Wednesday, December 28, 2011


Noon Position 36 34' S, 88 55' W, SOG 4.5, COG 040, Day's run 85 nm.
Well, after a few light air days, it looks like I'm back into the
breeze. Unfortunately, the wind is from the East, pretty much the
direction I want to go, but at least I'm moving faster than 2 kts
today. On Christmas Night (Christmas Day Eve? The night of the 25th?
3 nights ago?) I finished opening the last Christmas cards that I
hadn't managed during the day, then settled down to read a bit. I was
working my way through an anthology of Keith Laumer's short stories
about aliens invading Earth when all of a sudden I head something
flapping and flopping about in the cockpit. Was it a flying fish? It
didn't sound quite fishy enough to my discerning ear. Was it perhaps
one of the alien Gool, emerged from the e-ink screen of my kindle to
harvest my brain? I peered out into the stifling darkness, partially
blind from my reading light. The night was overcast, with out even a
hint of moon or stars, so I could just see the vaguest impression of
movement. I sat for a moment, hoping that whatever was raising such a
ruckus would flop itself back overboard and let me get back to reading
in peace. No such luck. I stumbled over my lee cloth and up on deck,
and in the glow of my headlamp was greeted by a rather small albatross
sitting at the helm, trying to climb back up over the seat back. Since
the back of the seat is fairly high, and the bird was on the small side,
it was not succeeding, try as it might to turn its wings and webbed feet
into something more approximating the footwear found on a gecko.
Stories of how sailors used to catch Albatross and keep them as pets on
board ships flashed through my head. They apparently needed more room
than was available on the deck of a ship to get airborne enough to clear
the bulwarks, so once on board were stuck there until pitched back over
the side. Clearly this little fellow, while certainly not the great
wandering albatross of the high latitudes, was suffering from the same
difficulty on a smaller scale. I have no idea what made it think my
cockpit to be a suitable albatross roost, although clearly it had
decided upon arriving that it had been mistaken. After a brief but
invigorating game of "Catch the albatross" I managed to deposit the
squirming bird onto one of my solar panels, where took took a few
seconds to gain its bearings. Then, with a whisper of wind, it was gone
into the blackness. The next morning I discovered that it was not
simply orienting itself upon my solar panel - A small token of its
appreciation was streaked across the outboard edge of the panel.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


