Tuesday, November 29, 2011


Noon Position 00 54' S, 116 32.6' W, SOG 7.5, COG 175, Days Run 155nm.  At 0335 Pacific Time today we crossed the equator!  Finally!  Conditions are becoming fast and fun - close reaching in 12-20kts of breeze with a hint of sea, pointing south!  I'm in love with Odyssey this morning - we've been doing over 6 knots since yesterday afternoon, and over 7 since this morning, all very easily - currently we're under triple reefed main and full genoa, charging along.  In honor of crossing the line last night, I got out my bottle of champagne and went on deck, planning to pop the cork just as we hit 0 degrees.  The champagne, however, had other ideas, and opened itself about 3 minutes earlier, giving the cockpit a delightful champagne-y bath.  When I woke up this morning Odyssey smelled a bit like a college dorm on a Sunday morning, as we haven't been taking much water into the cockpit.  In honor of the equator, I got my clean on this morning - swept the floor, scrubbed the stove and counters, and then tackled the big job - sorting through the various vegetables in the hammocks in the v-berth.  Imagine, if you will, an area roughly the size of the back of a small station wagon.  Now, pile 4 large sail bags, 4 or 5 dry bags of warm clothes and surprises, 1 wool blanket, 1 sleeping bag, 1 piece of plywood, 7 plastic bins of food, and two 4 foot long hammocks full of onions, squash, garlic, grapefruit, limes, ginger, and cabbage.  Add a slow trickle of salt water from above, then tilt this space approximately 20 degrees to one side, while shaking vigorously.  Then, approximately every 30 seconds (but not predictably so), imagine a large, angry man pounding the floor with a sledgehammer. That's what the v-berth of Odyssey has been like for the past 8 days.  After divesting it of the sail bags, dry bags, plywood, blanket, and sleeping bag, I managed to squeeze myself into the space remaining and start pulling out fruits and vegetables one by one, checking for rot.  Of course, the hammocks, being hammocks, are not stationary now that the sailbags which were wedging them in place are gone - they're swinging wildly, pummeling the boat and me with onions and any other vegetable you can get your hands on.  A few escaped alliums later, the job was done and the produce restored to it's home.  I've been impressed with how well things have kept so far - the only vegetables that I've lost to rot have been ones that have gotten wet.  I'm most impressed by my tomatoes - I still have 8 or 9 good tomatoes left after 22 days at sea. 

Sunday, November 27, 2011


Noon Position 02 46' N 114 41.8'W, SOG 5.6, COG 235, days run 140nm.
Well, the best that I can say for today is that the weather has
moderated. The breeze has gone more SE'ly, which is nice, except for
this damn current - the bow is pointed between 200 and 210T, and we're
doing 235-245 over the ground - nothing for it though, since if we tack
we do about 3 knots due east. It's a lovely day at least - switched
back to the big genoa this morning and am under pretty much full sail,
puffy white clouds - I'm hoping that we've hit the SE trades at last,
and that once I get out of this current (almost 2kts this morning during
the sail change) life will be improved.


Noon Position 03 36' N 112 35' W, SOG 6.5, COG 240 T, Days Run 100nm.
Wind and Sea, incessantly. Groaning, pounding, creaking, moaning,
Odyssey struggles southward. It seems an eternity ago that the bow was
actually pointed south, that we loafed along in the puffy clouds of the
trade winds, that I thought the equator was only a few days away. Today
is our fourth day of beating hard, our second day of sailing west -
West, when we want to go East and South, but nature opposes me. I tried
tacking six or seven times this morning, hoping that perhaps something
had changed, that the currents that have bedeviled me all morning had
switched, for anything, but to no avail. I clambered into my harness,
braved the gloom and spray, eased running backstays, turned the windvane
to tack, released the working sheet, sheeted home the new working sheet,
got Odyssey hard on the wind, only to go below and see the GPS reading a
COG of 089, or 077, or 065 - NE, an even worse direction than SW. So
back on deck again, swapping runners, changing the windvane, passing
sheets, just go be heading at right angles from where I want to go. The
SE trades seem a thing of myth. Each new weather file I download seems
to have them retreating further south into the overcast skies. I
realized a few days ago that every day now I am the furthest south I
have ever been - I just expected to be quite a bit further south than I
am right now. 18 full days underway, and not yet at the equator.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Noon Position: 05 46' N 112 38.8' W, SOG 6.0kts, COG 120 T. Today I
learned that, try as I might, I am not capable of eating 1/2 a can of
turkey, an entire butternut squash, 1/3 of a potato, 1/2 an onion, 6
pieces of bacon, and 1/2 a box of stove top stuffing in one sitting.
Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


