Schooling in Wild Wind and Weather

Albatross_200Saturday marked one week since leaving Cape Town, South Africa on a course through the Southern Ocean towards Wellington, New Zealand. The Southern Ocean is known for its cold northward flowing waters, its extreme weather but also for its large population of Albatross birds, who have the uncanny ability of seeming to fly forever without ever flapping their wings! This first week, I didn’t make the 1200 miles I was hoping for, as so much time was spent trying to escape the clutches of those high-pressure weather systems that keep the southern tip of South Africa insulated from the steady march of cold fronts that move southwest to northeast off the Southern Ocean.

This mix of cold fronts which are low-pressure systems, rotate clockwise here in the southern hemisphere while the high-pressure systems rotate counter-clockwise – and which generate a mostly steady stream of westerly winds, which is what I need to ride to get me to New Zealand. The dynamic combination of these two systems is what generates productive sailing winds. However, this past week, the highs have dominated the region and I have only had two cold fronts pass, one rather weak and the other last night rather robust.

Coming as I do from the far milder climes of the Midwestern Great Lakes, I am having to quickly learn these new weather systems and waters and to synchronize my experience and intuitions with this new ocean. Overall, this has made the past week pretty challenging. However, as the blustery front moved on today and the 30-knot winds diminished, a more steady westerly wind developed that allowed me to sail quite quickly through last night with wind speeds in the 17 knot range. That pace is more manageable on a boat like Bodacious Dream than the far pushier 30-knot winds.

Bodacious Dream, being a racing boat and so light in weight, can really move! While other world-crossing sailors often have larger, heavier boats and can make use of all the wind 30 knots can provide, I only need 15 to 20 knots for a really quick ride. So, when the winds get much higher, it becomes a lot of work for me to single-handedly keep this racehorse under control and not have her gallop off too fast.

splash2_550Earlier in the week … 35.394364S, 13.294403E

I know all this high-pressure, low-pressure extreme weather talk is dominating my narrative since leaving Cape Town, but that’s what’s happening, my friends! So, to recap, here’s the pattern as best as I can explain it.

The routine repeats itself every couple of days. First off, the winds begin to build up from the north and the northwest as a cold front approaches, pulling the winds from the high-pressure system in toward it. I set my course to the east and sail with those winds and watch for the telltale signs of the approaching cold front, typically about 24 hours away. Once I see squally conditions forming, I know that the front is approaching and that at some point, without warning, the winds will start to diminish, indicating the coming of an abrupt wind shift over to the southwest as the actual line of the front passes. At this time, I gybe the sails, but keep the boat on the same course, which means, I move the sails to the OTHER side of the boat and keep on sailing. Often, for an hour or two, the only difference is a change in temperature downward until a few hours AFTER the front has passed, at which point the clouds start to part and the sun begins to shine. Then, maybe 6 to 8 hours after that, the skies have cleared up and we continue sailing eastward on the southerly breezes … UNTIL they shift around to the north again and the pattern starts all over again.

I’m not even going to TRY to explain this map! 

This basic pattern is the one that is expected to continue for about 5 weeks, until we hit New Zealand where more local weather conditions will dictate different strategies for our arrival. This is probably why the Southern Ocean is so often referred to as a “desolate” sea. How many people would want to put up with these kind of knockabout conditions, unless it served some larger purpose, as it does in my case!

So, my daily routine has readjusted itself to match up with these weather patterns. This means that unlike at home when you get up and start your day, out here, I never quite know when the day begins as I am almost always somewhat awake and working to manage the boat or take care of something … sleeping only for brief intervals of 15 to 20 minutes. Such short intervals bring a little extra peace of mind as well as allowing me to keep an eye on the boat and to look out for other ships.

A not untypically beautiful Southern Ocean sunset … 40.54816S, 34.195064E 

In the midst of all this, I try to hold to some semblance of a personal routine as well. I’ll share that with you, if you care to read a little further.

Around sunrise, I take a couple of quick naps and then toast the day with my personal favorite beverage … an orange juice box! I’ll then set up the computer and send out a position report, as the Spot Adventures tracker, which did that automatically on Leg #1, isn’t active in this “desolate” part of the world. Once that is done, I’ll check instrument readings and write in my ship’s log the goings on for the past hour or so. After that, I might settle down and read for a bit or watch the waves and the sky.

