means it works just about everywhere, but at fairly low bandwidth. We’ll use our KVH Tracphone V7ip unit for higher bandwidth communication when we are in satellite range to make that work.

Spinnaker Testing

Anyway, we are having the new equipment shipped in today … but this is going to delay the departure until Wednesday morning. Wish it wasn’t so … but these are critical components to the operation.

On the upside though, we were able to get out yesterday to test some sails, as well as the hydro generator and we also get some video footage out on the water. The hydro generator worked well, the sails are looking good and everything else seems to be coming together.

So, stay tuned….we’ll be heading out soon!

– Dave and Bodacious Dream

Getting Up to Speed on Citizen-Science

Well, departure time is fast approaching and while it looks like we’re still on track to launch the circumnavigation next Tuesday, October 1st … there looks to be a big storm brewing out in the Atlantic that may delay us a day or so.

That said, I want to start by heaping thanks on Tim Eades for hanging in there with me as we work through the action list, gather pieces and parts, argue with people about time frames, hope for things to arrive on time and commiserate when special orders don’t arrive when expected. But, isn’t that what preparing boats (or ourselves) for life’s challenges is all about? And truth be told, we are having a ball – LOL at ourselves over here. I’m sure if you were here watching us from the pier, you’d be laughing too at our SDSS (Semi-Disorganized Sailor’s Shuffle!)

Everyday has its highlights too. The first of today’s “moments” was adding the new Hurricane Island Outward Bound School logographic up on the boat. Capt. Tim and I are getting pretty tight to the line there.


Even better was yesterday’s highlight … the arrival of Tegan Mortimer from Earthwatch Institute with a box full of scientific research tools for me to use during the circumnavigation.

Here’s a video of Tegan and I opening my box of new science tools. I would have been excited about it … even if there were no vacuum-sealed cookies in the box!

As you may remember (from a previous post,) Tegan is a science coordinator at Earthwatch, and she has been instrumental in bringing me up to speed on the research programs I’ll be contributing to when I’m traveling out into the “data sparse” parts of the oceans. It’s relatively easy to draw data from coastal and near-coastal areas, but in the open ocean, not so … hence, the term … ”data sparse.” While we travel through these areas, Tegan has outlined some ways that we can help to do our part in gathering scientific data … even if the tools we’re using aren’t quite as sophisticated as the ones full-on scientists use.

Tegan has also agreed to serve as a kind of go-to pro for your questions about the ocean. She has also begun to put together a great set of links to “Citizen Science” projects … some of which are specific to our Circumnavigation. We’re very excited about this! Thank you Tegan! You can find our evolving BDX “Citizen Science Resources” page HERE!

So, back to our training session … Tegan explained that we’ll be looking at three different areas in which to gather information. FIRST and easiest involve regular observations of animals, interesting phenomena and debris that we encounter. The great thing about this camera I have is that it geo-tags photos! So, if I see a whale … or some surprising debris, I can take a photo and it will log the GPS location, time of day and date, and that photo can then be analyzed by Tegan and other researchers and added to their geo-specific database of information.

Bodacious Science 101The SECOND area we are going to pursue involves taking samples of water and filtering them to determine the amount of micro-plastics and other microscopic types of things our samples contain. Research vessels have sophisticated ways of doing this, but since we’re more citizen-scientist than career-scientist, we’ll use a much simpler method. You can do this at home yourself if you like. It involves using coffee filters, a strainer and a measured container for water. I’ll collect a specific amount of water in a measuring cup; pour it into the coffee filter held over the strainer, which allows the coffee filter to strain out all the microscopic bits. I will then log and number these samples, take a photo of that sample so it is geo-tagged and email off the results. Easy as that! It will be interesting to see just what can be gained from inspecting these filters.