Noon Position 07 06' N 114 06' W, SOG 5kts, COG 135, days run 110nm
This morning I discovered the joys and delights of canned bacon! Now,
for those of you who are unfamiliar with the long shelf life version of
this food, I shall explain: The bacon comes in a normal sized can, but
as soon as you pick it up you realize that something is different,
something is special - It's camouflage! Yes, the can has a camo
wrapper, so it doesn't give you away in the jungle when you really need
that bacon fix. Inside, neatly rolled up in wax paper, are about 24
strips of bacon - all you have to do is unroll the paper, pull off some
bacon, and throw it in a pan! It's glorious! Now, while this isn't
thick center cut hickory smoked bacon, fresh off the pig and cooked to
perfection by my little brother, it's pretty darn good - I've definitely
had worse bacon at any number of diners and restaurants. Plus, it comes
with the added benefit of a little bit of bacon grease, perfect for
frying up the eggs that accompanied it this morning. I also ate one of
the delicious greenish grapefruit that my mother and aunt found at a
farmer's market - I've discovered that they're very similar (if not the
same) as Caribbean grapefruit, which, in my humble opinion, are the
absolute epitome of grapefruitdom. Sweet, juicy, not too tart, but
still with a little bit of tang. Today finds us slowly beating into a
dying southerly breeze - back up to a single reef in the main and about
1/2 the genoa, and actually able to point without slamming too hard.
Hoping for some change here pretty soon, but the pilot charts don't give
much hope - 44% of the time there's southerly breeze in this area. The
gribs have the breeze lightening quite a bit tomorrow, and with the
flatter swell I should be able to drive into the Southeasterlies that
are waiting for me at 5 N.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


Noon position: 07 44' N, 115 52' W, SOG 6kts, COG 120, days run 95nm.
Ahh, the joys of weather - had a very frustrating day of squalls
yesterday - ended up hand steering for a lot of the afternoon, and
raised and lowered the main more than once. There were great, looming
rain squalls slowly drifting across the sea - each one brought for the
1/4 mile or so around it, then proceeded to suck all the wind, joy, and
life out of everything else. We'd hook into one squall, sail at 5 or 6
knots in a direction - sometimes S, sometimes SW, frequently due West,
(not at all the way to go, but it was easier on the boat to be moving
than not) for about 30 minutes while getting rained on, then go back to
rolling around on Hurricane Kenneth's swell moving across the glassy
waters. I've been watching Kenneth for about 5 days now, from the first
projections of it being a small tropical depression blowing 25 or 30
knots and going straight across my path to a major hurricane blowing
90-100... Very glad that Kenneth turned further north than they
originally thought, and that I made all the Southing that I needed to to
clear it - while I'm sailing to Cape Horn, hurricanes are certainly not
something anyone in their right mind wound want to get anywhere near.
It looks like Kenneth has disrupted the ITCZ (doldrums) enough that the
weather I had yesterday was my crossing of it - now, of course, it's
blowing 20 to 25kts from due South, with an accompanying 6-8 foot sea.
We're throttled back quite a bit, more close reaching than anything,
just to save the slamming of dropping of an 8 foot wave at 6 kts every
30 seconds or so - now we just drop off a 4 footer at 6 kts every 5 or
10 minutes. Much better! The leaks which I strove to defeat after the
last weather we had are back. I won one victory in that there is no
longer a steady stream of water dripping onto the GPS and the chart
table, but most of the rest seem unaffected - maybe a bit slower, but
not much. I think the biggest one is from where the traveller is
through bolted - it's bedded pretty poorly - there are gaps I could
stick a butter knife into, so that's up next on my list of leak
fighting. Unfortunately, the leaks have won the fight with the stereo -
watched "Around Cape Horn" by Irving Johnson last night with the sound
on the stereo, turned it off to go to bed, and this morning discovered a
long stream of dribbles down the wood and into the stereo, which of
course would not turn on. so now it's recuperating in a bag of rice,
hopefully to return to life, although I'm not particularly hopeful.
I've got headphones and the speakers on my ipod, but having real
speakers was a nice little luxury that I'm going to miss.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Noon Position: 10 57.5' N, 116 57.2' W, SOG 5.7, COG 185, days run
121nm. I realized this afternoon that I'm beginning to be affected a
bit by the lack of social contact - I spent an hour on the phone with my
mother on Thursday, then another half hour today with both my parents
plus another half hour with Shanley. Found myself talking at length
about anything and everything, even repeating myself between
conversations. In some ways I feel like I'm cheating myself by
maintaining satellite phone contact - it certainly is a different having
friends and family only a phone call away - certainly more "real" than
email or this blog. With the written word, I can pretend as if I'm
writing a letter that will only get posted when I reach land, and my bi-
or tri-weekly email download certainly helps to enforce that sensation.
On the other hand, I'm not sure how those on shore would tolerate me
should I not call them - other than the obvious call to the Coast Guard
when I missed a sched. Anyway, yesterday was a frustrating day - a very
fast night, surfing up to 10 kts at times - I think we had a bit of
current with us. Then, yesterday, spent most of the day drifting in
circles except for a few brief moments of sailing on the edges of
squalls. Did manage to collect a good 1/2 gallon of water to use for
cleaning though and get in a good shower and shave with all the rain.
When the breeze finally filled back in again, it was light, and from the
E to SE - which is nice with the light air, going upwind helps build
apparent wind speed so we can keep moving through the swell. It's been
slow ever since. I think today we've got a bit of a counter current,
setting us to the North and a bit West - our SOG is hovering around
5kts, frequently below, and our speed through the water is certainly
faster than that.