I don’t generally take a lunch, but rather snack on foods through the day. Beef Jerky, crackers, cheeses, fruits and chocolate make up my most important food groups. At least a couple of times during the day, I’ll take over driving and allow Otto, the auto pilot a chance to relax. Once sunset happens, I leave it to Otto drive through the night. All through the day, depending on the wind direction and speeds, I make adjustments to the sails, plot navigation and make notes in the ship’s log. As I said, higher winds mean more sail adjustments … from reefing the mainsail to reefing the jib to taking the jib down and resetting it again.

I like to have my dinner late at night, after the sun has set and the winds have stabilized for the night. I’ll search through my “pantry” of freeze-dried foods and pick out something that sounds good … not that the choices aren’t already well known to me! Somewhere between 22:00 and 24:00, I’ll boil my water, mix up my food and then sit out on deck and dine al fresco under the stars! Something about the setting makes the food seem worthy of a five-star Michelin award – though last night the outside deck was closed due to inclement weather!

Franklin, Food and Fine Reading

I’ll then spend the rest of the night reading and napping on and off waiting for dawn to arrive at which point the routine begins all over again.

I wish there were more exciting events to report, but for the past few days, life has been a bit mundane … with the exception of the occasional big waves that crash over the cabin top and deck, the 30-knot winds and the incessant squally rain of last night. But aside from that, there’s nothing too exciting going on around here! Believe me, last night, even though all my Midwest friends tell me how cold it is there right now, I still found myself wishing I was there … that is until the clouds broke and the sun started to shine again!

That’s it for now … Wow, the new year is almost upon us! All good wishes to all of you for a great one!

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (my bouncing buddy)

Currently @ … 39.803250S, 35.970750E 

Christmas in the Southern Ocean

It’s Christmas Eve here in the Southern Ocean. Bodacious Dream, Franklin (the ball boy) and I are enjoying the day even though today’s winds have been less than generous. Last night the winds kicked up, but against a strong current, which made for very confusing seas and sailing that was less than comfortable. This morning, as the sun rose, the winds flat out disappeared, and the seas settled down, such that we are just barely moving along at the moment. This gives me some time to relax, to nap and even to sing a few Christmas carols to myself! (Franklin just winces!)

Now, I know some of you may not have gotten over to Facebook to get the word that we departed Cape Town Saturday morning. Before we left I had spent a few days up at the top of Bodacious Dream’s mast making some repairs. Here again is the link to the small FB photo album I included in the last post, but here’s a never before seen short video I made of the splendid views from the top of that mast.

A Grand View of Cape Town 

Truth be told, I’ve been a bit melancholy since leaving, missing my friends and thinking of my family and the holidays. This year, as I did last year, I am spending the holidays away at sea. Next year, I’m planning on staying home and enjoying them properly amidst fine company.

The next five or six weeks will likely consist of our encountering an ongoing series of frontal weather passages. Every couple of days, a cold front should arrive, moving winds from north to south, followed by a day or two of erratic winds before another cold front arrives. I’m told this will prove a regular routine that I’ll soon grow used to. So we’ll see if things play out that way. In any case, I’m already looking forward to getting to New Zealand and seeing old friends there! In the meantime, I’ll distract myself tonight by keeping an eye out for miraculous happenings in the Christmas Eve sky!

One of the longer ones … 

There has been a rather regular flow of ships passing me the last couple of days; most of them coming from or going towards the Pacific Ocean. Some are very large, some not so large at all. Yesterday, I had a fishing boat pass by very close to me and we talked on the radio for a bit. He asked where I was sailing to, as he could tell I was heading east, and he was excited when he heard I was headed to New Zealand – and even more excited to learn that I was sailing alone. He wished me the best of sailing and a safe passage. That’s a pretty kind gesture coming from a fisherman, as these gentlemen make their life on the sea and have a rather protective relationship with it. I feel in a way as though he crossed my path just to welcome me into his waters and to wish me a safe passage.

Any other visitors I’ve had, have flown in to see me … lots of birds and flying fish, but I still have yet to see a whale. I was certain that by now, that I’d have spotted one, as some of the sailors in Cape Town had indicated there were a few pods roaming in these waters. I did see a few seals near Cape Town. It seemed as though I had surprised them, as they stopped what they were doing and watched me for a while before plunging back underwater. You can be sure, I’ll continue to keep an eye out for interesting wildlife.

So, as night has arrived, my attention turns to food. For dinner tonight, I’m planning Chicken Fajitas (from which I’ve painstakingly removed the beans) and fresh tortillas. I’ll toss in an extra ration of chicken (from my special supply) and then a dash of Worcestershire sauce. I’ll finish with some fresh cookies. That sounds a little bit Christmassy, doesn’t it?

