Tegan’s Science Notes #11: Voyages of Discovery

citizenscienceThe ocean is one of the last unexplored frontiers on earth. We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about the bottom of the ocean. For thousands of years, humans have been undertaking voyages of discovery. Whether the goal has been to find land beyond the horizon, to map the ocean currents or to find new animals unknown to science, the ocean has always been and will continue to be a deep source of knowledge which will always change the way we view and understand the world around us.

Today, science is moving in many new directions at once, and a great civic awakening is happening as everyday people armed only with some time and a passion to explore begin to help shape the future of scientific discovery. I have spoken many times in my previous “Science Notes” about what’s happening in the area of “Citizen Science,” but in this post, in recognition of Dave’s incredible feat of single handedly circumnavigating the globe, I’d like to look back at the relatively brief history of oceanic exploration.

The Great Voyages

Until quite recently scientific knowledge of the oceans was very limited. During the 1700s and 1800s, the British Royal Navy dominated the world’s oceans, which made surveying coastlines and mapping the oceans a practical priority for both the navy and for commerce. It was during this period that accurate navigation (and mapmaking) became gradually more dependable in locating precise positions on the earth, using a combination of latitude and longitude, celestial readings and chronometers. Many of these survey voyages carried additional passengers who acted as naturalists collecting botanical, biological, and geological samples which greatly expanded European scientific knowledge of the natural world.


The most famous of these ‘gentlemen naturalists’ was Charles Darwin. I referenced him before in my science note on glaciers, as he was first and foremost a geologist. Over the course of the five years from 1831-1836 that the HMS Beagle surveyed the coastlines of the southern part of South America and tested the accuracy of 22 chronometers at pre-determined points, Darwin was collecting copious observations and samples of geological, biological and botanical nature in these far-fling regions. It was Darwin’s unique ability to weave his observations together into a theoretical whole that so challenged the accepted thought of the day and elevated the Beagle’s second voyage into one of the most famous scientific voyages made in history.

darwin_200Nearly 40 years after Darwin sailed on the Beagle, a dedicated scientific expedition set off on board the HMS Challenger with the aim “to learn everything about the sea,” – a lofty goal indeed! Findings from this Challenger Expedition laid the groundwork for what would become the science of oceanography. Over the course of five years, Challenger traveled over 70,000 nautical miles conducting scientific exploration with freshly designed equipment and discovering over 4,000 new species of plants and animals.

Mapping the Ocean

captain_cook_200No one person has explored and mapped more of the ocean than James Cook. Captain Cook came from humble origins but his skill at mapmaking and navigation led him in 1769 to be put in command of the HMS Endeavour on an expedition to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun. Cook’s mapmaking skills were so accurate that an early map of Newfoundland was used for more than 200 years after he drew it and differs little from modern satellite images.

cookmap_300After visiting Tahiti, the Endeavour continued west to locate the famed “Terra Australis.” There Cook mapped the entire coastline of New Zealand before continuing east to Australia as the first European to land there. Over the next 12 years, Cook would make three voyages on board the HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution, which explored and mapped previously uncharted areas of the world. As well as providing accurate charts for navigation, Cook’s expeditions also carried scientists who made important observations, especially related to botanical discoveries.

newport_300There is a second special connection of Captain Cook’s expeditions to Bodacious Dream. Both his ships, the HMS Endeavour and HMS Resolution are fairly certainly believed to lie as wrecks at the bottom of Narragansett Bay! The Endeavour, after coming out of Cook’s service, was renamed the Lord Sandwich and is one of several vessels which were sunk to blockade Newport Harbor during the American Revolutionary War. The HMS Resolution was sold and rechristened La Liberté, a French whaling vessel, which was damaged in Newport Harbor in the 1790s and left on the shore. Efforts are ongoing by the Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) to map and locate not only the Endeavour but also other shipwrecks in Rhode Island waters. You can visit their very informative website, and learn about RIMAP’s work right here, or go to the page on the sunken ships here.

Marshall Island Stick Charts

stick_chart_300Not all voyages of discoveries (that we know about) were made by Europeans. The Polynesians and Pacific Islanders had been navigating the South Pacific for thousands of years and likely explored the entire region, an area of over 10 million square miles, well before the period of written history. Along the way, they developed a complex system of navigation, which used stars, the sun, the moon, planets, weather, winds, currents, tides, and natural phenomena like bird migration to help them to travel between the many islands.

An important addition to the history of ocean mapping was the discovery of “stick charts” used by seafarers from the Marshall Islands. These are deceptively simple grids made from small sticks and coconut fronds, which represent the major ocean swells in the South Pacific, with small shells showing the location of islands. The charts showed how the swells interacted with the island shores, the undersea slopes, and currents coming from different directions. While the stick maps were easy to construct, it took many years of study to be able to accurately interpret the real ocean dynamics which they represented.

Mapping the Gulf Stream

As you are well aware from Dave’s journey, the Gulf Stream is a major current in the North Atlantic, which carries warm water from the Caribbean north to the northeast Atlantic and is the strongest surface current in the Atlantic. The impact that the Gulf Stream can have on the length of voyages is tremendous. The first reference to the Gulf Stream is found in a written account of Ponce de Leon’s voyage from Puerto Rico in 1513. American fishermen and whalers plying the waters off the American colonies knew of the current in the late 1600s.

franklin_300It actually took the insights of none other than Benjamin Franklin, the colonial deputy Postmaster General to make clear the existence of the Gulf Stream when in 1769 he published a chart that showed the direction of the flows. His chart of that time is still remarkably accurate. You can read more of Franklin’s very interesting writing about the Gulf Stream and other marine topics in NOAA’s historical archive right here.