Noon Position 35 25' S, 099 57' W, SOG 5.2, COG 120, Day's run 130nm.
So of course after spending so much time Monday writing about noises, I
spent the rest of the afternoon listening to ALL of them in excruciating
detail. Yesterday was squally and overcast, with the wind slowly going
left all day - unfortunately last night it didnt' go as far as I had
hoped, so her I am, still steering 120 - The gribs are calling for a
further wind shift tonight and tomorrow, so hopefully I can get pointed
East or just north of it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Noon Position 33 03'S, 104 24.7' W, SOG 3.5, COG 155, Day's run 70nm.
The Last 24 hours have seen almost a 90 degree wind shift. Yesterday at
noon found me sailing due east at 5 kts on starboard tack, today at noon
finds me sailing South east on Port. This affords me the chance to
drive south, which I'm taking full advantage of - I'm hoping that if I
can get down to 35 or 36 S I'll have a bit more consistent wind, and
hopefully more westerlies, although I certainly wouldn't complain if
this wind continues to back and I can get back to sailing East. For the
week ending yesterday my run was 562 miles sailed - certainly the
slowest so far. I'm just hoping I can do better than that for the next
two weeks heading to Chile. Now that I'm back on Port tack, I've
rediscovered some of the wonderful noises that Odyssey makes. Depending
on how fast we're going, the sea makes a whole variety of noises against
the hull - from a whisper smooth glide in light air to a dull, rushing
roar when we catch a wave just right and surge down its face. Upwind,
of course, add in the the assortment slaps, swooshes, crashes, and thuds
of waves hitting the bow, rolling over the deck, and generally making a
nuisance of themselves. When the bow drops off a particularly large
wave the whole boat shudders with a dull bang like the slam of a giant
screen door. When we're rolling, the spare blocks hanging above the
port bunk occasionally chime in with a tink or clink as they swing into
the cabinetry. In light winds like today, there is a whole cacophony of
noises from the sails slatting when a particularly large swell knocks
the wind out of them, a high pitched rattle from the slides in the mast
track on the main, a lower creaking groan from the sheets. On port
tack, like I am now, the bulkhead aft of the galley seems determined to
simulate a small balkan land war, constantly creaking and popping like a
thousand tiny machine guns. Not to be outdone, of course, on starboard
tack the shelves above the port bunk fire back, with a slower, more
measured pace. Every day or two the stove decides that the gallons upon
gallons of WD-40, T-9, Silicone Spray, Teflon Grease, Lithium Grease,
and Teflon spray that I've saturated its forward gimbal with need some
more company, and begins an ominous creaking groan, timed perfectly to
the roll of the boat. When I sleep my head is separated from this awful
moan by no more than 1/2" of plywood on which the stove is mounted.
Invariably the stove decides to start it's complaining somewhere between
the hours of 2 and 3 am, so I end up lying awake, cursing the world,
hoping against hope that it will go bother someone else, or at the very
least postpone the complaining until a more civilized hour. After
burying my head under my pillow for veritable ages, rolling over,
straining my arm to try to jiggle the stove without having to get out of
bed, I must invariably bow to the inevitable, and pry myself out of
blankets, over the leecloth, across the boat to chart table, tangling my
foot in a foul weather jacket that manages to migrate to the middle of
the floor in the middle of the night. Upon opening the front of the
chart table I am, of course, assailed by an assortment of lubricants,
all so eager to help me quiet the stove that they leap from their shelf
and hide themselves about the cabin. I grab a spray can at random,
point it in the general direction of the stove, and let it rip.
There! It stopped creaking! So i gather up the errant inhabitants of
the chart table, jam them back into their prison, and return to bed.
Generally it takes 2 or 3 late night excursions to finally defeat the
stove's grumblings for a day or two. Oh, the simple joys of sailing!

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Noon Position 31 55.5' S, 110 00' W, SOG 4.3, COG 110, Days run 110nm.
Today I made my first time change of the trip - we're now on GMT + 7,
which is an hour later than California time. I'm feeling frustrated and
empty these days. We're still drifting along to the East, towards
Valparaiso, but clearly progress isn't fast, and I'm not even able to
really get south, since with the breeze direction and swell we have, my
choices are sailing 110T or 230T. So I choose the direction that at
least is moving me towards Chile. In any other circumstances I would be
reveling in this weather - warm water, flat seas, and clear skies. But
all I can think about is whether everything will hold together for
another 2 or 3 weeks, and about how slowly I'm moving towards shore. If
I still had months of sailing ahead I could feel philosophical about it,
since a slow week here or there is to be expected, but with less than
2000 miles to go, every calm strikes me like a hammer, driving me back
from my destination. The most frustrating thing is that I can't do much
about it, just keep plugging along and hoping for a wind shift of some
sort. Last night I stayed up late reading, then spent some time on
deck, looking at the sky. It was truly magnificent - the moon was down,
and there were just a few scattered clouds. The milky way was so bright
it almost popped, and as I ghosted along I thought of other times and
places that I'd looked at the sky, and the people I'd been with. This
morning we're back at it, slogging along. Unfortunately this is just
the way the weather is, and until I get a wind shift, there's not a
whole lot to do about it. There's a big, long south swell ambling it's
way across the sea today. Down below I can hardly even tell it's
there. A few hours ago I was on deck enjoying the weather when I
realized that I was in the middle of big set - in the troughs I could
stand on the cockpit benches and still be looking up at the crests of
waves in all directions, then see forever as they passed beneath me. A
few minutes later the swell had died back down again, but it reminded me
that I'm glad I'm not in the roaring 40s with a sloppy rig.

