Days of Thanks

Less than 900 miles to go to Cape Town, and things are looking all right! We started on this direct line to Cape Town several days ago, racing ahead of a cold front. We rode those winds forward until they passed us by. At that point, the breezes shifted to the opposite tack and we rode those for another few days before they dropped us off here early Tuesday morning. In the dark before dawn, the winds began to weaken and the seas began to calm which made for more comfortable sailing for a change, until they dropped off so much as to make it pretty slow going. The high pressure that was pushing the cold front had finally overtaken us and left us with only occasional minor gusts of wind. However, this isn’t so bad, as there’s a particular strategy commonly used when arriving in Cape Town, South Africa.

Cape Town, known as the “Tavern of the Seas” for its rich and raucous history as a ocean port sits at the point of land known as the Cape of Good Hope, which is one of the windiest areas in the world. The winds persist from the south and southeast around the Cape and can make for a very lively arrival. So, the idea is to get as far south as possible so that we can approach Cape Town from the southwest and have the heavy southeast winds hit us perpendicular on our beam. Currently, we are on a port tack heading southeast down to about 37 Degrees South latitude. From there, we’ll proceed east riding an approaching front before a second expected front helps us begin the final turn to Cape Town.

36.43976S, 4.14354E 36.43976S, 4.14354E

With any luck, we’ll approach in the late afternoon and evening on Tuesday next, getting to the coast after dark when the winds have lost their “thermal enhancements” (which add speed) and quieted down for the evening. This will give us the chance to work our way up the coast to Cape Town and arrive before noon when the “Cape Doctor” is scheduled to  arrive. They call the afternoon wind the Cape Doctor because it blows away pollution and cleans the air. Anyway, it is a wind that picks up every day at about noon, thermally enhanced by the valley behind Table Mountain, the crowning mountain jewel above Cape Town.

Table Mountain - Cape TownTable Mountain above Cape Town – Think I’ll know it, when I see it?

So, a quiet evening here on the South Atlantic, moseying along at 4 to 5 knots. Tomorrow will likely be the more of the same and then we’ll start all that crazy stuff again.

It’s coming on 7 weeks since leaving Bermuda and I’m sure I’m starting to show signs of it. I take a picture of myself every so often, so I can see what I look like. Today’s picture shows me with a much longer beard and mustache, tired eyes and “sunny” completion –  but bedraggled looks aside, I’m feeling pretty good, a bit tired, yes and certainly looking forward to getting to shore soon to take in some of Cape Town’s legendary attractions. I know a hot shower and a cold beer are two of the top attractions on my list.

Thursday marks Thanksgiving in the United States. Those of you who know me or have followed me a while, know that Thanksgiving is a pretty special day for me – my favorite holiday of the year. For me it is the occasion to gather friends from everywhere – to laugh, sing, tell stories and share a bountiful meal. For the past dozen or so years, my house has been the gathering spot for this event. However, this year I won’t be in attendance … but my sister Nancy is flying in from Texas, to host the event for me at my house, and I’m sure it will be filled with just as much fun and warmth and chatter as ever! Here is a shot from last year.

TG 2012Indiana Thanksgiving 2012

While I won’t be having turkey with all the trimmings, I am fortunate enough to have some of the best freeze-dried chicken breast around and a few still crispy Ritz Crackers that will do me just fine. I’ll finish up my repast with some Hershey’s chocolate kisses and a few special liqueur-filled chocolates from my friend Joe Harris that will partly displace the longing for that pumpkin pie I love so much. And lest you think I’m all alone out here, remember there’s Franklin and Bodacious Dream, two of my best friends are with me … and of course, in my heart and memories, there are all of you.

So, to all of you, I wish you a great Thanksgiving, a chance to share your past year’s successes and to express “out loud please!” your gratitude for dear family and close friends. These are indeed the moments of our lives.

Life is a grand adventure, live it all, live it always!

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin!
36.43976S, 4.14354E 

The Bumpy and the Not So Bright

As the weekend approached, we picked up some decent winds which kept us just ahead of an approaching cold front. The winds got up to 25-30 knots from the northwest just in the direction we are heading … so over our left shoulder. This was a good sailing angle that although it was bumpy and very wet, bought us some good distance. In instances like this, I have to throttle back the boat some since I’m a crew of one and can only manage so many things at once … and have to rely on Otto (my auto-pilot) to drive. At one point, Otto got all nervy and took off on a wave and wind gust, topping 17 knots!

Here’s a short video from earlier in November that captures a bit of the last day or so.

Gray Skies and Chompy Waves  

As was expected, we met up with the front Saturday afternoon, which brought with it an instant wind shift of almost 90 degrees to our right. This shift literally came in an instant, and it took me a few minutes of scrambling to straighten out the boat as we had been on a port tack for most of the past few weeks.