Pathfinder of the Seas

Before the late 1800s, there were few comprehensive charts that showed wind and currents across the whole globe. This changed owing to the efforts of one man, Matthew Fontaine Maury.

maury_200Maury joined the US Navy as a young man in 1825 and was posted to the Naval Observatory in 1842, where he began to study ocean currents. By studying and compiling thousands of ships logs he was able to map and calculate the speed of ocean currents based on the deflection of ships from their intended path. He was able to produce maps of average ocean speeds for much of the ocean, which allowed vessels to dramatically reduce the length of their voyages. Maury was nicknamed the “Pathfinder of the Seas” and was integral to the creation of international cooperation in producing accurate hydrological charts for all mariners. He is also referred to as the father of the modern oceanography as well, and his book, The Physical Geography of the Sea, published in 1855, is one of the first books on oceanography.

Modern ocean mapping: Satellites, robots and sonar


Even today, we have only begun to map the ocean. Fortunately, today we have technologies that help us to see below the waves, to scan the ocean floor, to analyze the composition of the water, and to observe how the currents work in real-time. Satellites use the reflectivity of the ocean surface to measure chlorophyll content and sea surface temperature changes. Unmanned robots explore the depth of the ocean collecting readings of temperature, pressure, and salinity. Sonar is used to create high-definition maps of the sea floor. Computers are used to model the movement of currents, the future conditions under changes to currents, temperature and sea level.

Check out these cool websites: Perpetual Ocean and Ocean Motion.

“Standing on the shoulders of giants”

Modern science knows so much more and can do some much more than our predecessors could ever have imagined, but our greater knowledge is only possible because of the amazing feats of those ‘giants’ who set off to explore the world and to challenge the commonly held beliefs and superstitions of their day.

Darwin and the rest, they figured out how the world worked in a more complete sense. Today we are finding out how in flux the natural world is, and how delicate is the balance necessary to sustain life. We now can see with factual accuracy just how fast the natural world is changing.

Every observation Dave logged on iNaturalist (click to see all his sightings listed) or eBird is an important scientific finding, which adds to the wealth of scientific knowledge, now being collected by citizen scientists all over the world. Collecting the type of data needed to understand the broad scale patterns of change occurring all over the globe is increasingly difficult for individual scientists to collect on their own, but by relying on citizens (like you!) to help collect this vital information, it becomes easier to approach important questions.

No matter who or where you are, YOU too can be a scientist!


Join an Earthwatch Expedition. Join iNaturalist or eBird yourself and start tracking what you see around you.

LOGOS2Build a Secchi Disk and use the Secchi App to record your data. Download the mPing App and record your weather. Join Zooniverse and be a scientist from the comfort of your couch. The possibilities are endless!

Explore, discover, and most importantly… have fun!!

For myself, I would like to say that I have had a great time sharing my enthusiasm for the natural world with all of you over the past nine months. Thank you to those of you who reached out and contacted me with thoughts or questions. Keep the Bodacious Dream going and get out and discover!

Wishing you fair winds and following seas,

– Tegan Mortimer 

The Weather Changes like the Weather

Late Thursday night, we passed our 3000-mile halfway point on Leg 3 … always a big milestone! At present, Bodacious Dream and I are sailing in a northeasterly direction trying to position ourselves for some interesting weather that’s between us and the trade winds, which will move us towards the Galapagos Islands.

Saturday, April 12, 2014 – 38.1276S,121.1474W

We’re in a part of the Southern Pacific Ocean that doesn’t get much traffic or attention from weather gurus, so most of the forecast data we use comes from the folks at Commanders Weather – the accuracy of which can vary widely. For example, yesterday’s winds were forecast to be between 12-20 knots, yet most of the day they were from 24-28 knots … a pretty noticeable difference. While they do their best, you can never be certain with weather. So keeping all options in mind, I’ve set up BoDream with the smaller storm sail on the bow for the next few days. As weather’s been a lot on my mind here, I thought I’d talk a bit more about that in this update.

38.545782S, 125.12947W
Cold front waves – 38.520408S,124.282397W

As best I can piece it together, the first upcoming event is a cold front that’s supposed to move up from the south and bring with it winds of 20 knots  – but they could be higher of course, and should the front carry with it squalls and rain storms, you need to prepare for winds up to 30-35 knots. This system is supposed to pass through so that by mid-weekend, the wind speeds should ease down for a day or so … at which point, we will likely encounter another low-pressure system.

Starboard Views – 38.521624S,124.301575W

For this second low system, we’ll go with a different strategy – one that has us trying to race east of it. This is not a typical strategy, because the eastern side of the front is the windier side, BUT if we can get there ahead of it, it may be possible after it passes, for us to capitalize on the prevailing southerly and southeasterly winds that flow up the South American Coast and use them to push us towards the Galapagos Islands. That’s the plan anyway!

Low-Pressure Waves – 38.520591S,124.284739W

At the moment, I’m sailing east and northeast as fast as I can. I’m being cautious of course, given the variables, but the hope is to get as far in front and east of this new low as possible. Now, add to that, the fact that this low system is only FORECAST to develop; at this point, it’s not actually there yet! Credit these kind of projective weather forecasting tactics to the amazing power of today’s computer weather models and satellite imagery capacities.