Friday, December 16, 2011


Noon Position 30 57' S, 111 27' W, SOG 4.8kts, COG 105T, Day's run
30nm. So if you notice that today's noon position isn't that far away
from Mondays, you're right! I'm plopped in the midst of the horse
latitudes right now, so named because ships would have to throw the
horses overboard to save water as they were becalmed. I wish I had a
horse with me, I'd hook it up to a bridle and make it swim and tow the
boat. On a related note, I am no longer making for Cape Horn. On
monday night I was checking over things when I discovered that my mast
was moving. On closer investigation, I've discovered that the steel
plate upon which the mast is stepped is corroded badly enough that it
has started to bend, thus letting the shrouds pull the mast down into
the boat. Right now a lot of the down force is being taken by the
collar where the mast passes through the deck, so as I go over waves,
the deck flexes a bit, allowing the mast to move up and down. Clearly
this is not a desirable situation, and I've decided that I cannot take
the boat into the 40s with things as they are. The deck is certainly
not designed to take the loads of the mast, and if the mast step or the
partners were to give way further in extreme conditions, the results
could be most unpleasant. At the moment I can't carry as much rig
tension as I would like, since increased shroud tension merely flexes
the cabin top downwards. That being discovered, I made the unhappy
decision to make for Valparaiso, Chile, 2000 miles to the West, to
repair the damage before continuing. The combination of being thwarted
in my goals and lack of wind has made me a decidedly unpleasant person
to be around the last few days - Lucky I'm alone! At this point I'm
hoping to be able to continue after repairs in Chile, but that of course
can't be determined until I can get the mast out and fully investigate.
Of course, being in the horse latitudes means that I can expect lots of
light and variable wind all the way to Chile - I'm going to try to make
my way down to 35 or 36S to try to get a bit more of the westerlies, but
so far have been thwarted by wind that varies between nonexistant and 5
kts out of the south.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Noon Position 30 14' S, 115 25' W, SOG 5.3, COG 155, Days Run 130nm,
Weeks Run 1015nm. It's a good end to a good week - Once again, the
fastest week yet, averaging just over 6 kts, with a two real quick
days. Yesterday was gorgeous high pressure weather - clear skies, hot
and sunny, with just enough wind to keep sailing with the drifter up.
Sunrise is early this far south - it's fully bright by 5 am, so
yesterday morning I decided to go up the rig to do a quick survey before
we get into the 40s, and to investigate my non-functional anchor light,
which also doubles to light up my windex at night. About halfway up I
realized that the swell had built a bit since I woke up, and that
instead of being perfectly smooth, we were now rolling into 1-2 foot
seas - not much, but amplified to the end of a mast 55' off the water
there was quite a bit of motion. The trip was successful, although my
legs and arms are complaining stridently today about the abuse meted out
upon them. I'm now about 2400 miles from Cape Horn, a similar distance
as from California to Hawaii. I've been taking advantage of the good
weather to work on boat prep for the southern ocean, but I've also been
reading a lot - I try to stay out of the sun as much as possible during
the day, so odds are good that during the middle of the day I'll be
found hunkered up down below with my kindle. I have a few different
waterproof cases for my kindle, thanks to Len Edgerly, who does the
Kindle Chronicles podcast. I'm currently using a Klear Kase - it's a
royal pain to put onto the kindle, but because you can access the power
switch and data port with the kindle still in the case. It also is the
easiest to manipulate the little joystick with. It seems like it's more
of a splash proof than a waterproof case, but for now that's all I need
it for - just to keep the occasional dribble from the hatch off of it.
I may switch over to a beefier case in the southern Ocean if I end up
with a lot of water around. I'm reading a few different books at once
- I'm working my way through the Essential P.G. Wodehouse, and
interlacing some sci-fi from Baen publishing's free online library of
ebooks. I've been trying to throw in a few "classics" here and there as
well - I ended up really enjoying Les Miserables, despite the painfully
slow start to the book.