In any case, the simplicity of the fare will stand in humble contrast to the magnificence of the sea around me. The meal may soon fade from memory, but where I was on Christmas Eve 2013 will not. My Grandmother once told me, make sure you have memorable experiences in life … someday, you may have very little, but you will always have your memories. Thanks for that advice Granny! I’m doing what I can.

35.23570S, 19.14.7133E

In closing then, a little card wishing you and your friends and your families, a most memorable holiday. I’ll be thinking of you all, as I take my short Christmas Eve walk tonight around the decks!

– Dave, Bodacious Dream & Franklin (who just keeps rolling with it)

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.)

Cape Town Views #2

Tuesday here in Cape Town was crazy windy. Actually, it’s been crazy windy for a couple of days. Sunday was nice enough, but Monday and today had the wind blasting us with both barrels. Yesterday, Tim Eades and I were working on Bodacious Dream at the same time we were experiencing gusts over 40 knots … with sustained winds in the 30’s all around the harbor.

Today, I had to climb to the top of the mast to make some repairs to the wind wands and so Tim, Steve (an instrument guy) and I tried to avoid the worst of the winds by starting early. So there I was at 7:30 am at the top of the mast where for a couple of hours I worked on the mast sensors while rocking back and forth in 45-knot winds! We heard that other boats clocked winds as high as 62 knots! Wild! It was quite a game of patience and nerves handling tools and small parts and screws. Unfortunately, when I got done with the work we had planned, we came upon another problem, which means I will have to go back up the mast tomorrow. I cringe to even look at the weather forecast!

Dave really up at the “top” of the mast … 

Cape Town is renowned for its winds this time of year as the weather systems compress the winds that push around Cape Point and move on up the Western Coast of South Africa.

I’ve added some photos taken along the coast as I made a trip to see the actual Cape of Good Hope. Along the way, we happened upon a pair of wild ostriches and their young down by the sea.

Cape of Good Hope OstrichesWild Ostriches

We also came across some wild baboons. As I learned, baboons are quite smart, and have caused quite a few problems in the neighborhoods around the area. At the same time, the animal control and various management services have to work hard to keep the animals safe and independent.

Cape of Good Hope BaboonsBaboons

And, of course, there were penguins as well. But I’ll have more to say on them later.

Cape of Good Hope
Right there at the Point … 

In the meantime, for the past week or so, work has been progressing on the boat as I make the necessary modifications and repairs so that this next leg proceeds even more efficiently and enjoyably than the last. Some of the repairs we’ve made have been to the mast instruments, hydro generator mount, spray shields and engine. Boats are always in use and so require regular maintenance to keep them working properly.

Salt, the main difference in the water of the ocean compared to the fresh water of the Great Lakes where I grew up sailing, causes all sorts of corrosion and it’s a constant battle to stay ahead of those effects. It really takes some careful thinking to try and anticipate where it’s going to cause the next problem. Zippers are a particularly persistent problem. You wouldn’t think so, but the metal part of a zipper condensates and attracts the salt, and since zippers sometimes don’t get much use, the salt cakes up in the mechanism and freezes the zipper in place – so coat pockets, bags and such are always giving me problems!

Table Top MountainCable Car up on Table Mountain with the “Table Cloth” Spilling Over …

So, as of today, we’re in pretty good shape with Bodacious Dream. The action list is down to a few minor items, and some shopping for fresh foods. Tim has been a tremendous help, not only with man-hours, but with his many suggestions and reminders as well. He’s heading home tomorrow as I begin looking for a weather window that will allow me a clean getaway from Cape Town. As of today, we’re hoping for some time Friday, Saturday or else, Monday morning for that chance. I’ll be keeping you posted … but soon enough we’ll be off, and commencing the 7000-mile voyage to Wellington, NZ.

So, it looks like I’ll be spending Christmas at sea again this year, as I did last year when I approaching the end of my Trans-Atlantic crossing from Portugal. Once again, I’ll be looking up into the night sky hoping for a glimpse of Santa as I take my traditional midnight walk … even if once gain, it’s just a couple loops around the boat!

So, stay tuned, the next leg is soon to start!