Rolling Big Ones – 38.520408S,124.282397W

In “predicting arrival date” news … with just under 3000 miles left to the Galapagos Islands, I think back to that same point in the previous two legs and how fun it was to try and predict the arrival date from this far out. My best guess at this point is that I still have two and a half weeks left. The troublesome part is that the last bit of distance, the 200 miles or more south of the Galapagos, is in an area of little or no wind, which I expect will be a bit frustrating for the old salt who smells land nearby. In any case, right now, I’m guessing we’ll make land on April 28th.

In “food” news, at a few days beyond two weeks from New Zealand, I ate the last fresh orange yesterday. I have a few fresh apples left, but whatever else remaining is either canned or freeze-dried. I do have some cheese in wax, which will keep a little while longer; long enough I hope to re-enact a few of my appetizer happy hours from the Trans-Atlantic crossing of a year and half ago when at sunset, I’d slice part of an apple, some cheese and some crackers … and live the good life!

I hope life is good for you all, as well …

More soon …

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin

:: BDX Website :: Email List Sign-Up :: Explorer Guides :: BDX Facebook

Slowing Down to Speed Up

It’s been a busy day here onboard Bodacious Dream. With the pending gybe* around the coming weather system, I had a list of things I wanted to accomplish first thing after sunrise. The most important of these was reefing the sails and changing the setup on the foredeck for smaller sails. Changing sails is how we control the horsepower of the boat. As winds increase, they generate more horsepower from the sails, which means our only way to “depower” is to “shorten” sail by using smaller sails.

Lunchtime ...
A late and modest lunch on the aft deck

At just over two thousand miles from Wellington, NZ, and considering the approaching weather system, it has become time to make our gybe and head north towards our target, the Galapagos Islands. Though that sounds easy enough, there’s more to it than that. It’s not a straight shot to the Galapagos. While it felt good late this morning to gybe and put the Islands directly on our bow, it’s still necessary for us to get further east and catch the prevailing winds before we can make an earnest move to the north. At the same time, a significant low-pressure (storm) system sits directly in our way.

Galapagos ... this way!
The Galapagos are that way!  – 47.16029S, 136.136105W

We’re in the Southern Hemisphere where storm systems rotate clockwise, so the best place to be when one comes by, is behind it to the west and northwest. Our gybe will take us northward as we rendezvous with the storm system that will begin to move SE on Thursday, opening a pathway behind it where we can hopefully use the winds that spin off of it to propel us northward … and then back east over the top of it. If we simply continued to head east, the storm would come down right on top of us.

So, the reason for changing the set up on the bow for smaller sails is to control the speed of Bodacious Dream once the wind speeds start to increase. In this instance, we want to slow our pace to the north to give the storm a chance to set up and begin to move to the southeast, so that we can follow behind it. Right now, I’m trying to hold a steady a pace at 7.5 knots. That’s not so easy though, as the boat really wants to be going 10 knots with the wind and waves behind us. But, if I were to go at the 10 knots, I’d sail smack into the storm. So, it’s a bit tricky out here today … but in the meantime, we have enjoyed another beautiful Southern Ocean day with another lovely and dusky sunset.

Moody sky
Sunset, April 7, 2014 – 46.303469S, 148.377016W

Also, we put up the first half of our Leg 2 photos (Cape Town to Wellington) on our BDX Facebook Page. Click the link or the image below to see those.

Facebook Album
Leg 2 – (Cape Town to Wellington) Album #1 

Thanks, and more soon.

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and the ‘devil-may-care’ Franklin
Currently @ 45.2426S, 133.3764W

(* For the more unsalty among you, A gybe (or jibe) is a sailing maneuver whereby a sailing vessel reaching downwind turns its stern through the wind, such that the wind direction changes from one side of the boat to the other.)

:: BDX Website :: Email List Sign-Up :: Explorer Guides :: BDX Facebook

Behold the Stars!

Presently, Bodacious Dream and I have put about 1700 miles between us and New Zealand and have just less than 4000 miles to go to get to the Galapagos Islands. The weather gods have been kind with us the past week as we sailed along in pretty steady conditions making 200 miles or more a day!

As we approach Tuesday this week, the weather conditions are likely to become challenging, and we’ll need to find our way past two low-pressure systems that are swinging down from the north — between us and the Galapagos. This may prove a boon if a front comes through that we can hitch a ride on, but it might also mean we have to hold tight to our eastward course until we get much closer to the coast of Chile before we can turn and sail north.

Our objective is to get into the prevailing south winds and then to the SE trade winds at around 30°N. That’s about 16° latitude north of where we are now. If you followed our earlier math lesson posts, you can likely tell me about how far that is. If not, here’s a hint: each degree of latitude represents 60 miles of distance!

2711_sunset46.303469S, 148.377016W

The skies have been mostly cloudy the past 10 days. I’ve had some glimpses of sunshine, but not many. In fact, as I write this, the sun is pushing its way through the clouds. In the late afternoon, as the sun begins to set, the edges of the clouds turn a warm orange-pink color for a short time signaling that the sun is approaching the horizon. Yesterday, I caught some very pretty colors and clouds during this time.

2695_moonA bit further to the East from where the sun set yesterday, there was a break in the clouds just long enough for me to catch sight of the moon. I know it’s up there and I can follow the time the moon and sun rise and set via my navigation instruments, but not seeing those celestial bodies themselves, is just not as much fun.