Noon Position 12 56.7' N, 116 51.9' W, SOG 5.8kts, COG 190, days run 138nm
Last night was exuberant. Today is not. Frequent rain squalls,
infrequent wind. Earlier some dolphins lolled by the boat, so I dropped
sail and went for a swim. The dolphins had other fish to fry - came
back as soon as I was on deck again. Tonight we are sailing again.

Friday, November 18, 2011


Date: Fri, 18 Nov 2011 16:01:28 -0500
Noon position 15 16.5' N, 116 40.7' W, SOG 6.5kts, COG 160, days run
150nm. Well, the wind has built during the night into the mid teens,
and this morning the staysail is back down and we're down to a double
reefed main and full genoa. Coming down the waves we've been surfing up
into the high 7s, which is certainly pleasant to see on the GPS. My
general philosophy with this boat has been one of simplicity, to keep
problems to a minimum - minimum electronics, minimum systems. I
invested pretty much every minute of the last 5 months to making Odyssey
a competent sail boat, where the various gewgaws were a nice add-on, but
by no means necessary. I've spent too much time fixing broken water
pumps and air conditioners and lights and fridges and what have you to
really have any desire to do any more of that, particularly on this trip
where there's so much more room (and time) for things to break. Now I
find myself with the potential to be screwed over by a worthless piece
of electronics, and more importantly, one which I only have a single
spare of. I've been kicking myself all day, and night, thinking about
the extra $50 it would have taken to have just picked up another
inverter or even a car-charger for my computer - then I would be far
more independent of the electronics devil. After all my efforts in that
regard, I'm realizing that I really approached all the electronics as an
afterthought - I was caught up in thoughts and romance of sailing off
into the sunset with a sextant. I console myself with the fact that the
boat is pretty well bulletproof and sorted out otherwise, so that worse
comes to worse and I suffer a total electronics failure, I can still get
my sorry butt wherever I need to be.And, truth be told, it's not like
I'm helpless if it goes down - it really only powers my computer, so I
still have my sat phone and SSB, which is quite a bit more
communications than absolutely necessary. I'm
going to protect the damn thing as best as I can, but I need to get
around Cape Horn as soon as possible - it's too far south to risk
lollygagging about in the pacific over some fool piece of electronics
when Summer is only a few months long.