Bodacious Science 101The THIRD area involves one of Tegan’s special interests, and that is measuring plankton with what’s called a “Secchi Disc, which is a white disc, hung from a tape measure. The idea is to drop it into the water until you can’t see it any more … then once you make sure you have the proper depth, you lift it up until you can see it and then you drop it again until it disappears. You do this with the sun at your back and between 10 am and 2 pm, so the data is consistent. This same scientific method of determining water clarity has been in practice since 1865! Now, what’s cool is all this data can then be logged into the free Secchi app on my iPad and sent back to the researchers. This app (for Android too) is neat in that it will log my passage through these areas, what I found and where I was when I did so. If you check out the app, you will see that there is very little existent data south of the Equator where I am going, so I’ll be contributing some pretty rare first-hand research. Whoo-hoo for science! That’s another thing that makes this trip so much fun … is this exploring and discovering areas of the world from which research scientists very seldom get data!

So, THAT was yesterday. Today Tim and I are finishing up the installation of the hydro-generator, which is a pretty fascinating piece of machinery that I’ll talk about more in a day or two. So, for now, it’s back to work on the boat. Lots to do, but this afternoon I’m hoping to transit into “logistical” mode as the action list grows shorter … because it’s time to start packing gear and provisions onboard!

We’ll be getting more videos on Tegan’s visit up on our BDX YouTube Channel very soon … and when you get the chance, check out the above apps that we’ll be using. Maybe you and some friends would like to sample the water around your area. And sign up for the mailing list, why don’t you?

Again, huge thanks to Tegan for her enthusiastic help in getting our science program underway! I’m sure we’ll hear more from her as the trip progresses!

Until later,

– Dave, Tim, Tegan & Bodacious Dream

One Week till Circumnavigation Time!

Today is Friday, September 20th! That means there are just 10 days left until I depart on my solo-circumnavigation. The days are full from beginning to end with all sorts of things to do … from working on the boat to tracking down equipment and ordering food.

LighthouseToday was no exception as I finished up some small projects, and then spent some time on the computer before going out for another test sail with some of the crew from Bodacious IV. What a beautiful Friday evening sail on Narragansett Bay, not unlike the wonderful open sails that old friends and I used to take Friday nights on Lake Michigan. When I sit here now and think about crossing the oceans, I fall into thinking about how huge Lake Michigan felt back then. Will the feeling be at all similar or will it be something entirely different?

KVH domeThe boat projects are nearly done … well “almost” nearly done. We got the KVH satellite dome back and installed. Later this coming week, I’ll be installing the hydro generator and a new stern hatch. The hydro generator is an impressive piece of ingenuity, which generates electricity directly from the flow of water under the hull. This is one of the initiatives that 11th Hour Racing, our friends that sponsor the Atlantic Cup Race, the first carbon-neutral sailing race in the world, promote to lessen the overall impact of sailing on the environment. Stay tuned for more on that subject, as I put this technology to a real test.

While working on Bodacious Dream, I walk down the dock each day and notice the strange jellyfish that seem to float in the currents as the tide flushes in and out of the harbor. Each day, twice a day at about 6 hour and 15 minute intervals, the tides flow into and out of the harbor raising and lowering the water levels by about 5 feet. Some of the places Bodacious Dream has sailed, the tides range up to 30 feet in water elevation … which as you might imagine stirs up a lot of current as this massive amount of water flows in and out of the bays and nearby inlets.

Truth be told, I’ve grown unreasonably fond of BoDream’s new splashguards …

Today, while walking I took a closer look at the water and had the most amazing time observing the small minnows and fish darting around these translucent jellyfish. These jellyfish just amaze me. They are about the size of a large grape or small plum and their very thin membrane of body has a bluish tint. Actually you can see right through them … and inside, well, I don’t know how to describe it, but there seems to be a small filament of fiber that somehow pulsates and throws off this curious iridescent color. It isn’t just a reflection of the sunlight, but seems to pulsate from within … and I almost think their responses are tied to my being there and hovering over them. Maybe they are communicating with each other or maybe there is some propulsion factor involved, but regardless, the amazing nature of these beauties is a wonder to watch. One thing I better appreciate now is how this life form has managed to survive been for hundreds of millions of years! No easy feat! Guess this is just the beginning of my staring into the mysterious deep! Anyway, here’s video on them to watch!