Very late last night … actually early in the morning when I went on deck to do my walkabout, the skies had cleared enough that I could see the stars again. Out here … alone in such a remote place … the presence of the stars glistening in the vastness of the sky elicits a special kind of emotion, one that reminds me I am not really alone.

As my day-to-day existence this week has been largely routine, I sometimes lose perspective on the significance of it all … but then I think of all of you following this dream as it unfolds and I regain my perspective and once again realize how lucky I am to be able to experience all this and how lucky too that I am able to share it with you all … through the gracious help of our sponsors … Earthwatch InstituteHurricane Island Outward Bound School and Henri Lloyd … and through my magical editor and online guru Mark Petrakis back in California. Thank you one and all!

We have also begun to doing some video edits with the help of a dear and talented friend, Helen Babalis … starting with the amazing ones of Fox Glacier … with more to come.

Fox Glacier, NZ – Beautiful Sculpted Ice Formations

I also want to thank the brilliant Tegan Mortimer for her fantastic science notes. I hope you are enjoying those and choosing to share them with the younger folks in your world. There’s just SO much to learn and know about this world isn’t there? I learn something new (and astonishing) every day I’m out here.

A little rainbow in my day …

So for now, from a long ways away … enjoy the return of spring to your northern climes!

– Dave, Franklin and Bodacious Dream

46.5028S, 141.1433W

:: BDX Website :: Email List Sign-Up :: Explorer Guides :: BDX Facebook

The Great Circle Game

For some reason yet to be determined, Dave has lost his Iridium email service. He still has phone and text capability, and is checking in frequently to let us know all is well … but for now, no email, so updates will be brief or will (as we do below) include some older updates that never got posted.

The following update was received over the phone.

“Going along real nicely here on a course headed for the northwest corner of South Island of New Zealand (Farewell Point.) We’re averaging over 8 knots the last couple days and likely for another couple of days as well. We do have a cold front weather system coming in Tuesday night, which will bring strong winds Tuesday evening into Wednesday, which should give us the push we need to take us down Cook Strait towards the southwest corner of the North Island, and into Wellington Harbor.

Cape FarewellFarewell Point, Northenmost tip of South Island of New Zealand (web image)

The bioluminescence is still around, though not to the spectacular degree I described it in the last post. Looking south towards Antarctica tonight, I can see a glow in the sky; similar to the sort of glow that a city makes when you are on the water and over the horizon. As we know there’s no civilization south of us here, so I can only think it’s the glow of the sun reflecting off the polar ice cap.

Had a fun time last night calling into the awards dinner for my friends in the Great Lakes Singlehanded Society. I spoke a bit and answered some questions. Thanks for the invite!

I know my Midwest and East Coast friends are getting hit with some dramatic weather of late … I’ll just say it’s summer down here … 55-60 out on the water. Food is getting down to final tally time. There are plenty of calories onboard … but the fun items on the menu are gone.  I’ll make up for that, when I get to Wellington towards the end of the week. Over and out!”

43.9857S, 159.55377E
43.9857S, 159.55377E

:: As mentioned above, here’s an update though from some weeks ago that never got posted. It’s a navigation-related update, and its contents are still relevant to the current leg of the voyage. Enjoy!

Sailing long passages puts you in the middle of constantly shifting set of time and distance problems. These little mathematical calculations are always running through sailor’s minds when they’re not otherwise occupied with shipboard duties. Recently, I had one of those days where I had a whole bunch of interesting problems come up relative to navigation and latitudes.

I was trying to step back and figure out just how far it is from Cape Town to Wellington, NZ. Now I have a GPS locator onboard and it can give me a distance, but it works on what’s called the “Great Circle” route, which calculates the shortest distance along the curved surface of the Earth. Our own strategy though for sailing to Wellington is to stay along a particular latitude – namely 40 degrees south. We do this to maintain the best route through the least stormy weather. But back to the questions raised by the Great Circle method, let me explain a bit and also give you an experiment you can do on your own when you have a chance.

mercator projection mapOver time, all of us spend a good deal of time looking at maps and charts of various places. These might show us our hometown, or a route to a someones’s house, or a map of the country or maybe the large world map on a classroom wall. Typically, these kinds of maps that we are so used to, are as a class called “Mercator Projections.” They represent the three-dimensional world as if it were laid out flat on a tabletop. The problem with this of course is that the world is not flat but rather beautifully round and by creating a world map that is flat and rectangular; you end up distorting the actual distances – particularly so, once you start considering areas closer to the polar ends of the earth.

Here’s an amusing video clip from an episode of the TV show West Wing that deals with how the Mercator projections distort the actual size of landmasses as they actually exist on the globe.

South Pole GlobeIf you can find a globe and look at it carefully, then turn it so that the South Pole is facing you. Now if you can find a string, a shoelace or even take a piece of paper and cut a thin strip from it, then put one end on Cape Town South Africa and the other over to Wellington, NZ, you’ll see that the shortest route goes over the Southern Ocean and over Antarctica. This is what we mean by the “Great Circle” route. If you in were a plane, you could fly that route, but in a boat, it’s not an option. There are a number of reasons why, some of which are obvious such as the continent of Antarctica and the impenetrable ice, but also, the further south you get, the colder the water and the more dangerous the weather. So, that’s why we chose the route along 40 degrees south latitude. So, to get that distance, you have to work your way along that latitude with a measure of some kind and figure out the distance.