Friday, December 9, 2011

picture! [Delayed Attachment: IMG_0071.JPG]

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Noon Position 24 03.5' S, 118 08' W, SOG 6.8, COG 170, Days run 160nm.
We've gotten to the weather that I was hoping the trades would bring -
lazy, easy, and fast. I haven't touched the sails for the last two
days, and the boat is just scooting along, and we're actually starting
to climb back to the East as well. I've started in on doing some boat
prep for the southern ocean - I swapped down to the small jib and did
some sail repair on the big one, which is now in it's semi-permanent
home for the next few months as a seat at the chart table. The weather
is actually almost too nice again - it's making me lazy. I realized how
out of shape I've gotten after swapping jibs and spending a few hours
sewing - the next day I was actually kinda tired all day, just from the
stitching and battling with the jibs. I've started doing some leg
exercise in the mornings to pretend to fight off the atrophy, but I
doubt it will do much - it's hard to get a whole lot of exercise when
the longest distance you can walk at one go is about 15 feet. On land
my moods are normally pretty stable, but I've found that alone at sea
they tend to oscillate much for rapidly, and to greater extremes - small
things have disproportionate influences on how I'm feeling, whether its
the weather, or the fact that it is physically impossible to open a can
of pineapple juice without it spilling at least 2 drops in a random
direction. I think in some part it's due to the lack of sleep - I know
that I get very irritable when I don't get enough, and I've been
noticing that on days when I'm up frequently at night I'm a lot
crabbier. I think the solitude also plays a part - without anyone to
talk to, it's harder to share experiences and let others help moderate
my moods. It's not a bad thing, just part of the experience. I came
out here to see if I could sail around the world, to live fully, and
feeling fully certainly is part of that. I've heard rumors that there
are concerns about the organized crime ring surrounding pens that was
operating on board. The good news is that the ringleader has been
apprehended and strongly reprimanded, after being so crass as to leave 4
pens in the galley on top of the fridge, where clearly no pen has a
right to be. After restoring the pens to their natural habitat, the
criminals seem to have toned down their efforts - a clear win for justice.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Noon Position 19 02' S, 118 37'1' W, SOG 6.5, COG 195, Days run 150nm.
IT LIVES!!!! Apparently nearly a week in a bag of rice has done the
trick on my laptop - for the time being at least it is once again
numbered amongst the living. This is so far the high point of my week -
the low point being a frustrating exercise in cussing out the boat, the
weather, the sea, the sky, the clouds, a roll of duct tape, two tubes of
silicone, and lots of seawater and mold that occupied the majority of my
morning yesterday as I tackled the persistent leak in the v-berth
hatch... I spent a few hours drying everything out and cleaning, only to
discover that not only had I not improved the seal of the hatch, I'd
actually made it worse - waterfalls of water now cascade through the
starboard seal, instead of just a slow trickle. By noon I was not fit
company for man nor beast - fortunately the few petrels heard the ruckus
and wisely stayed well clear. This afternoon we shall do battle again.
The last few days have been fast and a bit frustrating - still a fair
number of squalls rolling through bringing 20-25 kts of breeze and some
choppy seas, but the breeze has come aft enough that we're almost beam
reaching, and even with the gear-shifting that the squalls entail we've
been able to put down some decent mileage. Plus, the computer is
apparently alive! Hooray!!! The rice shall make a permanent addition
to the computer bag from now on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