Noon Position: 17 30' N, 117 45' W, SOG 5.8kts, COG 155 - I got this
position off a running fix from 2 sun sights this morning + a noon sight
- was within about 5 miles of the GPS position! Definitely heartening
to realize that I still remember how to take a sun sight. Today I can
tell we're fully in the tropics - it's been a hot, glorious tropical
day, with a brilliant blue sky and puffy white trade wind clouds, and
just enough breeze to keep us moving happily. This afternoon, in honor
of the weather (and in respect to the heat) I decided to give myself a
haircut and a take a bucket bath in the cockpit. I learned a few things
- namely, that a #1 length trim guard on the electric buzzer can't get
through my hair, That a #3 can in fact buzz my hair, and that on the #1
(reallly short) setting, the buzzer could in fact trim about a 4 inch
long stripe right down the middle of my head before choking on my
hair... Now I look a bit like a badger with a reverse mohawk.
Fortunately, theres no one out here to laugh at it but the dolphins, and
they're always up to no good anyway, so all is well. All is not well,
however, with the inverter that I was powering my buzzer with - I
switched the clippers off and on again fairly quickly, and apparently
this was too much for the inverter to handle - now it just beeps and
blinks a red light and turns itself on and off. Kind of a real setback,
actually, since I rely on the inverter to power my laptop for weather
and email access as well, but luckily the vacuum packed spare works. I
now just have to be super careful with the inverter and hope it holds
out - no more electric buzz hair cuts for me for damn sure. One thing
about this trip is that I certainly don't want to proceed into the
southern Ocean without weather knowledge - I wish I had the boat and the
balls to keep pushing on if I were to lose weather, but sailing a 35
year old boat, even one that's been extensively refit, behooves me to
minimize the wear and tear I put on her, namely through avoiding storms
as much as possible. Last night we passed near the Shamad seamount -
the chart says it has a depth of only 28m, but I didn't want to cut
between the two big fishing boats on it, so the depth sounder never saw
bottom. It was a bit weird seeing the bright lights of fishing boats
out here in the middle of nowhere, but there clearly are fish there, so
I guess it makes sense. Either they didn't speak English or weren't
monitoring their radios - no one responded when I tried calling them up
to ask how the fishing was.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Spinnaker Sailing



21 33.3' N, 118 08.0 W, SOG 5.8kts, COG 218, 130nm days run noon to noon.
Terrible News! It seems we have a stowaway on board. Not just any
stowaway, but an individual of the most despicable and depraved sort!
I've had my suspicions for a few days now, but in the interest of the
delicate sensibilities of my readers have not mentioned them. Events of
today, however, confirmed my worst fears. I first began to suspect that
all was not right a few days ago, as we came of of the edge of that
pacific storm. Wedging myself at the chart table to make my noon log
entry, I opened the lid and reached inside for a pen, but came up empty
handed! There was naught but charts and pencils within. Now, a
skeptical mind (and mine was one) would attribute this lack of writing
implements merely to the rolly conditions we'd been experiencing, so I
grabbed a pencil and thought little of it. But over the next few days,
as the trend repeated itself, I began to notice a disturbing pattern -
Only pens would go missing! I could put a treasure chest full of
jewels, gold, and pencils in the middle of the floor and it would lie
there undisturbed, but put one pen in the chart table, and poof! Gone!
After having lost 4 of my finest to this plague, I am left with no
choice but to conclude that it is no coincidence. Some devious criminal
mastermind has hidden himself away aboard, emerging only when my back is
turned to make off with my pens. I must commence a manhunt for the
fiend and halt his foul depredations, lest he leave me inkless!