Now, while you still have that globe out, let’s take a look at something else. I believe I told you a while ago that the degree of longitude is widest at the equator at 69.172 miles (111.321) and gradually shrinks to zero at the poles. At around 40°N or S, where we are,  the distance between a degree of longitude is 53 miles (85 km). But as you can see, at the South Pole and the North Pole, all the degrees of longitude come together into one point. That’s pretty interesting isn’t it?

Nautilus 1958Here’s an interesting story I once read. Back in 1958, when the first Navy submarine (USS Nautilus) was able to travel under the ice pack of the North Pole and once they reached the pole, what do you think the navigator said when he called out his position? He sure must have enjoyed saying this … “90 degrees North latitude and ALL points longitude.” His meaning was that all the longitudes came together in one precise point at the North Pole!

So, I spend a lot of time trying to figure out some of these things when I have time, but if you’d like to, you can do the calculations to figure out how far it is along latitude 40 degrees south from Cape Town, South Africa to Wellington, NZ.  And if you can play the Great Circle game, how much shorter is that route than the one I am taking?

I think it’s worth noting that while I wrote this soon after leaving Cape Town, now that I’m approaching New Zealand I can see that my calculations at the time are still pretty much right on target.

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (my onboard globe for this trip.)

Some Key Links: Email List Sign-Up :: Explorer Guides :: BDX Facebook

Conversations with the Otto-Pilot

It’s been about five days now since we exited the storm zone and in that time the weather’s been quite pleasant, which has given me a chance to catch up on sleeping, eating and general boat chores. Although I’m grateful for the nicer weather, I also wouldn’t mind if it were a bit windier.

Finally a real horizon … 41.2911478S, 113.4013266E

I’ve been working to keep a 7-knot average speed through the day, but I’d love to see it move up some. There’s heaps of different wind pockets around, which means there are parts of the day when I have only lower-speed winds to work with and then other times, they’re back kicking up to 14-16 knots. Somewhere in the course of this back and forth, I’ve taken up playing games with the winds, coaxing them … or trying to trick them somehow. How do you trick the wind, Dave? Glad you asked. It’s a routine I developed when we were in the thick of it. You see, as I got increasingly tired, various parts of the boat began to play in my periphery and to gradually take on personalities, which enabled me to carry on conversations with them.

Otto (the auto-pilot) is my primary chat partner. Otto probably knows more about me in sleep-deprived mode than anyone. Together, we often discuss the weather, the course or how the boat is doing. So sometimes, when Otto and I want more wind, I’ll put on my gear and act as if I’m going to change sails. At this point, usually, the wind decides it wants to kick up and so thwart me from changing sails. Then what happens is that the winds will build for a while, long enough for me to go off and do something else … and then once they die off again, I’ll look like I’m heading back out to change sails … at which point, they kick up again!

Dave in Foulie
Dave in full wind distracting apparel … 42.5314166S, 120.1535844E 

I don’t know whether or not I’m acquiring any special wind whispering powers, but sometimes it seems that I can accomplish the same response just by pushing a button or two on the auto-helm control panel. For whatever reasons, when I am about to push buttons to change course, the wind suddenly picks up, causing me to pull back on the buttons. Believe it or not, this kind of nonsense goes on day and night, and while I know it sounds odd, I actually think focusing in on the details of the process has made me better at anticipating just what the capricious overlords of the wind want me to do.

hydro-generator2_300All that aside, the past few days have had us sailing along at a beautiful angle to the wind, which Bo just loves. We call this kind of action “reaching,” where the wind is just behind us and a bit sideways to the boat. When Bo sails in these conditions, it’s like she’s sailing on silk. There’s little if any noise from the wake and she just seems to advance effortlessly. The only noise is from the hydro-generator (pic to the right) which makes a gentle whine that increases in pitch along with the boat speed. I’ve gotten fairly proficient at knowing how fast Bo is moving by the tune the hydro-generator is singing. It’s something that happens when you’re on your boat for a long time; you get to know every little sound and what each of them means. It’s actually quite comforting when I am resting to have that whine informing me that the boat is in tune with the elements.

Since the storm, I’ve gotten the chance to make a few additional hot meals during the day. When the storms are tossing you around, it’s hard enough to boil water for one hot meal during the cold of night, and so you spend the day grazing on candy, chocolate, crackers, cheese and snacks like that. So as the weather eases up, I’m able to blow the lunch whistle and whip up a freeze-dried meal right in the middle of the day, if I want! Today, I figured out how to make a pretty edible version of macaroni and cheese. I never much cared for mac and cheese, but I brought along a dozen pouches as emergency rations, for when everything else runs out. Not that I’m into emergency food mode yet, but I did an inventory and we could be close.

When I first tasted it, the mac and cheese was just as I suspected … well, macaroni and cheese … and once again not much to my liking. So, I starting adding a few things to make it tastier, at the same time I took away a few things. The first thing I did was to dump out about half the mac and cheese. Nobody needs to put that much fake cheese into his or her body! I got this really great pepper grinder in Cape Town, but it’s pretty zippy, so I went light on that. Next I added a few dashes of Worcestershire sauce. While digging around, I found a can of Cajun spice left over from last year. So, yep, I added a bunch of that to the mix, making it ready for the final special ingredient – a can of tuna fish. Now we’re talking! Add all that and you get a mac and cheese that’s not half bad. After that it was writing time on a laptop that actually stayed on my lap!