– Dave and Bodacious Dream

Tegan’s Science Notes #2 – Wind and Weather

(This is the second in a series of “Science Notes” from from our ocean scientist colleague, Tegan Mortimer, who works with Earthwatch Institute. These postings follow from encounters with nature that I have on the water. Tegan’s first Science Notes was onBird Migrations” – and can be found at the link or on our Citizen-Science Resource Page. Tegan’s Science Notes support our “Learning and Discovery” agenda, which we will keep expanding on over the course of the circumnavigation. Such “custom-made” reports we feel are particularly appropriate for sharing with the younger learners in your world. Please Contact Us if you have questions or suggestions on how we might better serve the interests of young learners and their mentors. Thank you, and take it away, Tegan!)

Today we’re going to talk about a very important topic; wind and weather. Dave spends a lot of time paying attention to the wind and weather patterns that control his journey. There are two types of weather patterns that Dave is confronted with: global weather and local weather.

Let’s start with global weather. These are weather and wind patterns which occur over very large parts of the globe and don’t change very much if they change at all. These are things like the trade winds and the doldrums.

So how does it work? Let’s start with the most basic concept of weather: warm air rises and cold air sinks. Understanding this concept is the first key to understanding weather and wind. Imagine that the air around you isn’t all this one big cloud of, well, air; instead it’s lots of pockets or parcels of air like cushions all packed together. By the way, this same phenomenon happens under the ocean with seawater as well as inside the earth’s core with magma.

Now, going back to the atmosphere, these different pockets can have different properties; different temperatures, different moisture contents and they can move independently of each other. A pocket that’s close to the surface of the earth is going to receive more heat from the earth than a pocket of air higher up in the sky. This warm pocket of air will start to rise and as it rises, it cools down until it reaches a point where it starts sinking again. This process than will start all over again as parcels of air keep going up and down. This movement of air upwards is sometimes called an updraft.

Now what does this all have to do with winds? First we have to imagine that we have a parcel of warm air at the ground. Like a balloon this air is going to rise, but as it rises, its temperature goes down. Eventually this air cools enough that it will start sinking back down. So we end up with our air going up and down over and over.

Let’s imagine this process of air rising and then sinking stretched over a longer distance, so that once the air sinks, it flows across the surface picking up heat until it rises again. The surface of the earth is covered by a series of these rising and sinking cells.

Global Wind Patterns

If we look at the diagram above we see that there are three major cell types. I’m going to talk about the Northern Hemisphere here, but it is exactly the same in the Southern Hemisphere – just flipped the other way! Hadley Cells transport air from the tropics towards the equator where it rises and is carried northward aloft. The Ferrel Cells cover the mid-latitudes and carry air which sinks at the tropics north to the Polar Cells which transport cold air south from the poles. This system helps to distribute the excess heat in the equator and tropics out to the mid-latitudes and polar regions.

What you’ll also notice is that this system of circulation gives rise to the major winds, especially the trade winds which Dave has been experiencing, and which are so essential to trans-Atlantic crossings.

Now it’s time to introduce the second major concept: high and low pressure. When you have a steady stream of air rising, it’s not going to be able to sink back down because there is more air pushing up behind it; instead it flow outwards before sinking down again. Where the air rises and disperses is a low pressure and where the air converges and sinks is a high pressure. Air will always flow from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure. This “pressure” concept is found throughout biology and chemistry as well.

If we look at the equator, between the two Hadley cells, we see that air is traveling towards the equator, rising, and then flowing outwards. This is a Low Pressure area. Conversely, when we look at the area between a Hadley cell and Ferrel cell we see that the air converges aloft, sinks and then flows outwards, this is a High Pressure. What this means is that there is a low pressure all the way around the equator, a high pressure around latitude 30° and another low around latitude 60°. Air naturally flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. When this is combined with the revolution of the earth you get the major winds.

highs and lowsSource:

You’ve probably heard about high and low pressures in your local weather reports too. High and low pressure areas occur when the surface pressure is either higher or lower than the surrounding “sea level pressure” which can happen for a variety of reasons. These pressure systems are responsible for most of our local weather. The same process that I described early is occurring here as well, a low pressure is air moving up and away and a high pressure is air moving down to the earth.

The GENERAL RULE is that air flows into a low pressure and away from a high pressure. In the northern hemisphere winds flow clockwise around a high pressure and counter-clockwise around a low pressure, and it’s the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere. Low pressure systems are usually associated with cloudy, wet, and “unsettled” weather while high pressure systems bring dry and clear conditions.

So, let’s finish off with a problem. Below is a picture of winds (taken from a very cool site) which are forming a weather system. Based on this map we can say a lot about the local weather. Are we looking at a high pressure or a low pressure? What types of weather are associated with low pressures? What types of weather are associated with high pressures? What do you think the conditions are like in the area shown? 