Monday, November 14, 2011


Today has been glorious! Clear blue skies, puffy white clouds, it
almost feels like we're in the trades, if the wind wasn't from due
north. At noon today my position was 23 12.7' N 118 14.7'W via sun
sights - which was only about 7 miles out of our actual position via gps
- not bad. My longitudes had all been pretty grievously off up to this
point, although my noon latitudes were pretty spot on - then last night
i realized that my watches were both a minute slow of UTC - I must have
set them wrong. Surprisingly, my position is a lot closer to where it
should be now. Today is a cleaning day on Odyssey - I've spent the
day airing out the boat and drying things out - all my sheets and
cushions off my bed are airing in the cockpit right now, and I'm going
to swap em out with the cushions from the stbd bench tomorrow. I even
went ahead and shaved and took a bit of a shower - try doing that at
home in less than a cup of water. We made glorious time last night -
170nm noon to noon, which puts us at 710 nm from Los Angeles at the 1
week mark. Not quite as far as I would've hoped, but not bad
considering I spent a couple of days drifting around various mexican and
southern california islands. Now we're running due south at between 5
and 7 knots, and life is good. I just changed the email system I'm
using on board as well, which will mean a lot less pain in sending and
receiving mail, so hopefully i can convince myself to put up blog posts
a bit more frequently. Anyway, I'm going to go check on the cushions
and see if they're dry yet, so that's it for now.


Noon Position: 25 24.4' N 117 55.5' W, SOG 6.5K, COG 180T, 130 NM days
Well, since the last post a lot has changed - the big storm that rolled
through (at least I assume it did) California also rolled through me on
Friday - luckily we were far enough west that we got mostly SW'ly
breeze, which slowly built from Friday through to Saturday Afternoon,
ending up with beating into 25-30kts of wind under triple reefed main
and staysail - The seas were big and from a few different directions, so
there were frequently waves breaking over the deck from the beam as we
dropped off waves from the bow - I kept from pointing too high so that
we wouldn't slam off the waves too hard, but with the multiple
directions there was still a bit of pounding. Everything was creaking
and groaning, and there was one particular creak that drove me nuts -
every time the boat rolled, it sounded like soumething was about to rip
out of the boat. Well, clearly this was not a good sound, particularly
while trying to sleep, so after much creeping around, hanging onto all
the handholds available with my ear to various parts, I was relieved
when it turned out to be the stove - apparently the gimbals on it need
some grease. One can of WD-40 later and I was happily able to get to
sleep. I spent a lot of the day in bed reading - I'd go on deck to
adjust the windvane or the sails, then crawl back into bed and try to
ignore the slow drip that was leaking onto my right shoulder. After a
night of taking a beating, I awoke this morning to moderating wind
(15-20kts) from the W, and brilliant clear skies, so we're back up to a
single reef in the main to help the windvane steer and full genoa,
rocking along straight south - You have no idea how wonderful it is to
be moving faster than 3 knots, and in the right direction! If I had
ended up drifting around off Mexico for another week I think I woul'dve
just called it a day and motored into the nearest resort to wait for
wind. The electric autopilot came off today - he decided to fall apart
twice in the space of about 20 minutes, so I just pulled it off and
chucked it in the V-berth - no need for it anyway with the windvane.
The boat actually steers a lot more cleanly now without the drag of the
wheel pilot as well. Anyway, Here's hoping for a few good 140 or 150
mile days in the next few days to make some good time to the equator.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Sailing Again!
1230 Local Time: 29 04.5 N 119 29.9 W, SOG 4.6 K, COG 235 T, Days Run
54nm :(
Well, the depression has finally started arriving, and it should start
raining later tonight - I've been sailing on Port tack SW to West, but
this afternoon the wind has clocked a bit more westerly, so I'm going to
tack before dinner and start making some south again. Last night was
exceedingly frustrating - I ended up rolling around under triple reefed
main with no wind for a lot of it, then I'd get a bit of wind and roll
out the jib and sail for 30 minutes or so at 3 knots, then roll around
again with just the main, over and over - Finally this morning the
periods of wind got a bit more and now I've finally got it - hopefully I
can get some good southing out of this weather - I've made frustratingly
little distance so far.