Dave Computer
Dave in Scribe Mode … 41.4244916S 115.5533564E 

Moving to the more noteworthy subject of milestones, the day before yesterday, we crossed directly south of the western edge of Australia and are now officially down under the Down Under, approximately 1250 miles from Tasmania! It’s not like I can see Australia, but I know it’s there. As I’ll likely be going under Tasmania as well, I guess I’ll have to wait for another trip to see Australia. The hope for now is that by staying below 42 degrees South, that we can find the winds to keep us going for the next several days. If I stay up north at 41 degree South, it could turn into painfully light sailing.

43.1687S, 122.3372E 43.1687S, 122.3372E 

Well, there you have it … a bit of a recap of some of the more day-to-day things that are going on with us on Bodacious Dream. Though the news isn’t very exciting, it’s also nice not to be in constant alert mode, And on another good note, one of these days, I’m expecting my KVH satellite dome to start picking up an Internet signal, which means I’ll be able to send off some photos and videos of those recent storms!

Until then, thanks for following along. And I encourage you to check out our six new Explorer Guides. They’re really unique, informative and fun too. Share them with students or family members. I learned a lot reviewing them!

– Dave, Bodacious Dream, (finally dried-out) Franklin and Otto (of few words)

And the mailing list sign up, as always, is here!

After the Deluge

Well, it’s been quite a week here on Bodacious Dream! If you recall, last Sunday, I said we passed the 3000 miles from Cape Town waypoint. Well, this Sunday, we passed the 4000-mile mark, which leaves us with something like 3200 miles before we reach Wellington, New Zealand and the completion of Leg 2 of the Circumnavigation!


As I was going back through the trip logs on the computer, I noticed that Bodacious Dream and I have logged nearly 30,000 miles together since she was launched in late 2011 in Wellington, NZ, and right where we are headed next. Amazing how the time and the miles fly by!

I’ve been onboard for every one of those miles … some in New Zealand, then after she was shipped to Charleston, SC, racing up the Atlantic Seaboard, then into the St. Lawrence Seaway and to Québec City, followed by a trip across the North Atlantic, in and around France, England and the English Channel – then down to Portugal, back across the Atlantic to Antigua in the Caribbean and back up the Atlantic Coast for the Atlantic Cup this past spring before prepping and launching the Circumnavigation which has taken us to Bermuda, Cape Town and now 4000 miles through the wild and desolate Southern Ocean. Such is the life of a vagabond sailor! At this point, both the sails and I are beginning to show some signs of wear and tear – but onward we go, into the wind – and daily grateful for the chance to do so!

In the last update, (the one before Tegan’s Science Notes) I said that we were looking for one of these now famous Southern Ocean cold fronts to pass us mid-week, and that we were setting up for a showdown with a cyclone by Friday. Our strategy at the time, was to sail with the winds of the cold front, as quickly east as possible in order to get us to a position about 95E Longitude which would put us just in front of the cyclone come Friday night.

38.57215S, 100.361912E
A lonely bird in grey seas … 38.57215S, 100.361912E

We sailed well and tapped some of the power of that cold front Tuesday, but fell into light winds on Wednesdays. Stressed at the possibility of NOT getting ahead of the cyclone, which would deliver us headwind punches (right on the nose) instead of the MUCH preferred tailwinds (from behind), I worked extra hard all day Wednesday trimming the sails, until the winds filled back in late Wednesday night.

By Thursday, the path of the cyclone had become clearer … and we could see it wasn’t going to play fair. We had expected it to move south and diminish in strength, and then hitch itself onto another passing cold front to form an even more powerful cold front, passing through our neighborhood at about 85E Longitude. As we tracked its progress though, we could see it had decided to zero in on a little sailboat called Bodacious Dream and to change its course to the southeast with the aim of crossing our path at around 99.5E Longitude. Fortunately, Bo is a quick boat and we were able to beat the cyclone to 99.5E and get ourselves to about 100E before the cyclone caught up to us and gave us the tailwinds we wanted! I know that all may sound a little abstract, like blips on a radar screen – but let me tell you, when you’re dancing all around the deck, doing everything in your power to extract a couple extra knots of speed … it’s all very real … but very fun too.

38.57215S, 100.361912E Grey and white … 38.572169S, 100.361104E

The flip side of the story is that though we got the tailwinds we wanted, we were close enough to the cyclone for those winds to be rather substantial! For the next 18 hours, Bo and I sailed through tempest winds from 35 to 50 knots and seas the size of small countries. Bo handled it with class and dignity, while I cowered down below decks waiting for something to go wrong! LOL!

There was one rather funny moment I’ll share. The winds had gotten into the 40-knot range, which was pushing Bo just too fast for safety into the waves in front of her, and so the only option I had was to go forward onto the bow and take down the small orange sail that was flying. Normally, this is an everyday job on a sailboat and done without much concern, but when the winds are gusting over 40, and the boat is flying along at 12 knots and crashing into and bouncing off of waves, it’s really quite a thrilling (and at the same time, discombobulating) experience. With all my gear on and my integrated harness and inflatable life vest, I clipped on my tether and ventured forward – bouncing and stepping across the deck like an uncoordinated booby bird doing the Charleston. Once to the bow, I tackled the flogging and soaking wet sail and pulled it down like I was wrestling a small animal. Once down, I began to tie it to the deck so it wouldn’t blow away. Just then I heard this rushing sound pushing my ears. I looked up and was eye-to-eye with a huge elephant-sized wave, which smacked me solid, drenching me in a torrent of water. I couldn’t help but let about a laugh – the totally disproportionate size advantage that ocean has over humans is inherently comical whenever ocean decides to exercise it.