To make things more interesting, at the moment of the shift/gybe, Otto, my steady second in command, decided it was time to pack it up and freeze in position. This made things quite interesting, as I made a number of attempts to reset him to no avail, leaving me no choice, but to switch to the backup auto-pilot. I suspect the gybe set off a sensor or something, that now I’ll have to find and fix. But in any case, Otto2 is driving and doing just a fine a job. (Thank goodness for contingencies!) I’m hoping that when the winds settle down – maybe by Tuesday, I can pull Otto and repair him. This isn’t an easy job in the harbor, so I expect it will be no piece of cake to do while sailing.

Grey SkiesGrey Skies and Grey Bird

The new front is pushing winds at us from the south, which down here is the equivalent of a cold front, and when you toss in a misty all night rain, it makes for a few fairly unpleasant nights of sailing. We expect these winds to persist through at least Monday before settling down some for a couple of days. In the meantime, we should be making some good mileage and time, but at the cost of a bumpy, wet and sometimes anxious ride.

0.06210 W, 33.96854S0.06210 W, 33.96854S

Presently we are crossing through the 1000 miles left to our destination and are hoping to keep a 200-mile a day average for a couple more days. After that, we’ll see what the weather has in store for us.

So, from the Deep South Atlantic, where it’s pretty cool – maybe 50, wet and woolly, or as the Brits would say … “quite sporting” … we’ll press on … with Cape Town on our bow.

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (even he’s had enough bouncing!)
0.06210 W, 33.96854S

Ah, Global Symmetries!

After this many weeks at sea, time takes on different dimensions. Three days ago, a weather front passed through and pushed the winds right around the compass, which had a stimulating effect on our sailing progress towards Cape Town. Then the next day, after the last of the front had passed through, the skies moved on and the winds died off, which left us sailing along very slowly through wilting winds.

Sometimes though, quiet changes like these are a welcome relief from the constant attention needed when the wind and waves are all heated up. It’s a little hard to explain, but even normally easy tasks like reading a book require extra energy when so much is going on around you. I’ll read a page or two and then have to put the book down to observe, listen and feel certain that all is as it should be.

East of BrazilThe Big Book of the Blue Sky (photo from earlier November)  – 33.1029W, 4.8169N

The middle of last week, the winds started to fill back in from the north and to swing around to the southwest. I know another front is approaching us from the west, which will likely bring some squally conditions, at the same time a clearing wind is pushing in from the southwest.

Global Wind PatternsIn the Northern Hemisphere, clearing winds come from the northwest, but since we are in the Southern Hemisphere, cold fronts come from the South Pole, which explains why the clearing front is from the southwest. The customary wind patterns that exist in the Northern Hemisphere are all the same in the south, but the directions are reversed down here! Ah, global symmetry! In any case, as I write this, we are sailing along at a pretty good clip making 9 and 10 knots towards our destination, as the winds build in anticipation of this new front that should arrive later tonight.

Here is a video that was shot earlier in the month that surveys the horizons and sees squalls approaching. I figure by the time you see this video, that I will have met up with squalls like the ones I am pointing out in the video.

Squalls Approaching (video from earlier November)

Besides monitoring the weather and calculating how it might affect our course, life onboard follows a pretty general routine. At first light, I give Bodacious Dream a regular checkup to see if anything has happened in the dark and groggy hours of the night. During the day, I’m jumping around making the necessary changes to sails and gear and keeping check on everything, while I think about the menu for the evening to tease myself with thoughts of good things to come. Usually I end up writing these updates in the middle of the day, when I’m trying to stay out of the bright heat of the sun.

32.9431W, 2.0591S
Showtime at the Apollo (photo from earlier November)  – 32.9431W, 2.0591S

Towards the evening, I get ready for the “big show” – by which I mean sunset. With no mountains or buildings out here for the sun to slip behind, she rises up at the horizon line and sets just the same. So, depending on cloud cover, and atmospheric conditions, and the color and movement on the surface of the water at that time, every setting is unique, with some decidedly more spectacular than others.

During this time, I try to relax and simply watch, sometimes accompanied by the birds who follow along behind the boat floating effortlessly back and forth, like seamstresses sewing back together the wake the boat has made in the water. As darkness falls, I watch the bright stars and planets make their appearance. This time of night can be a bit tricky, as I must continue to perform actions around boat, but as there isn’t enough light in the sky, sometimes my observation of what I’m seeing gets mixed in with my intuitions of what I think I’m seeing.

But then, night enfolds us, at which point I try and weave my little 20-minute patches of sleep into a fabric large enough to cover my body’s needs. And then, soon enough daylight announces its arrival, the sun peaks over the horizon and the routine begins once again. Today, we have about 1600 miles left to Cape Town. That may seem like a relatively short distance given the 6000 miles we’ve logged since leaving Jamestown, Rhode Island on October 2nd – but, that’s still a full week of sailing until we arrive in Cape Town – during which time, a lot can happen.