The Jellyfish beckon … 

I have to keep this short, because with such long days, and more to come, it’s time for some rest … so I can … oh yeah … do it all again tomorrow!

More later.

Dave and Bodacious Dream (and a few thousand of our new friendly jellyfish!)

Circumnavigation/ The View from Two Weeks Out!

Our time here in Rhode Island has passed quickly and our departure date for the Circumnavigation now looms just two weeks away! The excitement builds while quiet anxiety seeps in to fill the gaps. Questions keep circling through my mind … what am I forgetting, what’s going to break, how’s the weather going to be … will there be dragons out there? So while I’m hoping that those questions all resolve themselves peacefully, I know for sure that many unexpected things will arise, and well … that’s the fun of it! Being self-sufficient while sailing across these enormous expanses of ocean, embedded in the deepest wild of nature; this is living as close to the fullness of life as I can imagine. Such thoughts help me to offset the labor of long days at the yard working on the boat!

This weekend produced a number of completed projects and items crossed off the list! Thanks to the help of stalwart friends Tim Eades and Matt Scharl, we have new clutches on the foredeck, and new splashguards to protect me in the cockpit.

BoDream w/ Splashguards
BoDream with her spiffy new splashguards!

Thanks also to Dave, Phil, PJ, Peter and all the guys at Hall Spars, the rig is in and we sail-tested it on Saturday to make sure the tuning is proper. It’s sort of like tuning an instrument, as we tighten the shrouds (which are the wires that hold the mast up) to various tensions to keep the mast in column (straight) when the wind blows. Needless to say, we had a great day of sailing on Saturday to accomplish this with the help of Collin (Dave’s Son) and Carolyn, Phil’s wife. Carolyn is a teacher’s coach and enrichment counselor and hopes to introduce our BDX educational program to first, second and third graders at her schools, as well as to perhaps help us put together more interesting learning ideas. We’re always on the lookout too for others who can help with new ideas and ways to help us share this great expedition – not just with kids, but with everyone! If you have any thoughts, let us know … info@bodaciousdreamexpeditions.com

BoDream SpinnakerEric Wakefield at the North Sails Loft took the time to look over and make any repairs to the sails that I’ll use. On the water, chafe and small tears are often occurrences, and these are best and most properly repaired back on the sail loft floor. Imagine a large gym floor with the sails spread out … much easier to look at and work with them like that. We also got a chance to put up and sail with most of those sails this weekend, and now have them onboard and packed away. Sails are like the engine on the boat only they don’t come with a throttle or gas pedal, so it’s necessary to keep changing sail sizes and shapes to best accommodate the strength and direction of the wind. With the full range of variables in weather we may well encounter around the world, it will be necessary for us to be carrying 8 or 9 various sails with us.

In the meantime, our KVH satellite dome is off being repaired. The hydro-generator mount is nearing completion, auto-pilots are sorted out and we installed a back-up wind wand on top of the mast, that sends wind direction and speed info down to our computer. And to top it all off, Bodacious Dream even got a good washing before I took off for the day on Sunday. Plus I got a few vaccinations this past week too! Shots in the arm! Ouch!

So finally, it’s time to start making the transition from boat projects to logistical work, which means finding, getting, sorting and storing all sorts of gear, charts, food, clothing, paper and pencils, pens and such. Ice cream too, though that will have to be of the freeze-dried variety. But cookies? For sure on that!

At just more than two weeks away from leaving, the well wishes and bon voyage messages come quite frequently. Thanks to all of you for checking in, and keeping me in your thoughts as I head off into this most amazing dream expedition. I promise pockets bursting at the seams with stories when I return, but until then, you can read them as they happen simply by signing up for the email list or by following us on Facebook. Start getting the kids revved up about following us too. We are working on our new Explorer Guides for the trip and already have quite a few other things that will help put a special discovery frame around the expedition.