Anyway, I went back to tying down the sail with I heard this “pop,” followed quickly by my automatic life vest inflating, leaving me on the foredeck with this huge tire around my neck … making it doubly difficult (and triply comical) for me to finish my task! But finish it I did, and got back below decks, deflated the life-vest, replaced it with another, all the time wishing I’d have had some video of all that! I guess it’s good to know the life vests work, though they’re only supposed to inflate when fully submerged. I guess that wave was even bigger than it looked!

38.57215S, 100.361912ELost horizons … 38.572138S, 100.361666E

Well, the storm was everything it was forecasted to be and lasted a full 24 hours. I’ve had very little sleep since it began, but fortunately, the forecast for the next three to four days is for some far more relaxed sailing, so I hope to use the time to catch up on my rest and get some warm food in me. It’s now about 18 hours since the storm passed, but I guess nobody told the waves that, because they are still burly and strong causing us to shudder and shake with each big roll. Oh well, what to do, but look to the horizon (if you can see it for the waves) and to whatever tomorrow might bring.

And, with about 500 miles to go before we are officially ‘underneath the down under’ (Australia,) I’m getting excited at the thought of hot showers, fresh food, cold beer and seeing old friends in Wellington. I’m figuring maybe 18 days. As you probably know by now, my mind can’t help but take miles, time and speed and turn them into a series of math problems.  So, let’s see … if there are 3200 miles left to Wellington, New Zealand and I am making 7.2 knots average a day, how long will it take me to get there?? Have some fun of your own folks!

Until later,

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and (the math challenged) Franklin

Be sure to check out our new Explorer Guides!
The mailing list sign up, as always, is here!

https://goo.gl/maps/Kp6pnAlmost down under down under … 41.81022S, 110.78864E

In the Belly of the Whale

Hello again from the wild and windy Southern Indian Ocean! I’m just about through another frontal passage here, where it’s been blowing in the 35-knot range now for about 24 hours. Our weather gurus tells us the winds are supposed to diminish here at some point through the night, so we shall see what tomorrow will bring.

I’m getting a little risky here even pulling out the laptop, as everything both above and below deck is pretty wet. You would think that below decks, things would stay dry, and for the most part they do, but the water here is cold, so water on the outside of the hull condenses against the warmer moist air on the inside, made warmer by my body and breath and any boiling water I occasionally make. Also, there are the inevitable little leaks that show up around hardware that’s been bolted through the deck.

companionwayNow, onboard I have two companionway doors that lead below decks. One is closed all the time (unless the weather is nice) – but the other I keep open so that I can monitor what’s going on up top. That’s usually not a problem, but for the last couple of days, the angle of the wind has been mostly from behind me, which pushes thick spray right through the companionway door and into the boat! Each time a rain squall rolls in, I have to sit with the door just slightly cracked open to keep the spray out, but with still enough room to allow me to see what’s going on outside, all fully dressed as I am in my foul weather gear and safety harness, at-the-ready to jump out there to tend to any problems that might arise.

From down below in the belly of the boat, I have instruments that monitor course, wind, and speed. I also monitor how Otto (the auto-pilot) is doing, and can override him as is necessary. Otto makes all the corrections necessary via the computers and electro-magnetic compasses … sometimes sailing to a wind angle and at other times to a compass course. Presently, he is set to sail to a compass course which means that I must keep a constant watch to make sure the wind isn’t shifting to the wrong corner and forcing us into a gybe … which at these wind speeds is a huge mess … and dangerous. I adjust the course as necessary via button commands, but sometimes, a huge wave will push us far enough off course that Otto’s auto-correction goes too far the other way, which leaves me to to straighten out the mess.

Auto-Command Center
The Command Center

Sounds like pretty gnarly and complicated conditions, huh? Well, they are! The winds are strong enough, that they pulsate with the pressure. You can sense when the pressure is building, when the storm passes and when it begins to abate just by the rhythm of the wind gusts. When the lull between gusts lengthens in duration, the wind is likely losing pressure and may also be changing directions, which means, climbing outside to check the trim of the sails and make adjustments. Now up to about 30-35 knots, I can use the smallest portion of the mainsail that I call the “storm stub.” Above that though, depending on the direction of the boat and waves, I use it or take it all down.

38.3553S, 94.4701E38.3553S, 94.4701E About 650 miles away from being under the down under.

Now things can get pretty interesting when you first jump back on deck. The waves are generally pretty huge … so you have to stay alert and do what you need to do and get back below before some “ginormous” wave lands. Yesterday, one caught me by surprise and totally doused me. It was like I’d won the Super Bowl and the team took a bathtub-sized Gatorade cooler and poured it over me. I had to laugh at the sea’s sense of humor … as if to say… ”Hey … you hiding down below all the time … welcome up on deck!” Trust me, I don’t dare try to get back at the sea; escalating joking at that level could quickly get out of hand, and not to my advantage.