Noon position: 14 9'S, 118W, SOG 5.8 kts, COG 170T, 24-hr run 130nautical miles.
Eric wanted to share these interesting statistics about his voyage to-date:
This past week Eric sailed 915nm, his best week yet.
Current direct distance from Los Angeles harbor:  2,852nm south, but only 15nm due east. (Hardly seems possible that he is only 15nm east of LA, but check out this astonishing fact on a globe or Google Earth)
Current direct distance from Peru:  2,363nm due east.
Total distance sailed since departure Nov. 7th: 3,320nm.
Average speed of direct distance covered: 4.2knots
Average speed of distance actually sailed: 4.95 knots

Monday, December 5, 2011


Sunday, Dec. 4, 2011 at 2:10 p.m. PST: 12 14S, 117 55W, SOG 6kts, COG 175, 24-hr. run 110nm.   Eric reported in this afternoon.  He turned off his GPS a few days ago and has been testing his celestial navigation skills.  When he turned the GPS back on today, he was pleased to see that his readings were close, only 2 miles out of latitude and 6 miles out of longitude.    For the last 36 hours he has been moving slowly, enduring what he calls a "tropical wave":  overcast weather, squalls, and a confused sea with 8ft swells coming at him from different directions.  Odyssey has been going up and down, up and down continuously, catching waves and spray that wash over her frequently preventing Eric from catching any fresh rainwater from the squalls off the mainsail because its all contaminated with saltwater.  The weather seems to be hovering, moving slowly, but Eric is hopeful that this system is starting to show signs of moving on.  The trade winds are blowing from the SE, and he is sailing mostly upwind at about a 70 degree angle to the wind.  Eric is also discovering that Odyssey leaks on the leeward side, so now he has an additional 10-11 new trickles going down behind the stove on the starboard side.  Luckily these are much smaller than the ones he experienced earlier on the port side which he has mostly managed to seal from outside.  Without completely pulling out the headliner nicely lining the ceiling of the cabin, Eric can't get to the leaks from inside the cabin.  He's hoping the leaks won't get any worse so he won't have to strip the ceiling bare.   Most of our lengthy conversation concerned plans for purchasing replacement electronics:  computer, inverter, stereo to be shipped to the Falkland Islands.   We are very grateful to good friend and experienced sailor Rich West who quickly leaped in as consultant on this project, helping determine the specs for what needs to be purchased and making recommendations, providing Eric with a list of shortwave sources for voice weather broadcasts, and supplying a long list of helpful tips to try and shake and coax his computer back to life. 

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Friday, December 2, 2011


3:14p.m. PST:  06 9' S, 117 13' W, SOG 6.5kts COG 200T  After the exhilaration of crossing the equator and zipping along at a good clip, Eric awoke this morning to find that his beloved, but quite ancient, Lenovo T61 had finally given up the ghost.  Black screen.  1-3-4-3 pattern of beeps.  He feared the worse.   Even with his background in computer science, there is only so much that can be diagnosed and fixed when you are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  This afternoon Eric called home and I (Eric's mother), a phone clamped to each ear, linked him up with Lenovo tech support who quickly diagnosed the problem.  The video card on his system board has gone...well, south.  The only way to fix it, replace the system board.  Of course, that is one spare part that Eric wasn't expecting to need and doesn't have on board.  Not even his trusty 3G Kindle 2  is able to come to the rescue.  Besides posting to this blog, Eric relies on his computer for weather reports.  After debating various options--he has decided to continue on,  round Cape Horn and stop in the Falkland Islands where we will ship him 2 new laptops loaded with the software he needs to access weather and 2 new back-up inverters.    In the meantime, Eric will be calling in every few days for voice weather reports from home.  Until he reaches 40 S weather shouldn't be too much of an issue, so Eric will have plenty of time to train us into weather experts.   As for Eric's blog postings, he will continue to post using the text function of his satellite phone...but, loyal blog readers, please be patient.   Until he is able to reach the Falklands and receive his new computers sometime after the first of the year, Eric's posts will be restricted to mini-posts...haiku-length posts.  Despite this setback, Eric sounded great on the phone and very optimistic.  He also expressed how much it means to him to know that he has so many supporters and well-wishers at home.