10.47372S, 33.93614W	10.47372W, 33.93614S 

Thinking about you all making plans for Thanksgiving … always among my favorite holidays.

– Dave and Bodacious Dream
10.47372W, 33.93614S

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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!


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.


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., 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.


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

Voices in the Night

11.09.13 - 33.08023W, 2.79826SAs I write this, it’s Friday out here … right about noon. We continue banging and slapping our way down around that bulge of the Brazilian coast heading in the direction of Recife (the fifth largest city in Brazil, with a population of ONLY 3.7 million!) It’s around 285 miles away yet, and we expect the winds to keep building today and tomorrow, as we get closer. Hopefully once we get there, the winds will start to shift easterly, and make our passage a bit less bumpy.

To be honest, I could use a break, as these “tossed around” conditions have been going on now for about ten days straight … beginning in the more northern trade winds, then even into the doldrums, which instead of living up to their name, turned into just another heavy squall zone. And now through these more southern trades.

In any case, we’re here and feeling good and knocking them off – one mile at a time. Maybe 48 more hours … which seems like a long time, but I’ve been out here 5 weeks now, so I guess a couple more days will be just fine.

Waves and more wavesOtto the auto-pilot … and the waves … and the clouds.

Last night at 22:27 hours, Bodacious Dream, Franklin and myself all sailed across the equator for the first time. Bo may count her “taxi” ride from her birthplace in Wellington, New Zealand as her first time, but on her own hull, under her own sail – this was her first too. It’s customary out at sea to have a bit of a celebration on such occasions – and those whose first times it is, often get played upon – dumped on with a bowl of leftovers from the galley … oatmeal, mayonnaise and such gooey things … and then made to sing a song or something. Well, last night was a bit more civilized … we shared the last of the cookies, ate chocolate and tossed a few morsels to Neptune. I was just about to open a bottle of special stuff that Joe Harris had thoughtfully provided, when blam – new winds and squalls forced me to put it away. I’ll offer up a toast tonight at sunset for everyone, for all of you, for Neptune and for us three newbies.

So, maybe you’re wondering who’s Franklin? Well, Franklin is my designated guardian … provided to me after this year’s Trans-Pac by my awesome crewmates aboard Bodacious IV. Franklin is a soccer ball complete with a drawn on face! A cousin of Wilson, no doubt … that other soccer ball made famous in the “Cast Away” movie with Tom Hanks.

FranklinSay what you want about him being only a ball, he’s still fun to have around.

In other news, yesterday I spotted and photographed these birds flying overhead. Out here any bird sighting instantly piques your interest. You kinda feel like a cat … “Oh boy! A bird! Come over this way, little bird!” Anyway, I’m not all that good at identifying birds … so, I sent the photo to Tegan Mortimer, our Earthwatch scientist, who wrote that great Science Notes blog post directly preceding this one … and she said …The birds are a type of Tropicbird. I’m not 100% sure what species they are. They’re probably White-Tailed Tropicbirds, though they might be Red-Tailed Tropicbirds. I’ve uploaded the sighting to iNaturalist and put out a request for help with the identification. New Englander that I am, I don’t know much about these birds, so will try to get back to you with some more information.” Good enough for now. Thanks Tegan!

Tropic BirdsWhite-Tailed Tropicbirds or Red-Tailed Tropicbirds?

Put this in the “long_time_at_sea” folder, but there are a LOT of curious sounds out here and they become especially noticeable at night. Also, as time goes on, and especially once fatigue sets in … the sounds take on these eerily human meanings. Most prominent among them, is the “chorus” (which emanates from the whine of the auto-pilot motors) and there is the “old man” whispering incoherent things to me (that would be the humming sounds from the hydro-generator) and so on.

Last night, there was a new sound – a kind of urgent cracking sound. It seemed to come from below decks. I could hear it snap more intensely each time the boat hit a flat trough. I finally dove below and looked around. Turned out it was my Atlantic Cup Co-Skipper  Matt Scharl‘s fishing pole, which had come loose, which caused the tip to whip around with each bounce and slap against the underside of the deck. Whew … another voice in the night put to rest! Grateful it wasn’t anything worse than that. I tell you though, the less sleep you get, and the more repetitive conditions become, the easier it is to understand how people might begin to see and hear things that may or may not really be there. So far, think we’re doing ok on that score.

Well, that’s enough for now. Hopefully in a day or so, conditions will be better and I can sit for a longer period of time and do a more thorough update.

Signing off,

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin
33.08023W, 2.79826S

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

And here’s the mailing list sign up page … 

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