So, back to the present, we’re just about through this latest frontal passage, which has been a tough one, though not as extended as last week’s was. It sounds like tomorrow I’ll see a bit of daylight, but I’ve got to keep the pace up because at the same time, we’re trying to outrun a combination low/cold front that is developing just behind me. I passed under it today, but the center is moving south and then will head towards me. If I’m able to keep my pace up around 8 knots through tomorrow, I should remain east of it, which should hopefully shrink the time I spend hunkered down to around 6 hours. It should also give me a pretty good push for a day or so. Since the big winds, when they do arrive, are likely to be in the 40-50 knot range, I’d REALLY like to minimize the time I have spend in the ring with thugs like that! So, push on I do … looking for that patch of blue!

A Patch of BlueSometimes even a little blue is enough to make you happy.

Once we get through this next storm, we should be into better weather conditions, hopefully for the rest of the passage to New Zealand. We’ll be crossing the 90 E Longitude barrier and crossing under Australia heading for Tasmania and then New Zealand. As far as milestones go, this morning, it appears that I crossed the 4000 miles remaining marker, so I’m hoping to be in New Zealand by the end of the first week of February. Since all supplies are starting to run low, sooner would be better. Not to worry though, I have plenty of fresh water and freeze-dried food. It’s just I’m running low on chocolate, candy, fruit juice, crackers, cheese, fresh fruit and of course, cookies. So, I’ve got plenty of things to keep me from going hungry. It’s more about having fun things to look forward to, when the sun goes away and you’re always soggy and cold.

So for now…. there you have it! Be back in a couple of days after the next front goes by!

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and (I’m NOT going out there) Franklin

P.S. Sign up for this email list is  … right here!

Surfing Along Latitude 40

I trust you all had a good New Year, and are cast off now on the open seas of January. Bodacious Dream, Franklin and I had a good one, and have also been experiencing some very good sailing here the last few days.

As some of you know, I have a proclivity for mapping out waypoints. Typically, these are specific points on a nautical chart, but they can be more abstract goals as well, such as personal markers you set for yourself. Anyway, I use waypoints, so I have some gauge as to how things are progressing. When the distances you’re sailing are in the thousands of miles, you often can’t get your current position and your intended destination on the same chart, so by setting waypoints, you can give yourself a sense of accomplishment as you go along.

In the Middle of the Deep Blue Sea … 41.4829S, 59.4750E 

Today we marked off a couple of milestones. First, we passed 2000 miles sailed since leaving Cape Town on December 21st. So, now I’ve punched in my next waypoint at a point on the map that is 3000 miles from Cape Town! And also, when I zoom out on the electronic chart navigation system, I can see both where we are now AND Western Australia on one screen … which is kind of cool … not having the boat being the only thing on the screen!

So, Western Australia is about 2300 miles east of here and with any luck, in about two weeks, I should be cruising below that longitude and heading towards Tasmania … and then onto New Zealand. Now, Tasmania is about 3800 miles from here and New Zealand, currently about 5000 miles. So, there’s still a long way to go!

(Now, I’m not able to upload the new VIDEOS I’ve been shooting out here until we get closer to land … BUT I do have an earlier video that you haven’t seen and that I’m adding here because curiously enough, it was shot at an earlier milestone, when I was 2000 miles from Cape Town (as I am now) but on the Leg #1 side … as well as 5000 miles from our Jamestown, RI starting point, which is exactly as far as I am right now from our Wellington, NZ endpoint. (Lots of wind noise in this video – sorry about that, but you’re not missing much in this case.) 

2000 from Cape Town, but in the opposite direction … 

The past couple of days we’ve had some really sweet and steady winds, so I was able to keep up the speed and knock off some miles. Last night, I was able to surf off waves and so raised the speed up to 12 and 15 knots a couple of times. You can make some good miles this way, if you can keep it going. Unfortunately, by mid-morning today, the high-pressure system that follows the cold fronts pulled in … so now, I’m back to moseying along at 4 and 5 knots. But, the good thing is, I’m tracking straight east along Latitude 40 with yesterday’s total distance at over 200 miles!

It looks though like we’ve got some complicated weather coming in this week. There are a couple of low-pressure systems headed our way, and then there’s also a tropical cyclone that is presently up near Madagascar that just might spin off some energy into one of these southerly moving lows and intensify it. So, we’re hoping to make some good progress in the meantime, so we can stay in front of that storm and take advantage of its pushing winds, rather than fall behind it and have heavy wind in our face. So, I’m spending extra time trimming the sails and making sure the boat is open and moving the best she can. If all goes well, by Sunday of next weekend, we can say we’ve passed the 3000 miles from Cape Town mark, which is about half the distance to New Zealand!

sliver_moon_550This is a moment …

In the midst of all this sailing, there is always some startling beauty out here in the watery world. This photo I took of the sliver of a moon in the gold of the setting sun and one of my entourage of birds all came together just right. The beauty and balance of sea and sky, light and dark, movement and stillness all combine sometimes to give me this great feeling of peace and pleasure.

But for now, it’s back to the routine of sailing the boat, looking out for phantom ships, hoping to see whales and dolphins, making dinner, doing maintenance and eating chocolate … though I’m getting a bit worried I’ll run out of Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses before the end of this leg. (Are you listening Jenny? Jenny’s my friend AND my Hershey’s contact!)

Again, thanks for following along. There will of course be more to come soon. And watch for our new Explorer Guides launching the middle of this week! The plan is to launch two of these every week for the next three weeks. This new set will be bigger and cover many more subjects than the earlier sets. They will have plenty of fun facts and provocative questions that will hopefully be of interest to learners of any age. I even learned from working on them!

So, until later …

– Dave, Bodacious Dream and Franklin (who recently realized that the earth is shaped the same as he is)

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