Let’s break it down based on what we’ve learned. So we are in the northern hemisphere so we can figure out if this is a high or a low pressure based on the circulation of the winds. They are circulating counter-clockwise which means that this is a low pressure. Another clue is that the winds are circulating into a tight center rather than out of an area like we can see to the left. The bolder lines on this map show stronger winds so we can see that there are strong winds around the low pressure and lighter winds around the higher pressure to the west. We also know that low pressures being rain and cloudy weather. So looking at this map we can say that most of the northeastern United States is experiencing rainy or stormy weather with high winds. In fact this is a map showing wind conditions during Hurricane Sandy last year.

(Tegan Mortimer is a scientist with Earthwatch Institute. Contact Tegan directly at Tegan Mortimer <tmortimer (at) earthwatch (dot) org>)

Cape Town Views #1

Hello from Cape Town, South Africa!

It’s been a week since I arrived here, and except for the actual arrival announcements, I know I have been missing from the news cycle. That’s because about a third of the time, I’ve been asleep, another quarter of the time, I’ve been eating, and the rest of the time … well, who knows where that went!

Bodacious Dream is sitting well at the Royal Cape Yacht Club. I’ve been able to wash the salt from her and make a list of work to be done, parts to be ordered and various other steps that need to be taken before I can take off again on Leg #2 of the Circumnavigation which will take me to Wellington, New Zealand, which is only about 7300 miles east of here! Many thanks to the good folks at the RCYC for hosting me and making me feel welcome there!

Royal Cape Yacht Club
BoDream at the Royal Cape Yacht Club w/ Table Mountain in the background

As curious fate would have it, we arrived just before the passing of Nelson Mandela. It has been an amazing experience being here during this time. There are many memorials in the various places I’ve gone, and most every shop or business has some recognition of him and the leadership role he played in the ending of apartheid in South Africa. I got quite a history lesson from a tour guide named John, when I went to see the statue at the entrance to the prison where Nelson Mandela walked free in 1990.

Nelson Mandela Statue
The Mandela Statue in front of what was at the time of his release in 1990 called Victor Verster Prison

This picture shows the gates of the prison from which he was finally released after serving 27 years, and the long road that he walked down which is symbolic of his book, The Long Walk to Freedom. John himself grew up during the years of apartheid and had been a teacher. He talked of the stranglehold that apartheid had on his country and the pressures he was put under as a supporter of Mandela, which forced him to leave South Africa, for the safety of his family. His stories brought history directly into our present day lives!

We also visited the beautiful monument to the Afrikaans language, which has roots from the three continents of Africa, Europe and Asia. It’s a striking construction from many angles with much symbolism in the bridging of the various languages of the early settlers in Africa.

Monument to the Afrikaans language
Afrikaans Language Monument

Cape Town is known for many things, but its signature symbol is Table Mountain, the flat top mountain that is the beautiful backdrop for the entire city. This bustling and cosmopolitan city of 3.74 million people has many facets to it, from the large commercial shipping harbor which hosts ships from around the world, to the busy waterfront, to the World Cup Stadium and many other areas … all of this happening under the watchful eye of Table Mountain.

Cape Town can be a very windy place as the prevailing South Easterly winds come from the Indian Ocean where they are blocked by Table Mountain, and so forced to blow either around the sides or over the top of it, which creates interesting wind patterns around the city. They also create a phenomenon of great natural beauty that’s known as the “Table Cloth” on Table Mountain. As warm winds are forced over the top and into the higher altitudes, they condense into clouds that settle on top of the plateau and then flow down the sides until they reach the warmer air and dissipate into thin air. It makes for a beautiful scene. Here’s a short video of the Table Cloth in action!

The Table Cloth descends over Table Mountain

So, it’s back to work on Bodacious Dream here and looking ahead for a good weather window to depart Cape Town and head to New Zealand. I hope you’ve all enjoyed the journey so far. There’s more to come from here as well. Today, I took a trip to the actual Cape of Good Hope and visited a Penguin colony. More on those travels in a couple of days.

Earthwatch ArticleEarthwatch Extras from December 10, 2013 

Also, Earthwatch Institute ran a feature story this week about me and about the Circumnavigation with an emphasis on some of the citizen-science projects we’re managing with their help. It’s a pretty cool article, that can be found here.

Best to all of you!

– Dave Rearick

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!)