It’s all happening … almost all at the same time. Be back soon with more!

– Dave and Bodacious Dream

A Whale of a Watch!

Well, it’s now September 5th and it’s less than 30 days until the start of the Bodacious Dream Expedition around the globe! Work continues on Bodacious Dream each day, as we continue to make modifications to improve my ability to sail the boat by myself, and also to make it easier to communicate with you the many wonders we’ll be encountering.

I mentioned briefly in the last update about my trip with Earthwatch Institute Researcher Tegan Mortimer onboard the vessel, Whale Watch. It was great spending time and learning from someone so passionate about her work. As I mentioned, Tegan specializes in plankton and whales – cool huh? – from the tiny to the titanic!

So, here are some interesting facts about whales that I learned:

  1. Did you know that all dolphins are whales, but not all whales are dolphins? Yes, there are differences.
  2. Different whale species are often most easily identified by the shape (or by the absence) of a dorsal fin?
  3. Many Humpback Whales are identified by the coloring and markings on their tails?
  4. Many of these Humpbacks have individual names given to them by researchers, and so are tracked throughout their lives?
  5. Many whale populations are rebounding, but are still greatly reduced from historical records.
  6. My own quick math says that whale populations are approximately about 10% of what they were in the 1800s? If you think about that … sometimes today’s whale watch boats see 10 or more whales at once. Can you imagine what it was like back in 1800s, when that number might have been 100! That’s a lot of big bodies in the water!
  7. There are only about 350-500 of the protected Northern Right Whales still in the Atlantic Ocean, and they ALL pass through the shipping channels outside of Boston.
  8. Each whale species has their own specific dive sequence. Some of these whales show their tail when they dive and some don’t.
  9. pink_dolphinThere is a fresh water adapted dolphin, called the Boto, in the Amazon River that is pink in color? Boto Dolphins are thought to be very magical – believed to be the spirits of ancestors because One very different thing about them is that their necks turn like a person? No other dolphin has that capability. I had to do an image search to see just what they looked like.

Well, I learned so much more from Tegan about whales too. She showed me how to spot whales and how to compare their dive sequence with the reference manual to help make sure that I’ve identified them correctly. I found this to be very helpful because whale sightings happen so quickly sometimes, that it’s not easy to get a picture that can identify the species conclusively.

Learning about Whale’s Dive Sequence

For the circumnavigation, I got a new camera that automatically geo-tags the photographs and videos I take. This will be helpful in collecting all the data necessary to allow Earthwatch whale researchers to use the information. The photos contain info on the latitude and longitude of the picture, as well as the time of day and the direction I am looking when I shot the photograph. The videos will help us to identify the whale from the dive sequences. This is going to be one of the most exciting parts of the trip as I pass through a broad variety of different whale populations and territories.

Another cool thing Tegan explained was how sensors were being used to warn ships of the small remaining world population of Right Whales who all pass through the shipping lanes near Boston.

Looking out for Right Whales

Our trip aboard Whale Watching provided us many other things to see too. We spotted some debris in the water, mostly floating wood and plastics in the harbor. We also saw a very fun and amazing thing – a feeding school of Blue Fin Tuna! These majestic fish have a very distinctive shape to them. The ones we saw were probably 60 to 100 pounds in size, jumping clearly out of the water. The tuna are a warm-blooded fish and can swim as fast as 40 miles an hour!

 Jumping Blue Fin Tunas!

So … many thanks to Tegan and to Earthwatch for providing me the time to learn how to research, catalog and identify the whales I’ll be seeing along the trip.

For now, it’s back to boat projects as we get ready to launch this coming Monday after completing the satellite work as well as finishing the work on and reinstalling the mast. Soon we’ll be out sailing once again, and it will be time to work on loading the boat with all the necessary equipment and food for the trip.

More soon,

– Dave & Bodacious Dream