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Noon Position: 29 50.9' N, 119 01.9' W, SOG 4.5, COG 225, Days Run
106nm. It's been a frustrating few days - breeze has been up and down,
I had a full day yesterday of broad reaching to running wing on at 6-7
knots, only to end up rolling around all night with a triple reefed main
to keep the slatting down. Today I was able to get the chute up and
have been doing 3-4 knots all morning, but it's been getting a bit
lighter - unfortunately it looks like thats whats in store for tomorrow
too, before I get Southerlies (hopefully some SW in there) coming
through on Friday with the big storm. Right now I'm slowly working my
way East, so that hopefully I can see more of the W component of the
breeze from the storm, and then close reach in a SE'ly direction, but
we'll see how that pans out - it's frustrating rolling around going slow
- right now (1321 California time) I'm only doing 2.4k. Thank god for
the spinnaker - without it up I'd just be sitting here complaining.
Mentally the last few days have been challenging and fairly emotional -
I found myself questioning many times (particularly when I was rolling
around with no wind) what I was doing out here. The weather has a very
real impact on my mood - as long as the boat is moving with some
semblance of poise I'm happy, then when we slow down I start getting
morose again. It's sobering realizing that (if all goes well) I won't
see any of the people that I know or care about (or even those that I
don't particularly like ;) ) for the next seven months. The other
challenge I've been fighting with is the not so amazing discovery that
if you're running downwind to the south, and the sun is to the south,
the sails are going to be shading the boat pretty much all day - nice
for me, but not so nice for the solar panels. I've been broad reaching
back and forth a bit to keep at least one panel in the sun, and it's
working - I've got my battery voltage back up again. Fortunately once I
get south of 20S or so this will cease to be a problem, since the sun
will be behind me. Fortunately with this light air, it's actually been
good to be broad reaching anyway just to keep boat speed and apparent
wind up, so all is well. Anyway, we're just passing Guadeloupe Island
off of Mexico - at least it's progressing down the side of the boat, not
just sitting in the same spot like San Clemente did leaving LA.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm off!

I got off the dock in Wilmington yesterday and headed to sea, sailing
straight south to pass the east ends of Catalina and San Clemente
Islands. The wind was light, but I've been continually impressed by
Odyssey's light air performance - we were making 4-5 knots pretty easily
all afternoon, and I had high hopes for making some miles. One of my
big hopes with leaving yesterday was to be able to get out and away from
the land breeze and not spend the day drifting around in the shipping
lanes, but alas, it was not to be. After having to motor briefly
through the lee of Catalina, I ended up spending the night drifting at
anywhere from 0 to 0.5 knots slowly towards San Clemente Island - there
was no traffic but a few Carnival cruise ships, and it actually ended up
being kind of nice since I could get some sleep not worrying too much
about hitting anything since there was no wind. Finally the morning the
breeze is back and I'm back up to drifting at warpspeed of 3 or 4 knots,
and I should be getting clear of San Clemente in just a few minutes.

Underway at Last

Eric set sail today just before noon on his around the world solo-circumnavigation.  The setting could not have been more beautiful as the sky was a brilliant blue, the sun radiantly beamed and the wind held as he departed slip 82 to embark upon his incredible journey.  After so much preparation and organization, the time had come, and those who watched could not have been more proud or excited for him.  He is an inspiration and a flesh and blood reminder that dreams are possible...and really do come true.  Fair winds and following seas.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sailing Alone Around the World

So for those of you who are unaware, I'm soon departing for a solo non-stop circumnavigation aboard my Islander 36, Odyssey.  As of today, all non-perishable food is aboard and stowed, and pretty much all the other gear is aboard too.  We just have a little bit more fiberglass and paint work to do to finish up the bow hatch, and then fresh food to load.  Currently I'm aiming for a Sunday departure, it looks like we should have some decent breeze.  The route I'm taking is the Southern Ocean by way of the great capes, as seen in these pictures.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


The last few days have been taken up with provisioning - I have approximately 1,778.6 pounds of provisions to load, not counting stove fuel, but including things like soap, vinegar, and bleach.  Today we finally got all the canned goods on board, tomorrow the rest of the food will go aboard.  With full water tanks and all canned goods on board, Odyssey is sitting noticeable lower in the water - trimmed stern down by about 2 inches, which is good since a lot of the remaining dry goods and condiments are going under the V-berth.  I've installed 14 big plastic bins in the quarter berth, V-berth, and lazarette which are filled with cans and pasta, and then the vacuum bagged rice, flour, and dry goods will be going under the V-berth.  Right now this sunday is looking like a good go-day (see below image from passageweather.com) So I'm pushing to get all the food aboard tomorrow so the rest of the week can be used for last minute boat prep details.